Sunday, May 11, 2008

The rise of the new energy world order

An energy crisis is running amok right now. A taste of the crisis is: the ever-climbing price of oil and gasoline, truckers being forced to not truck stuff around, airlines going out of business or merging, food riots around the world, etc.

...Energy of all sorts was once hugely abundant, making possible the worldwide economic expansion of the past six decades. This expansion benefited the United States above all - along with its "First World" allies in Europe and the Pacific. ... China and India...participate in...industrializing their economies...This, in turn, has led to an unprecedented spurt in global energy consumption - a 47% rise in the past 20 years alone, according to the US Department of Energy (DoE). ... The combination of rising demand, the emergence of powerful new energy consumers, and the contraction of the global energy supply is demolishing the energy-abundant world we are familiar with and creating in its place a new world order. Think of it as rising powers/shrinking planet.

The article goes on to describe a "new world order" dictated by the changing energy supply dynamics.

A fierce competition for dwindling resources, which are identified as "oil, natural gas, coal and uranium". Coupled with that is a shift in global power to the countries who are rich in resources, which are identified as "Russia, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela".

If current trends continue as they are, China is destined to overtake the United States in 2025 as the worlds leading consumer of "energy". However the article also identifies China as one of the "energy poor" countries and I think it's doubtful the trends will continue as they are. As the article says elsewhere, there is a shift to countries rich in resources and China is poor in energy resources while rich in others.

Several of the developing countries are constructing their own oil and natural gas companies as a way to compete with those companies based in Western countries. This includes Sinopec which has established a strategic alliance with Saudi Aramco. Likewise China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) will collaborate with Gazprom to build pipelines and deliver Russian gas to China. Several of these state-owned firms are now set to collaborate with Petroleos de Venezuela SA in developing the extra-heavy crude of the Orinoco belt once controlled by Chevron.

The oil peak is coming. The US DoE claims that world oil demand, expected to reach 117.6 million barrels per day in 2030 but it's not clear where that oil will come from. Instead industry experts are quoted saying even 100 million barrels per day is extremely optimistic.

...the authors of the Medium-Term Oil Market Report, published in July 2007 by the International Energy Agency, an affiliate of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, concluded that world oil output might hit 96 million barrels per day by 2012, but was unlikely to go much beyond that as a dearth of new discoveries made future growth impossible....

Alternative energy sources such as wind or solar power are simply not being developed quickly enough.

...According to the DoE, renewable fuels, including wind, solar and hydropower (along with "traditional" fuels like firewood and dung), supplied but 7.4% of global energy in 2004; biofuels added another 0.3%. Meanwhile, fossil fuels - oil, coal and natural gas - supplied 86% of world energy, nuclear power another 6%. Based on current rates of development and investment, the DoE offers the following dismal projection: In 2030, fossil fuels will still account for exactly the same share of world energy as in 2004. The expected increase in renewables and biofuels is so slight - a mere 8.1% - as to be virtually meaningless.

In global warming terms, the implications are nothing short of catastrophic: Rising reliance on coal (especially in China, India and the United States) means that global emissions of carbon dioxide are projected to rise by 59% over the next quarter-century, from 26.9 billion metric tons to 42.9 billion tons. The meaning of this is simple. If these figures hold, there is no hope of averting the worst effects of climate change. ...

But rather than invest in "alternate" technologies

...the major energy firms (backed by lavish US government subsidies and tax breaks) are putting their mega-windfall profits from rising energy prices into vastly expensive (and environmentally questionable) schemes to extract oil and gas from Alaska and the Arctic, or to drill in the deep and difficult waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. ...

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