Unilateral Disarmament?

“All of the above.” I’ve certainly said that phrase when referring to the energy needs of humanity. Sure, I’m in the hydrocarbon business, but I have happily supported utilizing all forms of energy in the quest for human thriving. And I’m not alone in this welcoming approach to energy sources. Many leading voices in the hydrocarbon community openly support an increase of renewables in the global energy mix. Of course, there are genuine concerns regarding the scalability, intermittency, availability, cost and environmental impacts of renewable energy options, but extreme rhetoric attacking renewables is rare. However, the extreme attacks on hydrocarbons have become so commonplace in today’s world that a balanced view of energy has been lost.

It is irrefutable that hydrocarbons are the foundational energy source used to advance our modern society (more than 80 percent of global energy consumption today). Using animals for power, along with burning wood and building dams had their place in pre-modern (approximately 1900 and earlier) economies for thousands of years but harnessing the stored energy available from hydrocarbons was a game-changer for human life. Today, an intense global effort is focused on increasing the role that weather-dependent wind and solar play in our energy future, while diminishing or even eliminating the role of hydrocarbons.

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“All of the above.” I’ve certainly said that phrase when referring to the energy needs of humanity. Sure, I’m in the hydrocarbon business, but I have happily supported utilizing all forms of energy in the quest for human thriving. And I’m not alone in this welcoming approach to energy sources. Many leading voices in the hydrocarbon community openly support an increase of renewables in the global energy mix. Of course, there are genuine concerns regarding the scalability, intermittency, availability, cost and environmental impacts of renewable energy options, but extreme rhetoric attacking renewables is rare. However, the extreme attacks on hydrocarbons have become so commonplace in today’s world that a balanced view of energy has been lost.

It is irrefutable that hydrocarbons are the foundational energy source used to advance our modern society (more than 80 percent of global energy consumption today). Using animals for power, along with burning wood and building dams had their place in pre-modern (approximately 1900 and earlier) economies for thousands of years but harnessing the stored energy available from hydrocarbons was a game-changer for human life. Today, an intense global effort is focused on increasing the role that weather-dependent wind and solar play in our energy future, while diminishing or even eliminating the role of hydrocarbons.

The real question is, can modern society maintain its lifestyle in a renewable energy-dominated economy?

War Has Been Declared

Regrettably, the energy debate has become very adversarial in the last few years. A great example of this is the recent lawsuit filed against Shell Oil in The Hague. Even though Shell has pledged to have a net zero CO₂ footprint by 2050 and is currently investing in biofuels, offshore wind, solar generation and emission reduction, the company was sued and lost. The court is now requiring the company to reduce CO₂ emissions at more than twice the planned rate during the next 10 years. In the United States, the current presidential administration is advocating for zero CO₂ emissions in the domestic power sector by 2035, and a net-zero U.S. economy by 2050, without accounting for the cost or even viability of these goals or mandates. However, the humor of the president asking OPEC+ to increase oil production while making it more difficult for domestic production was not lost on anyone paying attention. Sadly, “all of the above” is no longer a shared philosophy in the world of energy. War has been declared on hydrocarbons. Should hydrocarbon supporters simply unilaterally disarm and give up discussing the pros and cons of all types of energy? Or is it worth a fight to do better to educate ourselves and the public at large?

The War on Other Fronts

The battle over energy sources is just one of the many contentious issues in our society today. The energy battle has its roots in the debate about the Earth’s climate, how it changes, and what controls it. Talk about contentious! However, there are many other important issues to debate, especially in the world of petroleum geology. Important issues such as where geologists will find jobs over the next decade? Or what will emerge as the next game-changing technology in the world of geoscience? And yes, even exploring the ways geoscientists can help in a growing world of renewable energy. We can add the fun debate of space exploration and the role of geology in understanding other planets. Not everything we debate need be contentious.

‘Great Debate Series’?

The above discussion leads me to ask a question of our membership in the Division of Professional Affairs, and to the broader membership in AAPG. Do we need to create a “Great Debate Series”? My vision would be to bring to the stage fearless DPA members on all sides of a debate topic (we know they exist, don’t we?), and partner them with highly regarded experts who may or may not be DPA members, or even geoscientists. Our rules would require both respect and substance. Debaters would need to have their facts in order and available for all to review. And if we do this right, our “Great Debate Series” could serve as a useful reference for our members, our communities, our educators, and even our government officials. This could help fulfill our DPA mission of engaging with society. I firmly believe geoscientists have important knowledge that is not widely shared or understood by the greater society. We need to that to change!

Let me conclude by asking you to respond. Please connect to the DPA page on LinkedIn (go to the AAPG – Division of Professional Affairs page and hit “Follow”). It’s an easy way to use an existing app to further our community building. This article should already be posted on LinkedIn by the time you read this, so please voice your comments underneath. And if you agree we should start this “Great Debate Series,” please join with me to make it happen! We have the core of a committee already forming, but adding more passionate, capable volunteers is vitally important!

Comments (2)

War has been declared
It is debatable whether war has been declared, but in the event that it has, this proposal is very much a rearguard action, and doomed to sink into obscurity. Here in Australia there have been three announcements of very large green hydrogen projects/funding in the last fortnight, solar installations are exceeding expectations, long undersea powerlines are planned, and even Rupert Murdoch has apparently gone green. Sure, there will be hiccups while the right balances of power sources and backups are achieved, but the balance will come. By way of jobs - the exploration industries saw several downturns during my career, and workers lost jobs. Did they find alternatives - of course they did, we are all resourceful, or else we wouldn't have been in the industry. It is not something to be moaned about, but a challenge to be met. The world over we are seeing disasterous extreme weather events - a portent of worse to come. We need more action on renewables than even the modest proposals on the table at present, and that action will come. Even Australia's shameful federal government inaction is slowly being reversed!
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10/12/2021 4:00:19 PM
Can modern society maintain its lifestyle in a renewable energy-dominated economy?
1. A renewable energy-dominated economy will never happen. 2. Carbon dioxide is a miracle molecule for plants, the “gas of life” for most living creatures on Earth, we need more atmospheric CO2, not less, net zero is silly. 3. Hydrocarbons will be replaced by nuclear.
10/7/2021 4:22:20 PM

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