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Peak Oil Matters

A fresh perspective on the concept of peak oil and the challenges we face

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Tag: alternative energy

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Democracy holds out a promise that we will get to make choices about what we will do in our community. But each time we choose to ignore the factual truths staring right at us, we ensure that future generations will have fewer and fewer choices.

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In last week’s post, I asked what seems to be a reasonable, fair, and obvious observation and inquiry in light of assertions offered by the author of the second article serving as the focal point of this series:

Imagine if we actually engaged in meaningful conversations with ‘the opposition’ which involved honorable considerations and discussions of both the merits and the disadvantages of policy proposals and the many factors in play before solutions were proposed! Who might benefit? Who might not?

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There are—almost always—at least two sides to any story of significance and potential impact upon others. The greater the impact and potential for a range of outcomes, the more certain one can be that there are more than a handful of factors, considerations, and perspectives to be accounted for if the issue at hand is to be both understood and resolved effectively.

Ignoring the “other side” of the issue may be effective if one prefers their narrative to remain unchallenged and to provide reassurance to fellow believers, but beyond that, it’s hard to understand what the benefit might be to those seeking information if what’s shared is inaccurate or purposely incomplete.

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The unpleasant truth now and soon is that the ready supply of oil and gas which we almost always take for granted [the occasional price spike notwithstanding] is on its way to becoming not-so-ready. A host of factors now in place are steadily converting possibility into likelihood. Thinking that we’ll just implement a few crash programs to straighten out that potential mess is a nice thought, but we simply do not have the means to make that happen—not the technological capabilities, not the personnel, not the industries, not the leadership … yet. Clearly, we do not have enough time to do it all with effortless ease and minimal disruptions.

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I’ve mentioned in the prior posts of this series that there were two articles posted online a number of weeks ago *  which caught my attention for reasons which at first puzzled me. No disrespect intended either author, but the contents of each were fairly routine offerings by those who clearly have not accepted the rationale of Peak Oil [and/or climate change] and have a decidedly anti-liberal/progressive perspective about … probably everything. Not exactly unusual these days, is it?

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One could argue that the most dangerous push in our energy/environment discussion is that which seeks to stop/limit oil production and/or divest from oil companies. That’s because our primary fuel has nowhere near a significant substitute. As such, publicly-traded oil companies are the lone bastion between us and a complete reliance on OPEC. [1]

Well … sure, I guess one could argue that … “Big Oil: Leaping Tall Buildings … for Truth, Justice, and the American Way….

One could also argue this: given that oil is a finite resource becoming increasingly more challenging and expensive to locate and produce—among other inconvenient truths—perhaps we might urge industry and elected leaders to … you know … think about the future in terms other than “let’s maximize oil revenues and our bank accounts today.”

Pursuing the one-track approach to our energy supply today and tomorrow has its advantages, at least for some. But for all the horn-tooting about human ingenuity from industry cheerleaders, there’s not much of a contribution from within to look past the bottom line and apply that ingenuity to alternative future energy needs.

Fossil fuel supply will be even more problematical in the years ahead. Ignoring that factor is a strategy, of course. It sucks, but it’s a strategy—just not a consequence-free one.

Oil companies are warning there will be a price to pay — a much higher price — for all the cost cutting being done today to cope with the collapse in the crude market. Big projects intended to start pumping oil and natural gas 5 to 10 years from now are being canceled or put on hold as the price crash forced $114 billion in spending cuts on the industry.
Energy giants from Exxon Mobil Corp. to Royal Dutch Shell say they’re taking a much more cautious approach to approving projects that cost billions and take years to complete. That’s setting the table for a future oil-price shock when a growing world population drives higher demand, said oil executives and financiers [at a recent energy conference]. [2]

Keeping the foot to the pedal might be the preferred approach today, but that trip will end badly for more than just investors and oil industry executives.

No one on this side of the peak oil debate is denying that demand continues to grow and/or that citizens in less-developed nations shouldn’t do all they can to improve their standards of living and quality of life. We also recognize how absolutely vital fossil fuels have been to our own progress and how deeply-imbedded the fossil fuel industry has been and continues to be in powering human society.

It’s a statement of both the reality and the problem. All of the chest-thumping won’t change the fact that fossil fuels are finite resources no longer as readily available or easy/inexpensive to produce as in days gone by. Deluding oneself into thinking that somehow and someway magical thinking will ride to the rescue just in the nick of time won’t alter that reality. Shocking, but true. Facts suck.

A more-reasoned and wiser consideration of facts and our future might not be the preferred strategy of the few, but the many will surely benefit more from a broader, reality-based assessment of life now and what we’d all like it to be in the years to come. Fossil fuels will continue to play a critical role, but that one-way road will come to an unpleasant end long before we’re prepared for it if we all continue to be taken for that ride.

~ My Photo: Rockport, MA – 09.11.10

[1] http://www.forbes.com/sites/judeclemente/2015/04/19/three-reasons-oil-will-continue-to-run-the-world/; Three Reasons Oil Will Continue to Run the World, by Jude Clemente – 04.19.15
[2] http://www.rigzone.com/news/oil_gas/a/138224/Big_Oils_Latest_Fear_A_Price_Shock_After_114_Billion_of_Cuts; Big Oil’s Latest Fear: A Price Shock After $114 Billion of Cuts, by Bradley Olson – 04.22.15

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Most authors accept that conventional oil resources are at an advanced stage of depletion and that liquid fuels will become more expensive and increasingly scarce. The tight oil ‘revolution’ has provided some short-term relief, but seems unlikely to make a  continue reading…

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Gail Tverberg shares some of the most insightful observations about the connection between economic growth and energy. In an article posted at her website several weeks, she raised issues which are too often shunted aside in the primary debate of  continue reading…

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Richard Heinberg and Chris Martenson, two of the most respected and thoughtful advocates publicly urging greater awareness of peak oil, recently teamed up for a broad and informative discussion about energy supply. [Unless otherwise noted all quotes here are taken from their conversation.] continue reading…

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Alternative energy depends heavily on engineered equipment and infrastructure for capture or conversion. However, the full supply chain for alternative energy, from raw materials to manufacturing, is still very dependent on fossil fuel energy. continue reading…