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Natural Gas worries
June 18, 2003 4:45 AM   Subscribe

Short Supply of Natural Gas Raises Economic Worries (NYT link) and Canada Cannot Solve Our Natural Gas Problem. More to come at the forthcoming Natural Gas Summit on June 26. At least I live in a country which is among the firsts in the line to the Algerian natural gas.... which buys me some tranquility, although depletion and the peak of oil and natural gas will hit us, sooner or later, globally. (via the energyresources list)
posted by samelborp (24 comments total)

 
And with our love for monster sized vehicles in America the peak may be sooner rather than later.
Isn't it time to reconsider our priorities regarding fuels and our strategies to procure them?
posted by nofundy at 5:34 AM on June 18, 2003


Canada can't, or won't?

Think about it. But not very hard.
posted by jon_kill at 6:11 AM on June 18, 2003


The curious thing is that, after the oil prices shocks of the 70's, US energy consumption stayed almost flat for almost a decade, from about 1980 to '88 or so. Americans drove smaller cars, insulated their homes, industry became more energy efficient, and so on. The US economy, meanwhile, grew at a healthy enough pace - thus proving that energy consumption and economic growth aren't so tightly linked as conservatives maintain. Up to a point, is is possible to wring far more work out of each BTU.

This trend, towards greater energy efficiency in the US, reversed itself around '88 to '90 and US energy consumption has risen steadily since.

Meanwhile, there is plenty of research showing that the US could run it's economy on less than a tenth of the energy it currently consumes.

But there's a catch: the transition to such a "factor ten" economy takes either time (for the normal replacement of homes, vehicles and machines with greater efficiency systems and machines) or a lot of money - for faster replacement or expensive retrofits.

So we're going to get walloped in the short term and will pay dearly for our "decade of denial".

The question in my mind is: why don't humans pay attention to these trends? The energy trends are easy to predict, and the relevant figures and graphs are quite public.

Why all of the denial?
posted by troutfishing at 6:15 AM on June 18, 2003




And then there's oil: "Petroconsultants recently announced the total oil discovery for 2000 at 11.2 Gb, less than half consumption, and of that much was in the Former Soviet Union and in deepwater off West Africa." (from the last link of the post)



I don't think we're approaching the peak: I think we're actually well past that and are now coming to the crash. And I've no doubt that the Bush Administration is highly aware of this fact. Hence the Mideast invasions, and the string of new US military bases in Northwest Asia.

As George Bush Senior said so succinctly: "The American way of life is NOT open to negotiation" which, loosely translated, can be taken to also mean "and the rest of the World can go F_ck itself".
posted by troutfishing at 6:29 AM on June 18, 2003


Go to James Howard Kunstler. He's been griping about this very thing for years.

We're badly prepared for what's coming. As Kunstler argues, we've gone out of our way to build communities that are hopelessly dependent upon cheap oil (and gas.) People think nothing of commuting 50 miles to work in a 15-mpg SUV. Few communities are actually walkable (or, at least, bicycle-able.) Few communities have mass transit. And, we've been building large, barn-like homes that are less efficient to heat/cool, with the explosive development taking place in the Sun Belt, where air conditioning is a prerequisite for modern living.

Which leads me to another point: I imagine a large amount of our energy consumption comes from unnecessary luxuries. Most people can live without A/C; in the olden-days people used to go out on broad, cavernous porches to beat the heat and talk with the neighbors. As was mentioned, during the 80s we seemed to get along just fine with Accords and other fuel-sipping autos. And, before the advent of easy-credit, fewer people had wasteful speedboats and jetskis.

Can we actually cut back for the common good? Or, are we going to behave like spoiled children when the cheap oil (and gas) party is over?
posted by drstrangelove at 6:36 AM on June 18, 2003


One of my clients happens to be a natural gas related business. I was talking about this with them the other day. As they pointed out to me, there are several factors involved here:

1) The 'easily accessable' gas has already been mined. It will be more expensive to get to the deeper sources;

2) Along those lines, gas prices have been relatively low. Therefore, there is little incentive (supply and demand) for producers/drillers to spend the money to drill deeper and in more difficult terrain for relatively low prices for their product;

3) An increasing number of electricity production plants have switched to natural gas to fuel their turbines, in lieu of coal or oil. This has been done primarily due to environmental regulations;

4) This past winter was a very heavy and long one, whereby gas consumption was quite high. While in more moderate winters suppliers can 'stock up' with surplus, this year there was no surplus as it all went to consumption.

These are a few of the variables out there. As they put it to me, "this happens every 20 years or so, until the market corrects itself, which it inevitably will. Sometimes there is just a spontaneous build-up of factors such as weather, consumption trends, and production issues, that cause this to occur."

Furthermore, they did state to me that unless there is some magic wand at work (there is not), this winter could be a very expensive/cold one for the average American. They estimate, based on a moderate winter, that natural gas prices will without a doubt double this winter, and most likely treble. If it is a harsh winter on par with last year, it could well be very catastrophic for the economy and many many many Americans.

While *slightly* off topic, I agree with drstrangelove's general suggestion that we need to start re-focusing on sustainable development in this country. But as we all know, that won't happen until we get our arses kicked. And then you know what? I'll sit back and laaaaaaaaugh at the hysterics of middle america.
posted by tgrundke at 6:49 AM on June 18, 2003


You guys aren't going to invade us for our oil, are you?
posted by Robot Johnny at 6:50 AM on June 18, 2003


Of course, the funny thing is that we all know that should there be an energy shortage this winter, it will inevitably lead to the go ahead to drill in Alaska, push into Iran, bully the Canadians, and throw lots and lots of rigs off the coast of the US. Just to mention a few.
posted by tgrundke at 6:51 AM on June 18, 2003


lots and lots of rigs off the coast of the US

...or maybe a wind farm?
posted by 40 Watt at 7:05 AM on June 18, 2003


Funny that someone proposing a wind farm is named 40 watt.
posted by jon_kill at 7:46 AM on June 18, 2003


And then you know what? I'll sit back and laaaaaaaaugh at the hysterics of middle america.

Nice attitude. So I guess we won't be depending on you to "play your part" then? And what are you anyway... upper america, perhaps lower? Or maybe just a smartass.

Of course, the funny thing is that we all know that should there be an energy shortage this winter, it will inevitably lead to the go ahead to drill in Alaska, push into Iran, bully the Canadians, and throw lots and lots of rigs off the coast of the US. Just to mention a few.

Please... don't hold back. Enlighten the rest of us with your brilliant vision of the inevitable future. We want more than a few.
posted by Witty at 9:12 AM on June 18, 2003


And remember: when you can't argue, ridicule.
posted by goethean at 9:28 AM on June 18, 2003


And with our love for monster sized vehicles in America the peak may be sooner rather than later.

Yeah, since SUV's run off of propane?

Look, natural gas is a very natural by-product of decay of carbon based life forms, there is no chance in hell we are going to run out of natural gas any time soon when your home waste (yes YOUR waste included) could be digested to make up for what you use in fossil fuels in gas and alcohol (and fertilizer) unless we burned off every living thing on the planet in nuclear Armageddon. Besides this America's coal supplies are vast. Sure our dependence on nasty crude oil, coal and extracted natural gas should be reduced to a flatline, but that doesn't mean that we're going to run out of fuel sources until we can come up with a safe (this excludes nuclear), efficient (not solar, wind, wave or hydrogen yet), environmentally friendly (not hydroelectric) and clean (once again no nuke-u-lar) replacement for combustion engines. Anyway, in the mean time shouldn't we first look for ways to cut waste and excess rather than looking to radically change our entire way of life overnight?

Anyway, before anyone points the finger at the US from Canada or Britain, they should probably check the numbers. According to the figures, all the rich folks are greedy, dirty bastards, not just us fat assed SUV driving gringos!
posted by Pollomacho at 9:44 AM on June 18, 2003


goethean: What's to argue? He/she is a smartass. But I will ask you, what's wrong with drilling in Alaska or putting in some rigs off the coast or dealing with Canada? The pushing into Iran part doesn't even deserve attention. All the while, I'm sure tgrundke will have his/her heat cranked up on high this winter... while he's "laughing at middle america". Whatever the hell that means. The way he sees it, our next trip to moon will be in search of natural gas.
posted by Witty at 9:53 AM on June 18, 2003


Witty:

I gotta hand it to you, out of all the text I spewed above, you pick up on the smart-ass commentary of mine that wasn't even relevant to the discussion (admittedly).

If I was not concerned about this, I never would have contributed with (IMO) some interesting first hand information in the first place.

My admittedly smart-ass remark is a reference to the fact that there will be the inevitable 'panic' in both the media and on the street that mainstream America will be glued to. Such an energy 'crisis' will then give the Administration the green-light on many energy projects they've wanted to go ahead with, but didn't have the justification for. Is it funny? Sure it is, in a very dark way. I find it funny that *many* people will react with 'shock and awe' that such an energy crisis (if it comes to pass) could have happened.

So, Witty, as one who does not drive an SUV, lives in a 'bungalow' if it were, and believes in preserving natural lands in lieu of drilling through them, I come in on the side of the fence that would like to see this country become more energy efficient, spend more time, energy, and money on alternative fuels and energy sources, and to recognize that fossil fuels will not last forever.

As necessity is the mother of all invention, perhaps this (theorized) energy crunch will be a good opportunity for creativity and innovation. My darker sense, however, tells me that it will (no pun intended) dig us even deeper into the oil rut than we already are.
posted by tgrundke at 10:13 AM on June 18, 2003


I gotta hand it to you, out of all the text I spewed above, you pick up on the smart-ass commentary of mine that wasn't even relevant to the discussion (admittedly).

A weakness and/or fault of mine (admittedly). Anyway, I hope you're right... the not-so-dark part.
posted by Witty at 10:42 AM on June 18, 2003


there is no chance in hell we are going to run out of natural gas any time soon when your home waste (yes YOUR waste included) could be digested to make up for what you use in fossil fuels in gas and alcohol (and fertilizer) unless we burned off every living thing on the planet in nuclear Armageddon.

Pollomacho, you have to take into account that every bit of work that would be needed to put your plan in action will cost us energy. The great advantage of fossil fuels is that we didn't have to plant, grow, collect and bury those carbon based life forms, we just happened to find them, and this was after the millions of years that natural forces took to convert them in usable energy resources.

It's not that there aren't any valid substitutes to fossil fuels; it's that they won’t be so cheap (sure, you can include coal into the energy mix, but coal pollutes a lot, so it is not a good idea to count on it to substitute actual uses of gas & oil). And our beloved technological civilization could be described as a by-product of cheap energy.

I'll sum up my view with a quote from Joyride to collapse, a very good overview of the problem of running out of cheap energy:

Now pay attention economists. Here are three dicta that may sound heretical. First is Minter's Little Observation: Neither capital nor labor can create energy. Growing out of this observation is Minter's Little Law of Energy Subsidy: The shortage of a more efficient energy source in an economy will always make the remaining sources of less efficient energy more expensive and even less efficient. Will humanity belatedly begin to use all energy more efficiently when we finally hear those sucking sounds in the petroleum barrel? Of course. We will have to. But such efficiencies will not make us more prosperous (as they do today). By that time they will only slow the rate at which we get poorer. Why? Heed Minter's Little Maxim: A society's transition from a more efficient energy source to a less efficient energy source will always and invariably decrease the wealth, flexibility and options available to that society.

I apologize for being so repetitive (you'll find me quoting again and again the same sources), but I just can't understand why the energy issue, one that is so important for modern life is so easily dismissed, buried and overlooked. It's denial? it's hope in future scientific advancements? it's faith in market forces (sure, you can print money, but how to print energy?)
posted by samelborp at 11:10 AM on June 18, 2003


Yeah, since SUV's run off of propane?

No, smartass. If you would re-read the FPP you would see this:
although depletion and the peak of oil and natural gas will hit us, sooner or later

Now, what part of the word OIL do you not understand? Gotta defend driving that monster, eh? Have a big "patriotic" flag decal on it too? Gee, I can be a smartass too!
posted by nofundy at 12:33 PM on June 18, 2003


Pollomacho, you have to take into account that every bit of work that would be needed to put your plan in action will cost us energy. The great advantage of fossil fuels is that we didn't have to plant, grow, collect and bury those carbon based life forms, we just happened to find them, and this was after the millions of years that natural forces took to convert them in usable energy resources.

I'm talking about a compost heap and your septic tank here, things we already have! You already plant and grow this biomass and what we don't tend mother nature does for us! Not to be crude, but ever seen someone light a fart on fire? It's natural gas caused by bio-digestion, it didn't happen under ground over millions of years, it happened in a stomach in a matter of minutes! If you collect all your food waste, poo (human, dog, cow, whatever), grass clippings, old newspapers, yard waste, hair clippings, organic industrial waste, construction waste wood, agricultural tailings and waste, anything that will rot and throw it in a big bio digester with bacteria, you can separate the results into 3 products (in a short period of time), natural gas (a fuel), alcohol (a fuel) and a watery mineral sludge that's good for fertilizer, best of all you don't have to dig this stuff up and otherwise it would have just been heaped in a landfill (of course eventually we can even mine the landfills for the undecomposed waste, which incidentally does not decompose in the landfill). This is not a futuristic process either, its done now. its a process that has gone on since carbon based life began and began dyeing (thus those pockets of oil, coal and natural gas you spoke of)! The energy cost would only be in collection nature does the rest as the energy was already produced solar energy stored in cell matter! We've been living for 2 million years on biomass, why change now, let's just do it more efficiently until we come up with a better solution!

Now, what part of the word OIL do you not understand? Gotta defend driving that monster, eh? Have a big "patriotic" flag decal on it too?

No, smartass. If you would re-read my post before making your assumptions about my stance, you would see this:
Sure our dependence on nasty crude oil, coal and extracted natural gas should be reduced to a flatline...

I ride the subway, fuckwit, what do you drive?
posted by Pollomacho at 12:49 PM on June 18, 2003


Gee, I can be a smartass too!
posted by nofundy at 2:33 PM CST on June 18


ALERT THE MEDIA!
posted by thirteen at 1:07 PM on June 18, 2003


Why all of the denial?

Humans are a short-sighted, self-centered species. Our brains did not evolve with the capacity to handle abstract concepts like the depletion of natural resources very well. We can't see them being used up, so we have nothing to go off of but charts and big numbers like "billions of barrels" and "millions of cubic feet."

When compared to the immediate gratification that high energy consumption give us, charts and graphs and abstract concepts don't stand a chance. Not even for "our kids" sake.
posted by moonbiter at 3:05 PM on June 18, 2003


The U.S. consumes 28% of the globe's natural gas. But unlike oil, which we import from 25 nations, 99% of our gas is produced in North America. here is a good overview of the situation
posted by thedailygrowl at 11:05 PM on June 18, 2003


Pollo, I think your proposal is not a bad one, it is just that I am skeptical of its application on mass scale. There are a lot of good methods of being energy efficient, specially in small communities where there's a visible engagement among its members towards a concrete goal. There are abundant ecological, sustainable and imaginative ways of life that would make us less dependant of non-renewable resources, but it would be very difficult to run the whole 1st world on them.
posted by samelborp at 8:51 AM on June 19, 2003


According to the figures, all the rich folks are greedy, dirty bastards, not just us fat assed SUV driving gringos!

I ride the subway, fuckwit, what do you drive?

So which is true, "fuckwit?" Confused? Shit for brains?
posted by nofundy at 5:53 AM on June 20, 2003


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