November 07, 2005

Having It Both Ways

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has published a new study that exhibits all the symptoms of bipolar illness. It is the World Energy Outlook 2005 -- Middle East and North Africa Insights, 600 pages, ISBN 92-64-10949-8 (2005). I have not spent the $250 or so to buy this study and read it thoroughly, but the press release covering its release and the summation of it found on the IEA website are both informative.

The IEA projects a substantial (over 50%) rise in world energy demands by 2030. It says that world energy resources are adequate to meet this demand, but investment of $17 trillion will be needed to bring these resources to consumers. Thus, it urges a huge increase in investment in new refinery capacity to answer that demand. In lieu of this kind of huge investment, the world economy will suffer great hardships.

From the IEA press release:

“The importance of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) to global oil and gas markets cannot be underestimated. These countries have vast resources, but these resources must be further developed. Investment should not be delayed,” said Mr. William C. Ramsay, Deputy Executive Director of the Paris-based International Energy Agency, as he presented findings from the World Energy Outlook 2005: Middle East and North Africa Insights (WEO-2005) today in London.

But then, only a few lines down in the same press release, we have this:

Energy-related CO2 emissions also climb -- by 2030, they will be 52% higher than today. “These projected trends have important implications and lead to a future that is not sustainable – from an energy-security or environmental perspective. We must change these outcomes and get the planet onto a sustainable energy path,” added Mr. Ramsay.

The press release goes on to describe a number of scenarios which show some rosy and not-so-rosy predictions for oil prices in the $35 to $40 range in 2010, as well as other "alternative" scenarios that Middle East and North African-producing countries might follow. But all these "alternative" scenarios involved varying levels of oil production and natural gas production, as well as increases in refinery capacity.

Although I have not read the actual report, I don't see anywhere in its summation or conclusions, or in the press release, any attention paid to the need to develop alternative, non-CO2 producing energy sources. You'd think that if you stated flatly that "These projected trends have important implications and lead to a future that is not sustainable," you might mention somewhere obvious and publicly that there is a need to develop alternative energy sources. But, of course, if your salary is paid for by the 26 major industrialized nations and largest consumers of oil who make up the IEA, then there is probably little motivation to do so.

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