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Energy Revolution: Views From Around the Web

Via Meadia has been commenting on the energy revolution taking place all around us these days (Energy Revolution: Part One, Part Two). Thankfully, we’re not the only ones who’ve noticed.

Chrystia Freeland:

[T]hanks to new discoveries and new technologies, the end of fossil fuels is not looking quite so imminent. From the oil sands of northern Alberta, to America’s massive pockets of shale gas (American gas reserves would last at least 75 years at current consumption rates), to the vast offshore oil reserves that Brazil hopes will make it the world’s fourth-largest producer by 2020, fossil-fuel sources we didn’t know about or couldn’t use are suddenly available. Crucially, many of these supplies are found in thriving democracies—a dramatic shift from the past, when oil and autocracy seemed to go together.

The resurgence of fossil fuels will create new winners in the global economy—oil is one reason Brazil is on the rise, and shale gas could be a source of America’s economic rebound after the 2008 slump. Oil could complicate domestic politics in countries with too much of it—there is a reason economists talk about “the curse of oil,” and dictatorships have thrived in countries with abundant natural resources.

This newly available fossil fuel will intensify the fierce battle about the environment, as we have already seen in the fight over the Keystone pipeline. These deposits aren’t the easy-to-drill ones we got used to in the 20th century. They are hard to reach, and extraction will have a rougher impact on the environment. They will also be the source of high-paying jobs and will allow us to live in our comfortable, commuter-based, fossil-fueled economy decades longer than we expected. The challenge of weaning ourselves off fossil fuel even as it becomes more abundant will make the old fights about energy conservation seem like child’s play.

Analysis and a useful chart from the EIA, via the Atlantic:

You may not have noticed, but there is something happening to the American electricity supply that we’ve never seen before. Not in 1973 or 1950 or even in 1900. As long as Americans have made electricity, they’ve gotten more of it from coal than from any fuel. While petroleum and natural gas have played huge roles in our energy system, coal’s been responsible for more than 65 percent of the fossil-fuel electricity we’ve generated for most of the last 50 years. (And for big chunks of the 20th century, we made half of all the electricity in this country by burning coal.)

But natural gas is in the process of overtaking coal as the top fuel in America — and fast. The energy system, as you can see in the chart, tends to change slowly. But just look at the last three years in the chart below. That’s the kind of growth that you tend to see in the high tech industry, not energy. That’s an honest-to-goodness hockey stick.

The bottom line here? The world energy landscape is changing. Stable states in the western hemisphere can look forward to years of developing big, recoverable reserves of oil and gas. Much will change—domestically in the U.S., between the U.S. and new petro-state neighbors like Canada and Brazil, and between nations on a global scale.

Awareness of this story is only gradually filtering into the MSM; we’ll try to stay on top of it here.

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  • Tuck

    How much of that hockey stick is the result of technological innovation, and how much is the result of the current administration’s war on coal?

    Technological advances should reduce the cost of electricity, increased regulations increase it.

    Are electricity costs falling dramatically?

  • thibaud

    “only gradually filtering into the MSM,” eh?

    More embarrassing flapdoodle from Mr Mead. In fact, the New York Times (to take only one example) has been on top of this story since 2006.

    Here’s what the Times’ website returns for a search of natural gas-related articles paired with the word “bonanza”:

    Dan Boren, Oklahoma Lawmaker, Shares in Gas Field Bounty
    December 04, 2011, Sunday

    Time to Tap the Bounty of U.S. Natural Gas
    January 17, 2011, Monday

    Shale Gas Success Drives Down Prices
    By ROB COX
    December 21, 2010, Tuesday

    Dark Side of a Natural Gas Boom
    December 08, 2009, Tuesday

    As Oil and Gas Prices Plunge, Drilling Frenzy Ends
    March 15, 2009, Sunday

    A Land Rush Is Likely, So a Lawyer Gets Ready
    July 03, 2008, Thursday

    Rigs on the Skyline and Gas Far Below
    A natural gas drilling boom in Fort Worth is bringing with it hopes of wealth, and fears of pitfalls.
    October 27, 2006, Friday

  • thibaud

    Of course, the Times provides balanced coverage of the story from multiple angles, both the financial upside and the environmental risks – as opposed to breathless cheerleading citing inflated, poorly-understood estimates.

  • Earl of Sandwich

    Around the web = theatlantic?

  • Kris

    Earl@4: “Around the web = theatlantic?”

    Well, if a particular former star blogger of theirs were still there, it could be “Around the bend”…

    [Kris does not claim to be a psychiatrist, and the preceding should not be understood as a legitimate diagnosis.]

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