Friday, April 28, 2006

is that a solar panel on your head?

Gorbachev Urges G8 to Back Solar Power, Not Nuclear
Those concerns have also sparked renewed interest in nuclear power as a source of climate-friendly energy. The debate has been amplified by the need for some European countries to plan soon for the replacement of earlier generations of nuclear power stations that are due to come to the end of their lifespan in the next two decades.
But Gorbachev has said that nuclear power "doesn't add up economically, environmentally or socially. Nuclear power is neither the answer to modern energy problems nor a panacea for climate change challenges." (...)
Green Cross said nuclear technology requires huge amounts of initial capital, while decommissioning plants is hugely expensive and costs continue to be incurred long after a nuclear power station is closed.

Nuclear energy is over-hyped. The investment needed to replace fossil fuel burning electricity plants with nuclear plants is incredible, and doesn't begin to address the impending liquid fuel shortages. So a tip of the hat and a sip of vodka for someone who is really in a position to know, saying what he knows.

Big Gav also picked up on Gorby's challenge yesterday.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

peevish on gasoline

Oil industry profits, salaries fuel outrage
WASHINGTON - Thursday, Exxon Mobil announced it had earned $8 billion in profits in the first three months of this year. For outraged consumers, the staggering profit numbers boil down to this: Exxon earned 9.5 cents on every $1 of gasoline and oil sold, cashing in on skyrocketing prices at every stage of the process.
“The big money for Exxon Mobil,” says oil trader John Kilduff of Fimat USA, “is being made by taking crude oil out of the ground and refining it into gasoline and selling it on the street corner.”

I've listened to a sampling of American opinion on gasoline prices over the last few days. People are pissed. And they are quick to blame everybody, anybody, except themselves.

On Seattle talk radio, breathless doomers are wedged in with smug conservatives counting the months until Alaska gets plundered. The oil companies are colluding. The little guy gets screwed. Etc. etc.

So goes the chatter.

Maybe when gasoline hits five dollars a gallon, people will start to look around for structural fixes to their way of life.

Or the whining will just treble in volume. Hard to tell with corn fed, corn fueled, Americans.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Support Our Crude

Retired Oil Executives Voice Support for Rumsfeld Andy Borowitz
April 25, 2006 - Responding to the chorus of retired generals who have recently called for Donald Rumsfeld's ouster, hundreds of retired oil company executives marched on Washington today to show their support for the secretary of Defense.

The former executives, members of the Retired Petroleum Titans of America, advanced on the nation's capital in what was believed to be the largest chauffeur-driven protest march in American history.

With their chauffeurs holding protest signs reading "SUPPORT OUR CRUDE" with one hand while steering with the other, the former oil bigwigs demonstrated their support for the man they believe to be the greatest defense secretary ever.

Champ Greeley, chairman of the retired oil executives group, said that his fellow petroleum eminences took time out from their annual golf outing in the Virgin Islands to show their backing for the embattled Rumsfeld.

"I know that the retired generals aren't happy with the job Secretary Rumsfeld is doing, but there are two sides to every story," Greeley said. "As far as we retired oil executives are concerned, things just couldn't be going any better."

Monday, April 24, 2006

not in my backyard

James Hall of Cohocton Wind Watch casts his hooks into the “manure of absentee corporate carpetbaggers (…) the cronyism of agribusiness avarice”. He has cast his baleful gaze on the evil wind suckers and their toadies.

The arrogance and capricious disregard for community opposition to an ill-conceived wind turbine project on a scale that would rival the intensive concentration of a worm farm, is down right criminal. If you think wind turbines are benign free energy producers, do your homework. Look to the leadership of the adjacent township of Prattsburgh (…) Their site Advocates for Prattsburgh is a treasure chest for sound and rational data

The often invoked treasure chest of rational data. Let us take a peek.

Key Issues:

Viewshed – 384’ towers 80’ taller than the Statue of Liberty with 230’ diameter rotors, dominating the skylines and visible up to 10 miles and beyond.

Shadow flicker – Potentially dangerous strobe effect from reflections off the rotating blades at sunrise and sunset, which can cause seizures.

Safety zone – Ice throws as far as 1500' - 1800', lighning attraction and resultant fire hazard, and potential injury from disintegration of the rotating blades.

Light pollution – Strobe lights atop each tower flashing 24 hours/day.

Groundwater – Towers weighing more than 200 tons can damage the geological structure above the water table, leading to groundwater contamination by agricultural residues.

Property values – Protect the value of residences, future home sites and recreational real estate from the inappropriate siting of these huge industrial machines.

I get it. Build them wind turbines, and one early spring day, frost still on the ground, I might walk out to a turbine only to be impaled into the ground by an ice shard flung off a turbine. As the ice melts, and I weakly crawl to my feet, a thunderstorm will zoom in out of nowhere, and I’ll be struck by lightening attracted by the nearest tower.

Hair a bit frizzy now, I’ll begin to totter away when a turbine above me will suddenly disintegrate. A spinning blade thus shall chop my arm away. Spewing blood, as I am glancing frantically about, the thrumming turbines will induce a seizure, causing me to collapse again. Mortally wounded, a cow will find me muttering about my cherished - - property values.

The record is very clear what happens when a wind farm is located in the mist of a residential community. When it is slated to be in full view of a pristine historic village the reason for a visit vanishes. Property values are in serious jeopardy and will sink like a rock. What exactly is the benefit to individual households when they will be saddled with the burden of the adverse fall out from an economic albatross?

Let’s all step back and take a deep breath! Slow down this fast track process and conduct some real, serious and independent science and economic impact studies that go to the heart of the issue. Will wind farms truly benefit the ordinary taxpayer and protect the regional community in which we all live?

I take Hall’s point about tourism, and I think SOME of his points about careful placement of a wind farm are issues that any community should consider. I just wonder if he has looked into his crystal ball, and considered what might happen to those precious tourism dollars a few years down the line when gasoline costs five dollars per gallon?

Will wind farms be so ugly then? Or will people find them beautiful, when natural gas electricity plants start dropping off the grid, for lack of fuel? When the Appalachian mountains have been turned into the Appalachian flatlands? The alleged health risks of a humming turbine pale in comparison to the mercury heaving out in our air every second from coal furnaces around the globe.

James Hall doubtless hasn’t considered any of this. He’s a property values guy, a “baby boomer,” in the American parlance. Perhaps he drives an SUV, perched so fearfully high off the ground, so high up in heaven, that he doesn’t realize that the road below is paved with the bones of his grandchildren.

Too harsh? Too imaginative?

Having read the entirety of Mister Hall’s dyspeptic essay, no slack shall be granted. There are consequences for consuming the world. One itsy bitsy consequence would be the freedom to live foolishly is no longer possible. Wind turbines are not optional for those wishing to run with the “Energy Set” in the future.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

petroleum brunch

Oceans of Waste
SOMETHING RED CAUGHT Ellen Anderson's eye. (...) She stared, shocked: A dead bird, its exposed belly filled with shiny bits of plastic. Chunks yellowed like old teeth, a perforated pink rectangle, hairy tan slivers. A red shard had first captured her attention.
"My gut hurt. It was a glorious day, sunny, a treasure in May. Everything was great. And then I saw that bird and I was sick to my stomach," Anderson recently recalled. "You jump to conclusions. Like, did the bird eat all that plastic? I was hoping it hadn't been consumed by the bird, that somebody planted it there as a joke or something."
"Yes — Ellen — it is just as you suspected," wrote the Conservancy's Charles Barr, in a reply echoed by the others. "Seabirds are eating plastics that become lodged in their stomachs, causing death. I have seen dozens of photos such as this one — most of . . . dead albatross on the Pacific Islands of Midway and the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. . . . Many of the albatross will even return to their nests to feed, by regurgitation, plastics to their chicks."

Ebbesmeyer is not an optimist. He's seen too many studies that never went anywhere.
"If you could fast forward 10,000 years and do an archeological dig, a core sample down through the beach, you'd find a little line of plastic," he says. "What happened to those people? Well, they ate their own plastic and disrupted their genetic structure and weren't able to reproduce. They didn't last very long because they killed themselves.

Nice article in the Seattle Times about the opportunities to feast on oil products directly, rather than waiting for them to be cycled into corn. Leave it to the birds, little eyes aglitter as shiny flotsam drifts along the waves, to lead the way.

You thought the dinosaurs were extinct? Almost. Almost. We're working on it, one seabird at a time.

I guess this explains Piñatas.

Plastic is Forever
Sam Phillips

my t.v. doesn't listen when I give it pieces of my mind
it keeps making everything the same size
pain is pleasure when it's televised
plastic is forever

artificial florists
sell you flowers that will never die
they cut down the real forests
for paper petals engraved with (...) lies

Saturday, April 22, 2006

earth day

Friday, April 21, 2006


Thursday, April 20, 2006

Thanks, mainstream media, for the heads up.

Oil Rises to a Record $72.40 a Barrel After U.S. Supplies Drop
Oil supplies fell 806,000 barrels to 345.2 million in the week ended April 14, the report showed. Gasoline stockpiles plunged 5.4 million barrels as refiners finished maintenance of units before the peak-demand summer months. Contracts for oil closest to expiration are cheaper than those for delivery later this year because of concern over future supplies.
``Gasoline supply and prices are driving things,'' said Justin Fohsz, a broker at Starsupply Petroleum, a division of GFI Group Inc., in Englewood, New Jersey. ``The fall in crude stocks was a big surprise.''
Oil surged to a record yesterday after U.S. President George W. Bush said ``all options are on the table'' to keep Iran, the fourth-biggest oil producer, from developing nuclear weapons. The previous record of $70.85 a barrel was reached on Aug. 30, the day after Hurricane Katrina struck production platforms and refineries along the U.S. Gulf of Mexico coast. About 22 percent of Gulf oil production and 13 percent of gas production is still out of service, according to a report from the Minerals Management Service. Concern that the storm season, running from June to November, may bring further disruption has helped push oil higher.

Just remember one thing: After Katrina, everything changed. Last year, Europe sent the U.S. strategic oil. This year, they won't.

Gasoline is primed to run over four dollar a gallon by labor day in the States.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

blackouts rollings like tumbleweeds

Record Heat Prompts Rolling Blackouts
About 15 percent of Texas' power supply was already offline Monday for seasonal maintenance, NBC 5 News reported. The heat triggered unseasonable energy demands and by late afternoon, Texans were using more energy than utility companies were prepared to produce. The Texas Electric Regulatory Board ordered electric utility providers across the state to reduce their loads, prompting rolling blackouts across the area.

Not enough power in Texas? Guess they'll all be downsizing to 7 gallon hats.

trade you a 2004 rookie gloom for a 2005 doomer

Oil Rises to Near Record as Iranian Dispute May Lead to Attacks
April 18 (Bloomberg) -- Oil approached a record $70.85 a barrel in New York on concern that a dispute over Iran's nuclear program may lead to military conflict and disrupt supplies from the world's fourth-largest producer.

``It's the constant talk of attacks and military action that are heightening tensions again and helping push up prices,'' said Gerard Burg, a minerals and energy economist at National Australia Bank Ltd. in Melbourne.

Crude oil for May delivery rose as much as 38 cents, or 0.5 percent, to $70.78 a barrel in after-hours electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract traded at $70.67 at 2:33 p.m. Singapore time. Yesterday, futures ended at $70.40, the highest closing price since trading started in 1983.

Israel may need to take action to stop Iran developing nuclear weapons, Avigdor Lieberman, who may become the country's internal security minister, said yesterday. Oil has risen 17 percent in the past month, prompting speculation that higher energy prices may stoke inflation and slow economic growth.

Oil, which has more than tripled since the start of 2002, reached an intraday all-time high of $70.85 a barrel on Aug. 30, the day after Hurricane Katrina hit the U.S. Gulf Coast, wrecking pipelines and platforms.

One wonders, reading this, if there is anything left to be said. Meanwhile, on local Seattle radio I overheard a host earnestly complaining about the price of gasoline.

Guess what? It is even more expensive when someone throws a match in.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

trifecta of energy

Looks like an interesting conference. Jan Lundberg, Michael Klare, David Pimental, and Albert Bartlett, among many others.

I'd like to see one of these on the West Coast, so I have a shot at stopping in!

add it up

Britain now 'eating the planet' via Energy Bulletin
The report, produced by Nef and the Open University's geography department, uses a number of examples that it says illustrate how resources are being wasted, including:
  • In 2004, the UK exported 1,500 tonnes of fresh potatoes to Germany, and imported 1,500 tonnes of the same product from the same country
  • Imported 465 tonnes of gingerbread, but exported 460 tonnes of the same produce
  • Sent 10,200 tonnes of milk and cream to France, yet imported 9,900 tonnes of the dairy goods from France
Nice article which demonstrates a problem with resource flow at the macroscopic level. Of course, one can evaluate this on a more personal level as well.

Average Joe Household:

  • Cheetos imported every year, 20 lbs. Cheetos which grow on that runty cheeto bush in the front yard, 1 lbs. (And it looks like it needs to be watered.)

  • Milk imported every year, 52 gallons. Aggregate milk production from domestic animals (dog and cat), 1 pint.

  • Beer imports, 6552 fluid ounces. Homemade apple cider, (oops,) 30 fluid ounces. Apple juice also imported.

  • There you have it. The list stretches on from there. Some say it is also possible to grow tomatos and raise chickens, but now we're talking crazy talk.

    Thursday, April 13, 2006

    mushroom games

    The Rise of U.S. Nuclear Primacy -- (hat tip past peak)
    Hawks will undoubtedly see the advent of U.S. nuclear primacy as a positive development. For them, MAD was regrettable because it left the United States vulnerable to nuclear attack. With the passing of MAD, they argue, Washington will have what strategists refer to as "escalation dominance" -- the ability to win a war at any level of violence -- and will thus be better positioned to check the ambitions of dangerous states such as China, North Korea, and Iran. Doves, on the other hand, are fearful of a world in which the United States feels free to threaten -- and perhaps even use -- force in pursuit of its foreign policy goals. In their view, nuclear weapons can produce peace and stability only when all nuclear powers are equally vulnerable. Owls worry that nuclear primacy will cause destabilizing reactions on the part of other governments regardless of the United States' intentions. They assume that Russia and China will work furiously to reduce their vulnerability by building more missiles, submarines, and bombers; putting more warheads on each weapon; keeping their nuclear forces on higher peacetime levels of alert; and adopting hair-trigger retaliatory policies. If Russia and China take these steps, owls argue, the risk of accidental, unauthorized, or even intentional nuclear war -- especially during moments of crisis -- may climb to levels not seen for decades.

    A disquieting article in the March Foriegn Affairs magazine discusses the goal of the United States to achieve nuclear primacy. In fact, the authors imply this has already happened.

    United States nuclear primacy means in a flat military sense the American Military can launch a massive strike against Russian or Chinese nuclear assets, and completely wipe them out. This implies that it is possible for there to be a winner, instead of two losers, as during the Cold War era.

    It is completely nuts. MAD is bad. Primacy is worse, in a nuclear proliferated world. Incredibly destabilizing. If China assumes they will be the eventual loser in a nuclear exchange, why should they wait for the gorilla to wipe them out? There will be pressure to enact the two losers scenario - - MAD realized -- as opposed to simply being nuked silly. The psychology will drive generals bonkers. Twitchy thumbs will jitter over the red button.

    Whatever strategic advantage the United States military and civilian leadership might imagine it has, the possibility of a nuclear firestorm is a disaster. A disaster on par with, or greater than, the worst global warming scenarios.

    Peak oil, in comparison, is a gentle lesson in humility and mortality for one generation. Our generation, as it happens.

    The trigger to assert nuclear primacy is simple. Use nuclear weapons, and dare the world to say or do anything. "Bring it on." All that is needed is a suitable target. Like those Iranian rogues, with a long history of belligerant warfare over the last two hundred years - - the Mexican Persian war of 1812, the conquest of the Philippines, the bit of nastiness with Spain, their ill fated adventure in Vietnam, their ill fated adventure in Korea, their... oops, I've got my notes mixed up. Ah yes, says here that they went to war with Iraq. Is that is good or bad?

    Iran: The Nuclear Option
    According to New Yorker columnist Seymour Hersh, the Bush administration is contemplating "the use of a bunker-buster tactical nuclear weapon, such as the B61-11, against [Iran's] underground nuclear sites." Presumably, the B61-11 nuclear bomb can be configured with yields low enough to be categorized as a mini-nuke, i.e., sub- or only a few kilotons. Currently considered a "dumb bomb," theoretically, the B61-11 could be mated with GPS guidance to achieve the same precision as the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), which where used to great effect in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    The Chinese is curse is famously "may you live in interesting times." The American corollary to this must be "may you live in a diseased tumor."

    In my nightmare.

    Israel soaks the first. Ten by a thousand years wisped into glittering, bloody glass. The United States gets the next two or three, and we know New York will suffer. Alas, Babylon. Then the bad guys run out of their tin plated, rust bucket cobble-bombs.

    Leaving the feuding, oil hungry principles with nukes resting unused in their eggs, begging to blossom. Bounce the perps in their cradles, polished plutonium whispers. Maybe the US will take out Mecca. Thanks for teaching us McBarbarism! Thanks for chopping off the heads of a thousand westerners! What goes around.

    In my nightmare, the single most oil hungry entity in the world, the United States armed forces, wastes more oil fighting wars than it locks up in oil territory in the next ten years. Imperial America becomes a singularity in world history - the most reviled, hated civilization of all time, forwards and back. No nation will ever rise higher, because the oil will be gone. The moon is gone. We went there once. You can't visit a place like that unless you are dripping energy wealth.

    In my nightmare, five billion people starve to death. This will happen in your lifetime, if you live sixty more years and no replacement for oil is found. In my nightmare, a replacement for oil is found, and we finish off planet Earth and the other one billion.

    In times of chaos, there is potential for foundational change - positive or negative. Look how 9/11 turned the United States towards fascism and unbridled militarism. Impressive, no?

    We'll get our chance to achieve great change. Without sentiment, we need to prepare paths and possibilities for humanity that nurture the Earth as oil fades away. The population of humankind will shrink, and our ability to damage planet Earth will shrink with it. The lesson will be burned into every culture, a lesson of folly and hubris. A myth, a flood story. And balance will come like flowers through pavement.

    In my dream.

    And please, no nukes. They are ruin.

    (c) Jon S., 2004

    Wednesday, April 12, 2006

    molasses farming

    Geological Peak vs. Logistical Peak
    The commenters at UK TOD further deconstructed his statement by separating out the idea of a geological peak versus a logistical peak. We can defer the latter by throttling the production in an optimal fashion -- a very business-centric way of thinking.
    I prefer to distinguish the two types of peak as residing on different phases of the oil shock model. Essentially, a geological peak occurs during the discovery process; we hit the peak when we think we have made the most volumetric discoveries per year. On the other hand, the logistical peak only occurs when we start extracting the oil, having to wade through the fallow, construction, and maturation phases prior to that point.

    Mobjectivist continues to refine his oil shock model, eschewing slavish devotion to the curvacious.

    The speed at which geological reserves can be produced is critical to our current and future energy supply, or rate of production.

    Canterell produces fast, like a bowl of vanilla ice cream without the nuts. (It is, in fact, a big bowl of oil).

    On slower side, Colorado shale production promises to be more of a rocky road. (I just kicked myself in the head for atrocious punnery.)

    Oil-industry analyst Michael Smith, who took his PhD in geology (...) - sitting in the same chair as I did in the research lab - is an expert in this subject. He has spent most of his vocational life as an oil-industry geologist working around the world, particularly in the Middle East. "Reserves are largely irrelevant to the peak," he says. "Production capacity is the important thing - how quickly you can get it out. It is an engineering problem, not a geological problem."

    Monday, April 10, 2006

    the ugly truth

    Pianka and Mims
    I'm getting some email requests to state my opinion on some claims by Forrest M. Mims. Mims attended a talk by Eric Pianka, in which he claims Pianka advocated the "slow and torturous death of over five billion human beings." I wasn't there, and I don't know exactly what was said, but I will venture a few opinions and suggestions.
    • I assure you that biologists do not have a secret plan to deliberately murder nine-tenths of the planet's human beings in order to make room for more bacteria. The suggestion is ludicrous and is little more than an absurd conspiracy theory.
    • There's another account of the talk online. It mentions nothing of a plan to intentionally infect people with airborne ebola and kill a majority of the people on Earth. Pianka does clearly state that the planet is overpopulated and that we cannot sustain our growth, and may have already exceeded what we can maintain at a desirable style of living. That's the kind of thing an audience of ecologists would readily agree to, and is a truth they would applaud as an honest and strongly stated opinion.
    • Forrest Mims is not a credible source. He is a disgruntled creationist (...)
    • I suspect that what we have here is a vocal scientist who tactlessly spoke an unpleasant truth—we are burning through the resources of our world at a prodigious and unsustainable rate, heedless of the future, and we can expect Nature in the form of a devastating disease to strike back
    Apparently, at some point in his talk, Pianka compared humans on earth to bacteria.

    May the maker bless Eric Pianka.

    I've said it myself, and I believe it. "Humanity as a whole has all the brains of an algae bloom." A perpetually growing population is not an entitlement such that your fucking real estate can go up in value. There is no real difference for human culture if one were to compare a global population of 1 billion people and 9 billion people, except 9 billion people will consume Earth Services faster than they can be replaced.

    Further, there is no difference between a population of 100 million and 20 billion, except that 20 billion people would, after eating all the fish in the ocean, start harvesting the scabrous critters that live off the black smokers, as a last ditch effort to maintain their squalid way of life.

    Shall we sit on our throne of bleached corral and wait for the end, or will humans manage population with eyes wide open? And BY THE WAY, death camps are not what I am suggesting. Rather, contraception. Wrap the Pope in a huge condom.

    The truth hurts. It is getting harder to ignore.

    Saturday, April 08, 2006

    on criticizing the peak oil predicament

    The “Apocalypse, not” article by permaculture expert Toby Hemenway has been getting a lot of positive play around the energy blog-o-sphere.

    There are some serious problems with his analysis. Anyone who invokes critical thinking had better exhibit it, and framing an article around supposed apocalyptic ninnies allows the author to pen a mass of prose which debunks various straw people, while sidestepping structural issues.

    First, note the talking points invented by the author, which he sums up with “These are the significant beliefs needed to be a Peak Oil catastrophist. Each is false. Let’s look at them.

    Indeed, let’s look. This invented composite position deserves an analytical response.

    1. Our demand for oil is unchangeable and is not significantly affected by price.
    In terms of industrial agriculture and food transportation, this statement is absolutely correct, not false. Needed is a replacement for oil, or a smaller population. This may or may not play out as a catastrophe. Demand destruction at the plateau has nothing to do with 6.6 billion hungry souls at the bottom.

    2. We are so badly addicted to oil that we will watch our civilization collapse rather than change our behavior.
    At present, our behaviour is changing as supplies tighten. Is that timely enough? Jared Diamond’s Collapse is chock full of civilizations that disappeared as their resource base dwindled, and a scant handful that bucked the trend. Now, I’m all for bucking the trend. The statement is not “false”. It is a scenario.

    5. Significant oil conservation is not possible in the time frame needed.
    Another scenario. Written in a way that the author can falsify it. There is not the slightest evidence of strategic oil conservation. Individual countries and people conserve because they can’t afford as much, but oil itself is not presently being conserved.

    4. Even with conservation, demand will be more than oil plus alternatives can possibly meet.
    This is already true. I am keenly interested in the alternatives, and find it noteworthy that as oil prices rise, ethanol prices rise more.

    5. Society is so fragile that it cannot withstand large shocks.
    Is this really false? It must depends on the definition of a large shock. Maybe we should ask a displaced Katarina victim for their opinion. I’m a bit aghast that a permaculture expert is seemingly unaware of the converging problems for all civilization around the world, including: Rapidly dropping water tables. Rapidly declining fish stocks. Denuded soil, which will take thousands of years to heal without active intervention. Acidic oceans destroying plankton, wee critters currently tasked with providing the bulk of breathin’ air. These problems are “shocking”, and we will meet them head on in an era of waning energy. Cheap energy currently masks, and contributes too, each of these problems! Ironic, yet no one is laughing.

    "Let’s engage in a little critical thinking about Hubbert’s curve. Domestic oil production began to fall sharply around 1970. Why the steep drop? If we’re blinded by theory, we’d say “because supply dried up” and leave it at that. But a careful thinker must look for other explanations that may have an effect. There are several: A major oil spill off California in 1969, the first Earth Day in 1970, and many other events spawned a rise in environmental consciousness in the 1970s, and soon, public outcry forced the US to block off-shore drilling and other sources of domestic oil because they damaged our environment."

    In a attacking the apocaphyles, a little criticism of Hubbard’s peak has crept in, as well as some useless analysis of why production slowed down. Earth Day had nothing to do with Texas. What a hoot. The off shore supplies are trivial. A careful thinker might consider that Hubbert’s key insight was not the curve, but rather that ALL oil reservoirs are finite and can be produced at predictable rates until they are kaput. And if by “other sources” Hemenway refers to oil shale, it should be noted that only one thing stands in way of production. Rocks. Rocks being heavy, such that there is no net energy during production. Not a tender concern for environmental damage. When the rocks are jammed with coal, mountains are bulldozed.

    "Today, lapsed US oil leases are being bought back by the oil majors, who are developing these deposits with new techniques. Congress has re-authorized off-shore drilling, and US production has stopped falling. We’re not on Hubbert’s curve any more."

    This is completely cobblers. Of course the value of oil will drive more activity for some of the accessible leavings, but it won’t affect production significantly. “US production has stopped falling” - - horse feathers.

    "SUV sales are way down. We are already reacting, and each bit of conservation now buys us more time in the future. Hubbert’s curve is broadening."

    Production is still maxed, and supplies are tight. American SUV’s are not the only oil consumer in the world. The price of oil is still too low to enact demand destruction. Instead, there is a shift in supplies from the countries that can no longer afford oil to those that can. Oil is not priced dearly enough yet for a “broadening of Hubbert’s curve,” although I agree with Hemenway in spirit here, that were oil to be priced somewhere above $120 dollars a barrel tomorrow, serious and positive changes in our consumer culture would take place.

    "Price and demand are tightly linked. We change our behavior dramatically when prices rise. Those are basic facts that Peak-Oil catastrophism ignores."

    Actually, the key to peak oil is that it describes a finite resource. Whether or not a catastrophe occurs depends completely on what form the dramatic behavior change takes. Throughout the twentieth century, cheap, abundant energy has been available to help us solve our problems and feed billions. Conservation is a reasonable answer to the problem of disappearing energy. Unfortunately, so is war, overshoot, famine, etcetera. There is a difference between having an emotional response against a position, and proving it wrong with a well formed argument.

    "We lost up to 30% of our oil and gas production, and a major city, overnight. Petroleum prices spiked, but other compartments in the system compensated, and gasoline prices quickly settled and slipped to below their pre-Katrina levels."

    European gifts are not sustainable, as North Americans will discover this summer.

    "Everything may be connected to everything else, but only loosely. Scenarios of a lock-step march to disaster betray a poor understanding of the complexity, loose linkage, and resilience of global systems. "

    The resilience of global systems is lately underpinned by cheap energy. Conservation won’t ship food, cut wheat, irrigate fields, or produce chemical fertilizer.

    "Perhaps Peak Oil, and a return to a time when resources are dear and labor is abundant, will remind us that there is much more to life than the manufactured desire to have more toys. Perhaps we can lose our small-minded obsession with getting and spending, and finally grow into maturity as a species."

    Amen, all criticisms aside.

    Thursday, April 06, 2006

    congress fiddles while america burns

    Wednesday, April 05, 2006


    In honor of Riverbend's recent nomination for the Samuel Johnson award for her book based on writing from her blog, I am re-posting an entry from my own blog regarding hers.

    I wish I could say that things have changed for the better in Baghdad since this post from a year ago. Doesn't exactly seem to be the case, now does it?

    If you see death, you settle for a fever

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Tuesday, April 04, 2006

    buckets of oil

    What a difference 20 years make in crude oil prices

    I began writing World Oil's annual Crude Oil Outlook article on New Years Day, 13 years ago, when prices had just fallen below $14/bbl for the first time since 1986. At the time, conventional wisdom was certain that the world market had entered a new paradigm of ample, diverse supply. This was deemed to have removed a $10 "fear premium" that had been a structural aspect of pricing since the 1973 Oil Shock. Hence, most observers felt that prices ought to trade within a $10-to-$13/bbl range for the foreseeable future, bringing prices back to levels only briefly experienced in 1986, when a genuine supply overhang existed.

    Matt Simmons waxes a bit sentimental on years of being correct, straining only slightly. The graph enclosed in the article stuck in my brain. Hey! Two can play at this sentimental game. I started blogging back in December 2004, right before the elevator ride of plateau oil pricing.

    Welcome to the bandwagon, all you doomers who got on board at $60 a barrel!

    And, heck, as long as I am posting charts, here is one for the bugs.

    Those are inflation adjusted values - - note gold spikes lags behind oil, but does catch up...

    Peakies. Know nothing bunch, we are.

    Monday, April 03, 2006


    Certain acquaintances of mine - - family, friends, and so forth, are growing a bit weary of the whole peak oil meme.

    I understand completely.

    Familiarity breeds contempt, especially when the only accessible effect is higher pump prices. Common cynicism might kick in - - there is that war in Iraq, maybe, probably, it is about the oil. Things will settle down, just like 1991.

    With that, the loop seemingly closes.

    The peak is quite tricky here at the top, for humans to imagine. There is that sense that in the moment of now, there is more of everything, such that in thirty years there will be yet more of everything. Hopeful futurists, (short on arithmetic skills), step in, floating ideas like switchgrass tar sand hydrogen hybrids, or something.

    This sense of plenty is an illusion. The dominos are falling now.

    One of the largest oil fields in the world, Mexico’s Cantarell, is in depletion. Due to some peculiarities of the reservoir, (It was formed after an asteroid hit), decline is expected to be steep. So, Vicente Fox Announces Huge Oil Find, declaring the void filled. Rank propaganda. Sulfurous, chunky, underwater reserves don’t have a good track record. They are damn hard to produce. Hurricanes happen.

    Cantarell is an oil field `supergiant`. (As an aside, it occurs to me that there might be a high value in graphing oil fields in a fashion similar to the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram in astronomy. Luminosity might correlate with ease of production, Mass with reserves divided by field area, and so on. I’ll do it, if someone can point me to a public dataset.) Ghawar is a supergiant. These two babies are slipping. Sugar prices are skyrocketing as a result. Odd, yes? What other surprise lurk?

    Dominos. Consider this, from the devastated Gulf Coast region:

    Gulf Platform Damage Still Being Assessed
    An assessment by the Minerals Management Service showed that older facilities accounted for 109 of the 115 platforms that were destroyed. Those platforms were, with few exceptions, in the shallower Continental Shelf waters in the Gulf and were all built before new standards for platform construction went into effect in 1983, Howard said.
    That number of platforms, while huge, represents only about 1.7 percent of the 1.5 billion barrels of oil a day that was produced in the Gulf of Mexico before Katrina and less than 1 percent of the natural gas. Because of their age and productivity, most of those platforms won't be rebuilt or repaired.
    Last week, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman (said) "These are old fields. They tend to be depleted. And it was not economically viable to reinvest and to rebuild those. And so the companies haven't done it. They are drilling wells elsewhere. They're drilling further offshore and they're developing more reserves," he said.

    I’m not sure I completely buy the line in the article that 109 facilities destroyed only account for 2% of production. Yet, that is beside the point. It is doubtless true that these rigs are not economically viable if rebuilt, especially with hurricanes stacking up for the next ten years.

    Think. Oil companies are making record profits, and never mind the lack of development of new infrastructure. They won’t even work fields they know have reserves. Because they can’t. It doesn’t pencil out.

    These subtleties are beyond the ken of the drill-more crowd. These are the folks who think nothing of turning national parks into pin cushions for a few pecks of methane.

    A point in time is rapidly approaching wherein such foolishness will be physically impossible, except for those enthusiastic enough to use shovels.

    Once upon a time there was a tiny, tiny chicken named Chicken Little.
    One day Chicken Little was scratching in the garden when something fell on her head.
    "Oh," cried Chicken Little, "the sky is falling. I must go tell the king."
    So Chicken Little ran and ran, and she met Henny Penny.
    "Where do you travel so fast, Chicken Little?" asked Henny Penny.
    "Ah, Henny Penny," said Chicken Little, "the sky is falling, and I must go and tell the king."
    "How do you know that the sky is falling, Chicken Little?" asked Henny Penny.
    "I saw it with my eyes, I heard it with my ears, and a bit of it fell on my head," said Chicken Little.
    "I will go with you to the king," said Henny Penny.