Global Energy Futures - Seán Kinane

02/10/06

This afternoon on the campus of USF St. Pete, the Community, Science, and Environmental Policy Brown Bag Discussion was held. WMNF’s Seán Kinane reports.

This discussion was part three of the Energy Series and was focused on Global Energy Futures.
There are different options of how to solve the problem of rising energy demands by a growing population. Eric Hamilton, who is Associate Director of The Florida Petroleum Council, showed a slide of oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Drilling occurs over most of the western Gulf, but oil companies want to drill off Florida waters as well, as Hamilton points out.

ACT Hamilton (32 sec)
“There’s an awful lot of fuel there that can still be obtained as you saw on that previous slide. With the 244 trillion cubic feet of gas, the 37 billion barrels of oil. It is accessible. Lease area 181, that’s the area that’s most often talked about in the news. As you can see they’re interested in developing a portion of that. It’s known to be very rich in gas and expect it to have quite a bit of oil there as well.�

But exploring new sources of energy is costing almost as much or more than the energy that will be derived from those energy sources. Charles Hall, who is a professor of Environmental and Forest Biology at the State University of New York explained that this Energy Return on Investment is declining.

ACT Hall (20 sec)
“The past three years in the world, we have spent more money looking for oil than we have found. About 40% more money looking for oil than the dollar value of the oil that we’ve found. Indicating the possibility that we are reaching the energy break-even point for the world.�

Fossil fuel reserves might not be as plentiful as previously thought, according to Hall:

ACT Hall (18 sec)
“Kuwait has just said ‘Well, our reserves are only half of what we had said previously.’ We really don’t know, we think a lot of the estimates from OPEC countries have been greatly overestimated. But Kuwait just came out and said, ‘Yeah, yeah, that’s true.’�

Hall mentioned the cost of rebuilding destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina. The damage was more severe because of exploration for energy sources.

ACT Hall (38 sec)
“This is southern Louisiana marshes that were destroyed for producing oil in the 1930s. So when Hurricane Katrina goes crashing into Louisiana, perhaps increasingly fueled by global warming. And it hits these marshes that used to, by friction, slow it down. And destroys much of the Gulf Coast of the United States. I calculated that it would take 3-4% of our remaining oil supplies to repair for those damages, some of which is attributable to getting energy, so we have to think more about it that way.�

Hall thinks that politics plays too much of a role in determining what types of energies are used and that science needs play a greater role.

ACT Hall (37 sec)
“Guess what folks? We found all this stuff in the past; we’re just sucking it out of the ground. You have to realize, it’s not just technology, it’s a race between technology and depletion. Sometimes one wins, sometimes another. But you cannot simply say, as I hear again and again, as I heard on the state of the Union address, technology will deal with the question. Well, maybe, maybe not. Unfortunately, we have not bought science to the issue; we have brought to that issue politics, religion of various sorts, and ideology.�

Ben Crisp, who is Energy Efficiency Services Manager at Progress Energy, was asked about the so-called “hydrogen economy� where energy is derived from hydrogen molecules. Consensus was that it is not currently a solution, as Crisp explains.

ACT Crisp (18 sec)
“It won’t be cost-effective until a new method for hydrolyzing or creating the hydrogen molecule is come up with. As I said before, we either get it from natural gas or water and we burn more energy to make the hydrogen right now than it … It is not a fuel. That’s right.

Crisp thinks that nuclear may eventually be a solution to Florida’s growing energy demands, as he points out, although Hall introduces the issue of China.

ACT Crisp, Hall (18 sec)
CRISP - “Nuclear is a solution. But it is a solution that is 10-15 years out in time because of permitting.�
HALL - “It is no longer a solution because the Chinese have bought up the uranium futures.�
CRISP - “And they have also got a lot of the construction resources going to China.�
HALL -- “And the drilling rigs even.�
CRISP – “Well yeah.�

When the discussion turned to bio-fuels, and using farmland to produce energy sources like bio-diesel and ethanol, Hall mentioned a choice that Americans might be forced to make.

ACT Hall (25 sec)
You’ve gotta be very careful. The energy return on investment for bio-deisel is looking rather marginal at the moment and I’m not sure where we go. But here’s a choice folks, we’ve got a lot of agricultural land, a lot of things we can do with it. And Americans may be faced with this choice: You can give up meat or give up fuel. In other words, use our farmland to make fuel or make meat, but possibly not both.

For WMNF news, reporting from St. Petersburg, I’m Seán Kinane

FMI

Community, Science, and Environmental Policy Brown Bag Discussion
http://www.stpt.usf.edu/brownbag/brownbag.htm

Charles Hall
http://www.esf.edu/EFB/hall/

American Petroleum Institute
http://api-ec.api.org/newsplashpage/index.cfm

Energy Saving Tips page from Progress Energy
http://progress-energy.com/custservice/flares/energytips/

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