This is great Deborah. Thank you.
Your article is along similar lines to what I've been thinking about.
I have been obsessed with certain slides from this presentation
that David Hughes of Post Carbon Institute gave at Cornell in May.
One such slide is the Resource Pyramid (at 11m:00s)
http://www.splicd.com/z4aaOPWvw3I/659/730 (1 min clip)
(Suggest watching this entire presentation, because Hughes mentions
that OPEC has been overestimating supply for a long time)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4aaOPWvw3I (entire presentation)
We should NEVER get to where EROI=1 or below.
Never! It's foolish. It's wasting the remaining resources we have on earth.
(EROI=net Energy Return on Investment)
Also, EROI only looks at energy inputs/outputs.
It does not consider social, environmental, or health impacts(costs).
Once those are added in, the Ultimate Barrier line effectively moves UP.
Also, removal of all oil+gas subsidies, and removal of the exemptions to Superfund Law, Clean Water Act, Clean Air act, etc., (which are equivalent to a subsidy) all push the effective line up.
Once these are all considered, it seems OBVIOUS. We (as a collective human race) should NEVER be going after any extreme Franken-Energy, like Shale Gas, Tar Sands, Deep Ocean Drilling, Mountaintop removal, etc.
Yet, we are. How can this be?
So, I'm looking for the socio-economic or regulatory mechanism which a) detects as we are approaching EROI=1, and then adjusts to push us towards conservation and renewables... and I don't find it.
I think even Adam Smith admitted in his later years that the Invisible Hand (greed) motivation of the market inevitably pushes us toward resource depletion. And there does not seem to be another resource like oil which can come online quickly.
Since M. King Hubbert predicted that the global production of oil+gas is a parabolic (bell) curve, it has been known that by using extraordinary technology, the backside of the curve can be "cheated", or artificially pushed up.
However, since the area under the curve is the same, it only delays the inevitable, and leads to a sharp cliff. This appears to be what is happening, while OPEC and now the Shale Gas Frackers (Chesapeake Energy, Range Resources, and Cabot Oil and Gas, as Deborah Rogers points out) are also inflating reserve estimates.
The effect of the overestimation of reserves would be to hide the approach of the inevitable cliff, where global production drops off sharply.
This would have catastrophic consequences in the world economy, including many starving people, since there are presently 10 petrol calories in 1 calorie of food.
Source: Richard Manning (1 min. clip here) http://splicd.com/h2em1x2j9-o/1718/1794
Entire video ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2em1x2j9-o#t=28m38s )
Are we close to the Energy-Sink line? Have we passed it already? Maybe.
Not only is there no such regulatory mechanism in place (AFAIK)
to prevent us (as a human species) from entering into EROI < 1 "No Man's Land"
where we are foolishly wasting (e.g.) 2 units of energy to get 1 back
(while destroying life in the process)...
BUT ALSO--- what if some very clever bankers work in collusion with
the McClendon types in order to create and exploit a false bubble?
McClendon says to his banker pals,
"SURE! We've got tons of gas and my friends at ACSF say there are no environmental costs."
(wink wink, fingers crossed behind the back)
Banker says, (wink wink, secret handshake) SURE Aubrey! Here's a ton of cash, go drilling.
Only it's not real cash. It's a credit line. It's funny money which could just as easily go towards building solar infrastructure. (Only there's no profit in "sustainable" anything, where you purchase a solar panel once. Much more money to be made in the short term by exploiting the Junkie / Dealer transaction model)
BUT! Then Aubrey does get lucky and finds 1 well in 10 that pays out, is a real gas gusher. Aubrey makes a bunch of cash, Banker friends make a ton of cash, people have "jobs" and everyone is happy, right?
Only what if it was a lie? The reserves are inflated... it's all a house of cards, to create a bubble, whereby a few can make a ton of cash, while places like PA suffers environmental costs which will might take 500 years or longer for the Earth's natural systems to repair.
DON'T WORRY, DRIVE ON: Fossil Fools & Fracking Lies from MONSTRO on Vimeo.
May you, and all beings
be happy and free from suffering :)
-- ancient Buddhist Prayer (Metta)