The IEA, and Climate Change – why?

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IEA Chief Presents Sobering View of Our Energy Future

Posted by JR on November 25, 2009 at 3:04 pm

(image: and Chief Fatih Birol addressed the Council on Foreign Relations earlier this week. (image: and

Monday night at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, Fatih Birol, Chief Economist at the International Energy Agency (IEA) presented the highlights of the recently released 2009 World Energy Outlook, which was recently completed. Yours truly was in attendance, and got the scoop just for you dear readers.

Mr. Birol knows his stuff- he worked for OPEC for six years, has written lots of articles about energy and energy policy, has won lots of awards for his work and is steeped every day in the numbers and analysis of global energy consumption and production. He’s known for being pretty plainspoken. So when he has something to say, we should listen.

And what he has to say isn’t pretty. Some samples:

• To keep up with global oil demand, the world will need to discover an additional four (yes, he said four) Saudi Arabia’s worth of crude reserves before 2030

• To keep up with global gas demand the world will need to discover an additional four Russia’s worth of natural gas reserves by 2030.

• Because of the financial crisis, global investment in oil production fell by $90B in 2009, or 19 percent- the first time this has happened in a decade.

• Existing oil fields will lose two-thirds of their productive capacity by 2030

• Between 2008 and 2030, the percentage of GDP spent on energy in the US will double, and in countries like China and India could increase three to six-fold.

• Oil prices were ‘not innocent’ in precipitating the financial crisis of 2008 and will remain a threat to global growth.

Whoa…Fatih…I’m trying to catch my breath here. What are we going to do?

Mr. Birol emphasized that the way to address these threats is to address climate change. In the IEA’s projections they use two scenarios, one they call the ‘Reference’ scenario (no change in our behavior) and the ‘450’ scenario (we keep carbon parts per million in the atmosphere under the critical 450 and thus will save the world- or so Al Gore tells me).

The changes he calls for to reach the 450 scenario are EXPENSIVE. They would cost many trillions—with a capital T. Renewables, electric cars, carbon capture, wind, solar, cap and trade, the works. But, he emphasizes, the cost of waiting will be even more expensive.

During the Q&A session that followed his presentation, someone asked him what his recommendations would be if climate change turned out to be an elaborate hoax (I paraphrase). He said he would still recommend 90% of the changes outlined in the review. Huh?

Birol explained that many people, especially in the developing world, view energy security as a bigger issue than climate change. Countries like China and India may not be very interested in spending money on climate change, but they may be extremely willing to spend on energy security. The same argument could be made to climate change skeptics. In his view, the changes we would make to reduce emissions are the same moves we would make to improve our energy security.

Interesting. Is it possible climate change zealots and national security hawks can fall in love on this? Who’s going to call Al Gore and Dick Cheney for the handshake photo-op? And is this really a way we can convince China it is in their best interest not to turn the planet into the air quality equivalent of my Grandpa’s apartment (Marlboro reds, two packs daily)? Sounds revolutionary to me.

Birol did have some other very interesting comments that we will touch on in future articles, among them:

• Hydrofracking in the US represents a silent energy revolution that no one is paying attention to, but will provide us with oodles of natgas for the next 20 years.
• Oil and coal usage in OECD (developed) countries peaked in 2009
• A natural gas glut is forming globally and will reach its apex in 2015

So put that in your pipe and smoke it. Be back in touch soon.

The question is: why is Birol so all-fired up about Climate Change. Because the science is a scam, driven by the oil industry to cover it’s real tale of depletion?


My take is that Birol and Co have, for years, been optimistic – very so – in calling future supply. This is one way of obfuscating the reality (‘we throttled back because we had to’, rather than ‘we ran out – the Peak Oilers were right).

I’ll bet the red bit – yet to be discovered oil – is still in Slide 7, but.


One Response

  1. I think Mr Birol is more qualified than myself on energy security… and that if I am smart I should choose to Listen!

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