Friday, September 30, 2005

that Wile E. Coyote feeling

I generally try and post something neutral -- humorous on Friday, the better to gently slide everyone into the weekend.

Well, today is not such a Friday.

I critically examine many ideas and techologies that get discussed regarding peak energy, but I haven't come to any hard, fast conclusions about the outcome of our low energy future. I am not predicting a die-off, with scattered showers of locusts and cannibalism. Sure, I don't rule out any logical scenario, I'm somewhat gloomy by nature but not an out and out doomer.

So much for peak energy. At least for the moment -- more at the end of this post. Let's talk economy, where I have in fact come to some doomer-esque conclusions.

Big Gav brought a recent statement of Ken Deffeyes to my attention -- apparently he was down in Portland recently:
Deffeyes, the keynote speaker, is among the leaders in a growing faction of scientists, politicians, and activists-known as the Peak Oil movement-who are clamoring that the Age of Oil is about to end. Soon. In fact, Deffeyes predicts that global oil production will peak this Thanksgiving, thus beginning a long, painful slide to zero.

Judging from his own financial advice, Deffeyes is a strange choice to speak at an investment forum: Earlier in the day, he half-jokingly advised me to put my savings into 1/8th-ounce gold pieces. His argument: "They'll be easier to make change with" than larger pieces in a post-apocalyptic economy.
Haha! No need to panic, though, right?
"We've lost control of the budget," Greenspan apparently told Breton during a bilateral meeting Saturday at the half-yearly World Bank/IMF Meetings, the French minister said at a press conference in Washington.

The cost of Hurricane Katrina will cause the US budget deficit to rise by much more than expected this year, Breton said after meeting with Greenspan.
What is the context for concern? Debt -- Deficit -- Didn't Reagan prove none of that matters?
Mike "Mish" Shedlock, writing at the site, notes that these latest reports notwithstanding, the national debt is growing, and that the growth rate in the national debt limit totals to "a stunning $3,015 billion ($3.015 trillion) in additional debt in just four years." I admit that it is hard to get your mind around the idea that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the USA is probably somewhere between $11 trillion and $12 trillion a year. So it is even harder to get your mind around the idea that in four short years we have borrowed- in Treasury debt alone! -the freaking equivalent of a quarter of everything America produces in goods and services in a whole freaking year! And this is just the INCREASE in the debt!

And when you add in the additions to personal debt (mortgages and other credit debt) and the increases in business debt, you are probably looking at another quarter of GDP. Together they add up to around half of GDP! America and Americans together borrowed, in 48 months, the equivalent of half of everything we make in a whole freaking year! If your heart is trying to commit suicide by pounding and slamming itself into the walls of your chest and your brain is convulsed in spasms, then congratulations, as you are really starting to get the hang of this economics stuff.
Seperately, later in the same editorial, the praises of gold and silver are sung again:
But this is not to disparage gold. Alert reader Peter P. sent along an article from The Economist magazine "The price of gold reflects confidence, more than anything. When people are confident that their central banks will control inflation while permitting the economy to grow, when they believe that paper assets are worth something approaching their face value, they buy gold to wear but not to put in a safe. Alan Greenspan has achieved the remarkable feat of suspending disbelief in America's gerrymandered finances for the past few years. On his departure, watch the gold price soar."
The stink rising from the American economy, and our creaky dollar, has caused turbanned and dusky foreigners to become alarmed. For example, note this chap writing for the Guardian:
The nice way, according to simulations by IMF staff, would involve a gradual slowdown in the pace of consumption in the US, accompanied by slightly higher real interest rates and a modest 15% devaluation in the dollar over a few years.

The US current account would decline from 6% of GDP to 3.5% of GDP by 2010 and to 3% over the long run. The other main component of the soft-landing scenario would see a 15% appreciation of currencies in the developing countries of Asia - China, for the most part - which would result in their current account surpluses shrinking to 2% of GDP.

The nasty way involves a much sharper contraction in US activity. Under this scenario, the overseas investors who have been funding the American trade deficit by buying US assets decide they have had enough. The result is a large and sudden devaluation of the dollar, which adds to inflationary pressure and forces the Federal Reserve to raise short-term interest rates aggressively. Protectionist pressures mount and this, together with the big appreciation of China's currency, leads to much slower growth. With both the world's two big growth engines - the US and China - faltering, Europe and Japan also suffer. Financial markets suffer hefty losses, adding to the gloom.
I could go on for quite a spell, but I'll stop right there. The "nice way," describes a recession. The nasty way is more depressing.

And I'm in line for nasty. Not because it makes me happy. The American economy is sinking under the onslaught of treasury-depleting military adventures, hurricanes, drowned oil rigs, shut in natural gas giving us a taste of 2009, tax breaks for the wealthiest, record credit card delinquencies, double digit inflation... the list goes on.

As far as I am concerned, the only reason the Stock Market is still floating above 10,000 in the U.S. is that not enough people have looked down.

When people start to realize there is nothing solid under their feet, gravity lessons will commence for the U.S. economy, and the global economy.

People who scoff at things such as gold investments now, causually linking gold bug fever to Y2k hysteria, will be eating dollars when commodities explode and discretionary and imaginary spending collapse.

Tying all of this to peak energy -- I would be concerned about going through peak oil even if the economy were in relatively good health, such as during the Clinton years.

I fear that economic depression will prevent us from addressing peak energy in a thoughtful, rigourous fashion.

But what the heck -- maybe I'm wrong, and next September we can all enjoy a good laugh as the Dow crests 12,000.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Postcards from the Pétrole Epoque VII

EPA Scientists Call for an End to Water Fluoridation
WASHINGTON, DC, August 30, 2005 --Eleven EPA employee unions representing over 7000 environmental and public health professionals of the Civil Service have called for a moratorium on drinking water fluoridation programs across the country, and have asked EPA management to recognize fluoride as posing a serious risk of causing cancer in people. The unions acted following revelations of an apparent cover-up of evidence from Harvard School of Dental Medicine linking fluoridation with elevated risk of a fatal bone cancer in young boys.

I doubt the cancer risk from flouride is anywhere near as high as that from cell phones or cigarettes -- but with fluoride, cancer is the tip of the iceberg. If this is the wedge for awareness, fine.

In "The Fluoride Deception", author Bryson details the cold war inception of a clever marketing scheme to dilute an industrial waste product of the nuclear and coal industry into a friend of Happy Mr Atom. It became something so delicious you could rub it on your teeth and bath in it. And if you can sell this waste to municipalities on the promise of public health benefits -- all the better. Beats sinking barrels into the ground (cleanup is so durned expensive.)

What is a fluoride? A dash of neurotoxicity, a pinch of the pacific, inducing sheep-like behaviour:

"Also of historical interest is the item we came across describing how the Nazi concentration camps used fluoridated water to suppress the will and vigor of inmates. This appears to have been during the 1930's and was the first known example of fluoridated water supplies for a specific population. "

Once people are taught to love poison, it can be slipped in anwhere in the food chain:

"Two national environmental organizations, Environmental Working Group and Beyond Pesticides, joined today with the Fluoride Action Network in challenging the safety of new food tolerances issued by the EPA for the fluoride based pesticide, sulfuryl fluoride. This action marks growing concern among mainstream scientists and environmental organizations that total exposure to fluoride, from water, food, and dental uses like toothpaste and rinses, is not safe for vulnerable populations, particularly young children."

Being a pesticide, fluoride is good for humans, kinda like DDT and RoundUp. Thanks DOW -- I'd like a triple, heaping helping of sweet fluoride. When I leave my supermarket apple in the fridge for two days, it smells -- like pesticide. (This experiment is repeatable; try it at home, with an organic control apple).

This actualized evil will come to an end as the petrol age flickers out of existance. The big lie, repeated often enough, has become reality. No conspiracy necessary, the principles are all dead, but frankenstein lurches on, gently tossing flowers in the lake.

There are some interesting observations to make when one considers the abject failure of Authority in this specific instance. Fluoride is so ubiquitous in American culture -- with a positive spin -- one must wonder what else the dentists have gotten wrong.

Haha! It isn't just the dentists, of course. Doubtless one cannot pass the Tooth Bar in America without bending over for fluoride.

As one begins to look for for examples of the Big Lie, there is no limit to how deep the rabbit hole goes.

The August 1995 issue of this journal contained an abstract (pages 151-152) of an interesting paper by Dr Phyllis Mullenix and her collaborators.1 They recorded behavioral changes in rats after ingestion of fluoride, and found that the severity of the effect on behavior increased directly with plasma fluoride levels and fluoride concentration in specific brain regions. A reading of the full paper is well worthwhile. In their Introduction, after referring to the increase in dental fluorosis in humans after decades of water fluoridation, the authors comment:

"One concern that has not been fully investigated is the link between fluoride and effects an the central nervous system (CNS).... Many years of ubiquitous fluoride exposure have not resulted in obvious CNS problems such as seizures, lethargy, salivation, tremors, paralysis, or sensory deficits. Still unexplored, however, is the possibility that fluoride exposure is linked with subtle brain dysfunction."

The carefully designed animal experiment which they report revealed subtle but very real changes in behavior patterns following fluoride ingestion: hyperactivity after prenatal exposure, and cognitive deficits after weanling and adult exposure. Fluoride accumulation in important regions of the rat brain, especially the hippocampus, was found to increase as the drinking water fluoride levels increased. These effects, and the sex differences observed, corresponded to those observed in other studies of hippocampal brain damage.

The authors point out that the plasma fluoride levels recorded in the rats were the same as those sometimes recorded in humans - for example, in children one hour after receiving topical fluoride treatment of their teeth. In their conclusion calling for further rat and human studies they state:

"Experience with other developmental neurotoxicants prompt expectations that changes in behavioral function will be comparable across species, especially humans and rats. Of course behaviors per se do not extrapolate, but a generic behavioral pattern disruption as found in this rat study can be indicative of a potential for motor dysfunction, IQ deficits and/or learning disabilities in humans."

The authors draw attention to reports from Chinese investigators that high levels of fluoride in drinking water (3-11 ppm) affect the central nervous system directly without first causing the physical deformations of skeletal fluorosis.2-4 Readers of Fluoride will recall the recent (November 1995) research report from China indicating adverse neurological effects on the brain from fluoride exposure.5 This work also suggested that children with dental fluorosis are at greater risk of decreased mental acuity. One can only wonder whether the effects of fluoridated water might extend beyond the appearance of the teeth and include neurotoxicity among children afflicted with dental fluorosis.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

whack a Patzek

His stance on ethanol sets Cal professor apart - (via theWatt)
Patzek and David Pimentel, a Cornell scientist who had been a lone public voice against corn ethanol for more than 30 years, argued that corn ethanol did the environment more harm than good. Growing corn, fertilizing the fields, transporting it to the factories and then out to where it was needed took more energy than the resulting ethanol would ultimately generate, they said.

Detractors, including corn growers, federal government researchers and other academics, took offense at Patzek's stance. They saw ethanol as an environment-friendly way of reducing the nation's dependence on foreign fossil fuels.

Opponents pointed to Patzek's oil industry days, saying he had ulterior motives. They said he and Pimentel knew nothing about agriculture and had relied on irrelevant data. They even criticized the premise of Patzek's arguments, which were based on the first and second laws of thermodynamics.

"Environment friendly", my tookus.

Clearly, when it comes to bio-fuels, supporters have coconuts on the brain. Most of the bio-fuel schemes have really great postive energy profiles, so long as the crop is harvested organically by human slaves.

What I really want to see, to actually take bio-fuels seriously, is a fully working cellulose ethanol plant which can turn Kudzu into liquid fuel, thus killing two birds with one stone.

But there is a silver lining to all this criticism - Professor Tad Patzek is now planning:

...A center at UC Berkeley to take a careful look at all energy sources, including fossil fuels, biofuels like ethanol, solar and nuclear. He wants scientists to devise a common framework for evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of each. Such a forum is necessary to inform U.S. policy, he said.

Sounds like a winner.

Monday, September 26, 2005

easy monday

Well, Rita came and went, and aside from some apparent minor damage to refineries, the biggest hurricane story from Friday thus far is that reporters were back to clowning around in high winds, wearing goofy jumpsuits, mugging for the cameras in the rain.

So today, nothing too heavy -- grab a cuppa joe, and check out this funny Flash Animation "PetroTheism" by Mark Fiore. (I spotted this over at theWatt, posted by Ben.)

Friday, September 23, 2005

lock in your rates today

Thursday, September 22, 2005

blue on blue




Wednesday, September 21, 2005


NASA's Moon Vision: Action Plan or High-Tech Hallucination?

Michael Griffin, NASA’s administrator, publicly unveiled yesterday the space agency’s $104 billion mastermind of a mission that puts astronauts back on the moon by 2018, setting the stage for future expeditionary trips to the red planet.

Many people have suggested that to solve our impending energy crisis, one approach would be to pour resources into an "Moon-Shot" like science project, of sweeping scope, to investigate alternative energy in a focused way.

In other words, quit pretending like we are anything other than oil junkies and bring the full power of the government to the fore, even if it means cutting off those welfare queens in the military-industrial complex.

So far, no such project appears to be in the offing, aside from the George Bush hydrogen economy, funded with a few scraggly billions.

So, it is frustrating to see NASA planning an Apollo mulligan, to the tune of 104 billion dollars. It is a cold war echo as well, seemingly matching China's stated intent to play golf and collect lunar cheese.

The moon will still be there in 100 years. If we truly solve our energy problems, getting out to that rock will never be an issue.

Let's spend 104 Billion dollars on alternative energy research and see what happens.

show your work, Yergin

The Future of Oil
Oil super-guru Daniel Yergin knows the issues as well as any man alive. He's in the middle of crisis and controversy. Hear a conversation with Yergin on why the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is now pushing America toward an energy disaster.

This is a link to a Daniel Yergin interview on NPR. I had a listen because of my curiousity regarding Yergin and the CERA report which basically is skeptical regarding a near term oil peak and predicts a supply "plateau" some twenty years out.

After a few short minutes, I came to the conclusion that punk energy provocateur Jame Kunstler knows more about oil and energy issues than this puffed up apologist for imaginary analysis.

Here I will paraphrase some of the claims Yergin makes, in the first few minutes (No transcript available but I encourage readers to listen.)

- Because people have predicted we will run out of oil in the past and were wrong, we have no reason to to expect we will run out of oil now.

Yergin stuttered out this claim twice. It is a logical non-sequiter and misdirection; it doesn't speak to the transparent work performed by ASPO and others that we are approaching peak now.

- We landed a man on the moon and cell-phones are amazing. Who woulda thought. Thus, we won't run out of oil.

Technology will save us. I expect a little more from a supposed energy expert: His examples are of technologies which DEPEND on cheap petroleum! This is the weakest argument imaginable against Peak Oil.

- Oil will come from non-traditional sources.

Not in large amounts, it won't. Show your work. Oil sands and Oil shale have huge inputs of energy, water, and infrastructure. Where's the beef?

At one point, Yergin made reference to his "analysis" in arguing for ever greater supplies of oil coming online. What analysis? A string of half baked assumptions does not add up to critical thinking.

But Yergin is a tenured guru -- he recieved a Pulitzer for his historical work "The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power." -- and apparently he feels comfortable standing behind his hallucinated view of non-existant oil reserves.

Americans and the world deserve better than this from our supposed experts. We can't solve the problem of peak oil starting from a foundation of half-truths and rhetorical flourishes.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

How to destroy the competition

Toyota To Go 100% Hybrid - (thanks reader Eric Rachner for the tip)
Toyota has announced that all of its vehicles would eventually be powered by hybrid gasoline-electric motors. "In the future, the cars you see from Toyota will be 100 percent hybrid," said Kazuo Okamoto of Toyota. There's no deadline for that, but at the rate at which Toyota is introducing new models (especially the predictably popular Camry Hybrid) and ramping up production, it should not take too long.
The company has sold 425,000 hybrids since 1997 (when the first version of the Prius was introduced in Japan - most people think that the current Prius model is second generation, but it's actually a third generation...

Alert readers may have noticed in my previous post, "Where's the Beef?" there was in fact a small amount of meat patty represented in the helpful diagram.

More efficient cars are certainly a step in the right direction.

I'm not sure where American car manufacturers are keeping their thumb planted these days, but I do suspect that every single hybrid Toyota manufactures this year will rapidly find a home.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Where's the Beef?

The most common knee-jerk response of an individual to the concept of impending Peak Oil is that it isn't true.

This is followed by placing it, as an event, at least five years out into the future. Seems safe.

If a person can actually be convinced that that Peak Oil, and Peak Methane, (and Peak Energy...) are impending in the next few years, they then might follow up their initial arguments with an ace in the hole:

Technology will save us. Market forces will drive drilling. Production. Bio-Willie. Tokomaks.

Seems reasonable.

I just want to know when these alternatives will be coming on-line, because trees are being burned to cook pizzas in third world countries, due to devastating increases in the price of liquid fuel.

I realize we may not have hit the peak yet, and that it will only be perfectly clear in the rearview mirror. I don't think we will have long to wait. The accuracy of Deffeyes, Simmons, Hanson, and Campbell, from a period of 1995 to present ARE UNSURPASSED. Jeane Dixon is jealous.

Certain telltale events predicted at the inception of this blog are coming true:

Western refineries spurning sulphurous Saudi oil
SAUDI ARABIA is struggling to sell its crude oil despite record fuel prices and calls on the Kingdom to bring further supplies to the market.
Saudi Aramco, the state oil company, has been forced to offer ever-greater discounts to tempt refiners to buy its product, which is shunned for its high sulphur content.

Some might associate that whiff of sulphur with Satan, but few peak oilies are interested in the apocalypse, claims to the contrary notwithstanding. Most of us would have been happy to be organic tomato liberals for the rest our lives, and wish we'd never heard of Peak Oil.

I associate rising sulphur content in oil with reality.

The cheap stuff is disappearing. So let me throw down the gauntlet. Jay Hanson has heretofore been a more accurate futurist than any other individual I know.

I mean -- Read the headlines on The Energy Bulletin. Just read them!

Airlines going bankrupt,
OPEC pumping at capacity,
Panic Buying of Petroleum,
Third World struggling with fuel prices,

... and this is before the peak has set in.

So, here it is. To all the alternative energy proposals.
Where's the beef? We need energy NOW.

This is not a hypothetical dilemma. This is not Y2K. This is our civilization.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Postcards from the Pétrole Epoque VI

Executed Chinese prisoners skinned for collagen treatments
Skin from prisoners executed in China is being used to develop cosmetic collagen treatments aimed at the European market, according to The Guardian.
The newspaper says that agents from a China-based company claim the skin, which is taken from prisoners after they have been shot, is being used to develop the collagen for anti-aging treatments such as wrinkle and lip-filling injections.

Solyant lipstick. I guess Thomas Friedman is correct. The world is flat. And Chinese make the prettiest lips, as well as the cheapest DVD players.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

our winter of discontent

The Peak-Oil Crisis: The Storms of August
As the storm moved towards shore, first the offshore oil platforms in its path were badly mauled. Some 30 rigs were sunk including hubs that concentrate and prepare the oil for transport to shore. We do not yet have a complete assessment of the damage to the undersea network of pipelines that brings the oil to shore, but if the damage done by much weaker Hurricane Ivan last year is any guide it should be considerable. In the opinion of one knowledgeable commentator, it will take years to bring production back to pre-hurricane levels.
Now we get to the key question of what all this means for those of us living here on the East Coast and who are hopelessly dependent on Gulf produced or refined oil for our lifestyles and livelihoods.
First, there will be an unprecedented natural gas problem this winter with prices increasing several fold and there will most likely be serious shortages. There is simply no way to replace the shut-in Gulf production in time for the winter heating season.
For the United States , borrowing our way out of the current predicament without any serious conservation measures (such as a 55 mph speed limit or rationing) certainly can't last long.
Several years ago Kenneth Deffeyes, one of the leading peak oil theorists, facetiously selected Thanksgiving 2005 as the exact date the world would reach Hubbert's peak. You know, it is starting to look as if he just might be right.

Ramp up that ethanol any time, people. Come Dunder, come Blixem.

Santa has a big ol' lump a coal for America and Europe this Christmas -- literally, coal -- that is what the U.S. has left in copious supply when the energy squeeze elucidated the above article by Tom Whipple hits. It remains an open question whether the stockings will be transported with care to your local big block store, in the face of $3.00 a gallon gasoline and rising.

All the alternatives are out there. Elephant grass? Get cracking, it takes more than a few clicks of the sliderule to make it work. Solar? Fab that silicon. Wind -- requires steel, requires energy, you get what you pay for, eventually. Nuclear energy? Feh. Don't shit in the well, I say.

All the alternatives are out there, presently in quantities less than we need, with a falling supply of the cheap stuff.

So if you live up North (and I'm looking at you too, U.K.) -- better make sure you are stocked up on sweaters this winter. Money aside, there may not be enough natural gas to go around this year.

If worst comes to worst, you can always sleep in your tauntaun's belly. Of course, that trick only works once, as the Easter Islanders discovered to their chagrin.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

ergamine interlude

Three excellent new books
The first is Oil Addiction – The World in Peril (ISBN 1-58112-494-5) by Pierre Chomat, an ex-oilman. He introduces the term Ergamine (or energy slave) to refer to the energy released by fossil fuels. One gram of oil gives as much energy as a manual labourer can deliver in a day’s work. He quotes some nice examples : a plane load of tourists, flying from California to see the Great Pyramid of Egypt, consume as much energy as was used in building it. Running a domestic clothes-washer consumes as much energy as it would take a crane to lift the house 23 feet into the air. He points out how Modern Man is barely conscious of the massive amount of energy he consumes in the daily life during this most exceptional epoch in history. He links this dependence with recent geopolitical events and the posturing of governments incapable of facing the reality of what unfolds.

I watched "The End of Suburbia" with some friends last week -- discussing it afterwords I brought up this example -- and got teased a little bit. Justifiably so, as I mangled it in re-telling. The example seems to ignore the energy inputs for the manual labourer and focuses on what they can deliver.

So taking in the whole equation -- tracking how much energy is exerted to grow the food that the labourers eat and so on, would increase the overall energy requirements to build the Great Pyramid.

I also enjoyed Jon's claim that the energy it takes to make a Big Gulp Slurpee (Cherry flavor) is more than the energy it took to build the great wall of China (correct me if I got the details of his arguement mixed up :-).

Monday, September 12, 2005

Washington state gas tax update

It looks like the gas tax in Washington State is in serious trouble. As gasoline prices rise, it is easy for a large segment of the population, particuarly the eastern, conservative half of the state, to resent a tax which will seemingly benefit King County.

It is fair to say also that for the time being, Peak Oil isn't on the agenda for State and Local officials, so some of the proposed infrastructure (new bridges, etc) take on the aspect of a boondoggle when traffic can be expected to be significantly thinner in 10 years.

More later, after the initiative to repeal the tax is voted on. If it is dumped, discussing what is done with the money (a very important topic) will be moot.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

alternative energy

Engineer Poet has some posts up exploring alternative energy:

faq (on alternatives)
Question #1: Do solar panels ever pay back the energy needed to make them?
Answer: Yes. As of the late 1990's, systems based on crystalline silicon PV panels returned their energy of manufacture in less than 4 years (about 3 years for the module and frame), and systems based on thin-film panels in a bit over two years (2 years for the module and frame); advances were expected to reduce the system figures to about 2 years and 1 year, respectively.
Source: NREL
(added 2005-Sep-08)

This caught my interest -- I need to survey solar technologies again. I know that about a year ago my Dad priced out a "complete" home solar system, including deep cycle batteries and in no way did a complete system pay for itself in 4 years -- more like 15. That includes profit for the solar company and installation, of course. However, I can readily believe that the cost of the solar panels themselves are dropping in terms of energy cost -- although for the average buyer, prices are high because solar is booming right now.

A Lever and a Place to Stand
It appears that a process which uses biomass to produce carbon which is then used to drive a zinc cycle for zinc-air fuel cells could replace all petroleum-based motor fuel used in the USA, and all of the natural gas burned for electric generation as well. No process for turning biomass into ethanol could accomplish anywhere near as much for the same inputs, and no alcohol process can use wind power to generate the same product. Even allowing for rather poor efficiency of zinc-air fuel cells, the zinc route gets much better leverage out of limited inputs.

Read the whole post -- in the sense that this conclusion relies on something akin to a life-cycle analysis, note that various input variables greatly affect energy output levels. More simply, we don't have the specific energy infrastructure in place to do this on the scale suggested. This infrastructure is but one variable.

As peak oil sets in, projects to rethink and redo how we aquire energy will become extremely difficult.

Chopping down trees for firewood will remain tragically easy.

katrina left an open wound

What We Did on Our Vacation via the ergosphere
In short order, the police commander came across the street to address our group. He told us he had a solution: we should walk to the Pontchartrain Expressway and cross the greater New Orleans Bridge where the police had buses lined up to take us out of the city. The crowed cheered and began to move. We called everyone back and explained to the commander that there had been lots of misinformation and wrong information and was he sure that there were buses waiting for us. The commander turned to the crowd and stated emphatically, “I swear to you that the buses are there.

We organized ourselves and the 200 of us set off for the bridge with great excitement and hope. As we marched pasted the convention center, many locals saw our determined and optimistic group and asked where we were headed. We told them about the great news. Families immediately grabbed their few belongings and quickly our numbers doubled and then doubled again. Babies in strollers now joined us, people using crutches, elderly clasping walkers and others people in wheelchairs. We marched the 2-3 miles to the freeway and up the steep incline to the Bridge. It now began to pour down rain, but it did not dampen our enthusiasm.

As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various directions. As the crowd scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched forward and managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told them of our conversation with the police commander and of the commander’s assurances. The sheriffs informed us there were no buses waiting. The commander had lied to us to get us to move.

We questioned why we couldn’t cross the bridge anyway, especially as there was little traffic on the six-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their city. These were code words for if you are poor and black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River and you were not getting out of New Orleans.

I am eagerly awaiting the mainstream media -- supposedly newly entoothed with fierce prosecutorial vigor -- to pick this story up.

The story won’t be picked up of course. This will end up in a slick in a few months, and referred to obliquely by pundits, with standard dissembling from the non-reality based community.

Katrina has left an oozing sore on North America on many levels. The scabby crust of see-no-evil racial politics in America has been ripped. The energy structure that feeds the beast, smashed apart.

Will this event enforce a moral awakening in the United States? No, the poor will get $2000 dollar debit cards, and a flood of donated goods, but their social class will not change.

Heavily armed Blackwater mercenaries on 6 month rotations will patrol poorblack infested regions, earning $350 dollars a day for the privilege of keeping the criminal element in line with social expectations.

Meanwhile poor children in America still won’t get enough nutrition to focus in school. That is a privilege of the middle class in America.

Freedom isn't free.

Friday, September 09, 2005

goodbye, brownie

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

no blood on our hands, then

Many people operate under the eminently reasonable theory that global warming is part and parcel of warming oceans, including of course the Gulf of Mexico, which in turn amps up the intensity and duration of hurricanes. I’ve stated as much here. Real Climate takes a very exacting scientific approach here.

Ross Gelbspan said simply: “The hurricane that struck Louisiana yesterday was nicknamed Katrina by the National Weather Service. Its real name is global warming.

This strikes some as an accusation –- an accusation they feel they can safely deride and ignore. Now, while it is certain at this point that the globe is warming, long time deniers with ties to the elephantine side of the U.S. government attempt to cover their shame and retain personal dignity by claiming that humans have nothing to do with global warming –- these are natural cycles.

Consider the arguments of James Glassman, attempting to rebut Ross Gelbspan and others:
(T)he response of environmental extremists fills me with what only can be called disgust. They have decided to exploit the death and devastation to win support for the failed Kyoto Protocol, which requires massive cutbacks in energy use to reduce, by a few tenths of a degree, surface warming projected 100 years from now.

Katrina has nothing to do with global warming. Nothing. It has everything to do with the immense forces of nature that have been unleashed many, many times before...

The hyperbolic paragraph regarding the limpidly feckless Kyoto treaty is so far outside the bounds of observable reality that no specific rebuttal is required. As to Katrina having nothing to do with global warming, that is not established. Given a warming globe, and localized warming in the Gulf, the intensity of this specific storm appears to have been raised. One has to wonder how NOAA was able to predict that this hurricane season would be unusually intense. Tea leaves, perhaps, or goat entrails.

It is logically correct to say that “(Katrina) has everything to do with the immense forces of nature that have been unleashed many, many times before”. It follows that a category five hurricane might well have struck New Orleans in the absence of global warming.

It does not follow that the presence of global warming fails to affect hurricanes in general, including Katrina, and that the scope and devastation of hurricanes and other weather events is likely to become more extreme, as has long been predicted by climatologists. See “The Change in the Weather” for a good survey of this topic.

Giant hurricanes are rare, but they are not new. And they are not increasing. To the contrary. Just go to the website of the National Hurricane Center and check out a table that lists hurricanes by category and decade. The peak for major hurricanes (categories 3,4,5) came in the decades of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.

Ok I will check the website, and I suggest you do as well. Fascinating. Glassman says that major hurricanes have “peaked”, as if hurricane were a natural resource like oil that one could deplete. However: Organized as it is in decades, note that the last decade on the chart is incomplete –- filled out through 2004! Add in 2005 major hurricanes -- two so far and we are in the middle of the season. Extrapolate obvious weather trends through 2010. The “peak decade” is in danger of being surpassed.

"Because hurricanes form over warm ocean water, it is easy to assume that the recent rise in their number and ferocity is because of global warming. But that is not the case, scientists say. Instead, the severity of hurricane seasons changes with cycles of temperatures of several decades in the Atlantic Ocean. The recent onslaught 'is very much natural,' said William M. Gray, a professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University who issues forecasts for the hurricane season.'"

Gray is a climate contrarian, and skepticism is a fine thing in science. Hurricanes are a great way for skeptics to get a little footing on the topic, because hurricane data is not complete going back through the decades –- compare the complete satellite coverage of the present era. I’m sure spotty and incomplete data from the 1940’s etcetera leads to some corker arguments for scientists, even amongst global warming proponents.

Meanwhile, the glaciers are melting and the tundra is defrosting.
Global warming affects the temperature of the oceans, which in turn affects hurricanes.

Katrina was a hurricane.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

snake eyes

Linking up global warming with peak energy / oil has been one of a primary themes on this blog. Hurricane Katrina has brought this siamese twin meme in into high relief.

Global warming, caused by burning an excess of carbon fuels too quickly, has warmed oceans and energized hurricanes, raising the odds that one would barrel through the Gulf region, devastating oil and gas production, as has just happened. Jackpot. All the bells rung, and doubloons piled up on the floor.

Now, re-revealed occult wisdom for Americans who have had so much for so long: Go 5 days without water, and you might die. Hopeless treks to a tossed Wal-Mart won’t save anyone -– that’s where one goes to harvest the bounty of the developing world, but what if the world stops developing?

This has some pertinence to certain peak oil scenarios – and I note that the Oil Drum has a serious discussion of this topic.

It is a discussion that needs to happen. The stakes are high, and happy-geeks who claimed that die-offs were theoretical and genocidal have just had their noses rubbed in reality.

I’m going to get back to energy news this week, but I wanted to acknowledge some of the sharper thinking on hurricane Katrina I’ve been following.

Past PeakExhaustive coverage of mendacity.
James WolcottNew Orleans died for Bush’s sins.
Peak Energy AussieBest round up.
Bouphonia Two crystal posts and counting.

George Bush sat at the table. He’d been there for hours, and beads of sweat were rolling down his sides. He felt as though he were sticking to his chair. Dame Condaleeza, wearing a floppy hat took a drag on her slender cigarette as she fanned sugar daddy. Drinks sat empty on the felt.

“Seventeen. Hit me,” said George. He eyed the dealer cards. The ceiling fan above took on a palpable wobble as George pawed at his chips.

The dealer paused.

“Are you sure?”

George smirked. “Hit me!”

A Queen of Hearts materialized. The dealer shrugged and began to collect the colored chips at the President’s elbow.

“Wait a minute!” George said, grabbing the dealers gloved hand. “No one could have predicted a Queen in this situation! It is unprecedented!

The dealer shrugged. “Well, you’re busted,” said Cheney. He motioned to someone to refill drinks. “But at least you’re still the President.”

Sunday, September 04, 2005

captain cracker, failing earnestly

As I type this, on vacation, my keyboard is making two noises. One being the usual mechanical click built into the molded petroleum device. The other is the heavy thump of my fingers furiously smacking into the plastic keys.

It is impossible to know where to begin, in describing a great American tragedy, and it is impossible to remain calm when considering the repercussions.

Katerina. There was no saving the oil rigs, the natural gas wells, the gulf pipelines. The refineries are wrecked. They’re off the hook. While the short term distillate crisis, the missing gasoline, will punt Americans into considerations of conservation, an ominous undertow has entered geopolitics.

Peak oil is almost certainly here. By the time the missing oil production in the gulf is back online (years, if ever) – Saudi will be in decline. Maybe that is why FEMA is trolling peak oil sites. Oh, and if Saudi pumps 500,000 extra barrels of sickly, sour, lumpy, crude, will it make a sound? What is the sound of one hand clapping, grasshopper? Read on.

On to the unmitigated tragedy of New Orleans. Some might say it is lucky only 100 odd people are “confirmed dead”, by state.

Are the casualty numbers not then confusing? Perhaps FEMA has the categories mixed up on the spreadsheets – let us check the animals and property loss column.

Scientists who traffic in supposedly confusing concepts like Hydrology tell us that 250,000 humans were likely unable to leave New Orleans and regions south. Never mind Mississippi, where thousands of square miles lie flattened. Clearly, America is missing a lot of poor, black people. Alligators and flies have since found many of them, chemical waste notwithstanding.

But who listens to scientists? Not George Bush, and not Mike Brown “Brownie”, the caddy Bush put in charge of FEMA. Previously, Bush praised the Clinton FEMA director James Witt in the 2000 debates with Gore -- but at this point, we all know that Bush prizes loyalty over competence. Competence was shown the door.

Brownie spent a long, leisurely time on Thursday fielding questions during a press conference -- sucking his own dick, talking about setting up humane cages for the negroes in the coming weeks, smoking a bowl – doing anything except leading an emergency effort to drop water, milk and food for the thousands at the convention center miles away. Doing anything except rescuing babies. Babies dying from dehydration -- tongues lolling from their mouths. Friday night – the babies were still there. Fox News had a feed.

Chertoff blamed people who make 10 grand a year for not evacuating in cars they didn’t own with gasoline they couldn’t afford.

All those useless eaters – too stupid to save themselves. This is what a die-off looks like. Jay Hanson has a better bead on our future (as a verb) than any ten overfed optimists.

Helicopters were available, are available. Choppers which had the ability to drop thousands of pounds of sand on the sundered levee. Clearly, FEMA had no supplies to drop. Cronycrats in dockers, dockers around their ankles, competence in Arabian Horses and not disaster, blamed “Urban Warfare” and lawlessness. Their white asses flashed in the sun as these lies were uttered.

Yes -- there was gunfire in New Orleans. And yeah, there were panicked drug addicts, looking for something to take the edge off.

So what? Forgive me for not buying into the bullshit hysteria. I saw the video, from actual reporters on the ground. You would have been more likely to see Sasquatch than urban warfare. Unless of course you chose to include the military and the police, guns at ready, carefully eyeing the elderly, poor, and infirm, menacing from their wheelchairs, glowing with feral hunger and helplessness.

A pizza deliveryman in Los Angeles is in more danger of injury than someone driving a truck stocked with water in New Orleans.

Who are these sawed off runts, covering their asses? What government rodent, sporting a diploma mill doctorate, is putting out orders to stand down relief and aid? Why are phone lines being cut? Why was available aid stopped at checkpoints? Do we live in 1950’s communist Russia?

Bouphonia reasonably assumes that the purpose of incompetent federal agencies is quite clear under the Bush Administration: To prove that government doesn’t work, while simultaneously robbing the taxpayers blind.

Consider the lesson learned.

Take heed, USA. You are a damaged node.

More Tuesday.

Asked about President Bush's comment Thursday to ABC News that, "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees," Chertoff defended his boss.

"I think that did catch people by surprise," the secretary said. "I don't think anybody has seen that kind of massive breach -- in fact, multiple, massive breaches."

Scientists, federal officials and others had predicted for decades the potential for a Katrina-like disaster, with levees breaking and water swamping New Orleans, most of which sits below sea level.

Every Word Is True