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Monday
Mar302015

'The Atlantic' Nails It Again On Peak Oil'

This month's 'Atlantic' has a substantial article - principally on the the role of methane hydrate (crystalline natural gas) in our future, and it is not insignificant. 

I think that we all realised some time ago that for better or worse, peak oil was a myth that had been completely side-lined, once again for better or worse, by the fracking phenomenon. I don't wish to enter into an argument  over the rights and wrongs of this technique - simply to point out that it is a fact of life, principally in the US where self-sufficiency is now likely as a result by 2020 by some counts - 2035 by others.

This long and detailed  article by one the world experts in the field - Charles C. Mann, is probably the most significant indicator of our future that we have had since the advent of the fracking revolution. It is certainly thought provoking, and raises the whole spectre of the inevitability of continued and upward CO2 production as the most significant non-renewable entrant in our energy future commences production. This will potentially continue to impact oil prices to such an extent as to remove any competitive advantage in the renewable sector for the foreseeable future. This quote is extremely concerning:

Methane hydrate could be a new energy revolution,” Christopher Knittel, a professor of energy economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told me. “It could help the world while we reduce greenhouse gases. Or it could undermine the economic rationale for investing in renewable, carbon-free energy around the world”—just as abundant shale gas from fracking has already begun to undermine it in the United States. “The one path is a boon. The other—I’ve used words like catastrophe.” He paused; I thought I detected a sigh. “I wouldn’t bet on us making the right decisions.”

Clearly, reduction in coal production and use is the most pressing imperative facing humanity - natural gas produces less that half the CO2 of coal, but appears finite in terms of cost of production when compared with the potential, eventual methane hydrate alternative. Paradoxically, the latter could absorb at least some of the CO2 through sequestration in the production process, but it really only ameliorates the situation - CO2 will remain the ogre, even increasing in the age of 'methane ice.'

I really recommend the Mann article - depending on where you stand on CO2, it could either encourage or depress, but whatever, you will be better informed as to our energy future.

 

 

 

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