Bartlett on peak oil
At 4:30 EST today, CNN’s "The Situation Room" (helmed by the execrable Wolf Blitzer) will air a story about Bartlett, in conjunction with the release of new poll about energy.
Also, yesterday, Bartlett made a speech on the matter before the House. In it, he quotes heavily from this 2005 report by the Army Corps of Engineers (PDF).
Anyway, Bartlett’s raising the alarm. I’ve reprinted some excerpts from his speech below the fold.
Update [2006-3-15 15:26:41 by David Roberts]: Hm. Looks like I basically replicated an Oil Drum post. That’ll teach me to start writing before I visit the ol’ RSS aggregator.
There is another study that has just come out. Although this is not a brand-new study, the date on this study is September 2005. This is dated September 2005; but for some reason, it has not been released from the Pentagon.
This was done by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and…it just came out. Yesterday, I think, may have been the first day; and for most people today, this was the first day they could get a hold of it.
… Let me read what they said here: “Worldwide consumption of fossil fuels and its coincident and environmental impact continues to grow.” The Earth’s endowment of natural resources are depleting at an alarming rate, exponentially faster than the biosphere’s ability to replenish them."
Mr. Speaker, I would remind you that this is not an article from some environmental journal. This is from a report, which has kind of been kept under cover now since last September, just released. I think that it was inadvertently released, by the way. But now that it is out, you can get a copy of it (PDF).
This was done by the Corps of Engineers. This is a U.S. Army publication. The Earth’s endowment of natural resources are depleting at an alarming rate, exponentially faster than the biosphere’s ability to replenish them. It took nature 100 million years to create the energy the world uses in 1 year. Fuel consumption affects the global climate with the production of greenhouse gases and localized production of acid rain, low-lying ozone, and smog.
Mr. Speaker, this is not from some environmental journal; this is from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Mining and production of fuels destroy the ecosystems and biodiversity. The loss of habitat is leading to localized extinction of species. This reduction of biodiversity results in greater vulnerability of the planet to ecological stresses.
I want to read something else here from this report, from the Corps of Engineers. It is understood a subheading called “Security.”
…”In an age of terrorism, combustible and explosive fuels along with potential weapons-grade nuclear materials create security risks. The United States currently has 5 percent of the world’s population, but uses 25 percent of the world’s annual energy production.
“This disproportionate consumption of energy relative to global consumption causes loss of the world’s good will… and provided a context for potential military conflicts at the cost of lives, money, and political capital. A more equitable distribution of resources is in our best interest for a peaceful future.”
Let me read…from this report by the Corps of Engineers. “The days of inexpensive, convenient, abundant energy resources are quickly drawing to a close.”
Domestic natural gas production, reading again from the Corps of Engineers study, and listen to these numbers. They are striking and frightening. Domestic natural gas production peaked in 1973. The proved domestic reserve lifetime for natural gas at current consumption rates is, what do you think? Is about 8.4 years."
…Now this is a number, in this next sentence, which shocked me, but I saw it twice in their report, so I am guessing it is not a typo. "Proved domestic reserve lifetime for oil is about 3.4 years."
…"Saudi Arabia…has not increased production since April 2003."
…Matt Simmons, who runs one of the largest, if not the largest energy investment bank in the world, personal energy advisor to the President, I think in both of his campaigns… has written a book, Twilight in the Desert. He believes, as the Corps of Engineers believes, that the Saudis have probably reached their maximum oil production.
"After peak production, supply no longer meets demand. Prices and competition increase. World proved reserve lifetime for oil is about 41 years."
…Most of this they say, of the oil for this 41 years, is that declining availability. "Our current throw-away nuclear cycle," and here is another number that surprised me, "our current throw-away nuclear cycle will consume the world reserve of low cost uranium in about 20 years."
… "Unless we dramatically change our consumption practices, the earth’s finite resources of petroleum and natural gas will become depleted in this century."
…We may, Mr. Speaker, long before that, decide that it is really not very bright to burn this gas and oil you remember which is the feed stock for a very important petrochemical industry.
… "Coal supplies may last into the next century."… When you use enough energy to convert the coal into an oil or a gas so you can use it, now [US supply] is shrunk to just 50 years.
…"we must act now to develop the technology and infrastructure necessary to transition to other energy sources. Policy changes, leap-ahead technology, breakthroughs, cultural changes, and significant investment are requisite for this new energy future."
…[from the Hirsch February 2005 DOE report] "Oil peaking presents a unique challenge." This is a startling statement. "The world has never faced a problem like this". Maybe that is why our government has not claimed ownership of either the Hirsch report or the study by the Corps of Engineers. As a matter of fact, they have asked for a new study… by the National Petroleum Council.
…If they are looking at the same data these other two studies looked at, they should reach the same conclusion. It is not like the Department of Defense is not doing anything, because the Department of Defense Under Secretary for Acquisition Technology and Logistics and the Office of Force Transformations is sponsoring a new interagency monthly series of seminars entitled “Energy, A Conversation About Our National Addiction.”… The Department of Defense is the single largest buyer of fuel in the United States, so I am really glad that they have initiated this series of seminars. The first speaker is Jim Woolsey, and I think the second month I will be the speaker at this series of discussions.
… I am really pleased that these two major studies are saying the same thing that we thought the evidence was saying when we started doing these floor speeches a year ago.
[from the Army Corps report] "Our best options for meeting future energy requirements are energy efficiency and renewable resources. Energy efficiency is the least expensive, most readily available and environmentally friendly way to stretch our current energy supplies."
…”Historically, no other energy source equals oil’s intrinsic qualities of extractability…”Transportability. Versatility.”
…"Currently, there is no viable substitute for petroleum, and petroleum has probably reached its maximum production."
…"the outlook for petroleum is not good. This especially applies to conventional oil which has been the lowest cost resource. Production peaks for non-OPEC conventional oil are at hand. Many nations have already passed their peak and are now producing at peak or below peak capacity."
… Mr. Speaker, if we are going to have any energy to invest in renewables, in alternatives, we are going to have to have a pretty massive program of conservation because today there is no surplus energy to invest.
…If you can think about this, Mr. Speaker, and where we are and where we come from, for 5,000 years of recorded history, the world’s population was somewhere between a half billion and a billion people, and then we hit oil… not only did the economy grow… boy, did our population spurt….What is the carrying capacity of the earth minus this incredible resource we have in gas and oil?
… Just 1 barrel of oil, the refined product you can buy now, is just a little over $100. Forty-two gallons, a little over $100 at a pump will buy you the work output of 12 people working all year for you in manual labor, and you buy it for $100…reflect on how far that little gallon of gas takes your car or your SUV and how long it would take you to pull it through… That may be humbling to recognize that I am worth in terms of manual labor less than 25 cents a day, as compared to the energy we can get from fossil fuels.
… we will transition ultimately, Mr. Speaker, to renewables. Geology will demand it. We either do it because we are running out of readily available, high quality gas and oil, or we do it on our schedule which will be a kinder, gentler schedule.
We have some finite resources: the tar sands, the oil shales, the coal. We talked about coal. Nuclear, light water reactors, feeder reactors, fusion. If we ever get to fusion, we are home free; low odds, I think. These will only tide us over for a while. Then true renewables, which now represent, as the next chart shows us, tiny percentages of our total energy production.
… 85 percent of our current energy use comes from coal, petroleum and natural gas… Nuclear is a bit more than half [of the remaining 15 percent] renewables seven [percent]
…We are going to transition, but if we are going to do that as painlessly as possible, we need today a very aggressive program. Time is running out. The Hirsch report says that. The study by the Corps of Engineers says that. Common sense says that. If we are at peak oil, where is the energy going to come from to invest in the alternative?
…What we need, Mr. Speaker, is a national commitment to a program that has the commitment of putting a man on the moon and the urgency of the Manhattan project. If we do that, Mr. Speaker, I think we can have a relatively smooth transition and Americans will feel good about their contribution.