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2008 meets 2009: A look back … and forward

Too many Top-This-or-That-of-2008-type stories are published during the end-of-the-year holidays: who has time to read them all? That’s why, here at Greenbang, we’ve saved the wrapup (and look ahead) feature till now.

Anyway, doing our Top-Stories-of-2008 story now makes sense in another way as well, as many of the factors affecting last year’s big news events will certainly come into play in 2009 as well.

So what was — or will be — hot?

  1. We will. While the World Meteorological Organization, NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies and the US National Climatic Data Center all agree 2008 was, on average, notably cooler than most recent years (due in part, possibly, to La Niña), last year was likely to be an aberration. The UK’s Met Office Hadley Centre is predicting this year will be one of the top five warmest on record.
  2. Algae … maybe. The corn-based ethanol bubble burst dramatically in 2008, and the fallout is likely to continue into the new year. While many followers of corn are now turning their gaze toward switchgrass and other sources of cellulose, algae-based fuels could prove even more promising, considering the slimy green stuff can grow almost anywhere (no food vs. fuel debate here).
  3. The Obama presidency … maybe. The rubber meets the road on Jan. 20, when the White House officially welcomes president-elect Barack Obama and his “green dream team” of people who actually understand things like science and climate change. Between the global financial crisis and numerous other crises du jour, Obama and his team face beyond-daunting challenges in the new year. The very fact that Obama was elected last year, though, merits Top 10 mention without a doubt. Plus, he’s named an actual Nobel Prize winner as Energy Secretary.
  4. Oil. Is it peaking? Has it peaked? Will it stay at $50 (US)? Drop to $20? Rocket to $200? While light sweet crude peaked pricewise at $147.30 a barrel in July of last year, where prices will go in 2009 is anyone’s bet. However, this could be the year that marks the beginning of the first post-peak year of the rest of our lives. A growing Peak Oil chorus is chanting we’ve already hit peak and even the International Energy Agency has begun singing that tune.
  5. “Clean coal.” What a year for watching it go from hot to not. While that turn of phrase tripped regularly over politicians’ lips throughout 2008, reality did not accompany. In fact, the early part of last year saw the death of what was to be the US’s premiere clean-coal development experiment: “FutureGen” to those involved, “NeverGen” to the rest. Oh, and by the way, there might be much less coal available to us in future than we thought.

1 Comment

  • Clifford J. Wirth, Ph.D.
    Posted January 6, 2009 at 11:46 pm

    The top story of the year is that global crude oil production peaked in 2008.

    The media, governments, world leaders, and public should focus on this issue.

    Global crude oil production had been rising briskly until 2004, then plateaued for four years. Because oil producers were extracting at maximum effort to profit from high oil prices, this plateau is a clear indication of Peak Oil.

    Then in July and August of 2008 while oil prices were still very high, global crude oil production fell nearly one million barrels per day, clear evidence of Peak Oil (See Rembrandt Koppelaar, Editor of “Oil Watch Monthly,” December 2008, page 1)

    Peak Oil is now.

    Credit for accurate Peak Oil predictions (within a few years) goes to the following (projected year for peak given in parentheses):

    * Association for the Study of Peak Oil (2007)

    * Rembrandt Koppelaar, Editor of “Oil Watch Monthly” (2008)

    * Tony Eriksen, Oil stock analyst and Samuel Foucher, oil analyst (2008)

    * Matthew Simmons, Energy investment banker, (2007)

    * T. Boone Pickens, Oil and gas investor (2007)

    * U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (2005)

    * Kenneth S. Deffeyes, Princeton professor and retired shell geologist (2005)

    * Sam Sam Bakhtiari, Retired Iranian National Oil Company geologist (2005)

    * Chris Skrebowski, Editor of “Petroleum Review” (2010)

    * Sadad Al Husseini, former head of production and exploration, Saudi Aramco (2008)

    * Energy Watch Group in Germany (2006)

    Oil production will now begin to decline terminally.

    Within a year or two, it is likely that oil prices will skyrocket as supply falls below demand. OPEC cuts could exacerbate the gap between supply and demand and drive prices even higher.

    Independent studies indicate that global crude oil production will now decline from 74 million barrels per day to 60 million barrels per day by 2015. During the same time, demand will increase. Oil supplies will be even tighter for the U.S. As oil producing nations consume more and more oil domestically they will export less and less. Because demand is high in China, India, the Middle East, and other oil producing nations, once global oil production begins to decline, demand will always be higher than supply. And since the U.S. represents one fourth of global oil demand, whatever oil we conserve will be consumed elsewhere. Thus, conservation in the U.S. will not slow oil depletion rates significantly.

    Alternatives will not even begin to fill the gap. There is no plan nor capital for a so-called electric economy. And most alternatives yield electric power, but we need liquid fuels for tractors/combines, 18 wheel trucks, trains, ships, and mining equipment. The independent scientists of the Energy Watch Group conclude in a 2007 report titled: “Peak Oil Could Trigger Meltdown of Society:”

    “By 2020, and even more by 2030, global oil supply will be dramatically lower. This will create a supply gap which can hardly be closed by growing contributions from other fossil, nuclear or alternative energy sources in this time frame.”

    With increasing costs for gasoline and diesel, along with declining taxes and declining gasoline tax revenues, states and local governments will eventually have to cut staff and curtail highway maintenance. Eventually, gasoline stations will close, and state and local highway workers won’t be able to get to work. We are facing the collapse of the highways that depend on diesel and gasoline powered trucks for bridge maintenance, culvert cleaning to avoid road washouts, snow plowing, and roadbed and surface repair. When the highways fail, so will the power grid, as highways carry the parts, large transformers, steel for pylons, and high tension cables from great distances. With the highways out, there will be no food coming from far away, and without the power grid virtually nothing modern works, including home heating, pumping of gasoline and diesel, airports, communications, and automated building systems.

    It is time to focus on Peak Oil preparation and surviving Peak Oil.

Comments are closed.

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