Cheap energy is key to survival in a cooler world

Russ Steele

As the planet cools during the next grand minium, there will be long cold winters when citizens will need to warm their homes and shelters. Having access to low cost energy sources will be key to survival for many low income families.  It appears that the US has the necessary cheap energy resources, unless our political leader block the development and drilling of US unconventional oil and gas resources.

Amy Myers Jaffe writing in the Sept/Oct 2011 issue of Foreign Policy, Sept/Oct 2011 assess the current supply of fossil energy available to US consumers.

Geologists have long known that the Americas are home to plentiful hydrocarbons trapped in hard-to-reach offshore deposits, on-land shale rock, oil sands, and heavy oil formations. The U.S. endowment of unconventional oil is more than 2 trillion barrels, with another 2.4 trillion in Canada and 2 trillion-plus in South America — compared with conventional Middle Eastern and North African oil resources of 1.2 trillion. The problem was always how to unlock them economically.

But since the early 2000s, the energy industry has largely solved that problem. With the help of horizontal drilling and other innovations, shale gas production in the United States has skyrocketed from virtually nothing to 15 to 20 percent of the U.S. natural gas supply in less than a decade. By 2040, it could account for more than half of it. This tremendous change in volume has turned the conversation in the U.S. natural gas industry on its head; where Americans once fretted about meeting the country’s natural gas needs, they now worry about finding potential buyers for the country’s surplus.

Meanwhile, onshore oil production in the United States, condemned to predictions of inexorable decline by analysts for two decades, is about to stage an unexpected comeback. Oil production from shale rock, a technically complex process of squeezing hydrocarbons from sedimentary deposits, is just beginning. But analysts are predicting production of as much as 1.5 million barrels a day in the next few years from resources beneath the Great Plains and Texas alone — the equivalent of 8 percent of current U.S. oil consumption. The development raises the question of what else the U.S. energy industry might accomplish if prices remain high and technology continues to advance. Rising recovery rates from old wells, for example, could also stem previous declines. On top of all this, analysts expect an additional 1 to 2 million barrels a day from the Gulf of Mexico now that drilling is resuming. Peak oil? Not anytime soon.

 You can read the rest of the article here. Our local sustainability groups have focused on the threat of peak oil, while ignoring the possibility of cooling resulting from a grand minimum. Peak oil is a long way off, while we are on the cusp of The Next Grand Minimum.

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About Russ Steele

Freelance writer and climate change blogger. Russ spent twenty years in the Air Force as a navigator specializing in electronics warfare and digital systems. After his service he was employed for sixteen years as concept developer for TRW, an aerospace and automotive company, and then was CEO of a non-profit Internet provider for 18 months. Russ's articles have appeared in Comstock's Business, Capitol Journal, Trailer Life, Monitoring Times, and Idaho Magazine.
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17 Responses to Cheap energy is key to survival in a cooler world

  1. Ben Emery says:

    Russ,
    The best way would be for a huge retrofit weather proofing of all homes in America. Conservation is the most cost effective and productive way of dealing with the issue. If we develop alternative renewable energies at the same time we would solve the problem and secure our nation at the same time. These things would be a huge stimulus to our economy and would secure ourselves from being at the mercy of Exxon, BP, OPEC, Pipelines, and so on. Diversify is the best way to avoid complete collapse or disaster.

  2. Greg Goodknight says:

    Well, we don’t really know yet whether or not we are on the cusp of the next grand solar minimum, but we do seem to be in the beginning of a two or three decade cooling.

    By this time next year, in the height of the political silly season, we could see a real crumbling of Global Warming politics and an embrace of inexpensive energy. While it’s getting harder to get cheap plentiful oil that is easy to refine into motor fuels, we’re not running out of cheap fossil fuels.

  3. Dixon Cruickshank says:

    The best way for the country to revive itself and its economy – and fight off the cold – is to literally go after everything – oil – gas -coal with reckless abondon. Jobs by the millions, export and investment dollars pouring in instead of out, We can be the next middle east very easily, and in the same vien reduce their power base, solves alot of problems.

  4. Russ says:

    Ben,

    You wrote: If we develop alternative renewable energies What did you have in mind for these alternative energies? The wind and sun both require back up generators running in fossil fuels. Did you have some other form of alternative energy in mind?

    • Ben Emery says:

      Russ,
      I think it would help everybody if we would stop wording the debate either all or none. As many sources as possible. The problem is we have a way too large fossil fuel industry that is squashing any competition through many avenues. Here is the answer
      “Diversify is the best way to avoid complete collapse or disaster.”

  5. Douglas Keachie says:

    “Geologists have long known that the Americas are home to plentiful hydrocarbons trapped in hard-to-reach offshore deposits, on-land shale rock, oil sands, and heavy oil formations. ”

    why not call it like it is?

    “Geologists have long known that the Americas are home to plentiful hydrocarbons trapped in costly-to-reach offshore deposits, on-land shale rock, oil sands, and heavy oil formations.

    By expanding the use of solar and wind during the day, you are using less of your oil, gas, and coal during the day. This reduces the price of them and extends the years such fuels will be available, for night time use. Most businesses close at night, at least in the retail sector. In time, maybe fusion can replace most of it, via the National Ignition Project, if that is still around.

  6. Dixon Cruickshank says:

    Doug nobody needs it during the day – they have to keep the base running anyway – costly only refers to hard to get to places, we actually have plenty in easy places that are much easier to get at in safe ways. The costly hard to reach stuff is where you run into stuff like the BP thing – plenty without doing that though.

  7. Douglas Keachie says:

    “Doug nobody needs it during the day”

    Then why is PG&E buying back the solar people are already producing?

    The easy to reach stuff comes with high processing costs, for four to five dollar a gallon gas.

  8. Douglas Keachie says:

    Fracking for gas may have hidden costs, Earth Orgasms in the form of quakes, with the injection of so much lubricants:

    “Nonetheless, the Wall Street Journal (June 12, 2009) reported that, in Cleburne, Texas, where thousands of natural gas wells have been drilled and fracked, “More earthquakes [at least 100] have been detected in the area since October [2008] than in the previous 30 years combined.” The WSJ report continued: “Oil and gas production has been suspected of causing earthquakes in the past, including in Texas, particularly when it involves injecting fluids into the ground.”

    In August 2009, researchers from Southern Methodist University in Dallas said the preliminary results of their study show a “possible correlation” between disposal injection wells and small earthquakes in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

    Arkansas Earthquake “Swarms”

    Since October 2010, the town of Guy, Arkansas has experienced hundreds of small, but felt, earthquakes, sometimes coming at a rate of three or four per minute. Seismic researchers at the Arkansas Geological Survey (AGS) have been investigating this earthquake “swarm,” the largest of which was a “moderate” size 4.0 magnitude quake on October 11 and more recently, a 4.3 magnitude on February 18, 2011.

    In the past six years, nearly 3,700 natural gas wells have been drilled and fracked in the Arkansas Fayetteville Shale field, most of them in a four-county area of which the town of Guy is almost dead-centre. There are at least six disposal wells within a 500-square-mile zone around Guy. Some of the disposal wells have reportedly been injected with more than 10.5 million gallons of fracking wastewater each month in recent years.

    On October 15, Scott Ausbrooks, AGS geohazards supervisor, said, “What we believe is happening is when the old [fracking flowback] water is put into the deeper [disposal] wells, it reduces the friction in the fault [fault-line]. This doesn’t cause a quake, it just speeds up the process. The quake will happen somewhere down the line anyway, but this process may be making them happen sooner.”

    The local press reports “a shocking surge” in quake activity. The number of earthquakes recorded in Arkansas for 2010 – more than 600 – nearly equals all of Arkansas’ quakes for the past 100 years.

    In late October, the website for Arkansans for Gas Drilling Accountability stated: “We now have a total of over one hundred earthquakes for October and we still have days to go. Just think. Fracking and injection wells cause earthquakes…earthquakes can damage cement casings…cement casings are the front line defence to protect our water from toxic fracking fluids.”

  9. Greg Goodknight says:

    Keach needs to get the word out to Energy Sec’y Chu, who seems to think solar needs a six-fold efficiency increase before it is economically viable.

  10. Douglas Keachie says:

    The USA goes through about 20,680,000 barrels of oil a day. Our reserves are 22,450,000,000.

    data is from: Nationmaster.com

    Excel gives us, if we depend on our reserves, 1085.589942 days of oil. Just about three years worth. Drill, baby, drill!

  11. You get cheap or cheaper energy when you have supply and competition. The environmental hegemonists have removed America’s ability to supply by locking down our resources so effectively we have become slaves to the Middle East oil. Solar and wind are not cheap. They are actually very expensive. When the heating oil supplies dry up for the liberals in the Northeast US, maybe things will change. It doesn’t take long for a progressive to change their minds if they are dying of the cold.

    • Douglas Keachie says:

      Maybe conservatives, upon going totally energy independent, “their way” will, 2 and 3/4 years in, come to see the light at the end of their coal and oil sands burrowings, is growing ominously dimmer.

  12. Russ says:

    I would like to see your facts on the decline in oil and gas production. Shale gas and oil estimate are 250-500 year supply at the current rate of production. There are huge expanse of the ocean that have not even been explored yet for shale gas and oil formations. The only thing that will dim the lights in the next 50 year are government regulations that are based on questionable science.

  13. Ben Emery says:

    Why continue to try and develop more dependence on one form of energy source (fossil fuels). Lets use some of that energy to promote renewable energy outside decreased profits for big business over time, why is this being fought so hard?

  14. Todd Juvinall says:

    Russ, when I read the eco’s screeds on “fossil fuel” I hearken back to the days of yore in the 70’s. Everyone, including the econuts were freaked because they didn;t want the gas to be unavailable (VW buses for the eco’s) and they wanted us to be energy independent on fuel. Now they have quietly changed the argument to “why be dependent on any one fuel”?. They don’t care a whit about importing oil because they are against it! So, we can’t let the left change the argument like BenE is trying to do. We like oil and natural gas because it fuels the engines of our country and it is way cheaper than eco solutions. And we like SUV’s!

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