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Energy Headlines - May 27, 2005

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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage


Peak Oil

Stuck on Oil
Michael Ruppert on the messy decline of the oil age

Kera Abraham, Eugene Weekly News
Michael Ruppert is a leading proponent of the theory that the Bush administration was complicit in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, part of a scheme to control the world's dwindling oil supply. He publishes a newsletter called "From the Wilderness" from his base in L.A., and he explores the connections between oil and the military in his 2004 bestseller, Crossing the Rubicon: The decline of the American Empire at the end of the Age of Oil. Ruppert will speak at McDonald Theater at 7 pm May 31 about the politics of peak oil. For more information, visit www.fromthewilderness.com [Text interview follows]
(26 May 2005)


Apeakolypse now

SchNEWS (UK)
Peak Oil is the greatest story never told. Even though Peak Oil is the central fact driving the wars and economic crises of our time, it is seldom mentioned in the mainstream corporate news.
...
The bottom line is this: humankind is entering a whole new era. One in which every year from, say, 2007, there will be less and less net energy available to us no matter what we do (Alternative energy sources are nowhere near developed enough, or invested in, to compensate). The last time anything like this happened was the collapse of the ancient civilizations. The Maya, the Romans, the Greeks; these civilisations ended when their strategies for energy capture - be it slaves, coal or topsoil - became subject to the law of diminishing returns.

Industrial society is the name given to the world that built itself first on coal and then on oil. When oil becomes scarce and then runs out it will be the collapse of industrial society. Massive social change is coming.
(27 May 2005)
Ed: As Big Gav says, "It appears the UK activist community has discovered peak oil, with this week's main story in Schnews devoted to the topic."


A Conversation with Denial

UNplanner, UNplanning Journal
After almost a year of research and six months of badgering, the quest to open up the discussion of energy in planning beyond my very small circle of colleagues smacked headfirst into what appears to be an immobile object today. That object, also known as the planning director, flatly rejected all ideas of energy scarcity or even limits. Moreover any discussion of the issue by me or anyone else is from here on out not deemed to be relevant to any county planning matters.

In his opinion, there never was or will be an energy crisis.

Today was supposed to be my day to preview my “optimistic” take on energy issues and their likely impact on our county over the next thirty years. I rounded up every good source I could find and together with my presentation went to the prearranged meeting with the director and my immediate supervisor. It was not a good omen that the existing meeting was running late and the lunch hour looming in just five minutes.
(23 May 2005)
Ed: Kurt Cobb comments:

The Unplanner, a planning official for a county in central California, has for weeks been preparing us for the moment when he would broach the subject of limits on energy supplies to his boss. What followed when he did should scare everyone. If planning departments throughout the United States are this clueless about the energy challenges we face and remain so, we will walk right off the edge of the energy cliff without warning.


The real problems with $50 oil

Henry C K Liu, Asia times
After oil prices peaked above US$58 a barrel in early April, and stayed around their current $50 range, the White House announced that it wanted oil to go back down to $25 a barrel. There is a common misconception in life that if only things could go back to the ways they were in the good old days, life would be good again like in the good old days. Unfortunately, good old days never return as good old days because what makes the old days good is often just bad memory. The problem with market capitalism is that while markets can go up and markets can go down, they never end up in the same spot. The term "business cycle" is a misnomer because the end of the cycle is a very different place from the beginning of a cycle. A more accurate term would be "business spiral", either up or down or simply sideways.

Oil is a good example whereby this market truism can be observed. When oil rises above $50 a barrel and stays there for an extended period, the resultant changes in the economy become normalized facts. These changes go way beyond fluctuations in the price of oil to produce a very different economy. Below are 10 new economic facts created by $50 oil.
(26 May 2005)
Ed: Long analytical article.


Energy-related News

Saudi uncertainty over sick king

BBC
There is uncertainty in Saudi Arabia after King Fahd was taken to hospital for medical tests on Friday. Unnamed officials said a state of alert had been declared, but this was later denied by the interior ministry.

The BBC's Frank Gardner says that there have been rumours about the king's health before but this latest scare could be more serious. In 1995, King Fahd suffered a stroke, and Crown Prince Abdullah has performed most of his functions since then. Abdullah is regarded as successor to the throne.

However, opposition sources in London are predicting that if the king dies there may well be a power struggle against the ruling princes.
(27 May 2005)

Pipeline to Promise or Pipeline to Peril?
New U.S.-Backed Oil Route Starts Moving Crude Oil From Azerbaijan to the West

Amy Goodman, Democracy Now
A U.S.-backed oil pipeline linking the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean opened on Wednesday, and began moving crude oil from Azerbaijan to the West. The route of the pipeline is reportedly designed to only go through nations with strong U.S. support like Azerbaijan and Georgia, which have both been criticized for human rights abuses. We also examine why many believe the pipeline could be could be an environmental disaster for the region. [includes rush transcript]
(27 May 2005)
Ed: Long-ish interview with Michael Klare and two other commentators. Audio, video and transcript available.
For my money, Amy Goodman is the best broadcast journalist in the US today! (-BA)


Tear Gas in the Andes

Christian Parenti, The Nation
Bolivia is again in the grip of a major political crisis, marked by parliamentary deadlock and street fighting. Huge marches, thousands strong, have descended on La Paz all week. In the ensuing battles indigenous protesters throw dynamite, stones and bottles, while paramilitary police shoot tear gas and rubber bullets.

The basic question is this: Who will control the nation's massive natural gas reserves, which has jumped to 53.3 trillion cubic feet from just 5.6 trillion cubic feet in 1999? The deeper issue, of course, is the unwillingness of the highly organized and politicized majority indigenous population to suffer through another generation of brutal high-altitude poverty.

The rolling protests and road blockades around La Paz come a week after Congress passed a law raising taxes on the foreign oil companies that have controlled Bolivia's petroleum wealth since a sweeping privatization in 1996. The companies cast the new law as far too severe, while the largely indigenous left decry the law as too weak.
(26 May 2005)
Ed: The article is also posted on Common Dreams and Yahoo! News.


Industry chiefs' environment plea

Roger Harrabin, BBC
A group of Britain's leading industrialists has written to the prime minister urgently demanding long-term policies to combat climate change.
---
The heads of the 12 leading firms say climate change is a huge challenge that needs serious investment by business. But they say they cannot invest because they are not sure what future government policies on climate will be. The letter is signed off by the heads of BP, Shell, HSBC Bank, BAA, John Lewis, Scottish Power and more.
...
At home the group say the government should eliminate contradictory policies that lead to increase in CO2 - such as out of town developments.
(27 May 2005)


Undercutting the deal

Victor Keegan, The Guardian
Carbon trading is a positive step towards curbing pollution - but it is being undermined by government hypocrisy.
---
If you've been reading the newspapers this week, you will already know what the next Big Thing is going to be. No, it's not Microsoft's stunning new computer games console, the Xbox 360, nor even its rival from Sony, the PlayStation2.

We are talking seriously big numbers. The next Big Thing is likely to be carbon trading. This is not the name of one of the games to be played on the new consoles (though, doubtless, some budding entrepreneur could easily devise one).

Carbon trading is an attempt by governments to use market forces to curb the potentially apocalyptic consequences of excess carbon emissions accelerating global warming.
(27 May 2005)


Energy Package Clears Senate Committee

Justin Blum, Washington Post
Supporters Say Bill Would Spur Production, Including Nuclear Plants, and Lower Costs
---
A Senate panel reached bipartisan agreement on energy legislation yesterday, after years of failing to craft a measure that had broad support.

Supporters said the legislation would help ease high prices by encouraging the development of more energy. The bill provides incentives for construction of nuclear plants, renewable energy facilities, and plants that burn coal using technology that spews fewer pollutants than traditional plants. It also seeks more oil and natural gas development on federal land.
(27 May 2005)


Wyden lone dissenter on energy bill panel
Plan doesn't address efficiency, global warming, he says

Ellyn Ferguson, Statesman Journal (Oregon)
WASHINGTON -- Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden was the lone vote against a national energy bill Thursday as a Senate committee approved it 21-1.

"The bill doesn't address fuel efficiency. The bill does nothing for global warming," Wyden said. He also said it would add to already high gasoline prices on the West Coast with a mandate to boost the use of gasoline-additive ethanol.

The bill does not have a provision Wyden wanted that would limit the amount of oil reserves the federal government puts into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in times when the world spot market price for a barrel of oil tops $40. The provision is in the House version of the energy bill.
(27 May 2005)


Senate advances energy bill with federal authority over LNG sites

H. Josef Hebert, AP via SF Chronicle
Federal regulators would gain final authority to locate liquefied natural gas import sites under an energy bill advanced Thursday by a Senate committee.

The bill includes an array of measures aimed at increasing energy production and conservation, including a requirement to double ethanol use in gasoline and measures to increase the reliability of the nation's electricity grid.

The provision that would give the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission final say in where LNG terminals are located has prompted protests from California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and other coastal state officials who say it would force states and communities to accept such facilities despite safety and security concerns.
(26 May 2005)


As state population grows, will we have the energy we'll need?

Dan Wolters, Sacramento Bee
Were those much-needed power plants to be built, would there be enough clean-burning natural gas to fuel them? That's the other major energy issue facing the state. As many as four terminals have been proposed to bring liquefied natural gas into California through huge insulated ships, the most controversial of which would be in Long Beach.
...
Like anything else, LNG is not without potential dangers. Although they probably are less than the specter that opponents raise about a cloud of explosive gas enveloping a city, it's certainly reasonable that LNG terminals be located as far from populated areas as possible to forestall even the remotest danger of a apocalyptic firestorm. But if California were to flatly reject LNG - as it has done with expansion of offshore oil drilling, nuclear power and hydropower dams - while continuing to increase its demand for natural gas, it could find itself in an immense pickle in the years ahead.
(27 May 2005)
Ed: The other side of the LNG controversy. Wolters is an influential political columnist for the Sacramento Bee.


The problem with nuclear energy

Portland Oregonian (editorial)
A proposal to store commercial waste at Hanford is a reminder of unsolved nuclear disposal issues
---
We keep hearing that nuclear power is poised for a comeback, that nuclear energy is both cost-effective and "clean" because it creates none of the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

Well, maybe. Nuclear power is safely and reliably churning out electricity in many countries, including environmentally conscious France. And certainly any source of power that does not burn fossil fuels has growing appeal.

Yet there is still an enormous problem with nuclear waste, one illustrated by a little-noticed vote in the U.S. House of Representatives last Tuesday: There is still no fully safe, appropriate place to store nuclear waste.
(27 May 2005)
Ed: For the other side, see Nuclear power: a convert in the New Statesman.
An anti-nuclear commentary appeared in the Baltimore Sun Nuclear Power is Wrong Answer.


AAA on Memorial Day Weekend Gas Prices
(video)
Washingon Post via Yahoo!News
washingtonpost.com's Anne Rittman fills in for Terry Neal this week, talking to AAA's Public and Government Relations Manager John B. Townsend about what motorists can expect at the pump this weekend and the effect of SUVs on America's oil consumption.
(26 May 2005)


Why Americans are on the road again

Daniel B. Wood, Christian Science Monitor
Despite high gas prices, experts predict a record 37.2 million Americans will hit highways this weekend.
(27 May 2005)

Toxin in plastics harming unborn boys
Ian Sample, The Guardian
Scientists in America have found the first evidence that common chemicals used in products as diverse as cosmetics, toys, clingfilm and plastic bags may harm the development of unborn baby boys.

Researchers have long known that high levels of substances called phthalates have gender-bending effects on male animals, making them more feminine and leading to poor sperm quality and infertility. The new study suggests that even normal levels of phthalates, which are ubiquitous, can disrupt the development of male babies' reproductive organs.
(27 May 2005)
Ed: Other articles are in the SF Chronicle and the Minn. Star Tribune.
Peak Oil longtimer, Jan Lundberg, has also been campaigning against plastics: War on Plastic: Rejecting the toxic plague.


Solutions and Sustainability

What's the big deal about biodiversity?

Kurt Cobb, Resource Insights
When most people think of biodiversity they think of endangered species that have been ridiculed in the media for holding up development projects or blocking logging or mining ventures. If that's all biodiversity meant, then we would have little to worry about. So poorly is the concept understood in the media that we get bland, almost meaningless journalism about something that is central to our continued existence as a species. Even the experts don't seem to get it saying that we should aim at "slowing" the loss of biodiversity.

What does biodiversity do for us? It cleans the air and the water and moderates the climate. It provides myriad products for medicinal uses. It is essential for the pollination and thus proper growth of many food crops we depend on. It essential for soil fertility. The Union of Concerned scientists has a basic primer with additional links that will give you a good start in understanding this idea.

So, next time somebody starts talking or writing about biodiversity, don't let your eyes glaze over. Think instead, "My life is on the line here and so is the life of everything else on the planet!"
(26 May 2005)


Thumbs up
A revival of hitchhiking would increase respect, cut global warming and improve educational standards

Duncan Campbell, The Guardian
...In Poland in the 60s, according to a Polish woman who emailed me, "the authorities introduced the Hitchhiker's Booklet. Every hitchhiker who had it could write down how many kilometres they covered. The booklet contained coupons for drivers, so each time a driver picked up somebody, he or she received a coupon. At the end of the season, drivers who had picked up the most hikers were rewarded with various prizes. Everybody was hitchhiking then."

Surely here is an idea for any political party desperate for a bit of blue-sky thinking. Such an initiative would seem to fulfil many of the government's current aims: it would increase respect by breaking down barriers between strangers, it would help fight global warming by cutting down on fuel consumption as hitchhikers would be using existing fuels and not flying, and it would improve educational standards by delivering instant lessons in geography, orienteering, history, politics and sociology. What is New Labour waiting for?
(27 May 2005)

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