At last week’s launch of Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, author and energy analyst Daniel Yergin talked about what he sees as today’s three big energy questions. Dr. Yergin recently released a new book entitled “The Quest,” which follows up on his Pulitzer-winning history of the global oil industry, “The Prize.”
1) Is there enough energy? Will we run out? A few years ago peak oil was a common topic and dark days were seemingly ahead – demand was concentrated in OECD countries and ROW (rest of world) was just the tail until about 2004 when demand in emerging markets exploded, said Yergin. But every time it seems we are running out of oil, he went on to say, technology helps find and develop more, like we have now with shale and tight oil & gas. However, while concerns about peak oil may not be as urgent as they seemed a few years ago, new challenges have arisen, and “it’s still sobering to look at these energy challenges,” he said.
2) How do we deal with new energy security threats? Today we face “the bad new world of cyber danger,” said Yergin, and he offered the recent computer attack at Saudi Aramco as a prime example. There are still physical security threats to producing infrastructure like those witnessed in Nigeria earlier this year, he said, and we face threats to physical delivery systems like those highlighted with the Northeastern US fuel shortages post Hurricane Sandy, Yergin said.
3) How do we deal with energy and the environment – climate change? How do we fund cleantech and renewable energy investments during an age of austerity? He also raised the intermittency challenge that faces wind and solar power and questioned the business model of utilities when everyone is on the grid but not everyone is paying for its maintenance and development. This is a challenge often posed with regard to the proliferation of distributed generation.