That was the story from an Al Gore video interview published recently on UStream TV online. Obviously it was designed to be provocative because the climate change folks have little left in their arsenal after climategate revealed that the global warming theory was based upon “cooked” science, academic bullying and bravado.
Al Gore is a smart guy and surely he realizes he cannot resurrect the once frenzied concern about global warming, err—climate crisis, err—climate change (insert politically correct name du jour here) so easily. So he’s doing what has worked before in so many political campaigns—he’s playing the race card, as Bill Clinton might say. But having seen that dirty trick used before we no longer accept it as fact.
Al Gore can still get headlines with his bombastic rhetoric but mostly on slow news days these days. The video is likely to haunt Al Gore someday soon much like the old wizard revealed behind the curtain as a trickster.
But unlike Dorothy who believed, we no longer believe.
The Daily Caller picked up this story and ran it on one of its slow news days when nothing more could possibly be said about President Obama’s vacation. But if Gore did the interview, as he claimed, to try to reclaim the conversation from the skeptics it did not appear to be working out too well for him by judging from the comments posted.
We do know this: The more interviews Al Gore gives on this topic the less we believe it.
- Al Gore and the silencing of debate (usapartisan.com)
- Al Gore: Climate Denial Must Go the Way of Racism (treehugger.com)
- Al Gore – When Being A Lying Deuchebag Just Isn’t Enough (hooglyboogly.co)
- Al Gore Compares Climate Change Skeptics To Civil Rights Era Racists (thenewspundit.com)
The concept of peak oil has been around for decades in the imagination of those who either fear —or wish—that the days of successful E&P of the black liquid are waning. Peak oil advocates argued that we have already reached the point where the most oil able to be produced from the easy to find sources has been reached and we can expect to see steady declines in new oil discoveries—-ergo—get thee off the black stuff and onto cleaner options.
The political correctness of peak oil helped it grow in popularity among both the ‘chattering classes’ and the ‘political classes’ because it reinforced their environmental views.
I am not opposed to renewable energy nor cleaning up the environment, but in the real world where I live and work “sustainability” means I can continue to afford to use the product and live the lifestyle I have chosen without harassment or breaking the law.
Yes, I know, I am making fun of the peak oil true believers.
But admit it, they have it coming. Most of us know enough about science and the scientific method to realize that just because Al Gore says there is ‘incontrovertible evidence’ of global warming does not make it so. And just because The Oil Drum says we reached the stage of peak oil in 2008 and it is irreversible—does not make it so.
That is why it was SO DELIGHTFUL to read in an authoritative source none other than The Oil Drum that a new high in liquid production has been reached. The problem for The Oil Drum was this report was written January 2011 for a period including November 2010! And worse, the report was confirmed by both IEA and OPEC. Oh Mon Dieu!
“Both the IEA and OPEC came out with new monthly reports recently. And both report that oil production in November 2010 exceeded the previous high month of July 2008 (back when oil was over $140). Probably the difference is within the margin of error, and in any case the third agency (the EIA) won’t weigh in for a few months.”—-The Oil Drum January 5, 2011
I’ll take that as an admission of error on the peak oil notion.
So the problem with the peak oil concept is that it relied on the old school view of oil and gas E&P where vertical drilling in search of vast pools of oil was the stuff of petro-dreams. Today most of the new prospects for such oil come from non-OPEC countries in places of large potential and larger risks like Africa and deep water off-shore Brazil. No doubt we will find it there, but meanwhile, the real story of the oil and gas future is in unconventional sources that use horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing to search for the ribbons of hydrocarbons once thought uneconomic to produce the old style conventional ways. They were right then, but not today.
Even better news is that unconventional oil and gas apparently can be found in many places around the world from North America where it is transforming the energy business despite the best efforts of our government to prevent domestic oil and gas production from growing to China that so desperately needs new domestic sources of energy that it is now importing coal from the US that we will not allow to be used here to the EU where Russian gas always carries a risk greater than any OPEC price gouge.
It is time for the US to have an energy policy driven by a reasonable balancing of economic and environmental considerations and focused on sustainable economic growth not a failed policy of picking winners based upon the political correctness of fuels.
Once upon a time in a land not far away from our memory, we experienced an extended period of economic growth. We actually manufactured things here in the US instead of importing them from China. We built homes by the subdivision instead of tucked them into some odd-ball sized inner city space. We needed mobility so we built the interstate highway system. We sent men to the moon and imagined entirely new ways to communicate with each other. I’m describing, of course, the post WWII America that gave rise to the baby boomers and the technology revolution they created.
We needed energy to run that America and we built power plants that were fueled with coal because we had plenty of it and it was cheap. Yes it polluted the air and over time we got progressively more serious about cleaning it up with new rules and better technology.
And then the world turned upside down with oil embargos, energy crisis after crisis, the Fuel Use act which prevented using natural gas and then the Natural Gas Policy act which encouraged it, the Energy Policy act which allowed wholesale power competition and then the emergence of renewable energy from wind and solar since Three Mile island scared us off from building more nuclear plants and inflation and regulatory delays made them prohibitively expensive.
We went from being optimistic and growth focused to pessimistic and constraints focused.
Fast forward a decade and we’ve reached a middle ground where we’d like to manufacture things in America AGAIN to create jobs, but we’re worried about global warming (or climate change or climate disruption depending upon how Al Gore explains the latest meltdown of his Inconvenient Truth) so today we focus on optimization and venture capital is being thrown at smart grid and its assorted technology disciples to conquer this middle kingdom.
Coal has not gone away but we don’t build as much of it anymore. Nuclear power has not gone away and we plan to build one new nuke in the South if the Japanese will build the containment vessel, the Chinese will let us into their AE queue, and the NRC will stick with the plan approved instead of changing it constantly whenever some group gets nervous.
Living in a scenario driven by optimization around green goals is a wonderful place to be if you can get there. But the costs are high because the technologies are new. Wind and solar are plentiful but intermittent and need back-up and besides the wind blows in places far removed from the markets we need to serve and the transmission lines are not always adequate to the task. And then there is still the Chinese quest for market share buying every commodity they can for domestic use, building export capacity to drive down prices just enough to discourage US manufacturing competitiveness in wind turbines, solar panels and many other products which as an intended consequence reduces industrial demand enough to discourage building the kind of baseload power plants with cheap domestic coal we used to build.
The question is are we getting the energy future wrong?
- Lower Average Energy Costs with Baseload. If we want to manufacture more things here at home and create jobs we will need steady or lower energy costs. The kind of energy costs we got from building baseload generation in a market environment where the incremental costs of new capacity brought down the average costs for all.
- Improve Efficiency through Competitive Market Forces. We’ve learned that wholesale competition for power generation is great at driving out the excess costs and driving up the capacity factors and efficiency of the plants. In a study we did of divested old power plants in the last decade we found that the improvements in the way the divested coal plants were operated produced enough efficiency gains to power 25 million typical American homes for a year. Similar improvements were found in the divested nuclear plants.
- Create Competitive Market Conditions for Manufacturing and Job Growth. There is much the US can do to restore its competitive market position and create jobs—driving up taxes and the costs of doing business are not among them. When we get serious about growth again we can get our groove back. The recession has officially ended but the pain continues, but America seems ready for changes in tax laws, investment policy and a focus on growth and job creation to create those competitive conditions.
There is nothing wrong with adding renewable energy, smart grid, efficiency and other technologies and strategies to our energy mix. But they are not sufficient to get the job done without tax and investment policies and certainty in our regulatory conditions to attract investment, restore economic growth and create jobs.
Our policy should focus on bringing down the average cost of doing business and that includes lower average energy costs. The only way to achieve that is through economic growth to increase energy demand with the baseload energy and competitive market policies (not un-sustainable dependence upon subsidies) to achieve it.
The place to start is creating a ferociously attractive market in off-peak energy use to jump start manufacturing and production again and then sustain that with the baseload resource to live into our long term economic growth strategy of getting our groove back.