Do we really have 100 years’ worth of shale gas?

December 29, 2011 at 10:22 am
Contributed by: Chris

I have a new piece published in Slate today, examining the oft-repeated claim that we have 100 years’ worth of shale gas resources. In terms of proved reserves, we only have 11 years’ worth. So what’s the deal? Read it here:  What the Frack?

That was originally part of my recent post, The questionable economics of shale gas

I’d also point your attention to a new piece by Reuters, who did some good investigative journalism on top shale gas operator Chesapeake Energy, and accused them of conducting a stealth “land grab” operation by using a series of shell companies: Energy giant hid behind shells in “land grab”

This kind of work is vitally important, because the majority of press about shale gas still consists of wild-eyed optimism and verbatim repetition of industry propaganda. For example, this new piece in the Wall Street Journal.

There is still plenty of energy-illiterate press going around, such as the recent rash of articles that misinterpreted the US becoming a net exporter of refined products as being a net exporter of oil, when we are still the world’s top importer of oil. It’s pathetic. The data are freely and publicly available, so why are these egregious errors still being propagated in high-profile publications? I hope my recent pieces help to clear things up just a little.

Postscript: Al Gore blogged on my story January 8, 2012

Corrections: Most regrettably, I discovered two typos in the story some weeks after it was published:

1) “At the 2010 rate of American consumption—about 24 tcf per year—that would be a 95-year supply of gas, which apparently has been rounded up to 100 years.” should have been “At the 2009 rate of American consumption—about 22.8 tcf per year—that would be a 95-year supply of gas, which apparently has been rounded up to 100 years.” At the 2010 consumption rate of 24.089 tcf/yr, the 2,170,000 bcf estimate would last 90.082 years. (Therefore, one could say that one year’s increase in US gas consumption shaved five years off the claimed supply.)

2) “It offered a range of estimates, from 43 tcf at 95 percent probability, to 84 tcf at 50 percent probability, to 114 tcf at 5 percent probability.” The high end USGS estimate was 144.1 tcf, not 114.

Postscript November 5, 2012: This article is now available in a German translation, here: http://www.peak-oil.com/2012/11/what-the-frack/

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2012: Terra incognita

December 28, 2011 at 1:53 pm
Contributed by: Chris

For SmartPlanet this week, I offered some 2012 predictions for oil, the stock market, and geopolitics, along with some tips on how to maintain your sanity when the world is going crazy.

Read it here: 2012: Terra incognita
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The mon(k)ey trap

December 21, 2011 at 10:43 am
Contributed by: Chris

For SmartPlanet this week, I explained why we can’t deal with peak energy, climate change, debt deleveraging, and our other existential crises: because we’re stuck in a monkey trap.

Read it here: The mon(k)ey trap
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The questionable economics of shale gas

December 14, 2011 at 12:15 pm
Contributed by: Chris

For SmartPlanet this week, I explored some serious questions about the economics of shale gas. Is it a “game-changer,” a Ponzi scheme, or somewhere in between? Read it here: The questionable economics of shale gas (See also the companion piece I wrote for Slate.)
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Energy politics at the piano bar

December 7, 2011 at 2:29 pm
Contributed by: Chris

For my SmartPlanet column this week, I critiqued the IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2011, and imagined having some drinks with IEA, Newt Gingrich, and Michele Bachmann at a piano bar.

Read it  here: Energy politics at the piano bar
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Why energy journalism is so bad

November 30, 2011 at 12:25 pm
Contributed by: Chris

For SmartPlanet this week, I tried to explain why most energy journalism is so bad, and give readers a few tips on how to read it critically.

Read it here: Why energy journalism is so bad

Postscript: A fine example popped up today, shortly after my article went live. Alexis Madrigal, senior editor at The Atlantic and a very experienced science journalist who understands energy data and writes about it accurately, published an explainer about a recent Wall Street Journal article claiming “the U.S. is exporting more fuel than it imports” and that we’re now a “net exporter of petroleum products.”  No doubt many readers and journalists, unschooled in the finer shades of meaning of words like “fuel” and “petroleum products” took it to mean that we are now a net petroleum exporter, when in fact we’re still a net importer of oil by margin of over 2 to 1. We’re just exporting more refined products (mainly diesel) than we import (mainly gasoline). Which is a sort-of interesting story about refining capacity, as Alexis correctly identified, but has nothing to do with growing energy independence, as many people interpreted it to mean. Confusion still reigns…

P.P.S.: I really should have given Matthew Yglesias credit for the debunking of that oil imports story in Slate, which Alexis reblogged.

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Occupy, Tea Party, and the Politics of Less

November 23, 2011 at 11:59 am
Contributed by: Chris

For SmartPlanet this week, I offered a macro view exploring the common ground between the Occupy movement and the Tea Party — declining energy leading to declining economic surplus — and contemplated the existential questions of what to do about it.

Read it here: Occupy, Tea Party, and the Politics of Less
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Interview with Financial Sense Nov 18, 2011

November 18, 2011 at 12:48 pm
Contributed by: Chris

I appeared on the Financial Sense with Jim Puplava program today, in a segment they titled  “The Time for Energy Transition is Now.” We discussed the IEA’s latest World Energy Outlook report, the ongoing debate about peak oil and energy illiteracy in the mainstream press, the formation of the State Department’s new Bureau of Energy Resources, the outlook for oil production, the political standoff over the Keystone XL pipeline, why the U.S. must focus now on energy transition, and why the U.S. military is still ahead of the curve on that.

You can download the show (24 mins) here: RealPlayer | WinAmp | Windows Media | MP3

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Crowdsourcing the energy revolution

November 16, 2011 at 11:53 am
Contributed by: Chris

For SmartPlanet this week, I suggested community “solar gardens” as a way for towns to transition to renewables in the absence of federal incentives, and shared a dream I had about how one community achieved energy self-sufficiency.

Read it here: Crowdsourcing the energy revolution
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Why America needs a feed-in tariff

November 9, 2011 at 1:16 pm
Contributed by: Chris

For this week’s SmartPlanet column, I argue for a national feed-in tariff (FiT) in the U.S., and predict that due to its FiTs, Asia will blow the doors off the U.S. solar PV market starting next year. I also explain why we shouldn’t use “grid parity” as our cue to transition to renewables, but rather the cost of new production, where solar is already cheaper than coal and nuclear generation. Read it here:

Why America needs a feed-in tariff
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When should we pursue energy transition?

November 2, 2011 at 10:53 am
Contributed by: Chris

For my SmartPlanet column this week, I did some simple math to determine the right time to transition energy to renewables and transportation to rail. The answer: about 40 years ago.  Read it here: When should we pursue energy transition?

I’d also like to give a shout out to the excellent Do The Math blog by physicist Tom Murphy. He’s had two recent posts that are very much in line with my work (and he does the math better than I do). These are worth your time:

Peak Oil Perspective

The Energy Trap
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Our energy future: Golden Age or Stone Age?

October 26, 2011 at 10:31 am
Contributed by: Chris

For my SmartPlanet column this week, I review the data on all fossil fuels and renewables, including a model of the next century, and demonstrate why we must choose the path of renewables now, or take the path back to the Stone Age.

Read it here: Our energy future: Golden Age or Stone Age?

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Reframing the transportation debate

October 19, 2011 at 2:59 pm
Contributed by: Chris

For my SmartPlanet column this week, I run the numbers on what it has cost to build and what it will cost to maintain our existing transportation systems, then compare them to what it would cost  to transition transportation to rail and energy to renewables. Instead of thinking about rail vs. cars and aircraft in terms of present costs and subsidies, we should be thinking about them in the context of total lifecycle costs and total transportation reform.
Read it here: Reframing the transportation debate
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More commentary on energy and the economy

October 19, 2011 at 2:52 pm
Contributed by: Chris

My recent article on energy and the economy (“Economic theory and the Real Great Contraction“) is but part of a significant recent flush of discussion about how economics has failed us, and what we should be doing about it. For those who are interested in the subject, I recommend these additional recent items.

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New book: Energy and the Wealth of Nations – Understanding the Biophysical Economy

October 19, 2011 at 2:51 pm
Contributed by: Chris

Those who read my recent articles on economics and energy know that I’m very interested in biophysical economics as an alternative to neoliberal economics, and that I have cited the work of Dr. Charles Hall, along with that of his students like Dr. David Murphy. He has a new textbook on the subject that I would recommend to college audiences, as well as  lifelong students of energy like me. Here’s the promo material.

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Economic theory and the Real Great Contraction

October 12, 2011 at 12:23 pm
Contributed by: Chris

For my SmartPlanet column this week, I take issue with neoliberal economic theory and try to explain how it won’t be very helpful as we move from an age of surplus in resources to an age of less. Indeed, I think Adam Smith was a peakist. Read it here:  Economic theory and the Real Great Contraction
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Chris Nelder and Gregor Macdonald respond to Daniel Yergin in the Harvard Business Review blog

October 9, 2011 at 8:00 am
Contributed by: Chris

In the Harvard Business Review blog this past Tuesday, I had the privilege of publishing a response to Daniel Yergin’s recent anti-peak oil editorial in the Wall Street Journal. It was my first collaboration with my friend and fellow energy analyst Gregor Macdonald and, I hope, the first of many. Read it here: “There Will Be Oil, But At What Price?

My thanks to senior editor Jimmy Guterman for accepting it, and to our friend, financial maven Paul Kedrosky, for making the introduction.

The post was picked up by Brad Plumer’s blog at the Washington Post and by Michael Levi’s blog at CFR. Unusually good comment threads ensued on both blogs. I was encouraged to see the topic of peak oil being considered seriously in such mainstream venues for a change.

Here are a few additional thoughts that didn’t make it into our piece due to length constraints. I will not write a point-by-point debunking of the numerous factual errors and mischaracterizations in Mr. Yergin’s editorial, but I have provided a list of responses that did so at the end of this post.

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The silent infrastructure crisis

October 5, 2011 at 11:32 am
Contributed by: Chris

I’m pleased to announce that I have a new column at SmartPlanet, a publication of CBS Interactive. It will be published on Wednesdays, and (naturally) deal with energy-related issues. I am working on getting permission to republish it on GRL, but in the meantime you can find it here: The Energy Futurist

Here’s the first post, in which I argue that what we’re currently spending on infrastructure is merely a rounding error on what’s actually necessary: The silent infrastructure crisis
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Interview with Financial Sense September 16, 2011

September 16, 2011 at 3:05 pm
Contributed by: Chris

I appeared on the Financial Sense with Jim Puplava program today, to discuss a report from the German military (Bundeswehr) on peak oil, and the risks it poses to German security, society, and the economy. The original report was released in November 2010, but only recently translated into English. This report (“Armed Forces, Capabilities and Technologies in the 21st Century / Environmental Dimensions of Security / Sub-study 1 / Peak Oil / Security policy implications of scarce resources”) joins a long list of studies on peak oil published by various military organizations around the world, helpfully compiled by Rick Munroe at Energy Bulletin.

We also discussed David Strahan’s observations on the lack of progress being made in the UK on crafting peak oil policy, and Jim’s observation that oil prices have taken the place of monetary policy and federal funds rates in moderating the economy, which I think is a very astute observation.

You can download the show (15 mins) here: RealPlayer | WinAmp | Windows Media | MP3

Guest appearance on France 24 TV: Exxon Scoops BP for Arctic Exploration Deal

August 31, 2011 at 3:18 pm
Contributed by: Chris

I made a short guest appearance on France 24 television last night, to talk about the Exxon joint venture deal with Rosneft to explore the Russian Arctic for oil and gas. Here’s the clip, along with some notes on the deal and my perspective.

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