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.
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.
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
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?”
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.
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
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.
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.
I appeared on the Financial Sense with Jim Puplava program today, in a segment they titled ”2012 Energy Crisis Now Looking Likely.” We discussed the futility of releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and why our government officials and business leaders are failing to come to grips with the loss of spare oil production capacity and consequent oil price spikes that should develop in 2012, followed by the long-term decline in global oil production. (I did not actually predict oil over $150 a barrel, as they indicated on their site, but I do think we’ll hit a maximum pain tolerance point that will kill demand in the OECD, and that price point will likely be lower than the $147 peak we saw in 2008.) My long-term thesis for this century is that fossil fuel supply will decline to almost nothing over the next 90 years, resulting in what I’m calling The Great Contraction–a century of economic shrinkage, and a long process of relocalization (the reversal of globalization). But our leaders are utterly failing to plan for it. I concluded that “there is no intelligent life here.” But on the bright side, solar installations are setting new records in California.
See also: Seven Paths to our Energy Future
Have Renewables Surpassed Nuclear in the US?
Winning by a Wet Nose
By Chris Nelder, GetRealList
July 7, 2010
The latest EIA Monthly Energy Review caused a bit of a stir this week, as a few observers noticed thatUS renewable energy had exceeded nuclear power. Cleantech bloggers were quick to seize on the 2.44 quads (quadrillion BTU) of renewable supply in Q1 2011 vs. the 2.13 quads from nuclear generation as a sign that nuclear power had entered its twilight years.
My own analysis suggests a different conclusion.
Heavy Oil of the Kern River Oil Field
The Future of Oil…and of Solar?
By Chris Nelder, GetRealList
June 24, 2011
Last week I had the pleasure of touring the Kern River oil field in Bakersfield, California, courtesy of Chevron and the American Petroleum Institute, who sponsored the trip and conducted the tour. After a decade of poring over energy data and technical papers, it was a rare pleasure to take my first tour of an actual oil field. In this post I’ll share the information I collected, and offer some observations on what it implies for the future of oil production.
I appeared on the Financial Sense with Jim Puplava program this week, to discuss the latest data on oil supply and demand; the question of whether Saudi Arabia tried to make up for Libyan production or not; the state of the US economy and our pain tolerance limits on gasoline prices; the volatility of oil prices and the role of speculators; Japan’s cancellation of its plans for new nuclear power plants; the outlook for renewables; China’s economic growth and the shifting of global oil demand from West to East; and the data on production from Brazil’s Tupi field. Simply: world commodity markets are tight and we are seeing the fireworks that should be expected in that situation.
I appeared on the Financial Sense with Jim Pupalava program this week, to discuss the implications of high oil prices; OPEC’s ability to compensate for lost production from Libya; how Japan will replace lost power generation from the Fukushima nuclear plant; and the outlook for future energy choices.
I appeared on the Financial Sense with Jim Pupalava program this week, to discuss the upheaval in the Mideast; Saudi Arabia’s ability to offset lost oil production from Libya; the decline of global oil exports; the ongoing problem of energy illiteracy in America; how the Fed and US policymakers are mired in denial and have backed themselves into a corner on food and energy; how 2011 is shaping up as a replay of 2008; the structural change in the global oil markets and oil prices; “American exceptionalism”; and the importance of hedging your investments against rising oil prices and a falling dollar.
I appeared on the Financial Sense with Jim Pupalava program this week, to discuss a new report from Shell outlining two approaches to the unfolding peak oil crisis: a “Scramble” scenario and a “Blueprints” scenario. We also talked about the Wikileaks ‘revelations’ about Saudi oil reserves; ExxonMobil’s admission that it’s having trouble replacing its reserves; the challenges of energy transition; the abysmal predictive record of CERA; and the general progress of the oil industry, elected officials, and the public in coming to grips with our energy reality, as it appears we have entered what I call a “confession” phase.
My segment (24 mins) is first.
Recommended related reading:
The Coming Misery that Big Oil Discusses Behind Closed Doors – Steve LeVine, Foreign Policy
The IEA’s Come-to-Jesus Moment – My commentary on IEA’s modeling from July 2007
I appeared on the Financial Sense program with Jim Pupalava today, to discuss my “narrow ledge” outlook for oil prices in 2011; my vision for the next five years; the global balance of the oil market between the OECD and Asia; and my new thesis that we have entered what I am calling The Great Contraction. We also discussed the current perspective of OPEC; the projections of the IEA and EIA; the outlook for future oil supply; the final report from the federal oil spill commission; and the inevitable call for clamping down on oil speculators (which the CFTC did today – that didn’t take long!).
You can download the show (19 minutes) here:
I appeared on BBC News yesterday (via Skype video chat) for a quick “hit” about the lawsuit filed by the US Government against BP and other companies involved in the Macondo well blowout, seeking unlimited damages against the companies.
Here’s the video (if you can’t see it, click here):
BBC News sought my comment on the suit after reading my previous articles on the Macondo (Deepwater Horizon) oil spill disaster:
Last October, at the 2009 ASPO peak oil conference, I was hanging out with a posse of fellow energy analysts and investors at the bar late in the evening. The conference organizer came by with a video camera and asked each of us to pretend it was late 2010, and offer our observations on the year. Here was mine–all in all, not bad!
I’m particularly pleased that I nailed the price band for oil, predicting that it would remain in the $70-90 range. Here’s the proof:
I offered some additional predictions for 2010 and beyond in these two articles, written in December 2009:
I appeared on the Financial Sense program with Jim Pupalava today, to discuss the IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2010 report in which they said that conventional oil actually peaked in 2006, but that unconventional liquids would continue to grow, along with supply from undiscovered fields. In this interview, I attempted to explain how the IEA develops their forecasts, and how to read between the lines.
You can download the show (14 minutes) here:
I don’t often blog about other people’s work, but in this case I must make an exception. For my money, there is no one in the world more expert on the subject of peak oil than Dr. Colin Campbell, a petroleum geologist who worked with Oxford University, Texaco, British Petroleum, Amoco, Shenandoah Oil, Norsk Hydro, Total Fina, and the Bulgarian and Swedish governments. He is the author of two books and more than 150 papers, and was the founder of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas (ASPO).
A paper Dr. Campbell authored with petroleum analyst Jean H. Laherrère in the March 1998 issue of Scientific American, “The End of Cheap Oil,” has been widely credited with launching the subject of peak oil into global awareness.
In my early years of studying peak oil, I devoured Dr. Campbell’s work, as he was one of the very few analysts who did detailed work on oil data, and never failed to explain his sources and his reasoning. From 2001 to 2009, he published a monthly newsletter with his continually updated model of world oil and gas supply, in-depth profiles of oil and gas producing countries, energy-related news items, wry observations on the state of the world and the peak oil story, and just a dash of dry British wit. I anticipated those newsletters with the eagerness of a child looking forward to Christmas, and read every word of every issue. (Those of you who have followed my blog since 2001 will recall that I frequently linked to those newsletters.) All 100 issues of it are now archived at ASPO Germany.
The extent to which I have stood on Dr. Campbell’s shoulders in my peak oil work cannot be overstated, and it has been my great privilege to correspond with him from time to time. (He also reviewed my book Profit from the Peak, and gave it a very generous endorsement.)
Campbell’s pithy description of the peak oil problem is one that anyone can understand: “As any beer drinker knows, the glass starts full and ends empty and the faster you drink it the quicker it’s gone.”
Dr. Campbell is now retired, although he still writes occasionally on peak oil. Most recently he published a paper for The Institute for Policy Research and Development (IPRD) entitled “The Post-Peak World” (Oct. 28, 2010), which I wish every economist and policymaker in the world would read.
It was my pleasure to connect him with the good folks at Jim Puplava’s Financial Sense Newshour recently, and Jim’s podcast interview with him was published today. I can’t recommend it highly enough. You can listen to it here:
His audience is interested in understanding the important issues of the future, so we discussed the meaning and import of peak oil, the relationship of energy to food supply, the future of the airline and transportation industries, the inevitability of relocalization, the role of the military in energy transition, investing strategies, and how to prepare oneself to be resilient in an increasingly challenging future.
This audio interview is in three parts, below the fold.