Backwards thinking on energy (David Leith)

I have been working in the Norwegian oil industry for six years and so I have a very good understanding of Norway’s energy concerns. Because of this, I was surprised to find such open hostility to renewable energy in Shetland. Our cousins in Norway have already accepted the end of oil and are planning for the future. They have numerous schemes in the pipeline including wave/wind generators and hydro plants. Even now, if we consider the hydro plants they already have, Norway can afford to sell electricity to the rest of Europe. They understand that without a concrete plan for the future, then Norway will slip back to the Middle Ages.

Now you may think I’m being dramatic here, but consider this. Yes, there will be bio-fuel and battery technology etc. But not enough will be produced for everyone. No planes, trucks or food distribution. No garbage collection. Everyone will have to grow food in their gardens because it won’t be supplied. No supermarkets. Global trade will disappear in large parts of the world. Most of the world’s lithium for use in batteries is in Bolivia. How do we get it without ships and planes? Famine will lead to disease and death for many in this overpopulated world. They will eventually start fighting for resources – same as we do now but much worse. The plastic and polymer industry would virtually collapse and I don’t need to remind you of how much we use plastics. I could go on and on. The bottom line is, the world as we know it today will change completely and we need to be ready to change with it.

I hear people talk of “ruining their view” when windmills are mentioned. Will future generations be thankful they can still see blank featureless hill tops when there’s no electricity to power computers, lights, cookers, heaters, stereos, TVs, refrigerators and every other appliance we take for granted? What we’re talking about here is virtually free abundant energy all year round. So in the future, when we’re struggling to find other types of fuel, at least we’ll still have electricity. We should harvest nature’s power, which Shetland has in abundance. And if you can’t see the benefits of this, then please be quiet and let the rest of us plan for the future.

David Leith

9E Union Street



Add Your Comment
  • Johan Adamson

    • August 28th, 2012 16:57

    I heard that some of the nordic countries have given up on wind turbines in favour of other renewables, is this true?

    Hydro would be good. I dont think anyone is hostile to renewables, just to this plan for Shetland, which may be harmful to people, and is too big and greedy for Shetland. There just must be a better plan

  • Gordon Harmer

    • August 28th, 2012 19:11

    As Norway have currently built the world’s largest wind turbine I don’t think they have given up on wind power. This turbine they have built is a towering 10 MW machine that will blow away the competition. The Norwegian company Sway have built the 533-feet high monster, capable of powering 2,000 homes all by itself. Enova, a public agency owned by Norway’s petroleum and oil industry ministry, is helping fund the project, which is estimated to have cost $67.5 million to build.

    Enova and Sway installed the behemoth in 2011 and aim test the turbine for 2 years on land in Oeygarden, southwestern Norway. After the testing and tweaking phase, they plan to install more of these machines offshore in Norway as part of an offshore wind farm. The turbine will be 533 feet high with a rotor diameter of 475 feet.

    Currently, the largest wind turbine in the world is the Enercon E-126, rated at 6 MW, but capable of 7, with a rotor diameter of 413 feet. The new 10 MW turbine is not much larger than the current record holder, but due to advancements in technology and design it will be able to achieve a much higher power output. These advancements are due to reducing the weight as well as the number of moving parts.

  • John Tulloch

    • August 28th, 2012 20:05

    “Woe, WO-oe and THRICE WO-OE!!!

    No disrespect, David but you sound like Senna the Soothsayer prophesying doom on “Up Pompeii.”

    I’m not opposed to renewable energy either – in its proper place, i.e. where it makes economic sense and doesn’t need the “fuel poor” to subsidise it so that great wealth may be transferred – without further ado -from the poor to the rich and we can all bask in the warm glow of how “good” we are, “having saved the planet.” Alas, that too – “Nay, especially” – will be a delusion.

    Sadly for those who advocate an immediate regression to your “doom” scenario – no trade, no cars, no heating, etc,- fossil fuels aren’t going to run out any time in the next several centuries.

    Happily for them however, unlike in their own vision for the rest of us, we live in a free society in which they are at liberty to lead by example and reduce their own “carbon footprints” to zero and beyond, like Good King Wenceslas (Xmas is coming) –

    “Mark my footsteps, good my page. Tread thou in them boldly, etc. ”

    I’m heartily sick of writing here about abundant fossil fuels and supplying references however if you insist, I’ll dig them out yet again.

  • Richard Gibson

    • August 28th, 2012 22:24

    28th August 2012

    As a follow up to David Leith’s letter I suggest your readers also read today’s article in the Guardian about Orkney’s approach to renewable energy that contrasts starkly with Shetland where the discussion has been hi-jacked by opponents to the wind farm, the inter-connector and local business – without offering any alternative vision for a sustainable and secure future for these islands.


  • Gordon Harmer

    • August 29th, 2012 8:44

    And four times woe, let me get this in before we are lambasted by the font of all knowledge on fracking, fossil fuels and climate change.

    Climate change deniers and sceptics can waffle and deny all they want, recent floods throughout the length and breadth of Britain say different. Deniers employ rhetorical tactics to give the appearance of argument or legitimate debate, when in actuality there is none. Most deniers’ arguments incorporate more than one of the following tactics: Conspiracy, Selectivity, False Experts, Impossible Expectations/Moving Goalposts, and Argument from Metaphor/violations of informal logic.

    Global warming deniers are big on conspiracy: according to them, an entire community of scientists has some ulterior motive for their climate research, such as an ideology or a desire to keep their funding. Global warming deniers are also prone to cherry-picking their data and their quotes, citing single errors or discredited papers as proof that a whole field of science is corrupt.
    Some of us are heartily sick of hearing here about abundant fossil fuels, with supplied references all cherry picked of the internet and all with apposing arguments to disprove them.

  • Peter Dixon

    • August 29th, 2012 9:27

    Last year I did a presentation on Fetlar on Oil Depletion and this is what is happening – Oil Depletion not Oil running out, Oil will never run out. However the price in energy terms will continue to rise. Why is that significant? Why is this related to World wide depressions?
    Simply this; if you have to spend a barrel of oil to get a barrel of oil out of the ground you are on a decline curve no matter how much paper money you can throw at it. The worlds currency unit is energy pure and simple, but we poor sad people think that our paper money rules no matter what, not only that but we compound the problem with charging ourselves for the use of that paper via interest. Our economic system cannot stand the rising cost of energy in energy terms pure and simple and this is why our ability to use our artificial money across the board is diminishing pure and simple.
    The problem is getting people to understand.

  • John Tulloch

    • August 29th, 2012 19:23

    Interesting point, Peter. If and when the point is reached that we must spend a barrel of oil to get a barrel of oil the price, presumably, will spiral upwards.

    Presumably, also, renewable energy will become economically viable i.e. without subsidy sometime between now and then which would be the appropriate time for large scale investment, not before.

    Prior to that, by all means, have some renewable energy installations,e.g. in remote, difficult places with light demand or pollution-sensitive areas where it makes sense and also have some larger scale projects to advance research.

    My own contention is that we may never reach this point of no return due to advancing technology and given that fossil fuels, especially “unconventional gas” and now oil is being discovered in vast quantities and production is already booming in North America, it’s clear the “break-even point is, at worst, a long way off.

    Shale gas, for example, is believed to exist in sufficient quantities to supply world demand for over 200 years and is already taking the place of oil and coal as chemical feedstock and power generation fuel.

    The International Energy Agency regularly produces a “World Energy Outlook and describes itself on its website;-

    “The IEA is an autonomous organisation which works to ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy for its 28 member countries and beyond. The IEA’s four main areas of focus are: energy security, economic development, environmental awareness, and engagement worldwide.”

    Hardly a den of “climate-change denying fossil-fuel shills.” Here’s a link to the press release for their recent report “WEO Golden Rules For a Golden Age of Gas,” dated 29th, May, 2012.,27266,en.html

    Don’t anyone take it from me however do consider listening to knowledgeable people who are well-into “clean energy” and who represent the world’s community of “climate-change-tackling” nations.

    To anyone who still harbours fears for the “secure, sustainable future” of Shetland I say, do save yourself the anguish, check out the link and associated material before crying into your beer in this column.

  • Peter Dixon

    • August 31st, 2012 12:47

    Ok John, there is no point arguing here I am just going to publish some figures so that the numbers can speak for themselves.

    The US at present consumes 18.835 million barrels of Oil per day it produces 5.7 million barrels per day it imports 60% of its oil requirements from other countries who are themselves in decline:-

    Oil Export (2009) Figures New updates Soon.

    Saudi Arabia: 2006 Produced 7,036 thousand barrels per day 2009 6,274 -10% and massive and alarming rise in domestic consumption.

    Iran: 2006- 2,540 down to 2009 2,295 -9.6%

    UAE: 2006- 2,324 2009- 2036 -12.4%

    The list goes on and on.

    Both the Energy Information Administration and the International Energy Agency are saying the world will need 90 million barrels per day next year.

    The world has produced :-

    2007 82,098.4 (thousand barrels per day)
    2008 83,148.2
    2009 84,428.9
    2010 84,699.3

    Do the math for projected rise required to fulfil our energy requirements for 2013 according to the conservative IEA estimates.

    Oh, and oil, lease condensate, natural gas liquids, and all forms of natural gas are not the same thing. They can’t all be used for the same things without a massive and extremely expensive years-long infrastructure changeover, in an economic slow down where is the investment? Especially if you tell them that energy in ten years is going to be as cheap if not cheaper than now…good luck.

    Also why do people continue to ignore information from the very people whose job it is to be concerned about a Peak in Oil production:-

    Have a look at the Pentagons JOE (2010) – Joint Operating Environment document available here in which the following quote is apposite:-


    “Peak Oil
    …petroleum must continue to satisfy most of the demand for energy out to 2030. Assuming the most optimistic scenario for improved petroleum production through enhanced recovery means, the development of non-conventional oils (such as oil shales or tar sands) and new discoveries, petroleum production will be hard pressed to meet the expected future demand of 118 million barrels per day”

    P. 29
    Energy Summary
    To generate the energy required worldwide by the 2030s would require us to find an additional 1.4 MBD (million barrels a day / barrel approx 55 US gals) every year until then.
    During the next twenty-five years, coal, oil, and natural gas will remain indispensable to meet energy requirements. The discovery rate for new petroleum and gas fields over the past two decades (with the possible exception of Brazil) provides little reason for optimism that future efforts will find major new fields.
    At present, investment in oil production is only beginning to pick up, with the result that production could reach a prolonged plateau. By 2030, the world will require production of 118 MBD, but energy producers may only be producing 100 MBD unless there are major changes in current investment anddrilling capacity.
    By 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 MBD.
    Energy production and distribution infrastructure must see significant new investment if energy demand is to be satisfied at a cost compatible with economic growth and prosperity…Fossil fuels will very likely remain the predominant energy source going forward.”

    This from a planning document of the US military.

    Why do I concentrate on US figures because the world could not stand a collapse of the US economy. The consequences would be cataclysmic!

    Also if you don’t understand my economic arguments, well try to understand this, our economy requires continual growth, the only thing powering that growth is the vastly underpriced and until now abundant availability of fossil fuel. If that supply is restricted it follows that growth is no longer possible and therefore the requirement to ‘invent’ new money to pay interest requirements fizzles out, people can’t pay their creditors and the money system stutters to a halt, this is the reality, this is what is beginning to happen.

    I could go on and on and this is not the best place for that but a cautionary warning; get the figures together and lets talk about realities rather than wishful thinking and hope. People talking about this subject are often like people who talk about global warming as to whether its a natural phenomena or man made. In my view I can imagine people in the future on some distant shore as a tidal wave looms on the horizon saying…”doesn’t matter it isn’t our fault its just a natural occurrence!”

    We face enormous challenges and we have known about those challenges since the 1970’s still in the second decade of the 21st century we act as if its business as usual, well prior to 2008 for most people it was inconceivable that Europe would face an unprecedented Economic Crisis. Well if you had come to some of my presentations down south in 2002 I would have told you it was coming; how did I know? Because all the information was there you just have to dig a bit and get the figures. Ill end on a quote from Allan Dulles former CIA director when confronted with the publication of the 35 volume Warren Commission Report on the Assassination of JFK a reporter asked Mr. Dulles if anyone reads this report they will be convinced that Lee Harvey Oswald did not kill the president, Dulles replied:-

    “..s’ok the American public doesn’t read”

    Ill be having another talk on Peak Oil on Fetlar soon

  • John Tulloch

    • September 5th, 2012 19:58


    Do you think it’s possible the Pentagon has an interest in protecting the US military from the Democratic Administration during a time of economic hardship and the steady run-down of foreign wars?

    I don’t believe the International Energy Agency has any such motives, at least, not obvious ones.

    You stick with the Pentagon and I’ll stick with the I.E.A.

  • Douglas Young

    • September 12th, 2012 12:39

    Geo thermal. Adrok. Carnegie Hall tonight. 7.30pm
    Base load, underground. All good.

  • John Tulloch

    • September 12th, 2012 15:41

    Iceland has a lot of this, not sure about the price per MWh however they’re talking about exporting it to the UK via a very long subsea cable so presumably it’s a lot cheaper at source than the exorbitant renewable energy prices we are used to.


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