Saturday, April 30, 2005

if it acts human, kill it

I was chatting with some friends about my post on adding human liver genes into rice. The suggestion being that there are levels of absurdity that had not yet been reached, funny hah hah. Then someone mentioned some research about sheep with human brain cells.

Life imitates art just as fast as it can.

Creating 'human-animals' for research
He can't wait to examine the effects of the human cells he had injected into the fetus' brain about two months ago.
"It's mice on a large scale," Chamberlain says with a shrug.
In January, an informal ethics committee at Stanford University endorsed a proposal to create mice with brains nearly completely made of human brain cells. Stanford law professor Hank Greely, who chaired the ethics committee, said the board was satisfied that the size and shape of the mouse brain would prevent the human cells from creating any traits of humanity.

Just in case, Greely said, the committee recommended closely monitoring the mice's behavior and immediately killing any that display human-like behavior.

Friday, April 29, 2005

piggy bank

Postcards from the Pétrole Epoque II

GM fears as human liver gene is put into rice
(A)nti-GM campaigners say using human genes will scare off consumers worried about cannibalism and the idea of scientists playing God.
(Prof Richard Meilan) said talk of "Frankenstein foods" was rubbish and added: "I do not have any ethical issue with using human genes to engineer plants."

Now it is true that an individual gene is kind of a neutral thing. And, humans share lots and lots of genes with every other living critter out there to begin with.

That isn't the point - the point is, this is funny.

Thursday, April 28, 2005


Following the news on peak oil and energy -- which has grown from a trickle to a deluge since I started actively blogging in December of 2004 -- I am struck by something.

Like climate change, peak energy has precursors, signs of burgeoning changes which began to add up and fill in the blanks for those of us who are supposedly forecasting the future.

We're not forecasting anything, we are observing the present.

A few examples of what I mean:

(Via LATOC Breaking News)
Blackouts Possible, Warn Officials
More Power Blackouts Are Likely on Lack of Investment, PwC Says
April 18 (Bloomberg) -- Power blackouts similar to those in the U.S. East Coast, Italy and the U.K. two years ago are likely to be repeated around the world because of insufficient investment and aging power plants, PriceWaterhouseCoopers said.

Note the conventional interpretation. We need more investment. One wonders how the investment bankers missed that we would need all that capacity. More likely, they didn't miss a trick. Blackouts are the future, blackouts are now.

(Via Energy Bulletin)
The Politics of Peak Oil and Fascism
Their distinctive theme is "Britishness" with the emphasis on "whiteness". (...) I went up to Nick Griffin, confirmed his identity and then asked why he was here amongst all these left-wingers. His measured answer was that though Peak Oil received minimal coverage in their manifesto, they see it as a long-term issue which may well make its way up to the top of their policy list.

Peak energy is a fulcrum for change. There is promise and peril there, and the jostling has begun. People are getting wise to the situation and taking action. Don't like what you see? Don't be left out.

(Via Peak Energy Australia)
U.S. Considers Toughening Stance Toward Venezuela
The United States, he said, is particularly concerned because Venezuela is one of four top providers of foreign oil to the United States. "You can't write him off," the aide said of Mr. Chávez.
But it has found no allies so far in its attempts to isolate the Venezuelan leader, and it has grown more and more frustrated by Mr. Chávez's strident anti-American outbursts and policies that seem intended to fly in the face of Washington.

Boo Hoo Hoo. Huge, crocodile tears being shed in for the benefit of the Grey Lady. Did that article even mention the coup ths U.S. ran a few years back? What is tougher than that?

Ah yes - an oil war. Iraq, Venezuela, and Iran.
A chimp could connect those dots.

Marrels of Oil

Nobody picks on George Bush.

The trick being, if you are in the mainstream media, to fabulate what he actually says into something that is palatable for a wide audience.

It works like this. (This is only a simulation - so relax.)


"George Bush WELCOME TO SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY likes to walk to helicopter I AM THE MOST IGNORANT PERSON ON TV and salutes the press at waist level I WILL PROVE IT COMING UP NEXT"


I am a blogger. I am not bound to write for an audience, or even an editor. I can actually write according to the prods and slaps of mine own conscience.

So, while I am not going to pick on George Bush, I can at least direct you to someone who is reporting on what Bush actually says, rather than on PAJAMA PARTY AT NEVERLAND RANCH.

Technology Will Save Us
Mike Malloy of Air America Radio played several clips from the address, and Bush certainly sounds as confused as ever. At one point Bush said "Marrels of Oil" in a slip of the tongue. Malloy lit off by pointing out Bush's trivialization of real conservation initiatives, be they hybrid cars or bicycles or hot-air balloons or our own damn feet; and then concluded: "There isn't any more oil, George".

If we were real reporters, we'd get paid to distract you from this kind of thing.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

an energy budget

Looking at the ASPO charts for oil depletion, we see that barring geopolitical events that curtail oil and natural gas depletion, we will soon be working within the constraints of an energy budget. Peak energy is at hand.

This is not a bad thing in and of itself, but one thing is clear.

All the grand ideas for what's next - be it more nuclear plants, windmill farms, or what have you - will be scrambling for crumbs of energy like pigs feeding from the same trough.

I wonder what will win the energy sweepstakes? Tanks maybe? That would be a disaster.

More humorous are the local boondoggles - I guess - in the sense that they represent huge missed opportunities. In Seattle, my hometown, we tried for light rail, and ended up voting for an useless monorail, an art installation. (Not the 1962 world's fair monorail - gonna build a new one.)

And then there is this, courtesy of Cascadia Scorecard:
Traffic Jam by Clark Williams-Derry
I think that (Seattle's) preferred option for replacing the Viaduct with a tunnel -- which would cost $4.5 billion to replace 2.2 miles of highway, plus some work to reconnect the street grid -- is wildly expensive, especially given that transportation planners think that they could raise at most $100 million by tolling the facility.
One hundred years of highway. Ugh. I'd much rather have nothing than that. It would be much better to use the $2 billion to replace the seawall, tear down the Viaduct, and invest in a plan to move people into and through downtown without a gold-plated highway.

I think every American city has similar tales of megaprojects, a continued slathering of progress layered over progress.

From where I sit, I hope the Seattle Viaduct money is used for something useful, because by 2007, when the project is slated to start, it will be blazingly apparent to everyone in the world that cars are doomed.

Not humanity; cars.

I can live with that. So let's take on city hall!

Monday, April 25, 2005

defrosting global warming

I tend to believe that humanity is going to burn every scrap of carbon they can get their paws on, and thus depletion is a boon – forcing humans to deal with the global carbon cycle now, for the better or the worse. I’ve spent a fair amount of personal energy trying to take a fair look at the alternatives.

Of the high energy alternatives, nuclear won’t be able to fill the gap – it has immense startup and cleanup capital costs. Ethanol is clownish on a large scale. Methane hydrates are not proven as a recoverable energy source (and of course – just more carbon or direct greenhouse gas in the form of methane).

Leaving us with efficiency and conservation, and technology that can be applied to same. Wind, water and solar will fill local gaps.

This may be enough; after all, 66% of today’s oil should exist in 2030. So the world won’t enjoy cut rate goods shipped across the world any more. So what? Who gives a sheep dip about the global economy? Local wine is as good as any. Bring on the depression.

That is all well and good, but what about ongoing climate change? Kind of a wildcard, given sunk carbon costs, and increasingly, a scary one. James Inhofe (Senator, Ok.) can brandish fiction footnoted to Ann Coulter’s exacting standards, even place it in the congressional record, but it don’t dent reality. Glaciers are shrinking, the oceans are acidic, the thermohaline circulation is flickering, spring is encroaching on winter, and the arctic tundra is defrosting.

The tundra, then.

The Climate of Man – I
One of the risks of rising temperatures is that this storage process can start to run in reverse. Under the right conditions, organic material that has been frozen for millennia will break down, giving off carbon dioxide or methane, which is an even more powerful greenhouse gas. In parts of the Arctic, this is already happening.
No one knows exactly how much carbon is stored in the world’s permafrost, but estimates run as high as four hundred and fifty billion metric tons.

Add to that the decreasing albedo of the Arctic:

“Not only is the albedo of the snow-covered ice high; it’s the highest of anything we find on earth,” he went on. “And not only is the albedo of water low; it’s pretty much as low as anything you can find on earth. So what you’re doing is you’re replacing the best reflector with the worst reflector.”

Houston, there is a problem. Really, it is all happening too quickly; half of the currently interred oil and gas is waiting to be produced and burned (that is excluding methane hydrates) and a heap of coal to boot.

The unspeakable possibility, while speculative in particulars, is that humanity may have already front loaded the globe with enough greenhouse gases to pulse out all the carbon dioxide and methane in the arctic tundra, which in turn may be enough to raise the temperature of the oceans enough to disturb the methane hydrates.

Something bad could happen, something like this.

The behavior of humankind seems genocidal, er, omnicidal.

Friday, April 22, 2005

don't mess up a good thing

Postcards from the Pétrole Epoque

Qatar to replace camel riders with robots
DOHA, Qatar (AP) -- With the reins in one hand and a whip in the other, the purple-jerseyed rider prodded a camel around the track.

But this jockey wasn't the usual underfed boy. The jockey was a robot.

Under the watchful eyes of his Swiss developer and Qatari owners, the robot -- dubbed Kamel -- rode a racing camel for 1.5 miles, reaching speeds of 25 miles per hour in a non-competitive trial run.

When I explain how stupid the priorities of our civilization were to my wee grand children, this story, and hopefully an authentic robot jockey, will be in the time capsule.

All this, apparently, because Qatar needs a replacement for jockey children around the age of 9 who were variously sold into slavery or kidnapped.

In Qatar, ruling sheiks have responded to calls for banning the use of boy jockeys by embracing robots as the best solution.

Apparently, no other solutions sprang to mind - just robots.

greenspan flippety flop

Greenspan Says He Expects Tax Increases
Greenspan said he thinks "it's frankly unfair" for critics to blame him now for the fact that Congress chose to "read half [his] testimony and discard the rest."

Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.) said he believed it was "fair to consider how your message would be taken" and that lawmakers saw Greenspan's 2001 remarks as "providing a green light" for tax cuts, which were enacted without triggers.

"I plead guilty to that," Greenspan said. "If indeed that is the way it was interpreted, I missed it. In other words, I did not intend it that way."

Thursday, April 21, 2005

natural gas shortfall

Many of people have a corner on changes in the energy sector at this point, even if they don't have the full picture. Along those lines, Unplanner interviewed a Natural Gas company exec on his blog and the results were interesting. Some excerpts:

Natural Gas[p]! A conversation with an Industry Insider
The executive confirmed that the pessimistic projections of future gas supply were in fact the most probable to occur. In his professional opinion (which was backed by years of hands-on experience in the energy sector) the natural gas situation is on the verge of significant shortfalls. Depletion is taking an increasing toll on producers by forcing them to drill more frequently and in more challenging locations.
According to this executive, LNG is North America’s last hope. Although not expressed in those words, per say, it appeared to him that perhaps it is our only hope. (...)
. A further chokepoint for this country exists with the regasification plants. Only four are operational, none on the West Coast. Over a dozen have been proposed for construction along the coast but as of this spring, only one, Sempra’s Energy Costa Azul plant has actually completed the permitting stage and is under construction, with a completion date of early 2008, according to their website. The remaining LNG facilities still face numerous obstacles ranging from governmental permitting to local opposition groups.

A lot more at the source - check it out. The executive seems to think we needs lots of LNG to fill the gap by 2020, although it remains to be seen if the infrastructure will be in place to deliver.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

welcome to the party

Hawks, hippies and the holy unite to turn America green
Between them, the Christian and neocon right, the enviro-left, and the mullahs of the Middle East may finally achieve what a young Thatcherite once dreamt of. The geo-neocon-green movement may have arrived. Just in time.

Let me start with this quote, from the end of the article, because it is the only time, other than the title, that Andrew Sullivan mentions the left. I guess that is the sum total of the debt owed by the right to left on this issue. A single word. Andrew Sullivan can waltz in, like Andrew Jackson, and claim the land owned by the native environmentalists without a speck of cognitive dissonance. Ole.

Welcome to the party, asshole.

A couple of decades ago a young Tory wannabe policy analyst (Andrew Sullivan) wrote a pamphlet called Greening the Tories. It was an attempt to argue that being in favour of environmental protection and energy conservation was not necessarily a liberal or statist idea.

How did a few decades sucking up to Da Man work out?

Take the hawks first. Some key advocates for the war against Saddam Hussein — among them Frank Gaffney, the neocon fire-breather, and James Woolsey, a former CIA chief — have come out as born-again conservationists, dedicated to promoting green technologies that can liberate the US from near-complete reliance on oil imports.

Haha! Like what?

These groups have now allied with more traditional environmental lobbies to form an organisation called Set America Free. What do they propose? There are competing ideas. Among them: tax credits for researching new forms of energy; more government research into alternatives to oil; more nuclear power; more exploitation of domestic oil and coal reserves; higher taxes on petrol; encouragement of hybrid car technology.

Oh – I see – more of the same, plus conservation. Given peak oil, conservation is the only trick in the bag, whether you are left, right, or (zut alors!) French. Excellent – stating the obvious, a party trick to impress the rubes.

Mankind, they argue, has a duty to be a good steward of God’s world. And that means energy conservation. “The environment is a values issue,” the Rev Ted Haggard, president of the 30m-member National Association of Evangelicals, recently told The Washington Post. “There are significant and compelling theological reasons why it should be a banner issue for the Christian right.”

Ah, the Christians. The Christian right. It is old news that there is significant environmental thought amongst almost every political faction on earth, excluding bankers and CEO’s, and of course, polticians, owned by the former.

And the Christians had as much effect saving the environment as the Sierra Club, which is to say, none.

But trot out the Christians, Andrew Sullivan – cuz they are aligned with you on this topic, if not gay marriage.

Does this movement have a future? That’s hard to tell. John Kerry made energy independence a key plank of his presidential campaign — and, of course, he lost.

Of course?!!?

Kerry lost because Ohio and Florida were hacked. And I don’t follow the logic – didn’t John Kerry suggest the exact same thing that one Andrew Sullivan just spent a column of words supporting?

The geo-green movement is born of necessity and desperation, not a benign attempt to save the world. Making it safe for the hummer set to conserve. A joke.

Just in time.

Monday, April 18, 2005

ethanol and wholphins: better than soylant green

The Future of Ethanol
Back in the mid 1990s, Brazil ended its ethanol subsidies. Nevertheless, with world oil prices hovering around $55 a barrel, the price of ethanol today is only half that of gasoline.

Brazilian biorefineries are virtually energy self-sufficient because they burn bagasse to power and heat the mill and refineries. Bagasse, the fiber fraction of cane, is brought to the mill along with the sugar cane. In Minnesota the corn stover (stalk, etc.) is not transported to the mill along with the corn kernels.

Brazilian car population is much smaller than the U.S., but in the quantities they are generating now it appears that the fuel may have positive EROEI. Sugar is the source material in Brazil; I don’t know how it stacks up to corn. The million dollar follow up question is how much crop land is being set aside for what population of cars. This is important because few countries have massive croplands they can set aside for non-food production. Anybody out there speak Portuguese? This is one I'll be following up on.

Worse than the Dust Bowl
The Bonneville Power Administration, the Portland-based federal agency that markets electricity from US government dams on the Columbia River, expects power prices to surge this summer because of drought.

So, since I last posted on the local energy situation in Washington State (and California), Washington recieved a clump of rainfall, stocking up the west side of the mountains with ¼ to ½ of normal snowpack. Better than nothing, unless you are a farmer on the east side of Washington State – there you still get nothing. And the snow is done until November. Now we all pick straws.

Energy industry takes aim at US coast
The Atlantic and Pacific coasts and the eastern Gulf of Mexico are protected by a federal ban on new oil and natural gas extraction. But with rising worry about US dependence on fuel imports and soaring prices, energy producers feel they now have a unique opportunity to relax or eliminate the restrictions.

Unique isn’t the word. The word is profit. The estimated reserves of oil in the heretofore untapped coastal regions add up to a half year of world oil supply. But they won’t affect the peak. It will be years before this oil begins to dribble out.

It’s Not Even Worth Chewing Through the Restraints
I thought it was funny that a recent study shows that Harvard student are dissatisfied with Harvard, at the same time as an op-ed piece by the horrid Michael Boskin appeared in the Wall Street Journal. Boskin is the Stanford economics "professor" who developed the actual statistical methods of lying about inflation, namely the infamous "hedonic" adjustments that have distorted the Consumer Price Index so much that it has become a joke among economists

Eric Rachner pointed out that I should search on “Michael, Boskin, hedonic, method” following my post on the Consumer Price Index of a few days back. Aha.

Study: Salmon From Farms Breed Sea Lice
“We know that the lice do infect other species,” said Krkosek, a University of Alberta mathematical biologist. “The transmission from farmed fish to wild fish is much larger than what was previously believed.”
Adult salmon can survive such infections, but the younger salmon are more vulnerable. “Normally, juvenile salmon have time to build resistance and put on body mass before they encounter these parasites,” Krkosek said.

Sixty years ago, the biggest problems with fish in schools were simple things – blowing bubbles, running in the halls. My, how things change. Fish today are unprincipled reprobates, and have been sent a plague of lice to punish their “lifestyle choice” of living off the dole and breeding fish babies.

Maybe this is why the wild salmon aren’t returning to spawn this year. Or maybe the Wholpin ate them. Somehow, they died. More evidence that humans have this whole life on Earth thing figgered and should ramp up population to 9 billion peeps.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

nuclear - not so hot

Helen Caldicott has been agitating from the left against nuclear energy for a long time. One of the advantages of reading her latest missive against nuclear is it is full of useful details. Years of practice.

Yeah, she's biased. So maybe one should gather information from industry flacks and marketing pros instead. Always remember - toxic sludge is good for you.

Nuclear Power is the Problem, Not a Solution
In the US, where much of the world's uranium is enriched, including Australia's, the enrichment facility at Paducah, Kentucky, requires the electrical output of two 1000-megawatt coal-fired plants, which emit large quantities of carbon dioxide, the gas responsible for 50per cent of global warming.

Another place for traditional energy costs to sneak in for nuclear (add to, mining of uranium, transport of uranium, cleanup ... oh wait, we don't do that - see below)

The dire subject of massive quantities of radioactive waste accruing at the 442 nuclear reactors across the world is also rarely, if ever, addressed by the nuclear industry. Each typical 1000-megawatt nuclear reactor manufactures 33tonnes of thermally hot, intensely radioactive waste per year.
To make matters worse, a study released last week by the National Academy of Sciences shows that the cooling pools at nuclear reactors, which store 10 to 30 times more radioactive material than that contained in the reactor core, are subject to catastrophic attacks by terrorists, which could unleash an inferno and release massive quantities of deadly radiation -- significantly worse than the radiation released by Chernobyl, according to some scientists.

15,000 tons of nuclear waste a year - (worldwide) - no wonder a mountain is needed to sweep it under.

Them cooling ponds are no abstraction. Their contents could melt down and burn up, like Chernobyl. Except, as pointed out above, more material is stored in many of the sites than physically existed in the reactor core at Chernobyl.

But I am sure "in the future" we will solve these problems.

Friday, April 15, 2005

flapping gums

G-7 finance officials pledge to limit effects of energy crunch on economy
An intense discussion of the energy situation dominated the meeting attended by representatives from the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Canada.
"Higher oil prices are a headwind" and the global economic expansion "is less balanced than before," the finance officials said in a joint statement.
The Group of Seven countries endorsed more timely and accurate information about the oil market, which officials said could help control price fluctuations and make companies more willing to expand production.

I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall during the G-7 meetings this week.

I even imagine a hint of desperation in the pledge to get energy costs under control - the global stock markets all fell at the end of the week, 400 points in 3 days in the U.S.

Sure, we've seen it before.

As we know, back in 2001, the US national debt was ~ 5 trillion, now of course it is ~7.5 trillion.

Numbers are fun. A trillion is a thousand billions. A billion is a thousand millions. And so on.

fixing efficient transportation

burning turkey feces

A while back I covered Changing World Technologies - wherein I idly speculated that claims on their web page may have been overstated a squidge.

Well, the plot has thickened, and now smells.

Innovative turkey-to-oil plant eats money, spits out fowl odor
(A) revolutionary plant is turning 270 tons of poultry waste into 300 barrels of crude oil every day. That would be cause for wild celebration in many circles if not for two not-so-minor problems. First, the plant is losing buckets of money, and second, some residents of the town that once welcomed it now pretty much hate it.
It turns out that process of cooking turkey guts, feathers, feces and other waste gives off a horrible stench.

The stench - well, that kind of punishes the early adopters. What really hurts is when you are losing "buckets of money" you don't have positive EROEI.


Instead, he is considering a deal to build a plant in Ireland, where costs would be considerably less, and where a recent news article predicted a plant should be operating by next year.

Yes - move somewhere far, far away where your fame does not preceed you.

Thanks to Clark Williams-Derry of Cascadia Scorecard for the link.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

pique oil prognostication whimsy

As the energy crisis trickles down, opinions on why we are paying more at the pump turn to predictable bugaboos. Further, the peak oil “community” predicts wildly different outcomes of the future. Some gloomy, some optimistic, and some try to save the future with pure thought.

Who is right? Can we predict the future? Of course not!

That doesn’t make for good readin’ – so let’s dive into the vasty deeps.

The TASTE web site collects transcendent personal experiences from scientists who are unafraid to report them. Consider this one.

What Direction Am I Facing?
As a boy, I "lived" in exactly four different houses, each one facing in a different direction, East, South, West, North. Each one was exactly the same house, peopled by the same persons. There was no difference at all between any of them except the direction they faced.

There is a straightforward explanation for this personal experience. The brain of this scientist perceived the same house in four different ways. Alternatively and more poetically, four instances of the same scientist shifted among four universes.

The orientation of the house, or perception of same, is ultimately unimportant – a detail. To the extent that the scientist was able to recreate this experience later in life, his future was unaffected by the direction his house faced.

So, when predicting the future, we need to filter unimportant details that might prevent us from understanding the future. That seems tricky. Say the scientist in the story above was actually four people with different opinions on its orientation in the same universe. One would be correct, and the other three would be wrong. Different people often have vastly different perceptions about the same thing.

Since present day perceptions of our shared reality are more immediately important than the future, it might be helpful, in the case of oil depletion, to eliminate the concept of “the future” altogether. Shift focus on the way we are currently altering relatively useful hydrocarbons to relatively useless atmospheric carbon. In other words, ignore time altogether.

Is there any possible justification for ignoring the future when trying to predict it?

Famous contrarian jerk Kurt Gödel might have argued that there is.

Gödel, who hung out with Einstein during their mutual Princeton era solved Einstein’s theory of General Relativity in such a way to eliminate Time, leaving only space. This he presented to Einstein on his seventieth birthday.

Gödel and Einstein: Friendship and Relativity
Einstein saw at once that if Gödel was right, he had not merely domesticated time: He had killed it. Time, "that mysterious and seemingly self-contradictory being," as Gödel put it, "which, on the other hand, seems to form the basis of the world's and our own existence," turned out in the end to be the world's greatest illusion. In a word, if Einstein's relativity theory was real, time itself was merely ideal. The father of relativity was shocked. Though he praised Gödel for his great contribution to the theory of relativity, he was fully aware that time, that elusive prey, had once again slipped his net.

I do not think there is any observed evidence for Gödel's Rotating Universe, a space-continuum where everything exists. It would certainly leave us with some banal metaphysical conundrums to which Stephen Hawking wrote up a classic response.

Whether or not Gödel is correct about Time, time is an unimportant detail for serious prognosticators, like the orientation of the aforementioned house, and the future is a useless abstraction.

A clear eyed look at what is going on now is all that is required, just as it was is for M. King Hubbert in the 1950’s. We don’t need to predict the future; we are what the future is made of. Hubbert “predicting” peak oil is a similar feat to me “predicting” the sun will rise in the morning. Individual oil fields deplete every day, so why should it be different for all oil fields?

It isn’t. It could be, and the sun, for a variety of reasons, could fail to rise tomorrow. More likely, the world will remember both of us as singular geniuses.

Likewise, right now, the oceans are becoming more acidic, the tundra smells like spring and chimps are poking sticks into methane hydrates, cause damn it, we’re curious to see what we can get away with. Agriculture effluent runoff, right now, is flowing down a thousand streams into the ocean and spreading dead zones and algae blooms.

Right now, most agriculture relies on massive petroleum inputs. Right now, everything you buy in the supermarket travels hundreds or more likely thousands of miles. Cars are a physical necessity for most people in the United States, if they wish to participate in the culture.

There are dreams and plans for an alternate future. The hydrogen economy. A billion windmills, or solar cells. Conservation and local agriculture, simpler living. These ideas are fragmentary wisps of smoke right now. They may coalesce into sharper form and definition by and by, but in no way are they representative of how most westerners live. Some ideas, for the time being, are actually engineering challenges we have not solved yet, being presented as solutions.

So, my personal prediction of the so-called future, given oil depletion, involves adding up everything we are doing today, and subtracting everything we are not doing, and then just using my intuition.

And I think you should do the same.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

pick your poison

Off topic kudos to American saki producer, Anheuser-Busch, for stating that they will not buy rice from Missouri should the state move ahead with medicinal crops.

From the article:
Last month, Arkansas-based Riceland Foods Inc., the world's largest rice miller and marketer, asked federal regulators to deny a permit for Ventria's project, saying Riceland customers don't want to risk buying genetically-modified rice. Anheuser-Busch is believed to be the first major company to threaten a boycott over the issue, according to comments filed last month with the Agriculture Department.
Scott Deeter, president of Sacramento-based Ventria, called Anheuser-Busch's threat "totally irresponsible" and said fears of contamination are overblown. - - - "Any concerns have been addressed thoroughly to the satisfaction of the scientific community," said university president Dean Hubbard.

People hate GM crops for two reasons. One, despite Dean Hubbards absurd statement, all GM tinkering is taking place before we understand the outcome. Running these experiments outdoors, uncontrolled, is not scientific - it is dangerous. It has a lot more to do with money, which ties into the second reason people hate GM crops: They are intellectual property of the corporations that "invent" them. These corporations want to control the seed supply and license the right to grow things to farmers.

I'm fine with controlled GM experiments, and scientific inquiry in general.

Massively growing pharmecuticals and potentially corrupting our food supply is stupid. (Don't eat too much rice - you might overdose.)

This Bud's for you!

Monday, April 11, 2005

lies, damn lies, and the Consumer Price Index

The Runaway Economy Cover Up
I decided to get to the bottom of the situation because there are two things I will not permit other people to do 1) insult me to my face and 2) lie. No matter how you slice it that is what is going on here. Government economists are telling the citizens of this country that inflation is low when at the same time we are directly experiencing the prices of everything rising and not by a mere 2-3 percent.
(I)f the costs of all of these basic goods and services have been rising at roughly a ten-percent annual rate, then why aren’t we being told the truth? If you and I are paying more for our homes, gasoline, utilities, doctor bills, etc. (and we have been every year), then how can the government economists cook the books in plain view and get away with claiming a 3 percent or less average CPI rate? Good question.

What the government doesn't realize, is that in the real world, people do in fact buy milk.

Anyways, good article, talks crude oil and energy although doesn't make the connection between them and inflation directly - which is understandable. Up until 2001 or so, crude oil was pretty dang cheap.

Obviously, oil is the driver for inflation this year. This year we exceed 10% inflation.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

six degrees of gary bauer

Consider a quote from the following article:

Rising Oil Prices Changing National Energy Strategies
Frequent attacks on Iraq's oil pipelines have demonstrated the vulnerability of the world's oil infrastructure. Security experts, such as Anne Korin, Director of the group "Set America Free," which spearheaded the bipartisan effort, believe a major attack is inevitable.
"If we look at Saudi Arabia we have several big facilities, which, if they were hit, would take a significant chunk of capacity off the market and that would really have a devastating effect on oil prices," says (Anne) Korin.

This is wonky and reasonable analysis. Infrastructure is indefensible. You can't drive an oil refinery behind a hill. So I went digging to see who represents Set America Free.

Among the list of signatories:

Gary L. Bauer --- Famous God Lobbyist
James Woolsey - Owns a Prius. Ex CIA
Frank Gaffney -- Some dude

Well I declare. These names look familiar. They are plastered all over The Project for a New American Century, along with a few other miscreants, like Rumsfield, Cheney, and Wolfowitz. Further poking around on this imperial web site unearths a few more names as time goes on - Max Boot and Woolsey pop in, along with the ever present Gary L. Bauer.

Basically, the same group of uncritical thinkers that brought us perpetual pre-emptive war are now selling 500Mpg gasoline and "Green" nukes on the side. A multipronged strategy, where each prong is ridiculous.

From Set America Free - Blue Print for Energy Security
If a plug-in vehicle is also a FFV fueled with 80% alcohol and 20% gasoline, fuel economy could reach 500 miles per gallon of gasoline

This cleverly constructed sentence is factually correct, by a whisker, if the sun is shining. And journalists ate it up and rewrote it - incorrectly - as was doubtless the intent.

Set America Free is an intelligence operation.

James Woolsey bragging about his Prius is kinda funny. Inn't that a foreign car? How free is that? Calm down. One war at a time.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

this would help

Kurt Cobb at Resource Insights has put together a list of things to do with our without peak oil. In other words, these are double threat proposals - universally useful.

Go check out the reasoning.

1. Convert to organic agriculture and grow as much of our food locally as possible.
2. Relocalize daily living, work and commerce.
3. Vastly expand public transportation.
4. Convert to non-polluting, renewable energy sources.
5. Seek to stabilize and then gradually reduce world population.
6. Vastly increase the efficiency of industry.
7. Lead fully engaged lives every day.

Give Gaia Cancer

Nukes are Green NYT Nicholas Kristof
(I)t's time for the rest of us to drop that hostility to nuclear power. It's increasingly clear that the biggest environmental threat we face is actually global warming, and that leads to a corollary: nuclear energy is green.

Global energy demand will rise 60 percent over the next 25 years, according to the International Energy Agency, and nuclear power is the cleanest and best bet to fill that gap.

One of the most eloquent advocates of nuclear energy is James Lovelock, the British scientist who created the Gaia hypothesis, which holds that Earth is, in effect, a self-regulating organism.

I don’t have a problem with nuclear power as such. I like a good tan; I’ll risk the skin cancer. There is an amazing natural uranium nuclear formation in Africa that has been self regulating for millennia. I could certainly argue each of the `nuclear positives' Kristof highlights are actually negatives, but I’ve already done that in prior posts.

My real problem with people like Nicholas Kristof and cohorts (say, Thomas Friedman, also of the New York Times) is that they often have no idea what they are literally proposing, and it is like watching a young child play with blocks. The numbers and letters get mixed up and placed upside down, but the kid is happy.

Kristof gumbos up valid points, (global warming bad, global energy demand is rising) with non-sequiturs, (nuclear is the cleanest and best bet to fill that gap.)

Kristof is a tool. Not meeting the energy projections of “60 percent over 25 years” is unimaginable in his world. He has thus cast about for honeyed words and ideas to plug this fearsome gap.

Given the silly analysis in his piece, the hectoring, bully boy tone is insufferable -

Nukes are green -
It’s time for (us) to drop that hostility -
James Lovelock! Green! Likes Nukes! Be like James!

Screw Lovelock. His supposedly controversial Gaia Hypotheses was only surprising to materialist scientists, who ignored it back in the day and ignore it now. His theory never affected the vast spectrum of humanity who have always been intrinsic NIMBY environmentalists, excepting of course them who specifically profit from the globe’s destruction for the time being.

Cloaked as green, Kristof is pimping idealized industrial culture. Suck it down. Drop your hostility and open wide. You’ll like it.

Friday, April 08, 2005

up the wazoo

for happier news, flip monitor on side

You Need Us and We Need You
America’s 12-month current-account deficit now stands at $665.9 billion, or 5.7% of GDP. Since a negative balance in the current account must be complemented by a positive balance in the capital account, this means that foreign funds are streaming in. America is mortgaging its future to pay for current spending.

Thanks FTD for the link. The chart from the article is very disturbing, unless you believe the sky is the limit.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

do what I think, not what I say

More facts on the source of the Geo-Greens fevered imaginations -

- via FTD, Blowing Smoke On Gas Savings:
Mr. Boot and Mr. Zakaria clearly lifted this 500 mpg line from the same source. Mr. Boot says it came from "Set America Free, a group set up by R. James Woolsey, Frank Gaffney and other national security hawks." This group was "organized by the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security (IAGS)."
The bad science begins by treating electricity and ethanol as if they were energy sources producible without any energy use. To arrive at a figure like 500 mpg, just fill your tank with a mix of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline -- but then count only that 15 percent against "miles per gallon."

Alan Reynolds hates fantasy, bully for him. Not sure what he thinks about science fiction. As for reality, I would say he has a good grasp.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

house of cards

The Goldman-Sachs story, with a mainstream investment predicting oil spiking in price up to $105, is a few days old now. The stock market jittered up when the prediction was made.

This ultimately raises the spectre of depression due to spiking oil prices.

Seperate from oil, the fundamentals of the American economy, and by implication the world economy where significant portions are denominated in dollars, are terrible.

Chalmers Johnson writes a good piece on the situation, up to date and fact heavy.

The economy is a faith based initiative right now. Oil has a good shot at making everyone lose faith, even if this isn't the year of the actual peak.

Monday, April 04, 2005

the boy who cried wolf

Every one of us suckers is going to DIE-OFF in this century.

That inevitability is set in motion by biology and not some ghoulish desire by peak oil types to preside over the apocalypse. In other words, for those over ten years old, mortality will manifest this century. You gon’ die. Maybe like a dog, but for sure.

So, ignoring our children for the moment (trust politicians to worry about them – they have the best interest of our baby goats at heart) this ordained DIE-OFF event becomes a question of degree.

Will it be painful? For everybody all at once? Or will it follow the current course of being painful for everybody at different times?

It doesn’t matter.

Humanity is growing unsustainably. This isn’t seriously in question. Most people sense it when the weather rolls in with dust and soot from China, or a confused deer wanders in to town and gallops around. Cancer is ascendant. They don’t dish up cod down at the fast food fish n’ chips anymore, serving up instead some oddster bottom feeding variant.

Love that metallic tang in the air. Asthma helps me breath cuz I know I’m alive and thus instilled with a fighting spirit. Dead zones scale up in the oceans hour by hour. There’s a local initiative in Seattle to pump oxygen into one of our rivers to wake up the sleepy fish. Without it, they’ll float like cheerios.

Raw sewage is being spread on U.S. crops, the same raw sewage that is commonly used as a dumping ground by industry (big pipes == deniability). A toxic slerm of pharmaceuticals, condoms, and heavy metals is thus imbued into our tomatoes. Heavy metals add up and poison soil for thousands of years.

Unsustainable. This essay writes itself. Michael Crikey!

So, again with the so-called geo greens. A hint of sincerity is there, mixed up with the confused yet unstated desire to propagate industrialism. Fabricate a billion veggie-mobiles? How comforting, like a clutch of organic carrots wrapped securely in plastic and shipped for a thousand miles in a freezer truck. Buy organic, you stank chimp, or the hippyman will get you.

Sustainable ideas are needed that work with the reality of peak oil.

Let me declare a moratorium on stupid ass ideas.

Ethanol on a large scale would be criminal. There are starving people in the world right now. One cannot pump this farce into a gas tank without stealing otherwise valuable food from the needy. It is not green, even were the EROEI positive. Millions of fertile acres would be required to grow sufficient ethanol crops, if the goal were to substantially nick into current oil consumption. I wonder what is growing on this acreage now? Food crops, maybe? Yeah.

Feels good, being green.

Nuclear is useless – the rube goldberg infrastructure is too complex to maintain in the face of declining oil. Existing plants will be de-commissioned, one by one. Argue if you wish, but enough people hate nuclear that the Bush administration and successors will have a tough time completing the 50 reactors planned for 2020. And even if built, even if 150 were built, they will do nothing to address the shortfall in oil and natural gas. Nothing. I’m taking bets. Thirty bushels of corn sez…

And that is it for alternative high energy candidates. The only way to make up the energy shortfall is with local ingenuity.

Local intelligence to combat global stupidity.
Reduced individual consumption (nature’s mandate).
Vastly smaller cars or bicycles replacing ironmobiles.
Local, solar powered, mineral fed, organic agriculture.
Local hydro-power, water wheels, wind, solar techniques.

Oh, and about the children, whom I ignored earlier in the essay. Don’t have more than two. One might be preferable; the better to decline human population in step with oil. Convincing disparate peoples of this is the real trick. Population reduction has been a nonstarter for a while, actually. I guess it is anti growth.

Ignore this prescription, and one is, at best, betting on energy technology that does not exist yet. Please, be my guest, dump 7 billion humans into a denuded blowtorch future because you didn’t want to suffer the discomfort of imagining your tawdry way of life being altered substantially in the short term.

Globalism is dead, long live the globe.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Clear Waters Initiative

Puget Sound Waters Getting Cleaner
TACOMA, Wash. -- A steep decline in Puget Sound-area herring, a critical food source for larger fish, marine mammals and sea birds, has Bush adminstration officials elated.

"Herring are a dietary staple for chinook salmon, cod and halibut", said Scott McClellan, White House press secretary, "and also are eaten by porpoises, seals, sea lions and orcas. This is the correct place to store polychlorinated biphenyls - at the root of the food chain."

Scott McClellan also indicated that the Bush administration intends to roll back the coal powered pleasure skiff ban instituted by the Clinton Administration as Clinton was leaving office.

Quoting Dick Cheney, McClellan said "Coal is clean, boundless, American mined energy and should be free for all to enjoy on the crystal clear waters of the Puget Sound."

same old same old