The energy crisis that wasn’t

posted at 5:31 pm on November 17, 2012 by Erika Johnsen

How many times throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries have we been treated to frightening, dire projections of catastrophic eventualities in which the world runs out of energy resources and modern life comes to a screeching halt? Yet, miraculously, we’ve somehow managed to shoot right past all of these apocalyptic benchmarks, and our proven energy reserves only keep expanding.

This came to my mind the other day when my mom informed me that we all need to start preparing for the end times because she’d heard of some new prediction that the world’s quickly developing economies mean that we’re going to face drastic energy shortages come 2030 or something, and I couldn’t help but protest the pessimism. There may be any number of reasons to prepare for survival scenarios (hostile nuclear winter and shortages induced by the tyranny of big-government folly spring to mind), but a legitimate crisis in finite energy supplies probably isn’t one of them. Yes, more people moving from poverty to prosperity (which is an excellent thing on many levels, by the way) mean dramatic demand spikes, but human beings have a remarkable knack for innovating and adapting, and over the years, new technologies and improved efficiencies mean we’ve been getting more and more out of less and less.

The most recent and glaringly large-scale example of this is the shale gas boom — and as much of our money as the environmentalists have poured down the drain in politically-preferred fledgling venture technologies that they’ve deemed will bring us to their version of a sustainable future, natural gas is decidedly winning the war in most effectively bringing down our carbon emissions. Via RCP:

Traditionally, oil and gas prices moved up and down in tandem. This was because gas was nearly always found in conjunction with oil. …

The development of fracking as thus completely separated the availability of oil and gas. …

The huge differential has opened many opportunities. If natural gas could be converted to a liquid fuel – methanol, for instance – it would sell at about half the price of gasoline and help reduce our foreign imports. Or natural gas could be exported to Japan, where it sell for four times the US price, reducing our trade deficit. Either way, the huge gas-oil differential has enormous potential for improving our energy budget.

There are plenty of theories about why shale gas can’t or won’t last long or help us much in our search for supposed sustainability, but I’m taking the rational-optimism road on this one — and I’m sure as heck not arguing against alternative energies in general. I am arguing against the government spearheading “investment” in their preferred green ventures, because by their very nature (a.k.a. the government pouring money where the free market won’t), these ventures are not fated to end well, but the free market and prosperity have made the drastic leaps in innovation and efficiency that have made our lives exponentially better for ages. What reason is there to believe that big government can provide solutions where free enterprise can’t?

I suppose in some sense, the earth’s resources are indeed finite, but by the time we hit that wall, who knows where we’ll be. Maybe we’ll have a wealthy and ergo stable population that powers their highly efficient homes and technologies with just the tiniest bit of nuclear-powered energy, and we’ll all getting around via teleportation — there aren’t many limits on what humankind can achieve.


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Comments

…it’s successful…they just don’t want US to be!

KOOLAID2 on November 17, 2012 at 5:33 PM

there will be a shortage….when Obama and the EPA ban all production and use of oil coal and natural gas (for the environment of course)

liveammo on November 17, 2012 at 5:34 PM

I Am Third.

PatriotGal2257 on November 17, 2012 at 5:35 PM

I Am Third.

PatriotGal2257 on November 17, 2012 at 5:35 PM

…but # 1 in many hearts!

KOOLAID2 on November 17, 2012 at 5:38 PM

Erika needs to tell her mother to stop listening to NPR

Rio Linda Refugee on November 17, 2012 at 5:41 PM

…but # 1 in many hearts!

KOOLAID2 on November 17, 2012 at 5:38 PM

Awww … thanks, Koolaid2! [blush]

You’re pretty special in these parts as well.

PatriotGal2257 on November 17, 2012 at 5:43 PM

During his last seminar with Q&A afterwards, Dr. Smalley of Rice said there was no energy shortage and neither would there be one for a few centuries at worse case. Frac’ing (only ignorant people say “fracking” in Barnett Shale had not even been successful yet.

Kermit on November 17, 2012 at 5:43 PM

Actually, I was thinking of this book when I wrote my post. Profound words to (try) to live by.

I really appreciate your compliment. Thanks again. :)

PatriotGal2257 on November 17, 2012 at 5:47 PM

Actually, I was thinking of this book when I wrote my post. Profound words to (try) to live by.

I really appreciate your compliment. Thanks again. :)

PatriotGal2257 on November 17, 2012 at 5:47 PM

Brian’s Song, an epic movie..

hillsoftx on November 17, 2012 at 5:55 PM

Brian’s Song, an epic movie.

hillsoftx on November 17, 2012 at 5:55 PM

Yes, absolutely.

PatriotGal2257 on November 17, 2012 at 5:59 PM

All of my life I have heard about the energy crisis, the population crises, the food shortage crises, the coming nuclear winter/global warming/climate change.

I guess I’m just lucky that all these things are now coming to fruition while I am still living and can witness it all.

Jvette on November 17, 2012 at 6:01 PM

and we’ll all getting around via teleportation — there aren’t many limits on what humankind can achieve.

Well that’s one of them.

VorDaj on November 17, 2012 at 6:08 PM

there aren’t many limits on what humankind can achieve.

There seems to be little, if any, limit on human stupidity.

VorDaj on November 17, 2012 at 6:09 PM

there aren’t many limits on what humankind can achieve.

There seems to be little, if any, limit on human stupidity.

VorDaj on November 17, 2012 at 6:09 PM

Never underestimate the power of human stupidity.

– Robert A. Heinlein

itsspideyman on November 17, 2012 at 6:15 PM

and we’ll all getting around via teleportation

Due to quantum uncertainties, the being transported will be an almost exact copy of you, but will not be the “real” you.

Like Doc McCoy, I refuse to use the damn things.

Difficultas_Est_Imperium on November 17, 2012 at 6:16 PM

Sixty years ago there were people running around making a very good income by telling the gulible that earth already had more people than it could sustain because of lack of natural resourses including fuels and aerable land. There are now twice as many people, and the fraction of the population who are poor is much less.

burt on November 17, 2012 at 6:18 PM

Jvette on November 17, 2012 at 6:01 PM

I was in high school during the energy crisis of the 70s and remember the gas rationing, having to wear my winter coat to class because the school thermostats were turned down to 65 degrees, and having Daylight Saving Time all year so people’s electricity usage in the evenings could be lessened. It was pretty much a pain in the butt in a lot of ways, and there was Jimmy Carter in his sweater hectoring us to put up with it.

Many years ago, I started reading up on these “crises.” I found that none of these things are really an actual crisis — they are virtually all politically motivated and anti-[fill in the blank] in some way. Guys like Paul Ehrlich have been yammering for years (still at it as of 2009) about overpopulation (he wrote … ha … the book on it), peak oil and so on. It’s yet another arrow in the quiver of the commies and control freaks of the world to spread fear and loot any government (and its citizens) that they can without anyone getting wise.

As John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten of the S@x Pistols) has said, “It’s all nonsense. Utter rubbish.”

PatriotGal2257 on November 17, 2012 at 6:26 PM

PatriotGal2257 on November 17, 2012 at 6:26 PM

Exactly, “THE SKY IS FALLING!” crowd is always running around about something and everything single thing they try to panic us over is nothing more than an excuse to further erode our freedoms and take/control our private property

Jvette on November 17, 2012 at 7:13 PM

In support of the general theme of the post. The first energy crisis was in the late 19th century. Wood. Wood was the source for home heat and steam locomotives, harvesters had to go farther and farther to get it in quantity. CRISIS! We are going to run out of trees! Of course, coal came to the rescue followed by petroleum. In the early days of automobiles some experts were sounding the alarm because we would soon (a few years) run out of oil. A century later, we still have plenty.

Henny Penny begone!!!

FOWG1 on November 17, 2012 at 7:21 PM

Brazil and Our Friends The Saudis come first. Way first.

pat on November 17, 2012 at 8:12 PM

What reason is there to believe that big government can provide solutions where free enterprise can’t?

I’d love an honest debate on this question. Has any lib/democrat ever taken a stab at answering it?

hopeful on November 17, 2012 at 8:18 PM

Jvette on November 17, 2012 at 7:13 PM

Henny Penny begone!!!

FOWG1 on November 17, 2012 at 7:21 PM

The fear mongers, like the poor, are always going to be with us. But I think their little scams are beginning to crumble when people start to look behind the reasons for the so-called crisis and find the truth.

But as with anything on the Left, it’s a never ending process — once one scam is exposed, they are on to another. Sometimes they recycle (heh …) their scams for a new generation, figuring no one has ever heard of them. The message, as with everything else involving them, is to be forever vigilant. I, for one, love puncturing their stupid little environmental balloons.

PatriotGal2257 on November 17, 2012 at 8:58 PM

All of my life I have heard about the energy crisis, the population crises, the food shortage crises, the coming nuclear winter/global warming/climate change.

I guess I’m just lucky that all these things are now coming to fruition while I am still living and can witness it all.

Jvette on November 17, 2012 at 6:01 PM

Yeah, I never thought I would live this long. When I was in high school in the seventies it was routinely predicted that mankind would die out by the year 2000 either by blowing ourselves up with nuclear weapons, a massive die off due to crop failures caused by the coming iceage, or everyone freezing to death because all of our coal and oil had been used up.

But just like any other doomsday cult, the ahem…”science” of despair and doom marches on…and on…and on. They change the dates and manner of doomsday, but keep predicting death for all. Soon.

Lily on November 17, 2012 at 9:07 PM

I’d love an honest debate on this question. Has any lib/democrat ever taken a stab at answering it?

hopeful on November 17, 2012 at 8:18 PM

No, sorry. They’re all protesting Ding Dongs.

98ZJUSMC on November 17, 2012 at 9:08 PM

We’ll all be drinkin’ free Bubble Up
and eatin’ that Rainbow Stew

Demonized on November 17, 2012 at 9:16 PM

It turns out the US now sits on top of a few of the largest energy supplies on the planet.

Just in time for Luddites trying to bring on a Dark Age by not wanting to use them.

We aren’t going to run out of: coal, oil, natural gas, or uranium any time soon.

Of regulations there is also a limitless supply because they can never, ever get the regulations ‘right’. The control freaks can’t take the hint that some things just can’t be regulated to much good effect… and once you got the few good things on the first round of regulations you then get a vanishing return and higher negative return for each and every regulation put on the books.

America could be energy independent in less than a decade.

Again, let that sink in: the USA can be energy independent in less than a decade without solar, wind, or wave power.

The Left doesn’t love the environment: it hates civilization and wants it ended forthwith.

ajacksonian on November 17, 2012 at 9:37 PM

This came to my mind the other day when my mom informed me that…

Now that you have us under your wing (and happy to be there), you need to work on your mom.

Onward and upward, Erika!

petefrt on November 17, 2012 at 9:40 PM

Sixty years ago there were people running around making a very good income by telling the gulible that earth already had more people than it could sustain because of lack of natural resourses …

burt on November 17, 2012 at 6:18 PM

This year Algore runs around making a very good income by telling the gullible that a carbon tax is the solution to the country’s financial crisis.

Fortunately, as someone said on one of the Fox business shows this morning, earlier in his life Algore was sprayed with a human repellant.

petefrt on November 17, 2012 at 9:55 PM

I’m all for developing these resources.

However it’s not “our” gas nor “our” oil as I’ve heard many say…it belongs to the companies that earn the rights to tap these resources and refine them as needed for an international market. Also, it will take more energy thus incur more cost for the consumer.

To keep calling it “ours” is, to me, Socialism.

I suppose in some sense, the earth’s resources are indeed finite

Pretty brave of you, Ms. Johnson-in some circles that would be viewed as heresy.

Dr. ZhivBlago on November 18, 2012 at 1:36 AM

Disaster Sells

My great grandparents thought man would wipe himself out with war or killing devices that were too good. You know, like nitro glycerine.

My grand parents blamed bad weather on the Great War.

My parents thought H bombs were going to get us and the tests had the weather headed for a dark age.

My elder siblings thought the world would end in 1960 and were crying on New Years Day.

About two years ago, an honors grad of William & Marshall was incredulous that anyone could doubt global warming and was excited that PBS was doing a special on the 1930′s mid west dust bowl with the civil war guy. And to think that my grand parents were blaming the Great War!!

My check out girl (about two weeks ago) at the supermarket is sure that we have less than a decade until climate change destroys us all and Super storm Sandy is the proof. She thinks we belong in small homes and walking to work or living like the American Indian and she has a ton of guilt about American society.

IlikedAUH2O on November 18, 2012 at 5:46 AM

Prediction: In ten years, Dear Leader and the DemocRATs will be taking credit for the economic turnaround and improved environment that are going to be brought about by the very cheap, clean energy sources they have fought so hard to keep from being readily available, a la ‘the Clinton Economic Miracle’.

Knott Buyinit on November 18, 2012 at 11:54 AM

In the 140 years of oil, the world has used 1.1 trillion barrels of oil. Currently about 27 barrel are used each year. An easier measurement of all that oil is we use 1.03 cubic miles of oil each year, and have used about 42 cubic miles over all. Sure sound like a lot of oil doesn’t it?

But if you spread all 140 years worth of oil over the entire surface of the Earth evenly, it would only be a film of oil thinner than the thickness of 4 sheets of copier paper. About 0.014 inch thick.

Which is not very damn much compaired to the thosands of feet of atmosphere above it.

Highplains on November 18, 2012 at 5:52 PM