Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Powering the Future

Take everything you've learned over the past few years about Peak Oil, our world's dwindling supplies of fossil fuels, the vital necessity of transitioning to renewable energy sources to avoid the end of the world as we know it, and flush it down the drain. Michael Lind argues that far from nearing the end of our addiction to fossil fuels, we're just getting warmed up.
As everyone who follows news about energy knows by now, in the last decade the technique of hydraulic fracturing or "fracking," long used in the oil industry, has evolved to permit energy companies to access reserves of previously-unrecoverable “shale gas” or unconventional natural gas. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, these advances mean there is at least six times as much recoverable natural gas today as there was a decade ago. [...]

The implications for energy security are startling. Natural gas may be only the beginning. Fracking also permits the extraction of previously-unrecoverable “tight oil,” thereby postponing the day when the world runs out of petroleum. There is enough coal to produce energy for centuries. And governments, universities and corporations in the U.S., Canada, Japan and other countries are studying ways to obtain energy from gas hydrates, which mix methane with ice in high-density formations under the seafloor. The potential energy in gas hydrates may equal that of all other fossils, including other forms of natural gas, combined.

If gas hydrates as well as shale gas, tight oil, oil sands and other unconventional sources can be tapped at reasonable cost, then the global energy picture looks radically different than it did only a few years ago. Suddenly it appears that there may be enough accessible hydrocarbons to power industrial civilization for centuries, if not millennia, to come.
Not to mention the reality of nuclear fission, and the promise of nuclear fusion. Which isn't to say that solar, wind, biofuels and geothermal don't have a place in the energy mix, or can't offer competitive solutions in localized markets. Rather, a rational government energy policy free of apocalyptic hysterics and an obsession with trendy solutions wouldn't incentivize and then subsidize renewable energy generation to the tune of tens of billions, on the taxpayer's dime, in the midst of an economic downturn, or ever.

In case you're wondering how Israel will fare in this brave new "fracking" world of plentiful energy, the answer appears to be, quite well. Tiny Israel seems to be sitting on top of massive natural gas deposits and the world's third largest oil shale reserves, with some 122 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and as much as 250 billion barrels of recoverable oil - enough to rival Saudi Arabia, and within stone's throw of Europe's energy markets. Boycott that, bitch.

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