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Peak Oil

June ASPO Newsletter is online

Association for the Study of Petroleum Oil and Gas (ASPO)
You can download the newsletter as a PDF above, or browse the articles within the newsletter below.

Articles In ASPO Newsletter 54 (June 2005)
* 549 Food Supply mirrors Oil Supply
* 550 The Future of the United States
* 551 Motor industry begins to crash
* 552 Country Assessment – Brunei
* 553 Executive Evasion
* 554 Oil, Tax and Venezuela
* 555 Home Heating
* 556 ASPO International Workshop in Lisbon
* 558 Oil Depletion, Energy Waste, Debt and Capital Production by Marc Gauvin
* 559 Peak Oil in Australia
* 560 Russia’s Petroleum Policy
(31 May 2005)
Ed: New look and feel to the ASPO newsletter.

Kunstler – a stopped clock?

Jon S., Peak Energy (blog)
For some reason, maybe because his recent writings have penetrated the deepest into popular culture (Rolling Stone), James Howard Kunstler has lately taken on the aspect of peak oil raconteur, drawing criticism like a lightening rod because of the supposedly gloomy story he weaves.

With that as context, it was with some amusement that I read the mini-debate between Kunstler and Amory Lovins at Salon. Former rock and roll writer and novelist takes on Lovins plus his gaggle of industry engineers, and the result, I submit, is a draw.

Kunstler will be proven correct. We are facing a long, (inter)national emergency. And I for one am glad people like Amory Lovins are around to help us through it, even though I think the proposal in Winning the Oil Endgame suggesting we burn trees to power our cars is a clownish idea. Never give a chimp reason burn something; they will; right up until they physically can’t.

Meanwhile, Kunstler is right more than twice a day.
(31 May 2005)

A picture of depletion

“Heading Out”, The Oil Drum (blog)
For most people there was some one thing that brought the reality of Peak Oil home to them. For me it was this picture, from a paper by Dogru, Hamoud and Barlow in JPT in February 2004. … It shows a vertical slice taken through the Abqaiq oilfield in Saudi Arabia, using an instrument that measures the relative fluid densities at different levels in the field.
(1 June 2005)
Ed: Dramatic figure that vividly shows how depletion takes place.

As resources fail

“Heading Out”, The Oil Drum (blog)
The article by Henry Liu that ran in Asia Times contained an unknowing comment on how times change. He said

A fourth discontinuity is pending over Iran’s march toward nuclear power status. As a major oil producer, Iran needs nuclear power for civilian use as much as coal-producing Newcastle needs oil.

Well it should be noted that Newcastle no longer produces coal, and has not for some years now. The last remaining coal mine in the North of England (where Newcastle lies) was closed earlier this year when it was decided that the cost of pumping the mine dry was not justified by the coal that might be produced.
(31 May 2005)
Ed: When E.F. Schumacher (author of “Small Is Beautiful”) was Chief Economic Advisor for the British Coal Board during 1950-70, he argued strongly against the closing of coal mines, believing that the UK would need coal again someday. (He also predicted the rise of OPEC and the problems with nuclear power.)

Two Things Of Note

New Era Investor (blog)
Before I went off for the weekend, I noted two things of seeming unimportance but symbolic of the optimism and fragility of modern Western society.

The first was a woman delivering drycleaned clothes. The second was the development of a new control tower and parking lots at our local but small airport.

The symbolism of the woman lies in the increasing size of the services sector of business today. She may have been previously employed in manufacturing or technology, I don’t know. I do know that she represents a shift from the tangible to the less tangible, from the essential to the optional. Where such a person may have been employed in creating items necessary for the continuance of modern society such as tyres, tables, telephones or textiles, now they are employed in the providing of that which could be done by the customer or could be dispensed with completely.
(30 May 2005)

Economic Theory and Some Oil Market Realities

Ferdinand E. Banks, 321 Energy
Not too long ago I had the great pleasure of giving a long lecture on oil at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, where I once studied mathematics in a building that is still known as ‘Sing-Sing’ (after the US prison of the same name.) And once again I discovered, to my great surprise, that even at this late date the realities of the present world oil market have not been absorbed by the future engineering elite to a desirable extent.

The major dilemma is simple and widespread, and cannot be referred to often enough: Mr and Ms consumer are still unable to comprehend that we are moving toward a world in which we are not going to have access to the inexpensive oil to which we believe we are entitled. Eleven years ago the Energy Journal presented a special issue called ‘The Changing World Petroleum Market’ (1994) in which the future oil and gas scene was systematically misrepresented by a number of prestigious energy economists. In their vision of the 21st century, not only was oil “plentiful”, but OPEC was a fragile construction due to the enormous amount of oil and gas that could or would eventually be discovered in the unexplored or only partially explored regions of the globe. In terms of mainstream geology, this kind of thinking hardly deserved to be labeled bizarre, but even so it attracted a sympathetic audience.
(29 May 2005)

Energy-related News
Dirty Money
Daphne Eviatar, Mother Jones
As coal plants win the right to burn dirtier and dirtier, the US administration is subsidizing coal as the “clean fuel” of the future.

As analysts predict the price of oil could soon top $100 a barrel, coal — cheap, abundant and politically powerful in the United States — is enjoying a huge comeback. More than 100 new coal-fired power plants have been proposed across the country, and the federal government is predicting a 25 percent increase in the amount of U.S. energy derived from coal by 2025. “The coal industry is trying to rush the gates before the United States gets its act together on climate change and regulating carbon emissions,” says Dave Hamilton, director of global warming and energy programs at the Sierra Club. “Even if just 72 new plants are built, the U.S. alone will wipe out half the progress the rest of the world makes through the Kyoto protocols.”
(26 May 2005)

Nicaragua announces state of emergency to end energy crisis
Nicaraguan President Enrique Bolanos on Monday ordered a state of economic emergency for 180 days in an attempt to tide over an energy crisis that has forced a three-hour-a-day rationing in the supply of electricity in the country.

Bolanos, who announced the measure following a meeting with the cabinet, said the crisis is due to high fuel prices. Bolanos will send the decree to the country’s National Assembly for discussion and approval within 72 hours from its publication in the Official Gazette.
(30 May 2005)

Revealed the new scramble for Africa
David Leigh and David Pallister, The Guardian
A new “scramble for Africa” is taking place among the world’s big powers, who are tapping into the continent for its oil and diamonds.

Tony Blair is pushing hard for African debt relief agreements in the run-up to the G8 summit in Scotland in July. But while sub-Saharan Africa is the object of the west’s charitable concern, billions of pounds’ worth of natural resources are being removed from it.

A Guardian investigation beginning today reveals that instead of enriching often debt-ridden countries, some big corporations are accused by campaigners of facilitating corruption and provoking instability – so much so that organisations such as Friends of the Earth talk of an “oil curse”.
(1 June 2005)

Iran proposes “Great Islamic Initiative” to counter US reform plan
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami has proposed that all Muslims take what he calls the “Great Islamic Middle East” initiative to counter the US “Great Middle East” plan, the English-language daily Kayhan (International) reported on Monday.

“I am suggesting a greater Islamic Middle East, but the US says since Islam is a danger, the yardstick must be Western criteria,” Khatami was quoted as saying on Sunday.

“The Middle East governments must take shape in favor of the public leadership, where the principles of democracy, freedom and progress in regional countries are guaranteed and the dependence on the outside world is discarded,” the president said.

Khatami’s comments were made in reaction to the so-called “Great Middle East initiative”, which has been proposed by the United States for Islamic countries to promote the westernized democracy and economic reforms in the Middle East.
(31 May 2005)

China’s Manifest Destiny
Frederick Stakelbeck, Jr, Global Politician
Legendary scenes of determined settlers bravely moving west in a journey to fulfill America’s “Manifest Destiny” are being quietly resurrected. Only this time, Chinese migrants, not American settlers, are driving west into the cold, forbidding environment of the Russian Far East and Siberia.

As with any mass migration, especially one involving foreign nationals crossing sovereign boarders, Chinese migration into Russia raises a number of significant questions for Moscow. Should Chinese migrants, many of them poor and uneducated, be permitted to stay in Russia? What will be the impact of Chinese migration upon Russian society? More importantly, what are Beijing’s long-term intentions in the Far East and Siberia?

Many Russian officials have expressed fear that uninhibited Chinese migration into the Russian Far East and Siberia could lead to an eventual Chinese “land grab.” Given the recent progress made in Sino-Russian defense, energy, technology and trade relations, what would motivate China to pursue such an aggressive and potentially devastating regional strategy?

The answer to this question is simple – China desperately needs the region’s natural resources to achieve its dual goals of Asian supremacy and global influence.
(1 June 2005)

Oil shale deposits generate new buzz as energy source

Robert Gehrke, Salt Lake Tribune
WASHINGTON – The massive oil shale deposits have been called Saudi Arabia in the Rocky Mountains, and billed as the solution to the nation’s energy woes.

But those who lived through the oil shale boom in the 1970s and its collapse in the early 1980s are tempering their optimism with a dose of caution.

“This isn’t our first rodeo,” said Uintah County Commissioner Jim Abegglen. “We’re excited about it, but we’re realists.”
(31 May 2005)

Solutions and Sustainability

Keeping alert to the threats of environmental changes

Denis Hayes, Seattle Times (opinion)
…The greatest threats facing the world today are not Soviet bombers but major environmental changes. The earlier we learn of such threats, the better our chances of mitigating their damage.

Information produced by such research is, by its very nature, a “public good.” It benefits everyone, and it is most valuable when it is universally distributed. Hence, little, if any, distant early warning research will ever be conducted and disseminated by the private sector.

Yet, in an era of huge tax cuts, some of these vitally important functions are falling into disrepair. President Bush has recommended, and Congress has passed, significant reductions in key budgets for basic environmental research and monitoring at NASA, NOAA and the National Science Foundation. American scientists hope our government will follow Canada’s example and begin its funding of Neptune in 2007, though NSF’s monitoring budget has not grown as originally planned.

Although distant early warning will not always automatically elicit an effective response, the alternative — ignorance — guarantees a catastrophe. From climate disruption to invasive species, from earthquakes to international air pollution, the U.S. needs to keep its environmental DEW lines well-funded and on high alert.
(1 June 2005)
Ed: Also at Common Dreams

June 2005 Energy Self Sufficiency Newsletter
Rebel Wolf Online
Magazine with articles this edition on DIY LED lighting, passive solar house design, and living with low energy on the road in Africa.

There are also several previous editions available with content on off-grid living and home scale renewable energy projects. Back editions .
(June 2005)

World Environment Day

United Nations
Official web site for the UN conference being held June 1-6 in San Francisco.
(June 2005)
Ed: All of the stories below are related to the conference.

World’s mayors seeing green
Conference in S.F. targets environment

Paul Rogers, San Jose Mercury News
San Francisco hasn’t yet painted the Golden Gate Bridge green.

But civic leaders are doing nearly every other eco-thing this week, as mayors from some of the world’s largest cities descend on San Francisco beginning today for a five-day United Nations conference on environmental issues.

The event, dubbed World Environment Day, is an international version of the United States’ Earth Day. Held every year since 1987, the conference is taking place in the United States for the first time.
(1 June 2005)
Ed: Also see World’s mayors seek to fight global warming, make cities greener from Associated Press.

Power to the people
Earth summit places global responsibility in local hands
68 mayors pledging to achieve 21 goals

Peter Fimrite, SF Chronicle
It would be easy to pass off the United Nations’ World Environment Day conference that begins today in San Francisco as yet another gathering full of windy pronouncements and empty promises about creating sustainable communities.

There is, after all, a long history of feel-good environmental summits that ultimately did nothing to reduce carbon emissions or improve the planet’s condition.

But climate change experts see the first Environment Day conference held in the United States as a crucial opportunity to put the environmental movement where it belongs — in the hands of the people.

“One of the great things about our country is that when one part of society drops the ball, as Washington so clearly has in terms of climate threat, another part of society can come pick it up and run with it,” said James Speth, the dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

With San Francisco playing host to the United Nations’ World Environment Day in a five-day conference beginning today, The Chronicle is looking at environmental issues in the Bay Area..
Sunday: Green agenda at U.N. conference
Monday: Pesticide reduction
Tuesday: Waste reduction and recycling

State a leader in curtailing flow of waste to landfills, incinerators

TODAY: Water quality, supply.

Despite strides, Bay Area has mixed record on freshwater.] Building grows greener in Bay Area

Thursday: Urban design
Friday: Transportation
Saturday: Energy
Sunday: Parks
(1 June 2005)
Ed: It does my heart good to see the local paper scooping the national media. The Chronicle series on local sustainability is far superior to anything done by the NY Times, etc., to say nothing of the broadcasters. In fact, it’s better than most of the environmental publications. Good on ya, Chronicle!

EDITORIAL: The clean and green challenge

SF Chronicle
On an everyday scale, environmentalism is second nature for many of us here. Pushing the cause wider — around the world and fuarther into our everyday life — is the next challenge.

Recycling cans, bundling papers and pushing color-coded trash cans to the curb for pickup are automatics. Also, slow-and-steady progress on limiting pesticides, conserving energy and wasting less water is marked regularly.

A five-day United Nations conference here, beginning today, looks at larger hurdles. Cities — not the deep woods or the open ocean — are where environmental battles matter. More than half the world lives in polluted, congested urban areas. The planet’s top 20 cities each have more than 10 million residents.

This century’s Mr. Green Jeans isn’t only a park ranger or streamside scientist. It’s a sanitation expert, transit planner or a building designer. Their common job description: Make things work better and with less environmental impact)
(1 June 2005)

Building living cities

William Leddy, SF Chronicle (opinion)
Sixty percent of Earth’s inhabitants will live in cities by 2030, according to the United Nations — the same year global carbon dioxide- emissions are expected to increase by almost two-thirds of what they are today. By 2025, worldwide energy consumption is expected to grow by 54 percent, while worldwide oil production is predicted to begin declining in 2016.

Today, we are bombarded with such alarming statistics as these, suggesting a perilous future of constantly growing cities, fractured communities, increasing pollution and declining resources. While the specifics of the data might be debatable for some, the underlying realities are not: We live in a time of unprecedented global change. How can we preserve our way of life for generations to come? What will become of cities in the future?
(1 June 2005)
Ed: Also at Common Dreams

Let’s get rolling with bikes

Leah Shahum, SF Chronicle (opinion)
…Our potential is far greater, with nearly half of San Francisco adults owning bikes and factoring in our mild climate and dense urban environment. (Even most of the hills can be avoided by advance planning or riding on a bus with a bike rack.) We should follow the lead of London and Paris, which have recently prioritized bicycling for local mobility and environmental sustainability.
(31 May 2005)

Diet for a sustainable planet
The challenge: Eat locally for a month (You can start practicing now)

Olivia Wu, SF Chronicle
As World Environmental Day opens in San Francisco, with 100 mayors brainstorming about environmental problems worldwide, four Northern California women are viewing the issues through the prism of their own kitchens.

Calling themselves the Locavores, the women — Lia McKinney, Jessica Prentice, Dede Sampson and Sage Van Wing — are passionate about eating locally and have devised a way to show others how to do that, too.

With San Francisco as the center, they have drawn a circle with a 100- mile radius from the city, and are urging people to buy, cook and eat from within that “foodshed” — or their own foodshed, based on where they live — in a monthlong challenge in August called “Celebrate Your Foodshed: Eat Locally.” Eating within a foodshed, they say, is the best way to support the environment.

“Eating locally solves the major issues facing us,” says Bart Anderson of Palo Alto, co-editor of Energy Bulletin, an online news portal (

For the Locavores and others who believe in eating locally, doing so affects the planet’s top three problems: the fact that we’re on the downhill side of the supply of oil and other fossil fuels, environmental deterioration and economic issues, all of which will be addressed by World Environmental Day meetings this week.
(1 June 2005)
Ed: Good term – “locavores

Die die SUVs please die

Mark Morford, SF Chronicle
Sales of the bloated monster trucks are in a huge slump. Time for enviro-lovers to rejoice?
You hear that? That cheering and rejoicing and heavy exhausted sighing? Why, it’s coming from the massively fatigued Prius-happy enviro-green set and it’s all about the fact that sales of huge bloated oil-belchin’ SUVs are in a major free-fall, down nearly 20 percent for the year and dropping faster than Jenna Bush can slam a bottle of Cuervo.

Can we all just wave our Greenpeace flags high and scream an I-told-you-so and go spank an Expedition driver and be glad for that? Can I get a “Hell yeah”?
(1 June 2005)