Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

An urban legend to comfort America: crash programs will solve Peak Oil

An urban legend to comfort America: crash programs will solve Peak Oil
Fabius Maximus

This is the second post in a series examining “urban legends” about energy that comfort Americans. Here we discuss the first of four comforting myths about unconventional and alternative energy sources. These are excuses for not doing the hard work of gathering information, analysis, planning, and executing programs necessary to prepare for the multi-decade transition through peak oil to the next era (whatever that will be). These four myths are:

I. We’ll run crash programs for adaptation just as we mobilized for WWII.
II. Demand creates supply, by raising prices.
II. Oil is Oil, even if it is not oil.
IV. Demand creates supply, from new technology.

Unfortunately, we can rely on none of these. Certainly they are not substitutes for intense research and planning, which is how they are used today. As I have described at length in previous posts, we know astonishingly little about our available energy resources, consumption patterns, and alternatives. Nor has the available information been collected, analyzed, and used for models and simulations - the foundation of good planning. News reports said that the resent satellite interception cost $125 million; one-tenth of that could fund a multi-disciplinary project that would help plan a sound future for America’s energy supply. Instead we rely on inspired guessing.

Side note: what is our source of information about the monthly volume of Saudi Arabia’s oil exports? Please place your answers in the comments.

I. We’ll run successful crash programs to beat Peak Oil just as we mobilized for WWII

The massive mobilzation during WWII has important differences from crash programs to prepare America for facing Peak Oil. Crash programs are probably necessary, but are no panacea.

1. The economics differ; today’s mobilization might make things worse - unlike WWII.
2. There may be less potential innovation available.
3. The causes of innovation are mysterious, and cannot be relied upon.

To sum this up, we turn to one of great rules of history: past performance is no guarantee of future success.
(5 September 2008)


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