We know it can take years to go from a lease sale to offshore oil and gas production. Ten years is not unusual. Shell says hydrocarbons from its offshore Alaska project may not come on line for 15 years.
We also know that opponents of offshore exploration argue that we won’t need all that oil and gas in 15 years. Supply is outstripping demand right now and they say alternatives may be available by the time new drilling starts producing.
We might want to rethink that argument a little bit if a new study is correct. That study, just presented to the Royal Astronomical Society, says we may see a new mini-ice age within 15 years. Scientists used magnetic waves from the sun to predict that we will see a drop in solar activity by about 60%by 2030. They say that level of activity would correlate with the mini-ice age that hit the Earth from 1645 to 1715. According to some accounts, that extended cold spell caused the river Thames to freeze over, brought widespread crop failure and enough famine that French soldiers born during that period were recorded as being one inch shorter than soldiers born in the next century.
Is that our fate in 15 years? Who knows. While the theory is interesting, it is still just a theory. Scientists are also quick to note that it will not reverse longer-term global warning.
But it certainly raises the question of whether this is really the time to put offshore drilling plans on hiatus and turn our backs on fossil fuels. By some estimates, we are using three times as much oil and gas every year as we are replacing in reserves. We certainly don’t want to find ourselves in a supply/demand gap if the temperature starts dropping.