Monday, January 2, 2012

What Does "100 Years of Natural Gas" Mean?

Maggie Koerth-Baker (science editor for Boing Boing) has a book coming out in April called Before the Lights Go Out: Conquering the Energy Crisis Before It Conquers Us. But for today she has a post about the problem of estimating how much natural gas is left in the ground.

All things considered, 100 years is not really a very long time. Especially given the fact that estimates like this are based on current natural gas usage rates, but are presented with an implication that we should be using more natural gas than we currently do. I don't think that a 100-year-supply of something as critical as energy represents a time of plenty. I think it represents a ticking clock. At best, what you've got there is a transitional energy source—something with the potential to be cleaner and less politically complicated than coal and oil, that you can use while you build up an energy infrastructure based on something other than fossil fuels.

But the critique of that "100 years of gas" estimate goes even deeper. That's because any estimate of fossil fuel reserves is made under the limitations of corporate secrecy.
She points to this story on Slate about the topic -- I'll be heading off to read that soon.

1 comment:

Ms Sparrow said...

That doesn't seem to take into account the scary things we have to do to get to that natural gas. On this morning's new, there was a story about an earthquake in Ohio that they attributed to fracking (a word so new my spell check doesn't even recognize it).