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A Case Study of Fossil-Fuel Depletion

A Case Study of Fossil-Fuel Depletion

A few months ago I received an intriguing email from researcher and activist Regan Boychuk. For the past 15 years, Boychuk has been studying the oil-and-gas industry in Alberta (Canada) and he wanted to know if I would join his project. I immediately said yes.

Some backstory. You can think of Alberta as the Texas of Canada. Alberta is endowed with a vast trove of oil that it has been exploiting for the past 75 years. And like Texas, Alberta’s politics are dominated by the oil industry.

Oh, and Alberta is where I grew up.

Back to Regan Boychuk’s work. Boychuk has a vision for an Alberta in which the oil industry goes extinct by being forced to clean up its own mess. As it stands, Alberta has about 300,000 oil-and-gas wells waiting to be cleaned up at the oil companies’ expense. The problem is that oil companies are not forced to save for the clean-up expense, and accounting tricks allow them to make the clean-up liability look negligible in their corporate accounts.1 It’s an open secret (implicitly endorsed by the Alberta government) that defunct wells will never be cleaned up. If they were, the oil industry would go bankrupt.

And that’s exactly what Boychuk wants. His dream is to kill 3 birds with one stone:

  1. Show that the oil-and-gas industry is insolvent;
  2. Clean up every well in Alberta;
  3. Fund full employment and a transition to a sustainable Alberta economy.

To hasten this big-picture goal, Boychuk asked me to help by estimating production curves for every oil-and-gas well in Alberta. After much head scratching and many lines of code, that’s what I’ve done.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

“Peak Oil will save us from Climate Change:” a meme that never went viral

“Peak Oil will save us from Climate Change:” a meme that never went viral

 Image from “Peaksurfer

The idea that peak oil will save us from climate change has been occasionally popping up in the debate, but it never really gained traction for a number of good reasons. One is that, in many cases, the proponents were also climate science deniers and that made them scarcely credible. Indeed, if climate change does not exist (or if it is not caused by human activities), then how is it that you are telling us that peak oil will save us from it? Add to this that many hard line climate science deniers are also peak oil deniers (since, as well known, both concepts are part of the great conspiracy), then, it is no surprise that the meme of “peak oil will save us” never went viral.

That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t ask the question of whether we have sufficient amounts of fossil fuel to generate a truly disastrous climate change. The debate on this point goes back to the early 2000s. At the beginning, the data were uncertain and it was correctly noted that some of the IPCC scenarios overestimated what we are likely to burn in the future. But, by now, I think the fog has cleared.  It is becoming increasingly clear that fossil fuel depletion is not enough, by far, to save us from climate change.

Nevertheless, some people still cling to the old “peak oil will save us” meme. In a recent post on “Energy Matters“, Roger Andrews argues that:

All of the oil and gas reserves plus about 20% of the coal reserves could be consumed without exceeding the IPCC’s trillion-tonne carbon emissions limit.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

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