Hello goodbye

February 28, 2013 | 00:00

Hello goodbye

As you can read in the publisher's notice above, this is my last editorial for European Energy Review. It's goodbye for now, but I hope there will be many hellos again in the future.

I would like to apologise first of all for this somewhat abrupt message. I feel my readers have been my friends for five years, ever since we got started with EER, so it is a bit sad to leave you all so suddenly.

When you leave somewhere, you naturally think of the past, in my case, the years I spent on building up this really unique venture, EER, with the indispensable help of course from the publisher, and all my colleagues, correspondents and contributors, whom I would like to thank very much for their unstinting support.

Many of you may not know that EER started out as a print publication, which we put out in the first two years of our existence (in 2008 and 2009). That sure was one heck of a great magazine, above all thanks to the wonderful graphic design skills of the guys at Castel.

For three years now we have been online, which is, admittedly, a lot more efficient. One of the high points of our online existence was no doubt the Award for Excellence in Written Journalism that we won in 2011 from the International Association for Energy Economics (IAEE). A great surprise that was, for which we are still grateful. 

And there were many other high points. Actually, I feel we have another one today, with the publication of my last article for EER, one that I am really proud of. It's an in-depth interview with Christof Rühl, the Group Chief Economist of BP.

There are few people with more insight into the long-term workings of the energy market than Christof. He truly manages to make sense of how our huge and complex energy world hangs together. His vision is, essentially, that the hidden hand of market forces steers the big Energy Ship – this giant Oil Tanker – on a steady course despite sometimes very rough seas.

There is just one problem, in Christof's view, which is that the energy system is so large and therefore moves so slowly that people often miss the underlying trends. They tend to think that the energy sector is dead and stale and don't see the relentless innovation that is going on, Christof observes. For example, they think we are "running out of oil", while all the time new resources are being developed. 

I have to admit I also like this interview because it reflects my own thinking to a large extent – which is not always the case when I do interviews! In any case, don't miss it.

When you leave somewhere, you are also confronted with the transience of all things. Time waits by no one – indeed. So lately I have been thinking a lot about things inside and outside the energy sector that, in my view, will turn out to be more transient than many people now think. Or, to put it in modern jargon, things that are "unsustainable".

So here, in parting with you, is my top-20 of Unsustainables, in random order, just to give you something to think about. (I know of course that many of you will not agree with me on many points, so I encourage you to make your own list – it's a useful exercise.)

  1. Offshore wind energy
  2. The US (energy) empire
  3. The idea that you can control the climate (sorry my friends at the IEA)
  4. The idea that you can eliminate energy inefficiency (as philosopher Nassim Nicholas Taleb points out in his book The Black Swan: two lungs are inefficient, but it's nice to have one as back-up in case the other fails)
  5. Forever talking about "climate" and "energy" (I hear from my friend Walt Patterson that he has almost finished a book about climate and energy that won't have those two words in it)
  6. Roadmaps
  7. Scenarios
  8. Targets
  9. More government interventions in the energy market
  10. More complaints about government interventions in the energy market (you should know what to expect by now)
  11. The Russian energy empire
  12. Gazprom speeches about the inevitability of oil-indexed gas contracts
  13. The idea of certain ruling elites that they can keep their hands in the till and keep their populations in poverty and ignorance
  14. The idea that you can spend yourself out of a hole
  15. The Saudi energy empire
  16. Energy wars
  17. EU attempts to micromanage markets
  18. Higher oil prices (inflation-adjusted)
  19. Talking about sustainability in Davos
  20. Newsletters with song titles

Finally, allow me to give my young readers some advice and to make some apologies to you all.

I have three pieces of advice.
If you work in the energy sector, read books about energy, but read more books that are not about energy.
Make the best of your life.
Be prepared for the worst.

And I have two apologies to make.
One is for my columns and editorials that failed to inspire you for whatever reason (sometimes I had to write a bit too much).

The other is to the Beatles, whose great lyrics I have too often abused. (I have an Abbey Road poster in my office, that must be the reason.)

I will end with quoting John Lennon one last time. When all is said and done, he was right that this is the one thing that matters most: please - give peace a chance.

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