A decade ago “peak oil” meant a time when we maxed out the production of oil and entered an age of scarcity. The Shale technology boom put that to rest – we have enough oil, if we want, to fry the planet.
Nowadays, peak oil means “peak DEMAND for oil”.

The most stunning thing about BP’s projections for the coming decades is that the “Business as Usual” case assumes that oil use has peaked and will begin a decline.


A year ago, if anyone in the petroleum business had suggested that the moment of Peak Oil  had already passed, they would have been laughed right off the drilling rig. Then 2020 happened.

Planes stopped flying. Office workers stayed home. “Zooming with the grandkids” replaced driving to see family. A year of global hunkering yielded the sharpest drop in oil consumption since Henry Ford cobbled together the first Model T. At its worst, global demand dropped by a staggering 29 million barrels a day.

As a once-in-a-century pandemic played out, British oil giant BP Plc in September made an extraordinary call: Humanity’s thirst for oil may never again return to prior levels. That would make 2019 the high-water mark in oil history.

BP wasn’t the only one sounding an alarm. While none of the prominent forecasters were quite as bearish, predictions for peak oil started popping up everywhere. Even OPEC, the unflappably bullish cartel of major oil exporters, suddenly acknowledged an end in sight—albeit still two decades away. Taken together these forecasts mark an emerging view that this year’s drop in oil demand isn’t just another crash-and-grow event as seen throughout history. Covid-19 has accelerated long-term trends that are transforming where our energy comes from. Some of those changes will be permanent.

It’s often difficult to recognize civilization-sized shifts in behavior until after they’ve occurred. Until the pandemic none of the major oil forecasters had seen an imminent demand peak. The debate won’t end now, especially with signs that the pandemic will ease in 2021. But if we look back from here and see the oil peak clearly in the past, what follows will be the evidence of how the energy future snuck up on us.

Energy analysts usually present multiple scenarios. The gap between each forecast comes down to differing assumptions about government policies, economic conditions and consumer preferences for things such as new electric cars and solar panels. A business-as-usual scenario assumes little impact from policy shifts or new technology.

Most analysts had only predicted declining demand for oil in improbably green scenarios that could only be achieved with far stronger global climate policies. What made BP’s 2020 forecast unique is that peak oil now snuck into its business-as-usual baseline. If technologies and pollution rules improve, the dropoff in demand would be even more swift.

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Very impressive investigation in Politico – risk exposure to housing market, and entire financial system, from climate-driven storms and floods.

Very much a topic in my conversation with Kerry Emanuel last winter.


But behind the vibrant life in Hialeah (Florida) is a troubling reality: flooding. Heavy rains overran the streets this year, last year — almost every year. And the problem is projected to get worse: Some scientists fear the city could be underwater within the lifetimes of some current residents.

Despite that grim prognosis, the federal government keeps pumping mortgage money into Hialeah, as it does in hundreds of other communities now facing grave dangers from climate change. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac hold the majority of home mortgages in some Hialeah neighborhoods. More significantly, federal taxpayers hold greater than 60 percent of mortgages on homes in some areas outside the specially designated federal floodplain, according to an analysis of federal data by Amine Ouazad, an associate economics professor at Canadian business school HEC Montréal.

That’s important because being outside the so-called “100-year floodplain” means homes aren’t required to carry flood insurance. Thus, if the homes are damaged sufficiently that their owners can’t afford to fix them, and must abandon the property, the federal government gets stuck with the house. That’s a relatively small risk in a time of rising real estate values, when families can use their home equity to take out repair loans, but a potential economic disaster if home prices start to plunge and owners can’t find ways to make repairs on houses that are worth far less than their outstanding debt. And there are compelling reasons to believe that climate risks are starting to catch up to the real estate market in Hialeah and beyond.

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The Wall Street Journal is, of course, a Rupert Murdoch property, and their opinions page reflects that ignorance and bias.

The news side of the journal, on the other hand, is pretty reliable, as the audience of serious money managers and investors has to rely on good intel to do business. So I’ve always looked to the Journal for good reads on energy developments, and it’s a dependable, credible citation for the conservative groups I often speak to.
Some new takes from the Journal on the renewable revolution.

Wall Street Journal:

The decline of oil-and-gas supermajors over the past two years has been matched by the rise of previously obscure utility companies. In Europe, Enel ENEL -1.55% and Iberdrola IBDRY -0.28% have emerged as green-energy giants, in part by taking leaves out of the big-oil playbook.

Like Shell and BP before them, the companies have built global portfolios to meet growing energy demand, only with wind and sun rather than fossil fuels. The strategy has already made them the world’s two largest renewable energy producers by capacity, but they want to get even bigger.

Enel said Tuesday that it will nearly triple its capacity to 120 gigawatts by 2030. Earlier this month, Iberdrola laid plans to double its capacity to 60 gigawatts by 2025. The companies are similar to U.S. peer NextEra, which trades for much higher earnings multiples, but with an international rather than domestic footprint.

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If we’re going to deploy enough renewable energy to make a difference, the US midwest is going to have to be a big player. The fossil fuel industry knows that, and has devoted a lot of time and energy to disinformation, distortions, and delay to keep those kind of projects from going forward.

Anti-clean energy efforts have been directed by Washington DC based lobbying groups like E&E Legal, a group I know well, having interviewed the senior scientists who have been targeted and harassed by the coal-funded front for a decade, as well as engaging some of the principle players in debate.
Fossil advocates have been shrewd enough to understand that the choke-point for renewable energy development is at the county, and more often, the township level in rural areas. Applying intimidation and disinformation campaigns to these local boards and governing commissions can be effective in blocking developments.

They’ve also been successful in some cases making clean energy a culture-war issue, similar to Obamacare.
And, like in the case of Obamacare, buzzwords and memes that worked 9 or 10 years ago have become less effective, as citizens have gotten more familiar with the program. Communities that have been living near wind turbines, and increasingly, solar farms, for a decade or more, have learned that the fossil-funded scare stories and myths are just that.
Renewable energy is succeeding when good information gets to the citizens of rural areas and small towns where a lot of new solar and wind parks are going to be sited. This year, at least in my neck of the woods, we’ve been turning the corner on the astro-turf campaign against clean energy.

Here’s my newly-published summary of the situation.

Morning Sun (Mt Pleasant, MI):

As a videographer, most of the last decade, I’ve traveled to the Arctic, to embed with science teams on and around the Greenland Ice sheet. This year, with travel restrictions, I’ve stayed closer to home, documenting construction of the spectacular Isabella wind development in rural townships north of Mt Pleasant.

One of most under-reported stories in Michigan this year has been the explosion of renewable energy development across the central part of the state.

Living as I do in Midland County, within an hour’s drive from me there are two new wind farms that have gone online in the last year, three wind parks completing construction currently, and several more in development stage.

In addition, Shiawassee County is hosting Michigan’s largest solar energy project (so far) — with a host of other solar efforts in the pipeline.

Nationally, this is part of a larger trend, an energy revolution that is shifting the U.S. away from coal and fossil fuels. Last week the international accounting firm Lazard released the newest all-in cost of energy figures, ranking the different electrical generation technologies. Solar and wind rank as the least-cost new sources of new generation.

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Just registered for the upcoming American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting – aka Burning Man for Scientists – which normally takes place the second week of December, in San Francisco, but this year will be a virtual event spread over 2 weeks or so.

Just reviewing some video from last year’s AGU, which might be the last of it’s kind, if the vitual format grows. I do believe individual contacts in the flesh can be invaluable, so pretty sure there will always be conferences in real space, but change is afoot.

Above, clip from my convo with Macarthur Genius and Paleo Oceanographer Andrea Dutton, December 2019.

Window to the Possible

November 28, 2020

In order to make a change, we must first visualize the change.
What exists is by definition possible.

The tweet translates to:

An excerpt from a utopia from the distant future – uh … not?

Is it already possible?

#Climate crisisIS now

According to the poster, this is a
“Bicycle priority roundabout in Amersfoort, the Netherlands”

Above, presentation by Loretta Lynch, former President of California Public Utilities Commission, begins at about 19:30.

Wonk warning in effect.

PV Magazine:

Former CPUC President Loretta Lynch said California should review the rolling blackouts of mid-August and potential market manipulation in CAISO. Lynch spoke during a webinar held by the Clean Coalition. “I think it’s time for the California attorney general to investigate what happened at the ISO and, more than that, the ISO’s market practices that can’t keep the lights on,” Lynch said. “On Aug. 14, as Californians are being begged to conserve power, the ISO allowed over 4,000 MW of electricity to be exported out in the middle of an extreme heat wave despite the carefully constructed and planned-for demand forecast,” she said. SourceRTO Insider

Loretta Lynch, former president, California Public Utilities Commission in the San Diego Union Tribune:

Distract, deflect, divert. The electricity-market apologists point fingers at everything but the real culprits — themselves.

On Aug. 14, the utilities had already purchased plenty of electricity — more than 51,000 megawatts. That Friday, California encountered an unsurprising summer-peak electricity demand of 46,800 megawatts. The heat wave did not strain our electricity grid — the extra power needed at our homes due to COVID-19 was more than offset by already-closed businesses and restaurants. California had ample power.

But Gov. Gavin Newsom faced electricity blackouts and price spikes just like Gov. Gray Davis did in 2000. Like Davis, Newsom invoked emergency powers lifting power-plant pollution limits and ordered investigations. My 2000 investigationfound that Enron and energy traders caused the blackouts by gaming California’s new electricity markets.

Their manipulation skyrocketed prices and led California’s grid operator, the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), to black out Californians. Repeatedly.

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Bluegrass version of his original.
Check out the exceptional mandolin solo.

In 2012, I spent time with Ben Pelto and his Dad Mauri surveying glaciers in the Northern Cascades. Ben is now a researcher working in British Columbia, and has some significant new results.

Interviewed by Stephen Colbert.

Worth your time but go to 5:00 if you’re in a hurry.