If there’s any point to energy writing, it is to perhaps try to pull together disparate bits of information that the average citizen is too busy to notice, the sort of random and arcane stats and events that only genuine weirdos devote their spare hours to. Truffle pigs find the truffles.
People learning about energy from the daily news hour is like learning about anatomy by watching Jackass. To get the real story, follow the nerds. If someone hears an activist and/or federal cabinet minister in the news talking about the linear path towards Net Zero 2050 because of their wondrous policies, and said person thinks this to be true, it is worthwhile to check in with life’s data rats as they amalgamate and quietly haul out not-widely-disseminated statistics such as how the real story is that India and China (and Germany) are returning to coal usage, and that any net zero plan starts there.
Energy nerds wade through all this stuff, and find threads about how things are going in the world, and (usually) then bring it forward into the world on Substack and ask for fifty bucks a year. Others do it just because they can’t help themselves.
There are a great many people doing this sort of thing, to great effect, helping the world understand energy better than the cretinous, misdirected and ill-informed crap that the mainstream media dotes on.
But every single energy analyst worth their salt is stopped dead in their tracks by the energy lunacy that western leaders have orchestrated. Some things can’t be analyzed or identified other than to say “There’s something decomposing over there and I can’t tell what it is.”
Politicians have abandoned the literary and logical framework by which we exist. It’s like they declare a new law that in order to save the planet all concrete will be replaced with tofu, effective immediately. How would you interpret that change into the well being of the world?
Thanks to the quality of our politicians, spectacularly definitive statements as unhinged as that example are not hard to find. I’ll warm you up with a small one: The other day, US President Biden proudly declared that this fiscal year, the federal deficit would fall by $1.7 trillion, “the largest reduction in history.”
If you go nuts and run your credit card up to the $30,000 max, ten times your normal max, then make a $15,000 payment, your largest ever – is that the point at which boasting begins? Hey, I can relate. In my spare time, I burn down houses for something to do, but I know it bugs a lot of you, so I’m thrilled to declare that this year I will cut ignition by 90 percent. A personal record, and you’re welcome.
Biden’s comment is just random political bragging though, with no consequence. The real problem is that politicians don’t seem to realize that when they are bringing their gibberish into the realm of physical reality, such nonsense can be deadly on a very large scale.
Here’s an example. The US has made a promise to increase LNG to Europe, meaning building more LNG export infrastructure and presumably increasing production to meet that need. Then there is a barely-earlier promise to slow US hydrocarbon production by suspending oil/gas leasing (2021: “We’ve already waited too long to deal with the climate crisis. We cannot wait any longer.”) which led him to implement ever-crazier hurdles to building any new oil/gas infrastructure. Two years before that was an election campaign suggestion by Biden to throw fossil fuel executives in jail for their contribution to emissions, but now he blasts oil executives for not producing more.
Biden’s politically-useful but vapid messaging has company. He (like most western leaders) has promised two things to the populace that cannot exist together. He/they have promised abundant, reliable, clean energy, and to phase out the hydrocarbon industry as soon as possible. His posse cannot have both. It is impossible.
There will be an energy transition, if and only if the hydrocarbon industry is recognized and treated as the bedrock of society, and if its full arsenal of talent and infrastructure is utilized to the maximum. There will be global chaos, food shortages, fuel shortages, heating fuel shortages, and a mass reversion back to coal if Biden, Trudeau, the EU and others follow on their polarizing path, if they continue to refuse to think.
Voters have to decide. Some of you have elected morons who, metaphorically speaking, are willing to burn down all your houses on the grounds that it is an opportunity to build back better and create a lot of construction jobs.
Forget about “hurting” the oil/gas industry. Lawsuits, preposterous “Scope 3” emissions accounting (whereby the US is proposing that hydrocarbon companies report the emissions caused by use of their product – a hopeless calculation exercise only a social scientist could dream up – does Exxon’s fuel go into Formula 1 cars, or ambulances, or Toyota Prius hybrids, or coal-rolling trucks? Or jets? Or tractors? Because the model needs to know).
What’s left of the industry is producing something the world needs so desperately that prices will be bid up for the foreseeable future to ridiculous levels. Any further arrows sent towards the hydrocarbon industry will only further limit supply, and drive prices up further, and those companies will make even more profit.
The choice of voters is to save life as we have come to know it, or to keep electing energy idiots.
You have to pick your emergency; you can’t run from both. Is the emergency a fuel shortage, or is it worst-case speculation on the temperature in 2070? Are you part of the “fossil fuel lobby” or part of the “fossil fuel lobotomy”? Has Greta left the room yet, with her demand to “see leaders panic”?
The “fossil fuel lobby” is every one of us, because we owe our lives to the stuff, and the government actually knows this. That is why they are leaving boot prints on the backs of all the activists that have crayon-drawn all their childish energy policies.
For long-time energy nerds, the ones paying attention to reality, the focus is shifting. I have no interest in debating the efficacy of government net-zero policies. I have a stockpile of food, the shaping and maintenance of which I find far more interesting.
Terry Etam is a columnist with the BOE Report, a leading energy industry newsletter based in Calgary. He is the author of The End of Fossil Fuel Insanity.