The Harsh Realities of Energy in the Developing World | Scott Tinker | EP 419

The Harsh Realities of Energy in the Developing World | Scott Tinker | EP 419

Tour Update 2024 (00:00:00)

  • Jordan Peterson announces a new tour for 2024, starting in early February and running through June.
  • The tour will visit 51 cities in the US.
  • More information and ticketing details are available on Jordan Peterson's website.

Coming up (00:00:40)

  • Only 11 states in the US produce more energy than they consume, while 39 states consume more.
  • Jordan and California are among the biggest energy importers.
  • Germany faced challenges when Russian gas supplies were disrupted.
  • The need to reconcile energy, the economy, and the environment is emphasized.

Intro (00:01:07)

  • Introduction of Dr. Scott Tinker, an expert on energy and the environment.
  • Scott Tinker's well-received speech at the ARC conference in London.
  • Discussion on the relationship between energy and the eradication of absolute privation.
  • The potential of inexpensive energy in promoting environmental sustainability.

The ARC conference, the most popular speech (00:03:47)

  • Scott Tinker's speech on energy and the environment at the ARC conference was very well-received.
  • The speech has garnered 1.2 million views on the ARC website.
  • Tinker attributes the success of his speech to its objectivity, balance, and use of data.
  • He highlights the importance of avoiding politicization and presenting information in an educational manner.

People are sick of politicization, but this message resonates (00:08:09)

  • Politicized speakers tend to receive fewer views compared to those who focus on first principles and education.
  • There is a desire for a different approach to problem-solving, emphasizing dispassionate discussions and multi-dimensional value hierarchies.
  • Scott Tinker's approach aligns with this desire for a serious and fact-based discussion.

How faith plays into science (00:13:34)

  • Scott Tinker discusses the role of faith in science.
  • He argues that scientists should approach data with the presumption that finding the truth is more important than short-term career gains.
  • Faith in the rationality of the universe and the possibility of learning from mistakes is essential for scientific progress.

The challenge that Academics face, and why they can be led astray (00:16:16)

  • Academics are pushed to publish successful research, leading to a lack of published failures and experimental designs.
  • The scientific publication process is slow, outdated, and locked behind paywalls, hindering scientific progress.
  • Substack could potentially revolutionize scientific publication by allowing for rigorous science to be published openly and rapidly, with transparent peer review.

From geology to economics, TV, and the environment (00:20:55)

  • Scott Tinker has a background in geology, economics, and business, allowing him to approach energy and environmental issues from an interdisciplinary perspective.
  • He has visited over 60 countries, gaining firsthand experience of diverse living conditions and environments.
  • As a geologist, Tinker is trained to solve problems with imperfect data and adapt as new information emerges.
  • He has built a large research organization at UT Austin focused on energy, environmental, and economic research, with a diverse international staff.
  • Tinker is also a filmmaker, hosting a PBS show and doing radio broadcasts, and a sought-after speaker around the world.

World cooling, Rapid world greening due to excess C02, and the shrinking of arid regions (00:25:26)

  • Contrary to initial predictions, the world has experienced rapid greening since 2000, with an area twice the size of the continental US and three times the size of the Amazon jungle becoming greener.
  • Increased carbon dioxide levels have facilitated this greening by enabling plants to breathe more efficiently, conserve water, and grow in semi-arid regions.
  • Deserts like the Sahara are shrinking, particularly in the south, due to increased plant growth.
  • Over long-term historical periods, the Earth's atmosphere has experienced much higher carbon dioxide levels, and the planet was greener and lusher during those times.
  • Analyzing the data without political bias suggests that increased carbon dioxide from fossil fuel consumption could be a net positive for the planet.

Time scale of dinosaurs and humans, realities of the sea level rising (00:31:45)

  • There's more time between the stegosaurus and the T-Rex than the T-Rex and us.
  • A big impact event at the end of the Cretaceous caused a rapid rise in sea level.
  • The last 5 million years have seen 50 glacial interglacial cycles.
  • During interglacial periods, sea level rises rapidly, flooding coastal areas.
  • The current interglacial period started 18,000 years ago and sea level has been rising about 1 to 2 millimeters per year for the last 7,000 years.
  • Humans have evolved during the current interglacial period, which is one of the lowest CO2 periods in Earth history.

The advent of fossil fuels, why methane is one of the most versatile chemicals in the world (00:36:01)

  • The burning of fossil fuels, starting with coal in the 1800s, has allowed for significant technological advancements.
  • Hydrocarbons, such as oil and natural gas, have even higher energy density than coal and have become the dominant fuels.
  • Methane (natural gas) is a versatile fuel that can be used for electricity generation, heating, transportation, and as a feedstock for various products.
  • Methane produces less CO2 when burned compared to oil or coal but is still a greenhouse gas.
  • The world is moving towards a methane economy, with methane consumption expected to surpass that of coal in the near future.
  • Methane is the best molecule to produce hydrogen, which is seen as a promising future fuel.

The timeline starting point determines the conclusion in climate data, so when do we start? (00:41:19)

  • The analysis of climate data is heavily influenced by the choice of the starting point.
  • Depending on the starting point, the data can show an increase or decrease in carbon dioxide levels or temperature.
  • The choice of starting point can be influenced by political motivations, making it difficult to objectively assess the data.
  • The fact that the planet is currently warmer than it has been in recent history does not necessarily indicate a catastrophe, as cooler periods have historically been more detrimental to human life.
  • The current interglacial period is cooler than most of Earth's history.

The value of Energy, One of the most important lessons about the distribution of foreign aid (00:43:47)

  • Poverty-stricken individuals prioritize survival over environmental concerns.
  • Economic development above $5,000 per year in GDP production leads to a medium to long-term view of environmental sustainability.
  • Providing inexpensive energy is the fastest way to alleviate poverty and promote environmental sustainability.
  • Energy poverty hinders progress and sustainable development.
  • Aid is most effective when it aligns with community needs and cultural contexts.
  • Examples of successful energy interventions include induction cooktops in Nepal, hair salons in Bangladesh, and water pumps for agriculture in Kenya.
  • Energy security should not be sacrificed for moral posturing.
  • Global leaders prioritize energy security over climate security.
  • Germany, China, Canada, and some US states are starting to compromise energy security.

How to rank order energy sources, cost/benefit analysis (00:54:02)

  • Energy sources can be ranked based on their cost-effectiveness and environmental impact.
  • Dense energy sources, such as uranium, provide more energy per unit weight or volume compared to less dense sources like solar and wind.
  • Physics ultimately determines the viability of energy sources, and trade-offs must be made between energy security, economic security, and environmental impact.

60 percent of people already live in energy poverty (00:56:10)

  • 60% of the world's population lives in some level of energy poverty.
  • Energy poverty affects individuals and communities by making energy access unreliable, unpredictable, and unaffordable.
  • Energy poverty hinders economic development and perpetuates social inequalities.

The earth is greening: what you need to know (00:58:04)

  • Satellite observations show that the Earth is greening due to increased CO2 levels.
  • Some of the observed growth is in non-native and aggressive plant species, leading to reduced biodiversity.
  • Caution is needed in interpreting the greening trend, as it may not represent a healthy or sustainable growth pattern.

The solution is staring us in the face (00:59:10)

  • Methane (CH4), hydrogen, nuclear (uranium and thorium), and fusion are zero-emission, dense energy sources.
  • Technologies for these energy sources are improving.
  • Climate scientists and climate enthusiasts should collaborate with energy experts to address emissions and human flourishing.

“We will not achieve environmental sustainability on the backs of the poor—they won’t have it” (01:00:31)

  • Economic havoc caused by aggressive environmental policies can lead to environmental degradation as people resort to short-term thinking and unsustainable practices.
  • Human flourishing and environmental sustainability are interconnected.
  • Putting the poor under too much stress can lead to a backlash that hinders environmental progress.

A focus on efficiency could reduce 2/3rds of wasted energy (01:01:47)

  • The United States uses about 100 quadrillion BTUs (quads) of energy annually, but only one-third of that does useful work.
  • Two-thirds of energy is wasted, mostly as heat.
  • Improving energy efficiency can significantly reduce energy consumption without increasing primary energy input.
  • Efficiency measures can be implemented without sacrificing lifestyles or resorting to austerity measures.

It makes sense that developing countries will use energy sources we are trying to move past (01:04:18)

  • Developing countries often start with energy technologies that developed countries have moved past, such as coal.
  • This is because these technologies are often cheaper and more accessible.
  • As developing countries become more prosperous, they may transition to higher-density energy sources like nuclear power.
  • However, some developed countries, like Germany, have made questionable decisions in their energy policies, such as shutting down nuclear reactors and increasing coal production.

Lignite, and the idiocy of Germany’s power problem (01:05:52)

  • Germany increased its coal production by 133% after shutting down its nuclear reactors, leading to increased carbon dioxide emissions.
  • This decision was influenced by cultural factors and fear of nuclear power.
  • China and Russia are building the majority of the world's nuclear reactors, while Germany is moving toward small modular reactors.
  • China is investing heavily in renewable energy but still relies primarily on coal and other fossil fuels.

Net Zero is genuinely impossible due to China and India (01:07:55)

  • China and India combined account for one-third of the world's population.
  • Fertility rates in both countries are declining, and they are moving toward wealth.
  • The world's population is projected to peak at 10 billion around 2080 and then decline.
  • China's population is aging and declining, which raises concerns about economic growth and sustainability.

In whose interest is the climate agenda? (01:10:07)

  • Making the poor rich is the most effective method of population control.
  • Germany's energy policies have made energy more expensive, dirtier, less reliable, and more dependent on dictators.
  • The green agenda is not being served by these policies.
  • Autocrats may benefit short-term by keeping their people dependent on imported energy.

Why the earth-worship narrative is so popular with young people (01:14:37)

  • The earth-worship narrative is popular because it is simple and offers a clear moral framework.
  • It appeals to young people's desire to do good and be heroes.
  • It is a false narrative because it oversimplifies the issue and ignores the needs of the poor.

“The elites have flipped worldviews” (01:18:56)

  • The elites have flipped their worldviews, with Republicans now working more with the working class and Democrats with the elite.
  • It is possible to have economic growth and environmental protection, but not if we try to achieve net zero too quickly.
  • Net Zero is a destructive concept that is harming the global economy and the environment.

We need to move away from thinking it’s A or B (01:23:06)

  • We need to move away from thinking that it is a choice between the environment and the economy.
  • We need to think in terms of ABC: energy, economy, and environment.
  • Healthy energy underpins healthy economies, which invest in the environment.

We have decimated the oceans fisheries (01:24:08)

  • We have depleted 99% of the accessible world's fish stocks.
  • This is a serious environmental problem that is not getting enough attention.
  • We need to address this problem by leaving the oceans alone and allowing them to recover.

Massive downsides of renewable energy, balancing our trade-offs (01:25:08)

  • Solar farms and wind farms require a lot of land, which can have negative environmental impacts.
  • Mining for the materials needed to produce renewable energy systems is not green and requires a lot of resources.
  • We need to balance the trade-offs between land, air, water, and the atmosphere when making decisions about energy production.
  • We need to get away from the idea of Nirvana and accept that there will be costs associated with any energy production system.

The meaning of music, a metaphor for balancing chaos (01:27:39)

  • Music is a harmony between competing forces, and the beauty of music is the balance of that cooperation and competition.
  • When things are going well, there are many competing forces that are harmoniously balanced, and there is an intrinsic beauty to that.
  • Trade-offs can be seen as a pessimistic view, but there is another view that sees the balance between multiple requirements for life as an intrinsic beauty.
  • This multi-dimensional optimization is a higher-order goal that can be attractive to young people who are concerned about the planet.
  • We can use a Turner diagram to represent this concept, where everything sums to 100% and the balance between different factors is represented by the position within the triangle.

We can only rely on bottom-up information (01:31:39)

  • We have an instinct for harmonious balance, and this can help us make decisions about energy production.
  • Bottom-up information propagation, such as that provided by markets, can help us identify the appropriate balance between different factors.
  • Markets are the most intelligent computational devices we have because they are made up of millions of people going about their business in direct contact with their local environments.
  • We can see this in Germany, where farmers are protesting because they believe the dimensionality of the solution is inappropriate in relation to their needs.
  • We need to specify the multi-dimensional landscape of energy production more explicitly so that people can strive towards it morally.
  • There is no reason to assume that we could not collectively set our minds to the eradication of absolute privation through appropriate energy provision in a manner that would radically increase medium to long-term sustainability of the whole project.

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