Re: Energy Policy / Junk Science Environmentalism

From: Al Koop <>
Date: Sun Dec 18 2005 - 23:13:06 EST

Based on my last three years or reading articles and books on this topic, I would basically agree with much of Glenn's comments on oil depletion.
Let me address several other points.

During my reading I have literally read hundreds of articles by those who claim there is no need to worry about any immediate oil depletion. As best I can remember, only one of these articles has ever resisted the urge to trot out a litany of the various people who have predicted oil peaks in the past (and obviously they have all been wrong). For reasons beyond me, all of these authors seem to find this to be compelling evidence that everyone who now predicts an oil peak will also be wrong. Except for a few mavericks, most fossil fuel experts consider fossil fuels to be a nonrenewable resource, and believe we will eventually deplete our supplies. It seems to me that that day is getting closer all the time, and that as more and more people warn of its imminence, the likelier we are to be reaching a point where we can no longer satisfy the usual demand and there will indeed be an oil peak. For me, I get more concerned as more and more oil geologists warn of peak oil; I get !
little comfort from knowing that in the past some people have been wrong.

The second theme promoted by the optimists can be described by the phrase: The Stone Age did not end because we ran out of stones. We also no longer shovel coal into steam locomotives either. Several scientifically educated people I have encountered find this phrase cute and compelling. But I think this is not the positive development that the optimists make it out to be. We switched to other materials BEFORE we depleted these resources, not as a result of not having enough stones or enough coal. This is what makes our current oil and natural gas situation one of concern; we seem to have no answer for when we no longer have adequate supplies of gas and oil, we have not been successful in finding another adequate source before depleting the one we depend on today as we did previously.

The third point made by the optimists is that new technologies will be brought in that will rectify the energy situation. This idea at least has some merit. I don't think anyone can rule out any incredible breakthroughs, but I don't think that we can say that right now there is some solution to fossil fuel depletion that only requires that we get behind it and spend enough money. Hydrogen and biofuels right now are not the answer. Moreover, even if such a breakthrough did occur, it would likely take a considerable amount of time to put in the infrastructure to switch to this new energy source, and the transition would be at best a difficult time if the oil peak happens soon.

With the incomplete data available from all the governments and oil companies about their energy production and with the uncertainty involved in the exact time of peak production of individual oil fields and the variations in decline rates, I don't think anyone can say with much certainty when peak oil will occur. But if populations continue to grow and places like China and India increase their demand for fossil fuels, it sure cannot be too long before we reach a peak in the amount of oil we can produce. Only the very most super optimistic person could put that time at more than 20 years.

Now what will happen when that oil peak happens is very much of a hot topic. It is reasonably possible that if everyone started to conserve and use less energy, we could live at a standard not severely lower than now for some time. People could reduce reproductive levels, travel much less and could ride bicycles and mopeds for many trips, grow their own food instead of lawns,etc. and eat plants rather than animals for starters. But will those in China and India and other less developed countries be willing to go back to living like they did 10 years ago while the US and Europe live better than they do, and will OECD countries really be willing to conserve and throttle back their way of living to accommodate less energy, and live with the considerable economic fallout that would accompany significant changes. Or will these countries start wars for resources and use some of their energy for conflicts with others to try to capture energy resources for themselves at the expen!
se of others on this planet?

Exponential growth cannot go on forever, and I think we are near the point on this earth when the growth that has occurred over the last several centuries will cease one way or another.
Received on Sun Dec 18 23:17:27 2005

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Sun Dec 18 2005 - 23:17:27 EST