Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The energy optimist's lexicon

My latest column on Scitizen entitled "The Energy Optimist's Lexicon" has now been posted. Here is the teaser:

The world's energy optimists often employ a particular lexicon to make their case for abundance far into the future. Whether the lexicon is used cynically or out of ignorance, the result is the same: false impressions.
.....Read more

2 comments:

Henry Warwick said...

Excellent article.

I'd also add that the "cornucopian" argument as you described it also has a built in contradiction. you wrote:

Above-ground factors -- The optimists argue that there is plenty of oil, usually for many decades to comes, so long as "above-ground factors" don't prevent its extraction. Factors cited often include wars, social unrest, lack of investment, environmental restrictions on drilling, and political restrictions on foreign ownership or participation in oil development in countries thought to have high potential for oil discovery.

This is a common argument they use, and this has a contradiction. Basically it goes like this: since we all know it's a finite resource, the longer it stays in the ground, the longer it is available, because once it is mined it is, by definition, no longer available. Therefore, any action that inhibits extraction acts to prolong the resource's availability.

So, the result is that wars and political instability actually ENHANCE resource production over time by restricting production at any given time.

If the middle east suddenly woke up to peace nd happiness tomorrow morning, and we suddenly had direct "beam me up scottie" access to all oil and gas resources, and we teletransported the stuff directly and instantly out of the ground (which would be the most maximal extraction possible) and into storage containers (I don't care what) extraction rates would immediately plummet to zero, because it would be all pumped out.

Therefore, the opposite can be seen as true: war and instability in the Middle East, lack of investment, etc. are the only things that will keep production viable over time, as it will keep the oil in the ground - and as long as it is in the ground it can be "produced".

Step Back said...

Great article.

You left out the "Through-Ground Bottleneck" factors, also known as the few-thin-straws-bottleneck situation.

That's the beauty of the framers (George Lakhoff term) who use the "Above Ground" meme. They inherently wipe away the Through-Ground-Bottleneck factors.

To them, there is only "Above ground" and deep below ground, nothing in between. This is why they have a gap in their understanding. Peak Oil Flow has to flow through the middle area. That's where the main bottelneck is, in the middle ground.