I haven’t posted in a while, so I thought I’d stop by and share a few posts I recommend.
A new phrase has entered our energy lexicon—peak oil demand. The essential idea: prophets of doom who warned about a looming global petroleum shortfall (“peak oil”) were wrong; instead of a downturn in supply, we’re instead seeing the shrinkage of demand for oil. A non-problem just solved itself! Nothing to see, folks; move along.
The change in our public conversation about energy is predicated on new drilling technology and its ability to access previously off-limits supplies of crude oil and natural gas. In the chapters ahead, we will explore this technology—its history, its impacts, and its potential to deliver on the promises being made about it. As we will see, horizontal drilling and hydrofracturing (“fracking”) for oil and gas pose a danger not just to local water and air quality, but also to sound energy policy, and therefore to our collective ability to avert the greatest human-made economic and environmental catastrophe in history…
Albert Bartlett might have been another obscure physics professor had he not put together a now famous lecture entitled “Arithmetic, Population and Energy” in 1969. The lecture, available broadly on the internet (Preview) , begins with the line: “The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.”
The logic is surprisingly simple and irrefutable. Exponential growth, which is simply consistent growth at some percentage rate each year (or other time period), cannot proceed indefinitely within a finite system, for example, planet Earth. The fact that human populations continue to grow or that the extraction of energy and other natural resources continues to climb does not in any way refute this statement. It simply means that the absolute limits have not yet been reached.
Bartlett, who died this month at age 90, gave his lecture all over the world 1,742 times or on average once every 8.5 days for 36 years to audiences ranging from junior high students to seasoned professionals in many fields. His ability to stay on message for so long about something so important should make him the envy of every modern communications professional…
[This one is long, but it joins a short list of what I consider excellent and extremely important articles discussing the intersection of energy, ecology, and economy. I feel it is critical to gain a certain level of energy literacy to prepare for the low energy world that I believe is our future. – David]