Tuesday, February 28, 2006

sweet algae

Mutant Algae Is Hydrogen Factory
Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley have engineered a strain of pond scum that could, with further refinements, produce vast amounts of hydrogen through photosynthesis. ... "When we discovered the sulfur switch, we increased hydrogen production by a factor of 100,000," says Seibert. "But to make it a commercial technology, we still had to increase the efficiency of the process by another factor of 100." Melis’ truncated antennae mutants are a big step in that direction. Now Seibert and others (including James Lee at Oak Ridge National Laboratories and J. Craig Venter at the Venter Institute in Rockville, Maryland) are trying to adjust the hydrogen-producing pathway so that it can produce hydrogen 100 percent of the time. ... (If) scientists can find solutions for those two problems will have a lot to do with realizing the vision of a hydrogen-powered economy based on algae farms in desert areas.

Plenty has been said regarding vats of algae. Seems algae will save the future. When did endless vats of outgassing algae replace healthy forests? Who cares, as long as we can press the algae into candy bars for the slaves who glue our shoes together on the Mariana islands.

The catch is, it doesn't work. Furious progress has been made, putting humankind on the cusp of producing vast amounts of hydrogen, but meanwhile, we are producing miniscule and minute amounts.

Somebody send me a postcard when we have positive EROEI. And send me another when we can fill an oil tanker (energy equivalent to oil, not literally) full of algae-produced hydrogen in a month or less.

That would be cool. I'm not holding my breath.

Friday, February 24, 2006

terrorists 0, bomb 1

"From Hell's heart I stab at thee"
Khan, quoting Melville

Sometimes Hell misses, and that is a fine thing. The path to a civilization unshackled from carbon fuel energy is a precarious one. Small, inconsequential factors can easily push us off the path, so great is the dependancy on oil.

Today, Hell missed.

Tomorrow, who can say?

Al Qaeda claims responsibility for Saudi attack
ABQAIQ, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) - Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for Friday's attack on a Saudi oil facility at Abqaiq, when security forces fired at suicide bombers trying to storm the world's biggest oil processing plant.

One car was carrying gunmen and two others, packed with explosives, rammed the gates, (Nawaf Obaid) said. All the attackers were killed. Security sources in Riyadh said four militants and two security officers died and two other officers were wounded.Mohammad al-Merri, a relative of one of the officers killed, said the militants were able to penetrate the first checkpoint leading to the facility. "They opened fire and killed two officers after the guards at the second checkpoint became suspicious of them,"

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

burn after reading

Worse Than Fossil Fuel by George Monbiot
In September, Friends of the Earth published a report about the impacts of palm oil production. "Between 1985 and 2000," it found, "the development of oil-palm plantations was responsible for an estimated 87 per cent of deforestation in Malaysia"(8). In Sumatra and Borneo, some 4 million hectares of forest has been converted to palm farms. Now a further 6 million hectares is scheduled for clearance in Malaysia, and 16.5m in Indonesia.
Before oil palms, which are small and scrubby, are planted, vast forest trees, containing a much greater store of carbon, must be felled and burnt. Having used up the drier lands, the plantations are now moving into the swamp forests, which grow on peat. When they've cut the trees, the planters drain the ground. As the peat dries it oxidises, releasing even more carbon dioxide than the trees. In terms of its impact on both the local and global environments, palm biodiesel is more destructive than crude oil from Nigeria.

This blog has not been kind to Bio-Fuels of any stripe. Bio-Diesel boasts a few squidges of extra energy (positive EROEI) in optimal conditions, if you can ignore the damage done to soil in the process. And the technology has no scalability to the worlds overarching energy dilemna.

Facts never stand in the way of progress.

George Monbiot reminds us of a blind spot in our culture. There is a tendancy to mentally "greenwash" anything involving living plants, even if they are to be harvested and burned as fuel, in the process using indigenous peoples and their land as a consumable commodity.

Malayasia might as well be a big wad of toilet paper for Westerners. Use once, call it "green" and throw away a functioning forest ecosystem for 100,000 years.

Delusion is not acceptable. Bio-Fuels are not acceptable. They will persist only as long as abundant energy allows.

It is called "the peak" for a reason.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Señor Danger

Chavez Threatens to Cut Off Oil to US If It Goes Too Far
"The US government must know that if it crosses the line, it won't be getting Venezuelan oil," (Chavez) cautioned late Friday, (...) "I have to say that I've begun taking steps on the matter, but I won't tell you what they are. They think I can't take these steps, because we won't know where to place our oil. Aha! That's where they are wrong," "'Mr. Danger'," said Chavez, referring to Bush, "you form your front, and we will form ours. It doesn't matter what the US government does to us; we will respond in a Christian way: 'If you slap my cheek I will offer you the other.' I have the moral strength to resist the old cynical and immoral empire, and we shall defeat you, old empire."

Chavez constantly refers to dear old Bush, el Presidente of the United States, as a Super Villain, "Mr. Danger".

I hope I am not the only one who finds this hilarious. The irony being most Super Villains are fiendishly intelligent. That must be why the bell curve was invented, for those edge cases.

The message Chavez appears to be imparting:

Oil is a fungible commodity. Venezuela needn't sell it to the U.S.A.
Fuck You, Señor Danger.
Invade, Bomb, or Coup, and you're cut off.
Have fun with the land war in South America.
We can physically destroy our Oil production. We control it.

Friday, February 17, 2006

whale juicer

Oregon Coast (Reuteres) – It is an unseasonably warm day, in a small town just south of Portland. A grove of beachfront orange trees planted in 2010 fill the air with their fragrant bouquet. But today a new scent is on the wind: blubber. The first whale juicing plant on the West Coast has opened, capable of producing up to 100 barrels of oil a day.

Plant Supervisor Gary Dumlick surveys the beach. “Here comes a fresh batch.” he says, as the waves carry in a sickly clutch of whales, which then shortly begin to convulse on the sand. Workers quickly lash the mammals and tow them inland. “You know, we were certified as a source of green energy by the government because we are using one hundred percent beached whales, unlike the Japanese.”

Green, environmentally friendly oil isn’t the only benefit of the whale juicing plant. Over the past few years, the seabird populations along the coast have been decimated. Mysterious, unfathomable changes in the ocean currents apparently have had the effect of baking ocean plankton into an inedible crust, and plankton is at the root of the food chain.

To combat this, formerly unemployed Oregonians have been given bird tending jobs due to the President Rice Full Employment Act of 2008. Cheeks loaded up with minute chunks of blubber from the whale juicing plant, swimmers make their way out to nesting grounds where they spit the nutritious food out for the birds.

“It is dangerous work,” says Dumlick, “we’ve lost three swimmers this month. But it sure beats mining coal, or living in the Phoenix slums. I just worry what will happen when we run out of whales. Seems like no one is thinking that far ahead.”

That day may come, but for now, Gary Dumlick drives around town in his refurbished Hybrid Jeep with a “Powered By Blubber” bumper sticker, and prospects look bright for the local community. Perhaps even now the waves are washing ashore another dying whale, grist for the mill.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

a pessimistic challenge

The light tone of my previous post aside, (Corn whiskey is fer drinking, not GM Hummers), I would like to highlight one more item from Professor Deffeyes’s latest journal entry:

The Times reports that solar energy today supplies one percent of US electricity; the hope is to double that to 2 percent by the year 2025. By 2025, we're going to be back in the Stone Age.

By 2025, we're going to be back in the Stone Age.

Ethanol, fuel cells, and solar cells are not the only shimmering dreams. Methane hydrates, oil shale, and the Yucca Mountain radioactive waste depository would be better off forgotten. There are plenty of solid opportunities. Energy conservation is by far the most important.

Here is the challenge. All takers. This is the freaking point of Peak Oil. It isn't theoretical.

The world is at peak now. Give or take. What replaces oil? The “markets”, as magical as they may be, are not now or in the future an actual source of energy, and thus industrial capacity. Human ingenuity and money markets haven’t yet granted immortality, or turned water into wine, though both would seem to be in strong demand.

What replaces oil?

A newly organized way of life which intrinsically saves energy? I’ll draw up a plan, will you then agree to live in my utopia?

A new source of energy, LIKE oil but NOT oil? (I hear whales contain oil, if you squeeze 'em.)

What? Specifically?

Everything from turkey gut recycling to solar towers has been examined on this blog. They all fall short as a method to replace liquid fuel on a timescale that matters. Nuclear is a joke; wind kicks the tail of nuclear, but is no kind of liquid fuel.

I want to know. What fixes oil depletion?

Don’t try and bullshit me. Billions of lives are at stake. Maybe yours.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

a toast to peak oil

Deffeyes says we passed peak in December 2005 Energy Bulletin
  1. There are calls for embargoing Iranian oil because of the nuclear weapons situation. Pulling four million barrels per day out from under the world energy supply might trigger a severe worldwide recession. In the post-peak era, we're playing a new ball game and we don't yet know the rules.
  2. Ghawar, the supergiant Saudi oilfield, is producing increasing amounts of water along with the oil. When Simmons sent Twilight in the Desert to the printer, the water cut at Ghawar was around 30 percent. There are later reports on the Internet (home.entouch.net/dmd/ghawar.htm) of water cuts as high as 55 percent. Ghawar has been producing 4 million barrels per day; when the Ghawar field waters out, you can kiss your lifestyle goodbye.

If Ghawar hasn't crested 50%, water cut, she will be there soon enough, and we'd best have the liquor ready.

Bottoms up on a Ghawar Nipple.

11/20 oz. butterscotch schnapps
9/20 oz. Baileys Irish Cream

Pour Bailey's into glass. Fill straw with butterscotch Schnapps. Expel Schnapps into the bottom of the shot glass such that two distinct layers are formed, with the sweet Irish Cream on top.

Or, a flaming Ghawar Whiskey on the rocks.

Drop some oil shale rocks into a tumbler. Fill over half the remaining volume with ice, then finish with the whiskey of your choice.

Carefully pour some everclear onto the top of the beverage and light it with a blowtorch.

After the drink has flared and the ice has melted, it is ready to be enjoyed. The rich oil droplets rising out of the oil shale are to be savored.

Ok humble readers -- Chip in your Peak drinks. I'll publish a cookbook if I get enough.

Friday, February 10, 2006

pickle juice man

Does salesman's gasless engine run on snake oil?
New Jersey businessman Dennis Lee says he can make your car run on pickle juice, Listerine, Coke — pretty much any liquid. He has a machine, he says, that can supply electricity to your home for free using magnets. His nontoxic Insect-a-shield bug repellent is drinkable, he claims.
Attorneys general in at least nine states say Lee's claims are fraudulent. In nearly 20 years of pitching free electricity and other products, he has gained a reputation among regulators as one of the country's most persistent traveling salesmen.
"I'm just here to show it to you," he told (an) audience of about 50 before firing up a lawn mower that produced no exhaust and running a car engine on a concoction of liquids that included steak sauce and an audience-member's latte.

I have little interest in heaping scorn on Dennis Lee. His own words, coupled with a natty hucksters pose are enough. His scam is likely to get a shot in the arm as energy prices inexorably rise.

More insidious are those purveyors of cornpone whiskey and rotting vegetable oil who have recieved a kick in the pants following the State of the Union address. Now, I argued that the U.S. government raising awareness for alternative energy is a valuable step, a leveragable issue for the Peak Energy aware.

James Kunstler had a different take on the State of the Union:
Mr. Bush recommended ethanol. As one wag put it after the speech: "America's heroin is oil, and ethanol will be our methadone." The expectation will still be that everybody must drive incessantly.
It is hard to believe that Mr. Bush does not know the truth of the situation, or that some of the clever people around him who run his brain do not know it, namely that ethanol and all other bio-fuels are net energy losers, that they require more energy to grow and process them than they produce in the end, and that the energy "inputs" required to do this are none other than oil and natural gas, the same fuels we already run engines on.

Green Bio-Fuels are not green, and they are barely fuel. They are functional methods for degrading cropland with mostly negative net energy. In doing so, they leach the soil of nutrients; the only methods for producing bio-fuel, (real or imaginary) that eke out little poops of postive energy involve burning the leavings of the crop, thus dessicating the land in a season or two.

Sadly, most people appear incapable of playing the mental whack-a-mole in their brains when it comes to bio-fuels. There is no small folly in burning through four or five planet worth of viable cropland to get enough extra oil to run the United States for a year. What shall humans eat if we do that -- pavement? And who ever said that burning food should be considered environmentally sound?

And so it goes.

Presidential push spurs ethanol market
In his State of the Union address, Bush called for ethanol to become "practical and competitive within six years," giving a boost to the fuel's proponents.
"It helps to give ethanol and other renewables a boost," Brian Jennings, executive vice president of the American Coalition for Ethanol, told United Press International. "It is always significant to have the president specifically discuss expanding ethanol."

Brian Jennings might be surprised to learn that his ethanol scooby snack shill job puts him lower on the karmic energy totem pole than Dennis Lee, pickle juice man.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

When Doomers Attack

Exxon: America will always rely on foreign oil
Feb 7, 2006 — HOUSTON (Reuters) - The United States will always rely on foreign imports of oil to feed its energy needs and should stop trying to become energy independent, a top Exxon Mobil Corp. executive said on Tuesday.
"Realistically, it is simply not feasible in any time period relevant to our discussion today," Exxon Mobil Senior Vice President Stuart McGill said, referring to what he called the "misperception" that the United States can achieve energy independence.

My oh my. Exxon Mobil, verified evil liars, instructs the United States on no uncertain terms to bury their head in the sand.

Clearly story line Exxon Mobil favors is the one where they Pimp American Freedom to the Middle East, rather than, as the President suggested, the Oil Company as Drug Pusher.

Whatever. Ethics is tricky. Dance with the tar baby that brung you.

Peak Oil is the driver, yet it is still the unspoken elephant in the room for the biggest players, be they presidents or oil companies.

Friday, February 03, 2006

real coal world

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

George Bush and Peak Oil

I try and run a relevant blog here; I must say that for as much as I feel the United States President to be an illegitimate ignoramus blunderhead, he has managed to raise the exposure of energy more in one hour than all the peak blogs did in the last year.

So, dundering kudos to POTUS and his everything but the kitchen sink energy proposals, followed by the belated admission by his Press Weasel that he is a fat old liar.

An admistration first.

The storyline in the State of the Union address managed to raise the hackles of OPEC (hat tip Eric Rachner):
An Opec delegate said: “Comments like that are unrealistic. Everyone knows the world will continue to depend on Middle East imports.” The organisation would raise concerns about such statements damping investment at meetings with the European Union and other organisations “more aligned with Opec’s view”.
Shut up OPEC. Nobody cares. The synchronicity in the State of the Union address with Peak Oil is clear.
In his State of the Union speech, President Bush said "America is addicted to oil" and set a goal of replacing 75 percent of the nation's Mideast oil imports by 2025 with ethanol and other energy sources.

Replace 75% of US oil imports from the Mideast by 2025? Viewed in another way, this is not a "goal," it is a prophesy. There is no way that the US will be importing as much oil from the Mideast in 2025 as it imports today. And there is no way that the nations of the Mideast will be exporting as much oil in 2025 as they are exporting today.
While many of the projects outlined by the Prez King are ridiculous, an atmosphere where it is OK to start thinking about alternative energy is a huge positive in the United States.

The speech is particuarly helpful in a fascist society, such as the United States. It is hard to be the dissenting ant, the layabout grass eater in a nest fire ants. Now, French fries will have their day. (And shall be found wanting.)

Mood: Cautious, temporary optimism.