Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Energy Non-Crisis by Lindsey Williams ( my review)

I learned of this book from an e-mail received which contained a video on this subject. It was intriguing enough for me to order a book from Amazon.com. I have just completed reading and now wish to share with others.
He is an ordained Baptist minister and an Alaskan. When the pipe line was just starting to be built in 1974 he requested and was eventually allowed to provide spiritual comfort and guidance to the men and women working on the project. He was not paid but was given executive status which allowed him to be privy to discussions by the oil men and to visit all sections of the construction areas. He does not profess knowledge of the oil business but in his mind was able to glean insight into the process.
Much of it tells of the hardships encountered and the roadblocks continually put in the way which impeded progress and inflated the original cost from an estimated $600 million to over $12 billion. The entire cost was borne by the consortium of oil companies called Alyeska. Specific instances to make his point were;
The detour of the road to Prudhoe Bay was stopped by the ecologists because of a nest of falcons. This would have delayed construction by a month so a by-pass was build at a cost of $2 million.
Toilets were provided at a cost of $10,000 each for remote locations. Refuse was incinerated rather than being disposed of by burying, all in the interest of protecting the tundra.
Permits were required for seemingly all aspects. Once granted some were withdrawn causing expensive delays until re-instated.
Fines of $10,000 or more were written for the smallest of incidences which made no sense to the author.
There were also problems with the unions. As an example he mentioned the need to replace a screw for a toilet paper dispenser. A carpenter, metal worker and laborer all refused on the grounds it was the work of a different craft. Eventually it was resolved by sending all three back together. Mr. Williams calculated the cost at $375.
All of the above were examples of the obstacles needed to be overcome by the oil companies as they fought the Federal and State Governments, unions, environmentalists and public opinion.
As the pipe line was nearing completion the government increased pressure by insisting the welds be re-inspected at enormous cost and placing additional burdens which the author felt were designed to keep delaying completion. It was as if our government leaders did not want the relief this additional oil could provide.
The above I found interesting but the major issue, if there is any credence in his writings, is his claim that our government since this project was started in the early seventies has kept free enterprise from doing its job of providing energy for America. He contends that there is oil on the North Slope exceeding that of Saudi Arabia. He mentions a find equal or greater than the pool presently providing 2 million barrels per day and that it could be easily extracted with minimal disruption to the environment or wildlife. This is at a location called Gull Island which is just off the shore at Prudhoe Bay. After discovery it was ordered to be capped off, not to be pursued. There is also the matter that natural gas by the trillions of cubic feet is returned to the ground instead of building a pipeline next to the current one and sending to America. He states that there are sufficient reserves to serve America for the next 200 years. He claims it could be completed in six months. I sincerely doubt the time schedule but not the fact that this gas could and should be used by America particularly now with costs going thru the roof effecting all households and business. All of this occurred during the presidency of Jimmie Carter. He opted for the more expensive option of a 3,000 mile pipeline thru Canada instead of 800 miles to Valdez. The great expense was more than the oil companies were willing to spend so to this day the gas is not being provided to America.
Those of you receiving this book review know that I am an envirmentalist and defender of wildlife and also that I believe in global warming. That being stated, I am also a realist. If, by using these resources which are in America,, we could eliminate sending exorbitant funds to OPEC which find there way to support terrorist cells, then we could at least diminish the loss of lives of our troops in this area of the world which is only of value because of their oil resources. The money saved could expand research into alternate forms of energy and speed up the timetable of reducing our carbon footprint.
Why an issue as important as this does not receive news coverage can be due to the fact that what he claims is bogus or everyone’s negative feelings toward the oil industry or collusion on the part of news organizations with federal officials or something else. It does seem strange that if there was truth to what he claims that Congress hasn’t acted. He experienced these events over 30 years ago. I am requesting that those interested receiving a copy of this letter check your own sources to see if there is a smoking gun here. I am also requesting that some of you take the time to listen to his speech. It lasts nearly one hour. He is persuasive. Go to; Http://video.google.Com/videoplay?docid=3340274697167011147
After completing my book report I was prompted to search further for answers. I first went to Snopes.com. I entered North Slope Oil and found that while at first oil was shipped to Japan that now all goes to the U.S. with current production down to 720,000 Barrels/day from the original 2, million as Mr. Williams reported. Then I went to Google, again asking about North Slope Oil. There were over 100 articles to read. According to these reports the initial estimate for the pipe line was $900 million with a final cost of $7.7 billion. Mr. Williams had said $600 million and $12 billion. Regardless the cost was far greater than expected due I am sure to some of the points he raised. Other interesting information I gleaned;
For three decades the North Slope has produced 20% of domestic oil production in the U.S.
Taxation has produced $50 billion in 25 years.
In 1999 production fell to 850,000 barrels/day. It is projected that useful flows will continue for another 40 years if other sources are not discovered and put into production.
Vice President Spiral Agnew cast the deciding vote in the Senate in 1973 which authorized the construction of the pipe line. Score one for the Republicans on this one.
In an article called, “Sizing up oil in Alaska’s North Slope,” it was stated that currently 35 trillion cu. Ft of gas is available and that 50 billion barrels of oil and 200 trillion cu. ft of gas are in undiscovered deposits.
The U.S. consumes 22 trillion cu. ft. per year. Mr. Williams’s claim that the North Slope would take care of our needs for 200 years is off the chart.
To this day leases are being granted with some results.
I could find no reference to Gull Island but his claim is inconsistent with the fact that leases continue to be granted. The gas pipeline has not been constructed due to its high cost on the route chosen across Canada. I believe Mr. Williams was right on this one. The much shorter route paralleling the current oil line if approved would get the gas to us whereas it may never happen as currently planned.
I found this exercise to be extremely interesting. I will not explore further unless spurred on by some of you.

Jack B. Walters
3961 N. Hillwood Circle
Tucson, AZ 85750
(520) 722-2958
May 27, 2008


drsam93 said...

My overall view of the book: it is true, there is an energy crisis. However, Rev. Williams is way off base. It is not due to some cover-up by industry and/or government. The best on-line comment I read about the book was this (paraphrased): why would smart people, who intend to cover up information, allow a preacher and state senator from Colorado access to their secrets? The answer to most on-line comments is that there has never been a cover-up or issue. Hence, Lindsay's book, published in 1980, has never received anything but token recognition and certainly no serious recognition.

To compare Lindsay's book to Watergate (on one of the pages of the book, un-numbered: "a book that tells of a cover-up greater than Watergate") is one of the greater stretches of logic I have seen in some time. Watergate was clearly a covert operation which only a few people knew about, and was kept secret until exposed by the Washington Post. This Energy Non-Crisis appears never to have really been a secret if Reverend Lindsay and State Senator Chance are invited into the board room. Interestingly, Chance was only in Alaska for a week.

So why is there an energy crisis? The reasons are numerous, but I'll name just a few that I have found by reading and research:
1. U.S. energy policy which is basically been a free-market driven approach. Foreign oil is cheaper than U.S. oil, so we import. The American people demand fossil fuel energy to be as cheap as possible. U.S. oil is more expensive because it is harder to extract. Simply, it is harder to extract from the ocean (Gulf of Mexico or off the west coast) or the Arctic than the sands of the middle east, regardless of environmental concerns.
2. The American public has demanded environmental protection of U. S. waters and soils over the production of oil since the Arab Oil Embargo in 1973.
3. A failed relationship between Mexico and the U. S. The Mexican economy gets more money from "looking the other way" in drugs smuggled to the U.S. than they do from selling oil (read Down By the River by Charles Bowden). If Mexico truly decided to develop its reserves outside of corruption, the U.S. might enjoy cheaper oil from Mexico.
4. There is a direct parallel of the U.S. economy doing well, and increased energy demands, even in recreational pursuits, for oil. As the U.S. economy has prospered through cheap Middle East oil, American citizens have been content to continue their foreign oil energy guzzling ways. During lean times, we have made token efforts towards alternative energy sources and conservation, but nothing serious or long-lasting.
5. Economists favor (see Time Magazine, May 26, 2008) solving the current (and have in the past) energy crisis by investment in alternative energy sources and conservation, not the increased production of the World's (including Alaska and the Arctic) oil supply.
6. Energy conservation is directly tied to the solution of Global Warming (I know some people believe this is a hoax). However, one thing that has repeatedly been published as a solution to Global Warming is this: the solution does not lie in governmental regulations but in the daily practices of the individual person. Some simple examples are: 1) the wasteful practice of the plastic water bottles; 2) the design of many transformers which keeps the transformer using electricity even while not in use; 3) the use of plastic bags for groceries; and 4) the use of styrofoam as a material in packaging and disposable kitchen utensils and cups when alternatives (albeit more expensive) are available. So are people willing to change, are to pay a little more to wean themselves from environmentally unfriendly practices. This then, brings up the question: are Americans are willing to cut out wasteful energy habits (driving, the temperatur e of air conditioning and heating as two enormous examples of waste) and purchase more environmentally products such as electric cars and/or hybrids?

As a result of long held policies and practices, the inertia of the U.S. energy will not be changed quickly.

Time magazine recently ran an article indicating that the oil reserves under the arctic ice (which could be claimed by Russia, Sweden, Greenland, Canada, and/or the U.S.) could far exceed the known oil reserves in the Middle East. This is important in debunking Lindsay's idea of an energy non-crisis. We know there are great reserves of oil. We have known for some time. The U.S. Government has created regulations that strangle U.S. oil companies from producing cheap oil for only one reason: they are responding to the American public that demands environmental balances to development of oil and mineral reserves on public lands.

We have a parallel case in southern Arizona. The proposed mine near Sahuarita. If we had parallel reasoning between Alaska and Sahuarita, then in both cases we would tell the companies to go for it, and not have any, or at least very little, public input or government environmental oversight.
We do not want the interests of ranchers and miners to displace the public access we want. We want unlocked gates, and practices that minimize environmental impact, even if there is a greater cost in the production.

So, some specific thoughts on Lindsay's book:
1. On page 54 and 55 he uses a Biblical analysis to explain the Alaskan oil geology. Not surprising from an educated preacher, but troubling within a scientific study of oil reserves.
2. On page 63, Lindsay says the Government did not own anything, and goes into a lengthy treatise on the equipment needed for a full construction and extraction operation. He forgets that the Government owns the land, and has the responsibility to the citizens of Alaska and the U.S. to balance the need to extract oil with the need to preserve the land.
3. Where Lindsay starts his discussion on page 68 regarding the plumber, carpenter, or laborer fixing the toilet paper holder, I wondered about the cost of a preacher sitting in a manager's office for what Lindsay himself describes as over 2 hours as he personally witnesses the comings and goings. As a manager, I would never had allowed one person to monopolize over two hours of my day. I had too much to do. His analysis of unions wasting money also, in my opinion, indict management in wasteful practice.
4. On page 79, Lindsay describes the dozer and the Falcon nest. Well, an example from Tucson that is parallel, indicating that Alaskan oil is not the only place where issues Lindsay points out take place. My example come from the construction of Ironwood Ridge High School where the delay of over a year in the construction (and there were months of the possibility that the court would rule there could be no construction at all) due to the status of the pygmy owl. So, almost 20 years after Lindsay's book is published, right hear in Tucson, we have similar practices and policies from the government related to the environment and construction. Alaska and oil are not unique.
5. On page 85 and 86, Lindsay makes a serious accusation about the Sierra Club and its inaccuracies. However, he fails to site a single concrete example only saying he could not find a single accusation that was true. This, again, makes his writing inflammatory, rather than factual.
6. On page 92, as he discusses waste disposal, he demonstrates he does not understand the chemical and safety processes of human waste disposal. His idea is simply to spread human waste on the tundra as fertilizer. Today, human waste is still helicoptered out of many areas, such as Mt. Whitney, Taweap Overlook, Havasu Canyon, and Keet Seel. And in some of these locations, there are the $10,000 toilets, with solar panels, and electric fans, as well as containers that allow no leakage into the ground below. Again, Alaska and oil are not unique.
7. On page 116 and 117, in telling the story about the stranding of the tug boat(s) and barges, he goes from singular to plural in describing the tug boat(s). When doing my detective work, in investigations of student or employee misconduct, this is something I was trained to look for that indicates (not proves) that information is false or misleading.
8. On page 119, Lindsay uses the logical reasoning that the loss of the tug boat and barges led to the energy non-crisis, because allowing the barges to be crushed was deliberate.

The book can be read as an emotional appeal, but I cannot take anything in the book as factual, since any means of checking information is simply not available, other than by general means.

Sam McClung

christo930 said...

In his speech on google video he talks about how these men tell the president what to do and secretly rule the world, but in the book, he spends multiple chapters complaining about all the obstacles put in front of the oil company (and fines and citations) by the state gov and fed gov. So which is it? LIAR.

GREG said...

Ken Fromm former CEO of ARCO, Atlatic Richfield(ring a bell) is the person Lindsey got all of his information from. Ken Fromm was fired after this book was released. He helped Lindsey to re-write and put in his own chapter into the revised version of the book.

You need to listen to his most recent you tube videos to understand the breadth and scope of this discussion. It is not something to be taken lightly.

Michael said...

My name is Mike Fischer and I am a fifty four year old junior at Arizona State University. Last semester I took a class in Global Environmental Politics with Dr. Fisher. One of our guest speakers presented fairly closely, the same numbers as your comments IE we have about forty years of oil in Alaska. I am including a link to a book by a top researcher in the area.... Thanks and God bless,
Keep up the research! Never too late to learn! lol