California wildfires, electricity shutoffs and our troubled energy future

Most of the news surrounding the electricity shutoffs in California—done to avert the ignition of additional wildfires by aging electrical infrastructure—has focused on two things: climate change and the greedy, incompetent management of Pacific Gas & Electric.

Missing in this discussion is the broad neglect of the complex infrastructure of the United States and possibly other wealthy nations.

Utilities Commission Warned of Site C Cost Overruns, Delays

Two technical reports on the Site C dam prepared for the BC Utilities Commission by Deloitte LLP confirm critics’ warnings that the dam is not needed and is at high risk of delays and cost overruns. Deloitte also concluded that even if the energy is needed there are more environmentally friendly and less costly ways to generate power with a combination of existing hydro upgrades, conservation and smaller wind and geothermal projects.

The energy revolution will not be televised

Energy transitions take time, a lot of time–far too much time to be shrunk down into a television special, a few talking points, or the next big energy idea. If, as Vaclav Smil contends, we are in for a long, slow slog on the path to a renewable energy economy, then the course with the least risk and probably the greatest return would be to reduce our energy use.

ODAC Newsletter Oct 5

News of Turkish military retaliation to a mortar round fired from inside Syria spooked oil markets this week. Former Arab League envoy to Syria Kofi Annan has warned that there is a danger that the Syrian conflict could spread and destabilise the region, although the Turkish Prime Minister said on Thursday that his country had no intention of starting a war…

Review: “Reinventing Fire” by Amory Lovins

This book continues the presentation of the Lovins perspective, essentially the claim that there is great scope for conservation measures and alternative technologies to solve our problems and enable maintenance of rich world economies and lifestyles. My notes indicate that it would be far too capital costly for the US to run largely on renewable energy.

Whither peak oil?

An update is warranted to address comments from friends and followers – comments such as “Gee, I guess Peak Oil has been postponed?”, or “I guess we don’t have to worry about Peak Oil anymore!” Often they have a smile on their face …

The shale oil plays will reduce but not eliminate our reliance on foreign oil. Should a supply disruption occur over the next decade, we will be better off having this production than not. The natural gas and NGL from these plays will provide high-quality, low-carbon heat energy for electricity as well as feedstock for plastics – which could help jumpstart manufacturing.

Overall, these plays don’t solve the much larger issue of Peak Oil, but they do help “buy time.”