Thursday, July 19, 2012

New Resources Re-Writing the Books on Energy

Intermittent high oil prices over the past 5 years have triggered the expansion of new technologies in hydrocarbon exploration, discovery, production, and advanced recovery. This revolution of new energy technologies has barely begun. As long as prices continue to be held high by a combination of market and political factors, this bonanza of new discovery and production is likely to continue expanding around the globe.
The assumption that the world was at or near “peak oil” has been a driving force behind predictions that the 21st century would be an era of U.S.-China competition... The assumption that there were few major discoveries left to be made also led many to forecast that the Middle East and especially the Gulf region would continue to be a major fulcrum in global affairs...

...none of that looks true anymore. Advances in extraction technology have changed our understanding of the world’s energy future.... the amount of available energy out there may be even greater than we now think. Because the extraction technology is new, and because it is still developing, much of the world has not been surveyed for these unconventional deposits. Both on land and under the sea, there is a lot of territory still to explore.

...Much of the punditry of the last ten years is looking suddenly obsolete; a number of writers are going to hope that some of the books and articles they’ve recently published will be quickly forgotten. _WRM
The peak oil doomer punditry was lucrative enough, as long as it looked as if the world was running out of oil, gas, and energy in general. But the antidote to ignorance is knowledge, and the mainstream energy press has just begun to stumble upon a mountain of knowledge which more astute analysts have been climbing for years now.
...on the bigger stage of world politics, it’s the United States that benefits most from the energy revolution. To begin with, the core objective of the United States—a reasonably stable, orderly and liberal global system—is a lot easier to achieve in an era of energy abundance than in one of tough resource competition. Oil is a lubricant, and the more the world has, the more smoothly things are likely to run. A world in which jealous, competing states are trying to elbow each other aside to access the last few remaining pools of oil is a much nastier place than one in which the whole oil question is a lot more laid back. Abundant energy will also promote global economic growth, an effect that strengthens and stabilizes the world system. It is easier for countries to cooperate when their economies are doing well. There is less nationalist pressure inside countries driving political leaders to take confrontational stands, and it is easier to negotiate win-win solutions and build functioning international institutions when all parties are relatively optimistic about their prospects. _WRM

Walter Russell Mead may be a bit optimistic -- like many other writers -- concerning the political fallout of the new energy technologies. Politicians are unlikely to suddenly grow wiser and less corrupt, simply because the industrial world now has a few more decades worth of hydrocarbons to utilise while converting to more advanced energies of the future.



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