Tuesday, November 10, 2009

TechnoSanity #32: Fudged numbers in the IEA's World Energy Outlook, 2009??

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The World Energy Outlook is a yearly report from the International Energy Agency. It provides data and projections about energy supplies world wide, and is used by nearly 30 countries in planning policies. It is an important report that carries a lot of weight around the world. This year the report is being released on the eve of the Copenhagen Climate Change summit, and this years report has a lot of strong statements about climate change effects of energy use. There is also a controversy over the accuracy of the report.

Why the End May Be Coming for Coal - This isn't about the IEA report but is interesting in the context of this discussion. The article points to growing clamor for ending coal use and most especially mountain top removal. Mountain-top removal is a form of strip mining where they, uh, remove mountains in order to get at the coal. Um, remove a mountain? Is this the world we want to live in? This is utter unmitigated ecological disaster.

Energy costs to soar if no carbon deal, agency says - Unless the leaders at the Copenhagen summit can agree on a deal, the world faces higher energy costs as well as increased negative environmental impact. If no deal is reached that means "business" will "remain as usual". Under business as usual assumptions the IEA report indicates drastic increases in electricity use, in oil use, and in coal use (to generate the electricity). Due to supply problems the oil will be high price, and due to the higher coal use the environmental problems facing us now will be drastically worse.

Current Energy Plans ‘Unsustainable,’ IEA Says in New Outlook - The global recession has caused a decrease in energy use, a significant decrease, and the first since 1981 (another recession year). The IEA assumes that in short order the economic problems will be set right, and that the world economic game will resume its upward climb. The typical economic game results in ever-increasing use of energy and the associated ills mentioned previously.

I rather doubt that the game can continue in the prior pattern. The supply problems look to be more serious than the IEA is willing to admit. (See TechnoSanity #30: Peak Oil and the UKERC Peak Oil report

Electricity demand will grow even faster—by 76% by 2030. That will require the addition of nearly 5,000 gigawatts of new power plants. That’s five times the generation capacity of the U.S. today....And that means coal will become more important—not less important—in the global energy mix. The IEA expects global coal consumption to grow 53% by 2030 in its reference scenario. Natural gas will also become more important, with demand growing 41% over the period—but gas supplies are “are easily large enough to cover any conceivable rate of demand increase through to 2030 and well beyond,” the IEA says.

World needs Canada’s 'dirty oil', says IEA - The IEA report looks to "unconventional oil" like Canada's tarsands as the savior to the oil supply crunch.

This is the 2008 chart, the 2009 chart is very similar. Notice the figures for "Oil fields yet to be developed" and "Oil fields yet to be found". That oil which is yet to be developed or found is a significant chunk of expected future oil supply. Even if they're correct in the estimates of this yet to be developed or found oil supply, it's not enough to satisfy the growing demand. It's expected growth in tarsands oil output which makes up the gap.

World oil demand growth to be led by Asia - IEA - Growth in India and China due to globalization is expected to be a major part of increased world oil use. They expect U.S. oil use to decrease. Globalization means shipping economic activity from factories that had been functioning in the U.S. to factories operating in China or India. That means the energy use which used to occur in U.S. factories is now happening in Chinese factories. It also means larger energy use to ship the stuff across the world.

oil_1110.jpg

After the Recession, Will the World Face an Energy Crisis? - Again going over the expected economic recovery means resumption in growth of energy and increasing environmental damage.

Highlights from the IEA World Energy Outlook 2009

Key oil figures were distorted by US pressure, says whistleblower - MAJOR CONTROVERSY. A few whistleblowers who refuse to be named are claiming that U.S. Government pressure was placed on the IEA to fudge the numbers in the report. To overstate reserves, to understate demand, and make it look like the situation is better than it really is. To avoid panicking the masses.

Now the "peak oil" theory is gaining support at the heart of the global energy establishment. "The IEA in 2005 was predicting oil supplies could rise as high as 120m barrels a day by 2030 although it was forced to reduce this gradually to 116m and then 105m last year," said the IEA source, who was unwilling to be identified for fear of reprisals inside the industry. "The 120m figure always was nonsense but even today's number is much higher than can be justified and the IEA knows this.

"Many inside the organisation believe that maintaining oil supplies at even 90m to 95m barrels a day would be impossible but there are fears that panic could spread on the financial markets if the figures were brought down further. And the Americans fear the end of oil supremacy because it would threaten their power over access to oil resources," he added.

A second senior IEA source, who has now left but was also unwilling to give his name, said a key rule at the organisation was that it was "imperative not to anger the Americans" but the fact was that there was not as much oil in the world as had been admitted. "We have [already] entered the 'peak oil' zone. I think that the situation is really bad," he added.

Too fearful to publicise peak oil reality - Did nobody see the peak oil crisis coming? "Apply that question to peak oil and the answer is that many people did see it coming but they were marginalised, bullied into silence and the evidence was buried in the small print."

Take the 2008 edition of World Energy Outlook, the annual report on which the entire energy industry and governments depend. It included the table also published by the Guardian today, and the version I saw had shorter intervals on the horizontal axis. What it made blindingly clear was that peak oil was somewhere in 2008/9 and that production from currently producing fields was about to drop off a cliff. Fields yet to be developed and yet to be found enabled a plateau of production and it was only "non-conventional oil" which enabled a small rise. Think tar sands of Canada, think some of the most climate polluting oil extraction methods available. Think catastrophe.

What made this little graph so devastating was that it estimated energy resources by 2030 that were woefully inadequate for the energy-hungry economies of India and China. Business as usual in oil production threatens massive conflict over sharing it.

Energy body rejects whistleblower allegations of oil cover up - The IEA issues an official denial of there being fudged numbers.

A false picture of world's oil reserves? - An interview on Marketplace about the claims of fudged numbers.

IEA sees gas glut until 2015, rising coal role

Cost of extra year's climate inaction $500 billion: IEA

Energy Watchdog Urges Deal on Climate

IEA "whistleblower" says peak oil nearing: report

TechnoSanity #32: Fudged numbers in the IEA's World Energy Outlook, 2009??