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Peak Oil

Still pumping after all these years
Charlie Fairbank gushes about running oldest commercial oil field on the planet

John Partridge, Globe and Mail (Canada)
Charlie Fairbank has earned the right to be especially grateful for high oil prices when they come — and especially skeptical about whether they will last. Mr. Fairbank, 63, runs the oldest commercial oil field on the planet.

“We’ve been producing oil longer than anybody in the world, actually,” he said, when reached at home in Oil Springs, Ont., about 35 kilometres southeast of Sarnia, eastern Canada’s petrochemicals capital. “Eighteen sixty-one is when my great-grandfather started here and we’ve been at it ever since.”

Mr. Fairbank took over the family business from his father in 1973 — just a couple of months before the Arab oil embargo sent prices soaring. — says he leans toward the “peak” theory that says the world is on the verge of rapidly running down its reserves. “That makes a good deal of sense to me,” he said. “. . . We’re not discovering anything of size and haven’t been for over 20 years.”

Mr. Fairbank and his writer wife, Patricia McGee, are already hedging their bets. They have struck what they hope is a small blow for conservation by buying a Toyota Prius, the world’s first hybrid car, which is equipped with both a climate-friendly electric engine and a standard gasoline engine.

“We’re hunkering down for the coming apocalypse,” Mr. Fairbank said with a chuckle
(21 May 2005)

Ed: Just one of a dozen articles about PO in Saturday’s Globe and Mail (Toronto). See How oil is changing the world.

UK ‘Peak Oil’ campaign website passes landmark

PowerSwitch (press release)
The website has recently passed the 100,000 visits mark after just 7 months in action, a significant achievement for a website dedicated to a subject that not many members of the British public were talking about a year ago.

“We’re seeing an incredible increase in the amount of traffic and activity on the site,” said James Howard, part of the PowerSwitch team. “ I think the message is getting out there – ‘Peak Oil’ is approaching fast and people want to know and talk about the consequences and solutions.”
(21 May 2005)

Energy-related News

New Energy Currents

John Atkinson, Winds of Change (blog)
As the US energy bill is being written in the Senate, the debate over our energy future is in full swing. Hydrogen fuel cells, or “gas optional” hybrids? Nuclear, or not? Coal… or not? As these different technologies begin to compete in earnest for your attention, acceptance, and tax dollars, New Energy Currents does its best to give you a broad overview of developments in energy science, technology, and policy. By John Atkinson, of chiasm.
(21 May 2005)
Ed: Nice round-up of recent links.

The Climate of Man — III
What can be done?

Elizabeth Kolbert, New Yorker
A few years ago, in an article in Nature, the Dutch chemist Paul Crutzen coined a term. No longer, he wrote, should we think of ourselves as living in the Holocene, as the period since the last glaciation is known. Instead, an epoch unlike any of those which preceded it had begun. This new age was defined by one creature—man—who had become so dominant that he was capable of altering the planet on a geological scale. Crutzen, a Nobel Prize winner, dubbed this age the Anthropocene. He proposed as its starting date the seventeen-eighties, the decade in which James Watt perfected his steam engine and, inadvertently, changed the history of the earth.

In the seventeen-eighties, ice-core records show, carbon-dioxide levels stood at about two hundred and eighty parts per million. Give or take ten parts per million, this was the same level that they had been at two thousand years earlier, in the era of Julius Caesar, and two thousand years before that, at the time of Stonehenge, and two thousand years before that, at the founding of the first cities. When, subsequently, industrialization began to drive up CO2 levels, they rose gradually at first—it took more than a hundred and fifty years to get to three hundred and fifteen parts per million—and then much more rapidly. By the mid-nineteen-seventies, they had reached three hundred and thirty parts per million, and, by the mid-nineteen-nineties, three hundred and sixty parts per million. Just in the past decade, they have risen by as much—twenty parts per million—as they did during the previous ten thousand years of the Holocene.
(2 May, 2005)

Ed: The third and last installment of the outstanding series on climate change in the New Yorker. Also online: Part I / Part II / Interview with the writer of the series
Thanks to Kurt Cobb of Resource Insights for reminding us about part 3.

The Lessons of Easter Island

Clive Ponting,
(this is a chapter excerpt from Clive Ponting’s “A Green History of the World: The Environment and the Collapse of Great Civilizations”)

Easter Island is one of the most remote, inhabited places on earth. Only some 150 square miles in area, it lies in the Pacific Ocean, 2,000 miles off the west coast of South America and 1,250 miles from the nearest inhabitable land of Pitcairn Island. At its peak the population was only about 7,000. Yet, despite its superficial insignificance, the history of Easter Island is a grim warning to the world.
(no date)

Clive Ponting’s book is highly recommended. Thanks to Bill Totten reposted this chapter today in his blog.

We’ve got no idea
History shows that true innovation has disappeared from our society

Peter Watson, The Observer (UK)
….Richard Southern, the Oxford historian who died last year, thought the most interesting times in history were 1050-1250AD and 1750-1950AD. …The latter period saw the introduction of the factory, the steam engine, a change in the experience of work, the birth of modern chemistry and electricity, the rise of America, the link established between Sanskrit, Greek and Latin, Romanticism, the concept of research, the rise of sociology, geology, evolution, statistics, the concept of the average man, modernism in all its guises, particle physics, Freudianism itself. For the first time people thought ‘new’ things better than old ones.

Each of these periods transformed our understanding of ourselves radically. They provide the standard by which important change may be judged. In this regard the first half of the 20th century was as stimulating as any other time. But what great ideas or transformations have been introduced in the half-century since 1950?
(22 May 2005)
Ed: Innovation, like global warming, seems to have been at its height during the age of fossil fuels (1750-present). Watson contends that innovation, unlike global warming, is going into a decline.

Solutions and Sustainability

2,000 more wind turbines in countryside

Mark Townsend, The Observer (UK)
A massive expansion of wind power involving thousands of new turbines will go ahead despite increasingly bitter wrangling over claims that they are despoiling Britain’s countryside.

In his first speech since becoming energy minister, Malcolm Wicks, will offer unequivocal backing to the green lobby by insisting it is ‘vital’ the government rides out vocal opposition to windfarms and sticks with wind energy.

Wicks will underline government pledges that by 2010 10 per cent of Britain’s electricity will be produced by renewable energy, including wind. The move will more than double the number of turbines across the country over the next few years
(22 May 2005)

Tilting at windmills: nation split over energy eyesores

Mark Townsend, The Observer (UK)
Hundreds of turbines will be switched on this year, and the volume of protest is rising. Mark Townsend reports on the issue that will overtake hunting as a cause of rural unrest
(22 May 2005)