You may well wonder like I do why there is a need for yet another blog on energy and environmental issues. Let me begin by introducing myself. My name is Euan Mearns, I am a geologist with BSc and PhD degrees from The University of Aberdeen. I live in Aberdeen, Scotland. 7 odd years ago I stumbled upon a blog called The Oil Drum (TOD) where I found a tremendous array of articles and data on The Earth Energy system. Then, I was trying to find out why the oil price and the value of my oil stocks kept going up. I entered the world of blogging, peak oil, energy decline and Olduvai. Before long I started to write articles for The Oil Drum, was then invited to become an Editor and for the last few years I have been one of four board members that adminstered that site. By mid 2013 the energy world, how it is viewed and reported had moved on and a decison was made to archive The Oil Drum, a process that is nearing completion as I write these words.
During the dying months of TOD the jackals were out vying for our audience that still approached 10,000/day at the end. I have no real ambition to emulate TOD that evolved into a site where concerned individuals from around the planet could meet up to read about and exchange views on the energy and environmental plight of humanity. My approach to this vast subject will be rather different. The hierarchy I envisage will be UK energy supplies and policy; European energy supplies and policy; the global energy system. Since both UK and European Union (EU) energy policies are based upon the desire to reduce CO2 emissions I do intend to put the evidence for man-made climate change under the microscope. There still exists a vast range of uncertainty in climate models and in particular in the data inputs, and it is quite simply impossible for climate science to be settled with the current state of knowledge and understanding.
The ambition I have for this site is for me to learn and to educate others. Posts and articles are going to span a vast range of complexity reflecting the diversity of my target audience. I hope to write articles of interest and accessible to school children and to students. And through all those in between, my main target audience will be the media, policy makers and politicians alongside the financial markets who together with the political elite run our society. There is going to be lots of data and charts since I strongly believe all policy decisions should be based on data and the evidence that data supports. In my opinion the best way to display these complex data sets is in charts or graphs.
A local, super-charged political issue that I will be following and trying to influence is the pending referendum on Scotland’s continued membership of the UK. Energy of all sorts will figure highly in this debate and I hope that Energy Matters may become the default repository of energy truth on this topic that is vital to the UK. With political desire to expand renewables, a moratorium on nuclear power and the continued decline of North Sea oil and gas production, Scotland may well become a microcosm for the global energy debate over the next 12 months.
Sustainability will be discussed mainly from the angle of how to run a sustainable blog. TOD benefited from generous donations from a couple of benefactors who paid for site services whilst all the content contribution was done on a voluntary basis. Since I have not worked for over 8 years (apart from occasional geological consultancy work), my friends tell me I am looking rather undernourished. Energy Matters will have to have some form of revenue stream. There may be a “tip jar”, there will be advertising, some articles may be behind a paywall, and I hope to do some guest speaking but most of all I hope that some readers who stand to gain from the pursuance of energy truth may donate generously to the site.
Those looking at this skeleton site may well surmise that I am new to blog and web site construction. The site is hosted on iPage and powered by WordPress. I have shied away many times from making these first steps to building an internet presence. Having taken the first step I was kind of shocked to see that content was going live, which prompted me to write this welcome statement. Somewhat frustratingly I have one of my occasional consulting jobs about to begin, and so this space will be dormant for the next two weeks. But following that I hope to return with posts on:
• UK energy supplies and energy security
• EU energy supplies and energy security
• The death of peak oil, long live peak oil
• Global sea ice extent
• Climatic variations within the UK
Before closing out I want to experiment with the blogging software and see if I can post a few slides from materials I use at the University for occasional lectures that I give there. These may hopefully help explain the interaction between Morpheous and Neo in the original movie The Matrix. Morpheous offered Neo a choice between a red pill (truth) and a blue pill (deception). Society faces many such choices in the decades ahead, the very fact that society is asking questions of energy and trying to make a choice is, in itself, unique.
Neo, reflected in Morpheous’s glasses, chose the red pill (truth) to learn that his whole life as he knew it was a computer generated fantasy. In the real world, humans had become energy slaves in a society run by machines.
With the discovery of fire, humans learned to leverage energy use from the natural environment. Once timber ran scarce, we began to dig coal out of the ground and discovered the wealth of energy slaves stored as fossil fuel (fossil sunshine) in the Earth’s crust. When the tractor man goes to work it is the tractor and diesel fuel it contains that does all the work – equivalent of 4000 human slaves.
Not all energy on Earth comes from The Sun. The heavy elements including radioactive isotopes of potassium, uranium and thorium were manufactured in the supernova precursor to our solar system. This provides nuclear power but also drives plate tectonics that creates the land forms utilised by hydro electric power. Modern human society has evolved to expect energy on demand that is provided by the energy stores of fossil fuels and fissile isotopes. Adapting to use energy flows from renewable sources may have higher costs than currently factored in to energy planning.
European energy policy is dominated by the desire to reduce CO2 emissions and this has created a decision making process that departs from traditional capitalist norms. In March 2011 UK finance minister George Osborne raided UK oil and gas producers for an additional £2 billion per year in taxes. The impact was immediate and adverse for oil and gas production. Good news, perhaps, for the environment? But bad news for UK consumers who are confronted by spiralling energy costs.