World Energy Report 2012

The IEA is the international organization that many governmental bodies look to for authoritative data on energy, put in place during the energy crisis of the 1970s.  They put out a major report once per year, and I have been reading the executive summary of this report for about 7 or 8 years.  It is fascinating to see how the report evolves year after year.  I wrote a piece for Energy Bulletin a few years ago, looking at the trend of the reporting from 2005 through 2009 (The IEA and World Oil Supply Projections), and I’ve been wanting to update that piece, and to look at 2010 – 2012.

One thing I’ve noticed about the mainstream media over the last number of years is the tendency to give large headlines to any story offering rosy projections for fossil fuel production, and to bury stories that question those rosy scenarios.  And so this year, as the World Energy Outlook 2012 was released, there have been a flood of stories trumpeting the projected oil bonanza from the United States of all places!  Funny thing is, when you read the report (or at least the Executive Summary), you see that the devil is in the details, and the big picture (sometimes you have to read between the lines on these reports written by committee) is not really so rosy.  And none of the articles I read ABOUT the report – even the ones by the energy pessimists – were doing a good job pointing out the troubling things this report points to.  So I thought I was going to have to do it.

But I dawdled.  I took some notes, but haven’t gotten around to trying to write that article.  Fortunately someone far more skilled than I has said what I thought needed to be said.  I will pass on this quote from the report, which I don’t think Klare mentions in his article below.  For all of the excitement about the natural gas revolution in the U.S. (thanks to ‘fracking’), we need to note these VERY important caveats from the WEO report (emphasis mine):

“But the unconventional gas business is still in its formative years, with uncertainty in many countries

about the extent and quality of the resource base. As analysed in a World Energy Outlook

Special Report released in May 2012, there are also concerns about the environmental

impact of producing unconventional gas that, if not properly addressed, could halt the

unconventional gas revolution in its tracks…”

And now, here’s the promised article, another ‘must read’ from Michael Klare:

World Energy Report 2012

by Michael Klare, TomDispatch

Rarely does the release of a data-driven report on energy trends trigger front-page headlines around the world.  That, however, is exactly what happened on November 12th when the prestigious Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) released this year’s edition of its World Energy Outlook.  In the process, just about everyone missed its real news, which should have set off alarm bells across the planet.

Claiming that advances in drilling technology were producing an upsurge in North American energy output, World Energy Outlook predicted that the United States would overtake Saudi Arabia and Russia to become the planet’s leading oil producer by 2020.  “North America is at the forefront of a sweeping transformation in oil and gas production that will affect all regions of the world,” declared IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven in a widely quoted statement.

In the U.S.,the prediction of imminent supremacy in the oil-output sweepstakes was generally greeted with unabashed jubilation.  “This is a remarkable change,” said John Larson of IHS, a corporate research firm.  “It’s truly transformative.  It’s fundamentally changing the energy outlook for this country.”  Not only will this result in a diminished reliance on imported oil, he indicated, but also generate vast numbers of new jobs.  “This is about jobs.  You know, it’s about blue-collar jobs.  These are good jobs.”

The editors of the Wall Street Journal were no less ecstatic.  In an editorial with the eye-catching headline “Saudi America,” they lauded U.S. energy companies for bringing about a technological revolution, largely based on the utilization of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) to extract oil and gas from shale rock.  That, they claimed, was what made a new mega-energy boom possible.  “This is a real energy revolution,” the Journal noted, “even if it’s far from the renewable energy dreamland of so many government subsidies and mandates.”

Other commentaries were similarly focused on the U.S. outpacing Saudi Arabia and Russia, even if some questioned whether the benefits would be as great as advertised or obtainable at an acceptable cost to the environment…

Shrinking World Oil Supply

Given the hullabaloo about rising energy production in the U.S., you would think that the IEA report was loaded with good news about the world’s future oil supply.  No such luck.  In fact, on a close reading anyone who has the slightest familiarity with world oil dynamics should shudder, as its overall emphasis is on decline and uncertainty.

Take U.S. oil production surpassing Saudi Arabia’s and Russia’s.  Sounds great, doesn’t it?  Here’s the catch: previous editions of the IEA report and the International Energy Outlook, its equivalent from the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE), rested their claims about a growing future global oil supply on the assumption that those two countries would far surpass U.S. output.  Yet the U.S. will pull ahead of them in the 2020s only because, the IEA now asserts, their output is going to fall, not rise as previously assumed…

Read the entire article at TomDispatch

Other worthwhile and related articles:

Fracking: A New Dawn of Misplaced Optimism

You would think we were swimming in oil. The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) latest World Energy Outlook forecasts that the United States will outstrip Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest producer by 2017, becoming “all but self-sufficient in net terms” in energy production. While the “peak oil” pessimists are clearly wrong, so is a simplistic picture of fossil fuel abundance.

Canada’s New Pipeline Woes

Ian Austen, New York Times
AND you thought pipeline politics in the United States were treacherous. Rebuffed by Washington on bringing the Keystone XL pipeline down through the western United States, Canada now finds that its Plan B — to build a pipeline to its west coast for shipping to Asia — has become mired in domestic politics thick enough to rival the tarlike oil it hopes to sell.

Getting the oil to the Far East first requires building a $5.5 billion, 730-mile pipeline from landlocked Alberta over a series of mountains to the coast of northern British Columbia. About 220 tankers a year would then navigate some of Canada’s most scenic yet treacherous waters to complete the trip…
(23 October 2012)

IMF study: Peak oil could do serious damage to the global economy
Brad Plumer, Washington Post
The world isn’t going to run out of oil anytime soon. But there’s still concern among various geologists and analysts that our oil supply won’t grow as quickly or as easily as it used to. We’ll have to resort to harder-to-drill oil to satisfy our crude habits. More expensive oil. That would push prices up. And high oil prices could act as a drag on growth.

So how bad would it be if peak oil was really upon us? That’s a question that two IMF economists try to tackle in a new working paper, “Oil and the World Economy: Some Possible Futures.” (pdf) The authors, Michael Kumhof and Dirk Muir, don’t make any definitive predictions about how the oil supply will evolve. Rather, they try to model a number of different scenarios in which oil does become more scarce and the world tries to adapt.

The paper itself offers an interesting look at how the world might cope with higher oil prices, so let’s take a look at the various scenarios:…
(27 October 2012)
Link to report

The Importance of Good Communication Skills

I’ve said this before:

I think one of the biggest challenges for Transition groups is to learn the skills of how to work effectively as a group in terms of having efficient meetings that are inclusive, enjoyable, and get a lot accomplished. Learning to work together effectively may be one of the most important things we do to prepare for peak oil, climate change, and economic instability.

I’ve also said:

…when we think of “Reskilling” in Transition, we tend to focus on the “practical” hands on skills, like how to grow a garden, or retrofit your home, or graft fruit trees.  How often do we think about the importance of learning skills like how to become more skillful in our communication, or how to keep a working group together, or learning tools for building consensus? I’ve often wished that we at Transition Whatcom would find more time to make this kind of skill building more of a priority.

and so…I’m now excited to announce that my friend and colleague Alan Seid, founder of Cascadia Workshops and the Blackbelt Communication Skills Coaching Program – has put out some excellent free training videos, and I am now an affiliate.

Alan Seid

I have attended Alan’s Empowered Communication workshops and found them to be powerful and extremely helpful and applicable in my everyday life, as well as in my volunteer work in groups, such as Sustainable Bellingham and Transition Whatcom. For a period of time my wife Angela and I helped Alan produce these local workshops because we were convinced this material needs to be more widely shared. Now I’m excited that this material has been refined and more widely and conveniently available online as the Blackbelt Communication Skills Coaching Program.

These videos were created for people who want to make a difference in the world, and who are committed working on themselves AND to improving their relationships through clear and powerful communication skills. (Alan also happens to be a Certified Trainer in Nonviolent CommunicationTM having studied directly with Dr. Marshall Rosenberg starting in 1995.)

These videos are for you if:

– you want the people in your life to appreciate you as a present & compassionate listener

– you want to learn a formula for speaking with clarity and power consistently

– you’re looking for a proven method for transforming and more fully enjoy ing all your personal and professional relationships

– you want to know exactly what to do about conflicts and lack of harmony since they get in the way of a team’s or an individual’s ability to have the positive impact they could be having

– interpersonal conflict is something you’ve shied away from but you yearn to be skilled and confident at handling it masterfully

– you want to show up in the world in a bigger way, all the while creating interpersonal connection and effectiveness

– you’ve seen how powerful and positive interpersonal relationships are the foundation for teams working well together and for individuals making a bigger difference, and you’re ready to take your knowledge and skills to the next level.

Again, this is a FREE video training series, and I think you will really enjoy Alan’s teaching style.

Check it out here: Free Videos from the Blackbelt Communication Skills Coaching Program

What Do Progressives Need to Do Now?

Official photographic portrait of US President...

Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama (born 4 August 1961; assumed office 20 January 2009) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The first thing, I think, is to “hold your nose” as they say, and vote for Barack Obama.  Tom Frank has written:

Well, if you’re like me, you’re resolved to voting for him because he’s not Mitt Romney and he’s not Paul Ryan. He does have some things to his credit that you cannot diminish. He ended the war in Iraq; that was really good. People like me often forget that when we’re tallying up all his failings and [talking about] how he didn’t go far enough with this and that. But he did end the war. That’s a big, big deal. Now Mitt Romney can’t send more troops there; he can’t get that war going again. That’s a very important thing. He got some form of national healthcare passed. He didn’t go far enough; he brought all kinds of headaches on himself that he didn’t need to do; he played it very poorly — but he got something passed. And that’s also huge.

Frank likes the idea of third party candidates and third party endorsements as something to work toward, but…

…those are very hard to build in the current legal situation, [with] the way elections are run in this country. The way things are set up now, a third-party candidate in an election is just a spoiler.

And so I agree, voting for Obama is called for in this election.  From an Integral perspective, check out the argument made by Terry Patten in The Integral Case for President Obama:

Like you, most likely, mainstream American political discourse doesn’t speak to my sensibilities—and I’m fervently committed to raising the level of our public dialog.  That’s precisely why, even though I’d rather engage a trans-partisan politics, I recognize that the path to evolving consciousness and culture today is by leaning in as a “partisan”.

I’ve created to offer integral evolutionaries an opportunity to support the re-election of President Obama by speaking with a single voice. Why Obama, again? And why should we, as “integral evolutionaries,” pool our support?

…I know there are those of you who will feel that the current administration is guilty of the same “politics as usual” as the Republicans and that perhaps your support would be better given over to Libertarian, Green, trans-partisan, or non-partisan efforts. I sympathize with this perspective, but at the same time I can’t help but consider the lesson of the 2000 race, when many well-meaning, intelligent folks abandoned Al Gore in favor of Ralph Nader, effectively handing the presidency to George W. Bush. If there’s one thing that’s become painfully clear over the last 12 years, I think it’s this: it’s incredibly difficult to accomplish constructive change as a President, but it’s terribly easy to make disastrous mistakes.

Obama has proven himself to be a pragmatic modernist centrist, someone we can count on to lean toward constructive change, even if not galvanizing progress at the pace we would have hoped.


OK, so you vote for Obama. Then What?

Pointers from Tom Frank

1.  If Obama is re-elected, approach his 2nd term with the realization that progressive voices have become irrelevant. Tom Frank wrote, “the only honest way for progressives to assess the experience of these past four years is by coming unflinchingly to terms with our own futility and irrelevance. We reached a historical turning point in 2008, all right. We just didn’t make the turn.”

2. Build strength outside the Democratic party.

3. Look to join or start some sort of social movement to push from the left.

4. That social movement might consider calling for a revival of a lively third party to dismantle the current two party monopoly.

5. Overcome the academization of protests. “…one of the problems is that these movements always — somehow — get sucked into the academy. They get taken over by people who are absolutely determined to not speak in a way that is comprehensible to average Americans. In fact, [these are] people who have enormous contempt for average Americans. The whole idea of the left is about empowering average people, and you can’t do that if you despise them.”

6. Recognize the legitimate role of government. “Occupy tended to be pretty unsophisticated about the state. They sound like libertarians, frankly, when they’re talking about the state. If you want to do something about Wall Street in this country, there is only one power that can do it — and that’s the state, obviously. That’s government. And government did perform that role for a long time.”

7. Figure out how to talk about the economy. “Until the day Democrats learn how to speak meaningfully about The Issue — the flagrantly rigged casino of American life — plenty of voters will continue to buy what Paul Ryan is selling,”

Read More: David Daley’s interview with Tom Frank at Obama’s Made Left “futile and irrelevant”


Van Jones: Support Obama and the Democrats and do not rely on them either.

In Van Jones’ new book Rebuild the Dream, he writes:

“Too many of us treated Obama’s inauguration as some kind of finish line, when we should have seen it as just the starting line. Too many of us sat down at the very moment when we should have stood up… I say Obama relied on the people too little, and we tried to rely on him too much.”

“The Obama administration had the wrong theory of the movement, and the movement had the wrong theory of the presidency. In America, changes comes when we have two kinds of leaders, not just one. We need a president who is willing to be pushed into doing the right thing, and we need independent leaders and movements that are willing to do the pushing.”

Read More:  By Chris Dierkes at Beams and Struts – A Short Book Review: Rebuild the Dream


Terry Patten on Integral Politics

(R)evolutionaries should consider evolution’s own strategy of activism. What is that? Evolution tries all strategies at once. There are many valid forms of activism and many time horizons for action—from the immediate near term of this election cycle to the “long now” of a forward-thinking evolutionary timescale. Certainly, an integral political practice must include both (and the full spectrum of) timescales, seizing upon the “urgency of now,” while also working diligently and patiently for the long-term good. And we may shift our focus back and forth, zooming in and out, depending on where we feel most called. The same holds for our activism within the “system” and outside of it.

…In the long-term, I believe we must create a truly integral evolutionary moment, including an integral political party—and I would support these efforts (in fact, an integral political party has already been founded in Switzerland). But in the immediate term, there is no real integral option—at least not in the US. When we look at our realistic options, I believe we have a better chance of integralizing the Democratic party than the Republican party, at least at this point. That’s why I’m supporting Obama in this election.  If he wins, it serves a double purpose. It potentially breaks the fever of the doctrinaire right-wing regressive lurch that has seized the Republican party in the last few years, and brings both parties closer to a pragmatic center. That’s the hope.

That said, we must each integralize the contexts in which we already find ourselves—whether Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, Socialist, or none of the above. Our ultimate goals can be served only if we become engaged, if we actively transform the level of dialogue from the grassroots up. And this, in my view, is a matter of practice. Whether we practice within established politics or outside of it, we can all be working to raise the level of the discourse.

Read More: The Integral Case for President Obama, by Terry Patten

Don’t Forget to Vote

If you consider yourself a “progressive” and you want to know who other progressives are endorsing, here are a couple of handy web pages if you live in Bellingham or Whatcom County, WashingtonRemember to return ballots by November 6th.

Eerie Elections: Procrastinator’s Guide to Election 2012

by Tim Johnson, Cascadia Weekly

Your ballot arrived. But you did not immediately fill it out and cast it back into the mail. Something’s holding you back.

It’s a big ballot, with big issues that are hugely important to the nation and the region. Perhaps our brief guide can assist you with casting your ballot.

Barack Obama (D), President

Our support for this man is full-throated and unequivocal. He took office in one of the most challenging periods of the past 50 years, with two wars abroad and the nation in catastrophic financial collapse. More, Republicans vowed to obstruct him at every opportunity as their means to reseize the White House.

He stopped the freefall collapse of the economy he inherited. Pressed for a national health care program championed by conservatives just a few years earlier, an achievement that had eluded a dozen Administrations. Ended our engagement in Iraq on schedule. Directed the end of discrimination in the military. Supported the DREAM Act. Restored America’s prestige abroad.

He has more to do.

Do not underestimate the power of the presidential veto to override an increasingly radical Congress bent on transforming this country into something unrecognizable. Do not undrestimate his authority to appoint the next justices of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Elect this man.

Read More

Fuse Washington “Progressive Voters Guide”

The election has huge implications for our families, our communities, and our state. Our goal is to make smart, informed voting based on progressive values easier for you. We worked with Washington’s leading progressive organizations to produce a Progressive Voters Guide—your ticket to highly informed recommendations about the races on your ballot.

The Progressive Voters Guide identifies the candidates with the most progressive track records and the ballot measure positions that will protect or promote progress in Washington.

Vote in every race on your ballot! It’s our right and our responsibility, and they all impact our families and future in important ways. Please forward this guide to your friends and family, return your ballot by Tuesday, November 6th.

Whatcom County 40th Legislative District

Whatcom County 42nd Legistlative District

Elsewhere in Washington State: