The Energy of Nations – an Update

By John BristowComments Off on The Energy of Nations – an Update

From Jeremy Leggett: An update on how the dramas described in his book are playing out, April 2014. The Book:    


  The Energy of Nations: Risk Blindness and the Road to Renaissance by Jeremy Leggett 2013

(Reviews of the book, and ways to order, can be found here)      -<>



In April 2013 he finished writing the book during the Easter break a year ago, and made predictions about      three systemic risks being run by the energy incumbency:

the risk of a shale “surprise” (wherein an incumbency narrative-of-plenty in long-term extractable unconventional gas proves wrong),

the risk of an oil crisis (wherein another incumbency narrative-of-plenty, involving growing global supplies of affordable oil far into the future, turns out to be flawed), and

the risk of carbon-fuel asset stranding (wherein policymaking on climate change, or the possibility of it, causes investors to abandon significant amounts of oil, gas and coal assets underground, unburned).

During the year since, he has kept a log of developments relevant to these predictions, as he encountered them, on his website. He also covers the related themes of climate-change risk and the risk of renewed financial crisis. Jeremy invites you us to have a scan of that log<>, if you haven’t already, at the level of headlines only, and check the direction of things. The log would suggest that all three predictions are on course. And if any or all of this is right, the implications for all our lives will be enormous.

Some extracts from the log over the year since the book came out:

– Shale “surprise”: We have learned that the top 15 players in US shale drilling have written off $35 billion since the boom started, and that investors are beginning to pull out. Meanwhile, production has peaked and is now falling in all but one of the major shale-gas drilling regions. The boom is looking like it could turn into a bust before too long.

– Oil crisis: We have learned the extent to which capital expenditure on finding new reserves has soared, and discoveries by major oil companies have dropped. Meanwhile, crude oil production, which meets some three quarters of global demand, peaked in 2005. Who says so? For example, a man BP asked to compile estimates of global oil supply when he worked for the company.

– Carbon-fuel asset stranding: We have seen major financial institutions start pulling out of carbon-fuel investments. Other institutions holding their investments in place for the moment are pressuring carbon-fuel corporations to rein back capital being expended on efforts to turn resources into reserves. This is good news for those of us who worry about the risk of a carbon-fuel asset “bubble”, and wish to deflate it sustainably, abating climate-change risk in the process. It is bad news for an incumbency needing ever more capital to keep its narratives of carbon-fuel-plenty on track.

Over the course of the last year, instead of retreating from the comforting narratives they spin us as you might think the above would warrant, much of the oil and gas incumbency becomes ever more shrill in hyping mantras. They speak of America becoming the new “Saudi America” – a nation self-sufficient in oil and gas that exports to help allies in trouble, like Ukraine. The reality behind the myth is that America imports both gas and oil – and a lot of oil. US oil consumption is 18.5 million barrels a day. Production is 8.9 million barrels a day. What part of that equation are they going to export any time soon to save Ukraine and others from the clutches of Kremlin-controlled pipelines?

The strangeness in the air over this and other aspects of energy “policymaking” encourages him to redouble his efforts in sounding an alarm.


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