Ending Our Oil Dependence: A Market Argument

Friday, December 30, 2005

In an article appearing in The Ripon Forum, Amory Lovins argues that "A better energy policy process would offer even wider benefits for a stronger country and safer world." Lovins begins his argument:
The United States of America has the world’s mightiest economy and most mobile society. Yet the oil that fueled its strength has become its greatest weakness.

Fortunately, this 10,000-gallon-asecond oil habit is also uneconomic, and American business is the greatest force on earth for turning market imperfections into profits.

The United States can eliminate its oil dependence and revitalize its economy—not by passing federal laws, taxing fuels, biasing markets, subsidizing favorites, mandating technologies, limiting choices, or crimping lifestyles, but by adopting smart business strategies. If government steers, not rows, then competitive enterprise, supported by judicious policy and vibrant civil society, can turn the oil challenge into an unprecedented opportunity for wealth creation and common security.
Lovins is founder and CEO of Rocky Mountain Institute.

The “conscience of the Republican Party,” the Ripon Society, publishes The Ripon Forum.

Are We Headed Over the Energy Cliff?

Thursday, December 29, 2005

This is an amalgam of three PowerPoint presentations. Two were presented at the first ever ASPO-USA conference held in Denver last November, and one of them could very well be the first-ever Peak Oil PowerPoint created by a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. The presentations from Thomas Petrie and Rep. Roscoe Bartlett can be retrieved from the web site of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas-USA. The two presentations are combined with slides that Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconisn's executive director, has been using since 2002.

The presentaion begins with the following observations and assertions:

World daily production –- 84 million barrels per day
World excess capacity -- 1 -1.5 million bpd
U.S. daily consumption –- 21 million bpd
Global decline rate –- 4%-6% per annum

Net non-OPEC production likely to peak around 2010
OPEC might not reach government projections
Reasonable world peak oil date – 2010-2015?

Access the full presentation on the link at RENEW's News and Views.

Soaring oil prices don't boost production

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Roger Baker provided these insights on a list serve maintained by Solar Austin on Yahoo groups:

Look at the jagged graph at the top of the page on The Oil Drum. It represents the very best official information available on world oil production during the last few years.

Given the soaring price of oil over the last several years, why would production have slowed down so much that world production appears to be stagnant during the last year or so? Other than the fact that production can no longer respond to price, so that steadily increasing demand causes the price to rise sharply to accommodate this new reality.

The struggle against ourselves

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Energy Bulletin posted the speech of George Monbiot given to the Climate March on December 3rd, 2005:

. . .I don't have to remind you of the two forces which are converging on our lives. We are faced with an impending shortage of the source of energy which is hardest to replace - liquid fossil fuels. And we are faced with the environmental consequences of the fossil fuel burning which has permitted us to be standing here now. The structure, the complexity, the diversity of our lives, everything we know, everything that we have taken for granted, that looked solid and non-negotiable, suddenly looks contingent. All this is a great tottering pile balanced on a ball, a ball that is about to start rolling downhill.

I hear people talking about the carbon cuts they would like to see. I am not interested in what people would like to see. I am interesed in what the science says. And the science is clear. We need not a 20% cut by 2020; not a 60% cut by 2050, but a 90% cut by 2030. Only then do we stand a good chance of keeping carbon concentrations in the atmosphere below 430 parts per million, which means that only then do we stand a good chance of preventing some of the threatened positive feedbacks. If we let it get beyond that point there is nothing we can do. The biosphere takes over as the primary source of carbon. It is out of our hands.

The notion that we can achieve this by replacing fossil fuels with ambient energy is a fantasy. It is true that we have untapped sources of energy in wind, waves, tides and sunlight, but it is neither so concentrated nor so consistent that we can plug it in and carry on as before.

A cut like this requires massive reductions in our energy use. There are some technofixes available, but they are unlikely to take us more than halfway there. If carbon emissions are to be capped at 10%, energy use will have to be capped at under 50%. The only fair means of doing this is national rationing accompanied by global contraction and convergence.

And we find ourselves in an extraordinary position. This is the first mass political movement to demand less, not more. The first to take to the streets in pursuit of austerity. The first to demand that our luxuries, even our comforts, are curtailed.

Oil depletion & climate change: Linked phenomena

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Energy Bulletin site includes a review of British geologist Jeremy Leggett’s new book Empty Tank, which links oil depletion (peak oil) and climate change. Book reviewer Shepherd Bliss explains the linkage this way:

Leggett links oil depletion to climate change by noting that the simultaneous heightened demand for energy (especially by China and India), coupled with the diminishing supply of petroleum, will lead to “a rush to coal.” Burning coal, unfortunately, is even worse on the environment and climate than oil. It increases carbon dioxide emissions more than oil for the same fuel yield.

. . . it is renewables that Leggett sees as the main solution for both oil depletion and climate change. He is a major solar promoter.

The site also hosts a second excellent article by James Howard (of PowerSwitch.Org.Uk) who concludes:

The Climate Change movement has been saying for a long time that we should change, Peak Oil means categorically we have to change. Fuse them together and hopefully we’ll get more momentum moving us in the right direction.

Editorial: Alaska drilling amendment doesn't belong in defense bill; Senate agrees

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

An excerpt from an editorial that appeared in the Appleton (WI) Post Crescent on December 20, 2005:

Quick question: What do Alaskan caribou, Louisiana levees and the avian flu all have in common?

Answer: The $453 billion defense bill just passed by the House of Representatives.

In another example of Capitol creativity, Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens attached a provision that would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling to the must-pass bill that ostensibly funds American military operations. What one has to do with the other apparently isn't relevant.

Lawmakers call such amendments "Christmas trees"; they try to attach agenda-driven amendments to bills that must pass before Christmas recess, hoping that they'll get carried along like barnacles. It's a practice that needs some serious regulation. Even Sen. John McCain noted that the "system is broken."

On December 21, 2005, U.S. Senate Democrats seemed to agree with the editorial:

U.S. Senate Democrats blocked a bid to allow oil drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, handing President George W. Bush a defeat on a top domestic priority." (Bloomberg)

Architects Call for Fifty Percent Reduction by 2010 of Fossil Fuel Used to Construct and Operate Buildings

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The American Institute of Architects issued a press release endorsing sustainable design:

Washington, D.C., December 19, 2005 — Through its Board of Directors, The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has adopted position statements to promote sustainable design and resource conservation to achieve a minimum reduction of fifty percent of the current consumption level of fossil fuels used to construct and operate buildings by the year 2010. In order to accomplish this goal, the AIA will collaborate with other national and international organizations, the scientific research community, and the public health community. As part of this initiative, the AIA will also develop and promote the integration of sustainability into the curriculum for the education of architects and architecture students, so that this core principle becomes a guiding mindset for current and future architects.

La Crosse Tribune: What happens when we run out of oil?

Monday, December 19, 2005

From an editorial by Richard Mial, opinion page editor, of the La Crosse Tribune:

What happens when we run out of oil? How do we run our economies, fuel our vehicles and heat our homes?

If you don’t believe such a thing ever will happen (or at least not in our lifetime), then consider this slightly less-grim question: What happens when we run out of easily affordable oil?

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a conference at the University of Maryland, sponsored by the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. The topic was energy, and the speakers were industry representatives, analysts, authors, government representatives and lobbyists.

But for now, let’s consider the bleakest possible scenario — the possibility that the world’s oil supply might already have “peaked,” that we’re already on the downside of oil production, and oil will only become increasingly more difficult to find and extract. And more expensive. . . .

Second U.S. Peak Oil Conference

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Community Solution reports on the Second U.S. Conference on Peak Oil and Community Solutions:

More than 350 people from 39 states and five countries gathered with about 100 area residents in Yellow Springs, Ohio in late September to learn how to prepare at the local level for the coming steep decline in global oil production.

This permanent decline will follow an all-time high in production, known as peak oil, which will require developing local and sustainable economies, local food systems, and "eco-village" communities, participants at the Second U.S. Conference on Peak Oil and Community Solutions were told.

Presentations on peak oil, alternative fuels, and the geopolitics of oil were also given at this three-day conference held at Antioch College and sponsored by Yellow Springs-based Community Service Inc. which through its Community Solution program seeks the resurgence of small local communities in an era of increasingly scarce and expensive oil.

The Community Solution posted all of the conference presentations on its site.

Energy crisis looms for America

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Appleton (Wisconsin) Post-Crescent editorializes on the looming energy crisis:

It took mankind 100 years to use 1 trillion barrels of oil. It will take us about 15 years to use the next trillion.

You don't need to be an economist, geologist or mathematician to understand what that means.

Whether you're a pessimist who thinks the planet was only endowed with 3 trillion barrels of recoverable oil or an optimist who believes there are 10 trillion barrels, that exponential rate cannot be ignored.

America must, right now, focus itself on finding energy solutions for the future. It must be our No. 1 priority. And Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 5.

Alaskan North Slope oil output sliding

From an AP story by Tarek El-Tablawy:

NEW YORK -- Alaskan North Slope crude oil production, once heralded as a domestic mother lode, has hit a new output low -- embodying the precarious balance confronting the United States as it struggles for energy security in an era of volatility in the
international oil market.

What is "Peak Oil"?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

From a classic post on NYC Peak Oil:

In the online community discussing the implications of peak oil, there is a growing recognition that awareness is not building fast enough to affect the types of societal changes that will be necessary to weather the coming storm. As I have learned the hard way, just saying "peak oil" is not enough.

Canadian tar sands: Oil at what price?

Monday, December 12, 2005

Treehugger.com includes a short, but amazing, story on mining Canada's tar sands for their oil:
Most of you are already aware of the damage caused by the burning and the extraction of oil (like the apprehended damage caused by extraction in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, for example). But what about the famous Canadian tar sands? After only two years of digging for bitumen near Fort McMurray in Alberta, Shell has already dug up a pit that is as much as three miles wide and 200 feet deep. 400-ton trucks, said to be the largest in the world, are used to move around all that dirt, and it takes a lot of it since on average 2 tons of tar sand are required to make 1 barrel of oil.

Madison Peak Oil Group - Next meeting

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Anyone interested in education and outreach on peak oil may join Madison Peak Oil Group at its next meeting on January 5, 2006, 12:00 noon, in the conference room of RENEW Wisconsin, 222 S. Hamilton St., Madison. If you need directions on how to find the address, call Ed Blume at 819.0748.

Peak Oil Poster

An amazing poster -- simple and complex at the same time -- of the peak oil curve is available for purchase at Oil Poster.

Risks of oil dependence

An excerpt from a new book Powering Our Future from The Alternative Energy Institute:

Today, the risks of oil dependence have reached a global scale. Yet, there is surprisingly little awareness of the enormous implications of oil dependence in the industrialized world. In the United States, lawmakers on both sides of the partisan debate have failed for decades to adopt a consistent national energy policy that addresses a quickly diminishing world oil supply. Time magazine points out that every U.S. president, since Richard Nixon, has promised comprehensive energy policies that would reduce our dependence on imported oil. Three decades later, we are even more dependent upon foreign governments for our oil supply. With the exception of the Carter administration, not only has every administration failed to reduce imports, but the quantity of imports has increased dramatically during its term in office.