Friday, December 28, 2007

Peak Energy, Coal Reserves, and Climate Change

The blog The Oil Drum has posted a writing by Dave Rutledge, the Chair for the Division of Engineering and Applied Science at Caltech. In this post and in a YouTube video Rutledge makes a few basic claims or revelations, that if correct, should profoundly affect how we (the United States and the World) treat the issues of energy supply and climate change. Also see a webpage posted by Dave Rutledge where you can download his power point presentation and Excel files.

The three basic points he makes are:

1. Coal reserve estimates are inaccurate, outdated (derived and unchanged significantly since 1974), and in need of revision quite a bit downward. He references a National Academies report that discusses the need for new and accurate accounts of coal reserves and resources.

2. Hydrocarbon (oil and natural gas) and coal resources are well below those that are use by the IPCC climate models to estimate future global warming. The end result is that there is not enough mineable fossil fuels to cause the warming and sea level rises that are being predicted. For example, in some IPCC models, oil production is assumed larger in 2100 than today. Is this possible? Does this mean the use of tar sands and oil shale, or is using those resources even not enough? Rutledge's discussion of this concept makes it seem unlikely that new sources will take up the slack.

3. For climate change reasons, or fossil fuel depletion reasons, work on implementation and research and development into renewable energy systems is an imperative. I'll add not energy efficiency per se, but energy reductions that still enable us, as humans, to continue to be healthy and interact culturally as needed to have good lifestyles.

I will not further discuss this topic as one should refer to the links within this post for further information from the Dave Rutledge himself.

No comments: