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Topic: Fracking

[Episode #67] – Transition’s Disruptors Part 2

What do the frackers and Tesla have in common? They have both succeeded in disrupting their industries by adopting new technologies, applying financial innovation, appealing to changing consumer preferences, and taking advantage of (or disrupting) their regulatory environments. Indeed, these disruptive forces are in play throughout the energy transition, and whether it’s electricity, or heat, or mobility, the outcome is generally the same: nimbler, more efficient, cleaner, and safer upstarts steal away market share from rent-seeking incumbents who control captive markets. The transition upstarts are hot; the moguls of oil provinces and monopoly utilities are not.

This is Part Two of a sprawling discussion that lasted over two hours with veteran energy, mining and commodities analyst Liam Denning of Bloomberg. We explore the ways in which these disruptive forces are working for transition and the risks that the incumbents face…and how to spot the winners and losers of energy transition from a mile away. In this episode, we talk about changing consumer preferences, the role that regulations play in alternately supporting and stymieing disruptors, and how the falling cost of energy as more renewables come into the system will affect energy markets and business models.

Part One of this interview was in Episode 66.

Geek rating: 5

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[Episode #66] – Transition’s Disruptors Part 1

What do the frackers and Tesla have in common? They have both succeeded in disrupting their industries by adopting new technologies, applying financial innovation, appealing to changing consumer preferences, and taking advantage of (or disrupting) their regulatory environments. Indeed, these disruptive forces are in play throughout the energy transition, and whether it’s electricity, or heat, or mobility, the outcome is generally the same: nimbler, more efficient, cleaner, and safer upstarts steal away market share from rent-seeking incumbents who control captive markets. The transition upstarts are hot; the moguls of oil provinces and monopoly utilities are not.
This is Part One of a sprawling discussion that lasted over two hours with veteran energy, mining and commodities analyst Liam Denning of Bloomberg. We explore the ways in which these disruptive forces are working for transition and the risks that the incumbents face…and how to spot the winners and losers of energy transition from a mile away. In this episode, we talk about the roles of technological and financial innovation. Part Two of this interview will air on Episode 67.

Geek rating: 5

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[Episode #33] – Fracking Follies

Full Episode

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) regularly updates its estimates for how much oil and gas might be recovered in the future, and at what rate. With the application of new technology from year to year, those estimates generally keep going up. But it’s important to remember that they are just estimates — and the devil is always in the details.

Our guest in this episode is a career geoscientist who has diligently delved into those devilish details. In his new reports, he finds that EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 2016 seems to significantly overstate how much oil and gas might be recovered using fracking technology, with estimates for shale gas and tight oil production that exceed the estimates for how much of those resources are even technically recoverable. In this extended and technically detailed interview, we discuss EIA’s most recent forecasts and try to understand what’s realistic for future US hydrocarbon production.

Geek rating: 9

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[Episode #25] – The Energy-Water Nexus

Full Episode

Energy and water are inextricably linked: It takes energy to supply water, and it takes water to supply energy. And those processes consume vast amounts of both. Yet we have only really begun to study the energy-water nexus and gather the data that policymakers will need to understand the risk that climate change poses to both power and water. As rainfall and temperatures continue to depart from historical norms, forcing conventional power plants to throttle back or shut down, we may need to invest more heavily in wind and solar PV just to keep the lights on. Even more radical solutions may become necessary, like switching to more dry-cooled power plants, and desalinating brackish groundwater. Ideally, we would treat the challenges of the energy-water nexus in an integrated way, deliberately reducing our energy and water demands simultaneously as part of our energy transition strategies, but our governments aren’t typically set up for that, and much more basic research and analytical work is needed.

Geek rating: 6

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[Episode #14] – China’s Energy Future

Full Episode

China is always a bit of an enigma to the West: It is the world’s largest user of coal and the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide; the world’s largest car market; it has the world’s largest shale gas resources; and it has been building entire “ghost cities” with no one living in them. But it is also the world leader in energy transition, with more wind and solar deployment than any other nation; it has a massive grid construction program and the world’s largest and most rapid high-speed rail construction program; and before long, it will probably have the world’s largest market for electric vehicles.

To understand the trajectory of the world’s energy transition effort, we have to understand what’s happening in China. But its official data are unreliable, and official statements can vary wildly from the facts on the ground. That’s why in this episode we talk with James West, a senior digital editor for Mother Jones and former senior producer for Climate Desk, who has traveled to China to get those stories firsthand.

Geek rating: 2

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