Summary: This page presents the agenda for the lecture on energy in the enabling
analysis of ENST209.
Lecture Notes for ENST209
- Introduction: Beyond the Oil Peak,
and a History Channel depiction of the consequences
of Peak Oil.
- Review of Brown Plan B 4.0 on energy and climate, chapters
4 and 5.
- Later in the course, we will look at PBS Frontline documentary: Heat
Brown's target for Plan B aims to keep carbon dioxide
equivalent levels in the atmosphere to under 400 ppm. This is slightly
above 2008 levels of 386 ppm but well above NASA's James Hanson who
argues that levels above 350 ppm runs a risk of stimulating tipping points
that could lead to runaway climate disruption. Brown's goal of 400 ppm
would require that carbon emissions be cut by 80% by 2020.
Brown follows the methodology of Princeton University's Pacal and Socolow
"wedges" that each reduce the amount of carbon loading of the
atmosphere but together can make a big difference (81).
Discuss: Is Brown's goal of cutting carbon dioxide equivalent emissions
by 80% in ten years realistic? If not, how severe might the consequences
be? For whom?
Brown organizes his two chapters of energy solutions around two themes:
- Energy efficiencies: Chapter
4, the demand side
- Renewable sources of energy: Chapter
5, the supply
side of energy production. Brown immediately notes that in the USA,
the recent expansion of wind energy exceeds new coal capacity by
a factor of six (79).
Tip: If you forgot about the stakes
or the orders of magnitude that make this section urgent, return to pages
55 to 59.
Note that Brown opens Part I with a chapter on food, then moves to energy.
Some basic points about energy:
- Oil requires vast amounts of capital infrastructure to move around
vast amounts of the liquid, typically across oceans. Coal typically
goes across land but is every bit as dirty -- despite the initiative for
- Oil and coal are dirty to recover and to burn, posing
significant environmental challenges.
- Oil is located in all the wrong places for the main global consumers,
USA and China. And in the wrong hands, such as OPEC, Iraq, Iran,
Venezuela, Russia, and the big oil corporations. Consider Russia's
Lukoil and its relationship to Putin. The geopolitics of
oil is troublesome.
- In his
2009 book, Crude World: the Violent Twilight of Oil,
Peter Maass tries to answer the riddle of what economists call
curse," why countries dependent on resource exports, especially
oil, "are susceptible to lower growth, higher corruption, less
freedom and more warfare." Such oil exporters in his study include
Guniea, the Niger Delta, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Azerbaijan, Iraq,
Iran, and Venezuela.
- Perhaps our children will wonder in the future why such a miraculous substance such as petroleum was wasted so in our
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