Media Moves

Energy coverage — are we being aggressive?

November 21, 2005

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, then you know I am currently reading The Empty Tank, which argues that the oil and gas industry have been feeding the general public a lie about how much energy reserves there are in the country.

I happen to have an old college drinking buddy who went on to get his PhD in geology from the University of Chicago — one of the best programs in the country. In addition, he’s spent the last decade working on nuclear energy projects. So I contacted him today to see what he had to say about this book and what he’s read in the media about the industry coverage. His comments, I think, warrant sharing with a wider audience because he has some strong views on the topic that should be a warning signal to business journalists who are following companies in this industry.

Here is what my friend, who shall remain nameless because of his current position in the industry, had to say:

“I am familiar with the book but have not read it. I think there is some truth to what is said. I am not sure the oil companies are feeding us a line but we will ‘run out’ of oil and gas. Depending on what assumptions you make, you hear later to end of this century. Regardless, it is going to get progressively more difficult to get it out of the ground as we deplete the ‘easy to get’ reserves and have to go to secondary and tertiary recovery.

“Going a bit further, I tend to look at the problem a bit more broadly. If you look at worldwide energy demand projections (with developing countries like China and India and their demand), we need to throw everything we have at the problem. Interestingly, coal reserves in the US are projected to last 300-400 years. As you know, when we talk about any fossil fuel, greenhouse gas emissions are an important consideration.

“Then you bring in energy security – i.e more reliance on domestic energy sources.

“All this leads me to say that we need clean coal, nuclear, solar, biomass, wind (what little it can provide) and others to meet our demand, provide energy security, and minimize GHG emissions.

“A bit more then you asked, but this is something I think about alot these days. Mostly from the nuclear power side but starting to think about it more broadly.

“So, back to your question, oil and gas will run out. There is still alot, but it is a finite resource and comes with a set of problems. We need to diversify and quickly. I have heard this referred to as needing to avoid the “energy train wreck.” This is no longer the supply crisis of the 70s — demand will be almost unimaginable. We need a comprehensive energy policy. What Congress did this year is only one tiny step.

“Off of soapbox. Always happy to discuss further. As you can see, I have some enthusiasm on this topic.”

If I was covering the energy industry today, I’d start asking tougher questions of the oil and gas companies. And I’d start paying attention to more of the alternative energy sources and whether they are being developed.

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