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Peak Oil

One Long Emergency

The Worldchanging Team has discussed the clear and compelling evidence that the USA and industrial nations can’t sustain the lifestyle we’ve made for ourselves, and there’s no way our fossil-fueled economies can scale globally with existing resources, let alone sustain a world of suburbs, SUVs, cheap gasoline and food, and weekend trips to Cancun. The editors think that we can live sustainably and still meet all of our needs if we innovate and change and adapt to a world without cheap oil. I’ve been less optimistic, figuring we’ll have hard times before a real understanding of our dilemma sinks in, but Worldchanging is about exploring future scenarios and options and finding paths to positive outcomes.

This morning I read an interview in Salon with James Howard Kunstler, talking about his new book The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-first Century, which is, in a way, a breath of fresh air, probably because Kunstler wants no part of the denial he sees throughout the USA
(14 May 2005)
Ed: Kunstler’s new book prompts the Viridian Greens at WorldChanging to speak their mind about Peak Oil.

The other side of the Peak – oil depletion rates

The Oil Drum
…In the growing discussion as to when Peak Oil will arrive, and what its effects will be, there is relatively little discussion as to what the back shape of the curve will look like. There are rough numbers thrown around, and many of the curves that are put up anticipate that, for initial modeling purposes, the depletion of oil in a field will mirror its original growth. In other words, production follows what is known as a Gaussian distribution, such as the picture that we have over on the right of this site. Depletion will start out relatively slowly and then accelerate, in the same shape to the right of the peak, as on the left.

The concern however is that this enhanced recovery technique will mean that the downside of the slope will be faster than is currently being expected, and that next year might get grim a little faster than expected.
(16 May 2005)

More traffic congestion is funded
Alien American dream changes the Earth as some of us awaken

Culture Change e-Letter #95
by Jan Lundberg
The American Dream is just a dream in the sense that people are indeed virtually asleep. It is still honored by many as a great pursuit, even on a par with Martin Luther King Jr.’s celebrated Dream (although Utopian, given ecocide and unremitting population growth). The American Dream is dead set against the Earth, even though the dream of decent housing and what passes for peace are entirely reasonable wants. When the images of “This Land is Your Land,” the Woody Guthrie song, are quickly becoming a shrinking memory, it is time to wake up immediately.

As we ponder our technological and mechanical world, it becomes more and more clear that everyone in modern society is caught in an alien dream going too fast. Our existence characterized by dreaming amounts to an illusion in the midst of nature, when we acknowledge the questionable sustainability of manufactured goods such as the artificial components of housing, etc.
(May 2005)

Energy-related News

Bush urges development of alternate fuels

AP via USA Today
WEST POINT, Va. (AP) — With gasoline prices soaring, President Bush urged Congress on Monday to encourage development of alternate fuels like biodiesel and ethanol to make the United States less dependent on foreign oil.

“Our dependence on foreign oil is like a foreign tax on the American dream, and that tax is growing every year,” Bush said at the Virginia BioDiesel Refinery about 140 miles south of Washington.

Bush flew here, about 30 miles from Richmond, to visit a production facility for biodiesel, an alternative fuel made from soybeans that is cleaner-burning and American-made, but carries a higher price tag that regular diesel fuel. It is often blended with conventional transportation fuels as an extender.
(16 May 2005)

Oil giants gambling on “green” fuel

AP via Seattle Times
RAS LAFFAN INDUSTRIAL CITY, Qatar — The rat’s nest of pipes and columns snaking across the desert harbors a secret process that will use cobalt to turn natural gas into a powerful, clean-burning diesel fuel.

By next year, rulers of this tiny desert sheikdom hope, these gas-to-liquids (GTL) reactors under construction will bring in billions of dollars while clearing big-city smog belched by trucks and buses.

Petroleum experts who have sniffed vials of gin-clear GTL diesel speak of it with reverence.
(16 May 2005)

Old Foes Soften to New Reactors

NY Times
WASHINGTON, May 14 – Several of the nation’s most prominent environmentalists have gone public with the message that nuclear power, long taboo among environmental advocates, should be reconsidered as a remedy for global warming.

Their numbers are still small, but they represent growing cracks in what had been a virtually solid wall of opposition to nuclear power among most mainstream environmental groups. In the past few months, articles in publications like Technology Review, published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Wired magazine have openly espoused nuclear power, angering other environmental advocates.
(15 May 2005)

Government report gives new wind to green energy

Independent (UK)
Wind power is better than nuclear power stations for tackling global warming, the Government’s official environmental advisers will tell Tony Blair this week.

Their conclusion – after the most comprehensive study of wind energy in Britain – contradicts the Prime Minister’s own opinion and could intensify the debate about building new nuclear power stations.
(15 May 2005)

Accidents Reveal Troubles at Mexico’s Oil Monopoly

NY Times
…The spills have focused Mexico’s attention on what even company officials acknowledge is an old and poorly maintained network of pipelines. About a third of the network is more than 30 years old, and some pumping equipment is so antiquated that the company cannot find spare parts, Pemex officials say.

But the recent spate of accidents also highlights the complicated symbiotic relationship between the company and the government that is supposed to regulate it. Pemex provides the government with 40 percent of its income, and the environmental agency charged with policing the oil company is woefully underfinanced.
(15 May 2005)

Solutions and Sustainability

New issue of HopeDance online magazine

Introduction Bob Banner
ODAC Warns of Global Shortage of Oil after 2007 Valerie Darroch
Interview with Reverend Billy Amy Landau
LIFEWORK: Meaningful Careers in the Emerging Sustainable Society Linda Buzzell-Saltzman
Interview with The Yes Men Amy Landau
No brakes? No problem: There’s more than one way to slow down Stacey Warde
It’s in the Bag—How a Central American community’s making Books out of Trash Katie Renz
Nuclear Power is NOT the way out of the Global Climate Crisis! David Weisman
Living Wages, No Sweat Shops and Unions in Indonesia? Justin Popov
Some truths about the tsunami clean-up Carol Pimentel
(May/June 2005 issue)

Living in the Cracks
A Look at Rural Social Enterprises in Britain and the Czech Republic

by Nadia Johanisova
Living-and often thriving-in the cracks between the business world and the state system is an amazing variety of organisations which, according to some economists, theoretically shouldn’t exist. That’s because their goal is not to make profits but to meet social needs which both the market and government either can’t meet nearly as well or have totally ignored.

There’s not even a good collective name for these organisations, although Third Sector is often used and causes most people’s eyes to glaze over. Yet, as this book shows, all human life is there. Based on dozens of interviews with people who have set up and run these organisations, it shows how their struggle to carry their ideals forward has led to lives with more joy, fulfilment and satisfaction than is normally found in commercial life or the civil service.

In a world increasingly dominated by giant companies for whom communities mean nothing, and in which the state sector is constrained by limited budgets and tight rules, organisations such as those described here are going to be needed everywhere if we are not to have major gaps in our lives and in the services available to us. Written in an entertaining personal style, this book will not only inspire and guide many of those who will decide to meet those needs but will also enable them to get in touch with some of the pioneers mentioned in its pages.
(May 2005)
Ed: The page allows downloading of the book in PDF format. Feasta is one of the sponsers of the book, seeing it as helpful in the move towards re-localization.

New issue of CSIRO newsletter
CSIRO Sustainability Network Newsletter (Australia)
Designing Cities to Reverse Environmental Impacts by Dr. Janis Birkeland
Where to with ‘Emergy’ Literacy by Sholto Maud
“Gung-ho” over nuclear power? Let’s have a think about that.
Just what we need – higher taxes!
Comment on Holmgren’s article on the suburbs
Other information resources
(13 May 2005)

How Do Japanese Dump Trash? Let Us Count the Myriad Ways

NY TImes
YOKOHAMA, Japan – When this city recently doubled the number of garbage categories to 10, it handed residents a 27-page booklet on how to sort their trash. Highlights included detailed instructions on 518 items.

Lipstick goes into burnables; lipstick tubes, “after the contents have been used up,” into “small metals” or plastics. Take out your tape measure before tossing a kettle: under 12 inches, it goes into small metals, but over that it goes into bulky refuse.

Socks? If only one, it is burnable; a pair goes into used cloth, though only if the socks “are not torn, and the left and right sock match.” Throw neckties into used cloth, but only after they have been “washed and dried.”

“It was so hard at first,” said Sumie Uchiki, 65, whose ward began wrestling with the 10 categories last October as part of an early trial. “We were just not used to it. I even needed to wear my reading glasses to sort out things correctly.”

To Americans struggling with sorting trash into a few categories, Japan may provide a foretaste of daily life to come.
(12 May 2005)

China’s quest for a modern flush

AP via Seattle Times
SHANGHAI, China — It’s an image that Shanghai’s aggressively modern leaders want to shed: people rinsing out their chamber pots in alleys in the shadows of ultramodern skyscrapers.

The city of 20 million, standard-bearer of communist China’s march into capitalism, is in the midst of a massive toilet modernization. It wants anyone without a toilet at home to have a public facility a few steps away, and offers a hot line for those who can’t find one.
(15 May 2005)
Ed: Modern flush toilets and sewage systems are one of the major ecological disasters of modern life.

Argentine Town Hopes to Transform Wind Into Windfall

Washington Post
…The town gets more than half of its electricity from four windmills, two of which began operating three weeks ago. Last month, a small village nearby was designated as one of five places in the world that would be powered solely by alternative fuels as part of a U.N. pilot project. And in June, Pico Truncado plans a grand opening for the first wind-powered hydrogen production plant in Latin America.

With some experts predicting that hydrogen fuel produced at wind-powered electrical facilities could eventually overtake oil as the main source of the world’s energy, residents and officials hope this desolate, half-forgotten region of southern Argentina could become the Middle East of the future.

“Why not?” said Mario Salomon, a 62-year-old auto mechanic. “We lack water, we lack money, but we have never lacked wind. We have plenty to spare.”
(15 May 2005)