Articles from 2012
The Real Revolution of Shale Energy
- Written by Nick Grealy
- Published: 15 November 2012
UK greens seem to share with UKIP, of all people, an exaggerated vision of Britain's role in the world. I've noted before that lots of UK groups who profess to care about the earth don't realise that almost anything the UK does, or does not do, on CO2 is unimportant on a world scale. UK emissions, from all sources, are simply not important when facing the reality of China's coal use. Even replacing a fifth of China's coal with shale would effectively cancel out whatever we do, making the gesture meaningless on any damage or not it does the atmosphere. The green agenda is not facing up to facts, and they threaten to make themselves irrelevant. I think that would be disastrous for large parts of the progressive agenda. I know myself that when I return to New York, almost everyone I know sees opposition to shale is a litmus test for the progressive politics, such as they are in the US. That would be dangerous for the European left. Greenpeace et al are correct in seeing some right wingers behind gas here in the UK. But that's too simple. I half jokingly point out to the Global Warming Policy Foundation, who I consider right about shale and wrong on most else, that they only seriously concentrated on shale gas once Obama released his birth certificate. The GWPF at least has more of an open mind than much of their opposition, who continue to cling to a shale gas as dangerous fantasy narrative.
I've been looking at shale gas since 2008, but absolutely no one could have predicted what is happening to US oil production by leveraging the techniques first used in gas. It's only two years ago that the bounty of the Bakken Shale and now the Eagle Ford first became interesting. From that experience I'll roll out Grealy's First Law of Shale: Shale predictions move from the outrageous, through far fetched to conservative within two years. I've seen this happen in the Barnett, the Marcellus, LNG exports, US chemical use and of course shale oil.
But in other areas, we may have to extend the time line to suit the size of the transformation. Jack Welch recently likened shale to the Internet and I've often pointed out shale is above all a technological revolution of which we are only in baby steps. The key issue in public perception is that thought cannot keep up with reality.This is incredibly disruptive change, even if for most people it will be positive. The next transformation will take closer to ten years than to to two, but it's such a huge change we must start facing the consequences now.
A shale-oil boom will thrust the U.S. ahead of Saudi Arabia as the world's largest oil producer by 2020, a radical shift that could profoundly transform not just the world's energy supplies but also its geopolitics, the International Energy Agency said.
But this isn't oil security, this is global security. Europe and Japan are becoming more efficient on energy efficiency as they also age. By the twenty forties Japan will lose over a million people a year and Germany and Italy are set to have losses of only slightly less scare. The only developed countries to truly grow are those like the UK, USA, Canada and Australia who welcome immigration. Yet the United States will stop importing oil at a far faster rate because not only is the US becoming more efficient as I pointed out last week, but supplying far more due to shale oil production.The US imports are even less impressive when one considers they will come for the most part no further away than Canada, Mexico or in a pinch, Brazil.
The thing is that the subtraction of the US from world energy markets isn't some kind of wonkish discussion on esoteric scenarios that won't actually come to pass. The incessant discussion over energy minutiae has caused a lot of climate fatigue, especially when connected to climate catastrophism - but that is going to be the least of our worries. Climate catastrophism often includes economic collapse or mass refugee movements caused rising sea levels, but those impacts are going to be child play compared to some of what's coming up.
The US switch to energy independence is going to change everything and it's going to do so far sooner than most people think.This is not a fantasy - this is a dawning reality far surer and far sooner than even some of the milder climate chaos theories.
Within the next two decades, the United States may barely need any oil from the Persian Gulf, due in large part to increased domestic production. That dramatic shift could shake the foundation of U.S. interests in the Middle East.
This is written from a US view, but what is truly dangerous is that there is no European debate about this at all. But this is what keeps some EU officials at least awake at night.
The U.S. has been the guarantor of the sea lanes and the Gulf producers because we felt that was vital to U.S. energy security interests," says Herberg of the National Bureau of Asian Research. "As we become quasi energy-independent it's likely that there will be questioning here in the U.S. 'Do we really need to carry that load?
Persian Gulf oil will remain important, and somebody will need to secure those Gulf shipping lanes. China, poised to become the No. 1 buyer of Gulf oil, is now benefiting from the huge U.S. security presence in the region. Perhaps the United States could turn over security responsibilities in the Persian Gulf to China.
"It's insane that we have the 5th Fleet of the U.S. Navy tied up there to protect oil that ends up in China and Europe," T. Boone Pickens, the energy tycoon, was quoted as saying recently in Parade magazine.
What's truly delusional is nit picking over energy regulation when the big picture is far more volatile. Who'll ride to Europe's rescue? Even worse what could Europe do to defend our interests when billions of euros had been spent on solving a far smaller impact problem we no longer have.
The problem that keeps some European thinkers awake at night is a US that simply up sticks and goes home, leaving a Europe, impoverished by the debt crisis and climate costs, in what could only be described as a dangerous mess. Collapse of the Middle East would be the least of our problems.Imagine the world from Morocco to Pakistan collapsing when oil dollars and US forces both leave. Maybe the UK could send an aircraft carrier to protect us? Considering the only one in construction can't afford to have any planes, lets' not even go there.
The sooner we face reality and act globally to face the certain problems of tomorrow instead of the doubtful, the more secure we'll all be.