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Week of 6 May 2024: Energy Follies

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"The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power" by Daniel Yergin is the definitive book on the history of oil up until the current energy craziness we have been experiencing for the last fifteen years or so. It is also a great documentary available for free on YouTube. I highly recommend the documentary.

Unfortunately, "The Prize" stops where modern energy follies start.

Modern society has succeeded in wrapping energy, the environment, climate change and who knows what else into a tidy little package of confusion and mixed priorities.

Of course, energy has been the quest of societies forever. It is only the last three hundred years that have brought us coal, oil, gas, and nuclear power. Before that it was animals, water, a little wind and a lot of slavery that furnished the energy for the world.

Despite our thoughts that one corner of modern humankind suddenly eschewed slavery as inhuman, it is not lost, at least on me, that the US Civil War, which had the abolition of slavery as one of its major issues, started in 1861, only two years after the first oil well was drilled in Titusville, Pennsylvania. Cheap modern energy replacing expensive ancient energy, morality be damned.

Additionally, the whale oil extraction business was nearly dead by the end of the 1860s due to the introduction of kerosene. Illumination was modernized.

Today, we have the equivalent of a Yonge Street (In Toronto--the longest street in the world) full of energy flavored carnival barkers touting and denigrating energy schemes of infinite variety and dubious feasibility.

At this point, it would take degrees in physics; electrical, chemical and mechanical engineering; economics; finance; and meteorology to prioritize what we should do. Instead, we have a passel of politicians and loudmouths declaring they have the answers, and we better do what they tell us to do. If we do not, they will craft a tax code altering our behavior to match their wishes. This leaves a rational outcome in peril.

I suspect that before it is over, we'll discover "net zero" is not a safety net but a tangled web we'll regret.

Ok, enough of a rant. We'll see if I can offer up some useful energy comments next week as we get further into Paperitalo's Energy Month.

Be safe and we will talk next week.


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