The new age of fossil fuels

Michael Lind, at Salon, no less, explodes the conventional wisdom:

Are we living at the beginning of the Age of Fossil Fuels, not its final decades? The very thought goes against everything that politicians and the educated public have been taught to believe in the past generation. According to the conventional wisdom, the U.S. and other industrial nations must undertake a rapid and expensive transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy for three reasons: The imminent depletion of fossil fuels, national security and the danger of global warming.

What if the conventional wisdom about the energy future of America and the world has been completely wrong?

As everyone who follows news about energy knows by now, in the last decade the technique of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” long used in the oil industry, has evolved to permit energy companies to access reserves of previously-unrecoverable “shale gas” or unconventional natural gas. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, these advances mean there is at least six times as much recoverable natural gas today as there was a decade ago.

Natural gas, which emits less carbon dioxide than coal, can be used in both electricity generation and as a fuel for automobiles.

The implications for energy security are startling. Natural gas may be only the beginning. Fracking also permits the extraction of previously-unrecoverable “tight oil,” thereby postponing the day when the world runs out of petroleum. There is enough coal to produce energy for centuries. And governments, universities and corporations in the U.S., Canada, Japan and other countries are studying ways to obtain energy from gas hydrates, which mix methane with ice in high-density formations under the seafloor. The potential energy in gas hydrates may equal that of all other fossils, including other forms of natural gas, combined.

If gas hydrates as well as shale gas, tight oil, oil sands and other unconventional sources can be tapped at reasonable cost, then the global energy picture looks radically different than it did only a few years ago. Suddenly it appears that there may be enough accessible hydrocarbons to power industrial civilization for centuries, if not millennia, to come.

So much for the specter of depletion, as a reason to adopt renewable energy technologies like solar power and wind power. Whatever may be the case with Peak Oil in particular, the date of Peak Fossil Fuels has been pushed indefinitely into the future. What about national security as a reason to switch to renewable energy?

The U.S., Canada and Mexico, it turns out, are sitting on oceans of recoverable natural gas. Shale gas is combined with recoverable oil in the Bakken “play” along the U.S.-Canadian border and the Eagle Ford play in Texas. The shale gas reserves of China turn out to be enormous, too. Other countries with now-accessible natural gas reserves, according to the U.S. government, include Australia, South Africa, Argentina, Chile, France, Poland and India.

via Everything you’ve heard about fossil fuels may be wrong – War Room – Salon.com.

The author goes on to deal discuss global warming concerns and how environmentalists are trying to shut down these new abundant sources of energy. But his conclusion is that the age of fossil fuels is just beginning.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Pete

    I’ve always felt that the canals on Mars would prove to be a plentiful source of crude oil.

  • Pete

    I’ve always felt that the canals on Mars would prove to be a plentiful source of crude oil.

  • Louis

    In SA they recently halted the use of fracking, due to environmental concerns. I have no opinion on the matter though, as I have not yet looked into it, really.

    http://af.reuters.com/article/commoditiesNews/idAFLDE73K1G120110421?pageNumber=2&virtualBrandChannel=0

  • Louis

    In SA they recently halted the use of fracking, due to environmental concerns. I have no opinion on the matter though, as I have not yet looked into it, really.

    http://af.reuters.com/article/commoditiesNews/idAFLDE73K1G120110421?pageNumber=2&virtualBrandChannel=0

  • Tom Hering

    Pete, be sensible. The amount of energy that could be harvested by wind farms on the Moon far exceeds what we could get by pumping oil from the Martian canals. Check out the New Moon Foundation’s website if you don’t believe me.

  • Tom Hering

    Pete, be sensible. The amount of energy that could be harvested by wind farms on the Moon far exceeds what we could get by pumping oil from the Martian canals. Check out the New Moon Foundation’s website if you don’t believe me.

  • http://originalsoapbox.wordpress.com Peter S.

    Though suspicious of “peak oil” predictions, I think too little is known at this point about the long-term effects of hydraulic fracturing on the surrounding environment. My gentleman-farmer uncle in WV claims his water supply may become polluted by toxic effluent from the Pittsburgh area fracking zones.

  • http://originalsoapbox.wordpress.com Peter S.

    Though suspicious of “peak oil” predictions, I think too little is known at this point about the long-term effects of hydraulic fracturing on the surrounding environment. My gentleman-farmer uncle in WV claims his water supply may become polluted by toxic effluent from the Pittsburgh area fracking zones.

  • WebMonk

    Just because a “conservative” article is printed on the “liberal” Salon site doesn’t make it true. That article is as full of massive exaggerations, generalizations, and ridiculation (I had to keep the “tion” pattern going) as the worst of the liberal screeds.

    “centuries, if not millennia” – I had to read that a couple times to make sure he wasn’t using it in some way that made sense. Nope – he really is that much of an ignorant idiot.

    (actually, I don’t think he’s an idiot – I suspect he was purposefully making lots of extreme statements in there to generate lots of traffic and discussion.)

  • WebMonk

    Just because a “conservative” article is printed on the “liberal” Salon site doesn’t make it true. That article is as full of massive exaggerations, generalizations, and ridiculation (I had to keep the “tion” pattern going) as the worst of the liberal screeds.

    “centuries, if not millennia” – I had to read that a couple times to make sure he wasn’t using it in some way that made sense. Nope – he really is that much of an ignorant idiot.

    (actually, I don’t think he’s an idiot – I suspect he was purposefully making lots of extreme statements in there to generate lots of traffic and discussion.)

  • WebMonk

    And yes Peter. Fracking is a lot more dangerous for environmental pollution than traditional oil wells. There are ways to mitigate the risks, but they’re definitely much higher risks than the traditional oil/gas drilling methods.

  • WebMonk

    And yes Peter. Fracking is a lot more dangerous for environmental pollution than traditional oil wells. There are ways to mitigate the risks, but they’re definitely much higher risks than the traditional oil/gas drilling methods.

  • Tom Hering

    If [if] gas hydrates as well as shale gas, tight oil, oil sands and other unconventional sources can [can] be tapped at reasonable [reasonable] cost, then [then] the global energy picture looks radically different than it did only a few years ago. Suddenly it appears [appears] that there may [may] be enough accessible hydrocarbons to power industrial civilization for centuries, if not millennia, to come.

    Science fact or science fiction?

  • Tom Hering

    If [if] gas hydrates as well as shale gas, tight oil, oil sands and other unconventional sources can [can] be tapped at reasonable [reasonable] cost, then [then] the global energy picture looks radically different than it did only a few years ago. Suddenly it appears [appears] that there may [may] be enough accessible hydrocarbons to power industrial civilization for centuries, if not millennia, to come.

    Science fact or science fiction?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Seems smarter to work on ways to reduce consumption and inefficiency rather than just looking for more to burn. Even if we had an infinite supply, it still is a lot of work to get it out and it does cause pollution.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Seems smarter to work on ways to reduce consumption and inefficiency rather than just looking for more to burn. Even if we had an infinite supply, it still is a lot of work to get it out and it does cause pollution.

  • Tom Hering

    You’ve been warned:

    “Science’s dream of limitless power becomes mankind’s nightmare of unimaginable terror! You’ll thank God it’s only a motion picture.”

  • Tom Hering

    You’ve been warned:

    “Science’s dream of limitless power becomes mankind’s nightmare of unimaginable terror! You’ll thank God it’s only a motion picture.”

  • WebMonk

    It is necessary to work on conservation, but it is impossible to truly use less energy in the future. (short of dropping back to a 1920s sort of living in the developed/developing world) Between population growth, growing wealth, and growing technology – energy use is going to grow no matter how efficient we become.

    Take every appliance, TV, and computer in the US and instantly transform them to use only 1/4 the energy they currently use, and then change every vehicle in the country to get 100 mpg, and we’ll still have energy growth. We would have a sudden drop in energy consumption, but within a couple years our energy consumption would grow back to its previous level, and continue to grow.

    Conservation of energy is about using less than we would otherwise. It can’t be about using truly less energy year after year until we’re only using the amount of energy we used back in the 1950s (or pick your date).

    Conservation of energy use is using energy more efficiently so that we only increase our energy consumption by 1% per year instead of 5%. Pollution (depending on what is called pollution) is something that can be lowered in raw amount even with real-world considerations, but energy use isn’t.

    Realizing that conservation can’t truly take us to a lower raw level of energy use, it is obvious that energy production will always need to grow as well. I REALLY don’t think we’re just at the beginning of the hydrocarbon consumption age like the author so dramatically claimed, but we certainly aren’t at its tail end either.

  • WebMonk

    It is necessary to work on conservation, but it is impossible to truly use less energy in the future. (short of dropping back to a 1920s sort of living in the developed/developing world) Between population growth, growing wealth, and growing technology – energy use is going to grow no matter how efficient we become.

    Take every appliance, TV, and computer in the US and instantly transform them to use only 1/4 the energy they currently use, and then change every vehicle in the country to get 100 mpg, and we’ll still have energy growth. We would have a sudden drop in energy consumption, but within a couple years our energy consumption would grow back to its previous level, and continue to grow.

    Conservation of energy is about using less than we would otherwise. It can’t be about using truly less energy year after year until we’re only using the amount of energy we used back in the 1950s (or pick your date).

    Conservation of energy use is using energy more efficiently so that we only increase our energy consumption by 1% per year instead of 5%. Pollution (depending on what is called pollution) is something that can be lowered in raw amount even with real-world considerations, but energy use isn’t.

    Realizing that conservation can’t truly take us to a lower raw level of energy use, it is obvious that energy production will always need to grow as well. I REALLY don’t think we’re just at the beginning of the hydrocarbon consumption age like the author so dramatically claimed, but we certainly aren’t at its tail end either.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Between population growth, growing wealth, and growing technology – energy use is going to grow no matter how efficient we become.”

    I am not sure about growing wealth. I saw a map of India’s aquifers. I know some areas get a lot of precipitation and I don’t know how well they manage it, but clean water can also be a limiting factor. Sure tech can help, but only if you use it. Maybe water will be more of a limiting factor than even the cost of energy.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Between population growth, growing wealth, and growing technology – energy use is going to grow no matter how efficient we become.”

    I am not sure about growing wealth. I saw a map of India’s aquifers. I know some areas get a lot of precipitation and I don’t know how well they manage it, but clean water can also be a limiting factor. Sure tech can help, but only if you use it. Maybe water will be more of a limiting factor than even the cost of energy.

  • WebMonk

    sg – say huh??? India’s aquifers have what to do with worldwide growth of wealth? Are you predicting that the world will be limited by the available amount of potable water??? WTH?

    Growing wealth results in a growing desire for “stuff” – medical services, TVs/computers, more food, transportation, clothing, etc. All that stuff is very energy intensive (compared to animal farming, herding, or whatever the local economy was before the growing wealth). The world is going through a definite increase in wealth, especially in China and India (uneven as the distribution of wealth may be, there is still a very strong increase in wealth and accompanying demand for “stuff”).

    All that increasing wealth is going to generate an increase in demand for energy. There’s no way to avoid that. There’s nothing about it which depends on Indian aquifers.

  • WebMonk

    sg – say huh??? India’s aquifers have what to do with worldwide growth of wealth? Are you predicting that the world will be limited by the available amount of potable water??? WTH?

    Growing wealth results in a growing desire for “stuff” – medical services, TVs/computers, more food, transportation, clothing, etc. All that stuff is very energy intensive (compared to animal farming, herding, or whatever the local economy was before the growing wealth). The world is going through a definite increase in wealth, especially in China and India (uneven as the distribution of wealth may be, there is still a very strong increase in wealth and accompanying demand for “stuff”).

    All that increasing wealth is going to generate an increase in demand for energy. There’s no way to avoid that. There’s nothing about it which depends on Indian aquifers.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Sorry, about the leap of logic (illogic?) I just wonder about per capita consumption of water. Don’t more prosperous folks use more water? And doesn’t industry as well? Industry doesn’t need potable water for everything, but I think water is a factor in areas of growing wealth/population.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Sorry, about the leap of logic (illogic?) I just wonder about per capita consumption of water. Don’t more prosperous folks use more water? And doesn’t industry as well? Industry doesn’t need potable water for everything, but I think water is a factor in areas of growing wealth/population.

  • trotk

    Water will be the one thing that never limits growth. The earth has an abundance of it, and the difficulty of making sea water potable has long since been overcome. It just isn’t needed, and therefore profitable, yet.

  • trotk

    Water will be the one thing that never limits growth. The earth has an abundance of it, and the difficulty of making sea water potable has long since been overcome. It just isn’t needed, and therefore profitable, yet.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “It just isn’t needed, and therefore profitable, yet.”

    Isn’t it expensive? Can developing places afford it? It must require energy and people at least for the construction. Would the construction of such enable growth or impede it? What would local effects be? Can’t be zero. Or will folks move to places with more water? Water issues are reported. Are they exaggerations? Do I misunderstand?

    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/06/0605_030605_watercrisis.html

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “It just isn’t needed, and therefore profitable, yet.”

    Isn’t it expensive? Can developing places afford it? It must require energy and people at least for the construction. Would the construction of such enable growth or impede it? What would local effects be? Can’t be zero. Or will folks move to places with more water? Water issues are reported. Are they exaggerations? Do I misunderstand?

    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/06/0605_030605_watercrisis.html

  • http://Www.Toddstadler.com tODD

    Look, I understand that some here are fans of the new “Battlestar Galactica”, but that doesn’t make that word any less vulgar. Could we talk about something else?

  • http://Www.Toddstadler.com tODD

    Look, I understand that some here are fans of the new “Battlestar Galactica”, but that doesn’t make that word any less vulgar. Could we talk about something else?

  • trotk

    sg -

    The crisis is there in the third world. You are right about that. What I meant was that it wasn’t really needed here, or in Europe, or in any other wealthy country. When the wealthy feel the need, they will spend the money, and then development of technology and methodology will occur, and then it will get cheaper, and then finally the poor countries will gain access when it becomes incredibly cheap. A long process, no doubt, and many will be hurt in the meantime, but it won’t limit growth in the long run. That is what I meant.

    tODD, I don’t get your point.

  • trotk

    sg -

    The crisis is there in the third world. You are right about that. What I meant was that it wasn’t really needed here, or in Europe, or in any other wealthy country. When the wealthy feel the need, they will spend the money, and then development of technology and methodology will occur, and then it will get cheaper, and then finally the poor countries will gain access when it becomes incredibly cheap. A long process, no doubt, and many will be hurt in the meantime, but it won’t limit growth in the long run. That is what I meant.

    tODD, I don’t get your point.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “tODD, I don’t get your point.”

    tODD is being clever. I think he thinks I am changing the subject.

    Sorry about that.

    Back to energy. Like food production, when growth causes demand to increase beyond what is naturally (read cheap and easily) available, then you need more energy and to procure it. So water may be a limiting factor both because it is not as easy to get in all places and because while folks might like more stuff, they will have to use energy just to get what they need like water.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “tODD, I don’t get your point.”

    tODD is being clever. I think he thinks I am changing the subject.

    Sorry about that.

    Back to energy. Like food production, when growth causes demand to increase beyond what is naturally (read cheap and easily) available, then you need more energy and to procure it. So water may be a limiting factor both because it is not as easy to get in all places and because while folks might like more stuff, they will have to use energy just to get what they need like water.

  • Tom Hering

    Third World? Isn’t Georgia having water problems? Didn’t the Great Lakes states band together to protect their resource from water-hungry states to the south and west? Isn’t the Ogallala Aquifer being depleted?

  • Tom Hering

    Third World? Isn’t Georgia having water problems? Didn’t the Great Lakes states band together to protect their resource from water-hungry states to the south and west? Isn’t the Ogallala Aquifer being depleted?

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD: I honestly did not expect that reference to pop up on this blog, but thank you.

    WebMonk: While “millennia” is certainly an exaggeration on the author’s part, “centuries” is not. According to “analysts” I’ve read of the less enthusiastic sort, there are estimated to be enough accessible natural gas reserves–particularly in the Marcellus Shale distribution, which is one of the largest in the world–in the United States to fuel all it’s own energy needs for a century at least. Aside from the fact that this estimate is probably based on current usage and not future growth, I have no idea how this calculation was achieved. But it is out there, and it’s being repeated non-hysterically.

    I have mixed feelings about natural gas reserves and frakking. (Frakking what?) On the one hand, it’s wonderful that the United States finds itself in possession of another valuable natural resource, and one that could lead to some form of energy independence at that. I think we often lose sight of just how awful it is that we depend upon a collection of unstable/failed nation-states and fascist dictatorships to supply a significant portion of our energy. Early commentators on America often remarked on the supreme blessing we have in our abundant natural resources–because it is crucially important.

    On the other hand, as noted, frakking is, like all resource extraction processes, environmentally dangerous. Is it more dangerous than other similar activities (oil drilling, mining, etc.)? I couldn’t say–and current studies are indeterminate anyway. Will frakking be improved as its popularity grows to minimize its environmental impact? Probably. In short, I see no reason not to proceed unless we proceed without circumspection.

    I’m saying this in one of my more utilitarian moods, of course, in terms of how our gargantuan economy/society actually operates and what it actually “needs” to subsist in its current form.

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD: I honestly did not expect that reference to pop up on this blog, but thank you.

    WebMonk: While “millennia” is certainly an exaggeration on the author’s part, “centuries” is not. According to “analysts” I’ve read of the less enthusiastic sort, there are estimated to be enough accessible natural gas reserves–particularly in the Marcellus Shale distribution, which is one of the largest in the world–in the United States to fuel all it’s own energy needs for a century at least. Aside from the fact that this estimate is probably based on current usage and not future growth, I have no idea how this calculation was achieved. But it is out there, and it’s being repeated non-hysterically.

    I have mixed feelings about natural gas reserves and frakking. (Frakking what?) On the one hand, it’s wonderful that the United States finds itself in possession of another valuable natural resource, and one that could lead to some form of energy independence at that. I think we often lose sight of just how awful it is that we depend upon a collection of unstable/failed nation-states and fascist dictatorships to supply a significant portion of our energy. Early commentators on America often remarked on the supreme blessing we have in our abundant natural resources–because it is crucially important.

    On the other hand, as noted, frakking is, like all resource extraction processes, environmentally dangerous. Is it more dangerous than other similar activities (oil drilling, mining, etc.)? I couldn’t say–and current studies are indeterminate anyway. Will frakking be improved as its popularity grows to minimize its environmental impact? Probably. In short, I see no reason not to proceed unless we proceed without circumspection.

    I’m saying this in one of my more utilitarian moods, of course, in terms of how our gargantuan economy/society actually operates and what it actually “needs” to subsist in its current form.

  • WebMonk

    Cin, most all the estimations I’ve seen as to energy resources and how long they will continue into the future seem to use current consumption as their standard and not projected growth. (except for oil consumption for some reason, but that’s a separate topic)

    That is really sad because the world’s energy consumption is predicted to grow by 50% in the next 25-30 years. (and those are relatively conservative estimates, I’ve seen some not-obviously-crazy ones that predict 100% growth in energy use within 30 years)

    The numbers I’ve seen for the Marcellus/Utica Shale deposits weren’t suggesting nearly a century’s worth of gas consumption, but they were still considerable. (check it’s Wikipedia page, it’s pretty solid for this topic)

    On the water topic – water has never been a serious, large-scale inhibitor of economic growth, and nothing looks posed to change that. It can be a major inhibitor on the regional scale, but not on the global scale. Sea-water to pure water is extremely feasible, but has never been put into use because water from other sources has always been cheaper. Should water from those other sources start becoming rarer, then the value of potable water will start going up, and will make the seawater-to-potable process economically feasible LONG before a shortage of water would have a large-scale impact on a developed(-ing) country’s growth.

  • WebMonk

    Cin, most all the estimations I’ve seen as to energy resources and how long they will continue into the future seem to use current consumption as their standard and not projected growth. (except for oil consumption for some reason, but that’s a separate topic)

    That is really sad because the world’s energy consumption is predicted to grow by 50% in the next 25-30 years. (and those are relatively conservative estimates, I’ve seen some not-obviously-crazy ones that predict 100% growth in energy use within 30 years)

    The numbers I’ve seen for the Marcellus/Utica Shale deposits weren’t suggesting nearly a century’s worth of gas consumption, but they were still considerable. (check it’s Wikipedia page, it’s pretty solid for this topic)

    On the water topic – water has never been a serious, large-scale inhibitor of economic growth, and nothing looks posed to change that. It can be a major inhibitor on the regional scale, but not on the global scale. Sea-water to pure water is extremely feasible, but has never been put into use because water from other sources has always been cheaper. Should water from those other sources start becoming rarer, then the value of potable water will start going up, and will make the seawater-to-potable process economically feasible LONG before a shortage of water would have a large-scale impact on a developed(-ing) country’s growth.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    SG (@18), I think it’s funny that you took my comment (@16) to be a suggestion that you were off-topic. It was nothing of the sort, but perhaps it is revealing that you reacted that way.

    No, I really was talking about Battlestar Galactica. Cincinnatus got it (@20). I expect WebMonk would have, too. For the record, I’ve never even watched an episode of the new series, but I still know its lingo, for some reason.

    Anyhow, in keeping with WebMonk’s comment (@5), I find it odd that Dr. Veith is so often persuaded by seemingly “conservative” thoughts being expressed in would-be “liberal” outlets. It seems that, to him, it is a mark of honesty or trustworthiness when someone says something you would not expect him to. Of course, the flaw in this method is that it all depends on the accuracy of one’s pigeonholing.

    For instance, if one takes the position (often held by “conservatives”) that the media is inherently “liberally” biased, and therefore one would only expect liberal ideas from them, then one will find as trustworthy any “conservative” article that the media prints. The problem with this is that it merely recapitulates the pre-existing “conservative” bias of the observer.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    SG (@18), I think it’s funny that you took my comment (@16) to be a suggestion that you were off-topic. It was nothing of the sort, but perhaps it is revealing that you reacted that way.

    No, I really was talking about Battlestar Galactica. Cincinnatus got it (@20). I expect WebMonk would have, too. For the record, I’ve never even watched an episode of the new series, but I still know its lingo, for some reason.

    Anyhow, in keeping with WebMonk’s comment (@5), I find it odd that Dr. Veith is so often persuaded by seemingly “conservative” thoughts being expressed in would-be “liberal” outlets. It seems that, to him, it is a mark of honesty or trustworthiness when someone says something you would not expect him to. Of course, the flaw in this method is that it all depends on the accuracy of one’s pigeonholing.

    For instance, if one takes the position (often held by “conservatives”) that the media is inherently “liberally” biased, and therefore one would only expect liberal ideas from them, then one will find as trustworthy any “conservative” article that the media prints. The problem with this is that it merely recapitulates the pre-existing “conservative” bias of the observer.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Anyhow (again), I have no idea what the future holds for fossil fuels, and I’m fairly certain neither does the author of this article. It kind of reminds me of the evolution of microprocessors. They keep getting smaller and faster. And at every point, there are apparent problems that simply cannot be solved … until they are. And things keep getting smaller and faster. But there is never any guarantee that this will continue. Yet many people assume that the string of advancements in our past are a guarantee of future performance.

    Same thing with fossil fuels. We keep making advances (that likely would not have been economically feasible, in days past) that allow us to eke more oil and gas from the planet, but there is a logical limit to this, even if we’re approaching it asymptotically.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Anyhow (again), I have no idea what the future holds for fossil fuels, and I’m fairly certain neither does the author of this article. It kind of reminds me of the evolution of microprocessors. They keep getting smaller and faster. And at every point, there are apparent problems that simply cannot be solved … until they are. And things keep getting smaller and faster. But there is never any guarantee that this will continue. Yet many people assume that the string of advancements in our past are a guarantee of future performance.

    Same thing with fossil fuels. We keep making advances (that likely would not have been economically feasible, in days past) that allow us to eke more oil and gas from the planet, but there is a logical limit to this, even if we’re approaching it asymptotically.

  • Tom Hering

    sg @ 18, “frak” is a substitute for the f-word on the new Galactica. And yes, the Syfy channel is relentlessly stupid.

  • Tom Hering

    sg @ 18, “frak” is a substitute for the f-word on the new Galactica. And yes, the Syfy channel is relentlessly stupid.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Thanks, Tom. I did not know that! :-)

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Thanks, Tom. I did not know that! :-)

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “It was nothing of the sort, but perhaps it is revealing that you reacted that way.”

    “revealing”

    funny

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “It was nothing of the sort, but perhaps it is revealing that you reacted that way.”

    “revealing”

    funny

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I’ve never even watched an episode of the new series, but I still know its lingo, for some reason.”

    but perhaps it is revealing that you know it :-)

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I’ve never even watched an episode of the new series, but I still know its lingo, for some reason.”

    but perhaps it is revealing that you know it :-)

  • Cincinnatus

    I’ll have you know, Tom Hering (and sg…and tODD, for that matter) that the new Battlestar Galactica (actually a few years old at this point) is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen on television. Seriously: good acting, good writing, good production, good questions, good stories.

    But to return to lesser questions, I think one of tODD’s points bears repeating: future projections about anything are an intrinsically problematic effort, particularly when we’re talking about something so broad as the consumption of a global economy, which itself is contingent upon innumerable variables. Who knows what future decades will bring? For this reason I am equally skeptical of apocalyptic peak oil predictions and of heady prophecies of energy-soaked bliss like this one.

    All we can say is that there is a gigantic mass of extractable natural gas within the boundaries of the United States (and elsewhere) that could do very much to aid us in our quest for energy independence, and I personally think energy independence is a worthy goal. Environmental concerns (which are significant) aside, there is furthermore little we can do to stop it. This media blurb is actually reminiscent of Ric Romero’s report on blogging: it’s about five years too late. Billions upon billions have already been invested in the Marcellus Shale region (especially in Pennsylvania) in the past few years, so good luck packing up that shop. In fact, I was just reading an article from 2008 effusing about the utopian possibilities of domestic natural gas production in PA, which had already been ongoing for a few years.

    And yeah, the water discussion is a non-starter. Sure, we’re depleting our natural aquifers in some locales (Las Vegas is a great domestic example), but, while that may shift population development somewhat, it’s certainly not going to limit growth on a global or even regional scale.

  • Cincinnatus

    I’ll have you know, Tom Hering (and sg…and tODD, for that matter) that the new Battlestar Galactica (actually a few years old at this point) is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen on television. Seriously: good acting, good writing, good production, good questions, good stories.

    But to return to lesser questions, I think one of tODD’s points bears repeating: future projections about anything are an intrinsically problematic effort, particularly when we’re talking about something so broad as the consumption of a global economy, which itself is contingent upon innumerable variables. Who knows what future decades will bring? For this reason I am equally skeptical of apocalyptic peak oil predictions and of heady prophecies of energy-soaked bliss like this one.

    All we can say is that there is a gigantic mass of extractable natural gas within the boundaries of the United States (and elsewhere) that could do very much to aid us in our quest for energy independence, and I personally think energy independence is a worthy goal. Environmental concerns (which are significant) aside, there is furthermore little we can do to stop it. This media blurb is actually reminiscent of Ric Romero’s report on blogging: it’s about five years too late. Billions upon billions have already been invested in the Marcellus Shale region (especially in Pennsylvania) in the past few years, so good luck packing up that shop. In fact, I was just reading an article from 2008 effusing about the utopian possibilities of domestic natural gas production in PA, which had already been ongoing for a few years.

    And yeah, the water discussion is a non-starter. Sure, we’re depleting our natural aquifers in some locales (Las Vegas is a great domestic example), but, while that may shift population development somewhat, it’s certainly not going to limit growth on a global or even regional scale.

  • Tom Hering

    Yeah, but what if the Cylons decide they want our water? What then, hmm?

  • Tom Hering

    Yeah, but what if the Cylons decide they want our water? What then, hmm?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus (@28), you don’t need to defend BSG. I’ve heard from many people that it’s good. We’ll probably watch the whole series on DVD in a quick run some day at our house.

    Anyhow, I’ll never understand why nuclear power doesn’t get glowing (ha!) articles like this one. Exactly how old and established does that technology need to be before people move beyond Godzilla as their primary scientific reference for it?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus (@28), you don’t need to defend BSG. I’ve heard from many people that it’s good. We’ll probably watch the whole series on DVD in a quick run some day at our house.

    Anyhow, I’ll never understand why nuclear power doesn’t get glowing (ha!) articles like this one. Exactly how old and established does that technology need to be before people move beyond Godzilla as their primary scientific reference for it?

  • Cincinnatus

    Agreed. I have philosophical problems with nuclear power that aren’t relevant to this question, but in terms of viability, efficiency, and productivity, nuclear is the way to go.

    Speaking of which, did you hear that Germany is closing all its nuclear plants and effectively suspending any nuclear research? Derp.

  • Cincinnatus

    Agreed. I have philosophical problems with nuclear power that aren’t relevant to this question, but in terms of viability, efficiency, and productivity, nuclear is the way to go.

    Speaking of which, did you hear that Germany is closing all its nuclear plants and effectively suspending any nuclear research? Derp.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    tODD@ 23

    And at every point, there are apparent problems that simply cannot be solved … until they are. And things keep getting smaller and faster. But there is never any guarantee that this will continue. Yet many people assume that the string of advancements in our past are a guarantee of future performance.

    Same thing with fossil fuels. We keep making advances (that likely would not have been economically feasible, in days past)

    This is the thing that confuses me. We say it is economically feasible, but is it really? For example, the US gov’t has a mountain of debt for stuff that we are all responsible for because we voted for it. We don’t have money for healthcare, but we have money for ever more expensive energy? I know this may sound dopey, but something has to be out of whack. Maybe someone gets what I am saying?

    I don’t know if the blockquote is going to work, but I tried.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    tODD@ 23

    And at every point, there are apparent problems that simply cannot be solved … until they are. And things keep getting smaller and faster. But there is never any guarantee that this will continue. Yet many people assume that the string of advancements in our past are a guarantee of future performance.

    Same thing with fossil fuels. We keep making advances (that likely would not have been economically feasible, in days past)

    This is the thing that confuses me. We say it is economically feasible, but is it really? For example, the US gov’t has a mountain of debt for stuff that we are all responsible for because we voted for it. We don’t have money for healthcare, but we have money for ever more expensive energy? I know this may sound dopey, but something has to be out of whack. Maybe someone gets what I am saying?

    I don’t know if the blockquote is going to work, but I tried.

  • Cincinnatus

    sg: You’re right–we neither have money for healthcare nor ever more expensive energy. Which is why, ostensibly, the federal government isn’t substantially underwriting the mining of natural gas.

  • Cincinnatus

    sg: You’re right–we neither have money for healthcare nor ever more expensive energy. Which is why, ostensibly, the federal government isn’t substantially underwriting the mining of natural gas.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    SG (@32), good job on the block quote, though I agree with Cincinnatus (@33) that our government isn’t all that involved with this, financially.

    My point about economic feasibility had more to with how easy it is to get fuels out of the ground. When all it takes is some basic drilling equipment and an oil derrick and, voila, gusher! then its economically foolish to try to squeeze oil out of shale, as it were. Hydro-fracking only makes sense in a world where the low-hanging fruit has already been picked.

    And yeah, Cincinnatus (@31), I’d heard about Germany’s plans. Insane. I think renewable power is a great thing, but it’s also, quite simply, implausible. They could build a giant dome covering all of Germany and plaster it with solar panels and wind turbines, and it still wouldn’t be enough. I don’t know what exactly was behind the shift in Germany’s thinking, but if it was mainly the Japan earthquake/tsunami, isn’t that a bit of an overreaction?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    SG (@32), good job on the block quote, though I agree with Cincinnatus (@33) that our government isn’t all that involved with this, financially.

    My point about economic feasibility had more to with how easy it is to get fuels out of the ground. When all it takes is some basic drilling equipment and an oil derrick and, voila, gusher! then its economically foolish to try to squeeze oil out of shale, as it were. Hydro-fracking only makes sense in a world where the low-hanging fruit has already been picked.

    And yeah, Cincinnatus (@31), I’d heard about Germany’s plans. Insane. I think renewable power is a great thing, but it’s also, quite simply, implausible. They could build a giant dome covering all of Germany and plaster it with solar panels and wind turbines, and it still wouldn’t be enough. I don’t know what exactly was behind the shift in Germany’s thinking, but if it was mainly the Japan earthquake/tsunami, isn’t that a bit of an overreaction?

  • Louis

    sg – when you need the energy, you need the energy. Cost will be passed on.

    But this is exactly what the alternative energy folks do not get – and I’d like to refer to Webmonk’s comment at 10. If we move to say electric cars, we still have to generate the electricity. And wind/solar at this stage are simply not going to provide the generation capacity that that scenario would require. And burning coal is, well, burning coal. It is just transferring the hydrocarbon usage from vehicle to power station. So we are left with hydrocarbons – and nuclear. But the inhabitants of lala-land would have us believe that every single nuclear station is a Fukushima/Chernobyl-in-waiting. They are morons. There are at least 2 designs of nuclear power stations which are much safer – CANDU and Pebble-Bed. Also, you do not build stations on fault zones, tsunami coasts etc etc. Just like you do not build your house on a floodplain and then say – Why me? Why me? when the floodwaters take it all away, and then demand taxpayers money to pay for you having no foresight.

    But with that said, Nuclear is more expensive – at least currently. But the reserves are plentiful, and there is no CO2 releae and all that. Plus the issues with nuclear storage are vastly overstated, mainly because folks are still stuck with the results of some idiotic bureaucratic decision making dating back to the 50′s.

    So then – natural gas. But you will have to carefully manage the environmental risk.

  • Louis

    sg – when you need the energy, you need the energy. Cost will be passed on.

    But this is exactly what the alternative energy folks do not get – and I’d like to refer to Webmonk’s comment at 10. If we move to say electric cars, we still have to generate the electricity. And wind/solar at this stage are simply not going to provide the generation capacity that that scenario would require. And burning coal is, well, burning coal. It is just transferring the hydrocarbon usage from vehicle to power station. So we are left with hydrocarbons – and nuclear. But the inhabitants of lala-land would have us believe that every single nuclear station is a Fukushima/Chernobyl-in-waiting. They are morons. There are at least 2 designs of nuclear power stations which are much safer – CANDU and Pebble-Bed. Also, you do not build stations on fault zones, tsunami coasts etc etc. Just like you do not build your house on a floodplain and then say – Why me? Why me? when the floodwaters take it all away, and then demand taxpayers money to pay for you having no foresight.

    But with that said, Nuclear is more expensive – at least currently. But the reserves are plentiful, and there is no CO2 releae and all that. Plus the issues with nuclear storage are vastly overstated, mainly because folks are still stuck with the results of some idiotic bureaucratic decision making dating back to the 50′s.

    So then – natural gas. But you will have to carefully manage the environmental risk.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I agree with Cincinnatus (@33) that our government isn’t all that involved with this, financially.”

    Right, but if we raised taxes enough to actually pay for everything instead of just borrowing and spending, would folks still have enough in their pockets to pay higher prices for stuff like the frak retrieved gas? Like I said, I know it sounds dopey, but when I see numbers like 60 trillion in unfunded liabilities, I just wonder how this is going to work. It doesn’t look sustainable and I don’t hear much about shifting our paradigm from growth to sustain. A few are but by far the majority keep talking growth, growth, growth.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I agree with Cincinnatus (@33) that our government isn’t all that involved with this, financially.”

    Right, but if we raised taxes enough to actually pay for everything instead of just borrowing and spending, would folks still have enough in their pockets to pay higher prices for stuff like the frak retrieved gas? Like I said, I know it sounds dopey, but when I see numbers like 60 trillion in unfunded liabilities, I just wonder how this is going to work. It doesn’t look sustainable and I don’t hear much about shifting our paradigm from growth to sustain. A few are but by far the majority keep talking growth, growth, growth.

  • Cincinnatus

    sg: I’m not really sure what you’re getting at here. The government may someday go bankrupt and therefore we should shut down everything, including private ventures, now? Huh? Maybe you could clarify so I understand exactly your point.

    (also, unfunded liabilities are very different from the national debt)

    Louis@35: Bravo.

  • Cincinnatus

    sg: I’m not really sure what you’re getting at here. The government may someday go bankrupt and therefore we should shut down everything, including private ventures, now? Huh? Maybe you could clarify so I understand exactly your point.

    (also, unfunded liabilities are very different from the national debt)

    Louis@35: Bravo.

  • Louis

    Thanks Cincinnatus.

    Addendum: Not that we should abandon wind and solar – not at all – especially solar. But these will certainly not suffice – they will be auxillary at best only – depending, of course, what future research will yield. For low-carbon energy economy, you could have nuclear augmented by solar and wind. And electrify the railways then, if you wantoto, to minimise road transport. Maybe that could work.

    But if you don’t want to main coal / oil / gas, then where the heck are youn going to find the raw material to manufacture plastics, and the host of other products made from hydrocarbons?? ( http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080807185043AAlPQa3)

  • Louis

    Thanks Cincinnatus.

    Addendum: Not that we should abandon wind and solar – not at all – especially solar. But these will certainly not suffice – they will be auxillary at best only – depending, of course, what future research will yield. For low-carbon energy economy, you could have nuclear augmented by solar and wind. And electrify the railways then, if you wantoto, to minimise road transport. Maybe that could work.

    But if you don’t want to main coal / oil / gas, then where the heck are youn going to find the raw material to manufacture plastics, and the host of other products made from hydrocarbons?? ( http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080807185043AAlPQa3)

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I’m not really sure what you’re getting at here.”

    Trying to see how it all fits together.

    “The government may someday go bankrupt and therefore we should shut down everything, including private ventures, now?”

    No, no of course not.

    “(also, unfunded liabilities are very different from the national debt)”

    Right, but it all has to be paid for.

    My question is the cost, as well as the temptation to grow a la pyramid scheme. Right now people react to the perceived notion that we need to conserve and find alternatives etc. If the perception shifts to ‘no worries’ we have plenty of natural gas, then what? It changes the balance of things. Will folks go into pay off debts mode? expansion mode? I don’t have a theory, I just wonder. When we had cheap and easy home loans, people over extended rather than used the opportunity to buy small and pay it off quick. If we are less of a player in the energy market, will global energy prices go down and keep it cheap to ship in foreign made products. If there is less demand from us, will some exporters instead use it to grow more of their other industries and/or grow a larger population compounding the pyramid effect or will they just get poorer because lower energy prices mean less money period. Nigeria has lots of oil by product natural gas but they don’t use it because they aren’t set up for it and can’t transport it, so they flare it. In a case like that, falling oil prices wouldn’t help their industries because they don’t have much industry, it could just make them poorer. Okay, I rambled enough. Maybe something like the US significantly reducing its energy imports wouldn’t change much, but it seems like it could.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I’m not really sure what you’re getting at here.”

    Trying to see how it all fits together.

    “The government may someday go bankrupt and therefore we should shut down everything, including private ventures, now?”

    No, no of course not.

    “(also, unfunded liabilities are very different from the national debt)”

    Right, but it all has to be paid for.

    My question is the cost, as well as the temptation to grow a la pyramid scheme. Right now people react to the perceived notion that we need to conserve and find alternatives etc. If the perception shifts to ‘no worries’ we have plenty of natural gas, then what? It changes the balance of things. Will folks go into pay off debts mode? expansion mode? I don’t have a theory, I just wonder. When we had cheap and easy home loans, people over extended rather than used the opportunity to buy small and pay it off quick. If we are less of a player in the energy market, will global energy prices go down and keep it cheap to ship in foreign made products. If there is less demand from us, will some exporters instead use it to grow more of their other industries and/or grow a larger population compounding the pyramid effect or will they just get poorer because lower energy prices mean less money period. Nigeria has lots of oil by product natural gas but they don’t use it because they aren’t set up for it and can’t transport it, so they flare it. In a case like that, falling oil prices wouldn’t help their industries because they don’t have much industry, it could just make them poorer. Okay, I rambled enough. Maybe something like the US significantly reducing its energy imports wouldn’t change much, but it seems like it could.

  • SKPeterson

    You ask some good questions, sg. The relationship between capital investment and natural-resource-derived income is an interesting phenomenon, not least due to the plethora of examples in the Middle East and Africa.

    In theory, natural resource extraction generates incomes to the resource producing country both directly and indirectly. Generally, the direct incomes may be quite small – the firms are foreign-owned perhaps, so revenues are “exported,” while excise taxes go to governments. it is possible that local land owners would obtain rents, but this also requires a legal system that protects individual land owner’s rights. Contrast the rents obtained by landowners in PA or TX for shale gas extraction v. the complete control of all rents and excise revenues by the Saud or Gaddafi families (and yes I’m making direct equivalence between the two). In the American case, those rents will be saved (and consumed) to be reinvested in other firms – deepening our capital or going to other nations building their capital stocks (Canada, Europe, Japan, Korea, etc). In Africa and the Middle East, much of this money goes to buy off or reward political allies, to enrich family members and pay for prostitutes/Ukrainian nurses. It is not used to invest in a diversified capital infrastructure.

    So, if we* or the rest of the world becomes smaller players in the energy market, or if there are substantial shifts in the sources of hydrocarbons (one of the themes of the article), then the likelihood is that many of these nations become poorer with even fewer opportunities for their people to improve their lives. This is some of what makes up the undercurrent of grievance and anger manifesting itself in the Arab Spring – many people are already shut out of the meager prosperity their countries are enjoying. If energy dollars shift and are redistributed away from their nations, they will be even more marginalized.

    *Actual reduction of consumption by the US could precipitate such an outcome, but I doubt it. The impact would be significant, but we get most of our oil from Canada and Mexico. The issue is that hydrocarbons are fungible and traded globally, so prices are reflective of global supply and demand. If we reduce our demand, and supply remains constant, ceteris paribus prices will fall. Ceteris paribus never happens though, so a reduction on our part may be offset by an increase by China. However, it would result in revenues being lower than they otherwise would have been.

  • SKPeterson

    You ask some good questions, sg. The relationship between capital investment and natural-resource-derived income is an interesting phenomenon, not least due to the plethora of examples in the Middle East and Africa.

    In theory, natural resource extraction generates incomes to the resource producing country both directly and indirectly. Generally, the direct incomes may be quite small – the firms are foreign-owned perhaps, so revenues are “exported,” while excise taxes go to governments. it is possible that local land owners would obtain rents, but this also requires a legal system that protects individual land owner’s rights. Contrast the rents obtained by landowners in PA or TX for shale gas extraction v. the complete control of all rents and excise revenues by the Saud or Gaddafi families (and yes I’m making direct equivalence between the two). In the American case, those rents will be saved (and consumed) to be reinvested in other firms – deepening our capital or going to other nations building their capital stocks (Canada, Europe, Japan, Korea, etc). In Africa and the Middle East, much of this money goes to buy off or reward political allies, to enrich family members and pay for prostitutes/Ukrainian nurses. It is not used to invest in a diversified capital infrastructure.

    So, if we* or the rest of the world becomes smaller players in the energy market, or if there are substantial shifts in the sources of hydrocarbons (one of the themes of the article), then the likelihood is that many of these nations become poorer with even fewer opportunities for their people to improve their lives. This is some of what makes up the undercurrent of grievance and anger manifesting itself in the Arab Spring – many people are already shut out of the meager prosperity their countries are enjoying. If energy dollars shift and are redistributed away from their nations, they will be even more marginalized.

    *Actual reduction of consumption by the US could precipitate such an outcome, but I doubt it. The impact would be significant, but we get most of our oil from Canada and Mexico. The issue is that hydrocarbons are fungible and traded globally, so prices are reflective of global supply and demand. If we reduce our demand, and supply remains constant, ceteris paribus prices will fall. Ceteris paribus never happens though, so a reduction on our part may be offset by an increase by China. However, it would result in revenues being lower than they otherwise would have been.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Louis (@38), never again link to a Yahoo! Answers page for a reference! Besides, the list on that page comes from this list at ANWR.org, which though plainly biased, is more reputable than Yahoo! Answers itself, as is every other page on the Web.

    Secondly, we can make plastic from non-oil sources (several fast food restaurants around Portland have utensils, cups, and straws made from corn starch). It’s just not generally economical to do so right now.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Louis (@38), never again link to a Yahoo! Answers page for a reference! Besides, the list on that page comes from this list at ANWR.org, which though plainly biased, is more reputable than Yahoo! Answers itself, as is every other page on the Web.

    Secondly, we can make plastic from non-oil sources (several fast food restaurants around Portland have utensils, cups, and straws made from corn starch). It’s just not generally economical to do so right now.

  • http://steadfastlutherans.org/ SAL

    It’s extremely tough to imagine a source of energy as dense and efficient as fossil fuels.

    I suppose artificial ‘fossil’ fuels (ethanol and the like) are in the ballpark but nothing else is nearly there for transportation, construction, or military uses.

  • http://steadfastlutherans.org/ SAL

    It’s extremely tough to imagine a source of energy as dense and efficient as fossil fuels.

    I suppose artificial ‘fossil’ fuels (ethanol and the like) are in the ballpark but nothing else is nearly there for transportation, construction, or military uses.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    SAL (@42), it’s not hard to imagine at all. Reactor-grade uranium is several orders of magnitude more energy-dense than gasoline. And it is already used by the military for some forms of transportation.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    SAL (@42), it’s not hard to imagine at all. Reactor-grade uranium is several orders of magnitude more energy-dense than gasoline. And it is already used by the military for some forms of transportation.

  • http://steadfastlutherans.org/ SAL

    #43 I’d like to see a reactor on a tank, helicopter, jet, cargo plane, or Humvee. Perhaps you’re suggesting Mr. Fusion running on garbage?

    Aircraft carriers and nuclear subs are hardly capable of replacing ground or air power (which depends on fossil fuels).

    The military used as much uranium for armor and artillery shells as for reactors.

  • http://steadfastlutherans.org/ SAL

    #43 I’d like to see a reactor on a tank, helicopter, jet, cargo plane, or Humvee. Perhaps you’re suggesting Mr. Fusion running on garbage?

    Aircraft carriers and nuclear subs are hardly capable of replacing ground or air power (which depends on fossil fuels).

    The military used as much uranium for armor and artillery shells as for reactors.

  • Tom Hering
  • Tom Hering
  • Cincinnatus

    SAL: Actually, automakers and military contractors have pondered the idea of nuclear propulsion systems for use in small, even personal, vehicles for decades. Not weapons-grade material, of course.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_Nucleon

    So far, it hasn’t been deemed feasible or cost-effective. But it’s not absurdly far-fetched. And seriously: using nuclear power to supply our electricity needs, at the very least, would significantly cut our use of fossil fuels.

    None of us will ever see the end of fossil fuels in our lifetimes, however, and neither will our children most likely. In addition to fuel and electricity, petroleum, for instance, is necessary to produce plastic (in everything, of course) and fertilizer for mass agriculture.

    Domestic natural gas production is, in general, a good thing, I think. And since this discussion has shifted to nuclear power, I’ll go ahead and stamp my imprimatur upon that as well. The Europeans are stupid for knee-jerking away from it.

  • Cincinnatus

    SAL: Actually, automakers and military contractors have pondered the idea of nuclear propulsion systems for use in small, even personal, vehicles for decades. Not weapons-grade material, of course.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_Nucleon

    So far, it hasn’t been deemed feasible or cost-effective. But it’s not absurdly far-fetched. And seriously: using nuclear power to supply our electricity needs, at the very least, would significantly cut our use of fossil fuels.

    None of us will ever see the end of fossil fuels in our lifetimes, however, and neither will our children most likely. In addition to fuel and electricity, petroleum, for instance, is necessary to produce plastic (in everything, of course) and fertilizer for mass agriculture.

    Domestic natural gas production is, in general, a good thing, I think. And since this discussion has shifted to nuclear power, I’ll go ahead and stamp my imprimatur upon that as well. The Europeans are stupid for knee-jerking away from it.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    SAL (@44), I was replying to your statements as you originally wrote them (@42), especially with regard to energy density and military use.

    Sure, nuclear power carries with it significant issues on smaller vessels, issues that have not yet been resolved. But then, until fossil fuels become more expensive, there’s probably not a lot of economic reason to research solutions for those issues, except for the special requirements found in submarines and icebreakers.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    SAL (@44), I was replying to your statements as you originally wrote them (@42), especially with regard to energy density and military use.

    Sure, nuclear power carries with it significant issues on smaller vessels, issues that have not yet been resolved. But then, until fossil fuels become more expensive, there’s probably not a lot of economic reason to research solutions for those issues, except for the special requirements found in submarines and icebreakers.

  • Cincinnatus

    DISCLAIMER: I’m not saying we should begin producing nuclear-propelled Honda Civics. For small vehicles, an abundance of more practical solutions are already being developed like electric cars and hydrogen fuel cells–which are produced from (you guessed it!)…natural gas.

  • Cincinnatus

    DISCLAIMER: I’m not saying we should begin producing nuclear-propelled Honda Civics. For small vehicles, an abundance of more practical solutions are already being developed like electric cars and hydrogen fuel cells–which are produced from (you guessed it!)…natural gas.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Actually, Cincinnatus (@48), the beauty of cars powered by electric batteries and hydrogen fuel cells is that they are merely carriers of energy produced elsewhere — often, by whatever the local source of electricity is. It might be coal over in your part of the country, but here in the Northwest, a significant chunk of electricity comes from hydro power.

    Now, such designs inevitably suffer from inefficiency — you can get more miles per liter of natural gas if your car runs directly off of (liquid) natural gas, as opposed to having that natural gas heat some water to turn a turbine to generate electricity, which is then relayed with some losses to your house where you store it in a battery in your car. But such cars do allow for more interesting forms of energy that might not pan out as much at the vehicular level, such as nuclear.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Actually, Cincinnatus (@48), the beauty of cars powered by electric batteries and hydrogen fuel cells is that they are merely carriers of energy produced elsewhere — often, by whatever the local source of electricity is. It might be coal over in your part of the country, but here in the Northwest, a significant chunk of electricity comes from hydro power.

    Now, such designs inevitably suffer from inefficiency — you can get more miles per liter of natural gas if your car runs directly off of (liquid) natural gas, as opposed to having that natural gas heat some water to turn a turbine to generate electricity, which is then relayed with some losses to your house where you store it in a battery in your car. But such cars do allow for more interesting forms of energy that might not pan out as much at the vehicular level, such as nuclear.

  • Stephen

    There is also another resource not mentioned:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biomass#Biomass_sources

    Though the Wikipedia entry does mention the technology available for this in great detail, there are compnies developing ideas to use garbage (even old tires) and other biomass to generate steam for energy use and clean water, and to do it without the generating emissions.

    http://www.novoenergies.com/index.html

    Seems to me there are several answers. Since Obama ran partly on a platform of promoting a number of solutions, and since most people here seem not to like the guy, how does a nation make a concerted effort to apply themselves to moving toward more energy independence? What kind of leadership would it take. Or do we need an even worse national trauma?

    I mean, being enmeshed in the Middle East and going to war has not galvanized us to action the way people collected tin during WWII. When 9/11 happened, that was the vision I had – tilling up my yard for the long haul. At the time of WWII, entire politcal movements opposed to the New Deal disbanded for the greater good of the country in fighting the war. Why don’t we all get on board, or most of us, and stop arguing over who is in power and start attacking problems like this? What would it take?

    That probably sounds naive and I understand this is extremely complex. I guess I want to know what is missing from the human equation as others see it that would get us to really conserve, really take a hard look at efficiency, support new technolgy to supplement, and in some cases replace, what we already have. War isn’t doing it (or maybe it is and that’s why we are talking about it). But what are we actually willing to do? Much, not much, some, a little, nothing really?

    Did I say I despise Al Gore? He makes my skin crawl. It’s not just the illegal lightbulbs, there’s something about him . . .

  • Stephen

    There is also another resource not mentioned:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biomass#Biomass_sources

    Though the Wikipedia entry does mention the technology available for this in great detail, there are compnies developing ideas to use garbage (even old tires) and other biomass to generate steam for energy use and clean water, and to do it without the generating emissions.

    http://www.novoenergies.com/index.html

    Seems to me there are several answers. Since Obama ran partly on a platform of promoting a number of solutions, and since most people here seem not to like the guy, how does a nation make a concerted effort to apply themselves to moving toward more energy independence? What kind of leadership would it take. Or do we need an even worse national trauma?

    I mean, being enmeshed in the Middle East and going to war has not galvanized us to action the way people collected tin during WWII. When 9/11 happened, that was the vision I had – tilling up my yard for the long haul. At the time of WWII, entire politcal movements opposed to the New Deal disbanded for the greater good of the country in fighting the war. Why don’t we all get on board, or most of us, and stop arguing over who is in power and start attacking problems like this? What would it take?

    That probably sounds naive and I understand this is extremely complex. I guess I want to know what is missing from the human equation as others see it that would get us to really conserve, really take a hard look at efficiency, support new technolgy to supplement, and in some cases replace, what we already have. War isn’t doing it (or maybe it is and that’s why we are talking about it). But what are we actually willing to do? Much, not much, some, a little, nothing really?

    Did I say I despise Al Gore? He makes my skin crawl. It’s not just the illegal lightbulbs, there’s something about him . . .

  • SKPeterson

    small scale nuclear plants will likely be fueled by thorium which is more abundant than uranium. It still has weapons potential, but it’s waste product is better used for new fuel and not weaponry, so it has pluses there.

  • SKPeterson

    small scale nuclear plants will likely be fueled by thorium which is more abundant than uranium. It still has weapons potential, but it’s waste product is better used for new fuel and not weaponry, so it has pluses there.

  • http://steadfastlutherans.org/ SAL

    We’ve put trillions of dollars of investment into oil tankers, pipelines, refineries, gas stations, and all manner of infrastructure to acquire, refine, store and transport fossil fuels.

    I think the element folks ignore is that our vast expensive fossil fuel infrastructure is an impediment to shifting to something else. Besides that many alternatives would require their own investments in infrastructure that may require decades to build and trillions of dollars to fund.

    That’s why these sorts of shifts won’t occur quickly. It’s why I think in the medium term some improved version of artificial petroleum/ethanol has advantages in that it can use existing infrastructure. It is not clean or ideal but it doesn’t require chunking trillions of dollars of infrastructure.

  • http://steadfastlutherans.org/ SAL

    We’ve put trillions of dollars of investment into oil tankers, pipelines, refineries, gas stations, and all manner of infrastructure to acquire, refine, store and transport fossil fuels.

    I think the element folks ignore is that our vast expensive fossil fuel infrastructure is an impediment to shifting to something else. Besides that many alternatives would require their own investments in infrastructure that may require decades to build and trillions of dollars to fund.

    That’s why these sorts of shifts won’t occur quickly. It’s why I think in the medium term some improved version of artificial petroleum/ethanol has advantages in that it can use existing infrastructure. It is not clean or ideal but it doesn’t require chunking trillions of dollars of infrastructure.

  • dweebus

    There are so many problems with the article in Salon, that it is hard to decide where to begin. Nevertheless, I have a few thoughts.

    First of all, the environmental movement (full disclosure: I am allied with it) has done itself and wider society a great deal of damage. They tend to hyperbole, rigidity, and confrontation rather than being measured, open-minded, and collaberative. Thus the very social moverment that should be on point on the issue is easily dismissed as crazies.

    The fracking that the oil industry has used over the past several decades and the fracking the gas industry is using are related, but they are not the same thing. I know this because my wife’s uncle drove a frak truck for Halliburton in the WY oil patch. As an oil field ages, the formation fractures and begins to collapse. The frak crew pumps high pressure compounds down the well to lift the formation, seal the fractures, and then pump high pressure water or inert gas down the well to force the oil up. This, of course, raises the cost of the remaining oil. The shale gas process involves high pressure drilling fluid pumped down a deep well to fracture the shale and allow the methane to seep out. A component of drilling fluid is diesel fuel or benzene. It is these chemicals that poison water wells. This is a new process, but the author implies that the oil industry has been doing this for years. No they have not. We are in uncharted territory, and must be very careful.

    Finally, there is the reporters statement of fact:

    “The scenarios with the most catastrophic outcomes of global warming are low probability outcomes — a fact that explains why the world’s governments treat CO2 emissions as a low priority, despite paying lip service to it.”

    The third world’s governments fail to act because of competition and cost. The leading economies have gained an advantange from 150 years of fossil fuel use, and now the developing world wants their fair share. The first world fails to act because of corruption. Congress is essentially a brothel. The johns (special interests and lobbyists) pay the pimps (Congress Critters) moolah (campaign support) for the hooker they fancy (public policy).

    Finally, just how does this reporter come to the conclusion that catastrophe is low risk? He cites no experts and supplies no evidence. He just makes as statement as if it’s the Gospel truth. No amount of arguing or discussion, or belief can change the laws of physics. What goes up will come down and CO2 has a high opacity, it is a greenhouse gas. The sun has a higher luminosity than it did milllions of years ago. If we insist on burning all available fossil fuels, we won’t have to worry about the year 2500. Human civilization may well collapse. That is a fact, and as Moynihan said, you can have your own opinion, but not your own facts.

    Regards,

    D

  • dweebus

    There are so many problems with the article in Salon, that it is hard to decide where to begin. Nevertheless, I have a few thoughts.

    First of all, the environmental movement (full disclosure: I am allied with it) has done itself and wider society a great deal of damage. They tend to hyperbole, rigidity, and confrontation rather than being measured, open-minded, and collaberative. Thus the very social moverment that should be on point on the issue is easily dismissed as crazies.

    The fracking that the oil industry has used over the past several decades and the fracking the gas industry is using are related, but they are not the same thing. I know this because my wife’s uncle drove a frak truck for Halliburton in the WY oil patch. As an oil field ages, the formation fractures and begins to collapse. The frak crew pumps high pressure compounds down the well to lift the formation, seal the fractures, and then pump high pressure water or inert gas down the well to force the oil up. This, of course, raises the cost of the remaining oil. The shale gas process involves high pressure drilling fluid pumped down a deep well to fracture the shale and allow the methane to seep out. A component of drilling fluid is diesel fuel or benzene. It is these chemicals that poison water wells. This is a new process, but the author implies that the oil industry has been doing this for years. No they have not. We are in uncharted territory, and must be very careful.

    Finally, there is the reporters statement of fact:

    “The scenarios with the most catastrophic outcomes of global warming are low probability outcomes — a fact that explains why the world’s governments treat CO2 emissions as a low priority, despite paying lip service to it.”

    The third world’s governments fail to act because of competition and cost. The leading economies have gained an advantange from 150 years of fossil fuel use, and now the developing world wants their fair share. The first world fails to act because of corruption. Congress is essentially a brothel. The johns (special interests and lobbyists) pay the pimps (Congress Critters) moolah (campaign support) for the hooker they fancy (public policy).

    Finally, just how does this reporter come to the conclusion that catastrophe is low risk? He cites no experts and supplies no evidence. He just makes as statement as if it’s the Gospel truth. No amount of arguing or discussion, or belief can change the laws of physics. What goes up will come down and CO2 has a high opacity, it is a greenhouse gas. The sun has a higher luminosity than it did milllions of years ago. If we insist on burning all available fossil fuels, we won’t have to worry about the year 2500. Human civilization may well collapse. That is a fact, and as Moynihan said, you can have your own opinion, but not your own facts.

    Regards,

    D

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