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Monday, February 16, 2009

Drill Baby Drill?

In part five, Dr. Bartlett continues his conversation on coal by quoting journalists.

He provides this important rule of thumb:

Don't believe any prediction of the life expectancy of a non-renewable resource until you have confirmed the prediction by repeating the calculation.
And this corollary:
The more optimistic the prediction the greater is the probability that it is based on faulty arithmetic or on no arithmetic at all.
Here is a doozy from Time Magazine:
Energy industries agree that to achieve some form of energy self-sufficiency the U.S. must mine all the coal that it can. (May 19, 1975, p. 55)
Dr. Bartlett invites us to chew on that one for a minute. What does this mean? To paraphrase:
"the more rapidly we consume our resources the more self-sufficient we'll be."
Yup, pretty dumb. He quotes from the energy adviser to President Ford:
We should be trying to get as many holes drilled as possible to get the proven (oil) reserve. (William Simon on CBS, August 31, 1977)
Sounds like "drill, baby, drill" doesn't it? The faster we can get that last drop of oil out of the ground and finish using it, the better off we will be, is how Dr. Bartlett paraphrases this wisdom.

He moves on to
Dr. M. King Hubbert. Here is some trivia. What was the first year that the U.S. had to import more oil than it was able to produce domestically?

Answer: 1994.
Since then we have imported more and more oil. Currently (2007):
  • the U.S. produces 8. 5 million barrels of oil per day.
  • the U.S. consumes 20.7 million barrels of oil per day.
So what about the Arctic Wildlife Refuge? Lots of oil under those polar bears, right? The estimate is 3.2 billion barrels of oil. At most, 10.4 billion barrels. That sounds like a lot. Let's round that off to 10 billion. At current use, 20 million barrels per day, it would last 500 days--not even a year and a half.

My theory is that we cannot stand sobering news and will invent and repeat any kind of nonsense so that we can stay in denial. Those who are interested in short-term gain will gladly give us false hopes so we keep consuming.
Here is part five:

Part six next time.

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