SNS: Special Letter: The Energy Dilemma and Hydrocarbon Reliance

SNS: Special Letter: The Energy Dilemma and Hydrocarbon Reliance


Volume 13, Issue 33
Week of September 20, 2010

In This Issue

Feature: The Energy Dilemma And Hydrocarbon Reliance

  • The Four Factors of the Energy Dilemma
  • Energy Use and the Quality of Life
  • A United States Model?
  • Today’s Energy Realities
  • In Conclusion: The Benefits of Natural Gas As a Transitional Fuel
  • About Randy Foutch

Publisher’s Note: This week, we sent out the first DVDs showcasing the results of our newly christened SNS FiRe CTO Advisory Board, to members of government around the world.

Prior to FiRe 2010, expert wisdom seemed to be that it was impossible to save our planet from a catastrophic (2 degree Centigrade) temperature excursion; since FiRe 2010, skeptics seem to have changed their minds, and experts have published new work – informed by the CTO AB – demonstrating that there is, indeed, a path of behavior that can avoid this catastrophe.

That’s pretty amazing, no matter how you view it. It turns out that, as we have been proving at FiRe now for three years, CTOs and engineers are better at solving today’s complex problems than are lawyers and lobbyists.

Now we are moving into the action phase on this critical agenda.

By the time you read this, two U.S. Cabinet secretaries, in Energy and Commerce, will have received these disks, even as more are on the way to every member of Congress.

Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell has stepped up and offered to share this DVD with others in Energy and Commerce and on the Hill. Vint Cerf has offered to arrange a briefing with our president’s technology advisors.

I am reminded, in this, of the work of SNS members in the immediate wake of the events of 9.11.01. We were the first group in the nation to provide a comprehensive, technology-based response to all members of the Senate on questions relating to the use of technology to fight terrorism.

I remember delivering that volume, personally, into the hands of our U.S. Senators, one by one, in places other than their offices, which had been closed because of threats of anthrax attack.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, who had pleaded for a tech response to the attack on the Twin Towers, turned to me in surprise when I handed him our “Project Intelligent Response” book, at 175 pages, and said “God bless you.” Twice, with feeling.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, taking the book from me during a dinner at Sen. John Kerry’s house, said simply: “Thank you. I will read it tonight.”

Today, we face a greater challenge: preventing past and current human activities from bringing so much climate change upon our species that we suffer beyond imagination. While fools spend money to make sure no action is taken, so they can make a bit more profit during the collapse, virtually all scientists, joined by almost all citizens who recognize that science is simply “what we know,” are wondering if there is still time left to save us from catastrophe.

The answer, according to the CTO AB, is a clear Yes.

However, there are many caveats in their findings. And indeed, we are at a “Churchill Moment” without an obvious global chief of Churchill’s decisiveness or leadership qualities. We are in an extremely precarious situation.

In crafting their solution to this challenge we all face, the CTO AB recognized two critical process constraints: first, it doesn’t matter whether you favor wind turbines or nuclear plants. What matters is whether we, as a planet, can scale them quickly enough to avoid a catastrophe.

Second, we must start this new program now – RIGHT NOW!!!!!!!! is the time to wake up and smell your own demise in the air, recognizing that inaction is much worse than corrective action of any kind. For a start, the world must agree, RIGHT NOW, not to build a single new coal plant, unless it has a carbon-dioxide sequestering mechanism proven and attached.

Today, that means something simple: no new coal-fired power plants. Tomorrow, it will mean: no new old-model, coal-fired power plants.

Last, and not least, the CTO AB understood that the response necessary to save our species from climate catastrophe will require a complex, multi-phase solution set.

In other words, not only is there not one single answer to what kind of alternative energy do you like, but also: there are different answers for the portfolio of energy solutions over time. What is acceptable, and even desirable, in Phase I, may be shut down and illegal in Phase III.

Into this melee steps the author of this week’s Special Letter, Randy Foutch, head of Laredo Petroleum. I have talked with Randy at our FiRe Conference, which he attends yearly, and on the phone; and I can tell you that: a) Randy understands this phased approach; and b) he understands that Natural Gas, a perfect solution for the planet in Phase I, is indeed a transitional solution, and not likely to be included in the final solution of the alternative-energy equation.

Today, as the members of our CTO AB so recently determined, it is time for real action, and Natural Gas has a critical role to play in the first phase of the U.S. transitioning away from oil and coal. There are few SNS members better qualified to carry this banner than Randy Foutch. — mra.

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