Lecture 25 Class Notes

NRE 510 December 6, 2010
Lecture Notes

Intro –
For the most part this doesn’t exist. He’s not summarizing a body of literature. He’s talking where we might be, where we are, his plausible view of where we might be going. Plausible but by no means certain. Attempt to be provocative.

Context is global ecological crisis.

Fossil fuels – coming to the end of cheap and easy fossil fuels.
Energy has been cheap and easy.

  • 3 ways – geologic.
    • Very first discovery worldwide was Lake Erie
    • Easy find, big gushers
    • As those wells played out, they started moving to harder and harder to get fields. Now moved into deepwater drilling and rough climates.
    • Now drilling is getting harder and harder.
    • Now we can assume because it’s getting harder and harder that we may make more effort to get same amount, OR we might end up producing less and less.
    • If most oil producing countries have already peaked, as seen on slide he showed us, then maybe it will decline.
  • Thermodynamic – Physical, not economic or political
    • It takes energy to get energy.
    • That’s a lot of energy for oil. It used to be, you burn a barrel of oil to get 100 barrels.
    • That has changed. You burn a barrel of oil, to get 22 barrels now. Debatably, maybe less. Estimate threshold at 10. Tar sands are much worse - 7 and 3 to 1.
    • It’s going to be very hard to keep production levels where they have been for conventional oil.
    • What does this mean for policy, for how we organize our society? For some reason, not a hot topic of debate in this country.
    • One community is taking this very seriously – the military. – Join Operating Environment Report Feb 2010. Oil Shortfall. Predicting about 1/8th of oil output of today by 2015.
    • Will be more expensive too.
  • Systems and systems feedback
    • Typical to get positive feedback first.
    • Arguably what we’re now seeing is negative feedback kicking in.
    • All that requires defensive expenditure to cover those costs.
    • In order to cover those increasing defensive costs, you’ll have to divert more resources to that and not towards consumption.
  • If this scenario is at all true, we should expect change.
    • It might be slow and gradual or sudden. If not biophysical, then social. We will have to make some fundamental change.
  • If this scenario is right, then what exactly is the PROBLEM?
    • Princen
      • Problem
      • Industrial society as we know it, can not continue. We have to figure out a way. In this community there is almost no discussion of climate change.
      • Remaining energy we get, it’s going to be hard to get and dirty.
      • Those who can pay for it will get it and rest will be left further behind.
      • If fossil fuel consumption declines, some people might conclude we will consume less, emit fewer GHGs and climate change will be taken care of and not need to worry about it.
      • Society is not organized to deal with non-growth.
        • We should re-organize to deal with non-growth.
    • 3 approaches to deal with Problem
      • Re-growth – requires we be more explicit about what we want to grow, be more specific, and that’s where effort should go.
        • We need different organizing principles.
        • This topic is virtually taboo even in this very school.
      • Dealing with fossil fuels themselves
        • When the fossil fuel era is over, there will be a lot of fossil fuels left in the ground.
        • Will we leave enough in ground to stabilize environment?
        • Try to leave some in the ground?
        • Localization
          • Much of way we think about problems will become more place, face to face oriented.
        • High consuming societies will be consuming less, possibly a whole lot less. First evidence is physical.
          • Can expect fundamental shifts
          • Need to organize for less.