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Energy Headlines - May 1, 2005

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Peak Oil

Supply and demand: World oil markets under pressure
(In-depth on oil)
CBC (Canada)
Better plan on getting by without that SUV. In fact, you might want to go cold turkey and learn how to use public transit sooner rather than later. The world is running out of oil - if you subscribe to the Hubbert peak theory.

It's named for Dr. M. King Hubbert, a geophysicist who predicted in 1956 that U.S. oil production would peak in 1970 and start steadily declining until reserves ran out - sometime late in the 21st century.

Turned out he was right. American production has been on the downswing since 1970, just before OPEC burst onto the scene as the dominant force in determining the price of a commodity on which the Western world depends. Hubbert worked for Shell Oil and later for the U.S. Geological Survey. He died in 1989 - six years before his predicted peak for world oil production.

While few scientists believe that world production has already peaked, there are many who say we're very close to it.
(28 Apr, 2005)


Voyage of the Beagle

Peak Oil (blog from Australia)
Ed: Long blog entry with some good insights. Takes a while to get started.
....Now - the arrival of fascism in America has often been a favourite topic in peak oil circles - from respected figures like Richard Heinberg and The Oil Drum all the way out to more offbeat sources such as From The Wilderness and OilEmpire.us (which would appear to be simply conspiracy theory sites to someone unfamiliar with peak oil). Energy Bulletin has also noted that there has been some interest recently from fascist style politicians in the UK in the peak oil idea - although up until now it has seemed as if freepers are afraid of peak oil in the US - the right wing blogosphere never seems to mention it (I guess the market takes care of all environmental and resource scarcity issues, so they don't need to be considered). One peak oil theorist even asks "Is America Fascist ? Does It Matter ?
....
One of the things I find ironic about peak oil is that you end up looking at states that are examples of partial collapse (Cuba and Argentina for example) as the source for ideas abut the way ahead.

Richard Heinberg says that as we hit the peak oil point, we basically have 2 choices - "Powerdown" and "Plan War" (plus the unlikely to eventuate option of "Waiting for the Magic Elixir", where some amazing new energy source comes along and saves the day - this devolves back to Plan War if a new source doesn't arrive).

Unfortunately this choice could be likened to "The Prisoners Dilemma - if everyone cooperates and attempts to gracefully adapt to less energy as we slide down Hubbert's Peak then we can aim for a least bad outcome - but if one player cheats then the players who choose to "Powerdown" may find that things don't go so well for them.

Heinberg believes the US has already made its choice - and its not the Powerdown option. Given the nature of the prisoner's dilemma and the (unsurprising) lack of trust between the various major countries of the world, its hard to imagine any other scenario now (barring some highly unlikely out of the blue event like a successful worldwide workers revolution - but I doubt the masses remember Marx and Trotsky any more. The "second superpower idea popular at WorldChanging could be an interesting alternative - but its track record opposing the Iraq invasion doesn't inspire great confidence).

If we take a slightly bigger picture look at the happy isles of oceania, we can see the different nations making different choices - the US, UK and Australia all seem to be preparing for Plan War (along with, to a greater or lesser extent, the ugly political control mechanisms mentioned earlier), while our smaller cousins in Canada, Ireland and New Zealand seem to be choosing the Powerdown option (or at least not actively preparing to fight). Obviously the Powerdown option is very attractive for small countries that aren't in possession of any major energy reserves and aren't located in positions of strategic significance - which describes Ireland and New Zealand pretty well...
(1 May, 2005)


UK Citizens call on government to act on 'Peak Oil'

PowerSwitch (press release)
A new petition entitled "Peak Oil Production & Decline - Raising awareness and discussion of the consequences and solutions" has officially been launched (Thursday 28th April 2005) by Powerswitch.org.uk to call on UK government to prepare for the serious economic, social and cultural adjustment of the twenty first century caused by global oil depletion.

The petition, which can be found at www.petitiononline.com/PeakOil/petition.html, lays clear the reasons why global oil production is likely to enter terminal decline within the decade while demanding serious action from the UK government. The petition calls for action such as recognising importance of oil and gas in agriculture and therefore addressing how food will be grown and distributed in the future as well as preparing a full, honest and major public awareness campaign on the future economic and lifestyle consequences of oil depletion.

“ People have to know,” explained James Howard of PowerSwitch.org.uk. “ It is only right that people should be given full knowledge of the likely economic future so that they can begin making preparations now. It is a lot to ask any government to give out what will be seen as bad news, but equally it cannot shirk from these responsibilities, which is essentially the future well-being of the United Kingdom. Whether the peak of production is now or ten years time, the important thing is to use the time and resources we have now with foresight, wisdom and urgency.”
(30 Apr, 2005)


Energy-related News

Nuclear Looks Worse than Ever

Daily Camera (Boulder, Colorado) via Common Dreams
President Bush is promoting the use of nuclear power plants to generate electricity. It seems a political choice. Investing in nuclear power plants can be attempted only by very large corporations, of the kind that are in his support base. They belong to a very exclusive big-money club, and there are many billions of dollars at stake. But to belong, one also has to be willing to forget Three Mile Island, to forget market economics, nuclear proliferation, radioactive waste and, in particular, to forget nuclear terrorism.

The nuclear industry, unlike, say, the automobile industry, is not a self-sufficient, commercial industry. From its inception in the late 1950s, the commercial nuclear-power enterprise in this country developed a dual personality, as it were. It is schizophrenic. It had to be, and is entirely, dependent on agencies of the federal government. The reason is that what makes a nuclear power plant "nuclear" is its fissionable fuel, and nuclear fuel is radioactive. Because radioactive materials are toxic, and concerns of national security, the government today has to be a party to every phase of nuclear power generation, from beginning to end.
(30 Apr, 2005)


Swindler on a Gusher

NY Times (via Common Dreams)
by Maureen Dowd
WASHINGTON -- The Iraqis have thrown us another curveball. Ahmad Chalabi - convicted embezzler in Jordan, suspected Iranian spy, double-crosser of America, purveyor of phony war-instigating intelligence - is the new acting Iraqi oil minister.

Is that why we went to war, to put the oily in charge of the oil, to set the swindler who pretended to be Spartacus atop the ultimate gusher? Does anybody still think the path to war wasn't greased by oil?
(30 Apr, 2005)


Leadership can help

The Oil Drum (blog)
On Thursday night the President began his press conference by talking about an immediate concern of the American people, the steady increase in the price of gas. He confessed to being able to do almost nothing about it, and, most of his questions, and the resulting comments in Friday’s press, dealt with the other major issue, Social Security.

There is an interesting juxtaposition between what he said, Friday, about Social Security,“it is a President’s job to address the problem” and what he said about energy “there is nothing I can do.” If one goes back to President Carter, one finds clear evidence against the latter position. By a variety of means, albeit only some of which he should be given credit for, oil consumption decreased by almost 13% between 1973 and 1983.

The public response, back then and since, shows that it also is neither stupid nor complacent in dealing with this issue. Residential use of oil dropped from 8% in 1973 to 4%; commercial use dropped from 5% to 2%; electric power use fell from 10% to 3%. And having learned their lessons, those percentages have been sustained since. The major use of oil is for transportation. The public, and industry, understand this issue. It is not ultimately a political problem. Instapundit will get no more favors at the gas line than Kos. It seems inappropriate, therefore, for our leadership to default on addressing the problem.
(30 Apr, 2005)


Solutions and Sustainability

As oil prices soar, consumers of renewable energy smile

AP via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
For people like Ronald Cascio, who fuels his pickup with a soybean oil derivative, and J.D. Doliner, whose home is partly solar powered, the high price of energy isn't a worry. That doesn't mean their renewable energy preferences come cheap. In fact, it requires an extra financial commitment to wean one's home or vehicle off fossil fuels.

Nonetheless, a growing number of Americans are embracing cleaner technologies and more energy-efficient lifestyles. It makes them feel good and, depending on how high prices rise for traditional energy sources, they say renewables might even make economic sense over the long haul.

"Some people spend their money on jet-skis and boats," explained Cascio, who lives in Berlin, Md. "So, say we spend another $1,000 a year on fuel than we have to, what's the big deal? We feel good about it. You can't put a price on that."
(30 Apr, 2005)


Cuba's Second Revolution

Gardener's Supply Company
By Will Raap, Founder and Chairman of Gardener's Supply

For several years I have been hearing about another revolution in Cuba. This time it involved farming and the food system. For much of the 1990's small organic farms were providing increasing amounts of Cuba's food. They were responding to the economic emergency of 1989-90 when the Soviet bloc began collapsing and Cuba lost its main source of foreign exchange and half of the food its 11 million citizens relied on.

During the early 1990's imports of agricultural machinery, fertilizer, pesticides and other needed inputs for Cuba's industrialized agricultural system (producing mostly sugar for export) stopped abruptly. Cuban agriculture had to change or the people would starve. And change needed to happen fast.

Fertilizers, pesticides, equipment and other farm inputs needed to come from local sources and harvests had to feed Cubans, not sweeten desserts in East Germany. It was like corporate farms in California or Iowa suddenly having to switch from chemically-dependent monocultures feeding Manhattan to compost-fed, diversified crops feeding Fresno or Dubuque.

Then in 1999 I read an article in The New Internationalist about a surprising additional innovation in this latest Cuban revolution: Organiponicos. Organiponicos are organic farms and gardens of a few thousand square feet to several acres located in urban areas. Vacant lots, old parking lots, abandoned building sites, spaces between roads, any available site (even rooftops and balconies) were taken over by thousands of new urban farmers trying to feed themselves and make some money.
....
I wanted to learn more, first hand, about the urban agriculture revolution in Cuba. So in December I was able to spend several days in Havana. I wasn't part of any official farming tour so where could I start?
(no date)

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