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All The Facts Matter

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An observation worth noting ... and pondering, from Robert J. Brecha:

As this trend toward liquid fuels other than conventional crude oil continues, two important points are worth noting. First, [in a graph shown in the original article], we show a volumetric measure of fuels, as opposed to gross energy content of those fuels. Both natural gas liquids and biofuels have volumetric energy densities that are only 60% that of conventional crude oil; demand is for the actual useful energy provided by fuels and, therefore, requires additional volume if energy density decreases....
The second point is that nonconventional liquid fuels, including biofuels, require higher energy inputs for extraction, processing, refining and transport than conventional oil. Although some of the energy input may be in the form of carriers other than the liquid fuels themselves, the move toward nonconventional fuels points to a need to account for net energy use for each sector, since it is the total energy system that is of fundamental interest. Furthermore, even in the case of conventional oil production, the energy return on energy invested (EROEI) in extraction has been decreasing over time, implying that a given amount of final liquid fuel energy (mainly for transportation, but in some areas, for electricity generation as well) itself requires energy consumption that would otherwise be available for other sectors of the total system. (Links and citations in the original.)

One more instance where the practical, fact-based side of the "debate" about peak oil/not peak oil throws a bit of cold water on the context-free exuberance about the "no worries about our energy future" side of that discussion. Regardless of one's confidence in both their assertions and in their beliefs that "human ingenuity" and "technological advances" will save the day, reality offers a different take.

If we aren't moving the industry's preferred ideological talking points off the adult table to allow more room for facts, we're just shooting ourselves in the foot--repeatedly. An awareness of the subtler but no less important considerations about production and supply can only help move the conversation past the red-meat, feed-the-base motivations.

This should not be a debate about which side is absolutely correct and which side is absolutely incorrect. The issue is simpler: all the facts need to be in play for both public discussion and for preparation/adaptation. Some facts are much more inconvenient than others, but in the long run no one will be well-served if today's narratives don't include full disclosures. Problem-Solving 101.

As the author himself note in his introductory comments:

[W]e present several lines of evidence as to why arguments for a near-term peak in world conventional oil production should be taken seriously--both in the sense that there is strong evidence for peak oil and in the sense that being societally unprepared for declining oil production will have serious consequences....

The world isn't about to end because we've reached a peak ("plateau" if it makes you feel better) in the rate of production in our wondrous conventional crude-oil reserves. Changes may in fact be quite imperceptible for some time to come. But imperceptible or not, changes will be imposed as the realities of supply and production force their way into the conversations.

Acknowledging that and even considering a plan or two right about ... now, might not be such a bad idea. We'll all benefit in the end, and in the end, that's not such a terrible objective.

Adapted from a blog post of mine.
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Looking Left and Right: Inspiring Different Ideas, Envisioning Better Tomorrows I remain a firm believer in late U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone's observation that "We all do better when we all do better." That objective might be worth pursuing (more...)

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