The Irrational Exuberance of Fracking

August 30, 2012

Post Carbon Institute:

In recent months we’ve seen a spate of assertions that peak oil is a worry of the past thanks to so-called “new technologies” that can tap massive amounts of previously inaccessible stores of “unconventional” oil. “Don’t worry, drive on,” we’re told.

We can fall for the oil industry hype and keep ourselves chained to a resource that’s depleting and comes with ever increasing economic and environmental costs, or we can recognize that the days of cheap and abundant oil (not to mention coal and natural gas) are over.

Unfortunately, the mainstream media and politicians on both sides of the aisle are parroting the hype, claiming — in Obama’s case — that unconventional oil can play a key role in an “all of the above” energy strategy and — in Romney’s — that increased production of tight oil and tar sands can make North America energy independent by the end of his second term.

Below, Post Carbon  Institute President Debbie Cook debates energy with an energy company front man.


23 Responses to “The Irrational Exuberance of Fracking”

  1. Martin Lack Says:

    Fracking is so completely insane (on a level with exploiting the Arctic Sea for oil simply because burning it has now made it possible)… I am driven to re-state my favourite quote from John Dryzek:

    “The driver of an accelerating car about to hit a brick wall might well say ‘so far so good’ – but that does not mean that the wall is not there!””

    In other words: Now we know we’re in a hole it is time to stop digging (literally).

  2. Having read Romney’s Energy plans I finally know what GOP stands for:
    Greedy Oil Puppets.

    Or should that be Gas & Oil Puppets? Either way…

    • Martin Lack Says:

      I know I’m British but, so you will have to forgive my American pronunciation and spelling but, I thought is stood for the “God Ouwfarl Party”

  3. jpgreenword Says:

    As usual, they missed the a major point that should always be part of the energy debate: climate change. How can we honestly argue the pros and cons of any energy source without considering carbon emissions. We have probably missed the opportunity to limit warming to 2 degrees C. We need to get our emissions down to zero as soon as possible.

  4. andrewfez Says:

    The last half of this Post Carbon Institute video is freaking scary. However, I’ve seen in another greenman video that GDP decoupled from energy use a while back, so if you take that into account when watching, then maybe it’s a tad less scary, but still pretty scary….

    • jpgreenword Says:

      That was a wonderful video. Thank you for sharing.
      And although I agree that the message is scary, I believe it is also optimistic. I think the world will be a better place once we’ve moved away from fossil fuels. It’s the transition that’s going to be a b#tch!

    • Martin Lack Says:

      Yes, thanks from me too. This video will work well in a post I am already in the process of writing on the subject of our determination to ignore the reality of the second law of thermodynamics and/or the concept of entropy.

  5. andrewfez Says:

    Well, it scared me so bad, that I started researching EROEI trajectories for wind and renewables last night. The good news is wind’s EROEI will keep getting better and better (presently) due to simple physics:

    “With wind energy, bigger is better for energy return. Energy return increases with the square of rotor diameter. If the rotor is twice as big, it produces four times the power. Turbine size has been increasing for many years, which is the key reason for the steep rise in EROEI.”


    So maybe if you take into account EROEI’s will get better for renewables over time, then that might reduce the ‘shock’ of getting away from coal, and eventually natural gas.

    Clean coal’s EROEI is terrible, but who knows, maybe it can get better with new ideas, but wind looks like the big savior, currently.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      bottom line, the more fossil fuel we use, the more expensive it gets.
      the more renewables we use, the cheaper it gets.

  6. The question isn’t WHETHER transition will happen. It will happen, it’s just a matter of when. The EROEI of all renewables except hydro is quite low when compared to oil produced in the 1950s, and we’ve built an entire economy, way of life, and worldview based on this source. We see the immediate past, and the logical conclusion when ignoring depletion is that that is what will continue into the future.

    But it’s done, and the depletion rates are going to -eventually- wake us all up to the reality of the future. The transition to alternatives isn’t an option if we want to continue civilization in any form as we know it – it’s a necessity. Even with this transition, we’ll have to figure out how to do much more with less energy-wise.

    I’m looking into scythes. Seriously. They’re far more effective than wire trimmers, they don’t have fuel costs, and you get a nice workout to boot.

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