The following is a non-exhaustive list of reports and other publications relevant to the field of biophysical economics. These reports are not all dedicated to biophysical economics as such, and their authors or publishers are not all associated with the biophysical economics line of thought. All however provide information or data on how the flows of energy and matter shape and are shaped by the economy’s structures and evolutions, and therefore contribute to making possible a biophysical reading of the economic process as well as of past and ongoing economic trends and developments. These reports were published by a variety of organizations, including academia, industry, governmental bodies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). They are presented here for information purposes only. BiophysEco does not necessarily support or endorse the views expressed by their authors.
WORK IN PROGRESS… THE REPORTS LIST IS STILL BEING POPULATED
Reports by publication year:
The Growing Role of Minerals and Metals for A Low-Carbon Future
Published by: World Bank, July 2017
Climate and greenhouse gas (GHG) scenarios have typically paid scant attention to the metal implications necessary to realize a low/zero carbon future. The 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change indicates a global resolve to embark on development patterns that would significantly be less GHG intensive. One might assume that nonrenewable resource development and use will also need to decline in a carbon-constrained future. This report tests that assumption, identifies those commodities implicated in such a scenario and explores ramifications for relevant resource-rich developing countries. Using wind, solar, and energy storage batteries as proxies, the study examines which metals will likely rise in demand to be able to deliver on a carbon-constrained future. Metals which could see a growing market include aluminum (including its key constituent, bauxite), cobalt, copper, iron ore, lead, lithium, nickel, manganese, the platinum group of metals, rare earth metals including cadmium, molybdenum, neodymium, and indium—silver, steel, titanium and zinc. The report then maps production and reserve levels of relevant metals globally, focusing on implications for resource-rich developing countries. A “green” technology future has the potential to be materially intensive, the report states. Increased extraction and production activities could also have significant impacts on local water systems, ecosystems, and communities. As countries develop their natural resource endowments, it will be critical that sustainability, environmental protection, and options to recycle materials be integrated into new operations, policies and investments. The report concludes by identifying critical research gaps and suggestions for future work.
Forecasting Failure: Why Investors Should Treat Oil Company Energy Forecasts With Caution
Published by: Oil Change International, Greenpeace, March 2017
Companies like ExxonMobil, Shell and BP routinely use their in-house energy forecasts to justify investments in multi-decade, high-cost projects, from the Arctic to the tar sands. While the companies present their published forecasts as objective analyses, the forecasts rather reflect the future they want us to believe in. This report: reveals the poor track record of oil company forecasting; exposes the unlikely assumptions built into the forecasts; and examines the consequences of these forecasts for investments and for climate change. It finds that the companies are highly vulnerable to disruption by clean energy technologies, and that their forecasts are playing an unhelpful role in the climate debate. The report includes a comparative analysis of the oil majors’ current approaches to thinking about energy futures, and recommendations for more robust ways to think about the future of energy, echoing the recent Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures.
2016 Tight Oil Reality Check
Author: David Hughes
Published by: Post Carbon Institute, December 2016
In this new update to Drilling Deeper and 2015 Tight Oil Reality Check, David Hughes applies the same scrutiny he has in his past groundbreaking reports to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) newly released Annual Energy Outlook 2016 (AEO2016). He explores how the EIA’s projections and assumptions regarding tight oil have changed over the last two years, as well as assesses the AEO2016 against both Drilling Deeper and up-to-date production data from key tight oil plays.
2016 Shale Gas Reality Check
Author: David Hughes
Published by: Post Carbon Institute, December 2016
In this new update to Drilling Deeper and 2015 Shale Gas Reality Check, David Hughes applies the same scrutiny he has in his past groundbreaking reports to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) newly released Annual Energy Outlook 2016 (AEO2016). He explores how the EIA’s projections and assumptions regarding shale gas have changed over the last two years, as well as assesses the AEO2016 against both Drilling Deeper and up-to-date production data from key shale gas plays.
Global oil supply: Will mature field declines drive the next supply crunch?
Authors: Kim Fustier, Gordon Gray, Christoffer Gundersen and Thomas Hilboldt
Published by: HSBC Global Research, September 2016
Supply constraints seem a distant prospect in the current oil market, but a return to balance in 2017 will leave the World with severely limited spare capacity. Meanwhile, near term productivity gains are temporarily masking a steady increase in mature field decline rates which could cut existing capacity by >40mbd (>42%) by 2040e. We think risks of supply constraints will resurface long before risks of global demand peaking, and a steady tightening in the supply/demand balance post-2017 is behind our unchanged USD75/b long-term Brent price assumption.
The Sky’s Limit: Why the Paris Climate Goals Require a Managed Decline of Fossil Fuel Production
Authors: Greg Muttitt, with contributions from Hannah McKinnon, Lorne Stockman, Steve Kretzmann, Adam Scott, and David Turnbull.
Published by: Oil Change International, in collaboration with 350.org, Amazon Watch, APMDD, AYCC, Bold Alliance, Christian Aid, Earthworks, Équiterre, Global Catholic Climate Movement, HOMEF, Indigenous Environmental Network, IndyAct, Rainforest Action Network, and Stand.earth. September 2016
This study released by Oil Change International, in partnership with 14 organizations from around the world, scientifically grounds the growing movement to keep carbon in the ground by revealing the need to stop all new fossil fuel infrastructure and industry expansion. It focuses on the potential carbon emissions from developed reserves – where the wells are already drilled, the pits dug, and the pipelines, processing facilities, railways, and export terminals constructed.
- The potential carbon emissions from the oil, gas, and coal in the world’s currently operating fields and mines would take us beyond 2°C of warming.
- The reserves in currently operating oil and gas fields alone, even with no coal, would take the world beyond 1.5°C.
- With the necessary decline in production over the coming decades to meet climate goals, clean energy can be scaled up at a corresponding pace, expanding the total number of energy jobs.
- No new fossil fuel extraction or transportation infrastructure should be built, and governments should grant no new permits for them.
- Some fields and mines – primarily in rich countries – should be closed before fully exploiting their resources, and financial support should be provided for non-carbon development in poorer countries.
- This does not mean stopping using all fossil fuels overnight. Governments and companies should conduct a managed decline of the fossil fuel industry and ensure a just transition for the workers and communities that depend on it.
Global Material Flows and Resource Productivity:Assessment Report for the UNEP International Resource Panel
Authors: Heinz Schandl, Marina Fischer-Kowalski, James West, Stefan Giljum, Monika Dittrich, Nina Eisenmenger, Arne Geschke, Mirko Lieber, Hanspeter Wieland, Anke Schaffartzik, Fridolin Krausmann, Sylvia Gierlinger, Karin Hosking, Manfred Lenzen, Hiroki Tanikawa, Alessio Miatto, and Tomer Fishman
Published by: United Nations Environment Programme, July 2016
The International Resource Panel presents a comprehensive data set and report of material use and movement in the global economy. The Panel pays particular attention to the prospect of decoupling economic growth and human well-being from ever-increasing use of natural resources and related environmental impact.
In a resource-constrained world: Think exergy not energy
Authors: Paul Edward Brockway, Signe Kjelstrup, Jo Dewulf, Susanne Siebentritt, Antonio Valero, Caroline Whelan
Published by: Science Europe, May 2016
When we think about energy, we consider it in terms of quantity. However, in a resource-constrained world, energy must also be appreciated from the point of view of quality, which is essentially a measure of its usefulness, or its ability to do work. In order to account for the quality and not just the quantity of energy, we need to measure exergy.
Methodological Guidelines on Net Energy Analysis of Photovoltaic Electricity
Authors: Marco Raugei, Rolf Frischknecht, Carol Olson, Parikhit Sinha, Garvin Heath
Published by: IEA Photovoltaic Power Systems Programme (PVPS), February 2016
Net Energy Analysis (NEA) is a structured, comprehensive method of quantifying the extent to which a given energy source is able to provide a net energy gain (i.e., an energy surplus) to the end user, after accounting for all the energy losses occurring along the chain of processes that are required to exploit it (i.e., for its extraction, processing and transformation into a usable energy carrier, and delivery to the end user), as well as for all the additional energy ‘investments’ that are required in order to carry out the same chain of processes. However, this general framework leaves the individual practitioner with a range of choices that can affect the results and thus, the conclusions of a NEA study. The current IEA PVPS guidelines were developed to provide guidance on assuring consistency, balance, and quality to enhance the credibility and reliability of the results from photovoltaic (PV) NEAs. The guidelines represent a consensus among the authors ‐ PV NEA experts in North America, Europe, and Asia ‐ for assumptions made on PV performance, process inputs and outputs, methods of analysis, and reporting of the results.
Guidance is given on photovoltaic‐specific parameters used as inputs in NEA and on choices and assumptions in inventory data analysis and on implementation of modelling approaches. A consistent approach towards system modelling, the functional unit, the system boundaries and allocation aspects enhances the credibility of PV electricity NEA studies and enables balanced NEA‐based comparisons of different electricity producing technologies. This document provides an in‐depth discussion of a common metric of NEA, namely the energy return on investment (EROI), and how this is to be interpreted vis‐à‐vis the deceptively similar‐sounding metrics in the field of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA): cumulative energy demand (CED) and non‐renewable cumulative energy demand (nr‐CED) per unit output.
International Trade in Resources: A Biophysical Assessment
Produced by the International Resource Panel
Prepared by: Marina Fischer-Kowalski, Monika Dittrich, Nina Eisenmenger, Paul Ekins, Julian Fulton, Thomas Kastner, Karin Hosking, Heinz Schandl, Jim West, Thomas O. Wiedmann
Published by: United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), October 2015
The availability and accessibility of natural resources is essential for human well-being. Natural resources are unevenly distributed, and the limits to their availability in many parts of the world are becoming increasingly visible. International trade has played an important role in delivering resources from centres of supply to centres of demand. In the past few decades global efforts have been channelled to enforce sustainable management strategies for natural resources, increase resource and environmental efficiency and thus, overall human well-being. In such a context, what role does international trade play in increasing resource efficiency, reducing environmental impact and promoting equitable and inclusive growth? Through a comprehensive review of updated data and existing literature, the latest assessment from the International Resource Panel International Trade in Resources: A Biophysical Assessment examines the rapid growth and pattern changes of resource trade and analyzes the upstream resource requirements of traded commodities including materials, land, energy and water. The report seeks to shed light on:
- the dramatic rise in international trade in recent decades, with over a six-fold increase in value and more than doubling of its volume between 1980 and 2010;
- the indirect resources associated with trade, i.e. resources used in the production process but not physically included in the traded goods;
- the increasing dependency on world markets to supply the demand for resources, across all material categories with fossil fuels and metals accounting for the highest share;
- the changes that patterns of trade dependence has experienced with high income countries remaining main recipients of resources via trade and emerging economies, such as China, becoming major importers;
- and the rapid increase in upstream requirements of traded commodities – in terms of materials, water, land and energy – the estimates of which range widely from 40 up to 400 per cent of traded materials.
A Common Scale for Our Common Future: Exergy, a Thermodynamic Metric for Energy
Authors: Physical, Chemical and Mathematical Sciences Committee (Opinion Paper)
Published by: Science Europe, September 2015
Summary: A major challenge in striving for energy efficiency is the selection of technological systems, particularly given the need to consider multiple environmental, economic and social concerns. In addition, the general public, policy makers and experts alike misunderstand the physical nature of energy and hence its efficient use. After decades of fragmented agreements, regulations, treaties, strategies, indicators, targets, directives and communications, the European Union (EU) in its Energy Union strategy needs to take the lead in restoring the energy debate to firm foundations: those of thermodynamics, the science of energy.
2015 Tight Oil Reality Check
Author: David Hughes
Published by: Post Carbon Institute, September 2015
Much of the cost-benefit debate over fracking has come down to the perception of just how much domestic oil and gas it can produce and at what cost. To answer this question, policymakers, the media, and the general public have typically turned to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA), which every year publishes its Annual Energy Outlook (AEO). In Drilling Deeper, PCI Fellow David Hughes took a hard look at the EIA’s AEO2014 and found that its projections for future production and prices suffered from a worrisome level of optimism. Recently, the EIA released its Annual Energy Outlook 2015 and so we asked David Hughes to see how the EIA’s projections and assumptions have changed over the last year, and to assess the AEO2015 against both Drilling Deeper and up-to-date production data from key shale gas and tight oil plays. In July 2015, Post Carbon Institute published Shale Gas Reality Check, which found that in 2015 the EIA is more optimistic than ever about the prospects for shale gas, despite substantive reasons for caution. This new report presents Hughes’s assessment of the EIA’s latest projections for tight oil.
2015 Shale Gas Reality Check
Author: David Hughes
Published by: Post Carbon Institute, July 2015
In October 2014, Post Carbon Institute published the results of what likely remains the most thorough independent analysis of U.S. shale gas and tight oil production ever conducted. The process of drilling for shale gas and tight oil is known colloquially as “fracking” and has drawn a great deal of controversy—considered by some as an energy revolution and others as an environmental and human health catastrophe. Much of the cost-benefit debate over fracking has come down to the perception of just how much domestic oil and gas it can produce and at what cost. To answer this question, policymakers, the media, and the general public have typically turned to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA), which every year publishes its Annual Energy Outlook (AEO). In Drilling Deeper, PCI Fellow David Hughes took a hard look at the EIA’s AEO2014 and found that its projections for future production and prices suffered from a worrisome level of optimism. This led us and others to raise important questions about the wisdom of some energy policies and infrastructure projects (for example, the approval of Liquified Natural Gas export terminals and the lifting of the crude oil export ban) that have been pursued largely on the basis of the EIA’s rosy forecasts. Recently, the EIA released its Annual Energy Outlook 2015 and so we asked David Hughes to see how the EIA’s projections and assumptions have changed over the last year, and to assess the AEO2015 against both Drilling Deeper and up-to-date production data from key shale gas and tight oil plays. Shale Gas Reality Check presents Hughes’s findings regarding shale gas.
Opening the EU Black Box: Energy metabolism, dependence and geopolitics
Authors: Pablo Cotarelo and Alfons Pérez
Observatori del Deute en la Globalització (ODG), Barcelona, May 2015
The European Union is one of the principal actors on the world energy stage and plays a leading role in determining the composition and operation of international policies. Developments in the energy field in recent years have affected the EU, both within its territory and externally, but the global effects of this have yet to be defined in detail. The objective of this study is to analyse the existing relationship between the ways member states and the European Union as a whole organise their energy needs (social metabolism), and the external geopolitics which derive from this. In other words, it aims to uncover the external dimension of Europe’s energy metabolism. To this end it investigates the metabolic profile of the EU and its member states (its structure and levels of energy and material use, and how these affect the various economic sectors), and also how this is changing. This helps explain the workings of the internal structures of the EU as they relate to the internal extraction of materials and energy resources, their internal consumption, imports and exports. The report also investigates energy material flows and how these are changing in order to detect interdependencies between the EU (as a whole and by country) and the countries which export the fuels arriving in Europe. The study addresses five key questions: What is the relationship between Europe’s social metabolism and its external actions? What are the implications of the European strategy for energy security? How has the increasingly prominent role of finance in the European energy universe come about? What is the influence of finance on Europe’s social metabolism? What role will the EU play in global geopolitics?
Know Your Oil: Creating a Global Oil-Climate Index
Authors: Deborah Gordon, Adam Brandt, Joule Bergerson, Jonathan Koomey
Published by: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, March 11, 2015
Oil is changing. Conventional oil resources are dwindling as tight oil, oil sands, heavy oils, and others emerge. Technological advances mean that these unconventional hydrocarbon deposits in once-unreachable areas are now viable resources. Meanwhile, scientific evidence is mounting that climate change is occurring, but the climate impacts of these new oils are not well understood. The Carnegie Endowment’s Energy and Climate Program, Stanford University, and the University of Calgary have developed a first-of-its-kind Oil-Climate Index (OCI) to compare these resources. Thirty global test oils were modeled during Phase 1 of the index. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions were analyzed throughout the entire oil supply chain—oil extraction, crude transport, refining, marketing, and product combustion and end use. A key conclusion is that all oils are not created equal. Key findings are as follows:
- there is an over 80 percent difference in total GHG emissions per barrel of the lowest GHG-emitting Phase 1 oil and the highest.
- Climate impacts vary whether crudes are measured based on their volumes, their products’ monetary values, or their products’ energy delivered.
- The GHG emission spread between oils is expected to grow as new, unconventional oils are identified.
- Each barrel of oil produces a variety of marketable products. Some are used to fuel cars and trucks, while others – such as petcoke and fuel oils – flow to different sectors. Developing policies that account for leakage of GHG emissions into all sectors is critical.
- The variations in oils’ climate impacts are not sufficiently factored into policymaking or priced into the market value of crudes or their petroleum products.
- As competition among new oils for market share mounts, it will be increasingly important to consider climate risks in prioritizing their development.
Depletion: A determination for the world’s petroleum reserve, Version 2
Authors: The Hill’s Group
Published by: The Hill’s Group, 1 March 2015
Depletion is the inevitable consequence of non-renewable resource extraction. As petroleum depletes it reaches a point where its ability to power the economy begins to decline; as the economy declines our ability to produce petroleum, and its products declines. The objective of this study is to determine when that point will be reached, and how the decline event will evolve. Arriving at an estimate for the remaining extractable petroleum reserve is usually attempted by adding together the quantity of petroleum believed to be present in each field, a method which is error-prone and imprecise. This study on the contrary analyzes the system’s energy state, a method that has several advantages over the quantity measurement approach. The methodology employed by the study is termed “exergy” analysis. Exergy in the vernacular of the science of thermodynamics means: “the maximum amount of work that can be extracted from a system”. The system under study is a unit of petroleum. The maximum amount of work that can be extracted from a unit of petroleum is calculated using the physical properties of the crude oil in question, equations derived from studies of the First and Second Laws of thermodynamics, and the cumulative production history of petroleum. These values are then used in the construction of a mathematical model that can predict the status of the world’s petroleum reserve with a much smaller margin of error than can be provided by the quantity approach. Optimistic estimates place the world’s total petroleum reserve at 4,300 billion barrels. Of that quantity the model used in this study predicts that it will be possible to extract 1,760.5 billion barrels, or 40.9% of the total reserve. The model shows that petroleum’s ability to supply the energy needed to sustain its own production process is declining, and contributes to a deeper understanding of the depletion status of our most essential extractive commodity. The report was prepared by The Hill’s Group, an association of consulting engineers and professional project managers.
Author: David Hughes
Published by: Post Carbon Institute, October 2014
Drilling Deeper reviews the twelve shale plays that account for 82% of the tight oil production and 88% of the shale gas production in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) reference case forecasts through 2040. It utilizes all available production data for the plays analyzed, and assesses historical production, well- and field-decline rates, available drilling locations, and well-quality trends for each play, as well as counties within plays. Projections of future production rates are then made based on forecast drilling rates (and, by implication, capital expenditures). Tight oil (shale oil) and shale gas production is found to be unsustainable in the medium- and longer-term at the rates forecast by the EIA, which are extremely optimistic.
This report finds that tight oil production from major plays will peak before 2020. Barring major new discoveries on the scale of the Bakken or Eagle Ford, production will be far below the EIA’s forecast by 2040. Tight oil production from the two top plays, the Bakken and Eagle Ford, will underperform the EIA’s reference case oil recovery by 28% from 2013 to 2040, and more of this production will be front-loaded than the EIA estimates. By 2040, production rates from the Bakken and Eagle Ford will be less than a tenth of that projected by the EIA. Tight oil production forecast by the EIA from plays other than the Bakken and Eagle Ford is in most cases highly optimistic and unlikely to be realized at the medium- and long-term rates projected.
Shale gas production from the top seven plays will also likely peak before 2020. Barring major new discoveries on the scale of the Marcellus, production will be far below the EIA’s forecast by 2040. Shale gas production from the top seven plays will underperform the EIA’s reference case forecast by 39% from 2014 to 2040, and more of this production will be front-loaded than the EIA estimates. By 2040, production rates from these plays will be about one-third that of the EIA forecast. Production from shale gas plays other than the top seven will need to be four times that estimated by the EIA in order to meet its reference case forecast.
Over the short term, U.S. production of both shale gas and tight oil is projected to be robust-but a thorough review of production data from the major plays indicates that this will not be sustainable in the long term. These findings have clear implications for medium and long term supply, and hence current domestic and foreign policy discussions, which generally assume decades of U.S. oil and gas abundance.
Is Global Collapse Imminent? An Updated Comparison of The Limits to Growth with Historical Data
Author: Graham M. Turner
Published by: Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, The University of Melbourne, August 2014
The Limits to Growth “standard run” (or business-as-usual, BAU) scenario produced about forty years ago aligns well with historical data that has been updated in this paper. The BAU scenario results in collapse of the global economy and environment (where standards of living fall at rates faster than they have historically risen due to disruption of normal economic functions), subsequently forcing population down. Although the modelled fall in population occurs after about 2030 — with death rates rising from 2020 onward, reversing contemporary trends—the general onset of collapse first appears at about 2015 when per capita industrial output begins a sharp decline. Given this imminent timing, a further issue this paper raises is whether the current economic difficulties of the global financial crisis are potentially related to mechanisms of breakdown in the Limits to Growth BAU scenario. In particular, contemporary peak oil issues and analysis of net energy, or energy return on (energy) invested, support the Limits to Growth modelling of resource constraints underlying the collapse.
Linking Energy Efficiency to Economic Productivity: Recommendations for Improving the Robustness of the U.S. Economy
Author: John A. “Skip” Laitner
Published by: American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE)
Most observers of U.S. energy policy might think of energy efficiency as a useful investment strategy to smartly manage the growth of energy consumption. They might also see it as a cost-effective means to ease our transition into a post-carbon world. And yes, the evidence does support both of these notions. But there is also emerging evidence that demonstrates that energy – and especially the more efficient use of that energy – plays a much more critical role within the economic process than is generally understood. Building on the work of a number of noted economists and physicists, this new ACEEE report explores the productive use of energy as it affects the robustness of the larger U.S. economy.
Of the total high-quality energy consumed to support economic activity in 2010, only 14 percent was converted into useful work. In other words, the American economy wasted 86 percent of all the energy used that year in the production of goods and services. One can easily imagine that waste of this magnitude creates an array of costs that weakens the nation’s economic and social well-being.
The report also explores the need for a more critical accounting of how work—that is, the transformation of matter into necessary goods and services—is enabled by the efficient conversion of high-quality energy, or exergy. If exergy flows are neither properly measured nor adequately tracked, then business and policy leaders may be misreading the real dynamics of economic activity. That may lead to policy prescriptions that are suboptimal and dampen the economic well-being of the United States.
EROI of Global Energy Resources: Status, Trends and Social Implications
Authors: Balogh, S., Hall, C.A.S., and Lambert, J.G.
Published by: Department for International Development, UK Government, October 2013
All forms of economic production and exchange involve the transformation of materials, which in turn requires energy. Until recently cheap and seemingly limitless fossil energy has allowed many to ignore the important contributions from the biophysical world to the economic process and potential limits to growth. This report examines the energy used by modern economies over time. This work centers on assessing the relation of energy costs of modern day society and its connection to the quality of human life. A focus of this report is energy return on investment (EROI) and some important characteristics of our major energy sources over time. The EROI for each major fossil fuel resource (except coal) has declined substantially over the last century. Most renewable and non-conventional energy alternatives have substantially lower EROI values than conventional fossil fuels. Declining EROI, at the societal level, means that an increasing proportion of energy output is diverted to getting the energy needed to run an economy with few discretionary funds available for “non-essential” projects. The declining EROI of traditional fossil fuel energy sources and its eventual effect on the world economy are likely to result in a myriad of unforeseen consequences. This document serves as a reference work for policy-makers and planners in developing countries and international aid organizations. This report offers an analytical framework for understanding and assessing national-level socio-economic reactions to declining EROI values and possible impacts of declining EROI and energy availability.
Drill, Baby, Drill: Can Unconventional Fuels Usher in a New Era of Energy Abundance?
Author: David Hughes
Published by: Post Carbon Institut, February 2013
In this landmark report, J. David Hughes from Post Carbon Institute takes a far-ranging and painstakingly researched look at the prospects for various unconventional fuels to provide energy abundance for the United States in the 21st Century. While the report examines a range of energy sources, the centerpiece of “Drill, Baby, Drill” is a critical analysis of shale gas and shale oil (tight oil) and the potential of a shale “revolution.”
It’s now assumed that recent advances in fossil fuel production – particularly for shale gas and shale oil – herald a new age of energy abundance, even “energy independence,” for the United States. Nevertheless, the most thorough public analysis to date of the production history and the economic, environmental, and geological constraints of these resources in North America shows that they will inevitably fall short of such expectations, for two main reasons: First, shale gas and shale oil wells have proven to deplete quickly, the best fields have already been tapped, and no major new field discoveries are expected; thus with average per-well productivity declining and ever-more wells (and fields) required simply to maintain production, an “exploration treadmill” limits the long-term potential of shale resources. Second, although tar sands, deepwater oil, oil shales, coalbed methane, and other non-conventional fossil fuel resources exist in vast deposits, their exploitation continues to require such enormous expenditures of resources and logistical effort that rapid scaling up of production to market-transforming levels is all but impossible; the big “tanks” of these resources are inherently constrained by small “taps.”
Europe facing peak oil
Author: Benoît Thévard
Published by: Greens/EFA Group in the European Parliament, November 2012
The European Union faces one of its greatest ever challenges: preparing for a post-oil society. Oil enabled Europe to become one of the richest economies on the planet. Our continent is the world’s second largest consumer of oil, yet its oil production has halved since 1999. Today it only meets 13% of its needs, and soon the European Union will be importing all the oil it consumes. Taking a broader view, since the 1980s the world has been consuming more oil than it has found. Any assessment of the world’s oil reserves will inevitably be inaccurate, due to the number of operators, the confidential nature of some data and the technical complexity of the associated calculations.
So what are Europe’s energy prospects? The continent’s economy is already suffering under the high price of oil, so what will happen over the months and years to come, when prices rise even higher and we may even have to contend with disrupted supplies? How will European governments manage to rethink citizens’ access to the most essential goods and services?
Peak oil: Security policy implications of scarce resources
Published by: German Bundeswehr, October 2012
In this study the Bundeswehr Future Analysis Branch addresses the subject of finite resources and their potential security policy implications, using the scenario in which the global maximum rate of oil production has been exceeded. The term “peak oil” stands for the maximum rate of oil production and refers to the point in time at which the rate of a single oil field, of an oil-producing region, or globally reaches its absolute peak. This study is intended to outline the potential security policy consequences, risks and cascade effects that may arise from peak oil excess. The cause-effect relations described are expressly not to be understood as being inevitable. Rather, they are intended to capture the potential interdependences from different perspectives between the availability of oil and dependence on oil and to thus help to better understand the systemic importance of oil and potential security policy implications that can be derived for Germany. The main objective of the study is to raise awareness about the systemic importance of oil and, in turn, the derivable significance to security policy if peak oil is exceeded. The findings and results are expressly not meant to imply that resources will necessarily have to be secured with military assets. Rather, the study is to be understood as an appeal to think things through at an early stage and to develop both preventive and responsive courses of action. It does not aim at anticipating political decisions.
This is the English translation of a study initially published in German in 2010.
Global Energy Assessment: Toward a Sustainable Future
Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK and New York, NY, USA and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Laxenburg, Austria. October 2012.
The Global Energy Assessment (GEA), launched in 2012, defines a new global energy policy agenda – one that transforms the way society thinks about, uses, and delivers energy. Involving specialists from a range of disciplines, industry groups, and policy areas, GEA research aims to facilitate equitable and sustainable energy services for all, in particular the two billion people who currently lack access to clean, modern energy.
Coordinated by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), GEA was led by some of the world’s leading energy experts in research, academia, business, industry and policy, representing both the developed and the developing world. GEA is the first ever fully integrated energy assessment that analyzes energy challenges, opportunities and strategies, for developing, industrialized and emerging economies. It is supported by government and non-governmental organizations, the United Nations Systems, and the private sector.
The Assessment was subjected to rigorous and independent analysis and review.
Peak Oil and the Great Recession
Author: Tom Whipple
Published by: Post Carbon Institute, May 2011
The year 2008 will be remembered as a major turning point in industrial history, for it was the first year when the world got a taste of the unpredictable price spikes that come from inadequate oil supplies. The first half of the year was marked by a steady increase in the weighted average price of oil, which started the year at about $90 a barrel and finally peaked in July just shy of $150 a barrel. At the same time, the global economy was contracting rapidly with falling industrial production, falling exports, and rising unemployment. By July 1, 2008, many industries that are dependent on oil, especially the airline and trucking industries, were desperate and in danger of being forced out of business. With the average price of gasoline above $4 a gallon in the United States (above $5 in California), car sales plummeted, leading to bankruptcy for much of the U.S. automobile industry and eventually massive government bailouts.
Decoupling natural resource use and environmental impacts from economic growth
A Report of the Working Group on Decoupling to the International Resource Panel
Authors: Fischer-Kowalski, M., Swilling, M., von Weizsäcker, E.U., Ren, Y., Moriguchi, Y., Crane, W., Krausmann, F., Eisenmenger, N., Giljum, S., Hennicke, P., Romero Lankao, P., Siriban Manalang, A.
Published by: United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), May 2011
This report aims to identify the challenges faced in attempting to decouple human well‐being from resource consumption. It offers facts and statistics of natural resource flows and trade globally and notes that consumption of natural resources is still rapidly rising. A series of country wide case studies are presented that examine the decoupling potential of the countries in question. The report observes that developed countries appear to show stabilization of resource and energy consumption however these economies appear to have exported the more energy and resource intensive elements elsewhere. There appears to be some success of relative decoupling (where resource intensity per unit growth falls) in developing countries but resource consumption in these economies is ‘steeply on the rise’. The report also offers options for absolute decoupling of environmental impact and economic growth, something intrinsic to ‘the survival of human civilization’, according to UNEP. These are: better and more efficient technologies, policies and appropriate market signals that make the transition attractive and profitable, and the special role of urban areas in forging innovations towards a sustainable economy.
Tipping Point: Near-Term Systemic Implications of a Peak in Global Oil Production – An Outline Review
Author: David Korowicz
Published by: The Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability (FEASTA), March 2010
The report Tipping Point: Near-Term Systemic Implications of a Peak in Global Oil Production argues that the defining dynamic of our civilisation is the withdrawal of energy from a complex and integrated system adapted only to growing. A managed “de-growth” is impossible; what is required is rapid emergency planning coupled with a plan for longer-term adaptation.
Global Oil Depletion: An assessment of the evidence for a near-term peak in global oil production
Authors: Steve Sorrell, Jamie Speirs, Roger Bentley, Adam Brandt, Richard Miller
Published by: UK Energy Research Centre, August 2009
This report has been produced by the UK Energy Research Centre’s Technology and Policy Assessment (TPA) function. The TPA was set up to address key controversies in the energy field through comprehensive assessments of the current state of knowledge. It aims to provide authoritative reports that set high standards for rigour and transparency, while explaining results in a way that is useful to policymakers.
This report summarises the main conclusions from the TPA’s assessment of evidence for
global oil depletion. The subject of this assessment was chosen after consultation with energy sector stakeholders and upon the recommendation of the TPA Advisory Group, which is comprised of independent experts from government, academia and the private sector. The assessment addresses the following question: “What evidence is there to support the proposition that the global supply of ‘conventional oil’ will be constrained by physical depletion before 2030?” The Synthesis Report presents the main findings of this assessment. More detailed results are contained in seven in-depth Technical Reports which are available to download from the UKERC website.
A Comparison of the Limits to Growth with Thirty Years of Reality
Author: Graham M. Turner
Published by: CSIRO, June 2008
In 1972, the Club of Rome’s infamous report “The Limits to Growth” [Meadows et al., 1972) presented some challenging scenarios for global sustainability, based on a system dynamics computer model to simulate the interactions of five global economic subsystems, namely: population, food production, industrial production, pollution, and consumption of non-renewable natural resources. Contrary to popular belief, The Limits to Growth scenarios by the team of analysts from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology did not predict world collapse by the end of the 20th century. This paper focuses on a comparison of recently collated historical data for 1970–2000 with scenarios presented in the Limits to Growth. The analysis shows that 30 years of historical data compare favorably with key features of a business-as-usual scenario called the “standard run” scenario, which results in collapse of the global system midway through the 21st century. The data do not compare well with other scenarios involving comprehensive use of technology or stabilizing behaviour and policies. The results indicate the particular importance of understanding and controlling global pollution.
Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation, and Risk Management
Authors: Robert L. Hirsch, Roger Bezdek, Robert Wendling
Published by: U.S. Department of Energy, February 2005
The report Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation, and Risk Management, commonly referred to as the ‘Hirsch report’, was created by request for the US Department of Energy and published in February 2005. It examines the time frame for the occurrence of peak oil, the necessary mitigating actions, and the likely impacts based on the timeliness of those actions. It shows that the peaking of world oil production presents the U.S. and the world with an unprecedented risk management problem. As peaking is approached, liquid fuel prices and price volatility will increase dramatically, and, without timely mitigation, the economic, social, and political costs will be unprecedented. Viable mitigation options exist on both the supply and demand sides, but to have substantial impact, they must be initiated more than a decade in advance of peaking.