Dienstag, 3. Juli 2012

Natural Gas Liquids and infinite ressources of stupidity

According to this recent study of Harvard University, Peak Oil could indeed be delayed by some decades, due to the rapid development of Natural Gas Liquid (NGL) exploitation in the USA.

I admit, this post comes hard for me. After having tried to increase public attention to peak oil for years, it seems that the downslope is further off as I and many experts expected. The report seems to withstand closer scrutiny though.

Many will sigh a breath of relief when reading this. The exploitation of natural ressources will commence for another few decades in which we will have time to prepare for the decreasing oil production.

NGL production seems to grow fast enough to compensate the diminishing conventional oil production we face today for some time. It could even lead to a small increase of oil production if prices are high and stable.

To believe it will spur growth the same way that the exploitation of conventional oil did until recently, is expecting too much. I expect the current situation of effective stagnation of growth to continue while oil production plateaus and per capita oil production will continue to sink slowly with increased population. The current development of raking in capital gains by increasing social inequality will continue to hassle us.

If you have watched Prof Bartletts lecture about exponential growth against a finite ressource you will understand when I say: we only turned the clock back from 1 min before 12 to 1 min and 30 sec before 12.

I find it hard to believe that any western society will use this precious time we supposedly have gained before hitting the wall to prepare for a sustainable society.

The basic considerations about peak oil stay the same, the effects of wasting fossil fuels will become worse though. For future generations this news is bad indeed. As predicted by the Club of rome, CO2 emissions will inevitably increase for another few decades while we exploit these additional fossil fuels.
Launch: "2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years"

According to the new book by the Club of Rome the global climate collapse could happen in the second half of this century. World temperature could well reach a point soon when global warming becomes unstoppable and self enhancing. The reason is the inability of capitalism to bring about a change towards a sustainable society. If growth can be acchieved by any means capitalism will embrace it at all costs.
"It is unlikely that governments will pass necessary regulation to force the markets to allocate more money into climate-friendly solutions, and (we) must not assume that markets will work for the benefit of humankind," (Club Of Rome)

I was more optimistic concerning global warming than the Club of Rome. Until now there seemed to be a tight race between global warming and oil depletion that I thought would lead to future CO2 emissions well below the forecasts the Club of Rome worked with (due to the inevitable end of growth and its consequences that would bring the end of growth capitalism).

So I had had hopes that humans would be saved from their own stupidity and the global climate collapse by luck, but if there is one ressource to be counted on to be infinite its human stupidity.

To produce Oil from unconventional ressources will increase CO2 emissions drastically. Unconventional ressources are well below the EROEI (Energy Return On Energy Invested) of 20:1 that conventional crude oil offers and range between 2:1 for tar sands to about 5:1 for NGLs. By exploiting NGL we will produce huge amounts of CO2 only to burn this expensively won energy to waste it for useless consumption, again.

Unconventional hydrocarbon ressources come with another price. The industry has yet to prove that this technology is safe for the environment and that they are able to recycle the huge amounts of contaminated water they are producing. Actually, I could not find evidence that recycling the contaminated water would not bring down the EROEI to below 1:1, as most of the millions of tons of water are contaminated with saline ingredients that can only be extracted by investing huge amounts of energy. Currently most of the contaminated water is dumped into rivers, pressed into the drilled holes or just dumped on waste disposal sites.

Btw: The recycling that has been implemented so far does not actually restore the water quality but makes parts of it reusable for more fracking while concentrating most of the unwanted chemicals in higher solutions that have to be disposed as toxic waste.

So even without adding the costs for many accidents that have happened, the hidden additional costs for society are high. Just like with nuclear energy, in the end the public sector will probably be made responsible to get rid of the waste that hydraulic fracking and tar sand minig will have produced.

I would also expect the competition for making NGL exploitation cheaper to lead to more sloppiness and an increased chance of accidents and widespread pollution by fracking chemicals.

The lecture, that growth capitalism brings about ruin to mankind will hit us later but harder.

The urgency to take action is higher than ever before. If you are expecting to still live in the year 2075 or if you care for your children enough you will have to actively bring about a change today, Its in your hands now.

(See also George Monbiot in the guardian )

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