If you’ve been wondering why I haven’t been posting, it’s because I have moved to Boulder, Colorado to take a full-time job with the Rocky Mountain Institute where I’m working on transition in the electricity sector. I am not really writing anymore, other than the very occasional piece (and some of those pieces aren’t even public). So if you want to keep up with my latest thoughts on energy, you’ll just have to listen to the podcast: www.energytransitionshow.com But it’s fun (if I do say so myself) and I think you’ll enjoy it. And if you have comments or suggestions for the show, don’t be shy – drop me a note!
For Greentech Media this week, I critiqued the views of noted energy historian Vaclav Smil on peak oil and the transition to renewable energy. It’s a very geeky topic that probably won’t appeal much to laymen, but serious energy analysts and commentators should find it worthwhile.
I have a short piece at Txchnologist this week which pulls together some data from previous articles and new research reports to outline how transportation transition is already under way as people increasingly turn to bikes, ride-sharing and buses to get around. Read it here: Bikes, Car Shares and Buses: The New Transportation Era Is Here
Jim Puplava featured Robert Hirsch for a long, in-depth interview on his Financial Sense program last weekend, which I recommend to the attention of anyone interested in peak oil. It covered a full range of the topic’s complexity, including data on reserves, production, discovery and demand; economic implications; the reasons why the US Government has maintained silence on the issue while other developed economies are grappling with it; and the likely responses to the crisis as it unfolds over the next couple of years–including rationing, priority allocation, and interruption of food supplies. You won’t find a better or more expert testimony anywhere. Listen to it here:
Hirsch is the co-author of a new book on peak oil, designed for an educated layman audience, entitled The Impending World Energy Mess. He is a Senior Energy Advisor at MISI and a consultant in energy, technology, and management. His primary experience is in research, development, and commercial applications. He has managed technology programs in oil and natural gas exploration and production, petroleum refining, synthetic fuels, fusion, fission, renewables, defense technologies, chemical analysis, and basic research.
I don’t know if I’m the first one to notice this, but it was too good to pass up. Compare these two covers of Time Magazine:
For Green Chip Stocks last week, I continued my two-part series on investment themes for the next decade, including my predictions for oil, natural gas, coal, renewables, uranium, efficiency, water, and agriculture.
Here are my notes from the 2009 ASPO-USA Peak Oil Conference, October 11-13, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. Length: 71 pages.
View the Web version below the fold, or download the PDF.
For last week’s Energy and Capital, I offered my first report of a series from the 2009 ASPO-USA peak oil conference, updating the numbers on supply, demand, peak and the current outlook for oil and gas.
[Part 1 of a series of reports from the 2009 ASPO Peak Oil Conference.]
And now for something completely different…
I had the honor of speaking at the Rothbury Festival over July 4th weekend, and have been meaning to write up some thoughts and observations about it. After several weeks’ delay, here they are.
For this week’s Energy and Capital, I argue that instead of forming climate policy around what comes out of the smokestacks and tailpipes, we should be focusing on what we put into the engines and encouraging renewable energy with incentives like feed-in tariffs.
Posting an excellent paper with lots of interesting graphs from Prof. Charles Hall, net energy (EROI) guru, and his graduate students on the declining net energy of primary fuels and the economic vulnerability of the US. This is crucially important stuff that is still not properly recognized in energy policy or economic theory. “Peak Oil, EROI, Investments and the Economy in an Uncertain Future”
A related post by Hall’s graduate student (and all around great guy) David Murphy on The Oil Drum this week is also worth a read: “The Net Hubbert Curve: What Does It Mean?“
For my Energy and Capital article this week, I deconstruct the inflation/deflation debate, and conjecture that we may have reached an inflection point in economic history, where the price at which energy is high enough to sustain new production is the same price at which things become too expensive, leaving us no option but to downsize.
Photos from FATYR: Memorial Day 2009 – Rosa Muerta and Joshua Tree National Park
For this week’s Energy and Capital, I offer highlights of the energy policy debate at the 2009 Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) in Houston, the world’s largest oil and gas industry conference and trade show.
For my Energy and Capital column this week, I celebrate Earth Day by finding many reasons for optimism in the wave of green initiatives sweeping the nation, but also find a market still staggering under the weight of a broken financial system.
For my Energy and Capital article this week, I consider the long time frames of energy transformation and the energy illiteracy of most Americans, and find a profit opportunity in the ignorance gap.
If you were wondering where I’ve been for the last week, I just returned from a trip to Oregon along with some associates from The Oil Drum and the Post Carbon Institute. We went up there to meet with various farmers who are pursuing the sustainable agriculture and farmers market approach to relocalizing food production, several agriculture professors, a restauranteur who buys all of his food locally direct from farmers, and other like-minded souls interested in peak oil and relocalization. As we believe that food production and distribution is particularly vulnerable to the risks of peak oil, we wanted to know how much can be achieved through local food production and distribution using methods that use as little fuel as possible, and without the use of petroleum-based herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizer.
The people we met were truly amazing: focused, smart, dedicated, and very hard-working (14-hr days are the norm for these folks). Farming is an incredibly difficult thing to succeed in at any scale, and my hat is off to anyone who does it. Small intensive organic farmers must compete with the economies of scale enjoyed by big commercial agriculture and food distribution in an incredibly low-margin business (somewhere on the order of 5% I would say). Large scale farmers who produce commodities like grain and grass seed (a major product of the Willamette Valley) have it even harder in some ways, with the costs of fuel and fertilizer see-sawing wildly from year to year, while having to borrow enormous sums from banks in order to plant the next year’s crop. And of course all are subject to the weather, which has been growing increasingly unpredictable.
I believe that within the next five years, as terminal oil depletion becomes a tangible reality for the average citizen, backyard vegetable gardens will become commonplace, and more people will seek low-energy lifestyles. However, there is an enormous gap between the demand for food, and the supply from small scale organic farmers operating through farmers markets, which accounts for less than 5% of the total food supply even in the best markets. So there is an enormous amount of work to do to “fill the gap” that will open as oil depletion sets in.
I don’t have a “Plan B” yet, but I learned an enormous amount in just a few days this week, and I am filled with ideas and motivation to come up with one. The future may very well find me with a shovel in my hand, scratching a living out of the dirt along with millions of others.
If you have had similar thoughts, or have explored your own Plan B options, please write me or submit a comment to share your perspective.
This month’s Vanity Fair has an excellent article on the market meltdown this year, which explains the history and the roles played by Fannie and Freddie, the Fed, hedge funds, and banks, and delves into the nature of fiat money, derivatives, and the other financial instruments that were the tools of our undoing. Fascinating article, very well done, highly recommended!
“Either way, Planet Finance has now returned to Planet Earth with a bang. The key figures of the Age of Leverage—the lax central bankers, the reckless investment bankers, the hubristic quants—are now feeling the full force of this planet’s gravity.”