Time to Focus on Coal

The UK Guardian newspaper reports that whistleblowers at the International Energy Agency have challenged that agency’s “cover-up” of “peak oil.” (Peak oil is the simple idea that annual oil production will be lower in the future because we have used up the easy-to-produce reserves.)

“The IEA in 2005 was predicting oil supplies could rise as high as 120m barrels a day by 2030 although it was forced to reduce this gradually to 116m and then 105m last year,” said the IEA source, who was unwilling to be identified for fear of reprisals inside the industry. “The 120m figure always was nonsense but even today’s number is much higher than can be justified and the IEA knows this.”

Conventional petroleum is useful and valuable; humanity will burn all it can find.  If we are smart, we will find ways to use it more sparingly.

What we cannot do is burn all the coal we can find because that would release too much carbon dioxide into the earth’s atmosphere.  The result would be runaway climate instability and a very, very unpleasant life for our grandchildren.  NASA climate expert James Hansen has been hitting this point for some time now:

What is clear is that we cannot burn all the fossil fuels.  There is a limit on how much carbon we can put into the atmosphere. …we must phase out all coal emissions rapidly, not develop the unconventional fossil fuels, and not even go after every last drop of oil on the planet.  In that case, our children and grandchildren have a chance of inheriting a planet that is not spiraling out of their control.

In reality our governments are continuing to build new coal-fired power plants, develop unconventional fossil fuels, and encourage the search for more oil.  Instead of taking a strategic approach, governments pretend that they will solve the problem by setting “goals” for large emission reductions for some future date – say 80 percent by 2050 or some other target.  They say that they will set “caps” on emissions to achieve the emission reductions.  Our governments are lying to us, or, if you want to be generous, they are kidding us. [Emphasis added.]

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