Gareth Roberts: “Geology, Optimism, & Something Completely Different”

March 9, 2023

(Conversation recorded on December 19th, 2023)

Show Summary

On this episode, geologist and entrepreneur Gareth Roberts joins Nate on the podcast to discuss the geological science behind how we find, extract, and deplete fossil hydrocarbons. Gareth and Nate also unpack how financial policy, government, and an energy transition interact with an aging hydrocarbon-based grid. What does all of this mean for our energy future? How can we use humor to process and make sense of these societal challenges? How do scientists, communicators, and planners come together to respond to such challenges?

About Gareth Roberts

Gareth is an entrepreneur and successful founder and leader of a large public oil and gas company. He was born in the UK and studied geology at Oxford University before going on to work for Texaco and Murphy Oil in the US and UK. In the 1980s he became independent and subsequently founded Denbury Resources (NYSE: DNR), which grew into a $10 billion company under his leadership. Gareth stepped down from Denbury 10 years ago and has since been involved in the creation of various businesses, including ones involved in carbon sequestration and helium exploration.

To watch this video episode on Youtube

Show Notes and Links to learn more:

PDF Transcript

00:35 – Gareth Robert works + info

00:58Denbury Resources


02:05Scarab Beetle/dung beetle in Ancient Egyptian culture

04:02Carbon sequestration in the North Sea

08:51How geology affects the quality of wine – the terroir

09:12Peter Ward + TGS Episode

11:15 M King Hubbert

11:31Colin Campbell

12:51 Geology of Shale Oil


13:57Permian Basin

14:20Very cheap monetary policy of the last 10 years

14:30100 million barrels of oil/day globally

14:42 US produces about 6 million barrels of shale oil/day

18:45 Shale oil fields aren’t really made of shale – and we don’t really know the resource pattern of the oil there

20:21 There is a lot natural gas as a byproduct of oil drilling – 30-40% of hydrocarbons that come out

21:38The recovery of oil in a conventional field is already low, and the shale oil recovery is even lower (Section 16.5.1 Recovery)

22:26 Brownfield site

24:10All the valuable ways we use oil that aren’t burning it for fuel

25:40Haber-Bosch Process

25:48 60% of the nitrogen in our bodies has been fixed by the Haber-Bosch process

26:48 Art Berman + TGS Episode

27:15All the things in a barrel of oil

28:40A barrel of oil contains 4.5 years of human labor (section 4.3)

30:17Pakistan and Bangladesh and other countries left with no natural gas in the wake of high LNG prices (bought up by Europe)

31:30Oil at $-37/barrel in 2020

32:55 Jevons Paradox

33:45 Wind power is installed using fossil energy

34:40Nate’s Phd thesis on net energy

39:55Monty Python

40:03Terry Jones

44:16Spike Milligan

44:41Nazi Germany was not a place that had humor

47:46 Renewable intermittency requiring back up

48:50New nuclear fission innovations

50:01Resource restrictions for electrifying vehicles

51:48Permanent carbon sequestration

52:49Jennifer Granholm

52:51Strategic petroleum reserve

53:33 Renewables in the Texas and the UK market

55:1085% of world’s oil/gas reserves are owned by national companies

56:55Rationing during the World War 2

1:03:32Scientists are wrong 95% of the time

1:03:50Our species is taking ⅔ of NPP for ourselves


Teaser photo credit: By Varistor60 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Nate Hagens

Nate Hagens

Nate Hagens is the Director of The Institute for the Study of Energy & Our Future (ISEOF) an organization focused on educating and preparing society for the coming cultural transition. Allied with leading ecologists, energy experts, politicians and systems thinkers ISEOF assembles road-maps and off-ramps for how human societies can adapt to lower throughput lifestyles. Nate holds a Masters Degree in Finance with Honors from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in Natural Resources from the University of Vermont. He teaches an Honors course, Reality 101, at the University of Minnesota.

Tags: energy transition, fossil fuel production