Thursday, January 13, 2011

Energy trends

It's always interesting to get a business-eye view of where trends in energy production are going, and how that might affect us here in the Marcellus Shale region. Besides an announcement of a corporate takeover of a gas utility plant in Kentucky, the Bloomberg website has a story of how the fracking process is now being used to drill for oil, because the gas drilling boom in Appalachia has cut the price of natural gas by over two-thirds. But the high cost of drilling for oil is dampening those prospects, too.

This is all related to the question of Peak Oil, which the Pentagon and CIA are studying, but is generally kept out of public view, because the implications are so dire. But global oil production has been essentially flat since 2005, at a time when the big-population Asian economies, also oil-based, are just gearing up. We are entering a turning point of global civilization.

I'm fortunate to have smart friends (who doesn't, considering the company our friends keep?), but at least one of my friends is a genius--which means he's not always easy to understand. But my friend, Mark Robinowitz, always has his eye on the big picture, and he is definitely thinking in the right direction on the question of where global energy policy needs to go--that is, in the direction of local economies fueled by local energy production.

He's put up a webpage with a chart/summary of his forthcoming book, "Peak Choice: Cooperation or Collapse?" The center column has a list of critical issues. To the left is the "fake debate" in the media on those issues. To the right are what Mark calls "fractal solutions"--meaning those arrived at by natural, organic processes, at a local, regional and global level.

It's a new way of looking at the energy question, but he offers hope, where there is little to be found in traditional approaches, and the horsemen of Peak Oil are galloping.

--Michael Hasty

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