Daily Scold- IEA Edition

June 7, 2008 by Sybil

I thought more of the IEA before I read they were just starting to assess the amount of oil left in the world’s major oil fields.

Now they have a new recommendation.

In one of the strongest warnings so far about the world’s thirst for energy, the International Energy Agency said Friday that investment totaling $45 trillion might be needed over the next half-century to prevent energy shortages and greenhouse gas emissions from undermining global economic growth.

Read this paragraph from the article and see if you can spot the physics problem.

The IEA recommended taking measures now that would ensure that carbon emissions were down to at least present-day levels by mid-century by using technologies that already exist, including steps for improving energy efficiency and reducing emissions from power generation. Such measures would cost $17 trillion between now and 2050, or 0.4 percent of global output, costing about $400 billion a year.

If your vessel is full, slowing the rate at which you add water does not keep it at the same level.

There was a time when I would have expected the IEA to know that.



One Response to “Daily Scold- IEA Edition”

  1. Cassandra Says:

    The problem lies with human nature itself, not just with those humans at the IEA. When the truth is not what we want or what we believe, then we tend to avoid it. It’s a tendency researchers strive to avoid, but nearly all of us, scientists included, fall prey to reassuring falsehoods and fantasies. People prefer them to uncertainties and, worse yet, unpleasant truths.

    I remember watching Stephen Jay Gould explain how scientists could be blinded by unrecognized prejudices. For example, he pointed to the 19th scientists who measured brain sizes by pouring seed into skulls to prove that men were smarter than women and whites were smarter than blacks. Gould imagined a 19th C scientist pouring seed into an alarmingly small white male skull and then without intentionally trying to change results, tapping Mr. Tiny Brain’s skull on the counter a few times and pouring in more a bit more seed. Similarly, he imagined that scientist confronted by a large female skull and unconsciously putting down that skull as delicately as possible to leave the seed fluffy. Gould explained that all scientists had unrecognized prejudices and concluded that once scientists discovered their prejudices, they’d adjust protocols to banish them from their work.

    I’m not as sanguine about human nature as was Gould. Most of the educated, civilized, supposedly rational world, the IEA included, wants fossil fuel use to go on forever. It’s human nature to WANT. As many have noted, we talk of oil “production,” not oil “extraction.” We WANT oil to be produced, and a simple vocabulary choice makes it appear to be so.

    Peak Oil? Sustainability? But I WANT my car, my furnace, my hot shower!

    Remember VP Cheney’s comment that “The American way of life is non-negotiable”? That it’s unsustainable is not part of the picture, is it?

    Remember that Indonesian tsunami? Many people cheerfully picked up the fish stranded by the receding water. Why should they deny themselves free fish?

    So the IEA, scientists or not, just displayed the vagaries of human nature. Most of us accept facts when we can no longer deny them, but until that day comes both arrogance and ignorance are more comforting.

    Hey, look, there’s a strange walls of facts looming higher and higher on the horizon. Free fish, anyone?


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