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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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?
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
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.