Geology, Optimism, & Something Completely Different
The Great Simplification #61 with Gareth Roberts
On this episode, geologist and entrepreneur Gareth Roberts joins me to discuss the geological science behind how we find, extract, and deplete fossil hydrocarbons. Gareth and I also unpack how financial policy, government, and an energy transition interact with an aging hydrocarbon-based grid.
Gareth is an entrepreneur and successful founder and leader of a large public oil and gas company. He studied geology at Oxford University before going on to work for Texaco and Murphy Oil in the US and UK. In the 1980s he founded Denbury Resources (NYSE: DNR), which grew into a $10 billion company under his leadership. Gareth stepped down from Denbury 10 years ago and is now involved in the creation of various businesses, involved in carbon sequestration and helium exploration.
This episode covers a wide breadth of issues - from energy and geology to how a society's use of comedy signifies its health of ideas. How do scientists, communicators, and planners come together to respond to such challenges?
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Whilst interesting, I thought this lacked a bit of balance. Gareth Roberts preferred the term "Energy Ignorance" to "Energy Blind", but the over emphasis on energy needs meant that other valid concerns were swept aside. Does being Energy Literate mean that you have to be Ecology Blind?
A few notes I made while listening to this:
Industrial fertiliser. Isn't this an example of a side product of fossil fuels that was never really necessary and has us caught in a trap. The overuse of NPK fertiliser over the last decades has destroyed soil health and meant that more and more concentrations of these products needs to be used, causing nutrient run-offs, loss of soil, algae blooms etc. Recent advances in no-till, regenerative agriculture and bio-diverse practices have shown that there are better ways to interact with the soil to create more nutritious crops.
Climate. No mention of this at all! I agree that 2050 targets and the like are pretty meaningless and really just an excuse to kick the can, but should one really ignore the message from many climate scientists that we are fast approaching tipping points, and may have passed some already. It's all very well saying that humans are resourceful and full of ingenuity, but surely there are limits to that argument and we should apply the precautionary principle in this case.
"Humans are entitled to do things". What things? Anything? Is this an extension of the idea of man's dominion over the rest of the planet. What about some reverence for the rest of life. When you go for your bike ride, try imagining it's through a desert wasteland with no wildlife rather than rural Oxfordshire.
Fracking. What about:
Cancer within local populations.
Nate sort of touched on Jevons paradox. Would've liked to have heard more.
Also, Is this the 5 minute argument, or the full half-hour?