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The 2009 EIA Energy Conference: Day 2

Energy and the Media

This was the panel I had been asked to participate in. My fellow panelists were Steven Mufson (one of my favorite mainstream energy reporters), from the Washington Post; Eric Pooley from Harvard, (the former managing editor of Fortune); and Barbara Hagenbaugh from USA Today. The panel was moderated by John Anderson of Resources for the Future.

I can only imagine that a number of people looked at the lineup, looked at my inclusion, and thought “What’s that guy doing up there?” So here’s the background on that. When I was working at the ConocoPhillips Refinery in Billings, Montana, we followed the weekly release of the EIA’s Weekly Petroleum Status Report very closely. We included this information in a weekly supply/demand report, and it helped us to make decisions on how to run the refinery for the upcoming week.

When I started my blog, I began to follow and report on the weekly inventory release, which happens on Wednesday mornings and is followed in the afternoon by This Week in Petroleum. Kyle Saunders (Professor Goose) at The Oil Drum liked the weekly reports and asked me to bring them over to The Oil Drum. This all helped drive more traffic to the EIA website, and helped more people come to appreciate the value of the EIA data.

Doug MacIntyre, at that time the primary author of This Week In Petroleum, started commenting occasionally on my blog, and was quick to answer any questions that readers had. Over time I corresponded with several people at the EIA, and they invited me up to the conference last year. The timing didn’t work out last year as I was in the Netherlands, but this year’s conference was doable. So that’s how I ended up on a panel with the mainstream media.

The panel consisted of use all sitting around a table and taking questions from John, and eventually the audience. I will mostly report on what I said, because it was pretty difficult to take notes while sitting around the table.

The first question was on the price run-up last summer, and whether the media coverage was adequate. We all had somewhat different answers on this, but I took the opportunity to point out that the weekly inventory data can be an important predictor of prices. The plunging gasoline inventory data was the basis of my predictions for $3 and $4 gasoline in the Spring of 2007 and 2008 respectively (which we did in fact see). The other thing I pointed out about this issue is that Google searches on “rising oil/gas prices” probably drive more first-time traffic to my blog than anything else. (Searches for the “water car” are also quite popular).

Next John asked about phony, or false balance in reporting. Before the panel, I had asked readers at my blog and at The Oil Drum for suggestions on topics to cover, and false balance was mentioned by several readers. An example one reader gave was “Scientists report that the earth is round – Flat Earth Institute objects…” So how much credibility do you afford different sides of the debate?

The others on the panel agreed that this was a problem. I made two observations. One, it isn’t always easy to figure out which side is the Flat Earth Institute. I spend a lot of time trying to figure that out at times, especially over newly announced technologies. Second, the good reporters do a lot of research when they are reporting on a story so they can determine who is credible. I noted that Steve Mufson had interviewed me by phone in 2005, and all that came from that hour-long interview was a partial quote in the story. At the time I was annoyed, but later on I came to understand that Mufson was just doing a lot of homework to get the story. Most of his questions were designed to figure out if I knew what I was talking about. The people you have to watch are the ones who call for just a quote.

As an example of false balance, I talked about Brazilian ethanol. Dan Rather and Frank Sesno have both been guilty on their Brazilian ethanol reporting. In hindsight, perhaps their reporting wasn’t false balance so much as completely unbalanced, and lacking any semblance of critical reporting. They both essentially reported the Brazilian ethanol story as “They did it. We can be just like them.” I went on to explain a bit more about the truth of Brazil’s energy independence miracle, which I will update in an upcoming essay (but is also covered in my ASPO presentation from last September (Biofuels: Facts and Fallacies).

There was more discussion about scale (e.g., biofuel versus petroleum usage) and the role bloggers are playing now with respect to reporting news (some specialist bloggers can provide a technical analysis that the mainstream media may lack; on the other hand they don’t always write to journalistic standards). I know I am forgetting some topics, but ultimately John started to take questions.

There were some good questions, but also some instances where the questioner simply wanted to make a point. Morgan Downey asked what energy books I liked. I told him that I was about 250 pages into his book, Oil 101, and that it was a fantastic book. I also mentioned Twilight in the Desert as an influential book on me. I noted that while I had some issues with Twilight, I thought it did a great job of driving home the importance of Saudi Arabia in the world oil picture, and just how important it is that we understand what’s going on there. Finally, I mentioned Gusher of Lies as a book I had really enjoyed.

I was asked about peak oil and the notion that we are running out of oil. I took the opportunity to clarify that peak oil does not mean we are running out of oil – but the media often misconstrues the issue in this manner. I said that we would still have oil in 100 years. Peak oil means that we can’t get it out of the ground fast enough to meet demand, and that if the production peak is near that we are facing some difficult years. (Other than this question and my answer, there was scarce mention of peak oil during the conference).

A representative from (I believe) the California Independent Petroleum Association got up and made a statement that he felt that despite the important role the industry plays, they are being demonized and singled out for punitive taxes. I responded that I could empathize; that one of my greatest concerns is that we will discourage domestic oil and gas production, and then biofuels fail to deliver per expectations. In that case I think we become even more dependent upon OPEC.

Fellow panelist Eric Pooley disagreed and said we need even stronger incentives for moving away from oil. That really misses the point I was making, though. You can have the strongest incentives in the world, but they can’t assure that technology breakthroughs will occur. So while you are promoting one industry at the expense of another, very successful industry that plays a critical role in the world, what is the contingency plan if the incentives don’t pay off?

I was asked about how I come up with ideas for what to write. I said that I browse the news headlines on energy every morning, and that I have Google news alerts on topics like “energy”, “oil prices”, and “peak oil.” If something strikes me as particularly interesting – or particularly wrong – then I may write something about it.

After the panel, a number of people came up and introduced themselves. Some thanked me for speaking up on behalf of the oil and gas industry. One audience member asked me why I don’t write more about “the global warming scam.” As I said to him “I am not touching that with a 10-foot pole.” He asked why, and I said 1). I am not an expert; 2). Discussions over the issue always seem to degenerate into name-calling. I will repeat my position on this. Coming from a science background, I have a healthy respect for scientific consensus in areas where I don’t have specific expertise. On the other hand, the issue has become so polarized that people who do try to discuss the science are frequently shouted down and called names. I don’t endorse those sorts of tactics, no matter how correct you think you might be.

Investing in Oil and Natural Gas – Opportunities and Barriers

Once again, there were two sessions going on simultaneously that I wanted to see. I had to miss Greenhouse Gas Emissions: What’s Next? But I have been a big fan of Deutsche Bank‘s Paul Sankey for several years, and I wasn’t about to miss his panel. Sankey has testified before Congress several times on the oil and gas markets, and I often feel like he is the only one there who knows what he is talking about. (I formerly summarized one of his appearances in Gouging is an Idiotic Explanation). Joining Sankey on the panel were Susan Farrell of PFC Energy, John Felmy of the American Petroleum Institute, and Michelle Foss of the University of Texas. The moderator was Bruce Bawks of the EIA.

The panel agreed that $50 was about the average break even price for oil production today, suggesting that prices are unlikely to fall below that level for long. Farrell commented that worldwide expenditures on exploration and production amounted to $500 billion in 2008. She also noted that oil companies have been unable to arrest the decline rate; that it is in fact increasing. I believe it was also Farrell who suggested that in 2010 the haves would acquire more of the ‘have-nots.’ Someone on the panel stated that the global supply crunch still exists.

I think it was Felmy who said that even if we make a large scale move to hybrids or electric vehicles, 50% of the world’s lithium reserves are in Bolivia. So we may end up trading Chavez for Evo Morales. I don’t know; I think I would make that trade.

As always, Sankey made a lot of interesting comments. He said that while the banks might make a lot of money in a cap and trade system, intellectually it didn’t seem like a good idea to him. He said he preferred a direct carbon tax. He said that we are setting up a slingshot for prices right now, but “2010 could be a bloodbath.” He also said that the overall policy imperative of the new administration seems to be “anything but oil”, but he believes that “attacking the oil and gas industry will be incredibly harmful to the U.S. economy.”

Other Sankey zingers:

“Alaska would rate as one of the ‘countries’ most hostile to the oil industry.”

“I am not sure there is any equity in any bank in the U.S.”

“If we stopped producing gold tomorrow, we have 100 years of supply in inventory. If we stopped producing oil tomorrow, we have 55 days in inventory.”

Finally, someone on the panel (I think it was Sankey) recommended the book Oil on the Brain as providing great insight into the industry. The author, Lisa Margonelli, had a pretty average view of the industry until she delved deeply into the supply chain, traveling to Iran, Nigeria, Chad, and Venezuela. I have not read the book, but will put it on my reading list.

Thus ends my recollections of the conference. As I said in the previous entry, this is not so much a detailed account of everything as it is just my own observations and things that stuck with me as interesting, odd, etc. If you spot something that you think is in error, please let me know. For me, this was an interesting experience, and one that I was glad to be a part of. In conclusion, I want to thank the good people at the EIA for inviting me.

Previous Entries

Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s comments

The 2009 EIA Energy Conference: Day 1

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April 14, 2009 - Posted by | American Petroleum Institute, api, ConocoPhillips, COP, EIA, Energy Information Administration, Paul Sankey, Peak Oil, twip

62 Comments

  1. Thanks for the interesting update Robert. From my impression, it seems that the current constraints on upstream oil development, and the potential consequences thereof, are being downplayed. If so, has the future supply squeeze of crude oil, become a taboo topic? It certainly receives scant attention in the MSM, despite what the EIA seems to openly warn of late.

    Also, was there any mention of a price base for gasoline–either through selective taxation or other measures–to encourage competition among biofuel makers/mass transit/electric and hybrid car development, and conservation, etc.

    Thanks in advance,

    Stuck in Shizuoka

    Comment by stuck in shizuoka | April 14, 2009

  2. Thanks for the interesting update Robert. From my impression, it seems that the current constraints on upstream oil development, and the potential consequences thereof, are being downplayed. If so, has the future supply squeeze of crude oil, become a taboo topic? It certainly receives scant attention in the MSM, despite what the EIA seems to openly warn of late.

    Also, was there any mention of a price base for gasoline–either through selective taxation or other measures–to encourage competition among biofuel makers/mass transit/electric and hybrid car development, and conservation, etc.

    Thanks in advance,

    Stuck in Shizuoka

    Comment by stuck in shizuoka | April 14, 2009

  3. “One audience member asked me why I don’t write more about “the global warming scam.” Here’s a one sentence summary of everything you need to know about climate change:

    “It always gets warmer after an ice age ~ until the next ice age.”

    Comment by Ethan Edwards | April 14, 2009

  4. “One audience member asked me why I don’t write more about “the global warming scam.” Here’s a one sentence summary of everything you need to know about climate change:

    “It always gets warmer after an ice age ~ until the next ice age.”

    Comment by Ethan Edwards | April 14, 2009

  5. “journalistic standards”

    Correct me if I am wrong but when I was growing up it was who, what, where, when, and why.

    I was an avid reader of the local newspaper (Cleveland Plain Dearer, Toledo Blade) and weekly magazines like Time, Newsweek, US News and World Report. We always watched the news on TV.

    It seems like these days that the only thing that you learn from a journalists is what there agenda is.

    Comment by Kit P | April 14, 2009

  6. Kit,
    Sadly capitalism (or call it the free market) killed journalism. Offered a choice between a thoughtful, in-depth analysis of recent news events and Brittany Spears’ latest scandal, most people choose Brittany Spears. Is it any wonder the local news have degenerated into car chases and “live reports” from the scene of a news event several hours (or days) earlier?

    I think it was Felmy who said that even if we make a large scale move to hybrids or electric vehicles, 50% of the world’s lithium reserves are in Bolivia. So we may end up trading Chavez for Evo Morales. I don’t know; I think I would make that trade.Talk about missing the point! Lithium can be used thousands of times in a battery, oil can be used once (maybe twice). And even after your lithium battery dies, you could rip it apart and recycle the lithium.

    Felmy sounds like a Peak Everything scare mongerer…

    Comment by Optimist | April 14, 2009

  7. Kit,
    Sadly capitalism (or call it the free market) killed journalism. Offered a choice between a thoughtful, in-depth analysis of recent news events and Brittany Spears’ latest scandal, most people choose Brittany Spears. Is it any wonder the local news have degenerated into car chases and “live reports” from the scene of a news event several hours (or days) earlier?

    I think it was Felmy who said that even if we make a large scale move to hybrids or electric vehicles, 50% of the world’s lithium reserves are in Bolivia. So we may end up trading Chavez for Evo Morales. I don’t know; I think I would make that trade.Talk about missing the point! Lithium can be used thousands of times in a battery, oil can be used once (maybe twice). And even after your lithium battery dies, you could rip it apart and recycle the lithium.

    Felmy sounds like a Peak Everything scare mongerer…

    Comment by Optimist | April 14, 2009

  8. One audience member asked me why I don’t write more about “the global warming scam.” As I said to him “I am not touching that with a 10-foot pole.” He asked why, and I said 1). I am not an expert; 2). Discussions over the issue always seem to degenerate into name-calling. I will repeat my position on this. Coming from a science background, I have a healthy respect for scientific consensus in areas where I don’t have specific expertise. On the other hand, the issue has become so polarized that people who do try to discuss the science are frequently shouted down and called names. I don’t endorse those sorts of tactics, no matter how correct you think you might be.Well said, RR!

    Not that the audience member was particularly interested in an objective debate…

    Comment by Optimist | April 15, 2009

  9. One audience member asked me why I don’t write more about “the global warming scam.” As I said to him “I am not touching that with a 10-foot pole.” He asked why, and I said 1). I am not an expert; 2). Discussions over the issue always seem to degenerate into name-calling. I will repeat my position on this. Coming from a science background, I have a healthy respect for scientific consensus in areas where I don’t have specific expertise. On the other hand, the issue has become so polarized that people who do try to discuss the science are frequently shouted down and called names. I don’t endorse those sorts of tactics, no matter how correct you think you might be.Well said, RR!

    Not that the audience member was particularly interested in an objective debate…

    Comment by Optimist | April 15, 2009

  10. Oil on the Brain’s a great book, the image of the shifts of roughnecks coming and going while the driller expounds on his life and the status of the car outside with its hood up and the axe on the engine block will stick in your mind big time. It’s an effortless read, too.

    Slightly behind you in Oil 101 but then I tend to read 5 books at once. Another great tome. I was struck by his very even tone being put on hold for a flat out vituperative rejection of oil shale. For the curious, he effectively states that extracting kerogen will never be economical and that it’s a waste of time to even discuss.

    Forget about adding search terms for Google – #2 hit for “oil” is LATOC. peakoil.com and TOD are a bit further down, after Upton Sinclair, DOE, and Wikipedia. The meme has landed!

    Comment by The Dude | April 15, 2009

  11. Pffft……consensus?Conferences like these don’t seem to have a lot of value, other than to stroke egos and create fodder for newspapers, IMHO. But then again, that is why we get out of bed everyday, to search for ways to get our egos stroked.

    The info presented has already been covered many times in many places.

    I find it interesting that someone assumed you would think global warming was a “scam” simply because you are critical of biofuels and offer realistic warnings about oil policy. Only a matter of time before you are asked to be on the board of the creation science museum.

    Note that coal is on the ropes also. Permits to build coal plants are being denied almost as fast as biofuel refineries are going bankrupt.

    Comment by Russ Finley | April 15, 2009

  12. Pffft……consensus?Conferences like these don’t seem to have a lot of value, other than to stroke egos and create fodder for newspapers, IMHO. But then again, that is why we get out of bed everyday, to search for ways to get our egos stroked.

    The info presented has already been covered many times in many places.

    I find it interesting that someone assumed you would think global warming was a “scam” simply because you are critical of biofuels and offer realistic warnings about oil policy. Only a matter of time before you are asked to be on the board of the creation science museum.

    Note that coal is on the ropes also. Permits to build coal plants are being denied almost as fast as biofuel refineries are going bankrupt.

    Comment by Russ Finley | April 15, 2009

  13. just have to take issue with RR’s “not enough oil to meet demand” comment, regarding Peak Oil in the future. Price rations supply and demand. There is always enough oil to meet demand.
    A rational question is, “Will oil become prohibitively expensive?”
    Right now, it looks like plenty of oil for at least five more years. We have a glut despite OPEC-cartel cutbucks, and major oil nations (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mexico, Venezuela, Nigeria, Angoloa) run by thugs. Even Russia.
    On top of that, it seems we are entering the age of supergiant natural gas fields, luckily enough in the USA.
    By the way, I am in Thailand, and one out of, say, 10 large trucks is loaded up with CNG torpedoes. They run on natural gas. I am told Bangkok taxis switched to natural gas, and are now hurting as oil is cheaper.
    BTW Robin Mills book deserves mention in any Peak Oil forum. His outlook is that we have plenty of oil.

    Comment by Benny "Centipede Glut" Cole | April 15, 2009

  14. If you would like to seriously argue on a scientific basis over AGW without being called names, you can go to Watts Up With That or to Climate Audit, no problem.

    Comment by Nick de Cusa | April 15, 2009

  15. If you would like to seriously argue on a scientific basis over AGW without being called names, you can go to Watts Up With That or to Climate Audit, no problem.

    Comment by Nick de Cusa | April 15, 2009

  16. “Note that coal is on the ropes also. Permits to build coal plants are being denied …”

    Really, is that your consensus view Russ?

    I can look up the numbers Russ but it is something like 17,000 MWe of new coal plants being constructed right now. NG construction is a close second. How many times did Edison fail before he invented the light bulb? It would appear that coal is on a very long winning streak.

    In fact there is not regulatory reason coal plants can not be built in most US locations. If air quality is already impact because of too many cars and the logistics of coal transportation are expensive, nukes are the next logical choice.

    Comment by Kit P | April 15, 2009

  17. Although I did so at the Conference, I would like to once again thank Robert for making time in his extremely busy schedule to agree to be a speaker at EIA’s Annual Conference. He certainly provided a perspective that would have been lacking if he did not attend.

    Comment by Doug MacIntyre | April 15, 2009

  18. Although I did so at the Conference, I would like to once again thank Robert for making time in his extremely busy schedule to agree to be a speaker at EIA’s Annual Conference. He certainly provided a perspective that would have been lacking if he did not attend.

    Comment by Doug MacIntyre | April 15, 2009

  19. Doug, it was my pleasure to be there. I also wanted to apologize to you. When I was talking, I referred to you as “former author of This Week in Petroleum.” I know you were always quick to point out that there were others involved in the effort, so I hope nobody was offended by the way I phrased it.

    Cheers, Robert

    Comment by Robert Rapier | April 15, 2009

  20. Doug, it was my pleasure to be there. I also wanted to apologize to you. When I was talking, I referred to you as “former author of This Week in Petroleum.” I know you were always quick to point out that there were others involved in the effort, so I hope nobody was offended by the way I phrased it.

    Cheers, Robert

    Comment by Robert Rapier | April 15, 2009

  21. Robert,

    No need to apologize. From January 2002 through August 2007, I probably did write close to 90% of the TWIPs. However, since the Fall of 2007, suthorship is more widespread and I personally only do 2-3 a year. Your description was accurate.

    Comment by Doug MacIntyre | April 15, 2009

  22. Kit P is right. The reports of coal’s death are very premature. There is a lot of coal fired power being built as we speak. But you wouldn’t get that impression if you read just environmental news sources.

    I know there are some companies whose strategy is to “flood the zone” by submitting more permits than are actually required to force environmental NGOs to waste their resources protesting plants that utilities don’t really need. So it may look like coal is being rejected.

    Supercritical steam pulverized coal plants are about 43% efficient and produce much less pollution than the 30+ year old plants they would replace.

    I’ve argued with environmentalists that their opposition to nuclear power in the 1980s and their opposition to new, cleaner and more efficient coal plants has extended the life of inefficient dirty coal power. So environmental opposition has made the environment WORSE, not better. They really don’t want to have this argument and go ad hominem immediately or they counter with “mountaintop removal” as if those are magic words. Except that less than 10% of the coal is produced this way. Most of our domestic coal comes from the Powder River basin in Wyoming.

    Comment by KingofKaty | April 15, 2009

  23. Kit P is right. The reports of coal’s death are very premature. There is a lot of coal fired power being built as we speak. But you wouldn’t get that impression if you read just environmental news sources.

    I know there are some companies whose strategy is to “flood the zone” by submitting more permits than are actually required to force environmental NGOs to waste their resources protesting plants that utilities don’t really need. So it may look like coal is being rejected.

    Supercritical steam pulverized coal plants are about 43% efficient and produce much less pollution than the 30+ year old plants they would replace.

    I’ve argued with environmentalists that their opposition to nuclear power in the 1980s and their opposition to new, cleaner and more efficient coal plants has extended the life of inefficient dirty coal power. So environmental opposition has made the environment WORSE, not better. They really don’t want to have this argument and go ad hominem immediately or they counter with “mountaintop removal” as if those are magic words. Except that less than 10% of the coal is produced this way. Most of our domestic coal comes from the Powder River basin in Wyoming.

    Comment by KingofKaty | April 15, 2009

  24. There are still journalists that do a good job of reporting on energy issues such as Dave Flessner Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tenn.

    I just read a news piece where he covered the 5-Ws in the first 50 words. The essence was covered quickly and I could choose to read more.

    What I want from journalist is information, not their agenda.

    Comment by Kit P | April 15, 2009

  25. There are still journalists that do a good job of reporting on energy issues such as Dave Flessner Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tenn.

    I just read a news piece where he covered the 5-Ws in the first 50 words. The essence was covered quickly and I could choose to read more.

    What I want from journalist is information, not their agenda.

    Comment by Kit P | April 15, 2009

  26. There are still journalists that do a good job of reporting on energy issues such as Dave Flessner Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tenn.Feel free to share the link(s), then.

    What I want from journalist is information, not their agenda.True, but the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Even some of the worst opinionated pieces out there still contain useful information, often contrary to the agenda.

    Sometimes you just need a thick skin and a discerning mind. Can’t imagine that you lack either…

    Comment by Optimist | April 15, 2009

  27. One audience member asked me why I don’t write more about “the global warming scam.”Frankly, Robert, I don't believe the answers you gave to your questioner.

    Your clear-sighted posts on your blog show that you are a quick study, and a perceptive thinker. You are also very willing to buck the concensus on other topics.

    If you do not know enough to have an opinion about the viability of the Anthropogenic Global Warming hypothesis, it is because you have consciously chosen not to learn. If you have a high regard for an artificial "consensus" on AGW, it is again your conscious choice.

    The science is accessible & fairly straightforward. There are many reputable figures who discuss the weaknesses of the AGW hypothesis in straightforward technical terms. The unfortunate "ad hominems" come almost entirely from the AGW believers. But you knew that.

    It is quite understandable that you don't want to offend a lot of friends by reaching the obvious conclusions on AGW. But you need a better excuse for continuing to look the other way.

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | April 15, 2009

  28. One audience member asked me why I don’t write more about “the global warming scam.”Frankly, Robert, I don't believe the answers you gave to your questioner.

    Your clear-sighted posts on your blog show that you are a quick study, and a perceptive thinker. You are also very willing to buck the concensus on other topics.

    If you do not know enough to have an opinion about the viability of the Anthropogenic Global Warming hypothesis, it is because you have consciously chosen not to learn. If you have a high regard for an artificial "consensus" on AGW, it is again your conscious choice.

    The science is accessible & fairly straightforward. There are many reputable figures who discuss the weaknesses of the AGW hypothesis in straightforward technical terms. The unfortunate "ad hominems" come almost entirely from the AGW believers. But you knew that.

    It is quite understandable that you don't want to offend a lot of friends by reaching the obvious conclusions on AGW. But you need a better excuse for continuing to look the other way.

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | April 15, 2009

  29. If you do not know enough to have an opinion about the viability of the Anthropogenic Global Warming hypothesis, it is because you have consciously chosen not to learn.There is no denying that. I used to debate Creationists a lot. Keeping up with the science, and understand both sides of the argument took a lot of time. It was a while before I was really proficient in those debates, and maintaining proficiency was time consuming.

    I don’t have time to become proficient and stay proficient in an area like global warming. There is clearly a lot of data to be interpreted, and the science isn’t static. I just don’t have time for that without giving something else up.

    RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | April 15, 2009

  30. I appreciate your stance on the debating issue – stick with what you know. Many people don’t have those qualms though.

    Too many ‘know’ and chatter without understanding! This tendency makes many green sites more trouble than they are worth.

    Comment by Russ | April 16, 2009

  31. I appreciate your stance on the debating issue – stick with what you know. Many people don’t have those qualms though.

    Too many ‘know’ and chatter without understanding! This tendency makes many green sites more trouble than they are worth.

    Comment by Russ | April 16, 2009

  32. “…and the science isn’t static.”That’s the entire key to understanding climate change ~ it’s dynamic.

    The Earth has been both colder and warmer in the past than it is now. The Earth will be both colder and warmer in the future than it is now.

    And it always gets warmer after an Ice Age ~ until the next Ice Age arrives.

    Comment by Ethan Edwards | April 16, 2009

  33. Chemical engineers rely heavily on computer modeling to do their work, this gives us an insight into the limitations of computer modeling, equations of state, thermodynamics, and other topics related to climate science. I talk to a lot of ChE’s who privately say AGW theory is bunk, but are afraid to say it publicly, particularly if they teach at a university. So I can understand Robert’s relucance to weigh in on it – no matter what his opinion is.

    I’m in the camp that AGW isn’t a huge deal, a couple of degrees maybe. Catastrophic scenarios rely on highly positive feedback loops. Nature is dominated not by positive feedback but by negative feedback. The fact that CO2 levels have been 2,000 ppm and the planet didn’t feedback into a big crispy ball tells me that it is unlikely to happen.

    Besides, I think that Robert’s company is going to save the world by locking lots of CO2 in attractive yet durable furniture and other wood products.

    Comment by KingofKaty | April 16, 2009

  34. Chemical engineers rely heavily on computer modeling to do their work, this gives us an insight into the limitations of computer modeling, equations of state, thermodynamics, and other topics related to climate science. I talk to a lot of ChE’s who privately say AGW theory is bunk, but are afraid to say it publicly, particularly if they teach at a university. So I can understand Robert’s relucance to weigh in on it – no matter what his opinion is.

    I’m in the camp that AGW isn’t a huge deal, a couple of degrees maybe. Catastrophic scenarios rely on highly positive feedback loops. Nature is dominated not by positive feedback but by negative feedback. The fact that CO2 levels have been 2,000 ppm and the planet didn’t feedback into a big crispy ball tells me that it is unlikely to happen.

    Besides, I think that Robert’s company is going to save the world by locking lots of CO2 in attractive yet durable furniture and other wood products.

    Comment by KingofKaty | April 16, 2009

  35. “I don’t have time to become proficient and stay proficient in an area like global warming.”Robert, you have found time to make yourself sufficiently proficient in the difficult area of cellulosic ethanol to have a point of view. Many would argue that it is harder to come to a conclusion about the basic viability of cellulosic ethanol than about anthropogenic global warming.

    We (the human race) are moving into a period when there is increasing political pressure to use limited resources to "fight" anthropogenic global warming — and consequently not to use those resources to do other things, like provide better health care or improve the lives of the ~4 Billion human beings outside the OECD. Is that the right choice?

    It is going to become increasingly difficult for any serious person to pretend that the whole topic is just too difficult & time-consuming. Where is that admirable Robert Rapier who asks himself difficult questions, like "What if I am wrong?"?

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | April 16, 2009

  36. Robert, you have found time to make yourself sufficiently proficient in the difficult area of cellulosic ethanol to have a point of view.Ah, but that’s very different. I already had a background there. That is the basis of my graduate research. So that wasn’t just something I took on and learned in my spare time.

    Where is that admirable Robert Rapier who asks himself difficult questions, like “What if I am wrong?”?Global warming will be a part of that essay. The thing is, I think the reason that this issue brings out such bitter feelings is that each side feels that the other is wrong, but more importantly that the consequences of being wrong are apocalyptic.

    RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | April 16, 2009

  37. Robert, you have found time to make yourself sufficiently proficient in the difficult area of cellulosic ethanol to have a point of view.Ah, but that’s very different. I already had a background there. That is the basis of my graduate research. So that wasn’t just something I took on and learned in my spare time.

    Where is that admirable Robert Rapier who asks himself difficult questions, like “What if I am wrong?”?Global warming will be a part of that essay. The thing is, I think the reason that this issue brings out such bitter feelings is that each side feels that the other is wrong, but more importantly that the consequences of being wrong are apocalyptic.

    RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | April 16, 2009

  38. “…that the consequences of being wrong are apocalyptic.”That’s not true. The Earth has been through worse than anything humans can do to it and survived nicely.

    Examples:

    * The Chicxulub meteorite strike ~ 65 million years ago. Another one of those (and its inevitable) would be a true apocalypse and make AGW seem trivial.

    * Where I live has been under a mile or more of ice at least four times that scientists can determine.

    * The Earth has been hotter and sea level has been much higher in the past than now. In fact, much of what is now Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado was under water about 50 million years ago. Anywhere you find sedimentary rocks (limestone, marble, shale, sandstone, etc.) was an area once under water. In terms of geologic time, it’s not at all unusual for ocean levels to be higher than they are now and for vast areas to be under water.

    The Earth will still be here long after humans are extinct.

    Comment by Ethan Edwards | April 16, 2009

  39. “…that the consequences of being wrong are apocalyptic.”That’s not true. The Earth has been through worse than anything humans can do to it and survived nicely.

    Examples:

    * The Chicxulub meteorite strike ~ 65 million years ago. Another one of those (and its inevitable) would be a true apocalypse and make AGW seem trivial.

    * Where I live has been under a mile or more of ice at least four times that scientists can determine.

    * The Earth has been hotter and sea level has been much higher in the past than now. In fact, much of what is now Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado was under water about 50 million years ago. Anywhere you find sedimentary rocks (limestone, marble, shale, sandstone, etc.) was an area once under water. In terms of geologic time, it’s not at all unusual for ocean levels to be higher than they are now and for vast areas to be under water.

    The Earth will still be here long after humans are extinct.

    Comment by Ethan Edwards | April 16, 2009

  40. Ima here for info on deh water car. Isn it relate to the Phish carborayter the plans of same which Judge Crater was going to put into the publix domain before PG&E stold them? Is this the place?

    Comment by HalfEmpty | April 16, 2009

  41. Ima here for info on deh water car. Isn it relate to the Phish carborayter the plans of same which Judge Crater was going to put into the publix domain before PG&E stold them? Is this the place?

    Comment by HalfEmpty | April 16, 2009

  42. That’s not true. The Earth has been through worse than anything humans can do to it and survived nicely.It is try that this is what they think. They think that there could be a runaway greenhouse effect and doom almost all life. That’s one side.

    The other side thinks the consequences won’t amount to much, but that the economic fallout from trying to aggressively combat CO2 emissions could be devastating. Hence, you have two sides who each feel that the position of the other side will lead to disaster.

    RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | April 16, 2009

  43. The IMF said today the global recovery will be long and slow.
    For oil, that means demand will be limp for years, maybe even decades.
    Oil demand tends to take a long time to recovery after price spikes, and this oil-demand picture is worsened by the terrible global economic outlook.
    My guess is that Peak Demand was hit in 2007, and we will see slow declines from that level, perhaps continuously, for decades.
    The Wall Street Journal recently published a story essentially saying that gasoline demand in USA was already permanently past its peak. The huffing-and-puffing about USA inventories and refinery capacity will have to take into account permanently declining demand for gasoline.
    I just do not see any problems in medium-term with oil or natural gas supplies, quite the opposite.

    Comment by benny "centipede glut" cole | April 16, 2009

  44. RR – you haven’t gotten the memo? Converting from fossil fuels to renewables is some kind of free lunch that creates oodles of jobs, and will save our economy for ruin, or something like that.

    If you love ethanol, you are sure to love the Democrat cap and trade plan with a renewable portfolio standard! Of course the laws of unintended consequences have been abolished for all such plans!

    Comment by KingofKaty | April 16, 2009

  45. RR – you haven’t gotten the memo? Converting from fossil fuels to renewables is some kind of free lunch that creates oodles of jobs, and will save our economy for ruin, or something like that.

    If you love ethanol, you are sure to love the Democrat cap and trade plan with a renewable portfolio standard! Of course the laws of unintended consequences have been abolished for all such plans!

    Comment by KingofKaty | April 16, 2009

  46. I just do not see any problems in medium-term with oil or natural gas supplies, quite the opposite.Oh yeah? What about this sentiment: No amount of bearish news, it seems, can push oil far away from the $50 barrier.What happens when the economy starts showing signs of life, Benny, whenever that may be?

    Comment by Optimist | April 16, 2009

  47. I just do not see any problems in medium-term with oil or natural gas supplies, quite the opposite.Oh yeah? What about this sentiment: No amount of bearish news, it seems, can push oil far away from the $50 barrier.What happens when the economy starts showing signs of life, Benny, whenever that may be?

    Comment by Optimist | April 16, 2009

  48. RR – you haven’t gotten the memo? Converting from fossil fuels to renewables is some kind of free lunch that creates oodles of jobs, and will save our economy for ruin, or something like that.
    Almost as bad as the sentiment that doing anything to reduce GHG emissions instantly kills the economy, especially in the USA…

    Comment by Optimist | April 16, 2009

  49. RR – you haven’t gotten the memo? Converting from fossil fuels to renewables is some kind of free lunch that creates oodles of jobs, and will save our economy for ruin, or something like that.
    Almost as bad as the sentiment that doing anything to reduce GHG emissions instantly kills the economy, especially in the USA…

    Comment by Optimist | April 16, 2009

  50. Robert, if you do decide to develop your proficiency in the area of global warming, there are two pieces of literature that are absolutely essential to understanding the subject.

    They are not found in scientific journals, but they reveal an in depth analysis of human nature and emotion. They are the stories Chicken Little and The Emperor’s New Clothes. If you understand these fables, you will have a firm foundation for understanding what the global warming issue is all about.

    For the record, I think that changing the composition of our atmosphere is not a good thing and it requires a rational solution.

    Comment by Dennis Moore | April 17, 2009

  51. Robert, if you do decide to develop your proficiency in the area of global warming, there are two pieces of literature that are absolutely essential to understanding the subject.

    They are not found in scientific journals, but they reveal an in depth analysis of human nature and emotion. They are the stories Chicken Little and The Emperor’s New Clothes. If you understand these fables, you will have a firm foundation for understanding what the global warming issue is all about.

    For the record, I think that changing the composition of our atmosphere is not a good thing and it requires a rational solution.

    Comment by Dennis Moore | April 17, 2009

  52. Almost as bad as the sentiment that doing anything to reduce GHG emissions instantly kills the economy, especially in the USA…

    No the green jobs myth is much worse because those promoting know they are distorting the facts to achieve a policy goal. They only report gross job gains and ignore net losses. The best green jobs study around comes from two economists in Spain. They found that for every 4 so-called green jobs created, the general economy lost 9 jobs – a net loss to the economy.

    The green jobs myth people like to make up meaningless statistics like there are more wind jobs than coal MINING jobs. Where they did everything they could to inflate wind employment (if you took a picture of a wind turbine they may have counted you as an “Alternative energy photojournalist”).

    Democrats derided Bush 43’s policy as creating “hamburger flipper” jobs. These so called “green jobs” really are the “hamburger flippers” of the energy business. Low wages, poor working conditions.

    Comment by KingofKaty | April 17, 2009

  53. Almost as bad as the sentiment that doing anything to reduce GHG emissions instantly kills the economy, especially in the USA…

    No the green jobs myth is much worse because those promoting know they are distorting the facts to achieve a policy goal. They only report gross job gains and ignore net losses. The best green jobs study around comes from two economists in Spain. They found that for every 4 so-called green jobs created, the general economy lost 9 jobs – a net loss to the economy.

    The green jobs myth people like to make up meaningless statistics like there are more wind jobs than coal MINING jobs. Where they did everything they could to inflate wind employment (if you took a picture of a wind turbine they may have counted you as an “Alternative energy photojournalist”).

    Democrats derided Bush 43’s policy as creating “hamburger flipper” jobs. These so called “green jobs” really are the “hamburger flippers” of the energy business. Low wages, poor working conditions.

    Comment by KingofKaty | April 17, 2009

  54. “The Emperor’s New Clothes”Are you saying that someone needs to confront Al Gore and tell him that metaphorically, he is wearing no clothes?

    Comment by Andrew Bazalgette | April 17, 2009

  55. “The Emperor’s New Clothes”Are you saying that someone needs to confront Al Gore and tell him that metaphorically, he is wearing no clothes?

    Comment by Andrew Bazalgette | April 17, 2009

  56. Democrats derided Bush 43’s policy as creating “hamburger flipper” jobs.Dubya created any jobs? Not in total. Maybe for a short while.

    But it was noticeable that recent economic recoveries tend to be more and more jobless recoveries.

    In fairness, that trend is way above Dubya’s pay grade.

    Comment by Optimist | April 17, 2009

  57. There are still journalists that do a good job of reporting on energy issues such as Dave Flessner Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tenn. Feel free to share the link(s), then.

    http://tinyurl.com/c7q5cf

    Comment by Anonymous | April 18, 2009

  58. There are still journalists that do a good job of reporting on energy issues such as Dave Flessner Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tenn. Feel free to share the link(s), then.

    http://tinyurl.com/c7q5cf

    Comment by Anonymous | April 18, 2009

  59. Are you saying that someone needs to confront Al Gore and tell him that metaphorically, he is wearing no clothesAl Gore plays many roles, sometimes he’s Chicken Little, the sky is falling. Sometimes he’s Turkey Lurkey, someone told me the sky is falling. Sometimes he’s Foxey Loxey, eager to profit off the hysteria of others.

    The role he loves most is of course, the emperor, showing off how smart and noble he is. With a slideshow so fancy that only a fool would not believe it.

    But if you really want to understand Al Gore you need to watch the South Park ManBearPig episode.

    Comment by Dennis Moore | April 18, 2009

  60. Are you saying that someone needs to confront Al Gore and tell him that metaphorically, he is wearing no clothesAl Gore plays many roles, sometimes he’s Chicken Little, the sky is falling. Sometimes he’s Turkey Lurkey, someone told me the sky is falling. Sometimes he’s Foxey Loxey, eager to profit off the hysteria of others.

    The role he loves most is of course, the emperor, showing off how smart and noble he is. With a slideshow so fancy that only a fool would not believe it.

    But if you really want to understand Al Gore you need to watch the South Park ManBearPig episode.

    Comment by Dennis Moore | April 18, 2009

  61. See ManBearPig episode

    Comment by Dennis Moore | April 19, 2009

  62. See ManBearPig episode

    Comment by Dennis Moore | April 19, 2009


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