To the last drop?

Take a minute or two to study the chart below. It is just issued by the International Energy Agency, an industry-centric organisation not prone to engaging in eco-alarmism. But this is alarming, truly shocking in fact.

OilProduction

The dark blue chart area is the one to watch. This is the real, live oil, the stuff civilisation runs on. Today, it provides around 70 of the 82 million or so of oil-equivalent barrels we burn each day.

Now, follow the line to 2020 – in just 10 years, it’s plummeted around 60% to 40 million barrels a day, from fields currently producing crude. Add another 10 years, and it’s down to maybe 25 million barrels. Demand, on the other hand, is estimated to have climbed by 2030 to maybe 105 million barrels a day.

With only 25 million coming from our currently producing fields, one of two scenarios will play out: (a) by some miracle, fields as yet undeveloped will chip in at least 20 million barrels a day, PLUS fields yet to be found will whack in close to another 20 million barrels PLUS non-conventional oils (like the filthy Alberta tar sands), along with additional enhanced oil recovery PLUS a huge upsurge in the usage of liquid natural gas will plug the remaining chasm; or (b) this isn’t going to happen in a million years, let alone 10-20.

Let’s be glum for a moment and assume (b). This scenario is likely to mean that current crude, plus whatever else can be squeezed into service, may manage 50-60 million barrels a day – i.e. less than half the projected demand by 2030, and well behind even today’s level. That’s not good.

The oil shocks of the 1970s, which flung Europe and the US into recession for the guts of a decade, were triggered by a single-digit percentage temporary and reversible reduction in oil supply. Put simply, by any rational analysis, these IEA projections are incompatible with what we might call electromagnetic civilisation, ie. the way we’ve run the world for the last century and more.

An energy crash on this scale would be off the Richter scale in terms of anything we’ve had to cope with. Societies with access to non-fossil energy and plenty of it, will do a lot better than those that don’t. As societies desperately switch to more and more coal burning to keep the lights on, the climate crisis deepens. For us, that’s not good at all. Renewable energy still looks like a pipe dream here, especially inside those time scales, and at the current rate of progress.

We won’t go nuclear, of course, because we know better, and have done so for the last 30 years. That ship has, most likely, already sailed. Speaking of ships, if the graph above maps our future, it reminds me of the old mariners’ charts which used to mark the uncharted extremities with the phrase: “there be dragons”.

ThinkOrSwim is a blog focusing on the inter-related crises involving climate change, sustainability, resource depletion, energy and biodiversity loss
This entry was posted in Energy, Global Warming, Irish Focus, Nuclear, Peak Oil, Sustainability and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to To the last drop?

  1. denis says:

    As the price of fossil fuel rises, jobs will be lost, and therefore people will have less money with which to buy the fossil fuel, and the products into which fossil fuel is embodied. Any rise in economic growth, will lead to a corresponding rise in the price of fossil fuel , which will in turn lead to more unemployment, and so we will have a gentle boom and bust cycle in which fossil price will actually not rise that much, but unemployment will. We will probably not have the capital to put into so called alternative energy systems, which are very expensive, but if we do, that capital will be expended on a fruitless dream that will not deliver anything like the amount of energy required to continue the way of life we now enjoy.
    We may have time to adjust to a new type of simple self sufficient, and probably most uncomfortable and precarious way of life, with declining inputs of fossil fuel, before chaos reigns, or we may not.
    However those who adopt an electric economy, based on the production of electricity from nuclear power, will continue to live more closely to the way we do now.
    They will be able to afford to keep and benefit from, vibrant educational institutions, increased knowledge based medical facilities, and well designed and long lasting consumer items.
    They will probably keep these new technologies to themselves, and stockpile nuclear fuel, as to start up global trade again, will only lead to a return to what we have now —an increasingly poisoned planet with rapidly declining resources.
    They too, will be self sufficient, but comfortable.
    We in Ireland, are at the point of making the decision as to which future we would like to have.
    Denis.

  2. Coilin MacLochlainn says:

    I’m confused here. On the one hand, some commentators are saying that alternative energy systems are very expensive and that offshore windfarms are not cost-effective, while on the other, commentators including Minister Eamon Ryan are saying we can not only provide enough energy from our renewables to meet our own needs but could actually have a big surplus, from offshore wind farms, that we could sell onto a European grid. So, which is it? And more importantly, when is this explosion in wind farms going to happen?

    Given the oil peaking scenario you have just described in ‘To the Last Drop’, it seems this wind farm investment can’t happen soon enough. There is now ample justification for slashing public spending by another billion or two a year, or raising additional carbon taxes, so that we can afford to invest very quickly in the new technology. It’s either that or seeing the lights starting to go out in the next 10-20 years.

    Britain is now putting a 34% reduction in their emissions by 2020 on the table for Copenhagen, possibly rising to 40% if the US delivers, while Minister Gormley is still promising only 20%, unless I’ve missed something in the last few days.

  3. denis says:

    Hello Coilin—–the reason you are confused, is that the Green party don`t know what they are talking about. They are driven by ideology, not science, and I am not sure, but I suspect that they don`t have an Engineer or Physicist in their ranks. They will not listen to those who have these qualifications, [ look at The Irish Academy of Engineers site for a critique of the Gov`s energy policy ], or they will adopt a “tame” engineer and get them to go along with their half baked ideas. Witness the head of the ESB and how he has been cajoled into changing his mind about the efficacy of windpower, when ESB policy has been for years to reject any suggestion that windpower is in any way a viable, which of course it is not.
    On a recent TV show James Lovelock was asked to give his opinion on the windpower industry. His answer was concise and to the point . ” it is a scam” he pronounced.
    In a nutshell, apart from the blight of thousands of these monstrosities violating our beautiful landscape, they quite simply don`t do what they are meant to, which is to give us cheap reliable electricity.
    A wind turbine in Ireland, will deliver 30% of its rated electrical output over a long period, say a year. When the wind is not blowing, power must still be provided, and this has to be done by the burning of fossil fuel. The Green Party states that we will be providing 40% of our electrical power by 2020 from windpower—-this begs the question , where will the other 60% come from when are being told that fossil fuel is rapidly running out ? They fudge this question in various ways, mentioning other forms of “alternative” energy, which are still mainly fuzzy ideas.
    The Spirit of Ireland proposal, is a clever and innovative idea to overcome the shortcoming of traditional windpower by using giant reservoirs costructed from glacial valleys to store seawater which can be pumped up into these valleys during times of plenty wind, the process being reversed during times of low wind, when hydro turbines will then give out the stored power in the form of electricity.
    The main problem with this proposal is that the proposed storage system is far far to small to guarantee a supply of electricity for more than about 6 days without wind. At least a months storage would be required—-Denmark had no wind for a month in 2003—and this would be enormously expensive—-in the region of 50 to 100 billion euro, if indeed it would be technically possible at any price.
    The one thing the SOI proposal highlights though, is the folly of windpower without a viable storage system.
    I hope this may help you to decide where our future lies .
    Denis

  4. Elizabeth Muldowney says:

    What concerns me is how the gas market will react to these oil issues. In Ireland we will by 2020 be generating approximately 60% of our electricity from gas. The British cited as one of their reasons for rejuvenating their nuclear programme, the desire to cut their imports of gas. They are right to try to decrease gas imports for the following two reasons:
    1. Security of supply given the political stability of gas rich countries cannot be guaranteed.
    2. With oil production decreases gas prices will skyrocket.
    Ireland via the CER on the other hand continues its love affair with gas by backing the construction of a liquefied natural gas import plant in the Shannon Estuary. This will expose the Irish electricity and gas consumers to exorbitant prices for both energy forms. Currently the construction of the plant by its backers is on hold. In a press release in the International Business Times last December, Hess stated that they are ‘still committed’ to the project. In other words, it’s not worth their while constructing it in the current gas market with prices at historically low levels. These low levels will not last!
    And, speaking of ships sailing, LNG is transported by specially built tankers costing up to half a billion dollars – that is not an error – the ships cost $0.5 Billion to construct. With owners and charter firms needing to maximise their profits, shipping will not be cheap and again this will be passed on to the end consumer. In addition to this cost, the demand for LNG – especially from Japan and the USA – will rise and trades will be carried out on the high seas with the load going to the highest bidder – will Ireland Inc. be able to afford that passed on cost? Finally, the age of pirates is once again upon us. These are not cuddly Johnny Depp types but 21st century dangerous and vicious thugs who have been proved to be very effective at what they do. Not only will insurance firms charge phenomenal premiums to avert any risk away from their profits (and who will pay for that cost?) but LNG purchasers will have to ensure back up is available should their shipments be hijacked en route from Qatar – the world’s largest producer/exporter of LNG.
    So, we now need to not exactly forget about Colin Campbell and peak oil but to examine and bear in mind the repercussions of that phenomenon on the second most used fossil fuel in the Western World: natural gas. In the words of my then (2003) 10 year old cousin upon having Hubbert’s Peak explained to her: “And in a thousand years time we’ll have peak gas.” Oh if only we had a thousand years!

    PS Colin, I can answer your questions about wind farms also – either off or on shore but that is for another day!

  5. denis says:

    Hi Elizabeth
    I believe that you are absolutely right with your concerns over our present and increasing future reliance on imported gas.
    I have to say that I am completely puzzled over our Government`s attitude to our energy needs and it`s solutions to the coming energy crises. As I have said before, they don`t seem to listen to advice from qualified engineers, and are proceeding as if the world is going to continue on in a” business as usual ” way.
    Why do they ignore our own supplies of natural gas ? [ google, lough allen gas basin, and be prepared to be amazed ] and when they do attempt to bring it on line, they make a complete and utter bags of it—–witness the expensive mess they have fomented at Bellanboy.
    Where are our qualified professionals when we need them ? A barrister as our Minister of Finance, a country solicitor as our Prime Minister, an ex bicycle mechanic as our Minister in charge of our energy future—–the whole thing is absolutely outrageous, and we are going to reap the whirlwind of our own foolishness in not placing people of the highest intelligence and training in these key positions. And its not as if we don`t have these people, on the contrary,we are blessed with wonderful men and women, with high academic qualifications that should be giving us back the benefit of the education they have recieved in our Universities.
    When I see the terrible mess that our so called leaders have landed us in, I am virtually speechless with rage.
    Denis.

  6. Coilin MacLochlainn says:

    @Denis,

    The Depts of Environment and Energy have expert advisors, so I wouldn’t say the Greens are too badly informed.

    I actually believe wind power is a big part of the solution, but not sure why it isn’t being rolled out at greater speed. Why the delay? It can also play a major role in the stimulus plan, if that ever gets off the ground.

    I think Lovelock backed himself into a corner on wind power and hasn’t figured out how to extricate himself; it is inconceivable that he doesn’t now see wind energy as part of the solution.

    I think we will just have to put up with wind turbines in the landscape, the Danes do, though I would prefer offshore and don’t know why they can’t all be put there. Cost prohibitive, they’d probably say.

    30% is still 30%, and if enough are built it would be ok. The options for dealing with wind drop-off are firstly the storage reservoirs; it’s worrying that they only guarantee six days of power, if your figures are correct; it depends on the size of the reservoirs, of course; but €50-100 billion is some bill.

    Another option being looked at by Irish engineers is a new type of offshore wind turbine that stores surplus energy that can be released later; I don’t have the details, but it sounds promising and would obviate the need for reservoirs, if it works. It’s probably years away from commerciability, though.

  7. Coilin MacLochlainn says:

    @Elizabeth,

    The security of supply issue is a major problem with gas, alright, and it’s a fossil fuel, so we just have to get away from using it anyway. I agree it wouldn’t make any sense to have a new gas-fired plant in the Shannon estuary; by the time it’s up and running the gas will be too expensive, as you say.

    If we really do get stuck, and don’t have our renewables delivering before we’re priced out of oil and gas, well there may be hope for us in the Sahara solar project, which the UK is now getting involved in. Of course, self-sufficiency in energy would save us billions, as JG has been saying.

  8. John Gibbons says:

    Have been really enjoying the contributions to date, this is the kind and quality of debate that needs to be happening right now in the mainstream media, but is still rare indeed. Elizabeth’s observations about the drastic limitations of gas, and the hazards of deepening our dependence are well made.

    Personally, nothing I’d rather see than concentrated wind farms humming gently along the western seaboard, pouring 15 gigawatts into our enhanced national grid at peak output, with the excess 10-12gw being sold via an array of new interconnectors to the UK and France (these only carry 500mw max per interconnector, I understand, so quite a few will be needed), and us buying/bartering back nuclear energy (or solar via a Sahara array, as Coilin observes) when needed.

    Oh, and slip in a 1gw nuclear plant onto the existing ESB Moneypoint site, so we can shut that coal-gobbling, CO2-spewing monstrosity down as soon as the nuke plant is good to go…

    This dream scenario would almost certainly need a Spirit of Ireland-style storage buffer to make it work, otherwise the massive variations in wind output would tie us up in knots. Who knows how many billion this lot would cost to execute, and how many Nimbys would have to be overcome along the way.

    One way or th’other, oil peaking is real, it’s here and we damn well better pick one or more options pretty fast and get building, while we still have a functioning economic system to allow us to construct this critical infrastructure. JG

  9. peter dublin says:

    “Peak oil” is in my view not a problem
    – with any scarcity comes price rise, and greater viability of nuclear/renewable energy alternatives that are being developed anyway

    Imported oil is to my knowledge not used anywhere in electricity generation.

    As for Irish electricity interconnections, they can of course also deliver
    cheap energy from abroad here, rather than expensive home generation,
    beyond what is needed for energy security reasons.

    Moreover, coal/gas power is not wrong in itself – the emissions might be.
    Phased in emission limits for CO2 can be met with CO2 just as with mercury, sulphur etc.

    Schwarze Pumpe (coal) and Lacq (gas) are carbon capture and strorage prototypes. To the extent meeting emission limits is not commercially viable, then other energy sources are phased in.

    New electric politics http://www.ceolas.net
    .

  10. peter dublin says:

    RE my previous comment
    “Phased in emission limits for CO2 can be met with CO2 just as with mercury, sulphur etc.” =
    “Phased in emission limits for CO2 can be met just as emission limits with mercury, sulphur etc.”….

  11. denis says:

    Coilin—-you must not have read my post properly. I gave you the irrefutable proof as to why wind power will not work for us in the future, when fossil fuel has run out—we should of course not be using it at all due to its proven penchant for ruining our beautiful planet—however, you choose to ignore the logic, which is of course your right.
    “Green” beliefs are tantamount to a new religion in which, like all religions, certainties are offered without scientific proof. However, engineering is a branch of science, and we cannot afford to bypass logic and reason when dealing with a subject as serious as our future energy supply.
    Science is the triumph of reason over belief and I wish you could join our ranks. I am quite sure that James Lovelock meant what he said !
    John—you are an excellent columnist, but a poor engineer !
    Your putative 15 GW wind farm, if it was running at full output all the time , would be comprised of 4687, 3.2 MW wind turbines costing around 22.5 billion euro. If however, you wanted to join the real world, in which we live here in Ireland, and you wanted to generate an average output of 15 GW, from the highly variable winds that grace our little country, you would have to have 10,936 wind turbines of 3.2 MW each, costing around 52.5 billion euro.
    The output of this array, would be so haphazard, variable, and unreliable that no one in their right mind would pay us very much for it, especially when they had access to a totally dependable and demand variable source of electric power, produced by the very latest nuclear reactors.
    The Sahara solar panel plan, is pure science fiction—-the cost in energy terms alone to build this dream, would be somewhere in the realm of 3 times all the energy used in Europe for a year. What about night time, dust storms, Bedouin vandalism? If I were you, I`d hold on to the day job !
    Regards, Denis.

  12. Elizabeth Muldowney says:

    Frankly? I think you’re all missing a huge piece of the puzzle! Wind is not happening because of two reasons: infrastructure and planning. Without grid and network development and reinforcement wind cannot be integrated onto the grid however the majority of developments have been delayed or blocked or abandoned for one reason or another – some good, some bad and almost all because of a paucity of transparent knowledge and information. In addition to this, communities are rightly indignant at the lack of involvement and engagement regarding energy projects be it grid, network or power generation of any kind wind or otherwise. There is a huge amount of mistrust between ordinary citizens and engineers. One group is passionate and the other is logical. Reconciliation between the two is the point at which our renewable energy policies can be implemented but we live in a democracy and citizens have the right to protest and block. Are the rights of one person or one small community of such critical importance that the good of the nation must be abandoned???

    Re my points on gas earlier: upon further research into the IEA’s energy outlook they completely disagree with my opinion on gas and LNG. They predict that the USA will not go ahead with the LNG terminals not already underway and that RE policy will decrease gas demand by the big importers pushing prices down and creating an enormous glut of natural gas…we can only wait to see which one of us is right!!!

  13. Coilin MacLochlainn says:

    @Denis,

    4,687 wind turbines sounds like a good start, and 10,000 might be needed, though preferably a lot of these would be offshore. They would pay for their own set-up costs over time, a long time obviously, like toll bridges. It’s not as though the national treasury would have to fish €52.5 billion out of the coffers to get things going. And they will deliver energy; Denmark generates a very high proportion of its electricity from wind farms.

    I read that the Sahara solar project is going to become a reality, and, if the Libyans and Algerians cut a good deal for themselves, it is likely the threat of sabotage will evaporate. Perhaps you are being a little too pessimistic about the possibilities.

  14. Ian says:

    Oh my goodness I can’t believe we are so unlucky as to have Fianna Fáil in power at a time like this. 🙁

  15. Richard Tol says:

    @John
    This is a gross misinterpretation of the IEA graph. It shows that they expect that oil supply will go up, but that composition of this supply will shift rapidly. This has happened time and again. It is the normal course of business in the oil industry.

    There is nothing miraculous about new oil fields coming into production, or being found. The oil industry is working hard to achieve this. There were two major breakthroughs just this year: ultra-deep oil of Brazil, and coal-bed methane in the US Northeast.

  16. John Gibbons says:

    @Richard
    Great to have you back correcting our homework again! I disagree with your analysis. The “major breakthroughs” you refer to are, in the scheme of global oil consumption, tiddlers that won’t even put a dent into the downward trajectory.

    Dare I suggest your confidence in the hard-working oil industry pulling some gigantic oily rabbits out of the hat to head off peak oil reflects your personal belief system, as I don’t think any dispassionate analysis supports it (though I suspect you’re about to go drilling for info to refute this!)

    Nobuo Tanaka of the IEA put it thus: ““…a continuation of current trends in energy use puts the world on track for a rise in temperature of up to 6°C and poses serious threats to global energy security”. Should, by some extraordinary feat, we manage to actually pump up global daily oil-equivalent output beyond 100mbd, that technological triumph will simply turn up the burners on global warming, and help speed our trajectory to 6°C.

    From there, for climatic equivalents, turn your telescope towards Venus. Once we’ve managed the first half a dozen degrees, positive feedbacks should finish the job – not that we or much else, apart from some extremophile microbes in the ocean trenches – will be around to continue this fascinating debate about just how much fossil energy we can burn, and how quickly.

  17. Richard Tol says:

    @John
    For a dispassionate analysis, look no further than your IEA graph. Overall oil production continues to go up. Specific oil production peaks, as it must, but overall oil production does not.

    The significance of this year’s events does not lie in the size of the finds (although the gas find is quite big). The significance lies in the fact that a good chunk of resources have become reserves. If there is money to be made from ultra-deep oil off Brazil, then ultra-deep oil elsewhere will follow shortly.

    Finally, your concerns do not add up. If you believe in peak oil and that this will crash the world economy, then you need not worry about climate change. If you believe that climate change will be a disaster, then you need to believe that we have plenty of cheap fossil fuel.

  18. denis says:

    Richard—even if the world economy crashes, fossil fuel will still be used by enough people to push us over the top.
    I think that fossil fuel use would have to drop by about 90% to save the planet from irreversible climate change, however who can really say with certainty what the future holds, except that it will most likely be unpleasant !
    Denis.

  19. Richard Tol says:

    @Denis
    Please get your facts straight.

    Anthropogenic climate change cannot be reversed.

    Stabilisation of the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide requires zero emissions. As the capacity to store carbon dioxide is finite, this implies that fossil fuel use has to drop by 100%.

  20. denis says:

    @Richard
    You are a bit rough on me —my facts were almost right—-I was only out by 10% !
    Denis.

  21. John Gibbons says:

    @Denis

    Get used to it, Richard T is a veritable force of nature himself, a boundless resource of certainties in areas that us simpler folk find tremendously uncertain and profoundly worrying. Let me give you an example:

    “Finally, your concerns do not add up. If you believe in peak oil and that this will crash the world economy, then you need not worry about climate change. If you believe that climate change will be a disaster, then you need to believe that we have plenty of cheap fossil fuel” – Richard T.

    To an ordinary punter like me, the above seems mildly deranged. Peak oil may crash the world economy; to describe this as a solution to climate change is just absurd. The second bit, about if I believe climate change will be a disaster, then I “need to believe that we have plenty of cheap fossil fuel”. Whaaaaat the heck does that mean?

    Coal, big, black, lumpy coal, Richard, there’s billions upon billions of tons of the stuff down there, just waiting to be set free. The Germans even managed to turn it into fuel when their oil was blockaded during WW2 (and made a right mess in the process).

    After peak oil crashes the world economy (coal isn’t going to remotely plug the liquid fuel gap, as you know, any more than tar sands would), there will be more than enough coal and peat burned to consume what’s left of the absorptive capacity of our atmosphere and guarantee the double-whammy, ie. no economy AND full-tilt runaway climate change.

    What’s with these non-sequiturs? You tell me that my “concerns do not add up”. Respectfully, your lack of concern hardly tallies with EITHER scenario here, never mind both.

  22. denis says:

    However, thank you for putting me straight.
    Denis.

  23. denis says:

    @ John
    Thank you for your compassion, especially as I`ve been a bit rough on you in the past !
    Denis

  24. Richard Tol says:

    @John
    If you believe that peak oil will crash the economy, the demand for energy will crash too, and emissions will fall. The climate problem disappears.

    In order to have substantial climate change, carbon dioxide emissions need to continue to grow. If the price of fossil fuels increases rapidly, people will shift to nuclear and renewables and emissions will fall.

    So, the climate problem is predicated on cheap fossil fuel, while peak oil predicts expensive fossil fuel. It either/or, not both.

  25. John Gibbons says:

    @Richard

    A few posting back, you were telling Denis: “Anthropogenic climate change cannot be reversed”. Now you’re telling me the climate problem “disappears” in the event of an economic crash. I think your original point was more accurate. We are now ‘committed’ to hundreds, probably thousands of years of warming as a result of carbon loading over the last 200 years.

    Processes such as ocean acidification and surface temperature increases are already unfolding – we just haven’t felt their full impacts yet, due to large system inertia, especially in the oceans. Glacial melt, in the proximate future, is unstoppable, the only issue left is how quickly these changes play out – and that’s where drastic carbon reductions can help. They buy us some time to adapt and mitigate, where possible.

    We can’t turn back the carbon clock, so sadly your statement about the climate problem disappearing with the economic crash does not tally with the science.

  26. Paddy Morris says:

    @ Richard
    According to the IPPC,
    “Available evidence suggests that, worldwide, it is likely that there is a technical potential20 of at least about 2,000 GtCO2 (545 GtC) of storage capacity in geological formations”
    http://www1.ipcc.ch/pdf/special-reports/srccs/srccs_summaryforpolicymakers.pdf
    This does not include the option of storing in deep oceans etc.
    Given that global carbon emissions are currently approx 28gtCO2, while fossil fuel usuage may have to fall to zero eventually CCS would possibly buy us quite a bit of time.
    Re: Peak Oil
    The IEA graph shows total (possible) oil supplies, however as we get down to the dregs of what is available (Tar sands etc.), we will have to invest more and more of our energy to simply drill/pump to the surface, build new oil and gas rigs etc.
    So while oil supplies may increase (assuming the IEAs assumptions are correct, and aren’t overly optimistic, see: http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2009/nov/12/oil-shortage-uppsala-aleklett ) the net energy available may not exactly mirror the increase in supplies, as we invest more and more energy to pump up whats left in the ground. Also, costs are certain to increase.
    This means the free ride we have had energy wise for the last couple of decades will be over, even if the oil is not going to run out anytime soon. To put it simply, the Energy Return on Energy Invested will fall dramatically. Also, re: climate change and peak oil being mutually exclusive – a contracting/crashing world economy would not have the money necessary to invest in decarbonising the economy, build nuclear etc, but would certainly be able to continue buring coal for a couple of hundred years… coal is cheap and buring it makes good ‘economic sense’. To quote yourself:
    “Energy is at the core of some of the greatest environmental and geopolitical challenges of our time. Cheap and plentiful energy – deemed necessary for our current standard of living – can at the moment only be supported by oil and coal, which pollutes the air, changes the climate, and, in the case of oil and gas, comes from unstable regions”
    This is not going to change anytime soon, and the stresses caused by supply constraints and geopolitical instability, decreasing returns on investment (from a net energy as opposed to net $/€ point of view at the very least) will impact badly on an economic system that thrives on stability and growth.
    As John says, if we start to run out of easily accessible oil we will burn coal, you admit yourself these are the only two options at present if we want to maintain our current way of life. Worrying about climate change and peaking oil supplies are by no means mutually exclusive.

  27. Richard Tol says:

    @John
    I corrected Denis who worried that if we don’t act soon, climate change will be irreversible. In fact, the point of irreversible climate change is long past.

    I then wrote about “the climate problem”. I do not equate “irreversible” with “problematic”. There are many irreversible things that are quite enjoyable or irrelevant.

    If you believe that peak oil will drive up the price of energy and crash the world economy, then emissions will fall. You don’t need climate policy, so in that sense you can stop worrying about climate change. Of course you would still need to worry about adapting to climate change, and I guess some people will fret about their past mistakes. But climate change would disappear as a policy problem — much like the ozone layer has disappeared as a policy problem (even though the hole is still there).

    If you don’t believe that peak oil will drive up the price of energy, you need not worry about peak oil.

  28. John Gibbons says:

    @ Richard
    Think I’d best just agree with you, or this is in danger of continuing on an infinite loop…

  29. denis says:

    @ Richard,
    Thank you for the free lessons in logic .
    Because of you and Wikipedia, I am now becoming quite an expert in the many variations of the non-sequitur.
    Denis.

  30. Richard Tol says:

    @Denis
    I do not know who you are. I suspect that you know who I am, but in case not: I know scenarios of climate change inside out, having been involved in the development of some and being personally acquainted with those who developed the rest. I’m not playing logical tricks on you; I’m just trying to summarise the academic literature.

  31. lisa lebowski says:

    Hello – I’m writing from the perspective of a 60 year-old native of the west coast of north america – It seems to me that the fundamental mechanism of american politics, real politics, is theft through power. People call this “growth”, but it’s primarily the transfer of the commons, natural and human assets, coal, clean air and water, oil, know-how, labor and so-forth, to an elite. This is a long-established method and is obvious in us foreign policy since about 1900. So in the sense that I’m writing I am within that system; and what’s called politics here is really the ways that the elite prevent any basic change of systems. They’re good at preventing change, but the gradual resort to direct violence is an indicator of a lack of other options. And that is an indicator of desperation. This is logical if one looks at the whole matter – unlimited “growth” in a closed system.
    The elite is facing the failure of their method – and is terrified. This is the true basis of the so-called “war on terror”. The US is only months from a food crisis as peak oil leverages already declining agro-production. Given converging trends overall it’s obvious that the resort to direct violence will, as hungry “citizens” are moved to act, act even irrationally (as they are steeped in a culture that teaches violence as a primary method) be brought to bear aginst domestic forces. Withall, the US is on the cusp of great turmoil. The world too sits at the cusp of revolution. Our collective future? Die off. The world the survivors will inherit? Undetermined. Timshel.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *