by Kevin Moore — December 8th, 2005
P.O. Box 5
Dear Mr Gibbons,
Thank you for the letter in response to my letter, in which I pointed out why, after twenty years of membership I no longer wish to remain a member of the AA, and why, because of its continued promulgation of misinformation and delusions, I see it as the duty of all responsible New Zealanders to bring about the demise of the NZAA as rapidly as possible.
Regrettably, your letter contains exactly the kind of outlandish statements that have characterised the AA for quite some time, statements that are entirely false and totally unscientific. Whether this is a result of your total misunderstanding of the issues involved or because you have simply repeated nonsense handed to you by more junior personnel, only you know. However, I can only inform you that the statements you made in your letter are guaranteed to make the AA a laughing stock amongst the educated and thinking community of this nation.
You wrote ‘we seek guidance from the fuel industry itself who one has to assume has the best handle on future oil supplies’. That statement either demonstrates an incredible gullibility or a total ignorance of how the oil industry works. For example, throughout 2004 Shell was forced to ‘downgrade’ its oil reserves because it had overstated them by approximately 30% and had been caught out lying. The CEO, Philip Watts, and two other senior personal we forced to resign in the scandal that ensued. Shell was eventually let off the hook by the SEC, after paying a multi-million dollar ‘fine’. Shell now acknowledges oil depletion is a serious problem, is less inclined to mislead its shareholders and is trying to persuade the public, by way of an extensive and costly advertising campaign, that the future of energy is natural gas, not oil. (I assume you do not read ‘Time’ magazine.) By the same token, BP (with the logo ‘Beyond Petroleum’ —what does that tell you?) includes vast quantities of extremely low grade oil shales as ‘proven reserves’, yet every energy analyst knows that these will never be recoverable, due to their extraordinarily poor energy profit ratio and the non-availability of natural gas required for the process. The financial sector is yet to become aware of the fact that the whole exercise is simply designed to buoy up market confidence at a time when reality is starting bite. Your letter also suggests that you are totally unaware of the Chevron advertising campaign which specifically mentions the fact that we have, or will soon have, used up half our oil (I assume you do not watch BBC World, nor use the Internet for research). On no occasion has the oil industry ever told the truth about reserves; hence many OPEC nations were able to ‘double their reserves overnight’ for political reasons in the 1980s and nobody though anything of it: everyone lied then and still does now. As Colin Campbell put it: ’The books of the oil industry are as cooked as the books of Enron’. It is only the assessments of independent oil analysts that have any credibility.
You wrote ‘they have advised that over the last ten years in all but one year new discoveries of oil outstripped annual consumption’. I would be very interested to know who ‘they’ are and which particular oil report was used to generate that statement, since it is simply not true. Indeed it could hardly be further from the truth. The peak in discovery of oil was in the mid-1960s and the rate of discovery has been falling ever since. The last year in which discoveries matched consumption was 1980. So perhaps you were deliberately provided with information that was more than 25 years out of date for you letter. What is particularly pertinent is the fact that discoveries of mega-fields has tailed off to zero in recent years. Naïve persons would imagine that a discovery of a 500 million barrel field amounted to something useful in terms of delaying peak oil, whereas in fact it amounts to less than one week’s worldwide consumption. Such fields would have to be discovered at a rate faster than one a week to have any impact, and of course in reality they are discovered at the rate of a handful year.
It is interesting that you should have used the phrase ‘running out of oil’ in your letter, since no time did I ever use such a phrase. This is yet another very clear demonstration of your inability to understand the issue. Humanity will never actually run out of oil i.e. the last drop. The issues I raised were the peak of extraction and the failure of supply to meet demand, which are totally matters altogether. Yet in a colloquial sense, even as I write, both the US and Britain are ‘running out’ since both are well past peak extraction and implementing desperation measures to maintain flow. And clearly, from the more than doubling of gas prices in the US, a serious crisis will develop very soon.
You go on in your letter to say that higher prices ‘will lead in time to a greater focus on alternative energy sources’. I would like you to name one alternative energy source that does not have a negative E.R.O.E.I. Once again you demonstrate your total ignorance of the issue, since a proper energy return on energy investment analysis clearly demonstrates that all the touted alternatives are fatally flawed —biodiesel, hydrogen, ethanol, the whole lot. I could provide you with all the scientific papers necessary, but it seems the AA is not the least bit interested in dealing with the actual science of the matter. I have offered to provide this information on several occasions and the AA has steadfastly refused the offers. The other important point of course is that it takes energy to implement solutions and as energy costs rise, the ability to implement alternatives, even simple permaculture systems, becomes severely constrained. The time for alternatives was 20 years ago. I’m afraid, humanity has missed the boat.
You write ‘the emergence of hybrid cars is part of that trend and, which over time I have no doubt will grow in importance have a positive impact on global warming’. This statement reinforces my opinion that you are completely clueless about all the issues relating to energy.
On the matter of global warming I should perhaps remind you that 2005 saw the biggest reimbursement bill the insurance industry has ever experienced ($200 billion), due to climate related catastrophes. The trend has been developing for several years and we should anticipate that 2006 will see a continuation of that trend, as the entire planet heats up and more and more energy (particularly in the oceans) is available for destruction. By the same token, ice is melting all over the planet at unprecedented rates and the sea level is rising as never before. These, and other phenomena, are a result of the carbondioxide level of the air having been already raised above a safe and sustainable threshold. That would be bad enough, but we are now experiencing runaway self-reinforcing global warming which will lead to abrupt climate change, with the carbon dioxide content of the air increasing at over 2ppm a year and accelerating. There is very serious discussion about the consequences of exceeding even 400ppm (we are now at 380ppm), since there is mounting evidence of climate catastrophe on its way.
There are many factors you seem oblivious of that presumably allow you to make such a blithe, some would say idiotic statement about hybrid cars: ‘hybrid cars will have a positive impact on globalwarming’: firstly, hybrid vehicles cost more than twice the price of conventional vehicles and will continue to be beyond the reach of most motorists for a long time if not for ever (judging by NewZealand’s looming financial crisis); secondly, far from saving substantially, the current models (such as the Prius) use just as much fuel [around 5.5 litres per 100 km] and generate just as much emissions as small manuals (such as the Sirion). But even if everyone were to drive an efficient hybrid which used as little as 4 litres per 100 km, that would still result in billions of tonnes of additional carbon dioxide being added to the atmosphere, substantially increasing the global warming problem. The only thing that has a ‘positive impact on global warming’ is planting trees.
I spent some time preparing full documentation for the points I have made, but have decided that I would be wasting my time and energy providing it; clearly the AA is not interested. Obviously the big difference between the AA and me is that I have the knowledge and expertise of the subjects I discuss, so I know what I am talking about, whereas the AA clearly doesn’t know what it’s talking about. Another difference is that I have an open mind and am willing to change my opinion on the basis of proper evidence. The AA, has no expertise, doesn’t know what its talking about, takes ridiculous statements as fact, refuses to look at evidence and will not change its stance, however ridiculous it become in the public’s eyes (presumably because that would upset its corporate clients and sponsors, who are themselves firmly locked into denial of reality).
Should you wish to prove me wrong and try to get the AA out of the corner it has painted itself into, I could make myself available for a personal meeting. But at this stage it would have to be upon your invitation and at your cost. However, from the previous responses of the AA to any discussion of reality, I assume that will not be that case and the steadfast refusal to accept reality will ensure that the AA and its members will be subject to several very nasty shocks over the coming year.
It seems the AA has got itself so painted into such a corner at this stage it cannot escape and has to rely on denial of well established scientific facts in order to continue to operate. In view of the absolute nonsense contained in your letter, and the refusal even look at scientific evidence, the continued to reliance on hearsay and propaganda put out by the oil industry and marketers of non-existent alternatives, I feel obliged to hasten the work to bring abut the demise to the NZAA.
History is replete with leaders who fail to see the writing on the wall, fail to see the express train coming down the track, refuse to accept advice, fail to respond to a crisis, blindly keep doing what they been doing previously because they know no different, or are too tired or lazy to change. So Brian, you can console yourself that you are in good company. Nero fiddling while Rome burned, chemical Ali, who saw victory as the American tanks drove into Baghdad and now George Bush, who sees victory as the US get bogged down in quagmire. It’s just human nature unfortunately. If you have no answer to a problem, ignore the problem and hope it will go away.
One final word Brian: you wrote ‘sorry for not sharing your personal views of a looming crisis’. I am afraid that you are very wide of the mark there. What I write about are not my personal views but the consensus of scientific opinion. There is almost no dissent whatsoever amongst the informed scientific community with regard to the issues I have raised, just a rear guard action by the business community to try to prevent the general public from becoming aware of what is really happening, in order to maintain levels of consumption. I stand by every word I write and am willing to debate these topics in any public forum you might choose —another offer I am sure you will decline, since am sure when it comes the to crunch, you know I am right. Indeed, I am certain you will be hard pressed to find one reputable scientist who now fundamentally disagrees with anything I say. Perhaps where I do stand out is that I say it before other people, since I am not bound by employment constraints from telling the truth. Thus almost all the things I wrote in Burn BabyBurn, (which the AA would not have a bar of) or all the articles since have proven correct and I now receive emails from all around the world supporting what I say and do, something I very much doubt you will ever achieve.
May I suggest that in the future you try focusing you attention on that which cannot lie: the facts.
Energy Analyst and Educator