Hydrocarbons are the Major Source of Energy

Written by Dr. Klaus L.E. Kaiser

One Paul Gilding recently posted an article with the title “Fossil fuels are finished—the rest is just detail.” That sure made my (thinning) hair curl. What a nonsense! light bulb

This poor man (?) has no idea what he is talking about. ‘Fossil fuels’ (more correctly, hydrocarbons) are driving the world and will continue to do so for a very long time; in fact they are the major energy source going—and growing by leaps and bounds!


To prove my point, let’s look at some energy/fuel facts, like the bar-graph showing the world energy production by source in the year 2013, source: Manhattan Inst.

As you can see, fossil fuels account for approximately 85% of the entire world energy consumption. When you add to that the fossil energy used to build and maintain windmills, and to “pre-heat” solar renewable types of energy (see my post on “More alternative energy follies,” it’s probably more than 90% of all energy consumed. Even the “biomass” energy component needs plenty of electric or other power that, in turn, is largely supplied by fossil resources. In most cases, these fossil energy consumptions are not even accounted for in most “renewable” energy production numbers; details, details…

Altogether, the idea that fossil fuels are finished is simply preposterous. The facts are entirely different from that claim and fossil fuels are in more demand than ever. In absolute terms, coal energy alone still rises at a rate of about three times that of renewables’ energy and oil and natural gas are close behind coal. But not just the demand is steadily increasing, low and behold, the available and known resources are as well.

Are we Running out of Hydrocarbons?

Whether you believe it or not, I do remember a specific assignment from early public school (60+ years ago), namely to write an essay (OK, say a list of points) on what would become of the world without the sun shining. It was both a serious and fun task at the time.

The question of “what would become of the world without carbon/hydrocarbon energy resources” is not much different, at least in my mind. The attached graph will demonstrate that, fossil energy is still by far the biggest and most reliable way for power generation. Whether you drive a car, fly in an airplane, enjoy a trip on a ship, turn on the lights, or just want some heat, most of all that energy is provided by fossil fuels. Even much of your “free” (as per sunshine and wind advocates’) energy is, in fact, fossil resource based.

The world may indeed run out of fossil carbon energy resources at one point. However, that point in time gets continuously pushed further into the future. Not only is the current consumption being met with new finds to compensate for it, between the new technologies and newly discovered finds, the future supply is increasing at a steady rate. For example, on Aug. 30, 2015, the Wall Street Journal, reported on a massive new natural gas find offshore Egypt’s coast in the Mediterranean Sea.

Many discoveries of similar kind are also made in other areas, onshore and offshore, all around the world. So, it’s incredibly naive and false to claim that fossil fuels are finished. Nothing of that sort is happening, neither in available resources or consumption terms.

Another point

There is also another point I’d like to mention. It’s the relative large amount of coverage given by some search engines to news items of the kind I’m referring to here. For example, Gilding’s own blog page at goodreads.com has not a single comment on his article and shows a grand total of “4 followers.”

However, when searching for the query given below, you’d think his works are in great demand, see for yourself. The major search engine results for the query (on Aug. 30, 2015): “gilding” +“fossil fuels are finished” are as follows:

Clearly, there appears to be a discrepancy between the results offered by these three search engines. I cannot say which one is better but am wondering about the reason for that sizable difference. Could it be because of a bias in the direction of a particular view? You be the judge on that but there’s one thing which I’m quite sure:

Gildings musings about fossil fuels being finished are total baloney.

Dr. Klaus L.E. Kaiser — Bio and Archives

Comments (2)

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    Carl: Nice! Pretty much summarizes what I was wondering about all this… Yours is a fine distillation (single row?) of this ‘quandary’ that’s being bantered about, in our First World of endless miasms (though many miasms seem worth bettering). It’s just like the bracing slap in the face/palate that a big double IPA provides. Cheers! Michael

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    I followed the link that you provided to Paul Gilding’s article and observed that he is infected with a prominent delusion that permeates the anti-fossil fuel cabal. He is under the delusion that technology can nullify the laws of physics.

    He falsely believes that the reason we are not now running our electrical grids on wind and solar power is because we lack the technical know how, but that is not the case. We have known for many years how to generate electricity using solar panels and windmills. The problem is that we cannot control when and how much electricity sunshine and wind produce. Electricity is a “non-conserved” physical reality–it has to be produced at the very moment that it is being used.

    Those who actually build and operate stable electrical grids know this. They know that the amount of electricity generated must 24/7 match the “load” that there is on an electrical grid on a minute by minute bases. Hydrocarbons do this beautifully because the amount of fuel being fed to the burners at the power plants can be adjusted on a minute by minute basis.

    Operators have absolutely no control over how much electricity is generated minute by minute by solar panels and windmills. They cannot therefore be used to power a stable electrical grid. Such a grid would cycle between power surges and blackouts, which would among other things render virtually everything that contains electronics useless, because electronics requires a stable energy source.

    The very nature of electricity makes solar panels and windmills useless adjuncts to a power grid because all they do is destabilize the grid’s electrical input and make it more difficult–and therefore more expensive–to operate without any meaningful reduction in hydrocarbon usage.

    And for what??? To reduce the amount of airborne fertilizer that there is in the atmosphere, based on yet another delusion that CO2 is a “pollutant”.


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