Some thoughts on energy policy:
This is an excerpt from an e-mail discussion regarding the
Bob to dbs:
"Here's another reality-check
on the Bakken reserves:
The original article really
doesn't pass the common-sense test, or the basic smell test - but a
little dose of conspiracy will make anything fly.
All of the major oil companies
are now drilling for new reserves offshore in very deep water, using
very high-tech, very expensive drilling rigs, because that's where the
remaining economically recoverable oil is. Even Saudi Arabia,
where you could once find oil with a shovel, is turning to expensive,
high-tech production methods to recover oil from additional
reserves. All of this instead of turning to the vast reservoir
sitting there virtually untouched right beneath our feet, locked up by
those damned environmentalists. Hmmm - it seems to me that with a
few strategically-placed campaign contributions to the right
Congressmen, they could be (and are) drilling wherever they want to
(except ANWR, but that's just a matter of time). Somehow those
environmentalists couldn't stop production on Alaska's North Slope -
which actually was a vast reserve. I am old enough to remember
when that huge reservoir was essentially untouched, and now during my
lifetime it's been essentially fully exploited, all without achieving
US energy independence, or anything close to it.
I was once on a Southwest
flight sitting across from a Texan who had worked his 25 year career as
a drill rig foreman, onshore in the US. He had worked all over
the country. George W Bush had just announced a plan to achieve
US energy independence by increasing drilling in the US and
Alaska. I asked the guy if he thought that could be done.
He answered: "I don't know what George Bush is talking about. We
done sucked this country dry. I'm going back drilling new wells
in between old wells I drilled 20 years ago, and we hardly find enough
to make it worth the trouble."
The "Drill Baby Drill" thing
seems to be good for political mileage, but it doesn't carry much
further than that. The last century and the enormous human
progress that it brought was facilitated by cheap energy. Human
progress this century will be shaped (or restrained) by much more
expensive energy no matter how you look at it, because the cheap stuff
is gone, and potential new sources (and there are plenty of those) will
all cost lots more. The Chevy Volt, for example, will let you drive
(for a limited distance) on coal-fired electricity, but it's supposed
to start at $41,000, and I don't think they're offering it as an SUV.
So let's enjoy sub $3 gas while
it lasts (not all the news during a recession is bad news)."
Alan's comment: "and how about all of the domestic shale
deposits? Research 'Marcellus Shale', its just one of many."
"My neighbor here in Colorado is a
retired oil company geologist. He worked in the USA for 30 years
for the major oil companies and has been familiar with Bakken for
He told me that the problem with
Bakken is the cost of recovery. If/when oil prices get high
enough, this known reserve will be extracted at more than the small
rates, seen to date. Peter
Here is a multiple choice question
on the subject:
Why have the major oil companies
not invested at some meaningful level in the Bakken reserves?
A.Oil company personnel
still have not read the circulating e-mails on the extent of
B. They are afraid to drill in the
scenic North Dakota plains for fear of ecological damage.
C. They would rather buy their
crude oil from foreign countries, many of whom hold the USA in contempt.
D. At the current world market
price on crude, drilling for oil in other areas leaves them with a much
higher profit margin than Bakken would."
I like my brother's story (Bob)
of the guy on Southwest: "We done sucked this country dry." I
tend to agree. Why don't we accelerate our research into
fusion? It sure looks like that's the squirrel that we ought to
be huntin'. We need to approach this challenge with some
different thinking. We can't continue with oil as the primary
fuel source for the planet. It's a finite resource.
Cracking the code on what makes the sun shine would seem more sensible
to me. Why not toss out a really BIG prize to whoever figures it
out. Maybe even give them a TRILLION
dollars as an incentive. Shit, we poured way more than that into
the banking hole, what the hell?
Joe weighs in:
"It's all a matter of supply
and demand. As long as gas is $3.00/gallon (or $2.49/gallon if you can
slip over to SC for a quick fill-up), very few people are going to
change their driving habits, ride the bus, or shell out $41k for a
As the available oil reserves
decline and we (I say "we" because it's the consumer that drives this
whole thing) go to more expensive sources, the price of gas will go up
and the miles driven will go down. At what point does this happen? Is
it $5/gallon? $10/gallon? $15? Who knows, but at some price point
alternative fuels will make sense. Wind farms, solar, fusion, whatever.
This planet will never totally run out of oil, because the price of
that last barrel will be astronomical.
Not enough attention is being
given to biomass, specifically wastewater treatment residuals. I can
assure you that the supply is not going to dwindle anytime soon. Did
you know that a natural bioproduct of anaerobic sludge digestion is
methane gas? Ever see those "eternal flames" at wastewater treatment
plants? Same thing for landfill gas. It's a natural byproduct of
decomposition, and a seemingly unending supply of feedstock."
Jim (retired utility exec):
"Just need to add my 2 cents.....
Joe is correct, as many years ago,
the city of Phoenix had a methane gas furnace at each waste water
treatment plant that generated heat for the facility (winter time) AND
produced all the electricity it needed for operation.... Being a
typical city government, it didn't maintain the equipment and it became
unreliable. Thus APS when in, tore out all the generating equipment so
they couldn't ever again generate electricity, and has been supplying
them power ever since....
Some may call this capitalism at its
worst, but I call it graft, or EXTREMELY poor management on the
government's part looking out for the consumers....... Similar to
the light rail.............".