Monday, January 31, 2005

A moment of zen

Over at Life After The Oil Crash, the tone is quite serious. But the collected news on peak oil is always appreciated. So when I saw this item, it took me a minute.

Special Report: The Truth About the US Economy

Hopeful Monday

The elections in Iraq have left me flush with unwarranted optimism. I've been anti-this-war from the very start. I woulda voted for Howard Dean. If this is what it was all about, an election in which a moderate percentage of Kurds and Shia vote for candidates whose names were kept secret until last week - well, the price was terribly high, but it is what we have.

I got the impression that many Iraqis are ready for a democratic, pluralistic country, and mostly, a home where the unending violence stops. They were happy to wait in line to stain their finger for this. A hopeful act. Only the Sunnis, surly and fearful of a future in which they are not the ruling culture, stayed home.

Partly, Iraqis may imagine that this clears the way for the US to leave.

And that is certainly the final piece in the puzzle. If the US were this instant committed to withdrawal from all cities in six months, to coincide with a new constitution, this whole crazy democracy idea might gain some momentum. Withdrawal from the cities would be followed by two years of infrastructure and border security, followed by total withdrawal. In President Monkeygrinder's world.

The reality is likely to be more of the same from the US. Interference and permanent military bases. Dollar denominated oil, even as the value of the dollar plummets. We gotta have our puppets. We gotta feel like we are in control. Even as control is slipping away.

I don't know what I am going to do with today's optimism in a few years.

Maybe I should ask my parents...

Saturday, January 29, 2005

society's evolutionary arc

Gregg Easterbrook has written up an interesting review of Jared Diamond’s latest work, Collapse over at the New York Times:

‘Collapse’: How the World Ends

Generally, a positive tone is struck even though Easterbrook disagrees with the conclusions Diamond comes to in ‘Collapse’, and ‘Gun, Germs, and Steel’.

Now, I think Easterbrook is on point in his criticism of Guns, Germs, and Steel. However, more pertinent to peak energy are some of his concluding arguments regarding ‘Collapse’, which I mostly disagree with. Given that they present a common mainstream response to peak energy doomsday scenarios, let's take a closer look.

Excerpts below in italics, followed by my comments:

If 2.5 billion more people are not ''acceptable,'' how, exactly, would Diamond prevent their births? He does not say. Nuclear war, plague, a comet strike or coerced mass sterilizations seem the only forces that might stop the human population from rising to its predicted peak.

Who knows what the likelihood of 8.5 billion people versus a comet strike is; it doesn’t matter. Right this very second we are having trouble feeding everyone in the world, as growing seasons have been going haywire over the last five years. Mix in peak oil, and we don’t have an ‘instant’ fix to replace the petroleum dependant industrial farming techniques. Sure, some years down the line all the lawns in suburbia will be converted into organic microfarms. Nevertheless, if Peak Oil happens in 2007, people will start starving in 2008. In bunches. We’ll never break 7 billion people, by my estimation.

And is it really an ''impossibility'' for developing-world living standards to reach the Western level?

Yep. Until we get energy from a vacuum, or some such nonsense, it is freaking impossible. Anyways, we use the third world as our meta - toilet. Don’t need to fancy up the bathroom as much as the living room.

Today wood is a primary fuel in the developing world, so deforestation is acute; but if developing nations move on to other energy sources, forest cover will regrow. If the West changes from fossil fuel to green power, its worst resource trend will not continue uninterrupted.

Ok. When I see a billion windmills, or hummers juiced up with orange peel biodiesel, I’ll stop worrying.

Oddly, for someone with a background in evolutionary theory, he (Jared Diamond) seems not to consider society's evolutionary arc. (…) What might human society be like 13,000 years from now?

Please. If we quantum tunnel into the sun, that would end our evolutionary arc right quick. We’d be like, wholly cow! So that’s where the dodo ended up!

Above us in the Milky Way are essentially infinite resources and living space. If the phase of fossil-driven technology leads to discoveries that allow Homo sapiens to move into the galaxy…

CUT! What moony nonsense. Strangely, it is the closest I come to agreeing with Mr. Easterbrook in his concluding remarks. Been a science fiction guy since I were a wee scooter. Speed of light is a bit of a barrier, but it certainly isn’t impossible that we expand out into the galaxy. Slowly. One way ticket, only 50 more years of deceleration. What a great use for all that nuclear waste.

We humans need to solve the problem of living in this solar system.
Declining oil means we need more energy, or less people will exist.
I’m speculating, of course.
Show me the energy.


Over at Bouphonia, Philalethes has written up a devastating critique of this same article. My take on Easterbrook's article is facile and reactive puffery in comparison...

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Energy Autonomy

Over at TheCorrection, interesting stories are being unearthed.

In today's latest, a reference is made to Global Guerrillas on a topic that I hadn't heard anything about before in the Western press. Admittedly I wasn't paying too much attention; seemingly too depressing.

Possible Chechen independance. I thought Putin had proved he would smash cities before allowing liberty to the self styled 'people' of Chechnya. What gives?

Energy is king

"This would have been containable, given the system's forward storage system, if it only occured once. However, attacks continued along the hundreds of miles of vulnerable natural gas pipelines in the critical sections. This radically reduced supply. The net effect was a 70% delivery shortfall to critical European export markets and western domestic customers in the first three months of the new campaign. It couldn't have been planned better -- storage levels were are their nadir following a particularly cold winter."

This has tremendous implication, beyond just Chechnya. Where have we seen this before? Iraq. What do Iraq and Chechnya have in common? Would be imperial overlords.

So where will we see this tactic next?

Not Venezuela. At least, not while Hugo Chavez is feeding the poor and teaching them to read. But imagine if storm troopers from some hypothetical empire swept in and installed a military dictator. (How dare you sell your oil to the highest bidder! That condradicts the secret rule of free markets. Give the man a mustache - he is the new Hitler!)

Boom boom, goes the infrastructure?

We'll see.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

A little more on Riverbend

Turns out, Riverbend shortly will be releasing a book with her blog as the source. Spotted on thoughts on the eve of the apocalypse.


Monday, January 24, 2005

If you see death, you settle for a fever.

Riverbend, the “Iraqi Girl Blogger”, is on my shortlist blogroll for a few reasons. One being she writes well, better than most Americans. In English. Doubtless her Arabic is poetry.

She’s slacked off lately, her writing has gone south. Why is that?

Water is like peace- you never really know just how valuable it is until someone takes it away. It’s maddening to walk up to the sink, turn one of the faucets and hear the pipes groan with nothing. The toilets don’t function… the dishes sit piled up until two of us can manage to do them- one scrubbing and rinsing and the other pouring the water.


Why is this happening? Is it because of the electricity? If it is, we should at least be getting water a couple of hours a day- like before. Is it some sort of collective punishment leading up to the elections? It’s unbelievable. At first, I thought it was just our area but I’ve been asking around and apparently, almost all of the areas (if not all) are suffering this drought.

Despite what they tell you on United States cable news regarding Baghdad, (where things are perpetually “getting better”), if you have read Riverbend’s blog from the beginning until now you know that exactly the opposite is true. Here, I could digress into a side rant about the wastrel neocon apologist critic, the sluggy and declining Christopher Hitchens. He can still reflexively snap off a crackling essay but can’t connect the dots from Orwell to the media he pimps iconoclastic-ely for. Another day.

In Riverbend’s world, things get more depressing by the month. Less electricity, less water, less oil!!! and less hope. More atrocity, kidnapping of cousins. Neighbors disappeared into Abhu Graib by vindictive tipsters settling old scores. Ghosts from Fallooja wandering through her backyard.

What is compelling about any this to your average fatbutt American, other than our collective blame in the eyes of the world?

This is your life in ten years if things go really, really bad.

We see what we want to see. Many of my close friends don’t percieve America as being in nearly as much trouble as I do. Peak Energy is an abstraction, as is the declining dollar and the real estate bubble. We’re running cozy lessons from twenty plus years of cultural experience through our logical, thinky bits and this enormous fulcrum of coming change does not sink down to our gut. Supermarkets and GameBoys.

Early in the Iraqi occupation, Riverbend wrote up a mix of hope and fears. She saw what she wanted to see.

Now, it is just dread and loathing, crammed into her blog when, inshallah, she has ten minutes of electricity to transcribe her thoughts.

Young girl, Mosul, January 2005. Parents killed by troops

Sunday, January 23, 2005

tidbits from a week in the life

Thaw sees grass take hold in Antarctica
Moving the herd to the south pasture, Pa! Way, way south. One place Michael Crichton won't be stopping on his book tour. Who wants to be laughed at by penguins?

Welcome to Willie Nelson's Biodiesel
Thanks to J. Moe for the tip. As much as BioDiesel is a crock of (net energy loss and cropland depleting hooey), one has to think that sincere efforts like this help in the cause of awareness for Peak Energy. People are bound to ask, what is the big deal? Is this a solution to a real problem?

Kennedy: Fascist America
Saw this on Reptile Rants, from which I add this link, an Australian's view of the Bush festivities. Note to bushco - the flags were a little much. Also, the Reptile Rants crew maintains a Peak Energy doppleganger site, worth checking out.

Western Mining Corp: shortage of uranium adds value
Ruh-oh! You mean there is a LIMIT to uranium? The supposed new energy choice of discerning environmentalists like James Lovelock? A peak perhaps? Sick that, barring some ultimate disaster we will likely turn every scrap of uranium on the planet into toxic, persistant waste. What do I mean by ultimate disaster? Smack to the brane, asteroid, nova or nukefest. Did I leave anybody out? Ah yes. Methane Hydrates. See below.

Global Warming Approaching Point of No Return, Warns Leading Climate Expert
When a man with a beard tells you something, you better listen. (sic)

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Did you ever wonder...

It often seems as if there is no government action on any of the real, pressing issues of the day. Sometimes, I get together with a group of my semi-bohemian technocrat hippie friends and we try and figure out just why that might be. Then we drink some wine and eat some pizza (we don't lack for class) and lurch off to our domiciles.

...why the odd lack of useful government ?

The dollar falls, Oil depletes, Canadians grow bold, and cheneybush go after - Social Security?!!

Well, reasononline and Mobjectivist lifted a rock, and exposed a few cockroaches, scuttling for the Homeland, so very VERY hard to squash.

And it is funny sad. Check out your Civil Servant, and her A.M.

Dissertation topic: I kicked a tumbleweed across the concourse.
Next stop: Washington D.C.

Our culture is broken.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005


Spotted by J. Moe -

Energy bills reflect gas rate rise

Every year, natural gas costs a little more, doesn't it? By dribbles and bounds. If you aren't moving your investments into a commodity centric portofolio at this point, why not? What are you waiting for? The Rapture?

I'm still working on a few posts about our economy. They are percolating around, to be issued. I'm trying to figure out how to get across what a unique period of time this is. There is opportunity in disaster, if you know the Bear is coming.

Here is how I am approaching things personally. Results may vary.
Think Gold and Silver. Good funds can be multipliers on base value.
Limit exposure to Intellectual Property BS stocks. You can't eat IP.
Food prices up, if you have the balls to play the commodities market.

There are likely five more years of inertia left in our present economy before a tipping point.

But I could be wrong. It could happen sooner. Grease the AK.

I said, "You can't eat IP", and boy was I ever wrong.
Thanks, Monsanto, for redefining evil.
Monkey fuck a few alleles, trick a few farmers, let the wind blow your bad seed. Maybe this is why Europeans are against GM foods, and not because they are so, uh, French?

Les dieux nous railleront à la fin.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Bohai Bay update

Update on the China post regarding the potential large oil discovery in Bohai Bay. I finally found some analysis here, but note I had to pull the info out of the Google cache because the orginal article appears to have been scratched off the hard drive. So an extensive quote seems in order:

BEIJING, Dec 24, 2004 (Kyodo via COMTEX) -- Large offshore oil reserves have been found in Bohai Bay in China's northeast as the country scrambles to keep up with soaring energy needs, China's state media reported Friday.

Exploration teams have found the Bohai Bay Basin in the innermost gulf of the Yellow Sea may contain 20.5 billion tons of reserves, with 9 billion tons already proven, according to the China Daily.

Analysts said while the discovery was good news for China, questions remain about whether that will lead to actual large-scale production.

"The amount is substantial," said Michael Lee, analyst at UOB Kay Hian (Hong Kong) Ltd. "But the question is actual production, in terms of technology as well as cost effectiveness."

The paper quoted the president of a research institute linked to China Petroleum and Chemical Corp. as saying the basin's total oil resources could potentially sustain the country's energy needs for some time.

There you have it, with all the keywords highlighted to go find it yourself. Key phrase, emphasis mine, is cost effectiveness. In other words, is the energy cost to extract this bounty of oil less than the amount of energy produced, leading to a net postive? And how is the overall reserve picture affected by the actual net production?

Also, as far as I know proved reserves for this site remains at 67 Gb, or about 2 years world supply. I found a few references to wells in this region producing 40k barrels a day, but that is all I can tell you since I lack the neccesary subscription to some of the "heavy" oil and gas sites.

40k ain't much but it is early in the production cycle.

orange styrofoam

Evidence that our post petrol future may be smellier, but in a good way...

"Almost every plastic out there, from the polyester in clothing to the plastics used for food packaging and electronics, goes back to the use of petroleum as a building block," Coates observes. "If you can get away from using oil and instead use readily abundant, renewable and cheap resources, then that's something we need to investigate. What's exciting about this work is that from completely renewable resources, we were able to make a plastic with very nice qualities."

I love stuff like this. I'd rather have CO2 in my coffee cup than in the atmosphere. And now I know what to do with orange peels - turn 'em into plastic.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

happy new year from BP

So, we have it on authority: We are wasting time worrying about peak oil.

LONDON - Last year's record oil prices did not indicate a shortage of supplies and will not be repeated, says the chief executive (John Browne) of British oil company BP.

Hmmmm. Wait a minute, though, didn't I recently hear something to the contrary - from BP?

BP exploration consultant Francis Harper said he estimated the world's total original usable oil resources - the amount of oil before drilling began - at about 2.4 trillion barrels of oil. This is considerably less than the 3 trillion assumed by bullish commentators such as the US government's Geological Survey. This points to oil production peaking between 2010 and 2020.

This bi-polar moment from BP is damage control. I think I need to start a notebook with the names of liars like John Browne, because we are flat past the point in history where we can play games.

I'll send it to Santa. Won't do any good. We're all gonna be stuck with a lump of coal.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Greenspan, Greenback, Green Thumb

The most infuriating thing about the looming economic crisis the United State is presently enmeshed in?

It has nothing to do with Peak Energy.

It has everything to do with radicals in the White House and the world bank aligned Greenspan. In 2000, I actually thought that Bush would make a decent president in the fiscal sense, if he was anything like his father. And didn't Clinton blaze a compelling trail of fiscal conservatism?

By 2007, with the world economy wobbling drunkenly and the US perhaps in Depression, Peak Oil will be a tremendous haymaker punch to finish us off. If Real Estate hasn't crashed by that point, it won't be long.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

A boot to the head

Spiritual Night Landscape (c) James Howard Kunstler

My previous post cast a positive light on peak energy aftermath. Fred Kirschenmann and people like him inject hope into our coming culture changes, and hope is desperately needed.

At the same time, I think a boot to the head, or a taste of yang to balance Fred's yin would be appropriate here. And I'll pull it out of Jim Kunstler's The ClusterFuck Nation Manifesto :

The downscaling of agriculture presents some obvious problems. Farms take years to establish. The knowledge for running diverse, small-scale farms becomes a little more lost every day as elderly farmers die and the culture of farming dies with them. The end of the cheap oil economy may bring dysfunction so swiftly to our current arrangements that we will not have time to make an orderly transition

This is absolutely correct. Time is the key variable here. Can we pull off the transition? The situation is made more complicated by the fact that industrial farming is damaging the land.

From that angle, maybe we don't want all our ducks in a row. Perhaps it would be best if peak oil happens this year, as Deffeyes predicts, so we have land left to do our farming on.

We don't want the same stupid look on our faces the Sumerians had when their canals filled with salt.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

tour de force

The defining problem for peak energy is not this moment in history, when we sit flush with oil, natural gas and stupidity.

Rather, the question is what will we do in the post peak years?

These ruminations can be stressful, because modern agriculture is significantly dependant on oil, without which yields drop precipitously. The corollary is that if crop yields fail, human population will crash in direct proportion.

I ran across one person who is working on the issue of sustainable agriculture while watching a bioneers (goofy name - thanks, feckless liberals) presentation on public access television. Someone introduced Fred Kirschenmann, and an unassuming gentlemen walked up and began his presentation.

He started with the usual litany of problems – declining oil, soil degradation, high cost of industrial farming squeezing out the private farms and so on. Took about five minutes. I was hooked. He didn’t waste time defending peak oil or even explaining it, just took it as a premise.

Then he waded in and started taking swings at the assumptions of industrial farming, and correctly framed the debate. That is too say:

We can’t depend on oil.
We can’t keep dumping pesticides into the ocean and ecosystem.
We can’t keep losing our soil.
Given that, we need real answers for this century.

And then he gave some real answers. Read this article through to the part about the Japanese farm. It is about a year old, but the message will be timely for the next fifty years and beyond. Then dive in and get a little more background on this man here – I particularly liked this article.

Fred is worth his weight in intellectual property.
(Or, in a few years, gold.)

Monday, January 03, 2005


Spotted on Mobjectivist...

So China found a large supply of oil.

Or... did they?

The coming years will mark extensive lies and hyperbole from governments and individuals about energy and related investments. I know this is obvious to many, but gotta keep beating the drum.

I eagerly await the ASPO analysis on this one.


For the fun of it, I did a few back of the envelope calculations. The world uses 30 billion barrels a year. If the new discovery bears out, that is 5 years of world supply. But, since we know you can't produce all the oil in a field at once, we are probably looking at a production rate of 3 to 5 million barrels a day. (Or more; 150 billion barrels is twice as much oil as in Ghawar) Again, assuming this isn't bunk from the chinese government, that might have the effect of flattening the peak and pushing out production decline - for a few more years of unbridled consumption.


tipping point

That outright facsism is taking root in America is obvious, if you can believe such a thing.

Many people don't understand. Democrats think they lost an election, but that the country is still basically there. Republicans feel oppressed by the liberals - a sad creature far fiercer in imagination than reality. So they snap up books like Ann Coulter's "How to talk to a liberal..." as if they were a protective fetish, not recognizing them for weapons in a fight against reason, republic and democracy.

This will come to a head with peak oil, if not sooner. (Got Dollars?)

Can you imagine the United States as an operating Fascist state? The media will be on every day, deny, deny denying it. That smell is what we replaced your neighbors with.

But the price of chocolate will keep going up. It will be new and improved.

Hey Beavis, did he say wood?

From Energy Bulletin:

US: Firewood gaining popularity over heating oil

I actually have split a cord of wood and stacked it before. Great fun. But burning wood, no matter how countryfied or organic it may seem, is not gonna be a good energy solution for us. More like the Easter Island final solution - and have you seen the Middle East lately? There used to be trees there. And Britain? And I could go on. THINK!

This is something I would fight at the local level, if it weren't already illegal in my state. (Loopholes aside.)

Sounds like some of you have some work to do.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

billions and billions

A co-worker recently pointed out to me Cuba's recent discovery of an oil field with 100 million barrels. He then wanted to know if that was a sufficient amount for us to invade Cuba. Ha! What a cynic. When we invade Cuba, it will be to spread democracy.

The world uses 65-80 million barrels a day; a substantial fraction of that is used by the US military. The Pentagon could probably save 100 million barrels of oil over the next year by not invading anybody. Jes' stay home and drink beer. Wax the missiles.

One of the problems with proselytizing peak oil is the huge numbers involved. All those millions and billions can get confusing.

Take this quote, from the Jan 2nd edition of the New York Times, Libya Is Enticing U.S. Executives With Its Abundant Oil Reserves.

(...) holds oil reserves estimated at over 36 billion barrels. That is enough to meet the daily imports of the United States for eight years.

Wow! More than thirty six BILLION! You could almost skip right over "eight years", as in the amount of oil we use therein.

Number seems a little high though. Let's check ASPO.

Uh oh - looks like only enough oil to run the US for seven years!

That's if you can trust those rascally retired oil geologists. I for one go to sleep with the sonorous tones of Lawrence Kudlow whispering sweet nothings in my ear.

Funny, this.