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PMC Articles Tagged 'fossil fuels'

Resource Depletion is a Bigger Threat than Climate Change

April 9th, 2012 by joe | Add a Comment

Bill Ryerson sent me the link to the following interview, featuring energy specialist Dr. Tom Murphy, an associate professor of physics at the University of California. If you are interested in the “future of energy”, this will no doubt be an enjoyable read for you. See: http://321energy.com/editorials/oilprice/oilprice032412.html (You may also find Dr. Murphy’s “Do The Math” blog to be of interest): http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/

“It is no surprise that the phenomenal surge in population and living standards/expectations in the last few hundred years – both a direct consequence of exploiting our fossil fuel inheritance – should be exposing fault lines every which way. “

Resource Depletion is a Bigger Threat than Climate Change

Tom Murphy interview with James Stafford, March 25th, 2012

Rising geopolitical tensions and high oil prices are continuing to help renewable energy find favour amongst investors and politicians. Yet how much faith should we place in renewables to make up the shortfall in fossil fuels? Can science really solve our energy problems, and which sectors offers the best hope for our energy future?

To help us get to the bottom of this we spoke with energy specialist Dr. Tom Murphy, an associate professor of physics at the University of California. Tom runs the popular energy blog Do the Math which takes an astrophysicist’s-eye view of societal issues relating to energy production, climate change, and economic growth.

In the interview Tom talks about the following:

  • Why we shouldn’t get too excited over the shale boom
  • Why resource depletion is a greater threat than climate change
  • Why Fukushima should not be seen as a reason to abandon nuclear
  • Why the Keystone XL pipeline may do little to help US energy security
  • Why renewables have difficulty mitigating a liquid fuels shortage
  • Why we shouldn’t rely on science to solve our energy problems
  • Forget fusion and thorium breeders – artificial photosynthesis would be a bigger game changer

Oilprice.com: Whilst you have proven that no renewable energy source can replace fossil fuels on its own. Which source is the most promising for providing cheap, abundant, clean energy?

Tom Murphy: First let me say that I think “proven” is too strong a word.  But yes, I have certainly indicated as much.  When it comes to cheap, clean, and abundant, I am drawn to solar.  I don’t care if it’s two or three times the cost of fossil fuel energy – that’s still cheap. Abundance is unquestionable, and I don’t see manufacturing as being inordinately caustic. The fact that I have panels on my roof feeding batteries in my garage only confirms for me the viability of this source of energy. Wind and next-generation nuclear also deserve mention as potential large-scale sources. Yet none of these help directly with a liquid fuels shortage.

Oilprice.com: Bill Gates has stated that innovation in energy can take 50-60 years to take effect. How then do you believe that that the ARPA-E’s short term objectives for projects can be helpful for solving current energy problems?

Tom Murphy: I applaud any effort that takes our energy challenge seriously, and gets boots on the ground chasing all manner of ideas.  If nothing else, it raises awareness about our predicament.  At the same time, I worry about our technofix culture with a tendency to interpret news clips about ARPA-E projects to mean that we have loads of viable solutions in the hopper. Many of the ideas are just batty.  And right – to the extent that implantation of innovation can take decades, we may find ourselves in a squeeze – wondering where all those funky news blurbs went.

To read the full interview, please click here: http://321energy.com/editorials/oilprice/oilprice032412.html

Dwindling Resources Trigger Global Land Rush

March 5th, 2012 by joe | Add a Comment

Thanks to Mark O’Connor, co-author of Overloading Australia, for sending this article, in which a representative of Friends of the Earth declares that “The devastating impact being inflicted on ecosystems and communities must be recognised as international crimes and punished accordingly.” See: http://ipsnews.net/2012/03/dwindling-resources-trigger-global-land-rush/

Dwindling Resources Trigger Global Land Rush
By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Mar 1 2012 (IPS) – A global scramble for land and mineral resources fuelled by billions of investment dollars is threatening the last remaining wilderness and critical ecosystems, destroying communities and contaminating huge volumes of fresh water, warned environmental groups in London Wednesday.

No national park, delicate ecosystem or community is off limits in the voracious hunt for valuable metals, minerals and fossil fuels, said the Gaia Foundation’s report, “Opening Pandora’s Box”. The intensity of the hunt and exploitation is building to a fever pitch despite the fact the Earth is already overheated and humanity is using more than can be sustained, the 56-page report warns.

“We’re calling for a global moratorium on large-scale new mining, extraction and prospecting,” said Teresa Anderson of The Gaia Foundation, an international NGO headquartered in London, UK that works with local communities.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has recently warned of the threats to World Heritage Sites from planned mining and oil and gas projects. One in four iconic natural areas in Africa is negatively affected, the report notes.

“No matter where you live, land acquisitions for mining, oil or gas are coming,” Anderson told IPS following the report’s launch in London.

The easy-to-get resources are gone. Now the extractive industries, funded by pension funds and commodities speculators, are using new technologies like fracking for natural gas to get at previously unprofitable resources.

To read the full article, please click here: http://ipsnews.net/2012/03/dwindling-resources-trigger-global-land-rush/

Humanity Can and Must Do More with Less: UNEP Report

May 25th, 2011 by joe | Add a Comment

Thanks to Eric Rimmer for this article.  See http://www.unep.org/Documents.Multilingual/Default.asp?DocumentID=2641&ArticleID=8734&l=en

Humanity Can and Must Do More with Less: UNEP Report

New York/ Nairobi, 12 May 2011 -

By 2050, humanity could consume an estimated 140 billion tons of minerals, ores, fossil fuels and biomass per year – three times its current appetite – unless the economic growth rate is “decoupled” from the rate of natural resource consumption, warns a new report from the United Nations Environment Programme.

Developed countries citizens consume an average of 16 tons of those four key resources per capita (ranging up to 40 or more tons per person in some developed countries). By comparison, the average person in India today consumes four tons per year.

With the growth of both population and prosperity, especially in developing countries, the prospect of much higher resource consumption levels is “far beyond what is likely sustainable” if realized at all given finite world resources, warns the report by UNEP’s International Resource Panel.

Already the world is running out of cheap and high quality sources of some essential materials such as oil, copper and gold, the supplies of which, in turn, require ever-rising volumes of fossil fuels and freshwater to produce.

To read the full article, please click here: http://www.unep.org/Documents.Multilingual/Default.asp?DocumentID=2641&ArticleID=8734&l=en

Let’s Stop Thinking About CO2 Emissions and Address the Real Problem

May 19th, 2011 by joe | 1 Comment

Thanks to Ed Barry for this draft paper he wrote.

Rough Draft – 2/28/2011

Global Warming and Climate Change -

Let’s Stop Thinking About CO2 Emissions and Address the Real Problem

By Ed Barry

Abstract:  This paper proposes a novel cap and trade solution to the GWCC problem called “cap-and-capture”; one that is substantially different from proposals currently being debated in the international dialogue.  The most important differentiating feature of this proposal is that global carbon sequestration capacity is emphasized.  Under this proposal strong economic incentives would be put in place to protect and stimulate the long term growth of this important ecosystem service.  At the same time, strong pricing incentives would promote energy conservation and the necessary global transition from fossil fuels to alternative clean-fuel technologies.  The proposed solution would be relatively simple to administer.  As with any cap and trade system, scientific guidance is required to establish proper carbon caps – in this case carbon extraction limits – and once this is done, natural economic market forces would take-over to ‘manage the system.’  Other significant advantages of this unique cap-and-capture approach are discussed.

Questions about this proposal may be directed to E. A. Barry at the Sustainable World Initiative; phone: 541-441-1650,

email: (ebarry@SustainaleWorldInitiative.net), 107 Second Street NE, Washington DC, 20002

Read the rest of this entry »

Peak phosphorus

May 2nd, 2011 by joe | Add a Comment

Thanks to Charles Hall for this article.  See http://www.energybulletin.net/node/33164

Published Aug 13 2007 by Energy Bulletin, Archived Aug 13 2007

Peak phosphorus

by Patrick Déry and Bart Anderson

Peak oil has made us aware that many of the resources on which civilization depends are limited.

M. King Hubbert, a geophysicist for Shell Oil, found that oil production over time followed a curve that was roughly bell-shaped. He correctly predicted that oil production in the lower 48 states would peak in 1970. Other analysts following Hubbert’s methods are predicting a peak in oil production early this century.

The depletion analysis pioneered by Hubbert can be applied to other non-renewable resources. Analysts have looked at peak production for resources such as natural gas, coal and uranium.

In this paper, Patrick Déry applies Hubbert’s methods to a very special non-renewable resource – phosphorus – a nutrient essential for agriculture.

In the literature, estimates before we “run out” of phosphorus range from 50 to 130 years. This date is conveniently far enough in the future so that immediate action does not seem necessary. However, as we know from peak oil analysis, trouble begins not when we “run out” of a resource, but when production peaks. From that point onward, the resource becomes more difficult to extract and more expensive.

To read the full article, please click here: http://www.energybulletin.net/node/33164

The influence of constrained fossil fuel emissions scenarios on climate and water resource projections

April 22nd, 2011 by joe | Add a Comment

Thanks to John Coulter for this article in Hydrology and Earth System Sciences.  See http://www.hydrol-earth-syst-sci-discuss.net/8/2627/2011/hessd-8-2627-2011.html

Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. Discuss., 8, 2627-2665, 2011
© Author(s) 2011. This work is distributed
under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

The influence of constrained fossil fuel emissions scenarios on climate and water resource projections

J. D. Ward1, A. D. Werner2,3, W. P. Nel4, and S. Beecham1
1Centre for Water Management and Reuse, School of Natural and Built Environments, University of South Australia, Mawson Lakes, SA 5095, Australia
2National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training, Flinders University, P.O. Box 2100, Adelaide, SA 5001, Australia
3School of the Environment, Flinders University, P.O. Box 2100, Adelaide, SA 5001, Australia
4Sustainable Concepts, P.O. Box 4297, Cresta, Johannesburg, 2118, South Africa

Abstract. Water resources planning requires long-term projections of the impact of climate change on freshwater resources. In addition to intrinsic uncertainty associated with the natural climate, projections of climate change are subject to the combined uncertainties associated with selection of emissions scenarios, GCM ensembles and downscaling techniques. In particular, unknown future greenhouse gas emissions contribute substantially to the overall uncertainty. We contend that a reduction in uncertainty is possible by refining emissions scenarios. We present a comprehensive review of the growing body of literature that challenges the assumptions underlying the high-growth emissions scenarios (widely used in climate change impact studies), and instead points to a peak and decline in fossil fuel production occurring in the 21st century. We find that the IPCC’s new RCP 4.5 scenario (low-medium emissions), as well as the B1 and A1T (low emissions) marker scenarios from the IPCC’s Special Report on Emissions Scenarios are broadly consistent with the majority of recent fossil fuel production forecasts, whereas the medium to high emissions scenarios generally depend upon unrealistic assumptions of future fossil fuel production. We use a simple case study of projected climate change in 2070 for the Scott Creek catchment in South Australia to demonstrate that even with the current suite of climate models, by limiting projections to the B1 scenario, both the median change and the spread of model results are reduced relative to equivalent projections under an unrealistic high emissions scenario (A1FI).

Discussion Paper (PDF, 1900 KB)
Citation: Ward, J. D., Werner, A. D., Nel, W. P., and Beecham, S.: The influence of constrained fossil fuel emissions scenarios on climate and water resource projections, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. Discuss., 8, 2627-2665, doi:10.5194/hessd-8-2627-2011, 2011.

The Coming Misery That Big Oil Discusses Behind Closed Doors

March 29th, 2011 by joe | Add a Comment

Thanks to Jack Alpert for this article.  See http://www.countercurrents.org/levine150211.htm where you can also watch a monologue by Jeremy Bentham on the global energy situation.

The Coming Misery That Big Oil Discusses Behind Closed Doors

By Steve LeVine

15 February, 2011
The Oil and the Glory

When big-thinkers at companies with the most skin in the energy game are behind closed doors and they discuss how the world really looks going forward, do they say that there are bumps in the road but that things will be fine, just fine, as they suggest publicly? Three years ago, we got a glimpse into the room when Royal Dutch/Shell issued a scenario forecasting the world in 2020. Based on current economic and energy-use patterns around the world, Shell said that energy supplies will be so tight that they will tip the world into a full-blown crisis in which governments will force their populations to reduce driving, use less electricity, and pay an extremely steep increase for what they do consume. There will be a massive, decade-long economic slowdown, and geopolitical power will shift dramatically to energy-producing nations, the company said.

Today, Shell returned with an update. The company said that the 2008 financial crisis interrupted the slide it predicted, but that the clock has begun ticking again. If the world does not change how it uses energy, its scenario will hold true.

In recent weeks, we’ve heard almost identical energy-consumption projections from ExxonMobil, BP and now Shell: The world will use about 40 percent more energy by 2030. The difference is that Exxon and BP more or less just toss out the numbers, while Shell suggests that one might consider running for the hills, oh, sometime around 2016 or 2017 before everyone else shows up. You all can plan to return home around 2030, Shell has said, when the world has come to its senses and adopted all the efficiency and price-signal mechanisms that some forward-thinkers are suggesting now.

To read the full article, click here: http://www.countercurrents.org/levine150211.htm

China’s ability to feed its people questioned by UN expert

February 4th, 2011 by Chantelle Routhier | Add a Comment

Thanks to Joe Bish for this article.

China’s ability to feed a fifth of the world’s population will become tougher because of land degradation, urbanisation and over-reliance on fossil-fuels and fertiliser, a United Nations envoy warned today as grain and meat prices climbed on global markets.

With memories still fresh of the famines that killed tens of millions of people in the early 1960s, the Chinese government has gone to great lengths to ensure the world’s biggest population has enough to eat, but its long-term self-sufficiency was questioned by UN special rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter.

For full article, visit:

World Oil Capacity to Peak in 2010 Says Petrobras CEO

January 15th, 2011 by Chantelle Routhier | Add a Comment

Thanks to George Taylor for this article about a talk given by the CEO of Petrobras (Brazilian oil company) in December 2009.

Jose Sergio Gabrielli, CEO of Petrobras, gave a presentation in December 2009 in which he shows world oil capacity, including biofuels, peaking in 2010 due to oil capacity additions from new projects being unable to offset world oil decline rates.

Gabrielli states that the world needs oil volumes the equivalent of one Saudi Arabia every two years to offset future world oil decline rates.

This is a stronger statement than the one he gave in January 2009 in an interview with Business Week when he said the following.

For full article, visit:

Will Limited Land, Water, and Energy Control Human Population Numbers?

September 23rd, 2010 by Chantelle Routhier | 1 Comment

Thanks to David Pimentel for this paper in Human Ecology, published in August 2010, entitled, Will Limited Land, Water, and Energy Control Human Population Numbers in the Future?

To download a copy of the paper, visit: https://docs.google.com/a/populationmedia.org/leaf?id=0B5F-idWfw7TeYmQ0ZjU1ODYtMzZhYS00MmRmLTlkNGUtYjRhZGEyOTJlYjAz&hl=en&authkey=CKWBtO8F