An observation worth noting … and pondering, from Anne B. Ryan:
We cannot all be official, designated leaders, but if leadership is about taking risks and bringing other people along in a new vision, then we can all do it. We need to rid ourselves of the idea that only experts can lead us. A leader is anyone who wants to help and leadership is an everyday thing, not something apart from day-to-day living. It’s not confined to those who have decision-making power in institutions or states. We can all, irrespective of age, occupation or role, regularly ask questions about how we should live, what is good, how we can achieve well-being for everybody, how we can respect the earth and how we can take the long-term view and try to see the whole picture. We can engage in conversation with others about these issues. A society that does not cultivate the art of asking questions cannot count on finding answers to its most pressing issues.
And thus the dilemma….
“Leaders” in the fossil fuel industry and their preferred media outlets work very hard to make sure their part of the story about pressing issues regarding future energy supplies gets the most coverage. The problem is that their part of the story is only their part of the story, and it’s one light on facts and context.
It’s the one with lots of Happy Talk and undying faith in the Technology Fairy and don’t-worry-be-happy creeds. Their audiences are left with little to make informed decisions or plans. Why?
As Ms. Ryan suggests in the quote above: “We can all, irrespective of age, occupation or role, regularly ask questions about how we should live, what is good, how we can achieve well-being for everybody, how we can respect the earth and how we can take the long-term view and try to see the whole picture.”
So we must. Anyone waiting for the fossil fuel industry and its joined-at-the-hip media to start providing citizens with more than just their side of the story is in for a long wait. Without adequate information and full disclosures, citizens dependent solely on these others to educate and provide will face daunting challenges with little preparation or understanding. Not a good strategy.
The public hears that we have “vast” resources and that we’re in the midst of a seemingly endless “production boom” which will before-we-know-it make us “energy independent.” Fantastic story, and who cares about the details with those tidbits as the lead? If it weren’t for the facts about oil production and the reserves upon which that depends, it would be even better.
The shale formations which have driven the legitimate production increases (with legitimately impressive technological improvements) in the past few years have decline rates much, much higher than the conventional crude oil fields society has relied upon for well over a century. The wells are much more expensive, too. They need more of them just to keep up; more still to increase production totals, and more beyond that to make up for the depletion of conventional crude oil fields—and from a supply not as energy “rich” as conventional crude. We need more tight oil to give us the same energy bang for the buck.
Industry has naturally sought out the relatively cheap and easy tight oil reserves already, so much of what’s left for the taking is much more energy and investment intensive. High prices are good for the industry. For us … not so much. All of the associated costs from fracking (environmental harm, infrastructure damage such as wear and tear on roadways never designed for large trucks and many of them, along with increased demands upon the local communities for services and supplies) rarely if ever find their way into the soothing assurance offerings of industry officials or speakers, but they are very real, with lasting impacts extending well beyond the short term benefits accruing from local drilling efforts.
Fossil fuels are finite resources, and the planet is not manufacturing more on a timetable that makes any difference to this or many more generations to come.
There are several billion other people on this planet who like the American lifestyle and want a piece or two of that for themselves. Fossil fuels make that happen, but not if they remain finite resources being drawn down every day. Then what? And let’s not forget that the oil exporting nations have large populations with their own demands and expectations. Fossil fuels make that happen, too, so if they start keeping more of their own supplies, the math isn’t too difficult to figure out.
Those annoying factoids don’t see the light of day when the fossil fuel industry cheerleaders expound on the potential for possible production increases provided that certain other conditions can be met under the right circumstances which could possibly happen. Appealing themes have a part to play in the supply story and future prospects. Facts matter, too.
More information is always good. Without it, asking the right—or any—questions can be a pointless if not frustrating exercise. Then again, perhaps that is part of the strategy….
(Adapted from a blog post of mine)