Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Robert Hirsch responds to Frank Kaminski's review of The Impending World Energy Mess

Kaminski: “First it was his insistence that we must frantically develop liquid fuels from every feasible alternative source–including from environmentally ruinous coal, bitumen and tar sands–if we are to have any hope of effectively dealing with conventional oil depletion. Peak oil activist Rob Hopkins rightly called this stand "profoundly repugnant."”

Hirsch:  Either we were not clear or Kaminski did not understand our view that the onset of decline in world oil production will trigger a worldwide recession, which will deepen each year. Think about shutting down large fractions of autos, trucks, buses, trains, ships, airplanes, etc.  Society will change dramatically, making this current recession look like the good times.

Our view is that it is imperative that liquid fuels be provided to get economies back up and running.  He implies that the world could quickly shift to clean energy sources, but he doesn’t appreciate that this will take decades and be very costly.  In a deepening oil-induced recession, available money will dry up quickly.  We will have to get economies back up and running, which is why we emphasized the technologies that we did – Liquid fuel technologies.

Kaminski:  “And then, during the recent recession, he pleaded for peak oilers to temporarily keep quiet because if public awareness of oil depletion were added to existing woes, "the added trauma could be unthinkable." Grist columnist Joe Romm aptly described this as "an incredibly dumb 'You can't handle the truth!' memo." Hirsch's latest stunt takes the form of a book titled The Impending World Energy Mess, which includes a shoddily and lazily put together case for being skeptical about climate change—one that's already been thoroughly discredited. Astonishing indeed have been Hirsch's antics.”

Hirsch:  Our book was eight years in the making.  We felt that it reasonably and carefully presented the issues. Yes, I did suggest that peak oilers cool it for the time being, because people were dealing with the Great Recession. The truth did not go away; it just didn’t get shouted from the rooftops.  I don’t know whether anyone did anything differently as a result of my SUGGESTION.  I do know that the U.K. industrial committee did its work anyway and came out with two killer studies, which the British government is apparently taking very seriously.  Maybe I made a mistake, but I never thought of hiding the truth; my efforts for the last eight years have been aimed at developing truths related to world oil.

Kaminski:  “Excluded from the list of mitigation options are nuclear, wind, shale oil, photovoltaics and biomass-to-liquids. The authors explain that shale oil isn't yet commercial; biomass-to-liquids fuels aren't viable without government mandates; and wind, nuclear and photovoltaics produce electricity, not liquid fuels. The authors also don't see much promise in electrifying railways or converting homes and commercial buildings to natural gas/electric heating. Electrifying railways would free up only a trivial amount of additional fuel–in the United States, it would come to 0.3 million barrels per day, or less than one and a half percent of current daily consumption. And the problem with switching buildings to natural gas/electric heating is that the substantial costs of doing this would have to be born by property owners, who will want to do everything in their power to tighten their belts as economic recession deepens."

Hirsch:  We tried to make it clear that world oil production decline will result in a world liquid fuels problem, because of the sheer magnitude of the existing fleets of oil product-consuming machinery.  In the near-term they won’t operate without oil products – period – at the moment I can’t operate my car on anything but gasoline.  Electric power will not power existing cars or buses or airplanes or ships.

Kaminski:  "Will many readers be offended by the remarks about climate science?"

Hirsch:  Will many readers be offended by the truth about the “climate science” situation?  It is a mess, which is what we said.  It is not established science.  It may be established religion

Kaminski:  “Suffice it to say that the book contains a good deal of other, non-climate-change-related material that is worth a read by both general readers and peak oilers.”

Hirsch:  Thank you.

Dr Robert Hirsch (Principal Author - The Impending World Energy Mess)

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