Eugene Linden, in his Op Ed in BusinessWeek, writes:
“With global oil production virtually stalled in recent years, controversial predictions that the world is fast approaching maximum petroleum output are looking a bit less controversial…But climate change activists have nothing to cheer about. The
U.S. is completely unprepared for peak oil, as it's called, and the wrenching adjustments it would entail could easily accelerate global warming as nations turn to coal.”
Peak oil, if you’re not familiar,
"refers to the point at which world oil production plateaus before beginning to decline as depletion of the world's remaining reserves offsets ever-increased drilling. Some experts argue that we're already there, and that we won't exceed by much the daily production high of 84.5 million barrels first reached in 2005. If so, global production will bump along near these levels for years before beginning an inexorable decline.
"What would that mean? Alternatives are still a decade away from meeting incremental demand for oil. With nothing to fill the gap, global economic growth would slow, stop, and then reverse; international tensions would soar as nations seek access to diminishing supplies, enriching autocratic rulers in unstable oil states; and, unless other sources of energy could be ramped up with extreme haste, the world could plunge into a new Dark Age. Even as faltering economies burned less oil, carbon loading of the atmosphere might accelerate as countries turn to vastly dirtier coal…
"…There are many things we in the
U.S. can do (and should have been doing) other than the present policy of crossing our fingers. If an oil tax makes sense from a climate change perspective, it seems doubly worthy if it extends supplies. Boosting efficiency and scaling up alternatives must also be a priority. And, recognizing that nations will turn to cheap coal (recently, 80% of growth in coal use has come from China), more work is needed to defang this fuel, which produces more carbon dioxide per ton than any other energy source.
"Even if the peakists are wrong, we would still be better off taking these actions. And if they're right, major efforts right now may be the only way to avert a new Dark Age in an overheated world."
Meanwhile, as reported by Reuters,
The Senate on Monday pressed ahead with a Democrat-driven rewrite of American energy policy that would strip nearly $15 billion in tax breaks from large companies and put the money toward making energy from clean, renewable sources like wind, solar and soybeans…
…It would also sharply raise U.S. vehicle mileage standards for the first time in 30 years and require U.S. utilities to get 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources like wind and solar by 2020…
…Lawmakers from coal states like Kentucky are fighting for equal treatment for liquid fuel derived from coal. Many Democrats have objected to coal incentives, warning that increased use will increase U.S. emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.
But Sen. Jon Tester, Montana Democrat, is pushing an amendment that would give $10 billion in federal loan guarantees to build "coal-to-liquid" facilities and sock away carbon dioxide emissions in underground reservoirs.