Long Term Energy Security: Quo Vadis?

 

Long term Energy Security: Quo Vadis? (Where do you go?)

This paper constitutes an analysis and evaluation of the prospects of the long term energy security within the long term developments that can be foreseen to take place in the world.

It may contain some unusual viewpoints and/or possibly uncomfortable truths and the reader is invited to give it some honest reflection.

The Author, Alexander Wöstmann (1958), of the Netherlands, living in Germany, is working in the energy news and information since 30 years and is founder and owner of Alexander’s Gas & Oil Connections at www.gasandoil.com. His extensive experience and multiple training-fields have allowed him to view matters in a more integrated manner, taking into considerations many levels at play, leading to hopefully a more throughout view.

 

The beginning

The matter of the long term energy security does not necessarily start with the amount of oil or gas, or coal, uranium, water, sun or wind available, although it does play an important role. It much more starts with the expectation and projection of the long term developments themselves.

Looking at the long term developments as they may be expected, we also need to look at the expectation for the needs on the long term, and therefore to demographics and social developments.

These demographic and social developments are very much related with economic developments, that will form the basis for expected demand, and are much influenced by environmental changes and climatic developments and other planetary developments on which humans have very little influence.

This paper will therefore begin with a viewpoint from outside our planet and solar-system, as a starting point to look at what can be expected in the coming decades, which will have major repercussions for the life on this planet and the energy security of the future.


The Outside View

Moving ourselves outside of the planet, and outside of our solar system, we may start to see that our ‘Home-galaxy’, the Milky Way, itself only one of billions of galaxies in this Universe, is slowly turning, and that our solar system, is moving inside this gigantic disc of billions of stars, with the speed of almost 1 million kilometres per hour, towards the centre of our Galaxy.

And whilst our solar system is whizzing through space, our planet is going around the sun with a speed of about 200.000 km/h, which gives rise to the seasons.

And whilst it is moving around the sun, it also is moving around its own axis, with a speed of about 1660 km per hour at the Equator, which causes day and night.

All these movements happen automatically and are engineered far above the level of humans.

When it is then considered that in the last years information has surfaced that speaks of potentially vast changes in the atmospheres of the planets Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn as well as our own moon, with the explanation given as ‘Climate Change’, we may be forgiven to think that at least some of the changes as we experience them on our planet, may be of an origin that is way beyond planetary.

This may touch upon such developments as the changes in the north/south axis of the planet, the increase of volcanic activity and earthquakes, possibly the changes in substructures of the planet such as major wind or water jet-stream, and could as well be a possible explanation for some of the excessive and or freak weather-phenomena experienced over the last years.

Considerations at planetary level

Our planet, a living organism, with originally an intact ecosphere that catered for the needs of the organisms living on it, has been severely tampered with. The planet is covered by only a tiny small band of liveable atmosphere, in which everything is contained.

Then consider that since the beginning of the industrial revolution at least 1.5 trillion barrels of oil and several trillions of tons of coal have been burned.

Currently humanity burns 3 billion barrel of oil, 6 billion tons of coal and at least 2 trillion cubic meter of gas per year.

On top of that about 2 tcm of gas is being vented or flared, massive amounts of forest and wood are being cut down or burned down, vast amounts of heat, poison, chemicals and other forms of pollution, are being released into the atmosphere.

 

Can anyone, anyone, in his right mind,

really expect this to NOT have

major long term effects?

 

The unending diversity

Vast stretches of land are being degraded, as well as enormous areas of oxygen-producing and flora and fauna multiplicity providing forests are being cut down (partly for beef, partly for soy, partly to provide ‘green’ biofuel), robbing the planet of the possibility to clean up and regenerate as well as to provide the oxygen that humans (and most life on earth) needs for living.

At the same time the fluid and gaseous ‘effluents’ of human activity (industry, living, working, travelling) are slowly but surely causing a degradation of the earth, most needed in providing food, as well as an acidification of the oceans.

The increasingly acid environment under water is a major cause of the massive reduction of krill and other small & micro life that has been noted in the last years of which many have an exo-skeleton that cannot be formed up in such an acid environment and therefore they wither and die.

These tiny creatures are at the basis of the food-chain in all oceans and most seas, and a strong reduction of their presence is having and will have major repercussions on the amount of fish in the oceans, a prime source of food for the humans.

Further adding to this picture is, that the climate changes occurring, whether human induced or not, are causing vast changes in the water household of the planet. Great rivers, such as the Amazon, The Nile, the Mississippi and many others, have seen water-levels going far below normal and many of the large rivers that are a major source of drinking-water for humans or water-source of lands and forests, are drying out.

On the other hand some of the major rivers that have their origins in the high mountains and are fed by glaciers and snow, will see in the coming decades a strong increase in the water-masses, due to rising temperatures and more melting-water. These water-masses may vastly exceed the capacities of the subsequent rivers, causing flooding, (environmental) destruction as well as possibly mass-migration.

As the expectation is that this warming and melting will continue for the coming decades, we may see substantial movements of people, who were until now dependent on these rivers. As the expectation is also that after most glaciers and snow have melted away, these rivers will dry up and not be anymore able to provide the drinking-water and the water for agricultural or industrial or power production for several of billions of people, further being a cause for mass-migration.

All this will have major effects on the long term energy demand and –security.

 

The Socio-economic Dichotomy

The next level of considerations will touch upon the current economic, social and demographic developments, as they are an indication for the to be expected future energy needs.

Currently the planet houses about 6.5 to 7 billion people and the expectation is that this will grow substantially in the coming decades. Especially India and China are expected to play a large part in the further multiplication of humans, as will the emerging economies in Latin America, and some African and Asian states. Most of the OECD-countries see stagnating population growth or even population shrinkage, only to be filled up by migration from third countries.

If we take the before mentioned environmental and climatic developments, which will affect almost all continents of the world, the assumption of a continuous growth of the global population may be questioned.

The combination of an aging population with little offspring in many of the ‘developed’ countries in combination with very insecure economic projections and future developments, an increasingly less strong growth in many of the emerging economies due to either social or economic policies, or as a result of the in many places overstretched natural environment, as well as the current global economic developments, the increase in natural or man-made environmental disasters and the increasing occurrence of diseases on massive scale, whether deliberately introduced or not, may give indication towards a more reality based calculation of the global population as well as the demand that can be expected on energy and natural resources.

 

Financial Development Viewings

At this moment in time most of the world is engulfed in a major economic crisis, a multitude of small or big wars, as well as ever more regularly occurring natural disasters, whether of natural origin or not.

The economic crisis seems to be a carefully engineered situation which an increasing amount of people see as a fraud, robbery and thievery on a magnitude and depth as the world has never seen before. Currently a whole host of countries is being blackmailed in submission with their population becoming economically enslaved whilst their savings and their future are being robbed by the financial elite and the politicians that wrote the rules that allowed the system to come into existence.

At the same time wars are being created, and maintained, and ever more expanded, to beat countries into submission or completely enslave them, rob them from their natural resources whilst destroying the genetic and social structure of the people by the usage of the genetically altering left-overs of the war.

Depleted uranium is covering large parts of the countries currently under war, causing genetic deficiency diseases and –crippling, putting a toll on the country and its people that will last for hundreds of thousands of years, as long as the depleted uranium is radiating and poisoning the earth, the air and the water.

 

The Media Coordination

As most of the media in the Western World (up to 90 %) can be traced back to be held in just a few hands, a vast amount of papers, websites, radio, television, and film-studios, in a multitude of countries, work together to fit the directives of their holders.

This has major, major consequences on what the people of the world read, see or hear, determining to a large extent political voting, mind-state, views on the past, current or future developments, their expectations in life as well as their attempts to fulfil their expectations of life.

Not only do the combined power of the media determine the way people think, feel or live, but also are they used to influence policies, enhance or vilify leaders and politicians, change the views of the people on certain regions or countries (and their people), making the case for war and other atrocities, creating dissent in countries and between countries, as well as vastly manipulating the minds and mindsets and perceptions on the economic developments or the price of oil, energy, food, raw materials and much more.

Very few people are aware of the deep, deep influence the media have on the psychologies of the people and the subtle and less subtle ways that are used in the editing of the news, the ways of news-coverage, the advertising, creation of television-programmes, supporting films, heralding video-games and the like. The ‘Freedom of Information’ is used on an unprecedented scale to determine the course countries and populations go. The enslavement of the minds has taken a much greater part of the global population than is generally realised.

People and countries are driven, almost like cattle, to where ‘those who determine’ need them for their goals. These goals are not necessarily in the best interest of the countries and their people.

Walking the Line

Looking from afar, it seems as if a relatively small group of extremely wealthy and powerful people are consciously on their way to control large parts of the planet, either directly or indirectly, creating wars where they deem needed for their goals, siphoning off excessive amounts of money to uncontrollable places, as well as use vast amounts that were created out of thin air to buy up or buy out whole economies, making sure that the price to be paid, or the taxes, or the costs of the fraud and the ‘support’ for the financial system, are being born by the ‘normal’ people.

These people see themselves being subjected to a long-term development of degrading salaries, degrading services and degrading standards of living and qualities all over, whilst the financial elites take over their country and walk away with undue profits, after ensuring that the rules created are in sympathy with the system, to perpetuate the situation.

This is going on in many countries. Those countries or regions resisting these developments see themselves becoming subject to either vilification by mass-media attention and –manipulation or suddenly find ‘terrorists’ in their country against which they are forced to ‘defend’ themselves at great costs and with ‘help’ of some of the major forces, thus creating a negative world-view on the country, spiralling costs, presence of ‘advisors and trainers’ and of course coming under the pressure of the ‘world-opinion’ to ‘do something’ against these pests.

Or they find that from their country dangerous packages have been sent to respectable places or that some citizens are suddenly entangled in more or less realistic plane-hijacking scenarios.

There are many ways to make sure a country ‘walks the line’, if you have the means.

Of course all this is only a partial view, for example not taking into account the agricultural side of developments, in which it is ever more tried to introduce on a large scale genetically modified crops, with the ‘selling ticket’ that this is good for the world population and the ‘fight against poverty and hunger’ but in reality is destroying the home-markets and social structures and causing massive debt-induced suicides through the industrialisation of the food supply, whilst destroying the natural biodiversity of nature as well as crops, causing whole countries to become dependent on some global players and the ‘aid’ provided to cater for some of the needs that are the results of the policies in the first place.

 

Population Expectation

Taking into account the above-mentioned factors at play: planetary changes from above-planetary origin, climate-changes by both external and human causation, the economic development, the wars and the costs of wars upon the countries and their population, the acidifying of the oceans and drying up of rivers, the reduction in natural landscape (and the oxygen provided by it), the degradation of the land by erosion and poisoning, all this invites a very careful prognosis about global population growth as well as about the expected living standards all over the world that are the basis for the currently ‘accepted assumptions’ of energy demand in the future.

The trend of future energy demand may therefore be less upward than expected, or even go slightly down, depending upon what region is hit by what kind of development.

 

Energy Evaluation

Hydrocarbons

The long term energy security is determined by two sides: the expected demand, written about here above, and energy supply.

A large part of the energy of the world is still provided by coal. Especially the base-load of the power-production is in many countries in the world (USA, India, China, Eastern Europe and more) provided by the burning of coal. It causes massive amounts of pollution in air, ground and water and the calculations on the amounts still available vary between 20 and 100 years at current demand, depending upon the qualities of coal included and the sources providing the information.

Next on the ladder is oil, and gas, which give off a different picture.

As is inherent to exploiting non-renewable sources: at a certain moment they become more difficult to get.

Oil

From oil it can be said that the biggest and most easily accessible sources/fields have been found a long time ago and that over the years it has become clear that evermore smaller fields, or ever more difficult to reach fields, will become ever more important in even maintaining the current status quo. Depletion is hitting most aging fields and the newly found ones need ever more energy and investment to be explored and exploited.

How much oil is and will be available for usage is in many places a (state-)secret and the overall assessments vary substantially again depending on what kinds of oil are included (whether realistic or not) or what party is being asked.

The figures about global reserves and expected global supply and demand have become subject to huge forces of politics and finance and are often questionable in their reliability.

Gas

For gas the situation is different. Although in quite a few traditional gas-lands the fields are depleting rapidly, in other places new and very substantial reserves have been and are being found or will be coming online in the coming years.

This will make it possible that gas will be more used to replace coal for power-production as well as for home-heating, industrial processes and on a limited scale for transportation. The availability of gas can likely still be counted in decades of current usage, before fast depletion will start to occur.

The availability of vast amounts of gas-hydrates in quite a few places globally, may extend this picture. However, exploitation of gas-hydrates is still extremely difficult as well as dangerous, due to the possibility of destabilisation of the layers and the dangers of mass eruption, sea-bottom slides and subsequent tsunamis.

Nuclear

The nuclear industry is making a come-back, or so we are told. Ever more countries are said to consider nuclear energy, apparently because it would not create emissions or CO2. Whilst there are many plans, projections and announcements, the realistic picture is quite a bit more diversified.

The construction of a nuclear power-plant, including planning, is still taking the best of at least 20 years, and vast amounts of money.

The nuclear fuel, uranium, is partly still taken from dismantled nuclear weapons and for the rest is coming from limited reserves worldwide in a strictly controlled market. The amount of uranium as a commodity and resource is difficult to pinpoint but, again dependent upon qualities of the ore included and the information-sources taken, is somewhere between 20 and 60 years, at current demand.

This may mean that, with the coming increase in demand, and the long lead-time of the nuclear power-plants, many of the plants currently talked about, will only be finalized after the last uranium-ore has been dug out.

Taking into consideration that the depleted fuel-rods will be highly radio-active and poisonous for several millions of years, and that the corporations planning and building the plants are armstronging the countries to relieve them from the responsibilities and costs should something go wrong, and the fact that de-commissioning a nuclear power-plant is an extremely costly and dangerous operation, untried till now, of which the costs also stay with the country and the people, it may be considered whether nuclear energy is actually as environmentally friendly as displayed and as economically sound as portrayed.

Wind and Solar

Wind, solar and other renewable are slowly coming into the picture as their contribution carefully grows above the single digit percentage of the whole.

Wind-energy is growing strongly, with a seemingly prosperous future, although the effects of the possible shortage in rare-earths, needed for their generation-equipment cannot yet be quantified, nor the environmental side-effects on the people living nearby onshore or the effects on bird- or fish migration.

Solar, especially photovoltaic, seems to have a bright future, especially as the underlying science is developing fast and the efficiency is growing, whilst the amount of material and resources needed seems to go down, and the energy return on the energy invested is steadily improving.

The solar energy generated by concentrating heat and generating power from this heat, may prove to be a false direction, as vast amounts of water are needed for the process and the cooling. Projecting large amounts of these ‘solar-generators’ in the desert, may prove to be a costly miscalculation, as the water in the desert is either not available or very costly, and certainly non-renewable.

Hydro-energy

Hydro-energy, although presented as renewable and environmentally friendly, is neither of the two.

Reality is that hydro-energy does vast damage to the rivers and its fish-stock, is causing environmental degradation and destruction on ginormous scale, is delivering generally much less than calculated and is a major source of methane and other (toxic) emissions due to the rotting of the mud gathering in the reservoir (which normally would be flushed with the river) as well as the rotting process of the earth, plants and animals that were flooded, that themselves attract other attachments, further enhancing the rotting process.

The environmental degradation that will be caused by the various dams that are in planning in Latin America and Africa, that will cover and flood very large areas of pristine and untouched forest and all that is living in it or from it, can be considered as crimes against humanity, by the destruction they will cause. That they will gain ‘respectability’ by gaining ‘green points’ in the vastly fraudulent ‘carbon-scheme’ does not make it better.

 

The Reality Conundrum

Coming to a conclusion, one may say that, taking all the above into consideration, humanity may well be able to provide the energy needed for their sustenance and development for the coming decades, with the long term demand expectancy by far not as high as officially expected, giving the supply side the ‘breathing time’ to develop new sources, either conventional (oil, gas) or more environmentally sound.

As the long term economic development situation will start to unfold in the coming years and the environmental and climatic changes will become more bitingly real, humanity will find itself with depleting non-renewable energy-sources and raw materials, as well as become subject to the ever increasing financial and armed struggle to control the remaining resources and fertile land.

The rest of the population and countries, those without resources, or not obedient to the rulers, will find themselves between a rock and a hard place and seemingly very little possibility to do something about it.

Unless of course some actions are taken to turn the tide of the tsunami of powers that are engulfing the earth to take control and grow and perpetuate their fiefdom.

 

January 6, 2011

Alexander Wöstmann

Alexander Wöstmann is founder and owner of Alexander’s Gas & Oil Connections at www.gasandoil.com

 

This paper was written for the UNCTAD Global Commodities Forum 31/1 – 1/2 2011 in Geneva and is published in Energy Evaluation Monthly at www.gasandoil.com.

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