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Energy Headlines - Apr 30, 2005

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Peak Oil

The Economics of Peak Oil

PowerSwitch (UK PO organization)
by Ralph Blaney
Not all economists are of the ‘flat-earth’ variety! Those not indoctrinated with the liberalist free-market mantra are as likely as any other open-minded person to accept the concept of a peak and decline in global oil production. Economics is the study of human behaviour and the allocation of resources, and as such may even shed light on the issue of peak oil. Geologists plot Hubbert’s peak based on physical extraction data, but the way that supply interacts with the global economy and market expectations tweaks the shape of that bell curve. This will marginally improve things, or make the situation a whole lot worse.

But first, a short alternative history of modern industrial progress to show how oil and the economy are so closely entwined. The material standard of living we enjoy today is a result of technological advances in transport, communications and productive capacity, fuelled by fossil fuels, firstly coal and then oil (gas played second fiddle to these two giants).
(28 Apr, 2005)
Ed: Background essay from PowerSwitch.


Oil and Food, Infrastructure and Interdependencies

PowerSwitch (UK PO organization)
by Norman Church
Some believe that the decreasing oil production portends a drastic impact on human culture and modern technological society, which is currently heavily dependent on oil as a fuel, chemical feedstock and fertilizer. Petroleum underlies just about everything we do. Over 90% of transportation relies either directly or indirectly on oil. Some envisage a Malthusian catastrophe occurring as oil becomes more costly and increasingly inefficient to produce. No other known energy source is as cheap to extract, as easy to transport, and as full of energy as oil. Cheap conventional oil is one of the primary factors making our affluent, comfortable modern way of life possible. It follows that when oil is no longer cheap, our way of life will be disrupted to the point of unsustainability.

Since the 1940s, agriculture has dramatically increased its productivity, due largely to the use of chemical pesticides, fertilisers, and increased mechanisation. This increase in food production has allowed the world population to grow dramatically over the last 50 years.
(27 Apr, 2005)
Ed: Background essay from PowerSwitch.


Energy-related News

Oil Industry Boom Likely to Continue

AP via Yahoo News
SAN FRANCISCO - Pumped up by persistently high energy prices, the oil industry maintained its streak of massive — and growing — quarterly profits this week, aggravating motorists and amazing financial analysts.

"I have been following this industry for 18 years and I have never seen anything like this," Oppenheimer & Co. analyst Fadel Gheit said Friday. "It's like they're printing money."
(29 Apr, 2005)


Economy Hits Energy Prices, and the Brakes

NY Times
The economy braked sharply in the first three months of the year, the government reported yesterday, expanding at its slowest pace in two years as rising energy prices spurred a burst of increased inflation and dragged down spending by businesses and consumers.
(29 Apr, 2005)


Congress takes wrong turn down the road to ruin

Seattle Times
Gas on my street sells for $2.58, and you can expect $3 a gallon this summer. Tough on drivers. But when the going gets tough, the tough are supposed to get going. Right?

Wrong, if you look at our congressional leadership. Once again, Congress is taking the wrong fork in the road to the future. The tough have backed off, and instead rewarded their friends.

Increases in gas prices remind us that we have two roads to choose between. One road — the energy industry's road — leads to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and probably in the not-distant future to drilling offshore. Congress is taking that road, and the House added insult to injury by boosting the tax breaks the oil industry already gets, to encourage more exploration in the Gulf of Mexico. Even President Bush, stalwart friend of Big Oil, gagged at that one.

The road not taken by Congress is to use concern over gas prices to do some conservation work to ease our dependence upon non-renewable resources. The Republican House defeated a Democratic proposal to adopt stronger emissions controls in new cars, and it favors Hummers over hybrids when it comes to tax incentives.
(27 Apr, 2005)


The Bush Energy Speech

Michael O'Hare (blog)
In the disconnected string of hopes and opinions that passes for a "major policy address" these days, the president yesterday rearticulated what the White House is calling an energy policy. The fundamental question" was, rhetorically, do we want to continue to grow more dependent on other nations for energy supplies? (Of course we don't). The thematic language was to increase domestic "production" and decrease consumption. And the tool of choice was technology. At that soundbite level, it was a fine speech. As it unfolded, however, it turned out to be almost entirely an inconsistent and flatly misleading mishmash of wishful thinking and deceptions.
....
The energy policy of the Bush administration is to assure that its political base, namely the firms who know how to make money selling the fossil fuels we mostly use now, can go on doing so as long as possible. The political policy of the administration is to spend just enough nickels and dimes on real and fake alternatives to oil and coal to hide the policy. The implementation of these politics is an insult to citizens. And both the politics and the policy constitute an injury to future generations.

But what do I know? I'm still trapped in the old reality paradigm.
(29? Apr, 2005)


Global warming rate discovered

Guardian
The world is getting warmer - and US scientists now know precisely how much warmer. They calculated the radiation from the sun, the heat reflected back into space, and the rising temperature of the seas and say the extra warmth is equivalent to a 1 watt lightbulb shining constantly over an area of 1 sq metre everywhere on the planet.

That would raise average temperatures by 0.6C before the end of the century, they report in Science today. Warming at that level, maintained over 10,000 years, would melt enough ice to raise sea levels by a kilometre.

"This energy imbalance is the smoking gun that we have been looking for," said James Hansen, director of Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. "It shows that our estimates of the human-made and natural climate forcing agents are about right, and they are driving the Earth to a warmer climate."
(29 Apr, 2005)
Related:
Ocean tells the story: Earth is heating up Human activity, not variables in nature, cited as culprit SF Chronicle


Solutions and Sustainability

From hay to hardwood

Daily Tidings (Ashland, Oregon)
Currently in the construction business there are pretty much two different ways one can build a house, according to inventor and carpenter David Ward.
Inventor David Ward explains the operation of his Strawjet machine, which uses a modified John Deere combine to convert hay into a fabricated wood product that can be used in construction.

The efficient way is to use the traditional stud frame model made with lumber. Then there is the more ecologically friendly method of using either adobe, cement or strawbales — which eliminates a lot of toxic chemicals and less-renewable resources in a particular building, but is much more labor intensive.

But Ward thinks his company, StrawJet, has devised a system of making the more environmentally sound method of haybale construction almost as efficient as building with wood.
(28 Apr, 2005)


Energy fears force Fonterra rethink

New Zealand Herald
Energy fears are forcing dairy giant Fonterra to look at new ways of securing electricity for its plants and factories. And with some of its dairy factories sited in windy areas, the prospect of using wind turbines is looking increasingly likely.

Fonterra operations director Max Parkin told a forum in Auckland yesterday that the company - the country's second biggest energy user after aluminium-maker Comalco - was being threatened by uncertainty over its power supplies. Energy prices had risen dramatically in the past four years and there was not enough competition in gas, coal or power transmission. This included a 23 per cent rise in the price of coal, a 35 per cent lift in the cost of electricity and a 97 per cent jump in the cost of natural gas.
(29 Apr, 2005)

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