Limits to Growth of Energy: Facts About Fracking in the US

Dennis Meadows, University of New Hampshire

Friday, January 24, 2014, 3:30pm

Spanos Auditorium

This seminar is part of the Jones Seminars on Science, Technology, and Society series.

Greatly expanded use of hydrofracturing to produce oil and gas in the United States has reversed recent declines in domestic output of both fossil fuels and generated enormous optimism about the energy/economic future of our country. For example a recent report by Merrill Lynch stated: "An economic revival is taking hold in the U.S.," ... "is well on its way to becoming energy-independent," and "we could end up with the cost of energy to U.S. manufacturers returning to what it was in the …’60s."

This ebullience is, unfortunately, founded on gross ignorance about the physical realities involved in the production of fossil fuels from tight formations. I will summarize some relevant data to suggest that the surge of oil and gas from fracking is a short-lived bubble and explain why there is prevalent optimism about our energy future. It is essential that engineers who will practice in the 21st century design their services and products to be compatible with persistent high energy prices.

Limits to the use of nonrenewable resources played an important role in our 1972 report on the long-term causes and consequences of physical growth on the planet Earth. In my Jones Seminar talk, I will describe our original assumptions and reflect on how understanding has changed during the past 4 decades.

About the Speaker

Dennis Meadows was the Director of policy institutes at MIT, Dartmouth, and the University of New Hampshire between 1972 to 2004. He earned a bachelor's degree in Chemistry from Carleton College and a Ph.D. in management from MIT. For his contributions to computer modeling and environmental education he has received 4 honorary doctorates in the US and abroad and numerous awards including The President's Medal of Honor in Budapest, a UNESCO peace prize in Berlin, and the 2009 Japan Prize in Tokyo. 

His ten books have been translated into 30 languages. Thousands of his computer-assisted management games are used in universities and corporations of 15 countries. 

As Emeritus Professor of Systems Policy for the past ten years he has consulted and spoken widely on issues related to energy and environment.