Namely this applies to those who subscribe to the "Daniel Yergin" school of thought. Yergin refers to our energy predicament not as an "energy crisis" but rather as an "energy opportuntiy". He neglects that for every major discovery due to human ingenuity there is an equal or greater fuck-up due to human error. Major catastrophe doesn't come out of simple processes however, it comes from highly complex processes of which a great many people rely.
It can take years of painstakingly expensive research to come up with a true solution, on the contrary it only takes a few seconds of relative absent-mindedness to blow that solution up. It gets worse when reviews such as quality-control are first on the chopping block.
The number one argument I get most often to the sort of issues I write about and the point-of-view I take is that there are possible solutions, if only society would do them. I'm often told that peak oil isn't really a problem because there is plenty of alternatives to oil. Let's for the moment nevermind that most oil alternatives are in fact derivatives, let's focus on the solution touted itself in the context of increased complexity, cost-cutting, and geo-political instability.
First, I will say - yes, there are "alternatives" - or at least a means to responsibly use the remaining oil for the foreseeable future. To make use of these alternatives quickly the remaining oil reserves would pretty well need to be completely invested in to the alternatives with no real promise of a return. If the world's only problem was energy, all countries were "friends" and energy wasn't as secretive an industry as it is then maybe we could look at this as an energy opportunity. If there were not 7 billion people whose daily lives are affected by the current cost of energy, then yes, also, it would be an energy opportunity. If there was nothing to lose, it would be an opportunity, but we have everything to lose and that's why it's a crisis.
This is I think where most energy-economics analysts go awry. They forget that people depend on energy in their every day lives. Well, not really forget, they will point to statistics about how many people can still afford energy, showing no significant drop. But there is a drop, that's what is important here. We're on a long-term downward spiral. As things deteriorate, the bar of what is "acceptable poverty" continues to lower and the number of people which meet this bar continues to increase. The long-term trend is that slowly, fewer and fewer people can afford their daily lives. At the same time the real profit margin in businesses is getting smaller due to the increase in energy costs, causing increasing externalization of costs.
If you look at energy solutions touted for the future, they are all extremely complex, involving many processes and parts. Whether it's deepsea drilling, fracking, oilsands, or even solar and wind - these energy solutions all require a complex and organized supply chain, pipelines, upgraders, metallurgy, etc. It's why the U.S. is providing drones to Iraq to defend the oil supplies there. With increased complexity, strained supply chains, comes increased cost. For instance, the Globe and Mail had an appropriately titled article "The age of extreme oil":
Alberta's oil sands are the obvious example: Here, on average, two tonnes of earth must be strip-mined and seven barrels of water heated to steam in order to produce a barrel of oil. It takes a barrel's worth of energy to produce just three barrels of oil; 30 years ago it would have been 100.
|Extreme energy (Source: circleofblue.org)|
|Back in the day (Source: fineartamerica.com)|
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Richard Fantin is a self-taught software developer who has mostly throughout his career focused on financial applications and high frequency trading. He currently works for eQube gaming systems.
Nazayh Zanidean is a Project Coordinator for a mid-sized construction contractor in Calgary, Alberta. He enjoys writing as a hobby on topics that include foreign policy, international human rights, security and systemic media bias.