What’s Being Taught on Campus

What’s Being Taught on Campus

What’s being taught in colleges and universities about energy and energy issues?

When a student asked me a pointed question about an energy issue I asked where he had obtained such slanted information, and he referred me to his university professor.

That got me looking at videos and courses produced by college professors, and, not surprisingly, they were interesting. While much of the information was factually correct, the courses were slanted. And this series of occasional articles will address how college and university professors are misleading their students.

In nearly every instance so far, the professor begins by saying he will only examine the facts, and if he has an opinion he will tell you beforehand.

While this disarms the student or viewer, opinions are inserted obliquely or casually … without forewarning.

For example:

In one course, discussing subsidies, the professor inserts that Fracking was excluded from the clean water act, inferring the exclusion was a subsidy.

While the exclusion might be onerous to some people, it is certainly not a subsidy. But the professor has established the idea that Fracking is subsidized.

This is the first of my articles about how students are being indoctrinated by college professors. From time to time, in this series, I’ll discuss other misleading information being fed college students.

Fossil fuels have been made out to be pariahs, and one of the tactics that suck the student into agreeing with that view is the assertion that:

“Fossil fuels are finite. Mankind will run out of them soon, so we might just as well begin the switch to clean energy now.”

This is an appealing concept for young students. Why not develop clean energy now, since we’ll have to do it soon anyway? Besides, it might help save the planet.

In this context, one professor said that fossil fuels will only last for a period no longer than the United States has been a country, inferring fossil fuels will be consumed within two hundred years.

If fossil fuels were to be gone in only a few years it would make sense to begin developing alternatives sooner rather than later, and students readily accept this view. 

Of course, this conforms with the notion that fossil fuels are bad, so why not start now?

 But the professor is deceiving the student, who lacks knowledge about how long fossil fuels can last, and really serve mankind.

Most students won’t look into the question of fossil fuel availability, and if they do, they will find some superficial information such as the concept of proven reserves.

Unfortunately “proven reserves” is a legal definition that history has shown to be false if the real question is how long can fossil fuels last.

Proven reserves are:

“Known reserves that can be recovered economically using established engineering or operating principles.” 

Companies must legally identify proven reserves so that investors can evaluate the value of an investment.

The EIA, or some equivalent group, recites published known reserves ad nauseam, so once again, even if the student wanted to confront the professor with contradictory information it would be hard to find information that the professor couldn’t easily rebut.

But the fact is

 “Actual reserves are many times greater than published proven reserves.”

This has been demonstrated time again over the past hundred years.

The following examples are from an article by Anthony Watts:

  • In 1865, Stanley Jevons (one of the most recognized 19th-century economists) predicted that England would run out of coal by 1900 and that England’s factories would grind to a standstill.
  • In 1885, the US Geological Survey announced that there was “little or no chance” of oil being discovered in California.
  • In 1891, it said the same thing about Kansas and Texas. 
  • In 1939, the US Department of the Interior said that American oil supplies would last only another 13 years.
  • In 1949 the Secretary of the Interior announced that the end of US oil was in sight.

Then, there was the Club of Rome with its 1972 report, the Limits to Growth, which said that growth couldn’t continue because the world was running out of natural resources, especially oil.

All of this culminated with the concept of Peak Oil, which said, wrongly, that the world was running out of oil. Hubbert’s curve, based on experience from reservoirs in Texas, predicted that the world would have consumed half of all the oil on Earth by the first or second decade of the 21st century.

And, this too has been proven wrong.

The reason for all the wrong forecasts is that the definition of known reserves is self-limiting.

  • First, new reserves are constantly being found.
  • Second, new techniques are developed for extracting reserves that increase the amount of oil, natural gas, etc., that can be economically extracted from known reserves.

Truthfully, no one knows how long fossil fuels will last.

Experience has shown that oil and natural gas can probably last for a thousand years. With Methane Hydrates, natural gas can probably last 2,000 years. Coal, of all types,  can also probably last a thousand years.

So, college students are being misled into believing that it’s important to find substitutes now, for fossil fuels, because fossil fuels are finite and running out.

In fact, there is no rush to find substitutes. Mankind has ample time to develop genuine, cost-effective alternatives for fossil fuels. 

There is no need to distort the economy, use expensive and unreliable alternatives or go further into debt to develop alternatives.

This is one of the ways in which university and college professors are deceiving their students.

. . .


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5 Replies to “What’s Being Taught on Campus”

  1. Donn,

    Looking forward to this series on education. I teach geology at 3 schools (adjunct) and so I get to see how “sustainability” and clean energy are promoted at all the schools. It is as if they all have the same playbook.

  2. Nice article. Maybe should be distributed to a larger audience.
    I teach energy-related courses, starting with introductory one to advanced technical electives including Sustainable Energy without hot air.

    The students coming to the University have absolutely no background in the energy area. Zero. The only thing they know is what they have heard or read in the mass media, and possibly from their High School Science teacher.

    One of the main issues is that Energy is a multi-disciplinary subject requiring considerable and well-rounded knowledge not only in many technical areas, but geo-political, and history of human development, for at least last 150 to 200 years.

    Unfortunately, at many schools energy courses are being taught by the instructors having environmental, ecological, or economy backgrounds who, unfortunately, do not have sufficient technical knowledge concerning technology and its influence on economy and societal development. Therefore, many use information from the published literature or even mass media which is terribly one-sided, and thus unknowingly or knowingly indoctrinate their students.

    The other issue is almost complete lack of objectivity, which is quite interesting because Academia is committed to exchange of ideas, sometimes opposing, dialogue, and ultimately finding the truth. It seems this principle does not apply to the areas of energy, climate science, and few others. If we do not fix this huge problem pretty soon, Academia will be completely discredited in the near future, and we will be teaching religion and political science instead of science.

    Also, when one looks at “doom and gloom” predictions made in the recent past by some very prominent people, one can see a clear pattern; people who made them did not have necessary technical background, thus they equated human society to the ant hive and, naturally, draw wrong conclusions.

    No matter how bad the situation concerning (energy) education is in the U.S., in many countries, such as U.K. is much worse. According to new laws, University professors have to be re-trained since they “have prejudices and are biased”. I think we have seen in recent history why people need to be “re-educated” and what the end result is.

    • Thanks for your excellent and thoughtful comments.
      The last paragraph highlights an issue of tremendous concern.
      I hope people will take the time to read it and think about its consequences.

  3. Donn,
    Thanks for exposing the sad state of affairs in our universities today regarding knowledge about energy. As one who has spent over 50 years in the energy sector including downstream oil, coal to liquid conversion, gas to liquids and numerous alternative fuels failed attempts, the ignorance and false claim are appalling.
    Much of the claimed energy shortage over the years has been created by the government policies which contributed to the shortage of fossil fuels and dependence on unfriendly foreign sources of energy, with restrictions on exploration and production.
    Currently the removal of government restrictions on energy, resulting in an abundance of US energy, proves that the energy crisis was government created, no peak oil, abundance of natural gas due to fracking, etc.
    Let the free market work, get the government out of the business of picking losers.

    • Please excuse the delay in posting your comment and the tardiness of my reply. I just returned from Europe and found that your comment hadn’t been addressed.
      Thanks for making it abundantly clear that any energy crisis was created by bad government policies. Free markets will always create an abundance of energy and a powerful economy.