In the heart of Thanksgiving/Christmas season, we are often confronted and reminded of a curiosity of human existence that has far wider repercussions than we realize. During big get-togethers (within health guidelines of course, speaking more historically here), many of us have been faced with the Phenomenon of the Perpetual Ass.
It seems that in any sizeable group there is at least one person who will see it as their duty to putridly debase conversation, to offer ignorant and inflammatory conversational input that no one appreciates save the buffoon uttering it.
Sometimes the kerfuffle is marginally acceptable (in my books) if the purpose is to liven up a dreary session of small talk, but often it’s just blistering ignorance and an undeserved but overly-inflated sense of self that causes these lunkheads to sound off so faithfully.
History indicates that this problem is timeless, and, as the old Far Side cartoon pointed out with a joke about God creating the earth on his table and reaching for a salt-shaker-like object labeled “jerks” (“to keep it interesting”), there is an element of the population that apparently enjoys occupying that space. They will never go away, they will never get better, and they don’t care.
Where this phenomenon has wider significance is in the modern people’s court – the new arena of judgement, the home of the collective pulse of society whose overall tone is interpreted as consensus – the massive anthill that is social media. Likes and retweets and reposts are the new currency of popularity.
What we often forget is that social media, anonymous social media, is like the holy land for these pugnacious idiots that ruin holiday meals and almost every online conversation that gets near the political realm (which now includes the environment).
Social media is even worse, or even better (from their perspective) than demolishing social gatherings. At holiday dinners, those fountainheads of idiotic opinions have “skin in the game” – they have to moderate themselves at least somewhat, or they will be asked to leave before they’ve sated themselves (which is usually never), or they’ll get a cup thrown at them, or possibly an uppercut.
On social media though, there is the glory of anonymity – hiding behind a clever nickname, reflexively taking pot shots at anything and everything. One sad aspect of this freak show is we can see how often these people comment, and often it’s shocking – many spend hours on end doing nothing more than adding snide commentary to every discussion that disagrees with their world view.
Anyone active in energy conversations will be more than familiar with this. Few people understand energy, which is at least partially understandable; even with nearly three decades of energy experience, I learn something new every week. Humility is a good thing.
Yet try stepping out into the social media/comment section world and pointing out some aspect such as that it is incredibly difficult to wipe out a hydrocarbon-based system built up over a hundred years, patched together so intricately and successfully that it keeps 7 billion people alive… try saying that, and it’s like throwing a rock at a troop of baboons.
I tried it recently, sample replies paraphrased; “Drivel. The energy transition will be easy, according to the engineering faculty at Stanford University. You’re smarter than them?”
“You’re an armchair quarterback spreading propaganda, get educated!”
“To those who know history it is obvious just how fast it is going to happen”, and on and on. Incoherent shouting from people with thousands and thousands of similar “thoughts.”
So, by and large, because these people are better shouters than anyone else, they drown out intelligent discourse. The danger then of course is that we will all pay a price as the median level of ignorance is swayed by the shouters (along with a lot of help from a media terrified to say anything at all that runs counter to the most loudly shouted “consensus”.)
What does this have to do with energy? Well, it’s a good starting point to do a bit of shouting as well, this to the citizens of Canada, the US, and anywhere else that is letting their hydrocarbon industries be hounded out of existence.
The world will be using a lot of oil for a very long time; where do you want it to come from?
Some will dispute that comment out of the chute, and I can hear the howls already. As corroboration, here’s some support from the International Energy Agency, a reporting firm that recently has abandoned energy reporting because they have a gun of some sort to their head (Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org and a legendary climate activist, has spearheaded a movement to bring the IEA to (his) heel because they don’t like forecasts that indicate significant oil usage (McKibben & co. even have a website – fixtheweo.org – WEO being the annual World Energy Outlook (the activists’ summation of the problem: ‘the WEO is guiding the world towards climate chaos. It needs to be fixed.’)
In other words, the activists want the IEA to stop attempting to forecast future oil consumption, and instead publish forecasts based on what the activists think we should be consuming (which is zero).
This sort of forced censorship is obscene, like demanding that McDonald’s start forecasting a sales collapse because obesity is a problem. We are in big trouble if this sort of Soviet-editing is allowed to flourish.
Here’s the deal. Even under the IEA optimistic ‘rapid transition’ Sustainable Development Scenario, the IEA still shows the world consuming about 65 million b/d by 2040. Again, where is that oil going to come from?
Forget US shale; that growth was spectacular due to over half a trillion of investment in a handful of fields with high-decline wells and accelerating parent-child production issues. It will be a major source of supply for decades, but it is unlikely to ever see the sort of growth profile it enjoyed over the past decade. Forget Canada; with current federal sentiment, not another major oil sands project will be built.
Before thinking further about where it might come from, consider for a second how much the world might have to add, given the current global production capability of about 100 million b/d. At a moderate 5% global decline rate, which is probably too generous given slashed capital spending, that 100 million b/d capability will fall to 36 million b/d, just over half of the IEA’s activist-diktat new-religion number, by 2040. At a 10% decline rate, more like it, that 100 million b/d falls to 12 million b/d, some 50 million b/d shy of the IEA go-green-go number.
Here’s where we all need to pay attention: That required oil will not come from anywhere that bares all – measurement-wise and so to speak – for the world to see. That is, a few countries (like ours) work very hard at accurate public disclosure; others treat the topic as the mob treats a strip club.
There are plenty of clues as to where it will come from. Russia recently announced a $231 billion package to develop oil fields in the arctic. Saudi Arabia announced plans to get production capability up to 13 million b/d this past August, after tentatively doing so in March, then backpedaling as global demand covid-collapsed temporarily.
Let’s all be clear about this, in a way that even accepts the disinformation efforts of those forcing the IEA to publish unfounded estimates. Per the bent IEA’s most aggressive scenario, the world will still need to add tens of millions of barrels per day, by 2040.(And, if the IEA published their best guess instead of, you know, what the activists dictate that they say, they’d say that global consumption will hover near 80-100 million b/d for decades, and the call on Russia/OPEC would be even greater.)
Do we want to be part of that equation, with our huge, well-monitored resources, or do we want to hand the keys to Russia and the Middle East? Do we know what we’re sleepwalking into?
Here are a few tidbits of truth in case you’re comfortable with Russia and the Middle East controlling the valves and the production levels.
In 2009, Russia cut off natural gas supplies to Europe. In January. The Middle East, via OPEC, has turned the oil taps on and off again at will (because they are true “swing producers” – entities that can raise or lower production at will (commercial oil producers cannot do this, at least if public) to flood the market, or to jack up prices.
Imagine a world where Canada and the US have decimated their industries through capital starvation, regulatory strangulation, and a flat-out refusal by many to accept the value of hydrocarbons in keeping seven billion people alive. Imagine the populous coastal regions of North America dependent on foreign oil and natural gas, due to an inability to supply said coasts from the interior.
Imagine Russia, Saudi Arabia, and a handful of similarly cunning overlords controlling global production levels, and not giving very many hoots at all about the environment.
If you can picture that, and come to the correct conclusion that this won’t be a good thing, be sure to get up and say something. The barbarians are not just at the gate, they have overrun the media channels.
Energy education is critical! For a balanced overview of how the world got in such an energy pickle, pick up “The End of Fossil Fuel Insanity” at Amazon.ca, Indigo.ca, or Amazon.com and find energy discussion sanity. Thanks for the support!