Peak Oil, The Shale Boom and our Energy Future: Interview with Dave Summers

Yves here. I am sure there are parts of this interview which will irritate NC readers, but this is on the whole a lot sounder and more balanced than you will hear from a lot of people in the energy game. I wish he had spoken more about geothermal, though. I have friends in Poland who have a home with a geothermal well underneath it, and it is great technology.

Cross posted from OilPrice

This where we stand, and it’s a fairly bleak view: Peak oil is almost here, and nothing new (with the possible but unlikely exception of Iraq) is coming online anytime soon and while the clock is ticking – forward movement on developing renewable energy resources has been sadly inadequate. In the meantime, the idea that shale reservoirs will lead the US to energy independence will soon enough be recognized as unrealistic hype. There are no easy solutions, no viable quick fixes, and no magic fluids. Yet the future isn’t all doom and gloom – certain energy technologies do show promise. We had a chance to speak with well known energy expert Dave Summers where we cut through the media noise and take a realistic look at what our energy future holds.

Dr. Dave Summers – scientist, prolific writer and author of Waterjetting Technology, is the co-founder of The Oil Drum and currently writes at the popular energy blog Bit Tooth Energy. From a family of nine generations of coal miners, Summers’ patented waterjetting technology enables the high-speed drilling of small holes through the earth among other applications. In an exclusive interview with Oilprice.com, Dr. Summers discusses:

• Why new drilling techniques aren’t enough to put peak oil off
• Why the shale revolution will not lead to energy independence
• Why the potential of nuclear energy isn’t being realized
• Why ‘plan B’ for Keystone isn’t beneficial to the US
• Why we should be worried about the South China Sea and the Middle East
• How low natural gas prices cannot be sustained
• Why Europe’s shale future is still indeterminate
• Why the coal industry’s days aren’t necessarily numbered
• Why geothermal energy has the greatest potential
• How media manipulation figures in to the climate debate
• Why nuclear fusion remains a fantasy in our lifetimes and beyond

Interview by James Stafford of Oilprice.com

Oilprice.com: What do you foresee in our energy future? Will new extraction techniques and advances in drilling technology help put peak oil off?

Dave Summers: Most of the “innovation” in energy extraction from underground has been known for some time. It’s just taken time to work its way through to large-scale market use. There are techniques such as in-situ combustion, whether of coal or oil sand, that are now being developed that show some promise. But each increment of gain is at higher cost, and is chasing after a smaller target volume. Even if better methods of drilling were developed (and we have looked at several) in the cost of overall production this would not, in itself, provide that much benefit.

If ways could be found to economically release more hydrocarbon from existing and drilled reservoirs then this might have a significant impact, but though this has been sought after with lots of effort, there has been no magic fluid or way of doing that yet.

Peak oil is about here, though we can argue about fractions of a million barrels of day, it is hard to find any large volumes that can be expected to come onto the market in the next decade (with the possible, though unlikely, exception of Iraq). The clock on this has been ticking for some time, and some of the moves toward increasing renewable energy sources (though motivated by a different driver) have helped mitigate some of the problem, but sadly not enough.

Oilprice.com: Can the shale boom be replicated in Europe?

Dave Summers: The technology for developing the hydrocarbon volumes in tight shales and sands is now becoming well defined, and can thus be transferred to Europe. It will likely make that transition fairly quickly. That’s why some countries have American partners in their development. However, the environmental movement that is strongly against the technology is more entrenched, and has more political clout in Europe, so this may slow the transfer.

At the same time, though there are significant volumes of shale, it is only after wells have been drilled and fracked that one can get an estimate as to whether or not the resource can be turned into a reserve. This information is still a bit sparse, and it makes it difficult to be definitive at this time.

Oilprice.com: Is the Keystone XL pipeline vital to the US quest for energy independence?

Dave Summers: The pipeline is something that is a convenience in getting more oil from Canada into U.S. refineries. There are other steps (pipelines now flowing backwards for example) that are being taken to deal with the situation. As long as the sole export market for the oil is into the United States, Canada has to take the price that it is offered for the oil, or not sell it. Should a second sales path (such as a pipeline to the coast) allow significant sales to other customers (say China) then the price will likely go up, and supplies to the US will get more expensive, and potentially smaller.

Oilprice.com: What happens if Keystone isn’t approved – is there a plan B?

Dave Summers: On whose part? The Canadians will run a pipeline to the coast and make more money over time. In the short term, the US will be able to balance any shortfalls with domestic production, but in about three years as that starts to fall off then life might get more difficult. It takes a long time to develop a new resource.

Oilprice.com: How much of a role will fracking play in US efforts to reduce carbon emissions?

Dave Summers: Grin, well that is a little bit of a loaded question. Any drop in carbon dioxide levels that will come from changing from coal-fired power stations to gas-fired are not really going to be significant on a global level, and the changes are more likely be market driven, than for political reasons.

It is hard to see, basic operational costs being what they are, that the low price for natural gas can be sustained that much longer. Any slippage in the supply, however, will drive the price up and that will cause a re-equilibration of the market. How that plays out against the political considerations in the Eastern states is, as yet, anybody’s guess.

Oilprice.com: If energy independence for the US comes at the cost of reducing carbon emissions, and vice versa, which target do you think they should aim for?

Dave Summers: The hope that hydrocarbon production from the shale reservoirs of the United States will lead to energy independence has about a couple of years of life yet before it is shown to be the unrealistic hype that it is.

The continuing rise in energy costs, both here and in Europe, is likely to continue to sap any strong drive toward growth and a rapid recovery from the events of 2008. This cost factor is not getting the recognition that it should, and this unrelenting drain on the global economies does not have an easy resolution. The quick fixes anticipated from investment in renewable energy has not been found to really help that much, and while every little bit helps, there are no magic solutions on the horizon that will help in the intermediate term and sooner.

And after a certain number of cold winters it becomes harder to convince the general populace that global warming remains a critical problem.

Oilprice.com: Do you think the coal industry’s days are numbered?

Dave Summers: Ultimately no, but in the short term there will be a reduction in demand for coal in Europe and the United States. But in the longer term there is still no viable replacement fuel that will meet the needs of the growing power markets in places such as China, India and most of Asia and Africa.

As the costs for imported fuels rise, the need to develop indigenous resources will become more vital, while the selection of the cheapest available import to sustain the competitiveness of domestic industries will likely surmount the pressures for change.

Oilprice.com: Many claim that oil consumption in the US will continue to soar to record levels, yet due to the fast rate of decline in production from fracking wells compared to traditional wells this seems unlikely. What do you predict will be the maximum oil production that the US could achieve?

Dave Summers: It is difficult to foresee where all the additional oil that will be needed to meet the projection of sustained growth in supply is likely to come from. Increasing production depends on finding enough people with enough money to fund the drilling costs, and without sustained successful investment, after a while the pool of likely investors shrinks.

Again I don’t see the current trends being sustained for more than a couple of years, for that reason. It also requires good potential sites for drilling, and those are becoming smaller and harder to identify.

Oilprice.com: Which renewable energy technologies do you think hold the greatest potential to make a meaningful addition to global energy production?

Dave Summers: I have always thought that we did not take enough advantage of the underground. There is a small but growing use of geothermal energy (and ground source heat pumps) but there are other advantages to putting buildings and other construction underground that will likely eventually dawn on enough people that it will become a more sustainable industry.

But I have been waiting for that to happen for 40 years, and it may well take as long again before it comes to pass.

Oilprice.com: Who or what is the biggest obstacle to renewable energy?

Dave Summers: Depends on where you are. In Botswana it was finding folk to do the maintenance in the villages. I look out of my window at a snow-covered back yard, in a state where neither wind nor solar has much viability, hence the local university is installing a geothermal system. Where do I get the heat? From the surrounding forest, I purchase wood almost every year for use in a tile stove, and the firebox is wrapped in copper tubing. But, as the British experience showed centuries ago, burning wood is a luxury, and coal was cheaper, as the forests disappeared.

Sadly the folks that discuss future energy alternatives tend to come to the discussion with their own agendas, so that it is difficult to have an open discussion that does not end up in emotional argument.

The world desperately needs new forms of energy to replace those that are starting to run out. The time available before those needs become critical is getting shorter, and thus an open debate is vital. But because of the politics there have been a number of decisions to move technology forward before it was really ready, and that has hurt new development, and is likely to continue to do so.

Keeping solar panels clean without scratching and power degradation has been something I first discussed in an ASTM panel over 30 years ago. Maintenance is likely the biggest hidden problem at the moment.

Oilprice.com: Which geopolitical hotspots should we be keeping our eyes on over the coming year for potential problems?

Dave Summers: The situation in the China Sea is starting to become a greater concern, and it is a reflection more, I believe, of the potential energy sources under the sea, than it is for any particular right to own tiny islands in the middle of nowhere.

The Middle East is always a worry. Once the can of democracy was kicked open the ways in which this will change things in the region can only be guessed at. Regime changes are rough and rarely run smoothly. Policy changes mean changes for investors, and there are many groups in the region that have little love for the United States or for many of the countries of Europe.

Oilprice.com: If energy demand around the world continues to grow at current rates, how do you imagine the future? Will it lead to war? Large differences between the top and bottom echelons of society? Wide spread starvation? Etc.

Dave Summers: Sadly wars have been fought over resources since the beginning of time, and in the last few decades human nature has not changed that much. The impact of mass communication, and its global reach may make it easier to tell the people on both sides the “truth”, which is always adjusted as a function of who is telling it, and the possible impact of fabricators over conventional manufacturing might, however, make more of an impact faster than currently anticipated.

The mass elevation of people into the middle class in Asia cannot be reversed, and the pressures that this will bring can provide unyielding momentum that leads to conflict, particularly where there is some control over communication.

There have been enough breakthroughs in agriculture that the risks of mass starvation are fading, though the availability of water is a constant concern in a number of countries. Spreading information, and providing assistance at the lowest levels of production will come about with the spread of electronic communication and this will have a beneficial impact.

Oilprice.com: How has media manipulation figured in the climate change debate?

Dave Summers: As long as journalists are advocates rather than reporters the true story will not emerge. The lack of journalistic challenge in the mainstream media to the deliberate deception employed in hiding the decline in temperature prediction accuracy with the tree rings which dropped just as temperatures were rising, thus invalidating the “hockey stick”, was an early indication that media manipulation was going to be a critical factor in this debate.

How long must global temperatures remain relatively stable before someone brings this up as a front page story? The amount of money involved with those who espouse anthropogenic causes of climate change dwarfs the funding that has gone to those who raise questions when so many papers so this “may” happen, and that “might” occur. And those who pay the bills . . . . .

Oilprice.com: Lockheed recently came out with a statement predicting that they will have a working nuclear fusion reactor within the next 10 years. If this prediction does come true – do you see this having any meaningful impact on the energy sector?

Dave Summers: Um! Nuclear fusion has been the next great thing in energy production for the full extent of my professional life. It is likely to continue to be so through the professional lives of my children, and likely grandchildren.

Oilprice.com: What are your thoughts on nuclear power? Is it essential to meet our growing energy demand?

Dave Summers: Nuclear power has a considerable potential to help solve some of the shortfalls in energy that are now appearing on the horizon. Unfortunately the long delays in construction, some of which are due to permitting issues that have become political footballs, make it a hard investment to justify.

The move to construction of smaller reactors may well have considerable benefit, and the development of thorium has also got its place. But to make progress requires political will, and that is sadly lacking, and will remain so until energy demand rubs the noses of the body politic in the reality that there is no ideal, only the viable.

Oilprice.com: Dave thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Hopefully we will have a chance to catch up later in the year.

For those of you interested in seeing more of Dave’s work please take a moment and visit his fascinating blog: Bit Tooth Energy

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68 comments

  1. mmckinl

    Yves,

    Should you want a succinct and educated appraisal of our current energy situation Richard Heinberg at the Post Carbon Institute is the man to interview …

    This is their blog …

    http://www.resilience.org/

    I am afraid the situation is much more dire than this interview excerpt would let on …

    Sincerely,

    mmckinl

    1. mmckinl

      Deficit Reduction Equals Recession
      by Richard Heinberg

      “Indeed, US economic growth has been stagnating for decades now. Economist Robert Gordon’s research conclusively demonstrates that the lion’s share of historic GDP growth occurred in the mid-20th century and was driven by cheap oil and electrification. Since 1970, globalization and an explosion in information technologies have produced comparatively minor economic expansion by comparison, at least in the OECD countries. We kept faux-growth alive largely through borrowing—by an unprecedented accumulation of household, corporate, and government debt.”

      http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/02/27-6

      1. from Mexico

        …the lion’s share of historic GDP growth occurred in the mid-20th century and was driven by cheap oil and electrification.

        Maybe so, maybe not.

        Consider three propositions: Peak oil does not matter. Peak oil does too matter. Peak oil is the only thing that matters.

        I think many of the peak oil types all too easily slide into the latter category.

        Is the sickness that has infected the heart of the US economy peak oil? Or is it neoliberalism? Or a combination of the two along with other ailments?

        There’s an amazing video that shows how Cuba, in the wake of the implosion of the Soviet Union and the imposition of US trade restrictions, reduced its petroleum and natural gas consumption by something between 2/3 and 3/4, while arguably improving the quality of life of its citizens. Large-scale corporate farming, which was mostly conducted for the export market, was all but wiped out. It was replaced by local, small-scale organic food production. The result? Much better diets, with people eating far more fruits and vegetables, all locally orgnaically grown. Despite the fact that Cuba’s per capita use of petroleum is 1/8 that of the US, it bests the US in important quality of life measures, such as the universal provison of healthcare and life expectancy.

        Here’s the video. Y que milagro, it’s in English!:

        The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vj_DV5ltdes&feature=youtu.be

        I think all the wailing and gnashing of teeth by some of the peak oil types is overwrought.

        1. Carla

          @from Mexico: Thank you, thank you, for sharing this remarkable film. It is a wonderful gift, and I will plant as many seeds as possible by sharing it with family, friends, neighbors and colleagues. AMAZING!

        2. Valissa

          In the latter half of the 19th century and early 20th century the “wailing and gnashing of teeth” by prominent intellectuals was about peak wood (though they didn’t call it that, and it was part of a larger movement of growing environmental awareness). There is a great chapter on this in ‘Nature Wars: The Incredible Story of How Wildlife Comebacks Turned Backyards into Battlegrounds’ by Jim Sterba.

          People look at issues through the lens of their own era, culture and financial situation. But these things do change over time.

          Through four hundred years of European discovery, exploration, colonization, and settlement of the North American landscape, the act of removing trees was considered to be virtuous. It was progress celebrated by landscape painters who captured pastoral scenes of the New England countryside. Some of the paintings show landscapes full of tree stumps. The stumps were symbols of progress and points of pride. … So imagine what happened when farmland began to be abandoned to forest in the nineteenth century. To let precious land, cleared by backbreaking labor, go untended, unprotected from an invasion of trees, was the opposite of progress. [p.36]

          … Two ideas grew and spread in tandem, and later in opposition to each other. The first, advanced by Muir, was that since wilderness is valuable for it’s own sake, saving it was a good idea. The second, promoted in Washington, was that forests in these areas provided valuable resources and should be kept and managed sustainably. … By 1906, which was the peak year for national wood consumption, it had become good politics to talk about a looming wood shortage. But a deep rift opened over how to solve it and why forests should be preserved. [p. 38]

        3. mmckinl

          To: from Mexico

          And You think the “powers that be” are going to implement the model that was used in Cuba ???

    2. impermanence

      Considering the fact that all matter IS energy, I wouldn’t be so worried about running out of it.

    3. Dave Summers

      There are several considerations that are increasingly ignored in the debate over global warming.

      The two that I think most valid are first that in the Western Settlement in Greenland folk were farming until the 1300’s in land that is still Permafrost, and there is a fascinating story that the MSM totally ignores over what happened to them. (It tends to be discussed in academic dissertations – see –
      http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/obj/s4/f2/dsk2/ftp04/mq22551.pdf
      and
      http://csus-dspace.calstate.edu/bitstream/handle/10211.9/1514/The%20Lost%20Western%20Settlement%20of%20Greenland,%201342.pdf?sequence=1

      and the degree of drought that happened in the Medieval Warming Period, not the mention the previous Roman and Minoan Warming periods.

      The deliberate trashing of the vast amount of research that went into the proving of what happened in these periods is just another example of how easy media manipulation is these days.

  2. geojos

    How long must global temperatures remain relatively stable before someone brings this up as a front page story?

    Can someone elaborate on his statement about the ‘relatively’ stable global temperatures?

    His blog says he tracks temperatures (through existing data) in the United States over the past 100 years or so. He seems to be implying global warming is more hype than reality or just over stated for whatever purposes. The guy is no dummy by any means. So for those who know much more than moi what gives here?

    1. Really?

      Why worry? We’re ignoring it (global warming) anyway by all practical measures. So if a few of us want to rant, just tune us out. Which is also already happening. But it’s not the only dragon in the room of course…

    2. Really?

      And after a certain number of cold winters it becomes harder to convince the general populace that global warming remains a critical problem.

      That’s the money line right there, anyway. Even assuming that GW begins to consume us (which I believe it already is), in the short run, the populace will ALWAYS choose warmth and basic survival today over the long term interests of their imagined future offspring. Therefore, the time to act was while there is still a reasonable choice between the two and not wait – like we have – until every choice is an either/or life or death ultimatum. Many, like myself, think we’ve already overshot the reasonable decision making period, which I also believe is what the global power brokers are banking on as well, knowing full well that once we do, the incentives to conserve or change will all evaporate and flip to “use it while we’ve got it, for tomorrow we die regardless.”

      1. McMike

        With enough routinely freak blizzards and hurricanes, droughts, along with fire ants and west nile viruses moving north, I think the global warming meme will be able rebrand itself to climate change.

        As Hunter Lovins said: global warming means global WEIRDING.

    3. Gerald Muller

      First just measuring the earth temperature is no small challenge! Measuring it in only one little part of the earth surface is not good enough. Since the global climate is mainly driven by the sun and its effect on the oceans, we need to measure temperature at the surface of all oceans, not an easy task.
      This being said, it seems (see my prudence) that the earth global temperature has not changed much in the last 15 years. This is probably what Dr. Summers was referring to. But these data have been obscured by the IPCC propaganda (there is no other word for their publications).

      1. different clue

        The mmgw theorists were predicting certain things before they began happening. Those things have started happening as predicted by the mmgw theory. That to me lends strength to the fact of the reality-based predictive power of the theory. I’m sure more patient people than me can bring here websites offering detailed tracking of data about ocean surface and subsurface temps, numbers of hi-temp versus numbers of lo-temp records being set on and over land, etc.
        Heat doesn’t just manifest as rising temps. It also manifests as “heat of fusion” at a steady 32 degrees being sunk into melting large amounts of ice in glaciers and icefields and just lately in/around Arctic ice caps.
        My own limited personal observation in Southeast Michigan is this: up till about 13-15 years ago, much of the snow that fell remained unmelted-in-place all through winter to serve as a snow pack in spring. Some of that melting snow was able to soak down into soil which was thaw-softening enough to recieve it and soak it up and in. But beginning 13-15 years ago, the winter pattern has become this: whenever a major snow falls it is followed in a week or three by a warm-up flash-thaw which melts all the snow off the still-frozen ground. The net effect is that we have zero snow on the ground by spring for zero snow-water insoak to start the growing season. This spring-start snow-water insoak deficit means that any dry spell functions as a “drought”, and that’s what I expect this year again . . unless we get steady rain huge enough to offset it. That’s why I spend my time nowadays gathering up all the snow from my little yard and packing it in piles onto my little garden beds.

        What was the purpose of posting this interview? To show us the state of brain-play in the coal/gas/oil shill sector?

    4. Mark P.

      So, if one goes looking not for computer models but actual science based on real-world observation, some near-certainties emerge:

      [1] Based on the actual ice-thinning we’re now getting at the poles and actual ice-core analysis, global warming is outrunning the IPCC computer models’ predictions by a factor of almost 4.
      See forex –
      ‘IPCC climate models do not capture Arctic sea ice drift acceleration: Consequences in terms of projected sea ice thinning and decline’ by Rampal1, Weiss, C. Dubois, and Campin

      http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2011JC007110/abstract

      [2] Seven-tenths of Earth’s surface is covered with ocean. Too, the planetary atmosphere generally doesn’t heat the ocean. To the contrary: the water will heat the air. Here’s a sobering paper, which says that 93 percent of the anthropogenic warming between 1950 and 2006 is currently held in the oceans–
      “World ocean heat content and thermosteric sea level
      change (0–2000 m), 1955–2010” by Levitus et al.

      http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2012GL051106/abstract

      Note that the actual oceanic warming figures do accord with the actual polar melting we’ve seen. (Also, with thermal inertia, they’d support built-in warming of 2 to 4 degrees – nearer the latter, IMO.)

      [3] The IPCC computer models are primarily constructed by scientists who started as meteorologists – as atmospheric specialists, despite the fact that seven-tenths of the world’s surface is ocean, etc. – and must hew to a politically-formulated consensus. This in turn means they must support policies like cap-and-trade (which I, probably like most NC readers, interpret as a plan for more elite looting whether by intent or de facto execution).

      So, the IPCC projections are based on computer models and are politically-driven in large measure. As always the principle of garbage in, garbage out applies.

      [4] The oceanographers are who we should be listening to more, and they’re telling us a somewhat different story and have real-world facts to support them. See forex –
      “A Very Inconvenient Truth” by Greene, Baker and Miller

      http://www.tos.org/oceanography/issues/issue_archive/issue_pdfs/23_1/23-1_greene.pdf

      In short, Summer is totally correct to say in his interview – whatever his reasoning and wherever he’s coming from – that the IPCC global-warming projections are politically-driven bunk to a greater or lesser extent.

      1. from Mexico

        Mark P. said:

        The IPCC computer models are primarily constructed by scientists who started as meteorologists – as atmospheric specialists, despite the fact that seven-tenths of the world’s surface is ocean, etc. – and must hew to a politically-formulated consensus.

        This is one of the stock falsehoods evangelized by the AWG denier crowd.

        Tony Haymet, director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, said “One of the troubles I have when I meet people who believe IPCC is some great evil UN organization don’t realize that we as a community had to create this organization.”

        http://thesciencenetwork.org/programs/beyond-belief-candles-in-the-dark/tony-haymet

        1. Mark P.

          from Mexico wrote: ‘This is one of the stock falsehoods evangelized by the AWG denier crowd’

          Address the hard science then, which shows thinning polar ice that’s worse by a factor of four than the IPCC models predict.

          Seriously, why do the IPCC computer model-based predictions utterly fail to match the reality of the melting polar ice and the thermal build-up in the world’s ocean that we’re actually seeing here in 2013 and that wasn’t supposed to arrive before 2050?

          Can you give a substantive explanation of this based on analysis of the facts alone, without recourse to irrelevant ad hominem attacks about the ‘stock falsehoods of the AGW denier group’ or ‘Tony Haymet said’?

          Because I’m not an AGW denier. I’m telling you, based on the best science I see out there, that the situation appears to be much worse than the IPCC models predict; that they don’t match the realities; that they’re wrong.

          Because they are wrong, aren’t they? Therefore, I conclude — like James Lovelock and many others have concluded — that the IPCC models are bunk.

          1. from Mexico

            Mark P. says:

            Address the hard science then, which shows thinning polar ice that’s worse by a factor of four than the IPCC models predict.

            No, you address the science. Your “science” is part straw man (that IPCC has made predictions regarding the speed at which the icecaps are melting) and, even if your strawman were true, a failure to distinguish between correlation and causality.

            Your science is as follows: The IPCC models didn’t predict the melting of the polar ice caps accurately (a false statement), therefore it follows that IPCC is some evil UN orgnaization that is completely driven by a political agenda. Of course this isn’t science at all, because even if the falsehood you are peddling was true, you haven’t demonstrated causality. All you have demonstrated is correlation. So you’re not doing science, you’re doing speculation. Witch trials anyone?

            A far more plausible explanation of what is going on is given in this article:

            For 20 years satellites have been monitoring earth’s biggest ice shields on Greenland and in the Antarctic, using different technologies from radar to gravity measurements. In the past, the uncoordinated publication of individual one-off measurements led to confusion, especially with regard to the state of the Antarctic ice. A new study, supported by NASA and European Space Agency ESA combines the data from different satellite missions.

            “It’s the first time all the people who have estimated changes in the size of the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets using satellites over the past 20 years have got together to produce a single result,” Andrew Shepherd from the University of Leeds in the UK explained in an interview with DW.

            “Thanks to the accuracy of our data set, we are now able to say with confidence that Antarctica has lost ice for the whole of the past 20 years. In addition to the relative proportions of ice that have been lost in the northern and southern hemispheres, we can also see there’s been a definitive acceleration of ice loss in last 20 years. So together Antarctica and Greenland are now contributing three times as much ice to sea levels as they were 20 years ago,” says the Professor of Earth Observation.

            [….]

            In the last report by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), the development of the ice sheets was regarded as the major unknown factor with regard to predicting future sea level rises. “The results of this study will be invaluable in informing the IPCC as it completes the writing of its Fifth Assessment Report next year,” according to Tom Wagner, NASA’s cryosphere program manager in Washington.

            The question of how the satellite data will influence predictions of sea level rise is not easy to answer, says Andrew Shepherd: Any model is only as reliable as its data. He hopes the more accurate satellite measurements will help improve the models. He does, however, have one reservation. The main uncertainty in climate projections is not to do with the physics or processes, the scientist says. It is the uncertainty as to what emissions scenarios nations will adopt in the future.

            http://www.dw.de/polar-ice-sheets-melting-faster-than-ever/a-16432199

          2. different clue

            If the Polar Ice Cap is melting/thinning faster than IPCC predicted , that means the warmup is running faster than IPCC thought it was/would. Which means we have even more of a problem than IPCC thought. Which strengthens the visible “facts on the ground” case for man mage global warming gathering speed and power.

            ” Oh! Oh! why aren’t the temperatures higher? Where’s the missing heat? Ha ha ha.”
            Well , the missing heat went into melting the missing ice, Mr. Summers. So ha ha ha yourself. But as I have suggested, if you believe what you wrote, you will invest everything you have in oceanside seafront property.

    5. Dave Summers

      You know, all I can do is report the data. I have done this on my site for every state in the contiguous union. The numbers show that there is an Urban Heat Island effect that is effectively described by known relationships, and the data (within acceptable error) consistently fits that model. I am more than willing to send anyone the spreadsheets to back this up.

      But agreeing to that would make life difficult, if you were motivated to argue that the anthropogenic driver is more critical. Thus, as Climategate showed, the determination by those who profit from the view, whether this is by academic recognition, the receipt of more grants or whatever, is to use whatever means that they have to discount the normal discourse of science, and over-shout it with non-scientific arguments. So far they have been hugely successful.

  3. Really?

    Hate to be a “doomer” – oh hell, who in the hell am I kidding? I love to! – but there’s also the little matter of that 7B pound fire breathing dragon lurking in the background which represents the 7B+ human beings and their supporting infrastructure brought into existence based solely on the flawed premise of infinite supplies of the cheap, black, gooey stuff that makes all the magic happen. And as the supplies of the former begin to fall, the numbers of the latter will fall in kind, with all predictable stuff that happens when events like that occur. Now the “good” news for the exceedingly few remnants of the hunter/gatherer or subsistence farmer types remaining in the world today is that common sense would seem to say that that we first world takers who are burning through all that stuff so giddily will pay the largest price on the way down from the peak, just as we obviously enjoyed the greatest benefit on the way up. But of course that’s not really true either, especially given the force multiplier effects of modern gooey stuff fueled military technologies. Life is tough, then you die. Sometimes brutally, rarely fairly. Perhaps a few of us should remember that as we begin to take the plunge ourselves.

    And a small note on the so-called “green technologies” that are always “just around the corner,” that evidently needs to be repeated over and over and over again. No matter the technology under consideration, they are ALL heavily dependent on fossil fuel based systems to support their R&D, raw materials mining, transport, manufacturing, distributing, marketing, and maintenance cycles. So when it comes to talking about being “truly green,” we should all think in terms of not until all of those systems are largely or totally converted as well will we be anywhere close to realizing that dream. All of which will take CAPITAL! Boatloads of it, at a time where it’s all increasingly vaporizing in a global capitalist casino for the benefit of a decadent few. A daunting task, especially since we’re still accelerating nearly full speed in the opposite direction world-wide, to say the least!

  4. whoosh

    “The amount of money involved with those who espouse anthropogenic causes of climate change dwarfs the funding that has gone to those who raise questions when so many papers so this “may” happen, and that “might” occur. And those who pay the bills . . . . .” Is this true?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      This is such BS. It might be technically accurate. but the guys who have found anthropogenic climate change are mainly academics. They are not paid to make a case that climate change is happening or is anthopogenic, they are friggin’ researchers.

      By contrast, the anti climate change crowd is funded by big and not so big oil (like the Kochs). Exxon in 2007 was offering $10K a paper for papers that would argue against climate change.

      Even Bush said humans were causing climate change. Why is this treated as up for discussion?

      The main conclusions of the IPCC on global warming were the following:

      1. The global average surface temperature has risen 0.6 ± 0.2 °C since the late 19th century, and 0.17 °C per decade in the last 30 years.[6]

      2. “There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities”, in particular emissions of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane.[7]
      3. If greenhouse gas emissions continue the warming will also continue, with temperatures projected to increase by 1.4 °C to 5.8 °C between 1990 and 2100. Accompanying this temperature increase will be increases in some types of extreme weather and a projected sea level rise.[8] On balance the impacts of global warming will be significantly negative, especially for larger values of warming.[9]

      No scientific body of national or international standing maintains a formal opinion dissenting from any of these three main points; the last was the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, which in 2007 updated its 1999 statement rejecting the likelihood of human influence on recent climate with its current non-committal position.[10][11] Some other organizations, primarily those focusing on geology, also hold non-committal positions.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_opinion_on_climate_change

      There is not enough money on the other side of this issue to buy remotely this many people. Who has the bucks? The energy industry. Tell me who is on the other side who has even remotely comparable funding power .

      This argument is pathetic and yet it is treated seriously.

      1. gepay

        The US government gives billions of dollars of money for climate related research. The UK gives large amounts as I imagine other governments do also. Correct me if I am wrong but I would imagine that all of it goes to those whose research supports Anthrogenic Global Warming. This dwarfs the millions the Koch Bros give to skeptics. If the big fossil fuel companies spent 10s of millions even that would be dwarfed by the amount given away by governmets.
        It is true these same governments “do” very little to act on the research findings. But then these academics who espouse AGW still fly jet planes and drive cars. Man made climate is mostly a political phenomenon. The data is messy and not clear. The climate is a “chaotic system” which no truthful scientist would ever contend to “know” in its entirety. The feedback mechanisms of the atmoshere, the ocean and the land masses are still poorly articulated with many, many unknowns. The Sun still has its mysteries.
        Should it be looked into? – sure. Should we greatly lessen our dependence on fossil fuels? of course.
        Should CO2 be looked at as a polllutant? certainly not with the present state of knodwledge.

      2. Dave Summers

        Jeepers!
        The salaries of only half a dozen or more of the top executives of places such as the WWF would more than cover the total that is spent on behalf of those that question the right that “science is governed by the consensus view” over “science is governed by what the fact show.”

        1. from Mexico

          @ gepay and Dave Summers

          If you two guys really believe that Greenpeace is a match for ExxonMobil when it comes to lobbying, campaing contribution or public relations dollars, then I have a nice piece of ocean front property in Arizona for you.

          1. skippy

            Dave has Upton syndrome…

            I expect to talk a little bit about climate change issues as the post goes forward. With the change in Administration, and the emphasis by the President-elect on a blanket acceptance of the global warming premise, signified in part by his choice for the energy portfolios in the Cabinet, it is going to be hard to be able to distinguish between the two. This is going to be particularly true as the debate on the role of coal intensifies. Since that was part of what “got me into trouble”, I suppose it would be as good a place to start as any. So the first Tech Talk posts will likely start discussing coal from where it came from, through how we get it out of the ground, to how we burn it, to the problems that are created, and how some are being or intend to be solved. But since the aim is to provide some commentary on events as they unfold, these technical posts are likely to be spread out over the next few weeks, and may end up being the Sunday Post. – Dave’s blog bit tooth energy

            Skippy… “blanket acceptance of the global warming premise” – above… Well ain’t that problematic… eh… especially when the du jour is coal chat…

    2. Really?

      Ahhh… The ever-present “liberal conspiracy to undermine baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and the USA?”

    3. McMike

      “The amount of money involved with those who espouse anthropogenic causes of climate change dwarfs the funding that has gone to those who raise questions when so many papers so this “may” happen, and that “might” occur. And those who pay the bills . . . . .”

      Utter nonense. As Yves said, the oil companies and Koch brothers have invested heavily in anti-science and denial media and buying the silence of leaders and media.

      The denial crowd has hardly been without backers, and given the lack of progress, the denial crowd has been exceptionally successfull at stalling meaningdfull changes.

      No, this kvetching just goes to show that even intelligent and articulate blog writers can get hung up in right wing conspiracy memes and illogical tropes about liberal media and victimiology of the right at the hand of liberal university conspiracies to stiffle them.

      That passage was textbook Fox News dog whistling.

      Of course, I feel for the right, I mean, when you chose to be a regressive know-nothing whiner stuck in victim mode, the rest of the world really does treat you with disdain and dismissal. It’s like the creationists, I mean, dude, did you ever stop to think that the reason the schools and media ignore you is because you are full of sh*t?

      1. Dave Summers

        You know, I have posted the entire thought chain as I reviewed the temperature history of continental warming in the United States, on my blog. What I have not posted is the abuse that I received from the moment I first mentioned that the numbers did not match the hype.

        Those, however, who revel in the climate change momentum of today need, however, to recognize that future generations rarely accept the wisdom of their fathers, recognition best comes to those that most successfully challenge it, and that the current climate reality is falsifying the predictions made only fifteen years ago.

        1. different clue

          If you are correct then you have a huge contrarian investment opportunity lying at your feet. Because if you are correct, then glaciers and icefields all over the world will stop retreating and may even resume growth to their recent pre-warmup size. Sea level will stop rising and may even retreat as water re-enters lockup in re-growing glaciers and icefields. Current coastal zones will not be at risk of submergence as the ocean fails to rise.

          This is your big opportunity to invest all the money you can get or borrow in buying up coastal land, especially in places like Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, and etc. If you could get all those who read your blog to do likewise, they and their descendants will be grateful to you for many decades to come, IF(!) . . . you are correct.

          This is the time and now is the hour! Show you believe what you say you believe! Buy up that coastal land! Buy all you can afford! Buy all you can borrow to buy! You will plant the seeds of a huge Summers Dynasty fortune in the decades to come. People like you will have the last laugh on people like me.

  5. Deloss Brown

    I am one of those who come to the discussion with their own agendas. Mine is economic.

    “The lack of journalistic challenge in the mainstream media to the deliberate deception employed in hiding the decline in temperature prediction accuracy with the tree rings which dropped just as temperatures were rising, thus invalidating the “hockey stick”, was an early indication that media manipulation was going to be a critical factor in this debate.”

    What does this mean? If a student handed this in, his page would get covered with red ink. You have to look a long time–at least I did–to find the antecedent for “which.” If you don’t know what he means by the “hockey stick,” too bad for you. Muddled grammar is not necessarily a sign of muddled thinking, but I think it is in this case.

    “How long must global temperatures remain relatively stable . . . ?” I was under the impression that global temperatures were rising, and that 2012 was the hottest year on record (Google “2012 hottest year”). Dr. Summers refers to reports of global warming as “media manipulation.”

    Is there any other evidence? New Yorkers know that you can no longer take the #1 train to South Ferry. The Citibank building at 111 Wall Street (where I worked in the computer department until 2008, helping churn out Credit Default Swaps) was condemned after Hurricane Sylvia. Large parts of New Jersey were washed away.

    I happen to own a farm in the most productive region of the Midwest. Yields of 200 bushels of corn/acre had become common, and yields of 300 bushels were theoretically possible. For the last three years, the entire Midwest has suffered drought and 100-degree temperatures during the growing season, and our yields last year fell from the usual 200 bushels to 55 bushels/acre. Some farmers didn’t even bother to harvest their crops; they plowed the unproductive stalks into the ground, hoping that next year will be better. Since I bet on the price of corn (on the CBOT) I made money the last three years. So I’m one of the wicked commodities speculators, I suppose, but if I can no longer raise corn, I have to get an income somewhere.

    Ask the Japanese about the wonders of nuclear energy.

    There are all sorts of alternate energy sources available, but practically no money is being invested in their development. Partly this is the result of the coal industry and their dupes (“Clean coal!”), who have fought initiatives like the carbon tax to a standstill.

    I do not know where Dr. Summers is coming from, but at best he has confounded the discussion, and at worst he has done his best to perpetuate a dangerous and untenable situation.

    * * *

    How long must global temperatures remain relatively stable before someone brings this up as a front page story?
    Read more at http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/03/peak-oil-the-shale-boom-and-our-energy-future-interview-with-dave-summers.html#KffcDsVmXkhg6BSr.99

    1. from Mexico

      Summers makes a number of claims that to me seem extreme and unsupported by the facts. Of course the claims about global warming are the most outrageous.

      Here’s another claim he makes that is false:

      Most of the “innovation” in energy extraction from underground has been known for some time.

      Well sure, directional drilling has been around for a long time. But when I broke out in the oilfield back in the 1970s, the feats of directional drilling that are carried out daily now were unimaginable, completely out of the realm of possibility.

      Then there’s this:

      The hope that hydrocarbon production from the shale reservoirs of the United States will lead to energy independence has about a couple of years of life yet before it is shown to be the unrealistic hype that it is.

      Now I agree that the hope of energy independence due to increased domestic production is unrealistic. But on the other hand, domestic shale production has the ability to greatly sway the overall demand and supply situation. Certainly current drilling activity cannot be sustained and reserves are minimal with a natural gas price of $3/MCF. However, if natural gas prices recover to $8 or $10/MCF or more, there could be a great deal of economically recoverable domestic shale gas reserves. Price is a huge factor in calculating economically recoverable reserves.

      Then Summers gives us this:

      The continuing rise in energy costs, both here and in Europe, is likely to continue to sap any strong drive toward growth and a rapid recovery from the events of 2008.

      To which I again ask: Is the sickness that has infected the heart of the US and European economy peak oil? Or is it neoliberalism? Or a combination of the two along with other ailments?

      The experience of Cuba from the video I linked above poses some significant challenges to the received truths being spread by Summers.

      Summers seems intent upon spreading the one true faith that life with a significantly reduced energy footprint would be unbearable. But would it be?

    2. Dave Summers

      Everyone is constrained by their previously accepted positions as they look at new information. (It is an ongoing discussion relating to “priors” in the current climate modeling debate).

      But if you come into this with an open mind, as I did, the first thing you note is that, as the early IPCC reports recognized, the world goes through cyclic natural warming and cooling cycles, and we are in a warming one at the moment. The last two cycles (Medieval and Roman Warming Periods) gave temperatures warmer than the current, so all the hype about fears of catastrophe need to be taken in that light.

      Then, if you are curious, you do your own analysis of the temperature records available. I did that, and show my working at Bit Tooth Energy. No one has disputed those numbers, that clearly show that all is not well in the climate community.

      But I got paid zero, zilch, nada for that work, and neither did many of the other, many more competent folk that have looked at the numbers and said “Wait a minute here, there is something not right!!”

      As an academic I like reading student dissertations, they have to give a detailed review if they are to be accepted and I thus read Mia Tiljander’s dissertation and that of Carol Francis with some interest. (You can get both on the web if you are interested enough to look). Since, unless you distort their data, they don’t carry an acceptable message they get little recognition.

      Doesn’t mean they aren’t true but until you get reporters willing to read those theses with an open mind, rather than one distorted by the paycheck they get every month, and then do proper investigative reporting this story will remain a minor hiccup in the history of our times.

      1. from Mexico

        @ Dave Summers

        The problem is we’ve heard all this stuff before, supposedly by “academics” doing disinterested “science.” But when all the facts come out, what we find is that they’re mere shills for the status quo, engaging in the worst sort of pseudoscience. And the fact that “No one has disputed your numbers” means nothing. It merely means no one has gotten around to it yet. Have you ever stopped to think you’re just not that big of a player, and there are bigger fish to fry?

        So now you want us to believe that you’re not the little boy that cried wolf on the big bad IPCC, that this time it’s the real deal.

        Here’s the perfect example of one of the precedents that looks remarkably similar to what you are doing:

        There have been strident claims that New Zealand is warming. The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), among other organisations and scientists, allege that, along with the rest of the world, we have been heating up for over 100 years.

        But now, a simple check of publicly-available information proves these claims wrong. In fact, New Zealand’s temperature has been remarkably stable for a century and a half. So what’s going on?

        New Zealand’s National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research (NIWA) is responsible for New Zealand’s National Climate Database. This database, available online, holds all New Zealand’s climate data, including temperature readings, since the 1850s. Anybody can go and get the data for free. That’s what we did, and we made our own graph.

        — The New Zealand Climate Science Coalition

        Hon Secretary, Terry Dunleavy MBE

        But then came the rebuttal:

        Update: A special message to visitors from Drudge: you are being lied to. Global warming is happening and we’re causing it, but to avoid dealing with the problem folks are shooting the messenger, attacking the scientists who discovered and reported on the problem. The New Zealand Climate Science Coalition isn’t made up of climate scientists, but is just a group of global warming skeptics who gave themselves a fancy title. And they just got caught combining temperature data from different places to get rid of the inconvenient warming trend in New Zealand. If you want to know what the science really says, please read the Copenhagen Diagnosis.

        http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2009/11/26/new-zealand-climate-science-co/

  6. Paul Tioxon

    Bakken and Canadian tar oil are being moved by rail. If this keeps the price low, taking as much as possible, not building a pipeline and using pre-existing infrastructure to avoid costly and politically difficult pipelines, all makes sense. The oil is in such high demand due to cost vs foreign alternatives. The US already has extracted itself from the unstable Middle East for the most part, importing most oil from Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. The last one for obvious political reasons.

    From today’s philly.com Delta airlines just purchased oil refinery just got its first Bakken oil shipment. First by rail then by ship, up the Delaware River. Other refineries that seemed doomed to moth ball status and brownfield reclamation have found salvation in the life giving pools of Canadian and Bakken oil.

    http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20130228_North_Dakota_crude_oil_reaches_Delta_refinery_in_Trainer.html

    Sunoco just exited the oil refining business and became a 7-11 with gas pumps while The Carlyle Group bought into this crude by rail. It is interesting to note, that XL pipeline spurred increase awareness that it is not needed and now, in light of the above interview, the diversion to rail transport keeps the low price held captured due to lack of a pipeline alternative. This oil is also being shipped westward to refineries. Railroads are probably the most disrespected by Wall St go-go money boys and fly beneath the radar. But some people in business see the massive rail transport infrastructure as a no brainer for moving oil just about anywhere in America.

    —————————————————

    “North Dakota Bakken crude production continues to grow at record rates with nearly 770 Mb/d produced in December 2012 up 40 percent since January 2012. The North Dakota Pipeline Authority estimates that 64 percent of that crude was transported to market by rail in December. After local refinery consumption (80 Mb/d) that means 440 Mb/d moving by rail. Today we continue our survey of North Dakota crude rail loading terminals with an in-depth look at three midstream companies that between them can potentialy load 280 Mb/d of crude in North Dakota.”

    http://www.rbnenergy.com/plains-enbridge-and-global-terminals-in-the-bakken

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/08/refinery-bayway-bakken-crude-idUSL1E9C844X20130108

  7. rob

    aside from that pesky little fact that we are all totally screwed……
    In the backround…we are already in the peak oil cycyle.As of yet, there is no shortage of oil,as demonstated by the gluts worldwide in phsical storage capacity.Not too long ago, the tank farms were full and there were floating tankers in the caribbean, just waiting.
    The demand destruction of the imploded world economy, meant a halt to expanding usage.
    Major fields productions seeming to be petering out a little,with only smaller finds at more expensive retrieval costs on the horizon.
    All pointed to in the fact that for the last 10 years,there has be a seeming concerted effort to artificially inflate the price of oil,on the part of speculators,producers,financiers,media.
    I’m thinking the justification in their minds for this charade, is to prepare us for what they think is a reality.The end of cheap oil.after all, that is what peak oil means.Not the end of oil. just the end of getting it to just flow out of the ground for a cost of 6-7 dollars a barrel as it probably still is in saudi arabia.They are protecting their profit margins, as any self respectable bastard would.
    What good that is; is giving the real world a new criteria as to what we pay for fuel(europe has been here a while ,I know).Now while right now that price reflects the level in trillions of dollars these scumbags are stealing from all of us buying fuel or products made/delivered with fuel,but it also represents the trillions we could actually be spending on some of these “pie in the sky” technologies.
    It also shows the damage to everyones economy by such high energy costs.
    Our problem is that our collective decisions are being made for us by a bunch of money grubbing maniacal scumbags.Be they from exxon or washington or the evening news producers who lie to the people as to the real state of things, and really what we have to do.”WE”, that ineffectual bunch of slobs;NEED to get with the program, and open up what must happen.The only laws that are immutable, are nature’s laws.
    Solar,(PV and parabolic mirrors),wind,wave,tidal,geothermal heatpumps,bio-diesel,cellulosic ethanol, are already possible.The navy has already bought and is testing oil made from algea,of course they paid 400 dollars a barrel or something….but in this world, some things must be kept available.and may not be done as we have in the past.. but so what.
    The question is what is sustainable, for the planetary family we are part of.And our psycho cousins,the trans-national corporations be dammned,if they can’t play nice.

  8. Minor Heretic

    “The mass elevation of people into the middle class in Asia cannot be reversed”

    Geology says “No.”

    In fact, Geology says, “The mass elevation of people into the middle class in North America and Europe CAN be reversed. And I’m working on it right now.”

    The most energy efficient economy will survive the best.

    1. Ray Duray

      Re: “The most energy efficient economy will survive the best.”

      I’d bet otherwise. Russia, for example, has potential energy reserves to serve as a wealth creation means for another century. The U.S., on the other hand, is something of a basket case energy wise.

      We have been and will continue to be more energy efficient than Russia. But in 100 years the U.S. will be a backwater, on present course, and Russia will be the richest nation on the planet. Barring nuclear conflagration or a better aim at Moscow by an errant asteroid.

      1. different clue

        Or enough oil-fueled global warming to turn all the Russian breadbaskets into burn barrels.

  9. Tom

    injecting CO2 into old oil fields has started to become an economical way to extract remaining reserves while sequestering CO2. That should help baseline production. Always overlooked is the best way to reduce energy use is through energy efficiency in autos, insulating homes, more efficient commercial buildings, efficient electric motors etc.. Simply apply technology to use less energy per unit of output.
    Also, the concentration of research regarding global warming is based in chemical science – more CO2 more warming – of course other chemicals are named under greenhouse gases. Why is there such debate over whether humans or whatever caused the effect….it’s here and its getting worse. I absolutely attribute it to human activity – but so what.

    The business economy is set-up (thanks wall street etal for worsening the condition) to maximize shareholder value in the most rapid way possible. This set-up is contrary to long term change and investment in non-renewable commodity usage. The investment in real tangible capital improvements has declined while investment in financial capital has increased – that spells, to me, an imbalance in investment from productive to non-productive uses. Look at the drop in R&D outside of R$D designed to efficiently kill people. Productive long term investment in real capital designed to thwart the effects of human effluent into our environment would be the way to go — we landed on the moon, didn’t we. So where is the capital improvement needed to preserve all life on this planet? I propose that due to our economic structure – it is found in short term, risk-less, tainted investment products whose only output is a compound interest money stream extraction game.

  10. nobody

    Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been exploring the controversy in anthropology about Napoleon Chagnon and the Yanomamö. In one of the discussions I was reading, these comments, by Helga Vierich-Drever, stood out for me:

    “We are the most dangerous predators on the planet and here we all are having these conversations, at a time when we need to get each other’s attention before it is too late to do anything constructive about an yawning chasm that humanity is approaching at breakneck speed. Something I have come to consider possibly the worst species bottleneck since 70,000…”

    “[D]amn it, I am in a tearing hurry in another direction entirely. Bear with me a moment please. I hope you have some grasp of the exponential function, but can you see the import of the International Energy Agency’s recently revised estimate of 6% annual decline in energy from fossil fuels? And despite the Russian theory of deep non-life related hydrocarbons, ([crackpot], according to the petroleum geology forums) and all the hype about ethanol, electric cars, wind power and all the other alternate energy options, nothing out there has a snowball’s chance in hell of supplying enough energy fast enough to save global commerce and ‘modern’ agriculture on anything like the scale to which we have come to depend. As cheerful as I am about this, on behalf of all the beleaguered small local subsistence economies of the world, I am getting just a bit worried about the likely death by violence, starvation, and disease of billions of people.

    “Do you see where I am going with this?”

    [#99609]

    Also, this reply [#99627]:

    “About resource depletion, there is no point in worrying because it can hardly be otherwise, and we need to lose several billion people anyway.”

    http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/evolutionary-psychology/messages/99585?threaded=1&m=e&var=1&tidx=1

    1. different clue

      Whoever wrote that last comment referrenced on that reproduced thread . . . absolutely deserves to be among that several billion who need to be lost. Pray that whoever wrote that is the very first to die.

      1. Really?

        There is no “pray” and there is no “deserves,” at least in your contexts, there simply is. Why “pray” for a moral judgement on someone else’s actions when reality has seemingly already rendered one? Why not simply reconcile yourself to what already IS instead, or, in the alternative, state your UNEQUIVOCAL OPPOSITION? No “praying” required for that.

  11. Ray Duray

    Yves wrote: ” I wish he had spoken more about geothermal, though.”

    Here in Central Oregon we have a utility scale geothermal project in the development stage:

    http://tinyurl.com/c2fbysm

    I’ve concluded that this project is something of a boondoggle dependent upon government largesse to continue on after a large disappointment for the California based developers who drilled a dry hole a few years ago. After absorbing that setback, the new owners of the project have come up with an expensive and complicated water injection scheme to attempt to lift commercial amounts of steam to the surface. Alas, in Oregon the low-hanging fruit in geo-thermal development was down in Klamath Falls where much use of geothermal is made for electricity generation as well as structure heating.

    As I see it, the problem with geothermal is that many of the proposed locations are simply going to be uneconomic to develop.

  12. avg John

    One solution will be making use of nano technology to create nano-conductive garments on a massive scale. In the future we will wrap ourselves in garments created from such materials for our own personal hvac system. Heating homes with natural gas will become a thing of the past. In addition, we will use our own body heat to generate a portion of our electrical energy needs. You can laugh, but if peak oil is really here and with a world population of 7 billion people, it will be a game changer in how we conduct our ordinary lives. People will be much more receptive to alternative energy sources. And there are thousands of solutions with the promise of new products out there just waiting to happen, but probably won’t until necessity forces the issue.

    1. Really?

      AvgJohn,

      Hate to disappoint you, but peak oil and 7B people have already arrived, while alternative solutions have not. To paraphrase the Floyd: Wish You Were Here!

      1. avg John

        So have some of the solutions.

        http://www.shifteast.com/nanotech-future-fashion/

        Granted they haven’t been implemented. But that aside, there are and will be thousands of solutions waiting to happen.

        When you can’t afford to keep your family and yourself warm through the winter, you’ll gladly warm to such ideas. And such ideas and technologies will fully develop as they are refined through general use. Or maybe it’s better to say that such technologies and solutions will evolve as the demand for them grows. In the 1960’s how many people thought their grand kids would be carrying on their lives with the power of a super computer in the palm of their hands?

  13. Susan the other

    Speaking of Russia. They are talking trade feverishly with Japan and France; they seem to have backed off their support for Syria just as Kerry is making speeches in Europe about supporting the rebels, and talks are being held between the US and Iran in Kazakhstan that sound promising. Also there are talks between the US and Turkey over Palestine and Israel. That’s alot of diplomacy goin’ on. Plus Korea is going to reunify. Just ask Dennis Rodman? Weird. What does this have to do with oil? It sounds like oil is going to be a commodity that will will be rationed out and everyone will agree to the logic of this. Curious. The oil peace.

    1. different clue

      Will North Korea re-unify upward? Or will South Korea re-unify downward? Certainly the North Koreans could teach the South Koreans how to “live on less”.

      As to this Mr. Summers person . . . let him put his money where his mouth is by investing all his spare savings and credit in oceanside beachfront/marshfront seacoastal property in Louisiana, FL panhandle coast, etc. That would show me that he at least actually believes what he said. Otherwise, why should I even accord him the minimal respect of thinking he even believes what he said in the interview?

  14. McMike

    It is odd, disturbingly so, that the idea of simply using less energy rarely gets must attention in these discussions.

    We waste easily half the energy we consume through inefficiency, poor infrastructure design, and easily modified behaviors. I don’t have the figure at hand, but electric generation and transmission are huge wastes, and of course there’s transportation.

    All of these can easily be addressed with behavior and reasonably achieveable investment should we decide to focus on it.

    Can you imagine how much the conversation would be different if we were using 40% less energy?

    But there is an internalized premise that permeates these discussions: we will always require the same or more per capita energy input in the future as we do now.

    1. different clue

      Good point. Individuals can do something to make a visible show of using less energy in order to create a public image of sincerity on the subject. That way such individuals will at least be listened to when they bring this up.

      Once such individuals are in such a position to be listened to based on their personal visible credibility on the issue, they can then point out how impossible any significant conservation is when the OverClass Conspirators have deliberately on purpose designed a civilization and infrastructure to deliberately waste on purpose as much coal, gas, and oil as possible.

      1. different clue

        Oh, and . . . to deliberately waste on purpose as much hydroelectric and other renewable electricity as possible also.

  15. Binky Bear

    Summer is not well connected to history or reality outside his bubble I’m afraid.
    Asia can’t go back from its middle class ascension? How about a cultural revolution? That really happened! How about post-WWII eastern Europe? Bourgois to Bolshevik in 10 years. People are very flexible and you can always go down.

    Another thing is the fact that there exist technologies to continue manufacturing liquid hydrocarbons-Changing World Technologies operated a plant to turn turkey carcass remnants into oil in MO for a while. They are just expensive. Any carbon based feedstock (including humans) goes in one end, modified Fischer-Tropsch process, bang your full range of hydrocarbons from C to bunker 2 comes out the other side. Just costs money.
    Geothermal isn’t perfect either. Not everyone lives in Iceland. But it couldn’t hurt to pursue it.

    The real underlying message is that as oil gets more expensive we will adapt using a variety of means and some of those adaptations will be lifestyle changes. These won’t be apocalyptic or dramatic unless someone wants them to be.

  16. Hugh

    PT = ER

    Our current problems are kleptocracy, wealth inequality, and class war. But around 2030 and through the rest of the century our fates will be governed by that equation, where

    P = population
    T = technology level
    E = Environmental degradation (global warming, species loss)
    R = Resource depletion (peak energy, water, rare earths, etc.)

    1. Really?

      Hugh,

      I think you’ve got the basic equation exactly right, but I think you’ve misjudged our current “problems.” They’re just the current and ongoing “features” of the particular system we’ve selected to live under. It’s funny isn’t it? Until it’s not at least. But they’re not going away in any case now, are they?

  17. Francois T

    The lack of journalistic challenge in the mainstream media to the deliberate deception employed in hiding the decline in temperature prediction accuracy with the tree rings which dropped just as temperatures were rising, thus invalidating the “hockey stick”, was an early indication that media manipulation was going to be a critical factor in this debate.

    This guy just used deliberate deception, big time. He obviously has NO IDEA (or maybe he does!) that tree rings is only one of many lines of evidence that led to the scientific validation of the “hockey stick”.

    Well…I just lost 10 minutes of my life reading a so-called expert that is yet another Koch-sucker shill.

  18. Dave Summers

    In response to Francois T – I get my information by reading not just the press releases, but the technical reports, dissertations and theses that lie behind them. I talk to colleagues at MS&T that acquire the data, and I read extensively outside of that.

    But I have the advantage that I have done work on a number of these problems, as I mentioned the issue of solar cell protection from dust in the desert came up a long time ago, and the technology that I spent most of my life helping develop has had broad application in a number of different energy fields beyond just that of fossil fuels. This does allow me to understand sometimes not only what is being said, but also what is not.

    1. Francois T

      On the maintenance issues of solar panels, I’ll concede that I don’t know enough and that you may be right. Fair point.

      Now, something I’m absolutely NOT willing to let pass is what you wrote about the hockey sticks (there are at least 8 different obtained with different proxies) being invalidated.

      This is pure climate denialist propaganda.

    2. Eric Swanson

      Dave, I’ve been interested in what happened to the Greenland Norse for several years and have read several papers and a couple of books on the subject. Your references don’t offer any additional proof that climate change had anything to do with the abandonment of the Western Settlement.

      As for the Eastern Settlement, There’s every reason to suspect that they were hit hard by the eruption of the Kuwae volcano in about 1452-3 and may not have recovered. The impacts would have been similar to the Tambora event(s), which produced the Year Without A Summer in New England during 1816. Single year events are not climate change, just noise in the data, but such an event would have profound impacts on a marginally subsistance agricultural society that was isolated from re-supply.

      http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/releases/93/release_1993_1543.html

      I have found that the denialist camp refuses to discuss volcanic events in a historical discussion of The Little Ice Age, tending to lump such short term events into a larger time period to delimit the Little Ice Age. It is unfortunate that the climate record does not provide precisely dated weather records, though the tree ring data may be so dated. One must understand the limits of all the proxy data and not “cherry pick” only those which support an agenda, which the denialist excell at.

      That said, I have enjoyed reading your posts about our energy situation on TheOilDrum.com…

      1. Dave Summers

        Eric:
        I spent a fair bit of time over the past couple of years anticipating that Katla might go following the eruption at Eyjafjallajokull (in the past it has happened). It got me into posts on geothermal injection of water, which is causing some quakes and activity closer to Reykjavik at their geothermal plants, and I keep an eye on the area, but after all the quakes in the region focussed down on Katla over a period of a few months, and then focussed on the caldera, the pattern has broadened out a bit recently, and died down.

  19. Eric Swanson

    Dave, as you are likely aware, Katla isn’t in the same league as Kuwae or Tambora or the really big eruption of Toba roughly 70,000 years ago. A really, really big eruption, such as that possible from the Yellow Caldera, would directly impact much of the US lower 48 states. We had quite a scare back in 1997 regarding the Long Valley Caldera in California as the middle of the caldera began to rise as earthquake swarms occurred, an area which still provides lots of earthquake activity on occasion. If Long Valley blew it’s top, the results might be similar to Toba or Yellowstone.

    The climate impact of a volcanic eruption is more than just the results of the dust blown into the sky. The sulfate aerosols which are blasted into the stratosphere by the larger eruptions remain for many months and the amount of sulfate in the material can vary considerably, depending on the chemical makeup of the volcano’s ejecta.

    One can not expect to understand the historical climate record(s) without taking into account the history of volcanic eruptions. To me, it’s especially damning that some in the denialist camp appear to ignore this portion of the historical climate forcing when describing historical climate change, especially the Little Ice Age. And, the Medieval Warm Period may have been a regional phenomena related to changes in ocean circulation in the North Atlantic, not a global event. Adding greenhouse gases to our atmosphere will result in global changes to weather and climate, with the strongest influence at high latitudes. That we are witnessing such changes at high latitudes, such as the loss of sea-ice, is cause for worry in my mind.

  20. Dave Summers

    Have a look at what happened during and after Laki in 1783. Over a quarter of Iceland’s population died, not to mention the effects in France and Europe.

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