Terry Backer: No to Broadwater, But Then What?
When it comes to energy, for every option we rule out, the list of available fuels and locations grow smaller and more complex. The options grow ever more onerous for the types of fuel available when viewed realistically and with knowledge. If you are a serious student of the ever-constricting global fossil fuel supply (liquids) you understand where we are headed and the implications. Our society, our economy and a modern life style relies almost 100% on those fossilized solar power fuels.
The New York and Connecticut regions lie at the end of almost all global distribution for fuels. Natural gas production peaked in the United States some time ago and it appears to have peaked in Canada as we speak. The National Energy Board of Canada announced in October of this year that 30% cuts in natural gas exports to the United States will happen incrementally between now and 2015. Natural gas from the Gulf of Mexico and Alberta are distant sources with many consumers in line for a contracting supply before it reaches us.
Global oil production has been flat for a few years but demand has increased. New discoveries and production aren’t keeping up with declining mature oil fields. New discoveries of oil are in more complex geological formations in water that reaches depths of 10,000 feet and 28,000 under the earth. This means higher recovery cost, poor return on energy invested and slow production. Explosive growth in Asia is sucking in every drop of oil it can get with no relief in sight. We are headed quickly to an oil and gas crunch that will have heavy handed impacts on our economy. And we are not ready.
This brings us to liquefied natural gas. The US Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration has calculated that the region will need a 70% increase in LNG in the next decade to compensate for declining natural gas production. LNG will be needed to fill the oil and native natural gas gap. Mind you, EIA assessments of natural gas recourses are notoriously optimistic and they have over-estimated its supply for years. So it reasons even more LNG will be needed sooner. Our backs are up against it and most of us have no idea.
We have not yet seen the impact of oil over $75 a barrel let alone $90 for any prolonged time frame. The negative savings rate of Americans in general means the embedded cost of energy in all products and services is going on credit cards and home equity loans as people try to cover bases while not knowing what's causing it. They will demand cheaper energy, and that means coal. And coal isn't that clean yet. It also means 5 to 10 years of crippling cost while plants are built. Global climate change is a big focus of mine but peak oil is, more than likely, here now.
LNG will be needed and even then its sources are not the most dependable. We will need a supply of cleaner bridge fuel that can be used in existing machinery while the massive infrastructure is converted to something else. And that's a zinger as well we since don't know what something else is. Does this mean we have to have Broadwater? No it doesn't. It does mean we have to have someplace to land this fuel and no one seems to want it. It gets pretty cold here in January.
Alternatives are not even off the ground yet and conservation isn't keeping up with demand increases. Alternatives barely provide us 2 percent of our energy needs and almost no transportation fuel. Most people do not have the slightest idea of the scale we need in alternatives. It could easily take 100 years to build out and we don't have 100 years. We are talking about a contraction in energy that will do significant harm to the economy and to the bulk of the middle class and working poor, and demand more government social services.
We are no longer at a time where we can only say what we don't want. We need to be part of an aggressive plan to usher in a new energy regime. I urge the environmental community to join me in educating the public on energy realities and an all-out effort to get our leaders to lead us on a conservation and renewable energy policy. Conservation by the truck load, energy efficient transportation, and a slow-down in sprawl development may buy us enough time to make the transition to less abundant and dramatically more expensive fuel supply with less pain, but it won't come close to being pain free. Even then we will still need more LNG in the region as a stopgap fuel for as long as we can get it.