Category — Energy Education
“What we ask for is a more rigorous education on energy and environmental issues. Today’s students do not learn even basic facts about the energy sources that make our civilization possible. But they are encouraged to take strong policy positions on the basis of extremely speculative predictions by individuals and institutions who falsely claim to represent the conclusions of all informed scientists.”
Dear American Universities,
You have no doubt heard the calls by certain environmentalist groups for you to publicly divest your endowments of any investments in the fossil fuel industry. We ask that you reject these calls as an attempt to silence legitimate debate about our energy and environmental future.
The leaders of the divestment movement say it is not debatable that the fossil fuel industry is “Public Enemy Number One”—that it deserves to be publicly humiliated by having America’s leading educational institutions single it out for divestment. But the divestment movement refuses to grapple with, let alone educate students about, the staggering, and arguably irreplaceable, benefits we derive from that industry. [Read more →]
June 11, 2013 7 Comments
“We should never forget that the oil industry, whatever its problems (and most of those are caused by bad government policies) is the single most vital industry in the world.”
This election year, America faces many crucial legislative choices in the oil/gas industry–and the PR strategy of oil companies will certainly affect the outcome.
What should oil company executives do to improve their industry’s reputation and secure their freedom to produce the lifeblood of civilization?
Unfortunately, the conventional answer is: pretend they’re not oil companies. BP’s John Browne some years ago infamously declared his company’s aspirations to be “Beyond Petroleum”–a slogan that obviously does not aid the industry’s desire for more petroleum drilling rights. (BP, to its credit, no longer trumpets this slogan, which defaults BP back to the implicit original, British Petroleum.)
Chevron’s mega-PR-campaign, “We Agree,” features 10 empty slogans, not one of which expresses pride in producing oil, and some of which are downright offensive. “Oil companies should think more like technology companies,” the campaign says–as if the ability to extract the greatest portable fuel known to man from once-useless shale rock 10,000 feet below the surface of the Earth is not a technological achievement.
This kind of posturing is self-defeating–no one believes that oil companies are anything other than oil companies. And it is a disservice to both their industry, which does not deserve flagellation (except when they rent-seek or engage in self-flagellaton), and to the American people, who desperately need to know the positive importance of the oil industry in their lives.
We should never forget that the oil industry, whatever its problems (and most of those are caused by bad government policies) is the single most vital industry in the world. [Read more →]
June 15, 2012 13 Comments
Energy, the master resource, enables high living standards and promises future progress in virtually all areas of human betterment.
Energy heats our homes, lights the night, fuels our transportation, and powers our machines. Affordable energy improves economic efficiency and keeps the cost of goods and services down. All of us as consumers and as business people save money.
Low domestic energy prices create high-productivity jobs at home up. Energy made American great as a key input for a (relatively) free economy, and today’s home-grown energy boom can help keep America great.
Appreciated another way, energy plenty allows us to spend more time with our families and friends–and less time merely working to survive. Moreover, by making transportation less costly, affordable energy gives us greater freedom to live, work, and play how and where we want.
There are, however, a number of challenges to maintaining a sufficient supply of affordable energy. Seemingly every year there is a new energy bill in Congress that alleges to fix our energy problems. The flawed premises of these bills result in misplaced, repeated calls for a new national energy policy in place of greater reliance on free-market forces.
Energy policy would be greatly improved if policymakers took into account the actual energy landscape. Far too often, energy bills are based on incorrect assumptions, such as the notion that new, revolutionary technologies, such as affordable cellulosic ethanol, are just around the corner if only the federal government provides the energy industry sufficient mandates and subsidies. Time after time, experience has shown that the government cannot force new technologies to market.
Policymakers should take time to understand the facts about energy and the obstacles to making it affordable and reliable given its critical role in our lives and our economy. America is home to vast natural resources, but many of our energy policies are built on the notion that energy is scarce and becoming more scarce.
The reality is that we have more combined oil, coal, and natural gas resources than any other country on the planet. We have enough energy resources to provide reliable and affordable energy for decades, even centuries to come. The only real question is whether we will have access to our abundant energy resources, not whether sufficient resources exist.
What follows are many key facts , hard facts, that energy educators must stress to the citizenry, media, academics, and lawmakers. The fact list begins with fossil fuels, continues with renewables and nuclear energy, and then looks at energy efficiency and environmental issues. (For the full IER report, see here) [Read more →]
April 30, 2012 5 Comments
Pierre Desrochers is a scholar’s scholar. His prolific research, writing, and teaching facilitate our own research and learning. His reference and use of some of our work is a vindication of sorts.
I recently encountered Professor Desrochers syllabus for Energy and Society, a course that he is currently teaching at the University of Toronto Mississauga. Wow! Lucky are his students; this course is a model for its subject for North American and far beyond.
Desrochers sets out three main objectives for this course:
• To cover the basic physical, technical and economic issues related to energy use;
• To cover broadly the history of energy development and use;
• To introduce students to past debates and current controversies.
He describes the course as follows:
The development of new energy sources has had a major impact on the development of both human societies and the environment. This course will provide a broad survey of past and current achievements, along with failures and controversies, regarding the use of various forms of energy.
Understanding of technical terms, physical principles, creation of resources and trade-offs will be emphasized as a basis for discussions about energy options. The local and global dimensions of the economics and politics surrounding the world’s energy resources will be recurring concerns in this course.
The lecture titles and readings follow. [Read more →]
October 7, 2011 1 Comment
[Editor note: Alex Epstein of the Ayn Rand Institute is one of the bright young lights of energy rationalism. His four-part post at MasterResource, Energy at the Speed of Thought, can be found here (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4).
“Man does not live on a raft with one bottle of water. He lives on earth, which gives him infinite resources—and it is up to him to get them. His proper conduct and morality must be based on this fact.”
- Letter from Ayn Rand to Rose Wilder Lane, in Michael Berlinger, ed., Letters of Ayn Rand (New York: Dutton, 1995), p. 354.
The most recent episode of “Power Hour”--my monthly interview podcast on energy issues--featured oil forecaster Michael Lynch, President of Strategic Energy & Economic Research, who examined the controversial theory of Peak Oil. Lynch writes opinion-page editorials for the New York Times , interestingly (see his recent Drilling for an Oil Crisis and his earlier Peak Oil' Is A Waste of Energy.)
'Power Hour' Podcast
The goal of Power Hour is to bring in today’s top energy experts to today’s top energy issues. Guest Michael Lynch is a sought-after expert in oil forecasting, and thus a student of energy reality. Unlike a number of his opponents who preach Peak Oil (the idea that world oil production has peaked or is about to), Lynch's decades of studying how oil markets actually work has led him to a more open-ended view of the resource world. At the same time, he is excellent at breaking down complex issues of oil forecasting, as known by readers of MasterResource.
One of my goals in the interview was to give listeners--and me--a basic understanding of proper oil how forecasting and market analysis is done. Too often, Peak Oil discussions start midstream, making claims about reserves and future production without naming the methodology being used. I asked Lynch what variables properly go into forecasting the future of oil--and his answer illuminated where Peak Oil advocates traditionally veer off the tracks.
One thing Lynch stressed is that oil production doesn’t flow automatically from geology--geology is an essential part of the picture, but so are economics, technology, and politics.
With changes in economics, technology, and politics, production can either skyrocket or plummet in the same field. Thus, when we hear that production in some country has “peaked,” it may well be that there is plenty of oil to drill, but that, say, high taxes made it uneconomic to drill there (Lynch cited Argentina as an example of this phenomenon).
The economics and politics of the market impact whether it's worthwhile to prospect for oil, whether it's worthwhile to explore a given field, whether it's worthwhile to drill a given field, whether it's worthwhile to invest in new technology to get new forms of oil like Canada's enormous tar sands. Politics can and often does make it much more expensive or even impossible to find and drill for oil in a given area--and an increase in political freedom can lead to a flood of new oil. [Read more →]
March 4, 2011 4 Comments
[Note: This article has been updated to Twenty Bad Things about Windpower — go here.]
Trying to pin down the arguments of wind promoters is a bit like trying to grab a greased balloon. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on it, it squirts away. Let’s take a quick highlight review of how things have evolved.
1 – Wind energy was abandoned well over a hundred years ago, as it was totally inconsistent with our burgeoning more modern needs of power, even in the late 1800s. When we throw the switch, we expect that the lights will go on — 100% of the time. It’s not possible for wind energy, by itself, to ever do this, which is one of the main reasons it was relegated to the dust bin of antiquated technologies (along with such other inadequate sources like horse power).
2 – Fast forward to several years ago. With politicians being convinced by lobbyists that Anthropological Global Warming (AGW) was an imminent threat, a campaign was begun to favor all things that would purportedly reduce CO2. Wind energy was thus resurrected, as its marketers pushed the fact that wind turbines did not produce CO2 in their generation of electricity.
3 – Of course, just that by itself is not significant, so the original wind development lobbyists then made the case for a quantum leap: that by adding wind turbines to the grid we could significantly reduce CO2 from fossil fuel electrical sources (especially coal). This argument became the basis for many states’ implementing a Renewable Energy Standard (RES) — which mandated that their utilities use an increased amount of wind energy.
4 – Why was a mandate necessary? Simply because the real world reality of integrating wind energy made it a very expensive option. As such, no utility company would likely do this on their own. They had to be forced to. [Read more →]
September 20, 2010 36 Comments