‘Climate Change and the True Cost of Economic Growth’ – A Grauniad Fairy Tale

Guest ridicule by David Middleton

This article is a follow-up to George Moonbat’s While economic growth continues we’ll never kick our fossil fuels habit,covered by Eric Worrall in this post: Monbiot: The Stimulus Effect of the Renewable Economy is Tempting Green Entrepreneurs to Fly More.

 

Too fracking funny! The pop-up ad is for Southwest Airlines!

Climate change and the true cost of economic growth

Readers respond to George Monbiot’s request to start a conversation about the links between climate breakdown and consumerism

If George Monbiot really wants to get people talking about the connection between climate change and the economy, he’d do better to find a different question to “how do we stop growth?” (While growth continues we’ll never kick our fossil fuel habit, 26 September).

The elephant in the room is the assumption that nature’s resources and capabilities are so large that they can be considered infinite and so excluded from the economic cost of production. This has the unintended consequence of rewarding destruction. Hence the German situation in Hambacher: the lignite has value because it can be sold to be burned, the 12,000-year-old forest has none unless the trees are cut down for economic use. And, in an infinite world, there are always more 12,000-year-old forests.

This form of thinking might have been a useful simplification when human population and activities were at the levels of the Enlightenment, when much of the philosophy that still drives the economy was developed. Indeed, for any one individual the world is still a remarkably big place and it is difficult to imagine it running out of anything. But a resource that would have supplied an Enlightenment-sized population for 500 years would last today’s just 35 years. And that is without considering increased rates of consumption.

[…]

The Grauniad

We now have another new phrase for Gorebal Warming: Climate Breakdown

Here is a summary of the readers’ responses to Mr. Moonbat:

  • Rewrite the laws of economics “to reward activities that nourish our future.”
  • Make the UK more bicycle-friendly, like Holland.
  • The BBC should stop ignoring climate change.
  • Tell us how to practically “get from where we are to where we should be, without catastrophic unemployment, poverty and civil unrest.”
  • “Stop driving fossil-fuel cars. Become vegetarian. Consume less. Use less energy…” ad nauseum.
  • “A much simplified lifestyle: being happy with our personal relationships, reducing most forms of competition, and devoting our time to caring for other members of society…” double ad nauseum
  • Reduce the human population… “but this obviously raises some unpleasant decisions.” Not if you’re a Vogon.

I won’t bother to ridicule the useful idiots (the readers whose comments were summarized above)… Unless calling them useful idiots is a form of ridicule… In which case I just ridiculed them.

Instead, I’ll focus on ridiculing the Grauniad’s idiotic preamble.

Warning: The rest of this post is a rather detailed discussion of resource economics.

“Climate change and the true cost of economic growth”

There is no “true cost of economic growth.”  The cost of economic growth, including compliance with regulations, is built into the calculation of economic growth.  To the extent that future climate change may or may not impact future economic growth, there’s no evidence that “carbon” regulations will do anything other than moving the costs back in time from the future to the present.  A real-world discount rate zeroes out all potential “benefits” of carbon regulations.

How Climate Rules Might Fade Away

Obama used an arcane number to craft his regulations. Trump could use it to undo them.

by Matthew Philips , Mark Drajem , and Jennifer A Dlouhy

December 15, 2016, 3:30 AM CST

In February 2009, a month after Barack Obama took office, two academics sat across from each other in the White House mess hall. Over a club sandwich, Michael Greenstone, a White House economist, and Cass Sunstein, Obama’s top regulatory officer, decided that the executive branch needed to figure out how to estimate the economic damage from climate change. With the recession in full swing, they were rightly skeptical about the chances that Congress would pass a nationwide cap-and-trade bill. Greenstone and Sunstein knew they needed a Plan B: a way to regulate carbon emissions without going through Congress.

Over the next year, a team of economists, scientists, and lawyers from across the federal government convened to come up with a dollar amount for the economic cost of carbon emissions. Whatever value they hit upon would be used to determine the scope of regulations aimed at reducing the damage from climate change. The bigger the estimate, the more costly the rules meant to address it could be. After a year of modeling different scenarios, the team came up with a central estimate of $21 per metric ton, which is to say that by their calculations, every ton of carbon emitted into the atmosphere imposed $21 of economic cost. It has since been raised to around $40 a ton.

This calculation, known as the Social Cost of Carbon (SCC), serves as the linchpin for much of the climate-related rules imposed by the White House over the past eight years. From capping the carbon emissions of power plants to cutting down on the amount of electricity used by the digital clock on a microwave, the SCC has given the Obama administration the legal justification to argue that the benefits these rules provide to society outweigh the costs they impose on industry.

It turns out that the same calculation used to justify so much of Obama’s climate agenda could be used by President-elect Donald Trump to undo a significant portion of it. As Trump nominates people who favor fossil fuels and oppose climate regulation to top positions in his cabinet, including Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency and former Texas Governor Rick Perry to lead the Department of Energy, it seems clear that one of his primary objectives will be to dismantle much of Obama’s climate and clean energy legacy. He already appears to be focusing on the SCC.

[…]

The SCC models rely on a “discount rate” to state the harm from global warming in today’s dollars. The higher the discount rate, the lower the estimate of harm. That’s because the costs incurred by burning carbon lie mostly in the distant future, while the benefits (heat, electricity, etc.) are enjoyed today. A high discount rate shrinks the estimates of future costs but doesn’t affect present-day benefits. The team put together by Greenstone and Sunstein used a discount rate of 3 percent to come up with its central estimate of $21 a ton for damage inflicted by carbon. But changing that discount just slightly produces big swings in the overall cost of carbon, turning a number that’s pushing broad changes in everything from appliances to coal leasing decisions into one that would have little or no impact on policy.

According to a 2013 government update on the SCC, by applying a discount rate of 5 percent, the cost of carbon in 2020 comes out to $12 a ton; using a 2.5 percent rate, it’s $65. A 7 percent discount rate, which has been used by the EPA for other regulatory analysis, could actually lead to a negative carbon cost, which would seem to imply that carbon emissions are beneficial. “Once you start to dig into how the numbers are constructed, I cannot fathom how anyone could think it has any basis in reality,” says Daniel Simmons, vice president for policy at the American Energy Alliance and a member of the Trump transition team focusing on the Energy Department. “Depending on what the discount rate is, you go from a large number to a negative number, with some very reasonable assumptions.”

[…]

Bloomberg

This is worth repeating:

A 7 percent discount rate, which has been used by the EPA for other regulatory analysis, could actually lead to a negative carbon cost, which would seem to imply that carbon emissions are beneficial.

OMB’s Whitewash on the Social Cost of Carbon

JULY 9, 2015

The “social cost of carbon” (SCC) is a key feature in the debate over climate change as well as the principal justification for costly regulations by the federal government. We here at IER and other critics have raised serious objections to the procedure by which the Obama Administration has produced estimates of the SCC.

Last summer I did a post on the GAO’s whitewash of our criticism, and now—just before the Independence Day holiday weekend—the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has released its own whitewash.

There are several key points on which the Administration is obfuscating, but in this post I’ll focus just on the choice of discount rates. This one variable alone is sufficient to completely neuter the case for regulating carbon dioxide emissions using the social cost of carbon, so it is crucial to understand the controversy.

[…]

Why Do We Discount Future Damages?

Present dollars are more important than future dollars. If you have to suffer damage worth (say) $10,000, you will be relieved to learn that it will hit you in 20 years, rather than tomorrow. This preference isn’t simply a psychological one of wanting to defer pain. No: Because market interest rates are positive, it is cheaper for you to deal with a $10,000 damage that won’t hit for 20 years. That’s because you can set aside a smaller sum today and invest it (perhaps in safe bonds), so that the value of your side fund will grow to $10,000 in 20 years’ time.

In this framework, it is easy to see how crucial the interest rate is, on those safe bonds. If your side fund grows at 7% per year, then you need to set aside about $2,584 today in order to have $10,000 in 20 years. But if the interest rate is only 3%, then you need to put aside $5,537 today in order to have $10,000 to pay for the damage in 20 years.

An equivalent way of stating these facts is to say that the present-discounted value of the looming $10,000 in damages (which won’t hit for 20 years) is $2,584 using a 7% discount rate, but $5,537 using a 3% discount rate. The underlying assumption about the size and timing of the damage is the same—the only thing we changed is the discount rate used in our assessment of it.

Discount Rates in Climate Policy

Generally speaking, the climate damages that occur in computer simulations don’t begin to significantly affect human welfare in the aggregate until the second half of the 21st century. In other words, the computer-simulated damages need to be discounted over the course of decades and even centuries. (The Obama Administration Working Group used three computer models to calculate damages through the year 2300.) Thus we can see why the choice of discount rate is so crucial.

In its latest revision, the Working Group estimated that for an additional ton of carbon dioxide emitted in the year 2015, the present-value of future net damages would be $11 using a 5% discount rate, $36 using a 3% rate, and $56 using a 2.5% rate (see table on page 3 here). Yet when the media refer to these numbers as “the social cost of carbon,” it obscures how arbitrary the figures are. They can range from $11/ton to $56/ton just by adjusting the discount rate in a narrow band from 5% to 2.5%.

Violating OMB’s Clear Guidance

Fortunately, OMB provides explicit guidance (in the form of “OMB Circulars”) to federal agencies on how to select discount rates. Specifically, as we carefully explain on pages 12-17 of IER’s formal Comment, OMB Circular A-4 (relying in turn on Circular A-94) states that “a real discount rate of 7 percent should be used as a base-case for regulatory analysis,” as this is the average before-tax rate of return to private capital investment.

Now it’s true, Circular A-4 goes on to acknowledges that in some cases, the displacement of consumption is more relevant to assess the impact of the policy under consideration, in which case a real discount rate of 3 percent should be used. Thus it states: “For regulatory analysis, you should provide estimates of net benefits using both 3 percent and 7 percent” (bold added).

[…]

IER

As a default position, OMB Circular A-94 states that a real discount rate of 7 percent should be used as a base-case for regulatory analysis. The 7 percent rate is an estimate of the average before-tax rate of return to private capital in the U.S. economy…

https://www.transportation.gov/sites/dot.gov/files/docs/OMB%20Circular%20No.%20A-4.pdf

Figure 3 from Nordhaus (2017), modified by author. A linear extrapolation of Nordhaus’ discount rate plot implies that a 7% discount rate would zero-out the social cost of carbon.

Application of a 7% discount rate makes the Social Cost of Carbon…

Dean Wormer just never gets old!

Reference

Nordhaus, William D. Revisiting the social cost of carbon. PNAS 2017 114 (7) 1518-1523; published ahead of print January 31, 2017, doi:10.1073/pnas.1609244114

“The elephant in the room is the assumption that nature’s resources and capabilities are so large that they can be considered infinite and so excluded from the economic cost of production.”

This notion is mind-boggling in its idiocy.

Depletion is very much not “excluded from the economic cost of production.”  The depletion rate is integral to the economics of all mining and resource extraction industries.

That said, most of “nature’s resources and capabilities are so large that they can be considered infinite” from a human perspective.  This doesn’t mean that we should exploit them wantonly.  Effective exploitation requires that they be produced efficiently, in order to maximize production

Time and space don’t permit me to examine all of “nature’s resources”… But since I’ve already examined a few of them…

The Five Metals of the Simon-Ehrlich Wager

This is from a post of mine in 2012 on the Simon-Ehrlich wager:

Rather than “cherry-picking” particular decades, I took a look at the full historical price record (available from the USGS). The inflation adjusted prices of Chromium (Cr), Copper (Cu), Nickel (Ni), Tin (Sn) and Tungsten (W) exhibit no statistically meaningful inflation-adjusted price trend over the last 110 years…

Cu, Ni and W have slightly negative slopes; while Cr and Sn have slightly positive slopes… Only chromium’s (R^2 = 0.3187) and copper’s (R^2 = 0.1719) trend lines approach statistical significance.

While the inflation adjusted price of these metals is a good measure of affordability, it is not a complete measure. The price is only relevant if it is measured against the financial resources available. Relative to world real per capita GDP all five metals have become more affordable since 1969…

The GDP slope is positive and highly statistically significant (R^2 = 0.98). The GDP slope (81.354) is almost three times larger than the largest positive metal slope (Ni, 32.506).

More importantly, from a scarcity perspective, the production output of all five metals has been rising over time. Four are rising exponentially …

While the ratio of price to output has been declining exponentially…

If these metals were becoming more scarce, the price would be rising faster than the supply.

The USGS estimates that the current proved reserves of all five metals are sufficient to meet demand for the next 20 to 59 years. For “fun” I estimated the crustal mass of all five metals and estimated how long it would take to literally run out at the current production rate…

Even with the “meteoric” rise of electric vehicles, I’m pretty sure that the five metals on the Simon-Ehrlich wager are still abundant and relatively affordable. Funny thing, one of the Warmunists’ favorite saviors from climate changes is the electric vehicle… This is from a post of mine on Halloween 2017

Cobalt Cliffs and Lithium Landslides

In my previous post, we visited the “Cobalt Cliff“… an impenetrable obstacle standing in the way of Tesla building 500,000 Model 3 vehicles in 2018.  Of course, now it appears that Tesla won’t have to worry about the cobalt cliff anytime soon.  However, a cobalt cliff is out there, as is a lithium landslide.

The USGS is a great source for data on mineral production, proved reserves and resources.

Historical Statistics for Mineral and Material Commodities in the United States

Statistical Compendium

The UBS article included a graphic of incremental metals demand in a 100% EV world.  The graphic was reproduced here:

Figure 3. The Impact Of EVs On Commodities In One Chart (Mining.com/OilPrice.com)

The graph makes a very simplistic assumption:  If all vehicles were currently VW Golf’s, how would it impact mineral commodities if they were all replaced with Chevy Bolt’s?  Simplistic, but a useful exercise.  I took the incremental increases of lithium, cobalt and rare earths and calculated the amount of material per vehicle based on 2015 mineral production and made the assumption that there are currently 1 billion passenger vehicles in the world.  I then estimated the mineral commodities demand that UBS’s 2015-2015 EV production forecast would yield.

EV_Minerals_01

Figure 4. Projected US EV sales (UBS) and minerals demand 2014-2015.

EV_Minerals_01b

Figure 5. Projected EV sales and minerals consumption as % of 2015 global proved reserves.

EV_Minerals_02

Figure 6. Projected EV-driven mineral demand relative to historical production. (Minerals data from USGS).

EV_Minerals_03

Figure 7. Same as Figure 6, with a logarithmic y-axis.

Electric vehicle aficionados and other “futurists” like to use the word “disruptive” a lot.  To quote Inigo Montoya, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”  The increases in mineral production required for just 45.6 million EV’s would be rather disruptive.

disruptive

Proved mineral reserves are not fixed numbers.  They are generally the “P90” number.  There is a 90% probability that the proved reserves can be economically recovered from existing, developed mineral deposits.  The total resource potential is much higher than the proved reserves.  However, companies generally try to replace their annual production to maintain, or preferably increase, their proved reserves.

If UBS’s global EV production forecast is accurate, lithium and cobalt production will have to roughly double relative to 2014.  The cumulative consumption of lithium from 2014-2015 will be equivalent to 69% of 2015 proved reserves.  Cobalt consumption will be equivalent to 47% of proved reserves.  This sort of production is not impossible; but it will be highly disruptive, particularly since most cobalt production is a byproduct of copper and nickel mining.  According to the IEA…

“In order to limit temperature increases to below 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, the number of electric cars will need to reach 600 million by 2040”.

600 million EV’s would consume 907% of the 2015 proved lithium reserves and 615% of the 2015 proved cobalt reserves.  That’s a lot.  That’s disruptive.

 Historical Mineral Production + EV Consumption
Lithium Cobalt Rare Earths
2015-2025 Totals (metric tons)      9,643,510                3,266,267        1,672,179
2015 Proved Reserves (metric tons)    14,000,000                7,000,000    120,000,000
 % Consumed @ 45.6 million EV 69% 47% 1%
 % Consumed @ 90 million EV 136% 92% 3%
 % Consumed @160 million EV 242% 164% 5%
 % Consumed @ 600 million EV 907% 615% 18%
 % Consumed @ 1,000 million EV 1512% 1024% 31%

615% of 7,000,000 metric tons is over 43,000,000 metric tons.  This not only exceeds the 2015 proved reserves of cobalt, it exceeds the identified terrestrial resource potential…

Identified world terrestrial cobalt resources are about 25 million tons. The vast majority of these resources are in sediment-hosted stratiform copper deposits in Congo (Kinshasa) and Zambia; nickel-bearing laterite deposits in Australia and nearby island countries and Cuba; and magmatic nickel-copper sulfide deposits hosted in mafic and ultramafic rocks in Australia, Canada, Russia, and the United States. More than 120 million tons of cobalt resources have been identified in manganese nodules and crusts on the floor of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans.

USGS

Mining manganese nodules from the seafloor sounds really cool and disruptive!

Petroleum, Natural Gas and Coal… Oh My!

Petroleum proved reserves and resources may not be infinite, but they are fracking YUGE…

Summarizing the bar chart above…

Billions of barrels (Bbbl) World North America % North America
Cumulative Production            1,200                         310 26%
Proved Reserves            1,680                         220 13%
Conventional Resource            1,435                         260 18%
Unconventional Resource            2,815                      1,700 60%
Total Resource            4,250                      1,960 46%
Reserves + Resource            5,930                      2,180 37%
Years @ 28.1 Bbbl/yr                211                            78
Reserves + Resource + Cum. Prod.            7,130                      2,490
% Consumed 17% 12%
% Remaining in the Ground 83% 88%

The world has only consumed about 17% of its estimated total petroleum resource potential. For every barrel of petroleum that has been produced and consumed there are about five barrels of petroleum remaining in the ground.  Of course this will all change if proved reserves and resource potential continue to grow.

Crude Oil Proved Reserves = 47 years of current consumption.  MBO = million barrels of oil.  Bbbl = billion barrels of oil. BP 2018 Statistical Review of World Energy.

Natural Gas Proved Reserves = 19 years of current consumption.  BCF = billion cubic feet of gas.  TCF = trillion cubic feet of gas. 2018 BP Statistical Review of World Energy.

Of course, like petroleum, proved reserves of natural gas are just a fraction of the resource base.

In the chart below, proved and probable resources are equivalent to proved (P90, 1P) and probable (P50, 2P) reserves.

NGResources

Figure 12. U.S. natural gas resources.  Source: NGSA

P50 probable reserves (1P+2P) are nearly three times that of P90 proved reserves.

Natural Gas04

U.S. natural gas proved & probable reserves and resources (Bcf). Source: EIA and NGSA

Natural Gas07

U.S. natural gas proved & probable reserves and possible resources in years of production.  Source: EIA and NGSA

For coal, we’ll just rely on BP’s numbers for reserves…

Coal reserves

World proved coal reserves are currently sufficient to meet 134 years of global production, much higher than the R/P ratio for oil and gas

By region, Asia Pacific holds the most proved reserves (41% of total), split mainly between Australia, China and India. The US remains the largest single reserve holder (24.2% of total).

Methodology
Total proved reserves of coal are generally taken to be those quantities that geological and engineering information indicates with reasonable certainly can be recovered in the future from known deposits under existing economic and operating conditions.

Total proved coal reserves are shown for anthracite and bituminous (including brown coal) and sub-bituminous and lignite.

Reserves-to-production (R/P) ratios represent the length of time that those remaining reserves would last if production were to continue at the previous year’s rate. They are calculated by dividing remaining reserves at the end of the year by the production in that year. The R/P ratios are calculated excluding other solid fuels in reserves and production.

R/P ratios are available by country and feature in the table of coal reserves. R/P ratios for the region and the world are depicted in the chart above and the Energy charting tool.

Coal reserve data is in million tonnes.

Source
Includes data from Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) Energy Study 2017.

BP

Coal resources are a bit more difficult to assess.  However, they are fracking YUGE. The USGS has not conducted a coal resource assessment for these United States since 1974.

How much coal is in the United States?

The amount of coal that exists in the United States is difficult to estimate because it is buried underground. The most comprehensive national assessment of U.S. coal resources was published by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in 1975, which indicated that as of January 1, 1974, coal resources in the United States totaled 4 trillion short tons. Although more recent regional assessments of U.S. coal resources have been conducted by the USGS, a new national-level assessment of U.S. coal resources has not been conducted.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) publishes three measures of how much coal is left in the United States, which are based on various degrees of geologic certainty and on the economic feasibility of mining the coal.

EIA’s estimates for the amount of coal reserves as of January 1, 2017, by type of reserve

  • Demonstrated Reserve Base (DRB) is the sum of coal in both measured and indicated resource categories of reliability. The DRB represents 100% of the in-place coal that could be mined commercially at a given time. EIA estimates the DRB at about 476 billion short tons, of which about 69% is underground mineable coal.
  • Estimated recoverable reserves include only the coal that can be mined with today’s mining technology after considering accessibility constraints and recovery factors. EIA estimates U.S. recoverable coal reserves at about 254 billion short tons, of which about 58% is underground mineable coal.
  • Recoverable reserves at producing mines are the amount of recoverable reserves that coal mining companies report to EIA for their U.S. coal mines that produced more than 25,000 short tons of coal in a year. EIA estimates these reserves at about 17 billion short tons of recoverable reserves, of which 65% is surface mineable coal.

 

Based on U.S. coal production in 2016 of about 0.73 billion short tons, the recoverable coal reserves would last about 348 years, and recoverable reserves at producing mines would last about 23 years. The actual number of years that those reserves will last depends on changes in production and reserves estimates.

[…]

US EIA

This should demonstrate the scale of how much coal there is just in these regionally United States…

The most recent resource estimate is 10 times the demonstrated reserve base, which is roughly 10 times the recoverable reserves at producing mines… And… Despite generating nearly 30% of our electricity from coal, the producing mines have no difficulty supplying more than enough coal.

How Can Reserves Continue to Grow as Oil Production Increases?

People often question the fact that proved oil reserves continue to climb as we produce more oil.  This is counter-intuitive to most people, largely because politicians, the media and most people do not comprehend the meaning of the word “reserves” or the phrase “proved reserves.”

The word “reserves” has a specific definition:

Reserves

According to the Society of Petroleum Engineers, reserves are “those quantities of petroleum claimed to be commercially recoverable by application of development projects to known accumulations under defined conditions.” Well, that clears things up, right? No? Well, to clarify, the SPE says petroleum quantities must fit four criteria to be classified as reserves. They must be (1) discovered through one or more exploratory wells, (2) recoverable using existing technology, (3) commercially viable, and finally (4) remaining in the ground. Sound okay? Good, because it gets more tricky from there. There are currently three classifications for reserves: proved, probably and possible. Here’s how they break down:

Proved reserves
are those with a “reasonable certainty” (a minimum 90% confidence) of being recoverable under existing economic and political conditions. We can discussed the differences between proved developed, proved undeveloped, etc. with a later post. However, it should be pointed out that proved reserves are the only reserves recognized by the U.S. SEC. This is why energy companies strive to get the latest technology and recovery methods recognized by the government, therefore increasing the chance of “reasonably” recovering oil and gas assets and therefore raising their reserves as well.

Probable reserves
are petroleum and gas quantities with a 50% confidence level of recovery. Basically, you may be able to get some, you may not.

Possible reserves
are quantities with a minimum 10% certainty of being produced. Basically, your long shot discoveries. Only gamble on these types of assets if your Magic 8-Ball tells you to. All right! That takes care of reserves! But what about resources?

Resources

For those of you who have looked at on the market ads, you’ll spot this term a lot in the literature. So what is resources? Again, we turn to the SPE. There are two categories of resources: contingent and prospective. are quantities of petroleum estimated, as of a given date, to be potentially recoverable from known accumulations, but the projects are not yet considered mature enough for commercial development due to one or more contingencies. In other words, there’s a good idea of how much oil and gas is in the reservoir, but issues such as political and social events or even a lack of market prevent production. There can be a major oil discovery in the Congo right now. You want to risk getting shot to get to it? are quantities of petroleum estimated to be potentially recoverable from undiscovered accumulations by application of future development projects. These sorts of resources basically exist in the minds of marketing people. That’s not to say that they don’t exist in the real world as well, it just means that E&Ps are thinking of future oil and gas discoveries in new areas, based on upcoming technology and the discoveries made in similar formations worldwide. Okay! I hope that helps! Until next time, may the resource be with you. Live long and prospect.

Oil & Gas Investor

Proved reserves is the minimum volume of oil that is expected to be produced from a well quantified reservoir. This is generally the P90 number: There is a >90% probability that the proved reserve volume will be produced.  This is often called 1P.   Probable reserves is the most likely  volume of oil that is expected to be produced from a well quantified reservoir.  There is >50% probability that the probable reserve volume will be produced.  This is called 2P and it is actually the current assessment of the most likely volume that will be produced.

“Proved reserves” are just a tiny fraction of the petroleum resource. It is primarily an accounting measure used in the valuation of oil companies. Publicly traded US oil companies have to “book” proved reserves according to very strict SEC rules.

Here’s a very simplistic example of proved reserves (1P):

Proved

Since the well was drilled up-dip to a dry hole with an oil show, the entire volume can be booked as proved because the down-dip well has an oil-water contact.

Here’s a very simplistic example of proved plus probable reserves(2P)

Probable

In this scenario, the down-dip well has no oil show, just a wet sandstone. If there is geological or geophysical evidence (e.g. seismic hydrocarbon indicator “HCI”) demonstrating that the hydrocarbon column extends down-dip, the volume below the lowest known oil can be booked as probable reserves.  Otherwise, it would have to be categorized as possible reserves.

In some cases, seismic HCI’s can be used to delineate proved reserves, particularly if HCI’s have a track record in the field and/or play of accurately defining hydrocarbon accumulations.

Since proved reserves (1P) represents the >90% estimate of the producible volume, during the initial years of production, proved reserves will generally grow.  Most reserve additions don’t come from new discoveries.  They are the result of well performance, reservoir management and extensions of existing fields.

Most reserve additions don’t come from new discoveries. They come from reservoir management and field development operations.

Probable

New discoveries are the brown curve at the bottom of the chart.

Recently Bloomberg put out a bar chart showing how the size of new oil discoveries has steadily shrunk over the past 70 years. Here’s that bar chart at the same scale as global crude oil production and reserve growth.

There’s an old saying in the oil patch: “Big fields get bigger.” The biggest field in the world, Saudi Arabia’s Ghawar oil field was discovered in 1948. When first discovered, the estimated ultimate recovery (EUR) was in the neighborhood of 60 Bbbl. It has produced over 65 Bbbl and it is estimated to have about 70 Bbbl remaining (EUR ~130 Bbbl). Half of Ghawar’s EUR was recognized at its discovery. Half of it, or more, will be the result of field development and reservoir management.  The EUR for Ghawar is not particularly controversial.  Prior to the 1980’s, Aramco was at least partially owned by a consortium of American oil companies.  Relatively detailed petrophysical data for the Arab D reservoir are publicly available.

The Ghawar Oil Field is by far the largest conventional oil field in the world and accounts for more than half of the cumulative oil production of Saudi Arabia. Although it is a single field, it is divided into six areas. From north to south, they are Fazran, Ain Dar, Shedgum, Uthmaniyah, Haradh and Hawiyah. Although Arab-C, Hanifa and Fadhili reservoirs are also present in parts of the field, the Arab-D reservoir accounts for nearly all of the reserves and production.

The Ghawar Field was discovered in 1948. Production began in 1951 and reached a peak of 5.7 million barrels per day in 1981. This is the highest sustained oil production rate achieved by any single oil field in world history. At the time that this record was achieved, the southern areas of Hawiyah and Haradh had not yet been fully developed. Production was restrained after 1981 for market reasons, but Ghawar remained the most important oil field in the world. The production of the Samotlor Field in Russia was greater during the mid-eighties, but this was because production at Ghawar was restrained. Development of the southern Hawiyah and Haradh areas during 1994 to 1996 allowed production from the Ghawar Field to exceed 5 million barrels per day once again, more than Samotlor ever produced.

This remarkable production history is because of the enormous size of the Arab-D reservoir in the Ghawar Field. Alsharhan and Kendall (1986, Table 1) provide a figure of 693,000 acres for the productive area of the Ghawar Field. This represents a single, pressure-continuous reservoir. Cumulative production by year end 2000 was about 51 billion barrels of oil.

The anhydrite in the Upper Arab-D forms the seal for the 1,300-foot oil column in Ghawar. It is composed of sabkha evaporites and subaqueous evaporites with thin carbonate interbeds that can be traced for hundreds of kilometers. The anhydrite thickens to the south at the expense of the reservoir zones; the combined thickness remains relatively constant.

[…]

Greg Croft Inc

Using the petrophysical data from the Croft analysis, it’s very easy to get to an EUR of 130 Bbbl.

[Ghawar reserve calculations to be added later]

Can we trust the reserve numbers of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Venezuela, etc.?

Well,,, You certainly can’t treat them the same as the audited 1P and 2P reserves of publicly traded oil companies, but they’re probably fairly realistic 2P to 3P numbers.  3P is possible reserves (>10% probability).

Note how the proved reserves of some nations suddenly jumped in single years.

Major_Proved_Reserves

BP Statistical Review of World Energy June 2017

The big jump in Canada’s proved oil reserves was the 1998 decision to “book” its oil sands (AKA tar sands) as proved reserves, which had previously been assessed as uneconomic.

The decision of accounting 174 billion barrels (28×109 m3) of the Alberta oil sands deposits as proven reserves was made by the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB), now known as the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board (AEUB).[6] Although now widely accepted, this addition was controversial at the time because oil sands contain an extremely heavy form of crude oil known as bitumen which will not flow toward a well under reservoir conditions. Instead, it must be mined, heated, or diluted with solvents to allow it to be produced, and must be upgraded to lighter oil to be usable by refineries.[6] Historically known as bituminous sands or sometimes as “tar sands”, the deposits were exposed as major rivers cut through the oil-bearing formations to reveal the bitumen in the river banks. In recent years technological breakthroughs have overcome the economical and technical difficulties of producing the oil sands, and by 2007 64% of Alberta’s petroleum production of 1.86 million barrels per day (296,000 m3/d) was from oil sands rather than conventional oil fields. The ERCB estimates that by 2017 oil sands production will make up 88% of Alberta’s predicted oil production of 3.4 million barrels per day (540,000 m3/d).[6]

The fivefold increase in oil prices from 1998 to 2007 made Canadian oil sands production profitable.

Analysts estimate that a price of $30 to $40 per barrel is required to make new oil sands production profitable.[2]

Wikipedia

Note that uneconomic oil can and has been produced and sold… It just can’t be booked as proved reserves.

Saudi Arabia’s proved oil reserves also made a big jump in 1990. It has been speculated that this was due to Aramco’s decision to claim that probable reserves were proved.  However independent audits, related to Aramco’s possible IPO indicate that their proved reserves are actually greater than the 260 Bbbl previously reported.

Venezuela’s proved reserves made a big jump in 2007, eventually surpassing Saudi Arabia with about 300 Bbbl of proved reserves.  Presumably this was based on higher oil prices making the heavy oil of the Orinoco Fold Belt more economically recoverable.  However, the Venezuela proved reserves are probably more analogous to possible reserves or contingent resources.

That said, Venezuela has a lot of technically recoverable oil…

The Orinoco Oil Belt Assessment Unit of the La Luna−Quercual Total Petroleum System encompasses approximately 50,000 km2 of the East Venezuela Basin Province that is underlain by more than 1 trillion barrels of heavy oil-in-place. As part of a program directed at estimating the technically recoverable oil and gas resources of priority petroleum basins worldwide, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated the recoverable oil resources of the Orinoco Oil Belt Assessment Unit. This estimate relied mainly on published geologic and engineering data for reservoirs (net oil-saturated sandstone thickness and extent), petrophysical properties (porosity, water saturation, and formation volume factors), recovery factors determined by pilot projects, and estimates of volumes of oil-in-place. The U.S. Geological Survey estimated a mean volume of 513 billion barrels of technically recoverable heavy oil in the Orinoco Oil Belt Assessment Unit of the East Venezuela Basin Province; the range is 380 to 652 billion barrels. The Orinoco Oil Belt Assessment Unit thus contains one of the largest recoverable oil accumulations in the world.

USGS

While international proved reserve numbers are generally not as robust as those of the US and other OECD nations, they are at least in the ballpark of probable reserves.

Conclusion

“The elephant in the room” is either the smallest elephant on record or it’s one big @$$ room.

References

BP 2018 Statistical Review of World Energy

Schenk C.J., Cook, T.A., Charpentier, R.R., Pollastro, R.M., Klett, T.R., Tennyson, M.E., Kirschbaum, M.A., Brownfield, M.E., and Pitman, J.K., 2009, An estimate of recoverable heavy oil resources of the Orinoco Oil Belt, Venezuela: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2009–3028, 4 p.

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45 thoughts on “‘Climate Change and the True Cost of Economic Growth’ – A Grauniad Fairy Tale

  1. “the 12,000-year-old forest has none unless the trees are cut down for economic use”

    Only someone with a kindergarten level understanding of economics could say something this stupid.

    If people are willing to pay to look at a 12,000 forest, than that forest has a value based on how much those people are willing to pay.
    What the leftists are saying when they make claims like this, is that they want what they want, and they don’t want to have to pay for it.

    • First, the forest might be 12,000 years old but the trees are not. They turn over many times of that periods.

      Second, the forest will be obliterated in the next glaciation, so it is transient and thus expendable. If not destroyed by the ice sheet itself, the climate change during glaciation will kill it off.

  2. Another point regarding the so called Social Cost of Carbon is that they measured only costs.
    They included none of the benefits of carbon, such as fewer people dying in the winter, or more crops.

    Finally, the vast majority of the so called costs are imaginary, they exist only in the fevered imaginations of various computer models, while the benefits of carbon are current and well documented.

    • In addition, even the 7% discount rate pails in comparison to the S&P 500 performance (1928 – 2017 average 10% return). American Indians used horses as a sign of prosperity. My grandfather used teams of horses to plow fields, plant seeds, and harvest crops. Today I live in a house heated by natural gas, cooled by air conditioning, and have modest cars in my garage with combined >500 hp. I would say there are benefits to carbon.

    • Not just fewer dying in the winter but year-round. Inexpensive energy means people can get rides to the hospital, eat better, expand medicine, build roads…cue the “Life of Brian” skit where they denigrate the Romans while listing their accomplishments. Merely substitute “inexpensive energy” for “the Romans” when you ask:
      “What has inexpensive and abundant energy ever done for us?”
      Well, the down side is it allows stupidity to proliferate as well.

  3. The rat in the grain-bag is that fighting the boogeyman known as “climate change” has been an economic and human disaster, and if allowed to continue would be one of epic proportions causing such hardship, human misery and death, it would make the holocaust look like child’s play. Perhaps that is what the purveyors of “anti-carbon” policies truly want; reduction of human populations, beginning with the world’s poor of course.

  4. After a brief look at the last graph in this very informative article, perhaps it would be sensible foe Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Canada (apparently up to 50% of world’s crude reserves), not only to stop any further explorations but downgrade by at least by 50% or even more the quoted numbers.
    As they are small population countries, sometime in the no so distant futures they might be subject of military interventions in order to take control of their huge energy resources.
    While on the subject of sources of available energy, one source that has no fear from any kind of invasion by the energy hungry world powers, among all those of yotta watts that it flings freely in all direction, it has reduced it’s output slightly again during September.
    The ‘classic’ sunspot count number (Wolf SSN) was down to just above 2 points while the new SIDC reconstructed number was at 3.3.
    Composite graph is here
    I usually finish this monthly report with: “SC24 is nearing what might be the start of a prolong minimum (possible late start of SC25 too) but even a ‘dead cat bounce’ from these levels is unlikely”, as things stand I see no reason why I would need to change it.

  5. The elephant in the room is the assumption that nature’s resources and capabilities are so large that they can be considered infinite and so excluded from the economic cost of production. This has the unintended consequence of rewarding destruction.

    At one point in human history, things changed. Prior to that, resources would become scarce and societies would collapse. After that, technology was sufficiently developed that people started using resources more efficiently or were able to substitute different materials. It’s called dematerialization.

    Studies on material use and economic growth show instead that society is gaining the same economic growth with much less physical material required. Between 1977 and 2001, the amount of material required to meet all needs of Americans fell from 1.18 trillion pounds to 1.08 trillion pounds, even though the country’s population increased by 55 million people. Al Gore similarly noted in 1999 that since 1949, while the economy tripled, the weight of goods produced did not change.

    See, Al Gore isn’t always wrong. 🙂

    Buckminster Fuller calls the process ephemeralization and points out that, in theory, there is no limit to the process.

    The real elephant in the room is that we are dependent on technological progress. If it stalls out, we could be in real trouble. Thomas Homer Dixon refers to the Ingenuity Gap.

    If we listen to the alarmists, we probably will bork the economy. Technological progress will cease and things will come crashing down rather quickly. Talk about a self fulfilling prophesy.

    • Another way to look at ‘ephemeralization’ or “doing more and more with less and less until we do everything with nothing” is the the workload has not changed, it still requires about the same amount of “horse power” to harvest a field ( a bit less due to education and improved methods), but we merely have shifted the work load from the backs of laborers to machines and robots. The laborers may be doing less and less, but the fields have not gotten any smaller (well perhaps some due to improved yields).

  6. I have this nagging Economic Growth in my wallet. It keeps filling so often that I get lopsided sitting on it.
    I wonder if Monbiot knows any Enviro-Mental Doctorates that can help me lance that nasty Growth.

  7. Sorry peeps – this is Faerie Counting and giving justification to others to continue doing so.
    Social Cost of Carbon is One Million Miles away in Lala Land.
    Don’t go there.

    I take issue with this:

    Depletion is very much not “excluded from the economic cost of production.” The depletion rate is integral to the economics of all mining and resource extraction industries.

    In all industries bar one.

    Agriculture

    Farming is a mining and extraction industry and we are already in very deep doo-doo

    Ponder:
    Us humans are, even if we do continually tell ourselves, the critters who are at The Very Top of The Heap
    We are: Ace Predator. King Rat. Big Shot. Biggest Brains. Cleverest Hands. Best Tool Makers etc etc

    We were designed to eat the very best food. Food that had been filtered of toxins, irritants, allergens, carcinogens by other critters

    That we are mammals is proof enough.

    Yet we have consigned ourselves to eating food from The Very Base of the Food Chain.
    Yet we are now utterly reliant on cooked starch = Glucose basically = the very first thing created by photosynthesis. No vitamins. No minerals. No proteins and very poor food for the most important organ we have our brains.
    Yes, brains will run on glucose, but Ketone, produced by our livers chopping up saturated fat is what it was designed to burn.
    Our heart burns saturated fat directly. Flooding it with glucose damages it – hence why 45,000 people daily pass-away from Cardio Vascular Disease.
    Another 20,000 per day go down because of cancer
    No other critters eat starch in the quantity we do – they instinctively know it is wrong or haven’t the tools to digest it

    We have reached the bottom of the food ladder and there is nowhere else to go.

    Yet we burn plants, safe in the knowledge it will save the world.

    The insanity was nicely exemplified today in something I came upon.
    Concerning folks who may have an inclination to give up booze for the month of October.
    As a sort of Lent if you like.

    Surprise, no surprise, A Doctor races to the scene to say that suddenly giving up booze may be harmful and folks should consider doing really carefully/gradually.

    See what happens when you rely on a mind bending chemical sugar for your ‘staple’ food?

    • PS:
      Please please please do wrap your head around this one thing…
      Given the same plants, fertilisers, crop-protection chemicals, planting techniques..
      …….WHY…..
      Do farmers in the US get crops of only 20% of those grown by farmers in the UK
      (Bread-making wheat)

      I lied, 2 things:
      The Dust Bowl was NOT a Climate Event.
      |It was caused by agriculture

      • “Do farmers in the US get crops of only 20% of those grown by farmers in the UK”

        You’re delusional.

      • The big flurry of dust was likely related to agricultural practices that destroy rather than nourish the soil but it would still not have happened had there not been a regular, periodic drought that the area has experienced many times in the past.

        • The soil in the area was not that fertile to begin with, and droughts were and still are common. The central plains were once called the Great American Desert for a reason, and pioneers initially skipped over it in favor of the west coast.

          Corn and other nutrient-hungry crops, planted every year without fallow time, depleted the soil of water and mineral binding agents. Clearing native perennials from fields left the topsoil unanchored. Very few trees or other terrain obstacles meant winds blew unimpeded. All that was needed was another major drought to create the perfect (dust) storm.

  8. In our current environment there’s no need for the populace to fear attacking CO2. Few have experienced anything other than an incremental rise in electricity cost, manufacturing plant closures, and power shortages. Wait until/if the alarmists really get their way and the scenario will be different, much different. Personal transportation will be unaffordable for many and that impact alone will cause major problems for society. Rural living will cease for all but the well off and the increase in travel time will add hours to the work day. The disruption to all facets of society won’t be tolerated by the masses as you can’t expect people to accept forced lifestyle downgrading. That will be the true cost of Alarmism.

  9. This articlw has to be a record
    for the longest article I’ve seen
    here since I first visited in 2015.

    It there some sort of a prize for that?

    I’m not going to pretend I read it.

    It may take two days for the charts to load
    into my old Apple computer.

    My background:
    A Finance MBA in 1977
    and I have written
    an economics newsletter
    for subscribers
    as a hobby,
    since 1977

    Economic growth consists of
    more hours worked — mainly from
    more people in the work force,
    and increasing productivity
    of the workers.

    The workers don’t care, or even know,
    that the average temperature
    of our planet for September 2018 was
    was +0.1 to+ 0.2 degrees C. warmer
    than the peak heat in 1980,
    38 years ago,
    per UAH satellite data.,
    especially those people
    who work indoors.

    I can state
    with great certainly
    that no one knows
    what the future will be,
    (except global warmunists!)
    but the past 150 years,
    including the slight
    +1 degree C.,
    +/- 1.0 degree C.
    global warming,
    has been the most prosperous
    and most healthy,
    150 year-period
    for humans so far.

    So let’s have some more
    global warming please !

  10. I have been lecturing Malthusians for a long time, having engaged them after the “Limits to Growth” and “Population Bomb” linear thinking was foist on us. Four things:

    1) virtually every ton of mineral materials we have produced is still on the earth and much of it concentrated in landfills, etc. Today we are recycling more and organizing recovery of these resources. Metals we have been recycling for millennia. Almost all the gold brought in caravans across the Sahara from the 10th Century or more is still with us. Your wedding ring contains a bit of it. Iron, copper, lead, etc. were valuable and when an item made of it was no longer useful it was melted and re-used for millennia. Today we are recycling plastics, glass and even bricks, drywall (gypsum board), asphalt, concrete, etc. The largest producers of gypsum for wallboard (another synomym) is flue gas scrubbing in the USA.

    2) We don’t demand zinc at all, we demand rustproofing for barnrooves, culverts, ducting, etc., which are now even made from plastics. Substitution is a major part of the “endlessness” of resources.

    3) Miniaturization – “my” first computer was a university one in 1967 that took up an entire airconditioned room and didn’t have the computing power of my cell phone. My fathers old 1948 Chrysler Windsor could be melted down to make two or more cars of today…..

    4) Mining has become a topping up activity. Nevertheless, new exploration and mining technology has made discovery of hidden resources and their efficient extraction a huge boost in resource availability. Cut-off grades for gold are ~0.5g/tonne. The USGS has recently put out a paper on new resource potential for copper globally at 3.5 billion tonnes, noting that it is enough to satisfy current demand for 150yrs. This doesn’t account for the fact that 34% of copper use in the US is obtained from scrap, which is part of demand. So the new copper, plus increased recycling, plus miniaturization and substitution (aluminum) means the 3.5 billion tonnes is good for about 1000yrs.

  11. Dear George Monbiot,
    The Stone age didn’t end because we ran out of stones, nor the Bronze age, nor the Iron age for similar reasons (the lack of raw materials). However please note western civilization did leave the Dark ages when enlightenment happened. Enlighten yourself George, you are just plain wrong on so many things you’ve become a joke.
    So wake-up George and smell the abundance of coffee, tea, chocolate and all the other items we are NOT depleting.

    T.M

    P.S.
    The one thing George and so many others like him show is that humans are not even close to reaching ‘peak stupidity’.

  12. “Make the UK more bicycle-friendly, like Holland”. Holland is bicycle friendly because it is flat. So what we need to do in the UK is to build the world’s most enormous flat iron, and iron out all the hills. Then the government must compulsorily purchase all front gardens to make space for wide cycle lanes. In town where buildings have no front yards, the buildings on one side of every street must be demolished to make room for cycle lanes. There, job done, the UK will be just like Holland. You will be able to bowl an Edam cheese along the road and it will keep rolling for ever.

  13. A bit long.

    The “social cost of carbon” is not a constant independent of the total size of the US economy. Nor is it independent of necessarily-related emissions that take place in China. As such, it strikes me as useless. A bit like a global mean temperature.

    Just because something can be calculated, that doen’t mean that it has any meaning or value. Its main value seems to be proof that economists, like climate scientists, should have their computer use supervised by adults.

  14. The true cost of growth and success is that we get tons of people with little to do, and they have to feel important . . . so bring on the doomsayers. He, it beats working an honest job.

  15. The real tragedy of the global warming mania is that by association it has discredited perfectly reasonable and sensible arguments about our living and working environments.

    An example in the opening paragraph, about UK cycling. It is now common for skeptics on warming to ridicule all proposals for lowering real noise and particulate pollution in UK cities, including the banning of diesels, reducing automobile traffic, and making space for the safe use of bikes for everyday transport.

    And yet, these are all reasonable and sensible things to want. The thing that is totally outlandish is that we have allowed the car to destroy relaxed and safe use of our living and working environments. Walk down Oxford Street, drive down the A12 as it enters East London, and you will see it. Its obvious.

    Or it would be obvious, and we would probably be doing something about it, were it not that these measures have got entangled in the public mind with global warming mania, and the idiotic and counterproductive or useless measures alarmists advocate to ‘tackle’ it.

    This is a real tragedy. We could make our cities healthier, more liveable, nicer places to live and work, if we would just engineer them with that in mind, particularly regarding transportation. But because the required measures have been tarred with the global warming mania brush, it has become easy for the auto lobby interest groups to dismiss them.

    The most important thing we have to do, those of us who actually care about the local environments in which we live and work and play, is to disentangle the two. And to make the case that while CO2 does not matter in the least, noise, dirt, particulates and NO2 do matter, and matter a lot, and should be controlled and reduced dramatically. If it would take raising CO2 to do it, we should do it. And if it would take reducing traffic, which it will, we should do that too.

    This is the case for electric cars. Not that they emit less CO2. If they emitted more, this would still be better than the exhaust fumes of other noxious sorts from ICE vehicles.

    • Cars have improved city life, not destroyed it.

      Providing space for bicycles can only be done by taking land from somebody.
      Just how many people do you intend to sacrifice in order to improve your quality of life?

      • I am advocating taking road space from cars to give it to bikes. Cars have no particular right to exclusive use of roads and streets which are public property. The streets and roadways belong to all of us, and are funded by all of us, whether cycling, walking or whatever, and there should be adequate provision made and adequate restrictions imposed so that we can all use and enjoy them safely for other things than driving through them.

        There is no reason we should permit the discharge of large amounts of particulates and NO2 into air people breathe as they go about their daily lives. I am advocating getting ICE engine vehicles (apart from deliveries) off shopping and living streets. This is already done in other countries, notably Holland, and the result is to dramatically improve enjoyment of where they live and work by the people who live and work there.

        I am advocating stopping treating neighborhoods where we live and work as places we all drive through to get to where we live and work, only to find when we get there that others are treating them as places to drive through.

        And as for sacrificing people? Today we are killing over a million people a year globally in traffic accidents. In the UK we are killing something like 1,700 people a year, and we have total “casualties of all severities” of 176,500. Of these there are several thousand life changing injuries.

        I wish to put a stop to this. i want a zero defects approach to the problem. The target should be no, zero, traffic deaths.

        if that means restricting peoples right to drive, which it does, so be it.

        And I want us to stop in public policy these idiotic attempts to limit CO2 emissions no matter what the effect on real pollutants, and I want to stop linking the subject of air pollution to the global warming mania. It was this that led to the diesel disaster which dramatically worsened real, health affecting pollution in the idiotic attempt to lower CO2 emissions at the price of increasing particulate emissions.

        As to whether cars have improved cities? i suggest going to one that has severely limited them. There are some. Then see how you feel. The sense of relief, of freedom, of empowerment has to be felt to be believed. It is like a jackhammer stopping that endless racket outside your window.

        We are all destroying the common environment in which we all live, work and play, and we have to grow up and stop it.

        • The standard left wing whine.
          Give me what I want, I don’t care who has to be sacrificed to make my life more pleasant.

          • Do you think what the car has given you is worth a million deaths a year? Its the typical no-nothing whine that because I like driving, death and destruction is no object, because I and my family are going to be blessedly immune.

            Someone says, its always the driver who is blamed. No, I do not blame the drivers. What is at fault is a system of transport that is unfit for purpose and dangerous by design.

            If we were proposing introducing such a system today, and it did not exist, consider what we would be saying. We will kill a million people globally a year. We will cover the country with highways. We will emit vast quantities of dangerous pollutants into the air we all breathe. We will spend years of our lives sitting in fume soaked traffic jams when we could be doing nicer and more productive things, but there is no other way to get from a to b.

            It will be great, won’t it? So much better than public transport. Right.

            In order to do all this we will spend big chunks of our disposable income on elaborate machines, so we can join in, take the risks, waste the time, emit the pollutants.

            Do you think you would have the slightest chance of getting such an insane proposal adopted?

        • Driving is a privilege, not a right. You must prove a minimum level of knowledge and competence to be issued a license to drive on public roads. Would that were the same for non-motor cyclists. Bicycle riders are some of the most flippant, unpredictable, and disrespectful people on the road here. Made worse by an Oklahoma law that gives them the same right-of-way status as motor vehicles.

          In accidents involving a motor vehicle and one or more pedestrians, 9 times out of 10 the pedestrian is at fault. When passing through town I almost always have to slow down for at least one jaywalker who comes bounding off the curb without even looking one way, let alone both. And bicycles run people over too, you know. My sister can attest to that. She needed stiches to put her nose back together as a kid when a cyclist bowled her over in the family’s own driveway.

          Traffic safety is not something only drivers need to care about. Yet they always get the blame when something goes wrong on the road 😐

        • PS. The cost of freedom is risk, often even the risk of serious injury or death. If you want a society free of risk, you must accept a society with no meaningful freedoms.

  16. Out of curiosity one day, I estimated the world’s population size by volume, with everyone stacked in cubic pile with no spaces. How big do you suppose the pile would be?

    I came to a cube 0.4km is size. It would fit in my neighborhood. That’s what is feared will consume the resources of the entire planet.

    • Recommended reading: The Skeptical Environmentalist by Bjorn Lomborg. It is filled with examples of similar exercises.

  17. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/03/meps-vote-for-40-cut-in-car-emissions-by-2030

    This is the kind of idiocy I am talking about. Do these people want to restrict noise, particulates, NO2? No, they are not worried about any of those pollutants which do really damage life and health in the areas of our cities where we live and work and play surrounded by them.

    No, the idiots want to lower CO2 emissions, which cause no problems to anyone. In fact, if we could lower the harmful emissions by dramatically raising CO2 emissions, we should do it.

    The problem isn’t the CO2. But the problem with focussing on it is that it takes attention away from the really unpleasant and unhealthy emissions and costs of swamping our cities with ICE vehicles.

  18. •Reduce the human population… “but this obviously raises some unpleasant decisions.” Not if you’re a Vogon.

    True, the Vogans had no qualms about the population elimination that would result from their plans, but they also had no qualms about the complete destruction of the planet that the eliminated population was living on either. So probably not the ones you want to put in charge of *saving* the planet.

    • This planet is saved by reason of no longer existing, hence forces inimical to its existence can no longer act upon it. 🙂

  19. And in other news, not counting the cyclists and pedestrians….

    Car crashes killed 37,133 people in the US in 2017

    https://arstechnica.com/cars/2018/10/car-crashes-killed-37133-people-in-the-us-in-2017/?comments=1

    see also

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/15/business/highway-traffic-safety.html

    And this does not count the enormous other non accident costs, such as inability to use the streets other than to drive, and the air and noise pollution the system causes. And that is just the USA.

    Dangerous by design, and not fit for purpose, and if we were starting from scratch, and cited the costs and benefits, a trasnport system which would never make it past the first hurdle.

    • Michel – striving towards a more pollution free existence is admirable and is actually the target of most governments and businesses at the r& d level. However you should direct your energies to solving the problems of the real world not some dream world. What you say is true but has come about through choice and prosperity, you cannot force your sort of idealism on the general masses without taking a very large chunk of their freedoms away. Holland has more bikes and this helps to clean up and decongest city centres – but not very much. My last visit to Holland had me sat in a traffic jam(the normal) for 1.5 hours. electrifying the transport system is also a good idea for city centres but is totally impractical for inter city or international travel as it just moves the exhaust waste from the exhaust pipe to the chimneys of power stations or the factories for renewable equipment, or from the most abundant and free energy production removed by covering the green parts of our land.

      You ask whether people are happy with the deaths total. I would say yes they are – very happy as it is generally reducing. The ownership of a car is a massively liberating experience -ask any teenager getting his licence. The advantages far outweigh the risks. Modern regulation and safety levels of the car itself have vastly reduced the risk of accidents even in increasingly crowded transport environments with many more on their way with the latest driver safety monitoring technology.

      As for the pollution risk – I ask you this. If particulates and NO2 are such a great risk why is it that workers who spend nearly all their working lives on the road and a large chunk of their private lives as well – combined with the majority of them living in large conurbations – do not die at an appreciably younger age caused by these factors (having a sedentary and bad diet lifestyle being the more likely cause of bad health). Do you think possibly and as usual the poor use of statistics is being used to sway public opinion against the supposed evil fossil fuel in cars!! Certainly what I think. My advice to you is be more pragmatic in your approach to human existence and you will sleep easier.

  20. Hence the German situation in Hambacher: the lignite has value because it can be sold to be burned, the 12,000-year-old forest has none unless the trees are cut down for economic use. And, in an infinite world, there are always more 12,000-year-old forests.
    _________________________________________________

    Until the High Middle Ages, you could hike from the North Cape to finis terre without ever leaving the shadows of the forests.

    During the Gothic, the French king and Entourage respectively went. The German Emperor in the thickest forest to be shown by the master builder of the most powerful tree for the rooftop poe of “his” cathedral.

    In “12,000 year old Hambacher forest” Noone will find a tree that would suspend the roof of the kings cathedral.

  21. hope that version to be readable:

    _________________________________________________

    Hence the German situation in Hambacher: the lignite has value because it can be sold to be burned, the 12,000-year-old forest has none unless the trees are cut down for economic use. And, in an infinite world, there are always more 12,000-year-old forests.
    _________________________________________________

    Until the High Middle Ages, you could wander from the North Cape to finis terre without ever leaving the shadows of the forests.

    During the Gothic, the French king and Entourage resp. German Emperor went into the thickest forest to be shown by the master builder  the most powerful tree for the rooftop poe of “his” cathedral.

    In “12,000 year old Hambacher forest” Noone will find a tree that would suspend the roof of the kings cathedral.

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