Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Kunstler – a stopped clock?

For some reason, maybe because his recent writings have penetrated the deepest into popular culture (Rolling Stone), James Howard Kunstler has lately taken on the aspect of peak oil raconteur, drawing criticism like a lightening rod because of the supposedly gloomy story he weaves.

Whether or not his biases are right or wrong is irrelevant. Here I am talking specifically of Kunstler's disdain for suburban and exurban America, and his voiced contempt for trying to prop up this wasteful and energy inefficient lifestyle in the face of cheap energy depletion.

Ah, peak petroleum.

See, the fact that we are on the cusp of hitting the production peak often gets obscured when critics can comfortably attack this Kunstler chap on a widely selected range of writings over a ten year period. (He believed in Y2K! For shame!) To these critics I would say, the egg on your face is already flying through the air.

With that as backround, it was with some amusement that I read the mini-debate between Kunstler and Amory Lovins at Salon. Former rock and roll writer and novelist takes on Lovins plus his gaggle of industry engineers, and the result, I submit, is a draw.

A draw? The Hypercar doesn’t yet exist as an option for commuters, though it was conceived in 1993. Suburbia does, and I believe Kunstler is right – suburbs are a waste of energy and unsustainable given the cars on the road today. I’m sure it will be a photo finish race from here until 2030 – and I’m guessing both gentlemen will be proven right to their own satisfaction in the end.

Sparks Fly - (click YES to view commercial if not a member)
Amory Lovins:
James Howard Kunstler criticizes me for supposedly suggesting superefficient cars at the expense of walkable neighborhoods. If he'll kindly look at my 1999 book "Natural Capitalism," he'll find that Chapter 2, "Hypercars and Neighborhoods," emphasizes the importance of both, and strongly supports New Urbanism

Here I suspect Kunstler criticized Lovins without having sufficient background on the man or his ideas, focusing instead on technology of the Hypercar, as a cipher for the hallucinated hydrogen economy. In fact, Amory Lovins desire to reduce the weight of vehicles is positive for conservation, irrespective of how vehicles are powered.

I also stand by my assertion that we will not be able to run the Interstate Highway System, Disney World, the New Jersey suburbs, or any of the other furnishings and accessories of the American dream on any known alternatives to petroleum and its byproducts.

I’d wager with Kunstler on this one. But I would also bet that Hypercars in some form will start to appear on our highways at some point in the next ten years.

RMI's main building is among the world's most energy-efficient, saving 99 percent of space- and water-heating energy, 90 percent of household electricity (the rest is solar-generated), and 50 percent of water, all with a 10-month payback in 1984. It has received more than 70,000 visitors and produced 28 indoor banana crops with no conventional heating system, down to -47 outdoors. Other RMI buildings also use solar micropower, exceptionally energy- and water-efficient appliances and fixtures, daylighting, superwindows and other sustainability-enhancing features.

Point Lovins, except, RMI is ONE building complex out of the millions in America that suck energy like it were free.

Kunstler will be proven correct. We are facing a long, (inter)national emergency. And I for one am glad people like Amory Lovins are around to help us through it, even though I think the proposal in Winning the Oil Endgame suggesting we burn trees to power our cars is a clownish idea. Never give a chimp reason burn something; they will; right up until they physically can't.

Meanwhile, Kunstler is right more than twice a day.

Engineer Poet at the Ergosphere has an alternative take on Kunstler.

freeze and conserve

Freezing gas prices
David Hutchison is a Cryogenics expert. He built this Cryo-Process himself. He runs a business out of his garage where he cryogenically tempers all kinds of metals. He submerges them in a frozen tank of nitrogen vapor that is 300 degrees below zero.
David says, “During that time, at minus 300 degrees, the molecules slow down. Then they reorganize themselves. That's when the actual chemical change happens.”
A hybrid Honda typically gets really great gas mileage anyway, around 50 miles to the gallon, but David Hutchison's cryogenically tempered engine has been known to get close to 120 miles a gallon.

Not sure how much credence to give it, but seems promising at first blush. Worth looking into, if it actually doubles the efficiency of a hybrid.

People talk about the need for an "energy manhattan project", which is a poor analogy for the dilemma we face. Conservation will happen; natures mandate; if we all share, we'll be fine. Odds and ends like this have a better shot at getting us where we need to go than hot fusion.

In the cold light of day, the claims in the story link seem rather outlandish. Don't drink and blog, kids.

Friday, May 27, 2005

the road to nowhere

Thursday, May 26, 2005

who says these are ugly?

U.S. Senators Mount Assault on Wind Power
The innocuously-named "Environmentally Responsible Wind Power Act of 2005" introduced by U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Senator John Warner (R-VA), which could be rolled into a comprehensive energy bill currently under consideration in Congress, would have an immediate and devastating effect on the U.S. wind power industry, according to experts and industry sources.


The Beauty of Wind Farms

From my porch on a good day you can see clear across the waters of Georgia Strait to the snowy peaks of the rugged Coast Mountains. It is one of the most beautiful views I have seen. And I would gladly share it with a wind farm.
It is time for some perspective. With the growing urgency of climate change, we cannot have it both ways. We cannot shout from the rooftops about the dangers of global warming and then turn around and shout even louder about the "dangers" of windmills. Climate change is one of the greatest challenges humanity will face this century. It cannot be solved through good intentions.

solar energy uber alles

Most of our energy is derived indirectly from the sun, which is a nuclear energy producer, (to say the least).

So, Peak Oil Optimist, posts on a good idea vis a vis solar energy:
The Endless Energy Well in the Deep Sea
Via Wired, a pretty interesting story about one Dr. John Piña Craven, the "brilliant psychotic" behind the Navy's Polaris program, and now with an equally half-crank, half-why-didn't-I-think-of-that solution to the world's energy problems: placing pipes to the ocean deeps to harvest the temperature differential between the upper (warm) layers of the oceans and the lower (near freezing) depths.

If we must invest billions in a new infrastructure, this kind of idea I can get wholeheartedly behind; it doesn't pollute. Viability - who knows, got to get cracking, "civilization" is way behind the eight ball when it comes to investing in sources of energy that don't fang back.

I got smacked down in the comments for this one, which will teach me to link to the techno fabulists at Wired. This technology has about as much promise as fusion - it is fifteen to twenty years out, now and yesterday.

Engineer-Poet said:
Examine the technology. For all the recent hype about OTEC, the technology seems to have advanced but little since its last turn in the news spotlight. All the available energy in the universe counts for zilch if we can't capture and convert it affordably.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

oil up down, market down up

I've been noticing a trend over the last few weeks. The market starts to chug, then something throttles it back,

Dow Closes Down 46 on Surging Oil Prices
Crude futures rose sharply after the government reported a 1.6 million barrel drop in its oil inventories. The news created concerns about supply as the summer driving season begins.

Funny, isn't it.

a sensible investment

Buffett Makes $5.1B Bid in Power Industry
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- Striking the second biggest deal of his career and making a major move in the energy industry, billionaire investor Warren Buffett agreed Tuesday to pay $5.1 billion in cash to acquire Western states electric utility PacifiCorp.
Buffett is known for buying companies and holding on to them for long-term returns. Berkshire first bought into MidAmerican Energy in 2000 for $1.24 billion, acquiring about 76 percent of the company. It has increased its stake to 80.5 percent, investing a total of about $3.3 billion.

Hey, if Buffet is buying energy companies, I want in on it. Let's start a co-op - I'll put in my five dollars, and the rest of you pony up a few billion (I'll have my pay-pal link up shortly), and we'll be off to the races.

But seriously - I wonder if Buffet has read the depletion writing on the wall.

Seperately, in a recent radio interview, Deffeyes claimed only half laughingly that he had saved Boeing because some exec read his book in 2001 and pushed the super fuel effecient 7E7 through, and of course, lately the 7E7 / 787 has been a hot little item.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

conserve energy

Less will get done and we'll be the better for it.

"The problem with marijuana is, if they're trying to make us just mindless producer-consumers, marijuana is not good on either account. It doesn't make us want to produce more and the only thing we would consume more is cheetos. The thing this society doesn't like about marijuana is it turns people who wouldn't otherwise be poets into poets. Think of Maslow's famous hierarchy of needs. First you get your clothes and your car and your house and then you can do things that are more creative and then at the top you got "selfless actualization," helping other people."

is this a bill yet?

Time is ripe for urban agriculture
Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., and the man who founded Congress' Livability Caucus, argues that with half of federal farm subsidies currently "flowing to six states to produce 13 commodities that in the main we don't need, like corn, wheat, cotton, and rice," there's a dramatically superior alternative.

We should, says Blumenauer, "use that money to build sustainable agriculture, create a farmer's market in every community, help farmers protect our land and water, preserve our viewsheds, foster land banks and control erosion."

What a good idea. Rely on self-perpetuating nano-scaled solar powered bio-reactors and a passel of enthuastic technicians to service them tomatos.

(ie, food grown by local farmers)

This is a very timely and useful policy position - Here is Blumenauers policy page from his web site - He is also a supporter of Amtrak and the like, but of course he is from Oregon, so he might be an anarchist. (Beware!)

While I would only rarely suggest that writing your congressperson might have an effect, this would be one of the times.

For the want of a Carter, the conservation war was lost, but we can still win some battles.

Monday, May 23, 2005

good morning, Sodom and Gomorrah

Though somewhat leftist of late, I’m not a socialist. I could give a flying fubar about socialism versus capitalism, an arbitrary semantic argument given that the human question is now, as it has always been, will those humans with exceedingly high capital resources do the right thing by their fellow man, or follow the short path to personal cluelessness and riches.

I believe in free markets, although the mordorian United States Government circa 2005 does not.

Be they Lenin or Bush, those in power tend follow the short path, enriching themselves and their cronies at the expense of the present masses and future humans.

Is there any excuse for ignoring global warming and climate change? Consider monkeygrinder’s wager. (Replace anthropogenic warming with god. It actually works better then the whole “god” question – logically, it is suicidal to ignore the possibility that humans are (irreversibly relative to our selves) altering the environment by burning interred carbon fuels.) Pascal incorrectly assumed one god, while monkeygrinder correctly and precisely points out ONE EARTH.

Those who argue against anthropogenic global warming will be the first against the wall when rising sea levels inundate cities. Tastes like chicken.

So, let’s examine what the fuck we are doing in the service of easy energy, because I am getting seriously tired of clueless bullshit propagated by vested interests, in turn pimped by those who like their elite jobs, willing to spout the short term party line at the expense of the race of man.

I presently define evolutionary fitness for humans as the ability to look beyond quarterly concerns. For those with capital, this ability does not observably exist.

The rape of the rainforest... and the man behind it

He is Blairo Maggi, the millionaire farmer and uncompromising politician presiding over the Brazilian boom in soya bean production. He is known in Brazil as O Rei da Soja - the King of Soy. Figures show that last year the rate of forest clearance in the Amazon was the second highest on record as the soy boom completed its third year. An area of more than 10,000 square miles - nearly the size of Belgium - was cut down, with half the destruction in the state of Mato Grosso, where Mr Maggi, whose Maggi Group farming business is the world's biggest soya bean producer, also happens to be the state governor.

In an interview last year he said: "To me, a 40 per cent increase in deforestation doesn't mean anything at all, and I don't feel the slightest guilt over what we are doing here…

Brazil being the current poster child for Bio-Diesel, cuz we don’t need the rain forest, do we? Penn and Teller can call bullshit on environmentalist hysteria, comfortably, from their Las Vegas unsustainable abodes, and no one who thinks they will be able to buy food from their local supermarket in 2020 is the wiser. Screw Penn and Teller. I’m a skeptic of skeptics who suck at the teat of corporate shills

What are we doing, Chimponia?

Should we then scrape the last poop of oil from the coast of California so we can keep ten thousand hummers running for twenty years?

If this ball of energy wax is in service of, a gateway too, what comes next, can we then have what comes next NOW, instead of waiting thirty years?

Yeah, the nuclear shills gonna peddle their fix on the basis of future hypotheticals, because to peddle on the basis of observed reality is a stinking ball of cancer. If it is raining soup, Jerry Pournelle, where is the goddamn soup? Heinlein observed that oil is far too valuable to simply burn, and I think Heinlein was right, though he confused the United States with civilization.

Sure, I am conversant with 1950’s science fiction, and issues considered therein (cloning, human animals, star travel, immortality, [artificial misnomer] intelligence and etc etc.) These issues are inevitably becoming part of conventional reality, much less reality. 1960’s science fiction and beyond, describing the reaction of humans to same, is irrelevant, and please prove me wrong. Singularity? Crapola redefined.

My late grandfather worked on NERVA, and dispatched into my possession documents describing test runs in the desert wherein NERVA worked somewhat flawlessly and certainly radioactively, elucidated in mathematics and scientifically repeatable observable reality. He also passed on to me a healthy disrespect of people who believe in people, perhaps misanthropakly, but more precisely he imbued an ability to be a skeptic of the poobahs, the keepers of the keys. Late in life, he was frankly bored with religion and science, not out of a desire to synthesize the two but due to a more Godelian approach to any system – science, religion, mathematics, reality, all incomplete.

In my opinion, grandfather would have delighted in string theory, a system which “elegantly” is only testable implicitly. The core of materialist science, physics thus rising or falling to the level of personal bias and belief: metaphysics.

But I digress.

What are we doing, people? We are in real trouble and the party hasn't stopped.

Aside from the common desire to get righteously laid, we need a better energy future than the one we are verbing.

Some time between now and 2007, global depression hits. This is easier to “predict” than global die-off, or what-have-you. Clearly, resolutely, the global capitalist economy depends on continued cheap energy for credit expansion, and just as clearly, this cheap energy reality is about to slide into fiction, barring deux-ex-machina.

Any you optimist chimps like to debate this, you make blog. Add me as team member. I debate you until cold fusion reality. You not read this my post; you not understand my bona fides. I reject Jesus; though not his swordless teachings; you are pudding in comparison.

I envision a local world which will grow more mysterious and valuable as our ability to circumnavigate it declines. Materialist dreams will be bounded increasingly by what our muscles can produce; for ill or boon.

Pavement will be ripped and sundered, the better to experience strawberry season.

It won’t be a small world, after all. Our children won’t understand the context of our exuberance; they’ll be too busy surviving. I crave a reality in which destroying our world is impossible. Humanity appears unsuited to undestroying her habitat. Applied energy constraints via depletion are then useful tools for advancing; the world becomes larger as the ability to damage this world decreases. Jay Hanson understands people but has no concept of evolution.

Constraints on humanity can only increase the viability of the race.

Bring on energy depletion. Bring on Sodom and Gomorrah.

Friday, May 20, 2005

your lawn after peak oil

Credit Code Three Blog for the idea...

Thursday, May 19, 2005

I'll take my city green, please.

If we live in a future where travel over fifteens, twenties, or even hundreds of miles becomes too expensive to manage on a regular basis, what is the best living arrangment?

A green vision for 100 years
The group decided the best way to honor that far-reaching vision was to emulate it -- by figuring out how to conserve enough land to protect the region's quality of life as its population swells over the next century.
But to accommodate population growth -- which the land trust estimates could double to 7 million by 2100 -- cities must become dense, vibrant places that draw people like a magnet.

To me, cities are the answer to quality of life issues after the peak. Tear down the suburbs - loot them, plunder them, pull up the pavement and build pyramids out of old roads. In the place of grease burger shacks and wack-marts, we could one day find farmland and wild life.

Ok, so it is a mad dream, and the fine people in the article above managed to come up with their ideas simply by being sensible. They want a better world. Funny, their world would save energy.

stealth energy bill

An energy bill pork greased its way through the Senate a few days ago. But they gave it a funny name:

Despite veto threat, highway bill has easy road in Senate
(The) Senate brushed aside a presidential veto threat yesterday and passed a $295 billion highway bill, arguing that massive spending on bigger and better roads was necessary to fight congestion and unsafe roadways.
Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said he was at odds with the administration because "there are two areas where we need to spend money: One is national defense, and the other is infrastructure."

The weird thing is, according to the article, the BushCo administration would be fine with the bill of only the Senate would shave 11 billion dollars out of it. Great idea. Or just withdraw from Iraq a week early.

But of course, the really weird thing is, why in heavens name does the U.S. need to upgrade automobile infrastructure when very shortly cars will be garaged every other day according to IEA guidelines, (circa 2005, not 2004 when they were predicting 124~ million oil barrels a day production in 2030)?

So it goes in upside-down world, until the rollercoaster finishes the long clickety clack to the top of the hill.

To bad the U.S. isn't investing 295 billion $ in something really useful, like upgraded railways, or a lobotomy for every war mongering neo-con.

Or, one billion to shut me up - and that is my final offer.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

the market does a little jig

I'm linking to the land of black gold because it is market appreciation week, but mostly because he quotes a cheery snippet from The Jungle Book (old disney)...

The Bare Necessities
Six years of rising oil prices is, by the way, pretty much what we've had from 1999-2005, though the prices rose most at the beginning and end of that period. (You remember what happened around the beginning of that period, don't you?)

It's been an interesting year so far. The past couple of weeks have been particularly interesting. There was clearly blood in the water and probably there was a shark hedge fund feeding frenzy as somebody's positions got bloodied and then shredded by eager dining companions.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

sheltering ungruntled farmers

Peak Energy Australia and Mobjectivist popped in with some dispatches on water. More limits to growth? Good thing we have cheap energy (LA is happy) and can just pump it where we need it. For now.

Actually, on this splashy and winsome planet, we never need worry about peak water.

But peak aquifier? Climate Change? Uh Oh...

under the weather
The Herald comments today that the government may, if it doesn't wish to go down in history as the most stupid in the history of the nation, want to begin thinking about where our water is going to come from in future. And even though the bits of Perth that haven't blown away are under water, thats may only be a brief wet blip in an otherwise seemingly inexorable slide into desertification on the west coast.

Monday, May 16, 2005

market appreciation week

We're freaking doomed, dude
Debt problems worsened, of course, but only to the usual degree of the average monthly increases in that particular bad news category (BNC), such as outstanding consumer credit increasing by $5.5 billion in March, which means that the consumer's debt load is rising at an annual rate of somewhere between 3% to 4.5% or so, and is already at $2.12 trillion, which is a tidy $15,193 per every freaking worker in this whole freaking country (140 million of them) who has a damn job. And the interest rate is rising on that debt, or is getting ready to rise, because interest rates are rising. And if lenders DON'T start raising their interest rates on credit balances, then their own bottom line (which is where profits would be found, if any) will suffer
That things are heading for doom was even at the meeting of the Berkshire Hathaway people in Omaha, which produced this memorable quote from Buffett's sidekick, Munger, who said "The present era has no comparable referent in the past history of capitalism. We have a higher percentage of the intelligentsia engaged in buying and selling pieces of paper and promoting trading activity than in any past era. A lot of what I see now reminds me of Sodom and Gomorrah. You get activity feeding on itself, envy and imitation. It has happened in the past that there came bad consequences."
And since we are talking about oil, let me give you the Mogambo Investment Tip Of The Day (MITOTD). I smile as I gently and confidently forecast that the current fall in the price of oil is a big chance for you to buy oil-related stocks, and oil futures if you have the inclination, because there is not one instance in all of history when a rising demand, a falling supply, coupled with the devaluation of the currency, resulted in lower-priced oil for that stupid country that so debased its currency. Never. And it never will happen, either. Ever.

Speaking of smelling the coffee, the markets bear watching this week. They've been swinging up and down, like a a seesaw for the past few weeks.

With oil having nowhere to go but up, the markets will be continually buffetted by reality.

So bury some gold under your flowers. This isn't Y2K.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

happy birthday, mobjectivist

smell the coffee

When arguing whether nuclear power will save our consumptive civilization’s bacon, realize that we won’t have actual on the ground evidence until about five years after the first clump of these hypothetical plants are built.

And so it goes for most of the alternative energy sources. I could fight to the death to prevent using trees as feedstock for liquid fuel, only to watch the Northeast of the United States simply burn trees for heat following natural gas depletion.

The myriad alternative energy sources represent a basket of scenarios. Efficient batteries; nanosolar; Bio-Willie; sails on trains; pedestrian ideas all, and all will be granted their appropriate niche in the future. The list is endless. Shake dirt in a sieve and the gold remains.

So for all that, there is a stretched out timeframe to argue, debate, push ones favorites, and get it done.

What then is the urgent meta-issue in the world today, the peak energy driver?

Unsurpringly, it is the great game, focused in and around conventional energy sources. And when we are talking conventional energy, it is a zero sum game. Contrast:

Military Base Closures Could Devastate Some Communities
The Pentagon announcement of base closings around the United States Friday was met with worry in many communities where military installations make a major contribution to the local economy and there are likely to be many political battles over the list in the months ahead. The closing list contained bad news for some communities, but good news for others.

USA plans to expand military presence in Azerbaijan
As for the oil pipeline is concerned, there has been a certain plan elaborated for the implementation of security measures. The USA is ready to assign not less than $ 100 mm during the coming ten years for the development of the so-called Caspian Guard (founded in the autumn of 2003). Guaranteeing security to the pipeline, which is currently undergoing the construction process, will be the prime goal of the Caspian Guard.

I’m not arguing that the U.S. bases should be kept open. But notice the ugly, bony hand of empire and resource depletion behind these moves. Declining treasure is moved from the heartland of the United States to protect a pipeline in a far off land that may or may not be defensible. And yeah, the United States will stroke Uzbekistan, while complaining that Venezuela is not a democracy.

Time to wake up and smell the coffee. Alternative energy is a fantasy in the present. By all accounts, quarter four of this year will be loads of fun. The global players are fighting over the real stuff.

"As distinct from other peoples, most Americans do not recognize -- or do not want to recognize -- that the United States dominates the world through its military power. Due to government secrecy, our citizens are often ignorant of the fact that our garrisons encircle the planet. This vast network of American bases on every continent except Antarctica actually constitutes a new form of empire -- an empire of bases with its own geography not likely to be taught in any high school geography class." - Chalmers Johnson

Friday, May 13, 2005

sustainable methane

Seattle Beyond Oil Conference

Workshop Session One

  • What is "Peak Oil"?
  • Alternative Energy Resources
  • Fossil Fuels and Climate Change
  • Implications for Structural Changes in the Economy
  • Environmental Justice

Workshop Session Two

  • Political and Economic Advocacy
  • Personal Responsibility and Lifestyle
  • Building Sustainable Communities
  • Using the Oil & War Connection to Promote Peace
  • Building Coalitions / Networks / Alliances

Panelists include:

  • Teodorico "Rick" Albis , grievance chair for PACE Local 8-675 (oil workers) at the ConocoPhillips Refinery group in Southern California
  • Max Vekich, International Executive Board of the ILWU (longshore workers) and former Washington State Representative from Grays Harbor
  • Yalonda Sinde, Executive Director of the Community Coalition for Environmental Justice
  • Rich Feldman, Executive Director of the Workers Center of the King County Labor Council and Washington State Apollo Alliance regional organizer
  • Margaret Kitchell, MD Co-chair, Environment and Human Health Committee, Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility
  • Jennifer Krill, Director of the Zero Emissions Campaign for Rainforest Action Network (RAN), a key labor ally among environmental organizations
  • Patrick Mazza, Research Director of Climate Solutions
  • Jody Haug, Co-chair of the Green Party of the United States
  • Alan Hamlet, Research Scientist, Climate Impacts Group (UW)
  • Ruth Yarrow, environmental educator and peace activist with Fellowship of Reconciliation and Sound Nonviolent Opponents of War

Thursday, May 12, 2005

frosted flakes triple whammy

Via LifeAfterTheOilCrash,
High cost of diesel hitting hard at farm industry
FRESNO -- The farmers who grow many of the fresh fruit and vegetables for the nation's dinner tables say the rising cost of oil is making this one of their toughest planting seasons yet -- and might shove some of them out of business.
(F)armers are the ones caught in a "three-way whammy," said Keith Nilmeier, who just finished harvesting his 185 acres of oranges outside Fresno. Farmers are squeezed by higher prices for the diesel that runs their harvesting and irrigation equipment, for the fertilizer made by combining nitrogen with the hydrogen in natural gas, and for the transportation of crops to your local supermarket.

A succinct description of the dilemma a modern day farmer finds himself in.

Farmers being shoved out of business is no good. Their land will be either bought up and replaced with condos and exurbs, or farmed by corporations. Their expertise will be lost, just when it is most needed.

I do have a suggestion - get a horse. Long considered too much of a bother, their ability to fertilize fields and directly convert all available biomass into useful energy will prove without equal in an era of suddenly and irreversibly expensive energy.

"When no amount of tinkering, kicking, or cursing would revive the engine, the humiliating trip to the nearest farm would have to take place. The farmer would probably be glad to add to the driver's mental anguish by making remarks about "them new-fangled contraptions," but with some degree of stability, he would harness his team and hitch it to the front of the horseless carriage. "

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

petroleum scorched earth

I've been following global guerillas for the last few months. They've been doing yeomans work tracking the growing awareness by all players that energy infrastructure is indefensible.

But that isn't where it stops. This isn't just a game for guerrillas and hardscrabble freedom fighters. Excepting the example of the hapless and narcissistic Saddam Hussien, no one should ever be able to take over the infrastructure of a sovereign state.

I'm sure Hugo Chavez is perking up his ears over this story.

via the Oil Drum, (Saudi Oil Rigged For Destruction)
According to a new book exclusively obtained by the Huffington Post, Saudi Arabia has crafted a plan to protect itself from a possible invasion or internal attack. It includes the use of a series of explosives, including radioactive “dirty bombs,” that would cripple Saudi Arabian oil production and distribution systems for decades.

I imagine some might find this story fantastical, Gerald Posner being a bit of a salacious tabloid type. But it really makes good, fundamental sense for the Saudis to do this.

"The people who can destroy a thing, they control it." - Paul Muad'Dib

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

spot the coal industry mascot

(Hint - wearing a hat...)

forced to market green jellybeans

I don't want to be too much of a sourpuss, but it seems to me rather strange that companies like GE are finding green religion right around the time we are heading into oil and natural gas depletion.

I don't think this is a coincidence. Therefore, I am vastly unimpressed, and refuse to decant kudos for conservation and alternative energy technology that should have been undertaken fifteen years ago.

Via WorldChanging: Ecomagination: Inside GE's Power Play
GE also is pledging to improve its own environmental performance by (...) reducing its greenhouse gas emissions 1% by 2012 and the intensity of its greenhouse gas emissions 30% by 2008, both compared to 2004 (based on the company’s projected growth, GE says its emissions would have otherwise risen 40% by 2012 without further action)

Of course, we'll all be using less carbon based energy in 2012, there will be less around to burn. Being kicked in the jewels by depletion is the new green.

And the marketing has kicked into gear, by marketeers whose brains have likely been addled by an excess of mercury:

Via Mobjectivist, See Change
Straight out of a Michael Mann production, shown in what appears a glistening underground mine, the Ad-men prefer to glamorize the ugly past and ignore the equally ugly present.
Ignoring tank-top clad coal mining models, those who care refer non-euphemistically to the reality of the present-day coal industry as "Mountain Top Removal":

Probably the most nauseating species of commercial that evolved in the 1990's was the trope where the huge multinational whateverCo, (Oil, Finance, Military-Industrial) would brand the air and the brains of any viewers with pictures of a glistening, clean world filled full of sparkly toothed multi ethnic harmonized peeps, uplifting tunes whiffling in the backround and trees resonating greenly.

I think television has real promise for mind control.

I am glad GE is going to clean up part of their mess.

Monday, May 09, 2005

framing stupidity

The scenario for a bombing attack on Iran is in play, although of course it would be a tremendously stupid move on the part of the U.S. to act it out. Iranian oil would immediately be removed from the world market, causing a global price shock, and the Iranians have the missile capability to strike both the U.S. Navy (in the close confines of the Persian Gulf) and Saudi Arabia refineries should they decide to respond aggressively. It isn’t like we have the troops for a ground assault. One can imagine fantasy mongers in Washington D.C. relying on internal rebellion to enact regime change.

This scenario should be little cause for worry; one assumes the U.S. would (intelligently) wish to avoid a catastrophically destabilizing war in the Middle East.

Maybe it comes down to a question of how many nitwits does it take to pimp a war.

Washington Times Editorial, May 5th
During the Vietnam War, critics of U.S. policy repeatedly demanded an "exit strategy" that would bring American troops home from Indochina. Judging from Iran's continued refusal to come clean about its nuclear-weapons programs -- on display at a United Nations conference in New York this week -- it's time for the Bush administration to formulate an Iran exit strategy.

Since then, things have continued hurtling downhill. Iran still claims that it has the right to continue to pursue uranium enrichment whenever it wants to. As the UN conference began this week, European diplomats were talking about something called a "managed crisis" with Iran -- in essence, a formula for suspending talks until fall. This means that Iran will be able to continue its atomic-weapons activities without having to pay any penalty.

The EU negotiation strategy is a failure. A dramatically different one is needed to deal with the Iranian nuclear threat.

The formulation in this editorial is especially rich, that is, comparing the Vietnam exit strategy to get out of a war – to an `exit strategy' from NOT BEING AT WAR to something “dramatically different” .


Sunday, May 08, 2005

nuclear errata

Engineer Poet has pointed out that I may be too pessimistic about the ability of nuclear power to fill the liquid fuel gap, which in turn led me to realize I had made an error in previous posts:
“One of them is you would have to build 10,000 of the largest power plants that are feasible by engineering standards in order to replace the 10 terrawatts of fossil fuel we're burning today.” - Professor David Goodstein

I calculated the proportionate energy cost as being composed only of oil, when I should have taken all fossil fuels into account. In other words, using David Goodstein’s numbers, 4651 nuclear plants worldwide would equal the energy contained in the oil we burn. The remainder would fill the gap for coal and natural gas.

However, in addition to that, E.P. points out that much of the energy content of oil burned in cars is simply wasted, such that it is not necessary to build the “energy equivalent” in nuclear power plants to receive the same benefit in output, should we use efficient batteries.
“An average power of 183.5 GW isn't huge compared to other energy usage. The summer electric generation capacity of the USA in 2002 was over 900 gigawatts, roughly 5 times as much as the average output of all gasoline and diesel powered transport.”

One still must consider energy losses as electricity is transported across the grid, stored in the batteries, and the energy cost associated in constructing and maintaining a trunk full of batteries for every car. I don’t know how that stacks up to petrol engine efficiencies.

Oil is only part of the depletion picture, and hybrids are trickling in to the installed base of vehicles slowly, with insufficient battery life to be used without fuel. Complex industrial requirements aside, every little bit helps when talking about the coming wave of depletion. Food for thought.

Friday, May 06, 2005

oil awareness

I went to an oil awareness gathering in Seattle last night, and found myself horribly stuck in traffic on the way there.

After burning about 6 mpg for 20 minutes in my ironymobile, I finally hit a patch of pavement with fewer pesky cars and arrived only twenty minutes late.


Met fellow blogger, William Murray of CybeRedoubt,
Got up to speed on Shoreline Solar,
Recieved info on a rapidly upcoming Beyond Oil conference.

Pretty good for forty minutes. Check the meetup link if you are in the Seattle area and interested in getting involved.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

worst case scenario - Peak Oil America

Bio Fuels
According to the optimists:
We'll all be driving around in cars containing an enclosed vat of algae outgassing methane. 300mpg city, 500 mpg freeway.

According to the pessimists:
God will smite the ethanol corn fields with locusts and drought. "How do you like your energy return on energy invested now!" god will be heard to thunder.

What will REALLY happen:
After Peak Oil, everyone who lives in the American Southwest will take the train to Kansas and eat the corn before it is processed into hummer juice.

Nuclear Power
According to the optimists:
We will replace our energy infrastructure with 1,000 nuclear reactors. Dolphins will be trained to extract uranium from seawater.

According to the pessimists:
We'll run out of uranium after building 100 new reactors, and the dolphins will look at us blankly.

What will REALLY happen:
After Peak Oil, we'll be glad we still have electricity. But we'll be sad, because we won't have as much. Some people will be seen flying kites, as watching television will be too expensive.

According to the optimists:
If you think property values are high today, wait until 2020.

According to the pessimists:
If you think property values are high today, wait until 2020.

What will REALLY happen:
After Peak Oil, feral goats and pigs will inhabit houses which are too far from rivers, cities and farmable land. These toothsome critters will be hunted by youngsters undergoing their rite of passage into adulthood.

Wind Energy
According to the optimists:
We won't need this wind crap - we'll have 1000 nuclear reactors!

According to the pessimists:
We won't need this wind crap - we'll all be dead!

What will REALLY happen:
After Peak Oil, children will wait underneath wind turbines with large nets to catch decapitated birds. Dinner is served.

According to the optimists:
We will all die off, but have children.

According to the pessimists:
We will all die off, and our children with us.

What will REALLY happen:
Who the hell knows?

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

unexamined ethanol input: water

Via Resource Insights: THE CLIMATE OF MAN—II
(Rind) mentioned a visit that President Bush’s science adviser, John Marburger, had paid to giss a few years earlier. “He said, ‘We’re really interested in adaptation to climate change,’ ” Rind recalled. “Well, what does ‘adaptation’ mean?”
(Rind) found that as carbon-dioxide levels rose the world began to experience more and more serious water shortages, starting near the equator and then spreading toward the poles. When he applied the index to the GISS model for doubled CO2, it showed most of the continental United States to be suffering under severe drought conditions.
“We may say that we’re more technologically able than earlier societies. But one thing about climate change is it’s potentially geopolitically destabilizing. And we’re not only more technologically able; we’re more technologically able destructively as well. I think it’s impossible to predict what will happen. I guess—though I won’t be around to see it—I wouldn’t be shocked to find out that by 2100 most things were destroyed.” (Rind) paused. “That’s sort of an extreme view.”

Some people in the peak oil community seem to de-couple climate change from the discussion of our energy future.

I find that to be a BushCoian approach - To me, global warming is the ugly sister of coal lovely and petrol fabulous. But by all means, let's make it safe to burn more carbon. Let's "adapt". Dang, I ripped the irony bang right off my keyboard.

Meanwhile, with the western drought still variously in effect, and noting the weird "climate change-esque" splashes of rain in Death Valley this year, reality is melting glaciers, changing springtime, buckling the tundra, and licking the last delicious drops of snow off of Kilimanjaro.

With the climate change induced possibility of persistant drought in the U.S. one wonders just how much water will vasty fields of ethanol corn even have available?

What a world. Too bad EROEI on baby boomers is so abysmal.

Monday, May 02, 2005

sober or hysterical

I won’t name any names.

I'm tired of lazy skepticism at a distance when it comes to the peak oil, often due to people’s distaste of the die-off scenario. And a scenario it is; not a set future, or a genocidal position; simply a possible result of our current action and inaction. We could very well find a way around or through it, with technology or re-ordered society.

By lazy skepticism, I note some people who don't know much about peak oil take potshots at those who discuss the die-off; drawing hoary yet predictable comparisons to the Y2K hysteria, as if you could compare those who were afraid running out of bytes to those who are afraid of running out of energy. Or, they will literally decry discussing the possibility as being in itself a genocidal act.

Just for today, I am going to quote from Jay Hanson, a whipping boy of some of the conventional thinkers described above. He would disagree with my statement in the last sentence of the first paragraph above.

While I don't not disagree with some of what he says, I think his scenario has more current basis in reality than those who rely on tokamaks and corn, or perhaps 1000 new nuclear reactors, to puff up the flagging sails of our future industrial society as depletion proceeds, sowing chaos. Ideal solutions that should have been set in motion ten years ago. (Not ethanol; fusion, maybe.)

Also, Jay Hanson is smart and certainly fallible. And fallibility is a cornerstone of his philosophy, through which Jay Hanson has convinced himself of the inevitably of a die-off.

So, dim the lights.

Jay Hanson -- j@...

I developed an interest in "sustainability" about fifteen years ago when it became clear to me that our present economic system was totally unsustainable and self-destructive. It seemed little more than a well-organized method for converting natural resources into garbage.

With great reluctance (because it has worked so well for me), I was forced to conclude that our present system of capitalism is incompatible with energy laws and can never be sustainable. My only hope was that some new form of sustainable society might be possible. So I began studying human nature, intending to discover what kinds of sustainable societies might work...

Contrary to the received wisdom, people do not think and then act. They act and then rationalize. New data from the environment is routinely plugged into existing mental hardware (like entering a number into a spreadsheet), which is then followed by an appropriate thought. Since people have no wiring for "peak in oil and gas production", news of the present energy crisis cannot generate the appropriate thought. Only prolonged eflection can grow the required mental hardware to place this critical piece of news in perspective.