Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Hirsch Report

This link takes you to The Hirsch Report (Adobe Reader required) written by Robert Hirsch of SAIC. It is a well researched, and very sobering, analysis of peak oil and three possible scenarios of the impact if mitigation is not in place. The report was written for the Department of Energy.

In essence, the report styles itself as an analysis of the risks and the mitigations that can be taken. Although the body of the report sidesteps the question of 'when', the Appendix does include a statement that 2016 is a likely date based on avaible data. It recognizes that the data may be faulty, given the political realities underlying some the reporting done by oil producing countries.

For those of you without Adobe, an HTML version.


Paradise said...

"The data may be faulty.."

No kidding. The OPEC countries are not known for transparency and it's easier to see through lead than it is to get honest data out of Saudi Aramco, which owns the the world's largest oil fields.

Saudi Aramco doesn't have to make disclosures and they don't, so the CEO of that concern can stand up and, without blinking, state the there are 5.7 trillion barrels left to be exploited, 3 trillion of which are crude liquids.

Everyone knows that isn't true. All the top oil experts- Deffeyes, Matthew Simmons, and Colin Campbell, among many others, believe we are either close to peak or past it. Deffeyes believes we are past it, and there is real fear among them that the giant fields of Saudi Arabia have been overproduced and are now in steep depletion. Dr. Deffeyes believes that the global peak in oil production occurred in 2003.

I hope he is wrong, and that it is really 2016, which would give us time, if we mobilize the way we did for WW2, to get the trains and buses, and solar and nuclear power plants we will badly need online before the disruptions become really severe.

I really hope the peak is 2030, when I will be close to 80, even though my sis's kids will be alive and suffering from the economic consequences. I hope like hell none of them ever have children.

Only one of our political leaders, Congressman Bartlett of Maryland, recognizes publicly that we have a massive problem, and is proposing that we immediately act upon it by enacting measures for "massive conservation".

That would, to my mind, mean that absolutely no more money should be committed to highways and roads, but should be directed to mass transportation: and it would also mean that all municipalities everywhere should be enjoined to make radical changes in their planning and building codes, away from codes that require massive parking lots, huge building lots for houses, and single family housing, and toward closely knit,multi-use and multi-family communities built around transit nodes (rail stops and bus plazas.) It would also mean ending all direct and indirect subsidies to the massively wasteful airline industry, that is failing anyway, and instead unraveling the byzantine regulations that obstruct and starve railroads so that they can rebuild their passenger service.

Congressman Bartlett is a voice in the wilderness, and he wants to know why the Hirsch Report was not made available to the public sooner. Why not? Because our leadership wants to feel good, and their constituents want to feel good. There is no political gain in telling unpleasant truths; no one wants to be another Jimmy Carter.

We are all in a 'consensual trance'- we have all agreed that we will each pretend that everything is really alright and that the recent dip in oil prices means that the whole runup was nothing but manipulation by the greedy oil companies and their friends among our leaders.

Just listen to the bloggers here in RP. Here are people who live within a few blocks of a train that runs 24/7, at least every 10 minutes; the Metra; numerous bus lines through the city and to the suburbs, and a wealth of commerce including major grocery stores, dry cleaners, eateries, convenience stores, and other businesses, and yet they act like their cars are indespensible.

We could start the conservation battle right here in this ward by dropping the requirement that newly constructed condos, and businesses, provide for parking; and enact stiff penalties for parking violations. Additionally, we can petition for more transit, such as train lines over the abominably congested Touhy and Lawrence Aves, that would take hundreds of autos off the streets and make life without a car possible for the tens of thousands of city citizens who must commute to work in the suburbs.

Kheris said...

Ginderske is focused on health, so the activities in Indianapolis ought to get his attention. Gordon cares about the parks and lakefront, so this report ought to be another nail in the coffin of any plans to extend LSD. As for Adams and I am not certain what really floats his boat.

And our current alderman could seriously redeem himself if he would get behind this issue and galvanize the council. This is the national issue he needs to be making his mark with the DNC on, not foie gras.

Paradise said...

Gordon and Ginderske are both committed to energy conservation and environmental protection. I personally favor Gordon, but both of these men are enormously talented and are very committed to retaining the charm and character of this ward, making it more liveable and walkable, and bringing to it more civic amenities, such as improved schools, more police, and improved public transit.

Adams is too tied in with WalMart, and other corporate entities that are very pro-sprawl, and thus dangerous, IMO.

I do not expect small-visioned Joe to take any interest in any issue of real import, where he would have to take a stand that, let's face it, is going to make the bulk of the citizens of this ward, as well as the rest of Chicoland and the U. S. very, very unhappy: someone is going to have to loudly and emphatically tell people that you must give up your car, or at least cut way back. Gasoline will go to $9 a gallon and you will have to choose between fueling your car and heating your house and turning the lights on. You can have the car only if you want to live in it.

We might even have to resort to rationing. In the 70s, when I was a very young adult, this almost happened, and as it was, many service stations rationed it to customers. They had limits on how much you could buy. I remember waiting in line with my mother's car at 6 AM, in my nightgown and robe, for $3 worth of gasoline. Rationing might be a violation of our 'rights', but it was done in WW2, in order to win the war. Now we might have to do it to stay alive and have enough oil to run our highly mechanized and chemically dependent agricultural operations, because no way, no how can we feed our population of 300MM people by organic farming.

We should now establish priorities, and quickly decide what can be dispensed with, like private automobile transportation and air transportation, and what must be maintained at all costs. I would submit that the following are completely indispensable to general citizenry:

1. The electrical grid. This must be maintained and be reliable no matter what. You can heat your home with an electric furnance, and the trains and even buses can be run with electricity (think electrified trains and trolley buses). Moreover, we can find something to run our power plants with, whether nuclear or solar or (God Forbid) coal, but gas for homes and fuel for cars and larger vehicles may be difficult to impossible to obtain.

Most of all, electrical power makes everything else possible- our food supply, our transportation, our treated water, our basic hygiene and sanitation.

2. Our water and food supply , in that order. That means that water treatment facilities and agricultural enterprises get first claim on fuel and power.

2. Our transportation. That means that we have to keep the trains and buses running and make sure we have enough of them. We should set to work immediately rebuilding our rail networks and getting them electrified.

3. Communications, especially wireless. The phone and internet connections, used to their fullest, steeply reduce the need for physical travel, and enable the necessary coordination of power, fuel, water, food, and other necessities. We should start augmenting wireless and making it universal because it is ultimately much cheaper to provide and takes far less imput of energy. The City of Chicago was briefly toying with the idea of installing wireless towers so that everyone who wanted it could get wireless internet for a very nominal charge, even more cheaply than landline dial-up. However, that idea was shelved because there are too many laws in place that forbid a municipality to "compete" with private carriers by providing any service already provided by private carriers, no matter how inept and behind it the private carriers are. These laws should be overturned, and I hope the Dems do that now that they have regained a decent foothold on Capitol Hill.

In the meantime, it would be prudent for each of us, acting on our own, to be prudent and Rationally Selfish, and start making the adjustments that will make our lives easier down the road. I personally moved to this city from St. Louis 20 years ago, because I wanted to unload my car, and wanted a city with reasonably safe streets ( I got mugged constantly down there) and a vibrant city life. I sensed, in 1987, that there was a strong connection between city life and cars, and that the easier life was for cars, the harder it was for the denizens of cities and the bleaker and more unsafe and desolate the city became. So I have made that particular adjustment, and life has been easier and more comfortable every day since.

Now I will have to give up certain things I wanted, like the 5 room apts I used to have, because it is wiser to go into the smallest space I can occupy with comfort. Will I be able to pay the maintenance on 1500 Sq Ft 10 years from now.Air travel has to go no matter how much I enjoy it. We must all save more money and pay down bills.

These adjustments don't preclude comfort and even 'luxury' by any means. However, a person might want to forego faddy junk and overpriced gadgets that obsolesce overnight in favor of durable, beautiful, timeless things that will be as beautiful and useful 40 years from now as they are today. Instead of a $4000 plasma TV, get a really fine oriental rug, or really good wood furniture, or a fine set of golf clubs for your husband, or your sterling silver- stuff that doesn't use electricity and doesn't die on you. Instead of faddy clothes that will date by next year, a really good sweater or coat.

And not having to run an auto frees up THOUSANDS of dollars a year, in addition to the outrageous price of the car.

I personally feel that many of the adjustments we will all have to make will, if we choose to make them and make them early, result in an easier and more comfortable life. Who wouldn't want to commute 4 miles instead of 40, and who on earth wouldn't want the easy justification for taking the cars away from his teens? Who wouldn't want to live close to grocery stores and other shopping? Who wouldn't want to be able to walk to a park, or to a cafe, or to the drugstore for aspirin?

Folks in outer suburbia think they want their lives because many of them have experienced no other. If they ever experienced the sheer comfort and ease of life in a closely knit city neighborhood or small town, they would wonder how they could have borne the sprawl life with its miserable long commutes and the necessity for 4 cars per family for so long.

Kheris said...

Rationing - on page 71 of his report, Hirsch speaks squarely to the issue of rationing and concludes it is inadvisable as it will only exacerbate the situation. He footnotes his source for that.

Airlines - aircraft consumption is 6% of the total for trucks (including heavy trucks) and cars. I would argue that aircraft, buses, emergency vehicles, and heavy trucks would have first call on depleting stocks. The first two because they are multi-passenger, the third for obvious reasons and the last because we rely on them to haul a great many things.

In reality, rolling stock uses standard gasoline or diesel for the most part, and would be the obvious targets for alternative liquid fuels. The AF is currently testing an alternative fuel for their jets, I forget what it is, in an aircraft now. The fuel is going into one tank and standard jet fuel in the other. If it works out they will conduct tests with an aircraft using only the alternative.