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Dan Yergin’s Dilemma: Energy ‘Reality’ Vs. Climate Reality

Joe Romm, Think Progress
Another day, another piece in the New York Times ignoring climate science by someone who knows better.

This time it’s Daniel Yergin, author of The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World and chair of IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates.

Yergin’s piece, “America’s New Energy Reality,” is a big wet kiss to oil and gas, which would be a mixed metaphor if America’s — and Yergin’s — hydrocarbon-philia was not a self-destructive relationship …

Yet while Yergin’s book has 6 chapter — 100 full pages (!) — devoted to climate science and policy, this op-ed is utterly silent on the energy issue of the century, which is also the human issue of the millennium. He concludes:

America’s new story for energy is still unfolding. It includes the continuing development and expansion of renewables and increased energy efficiency, both of which will be essential to our future energy mix. But what is striking is this great revival in oil and gas production in the United States, with wide impacts on jobs, economic development and the competitiveness of American industry. This new reality requires a new way of thinking and talking about America’s improving energy position and how to facilitate this growth in an environmentally sound way — recognizing the considerable benefits this will bring in an era of economic uncertainty.

While Yergin is happy to detail America’s new orgy of fossil production, he is has nothing to say about how we could do this in an environmentally sound way, in part, I suspect, because he knows that we can’t.

Producing more oil is transparently incompatible with serious climate action. Producing more gas is only compatible with climate action over a very short period of time, maybe a decade, to quickly replace most of U.S. coal — and even then you must simultaneously have an aggressive strategy to reduce methane leaks along with a serious and rising carbon price to make sure the gas is replacing coal 1-for-1 and not renewables …
(19 June 2012)

America’s New Energy Reality

Daniel Yergin, New York Times
AMERICA needs a new political discourse on energy. This would recognize the emerging reality that the United States has turned around as an energy producer and is on a major upswing. And the impact will be measured not just in energy security and the balance of payments. Energy development also turns out to be an engine for job creation and economic growth — something that would hardly have been considered the last time we were electing a president.

In 2008, the rise in oil prices was accompanied — and partly fueled — by a belief that an era of permanent scarcity was at hand. This mentality had deep roots extending back to the 1970s, when the United States went from being a minor importer of oil to a major importer. In the 2008 rendition, falling oil output was considered simply inevitable. The only questions were at what rate petroleum imports would rise and whether that rate would be slowed.
(9 June 2012)

A peak oil follower despairs of his movement’s future

John Kingston, The Barrel, Platts
When OPEC officials meeting in Vienna are talking about “tremendous” surpluses of oil in the world, and US crude production has risen above 6 million b/d, it’s tough to be a disciple to the peak oil school of the future.

Ask Luis de Sousa. This Portugese member of the the Association for the Study of Peak Oil has just returned from the recent ASPO meeting in Vienna, and he is not optimistic that the movement has a great deal of energy left in it.

It certainly isn’t for lack of belief in the ultimate imbalance between the world’s ability to produce oil, and its desire to consume it, which is what is at the heart of the peak oil school of thought.

De Sousa makes clear in a recent blog posting that was circulated by some other peak oil followers that he is very much still a believer.

For example, looking at the European debt crisis, he sees energy as having played a role: “Unfortunately, the role oil, coal and food prices had (and still have) in the economic crisis is not acknowledged by everyone, not even within ASPO. This is a terrible mistake, for it is exactly [the] way Peak Oil looks like. Getting ourselves intertwined in the debt or peak demand discourse is a self defeating path that will veer policy makers away from addressing the structural weakness of our economies. It is never too much to remind that the states today cut off from the European sovereign debt market are precisely those that were most dependent on oil before the crisis. “

So de Sousa’s disullisionment is more like a parishioner at a church who sees the pews slowly emptying over time, and despairs of it ever reversing. For example, he writes: “But after 10 years of activity ASPO’s message has failed to pass. Policy makers, climatologists, energy Industry, by and large are all yet to fully acknowledge the problem and its implications.”
(12 June 2012)

Coal’s resurgence undermines fight against global warming

Terry Macalister, Guardian
Coal has carved itself a 30% share of the global energy market – its highest level in over 40 years – undermining attempts by governments to reduce their carbon emissions, new figures show.

China and India both increased their use of carbon-heavy coal by over 9% but Europe, where political consensus against global warming is strongest, also saw a 4% increase, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy.

Christof Ruhl, BP’s chief economist presenting the figures in London on Wednesday said industrialisation of developing countries and cheap prices were driving coal demand which had “profound implications” for CO2 output.

The increased use of coal and a continued heavy use of other fossil fuels such as oil and gas led to a 3% increase in world carbon emissions from energy in 2011, a lower rate than in 2010, the statistics show.

Ruhl said concerns about climate change seemed to have been parked to one side as a “sense of frustration” had set in over the difficulties of finding a quick and easy solution to global warming.
(13 June 2012)