Tuesday, October 24, 2006

the pattern

Oil stuck below $159, traders question OPEC resolve

SINGAPORE (Reuteres) Oil deepened losses below $159 a barrel on Tuesday as traders waited for evidence that other OPEC members would follow Saudi Arabia's lead in cutting output.

U.S. light, sweet crude dipped 12 cents to $158.69 a barrel by 0148 GMT, extending a 52-cent fall on Monday . Prices hit a 2008 low of $156.55 a barrel last week and stand 25 percent below a record-high traded in July. London Brent fell 26 cents to $158.95 a barrel.

Top global exporter Saudi Arabia told its customers at the weekend that it would give them less crude in November, making good on its part in an OPEC deal last week to cut production by 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) to try to stem falling prices.

The kingdom told Asian refiners that it would cut their sales by up to 8 percent versus October's levels and told oil majors that it would deepen earlier curbs by another 5 percent, but most others members have yet to show evidence of reducing output.

With oil prices still high by historical measures, analysts have questioned whether the full cuts OPEC agreed to will be implemented, and oil traders appear to be waiting for the proof.

"Until another third world country starves to death following the cut on stockpile levels we don’t expect a response" from prices, said Blonkles Gurb, a commodities analyst at National Paraguay Bank. "It may be a few weeks before anything happens (to stocks)."

Some OPEC ministers said another 500,000 bpd reduction could follow when the group meets in Abuja in December as they fear a supply glut could develop in the second quarter if peak winter demand fails to draw down toppy stockpiles.

Meanwhile, in the face of oil production cuts, construction of the huge asphalt pyramid commemorating the American-Iran conflict continues unabated in Saudi Arabia.

“It is a stupid and useless war to, thus it is fitting that we celebrate it with our excess stupid and unrefinable heavy crude,” stated Abdullahi Jones, a spokesperson for the United States of Arabia.

(Real article here)

Monday, October 23, 2006

where it’s at

For the first time, he demonstrates that we can achieve the necessary cut – a 90% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 – without bringing civilisation to an end. Combining his unique knowledge of campaigning and environmental science, he shows how we can transform our houses, our power and our transport systems. But he also shows that this can happen only with a massive programme of action which no government has yet been prepared to take.

We’re obviously living with the energy production plateau now. Pretty sure we’ll get the opportunity to experience blue skies in 2030, by which time global hoarding will have kicked in, barring massive and racially suicidal exploitation of the oceanic methane hydrates. Ninety percent reduction in carbon emissions is a reasonable outcome of ongoing depletion of accessible reservoirs. Apologies to those expecting a linear outcome on the downslope, that is an unlikely scenario.

The question is, will a humane, sustainable and humble civilization be in place by that date?

It is said that an octopus will sometimes gain in intelligence right before it dies. Carbon human is almost dead, with one chance to wise up before kicking the bucket. Everything that is valuable, everything we care about, must be decoupled from carbon fuel sources, or it won’t be coming with us.

Peak oil is a backdrop, a true natural limit, begging a response. Yet there is no ethical or moral response to peak energy as such, it being simply a kick in the pants.

Here is our bloody energy. We will spend it. How?

George Monbiot has some ideas. Get onboard. Pick nits on the way.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

not so pretty

The Lancet Study...
We literally do not know a single Iraqi family that has not seen the violent death of a first or second-degree relative these last three years. Abductions, militias, sectarian violence, revenge killings, assassinations, car-bombs, suicide bombers, American military strikes, Iraqi military raids, death squads, extremists, armed robberies, executions, detentions, secret prisons, torture, mysterious weapons – with so many different ways to die, is the number so far fetched?

Saddam Hussein was not a pretty flower, but he was our little flower, and all the events that Riverbend describe have taken place since we clipped Saddam and placed him in a vase.

Let's pretend the 600,000+ number is all wrong and that the minimum is the correct number: nearly 400,000. Is that better? Prior to the war, the Bush administration kept claiming that Saddam killed 300,000 Iraqis over 24 years. After this latest report published in The Lancet, 300,000 is looking quite modest and tame. Congratulations Bush et al.

This is not what democracy looks like. It looks and smells like something else.

At least 618,000 Americans died in the Civil War, and some experts say the toll reached 700,000. The number that is most often quoted is 620,000. At any rate, these casualties exceed the nation's loss in all its other wars, from the Revolution through Vietnam.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Peak Oil and Global Warming - Guest Editorial

Reader pekadillo posted a thoughtful comment on a recent post -- with his permission I am sharing it with everyone.

Blackall Range Relocalisation
I've come to similar conclusions (...) I've recently been attempting to hitch the concepts of Peak Oil and Climage Change together into a big flashing arrow pointing towards what I consider to be the most reasonable solution: relocalisation.

Here's what's I've got so far. Feel free to do what you want with it.

Twin Forces

The twin forces of Climate Change and Peak Oil are pushing humanity to change our way of life.

In one ear, Climate Change tells us to stop burning fossil fuels or suffer the upheaval of environmental collapse.

In the other ear, Peak Oil reminds us that we have only a little time left to use our currently abundant oil and gas to effect change.

Two Complementary Problems

Peak Oil and Climate Change are huge problems in their own right. However, they are connected in many ways.
For example, if we attempt to enter the age of expensive oil without attempting to curb our demand, we will be forced to turn to dirty fuels such as coal and shale oil as oil and gas supplies decline, exacerbating global warming.

If we attempt to ignore global warming, our ability to address global problems such as oil decline will be diminished as we struggle to deal with environmental collapse, reduced agricultural output, refugees, economic recession, and other severe issues arising from climate change.

Thus we must solve both problems at once.

One Ultimatum

Both problems make the same ultimatum: we can make changes in an orderly manner soon, or change will come only a little later, in the form of a disorderly collapse of our existing way of life.

There are two major potential strategies before us.
1. Techno-fix
2. Re-localisation

Technofix strategies
"Fixing the fix for the fix"

This approach aims to allow us to continue more or less the way we are now, by applying technology to the problem. Our electricity is supplied by solar, wind, nuclear, and 'clean coal'. Our transport is powered by biofuels, hydrogen, fuel cells or batteries.

Technofix solutions are problematic for several reasons, including the following:

* They rely on cheap, abundant energy and a strong economy to implement and scale up
* They require expensive, large-scale infrastructure modifications that take a long time to complete
* They ignore other problems which also arise from unsustainable resource use, eg habitat loss, pollution, resource depletion, etc
* They add new levels of complexity to an already complex network of factors, inviting unexpected consequences
* They don't take into account energy returned on energy invested (EROEI) and actually do more harm than good

Re-localisation strategies
"Transportation systems are a symptom of being in the wrong place"

In this approach, we change our systems to use less energy and resources. Relocalisation aims to make local regions more self-sufficient, and less dependant on cheap transport and other external inputs. Food, energy and other products would be produced as locally as possible.

This solution has a number of advantages:

* It reduces demand on resources and reduces the need for transport
* It can be implemented even during an economic recession
* It builds community
* It encourages responsible economic development
* It can be begun NOW without having to wait for scientific breakthroughs
* It is compatible with long term sustainability
* It has the potential to reintroduce skills lost in the recent past
* Relocalised communities eat healthier food and get more exercise

In short, a strategy based upon relocalisation not only addresses both global warming and peak oil by withdrawing their root causes, it also brings with it number of positive effects for our society.

Monday, October 09, 2006

tunnel vision

To further the discussion I started a few days ago advocating that Peak Oil types latch on to the Global Warming bandwagon, I’d like to make my position clear, and then devolve into some lazy ruminations.

Put the puzzle together. Everything that is happening in our world – resource depletion, over-consumption, depletion, global warming, global inflation, global wars– these ARE ALL THE SAME SICKNESS. Peak Oil, Peak methane, Peak coal, Peak agriculture, etc, these are each a demonstration of the human condition writ on the world, evolution tossed out of balance -- for perhaps only an instant -- by technology exercised without thought to limits.

In terms of Global Warming, and Peak Oil, this I believe:

Humans will burn EVERY SCRAP of accessible carbon fuel left on the globe, and quickly too. Sorry if this strikes some of cynical, I’d love to know how one is supposed to respond to the examples of the last century. It is HAPPENING and most carbon sequestration schemes are energy inefficient until proven otherwise.

Procrastination is the order of the day. In America, should Bush make it through the rest of his term without being impeached, he’ll spend the rest of his tenure paying lip service to global warming, and doing nothing.

Damn lucky, then, that energy depletion will proceed so rapidly. The opinion of some is that the ride down the energy ladder will be smooth. I disagree, I think it is bad analysis to say you can simply apply nanotechnology (yeast) and continue to brew beer without sugar, but I don’t care. Everyone has a cherished scenario. Some faithfully believe Jesus will return to divide up the corn amongst the baby boomers until there is enough ethanol for all. Others are capable of doing arithmetic.

We’re on the oil production plateau NOW. Use of carbon fuel is GOING DOWN. Get it? Humanity is going to strike the runaway Global Warming tipping point, or dodge it. My guess is dodge by a hair.

My guess is as good as yours, friend, and hopeful to boot.

In the meantime, there is a global warming bandwagon, and everybody is lining up. The good and the bad together. So how about Peak Oil types as well? What are we going to do, run on a platform of water injection or bust? A basket of crude grades? EROEIWTF?

This is not a stab at the necessary work all of us in the Peak Oil community are doing. I’m an energy geek certified, licensed and bonded. I’m fascinated by the world revealed. I’m pleased to get an orthogonal perspective on the arcane priestcraft of economics. Thanks, Ken Deffeyes! None of us, myself included, are going to de-focus from this topic.

Just saying. When advocating solutions, one may advocate something that will be largely misunderstood, or one can hitch a walkable community to global warming. An“eat local” movement to global warming. Wind turbines. Wee little smart cars. Bicycle lanes.

And people might listen. We’ll need this stuff, soon.

Together, we might recycle suburbia.

Tears For Fears
Mad World

All around me are familiar faces
Worn out places, worn out faces
Bright and early for their daily races
Going nowhere, going nowhere
And their tears are filling up their glasses
No expression, no expression
Hide my head I want to drown my sorrow
No tommorow, no tommorow
And I find it kind of funny
I find it kind of sad
The dreams in which I'm dying
Are the best I've ever had

Thursday, October 05, 2006

64 squares and a grain of sand

The century of drought
Drought threatening the lives of millions will spread across half the land surface of the Earth in the coming century because of global warming, according to new predictions from Britain's leading climate scientists.
Extreme drought, in which agriculture is in effect impossible, will affect about a third of the planet, according to the study from the Met Office's Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research.

"We're talking about 30 per cent of the world's land surface becoming essentially uninhabitable in terms of agricultural production in the space of a few decades," Mark Lynas, the author of High Tide, the first major account of the visible effects of global warming around the world, said.

30 percent decrease in global agricultural potential? Let’s see, where are we going to grow our ethanol perennial crops to prop up our stunted clown car civilization? If we scrape all the people off of India, or South America, we might have a shot to keep the “flex fuel” hummers of the future afloat. They’ll be equipped with off-board motors in the future, see, ‘cause the oceans are going to rise.

Sick jokes aside, one theme I plan on developing – with full comprehension of rapidly enveloping energy constraints, or “peak oil”, is the need to hitch our wagon to a concept that everybody gets. Peak oil is too wonky, too nerdy, and frankly too depressing for the majority of people to entertain honestly and openly, at least in the short term. I can debunk Daniel Yergin any day of the week, but gosh, he has a Pulitzer. It is an uphill battle – to get people to pay attention.

The concept to connect with is Global Warming, of course. It has brand name recognition, and it is well-nigh undeniable, except by sophists and a few crusty scientists who get carted out by Exxon-Mobil once year to shout “I’m not dead yet!

The real changes we must make to “solve” climate change dovetail nicely with reasonable responses for Peak Oil. Increased use of renewables. Living arrangements which don’t intrinsically waste energy. I expect it won’t be long before the Chinese government orders the bicycles back in Beijing, by dictate.

Imagine how pleasant ones commute would be if one could bicycle on smooth pavement for 15 miles instead of driving in stop and go traffic for the same distance.

As it stands, the car is the penis of the American dream. You don’t chop off your penis at the drop of the hat. Just listen to Kunstler, talking about North America: “We are a profoundly unserious nation, for all our pretensions.” Certainly not serious enough to chop off a piece of our national psyche. Vinod, and perhaps some Swedish doctors, will rescue us.

More to come. It will take more than solving transportation to Solve global warming and prevent dire peak oil scenarios from coming to pass.

Comments welcome.