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Peak Oil

Peak Oil…Part III

Kevin Drum, Washington Monthly
Our story so far: There may be lots of oil still left in the ground, but oil in the ground doesn’t do us any good: what matters is whether it can be pumped to the surface as fast as we use it. The news on that score is discouraging: it turns out that the daily production rate of oil in non-OPEC countries has pretty much reached its peak, and what’s more, this peaking is a result of geology, not economics. Every oil field peaks and then declines as it ages.

So if non-OPEC oil fields have reached their peak, but demand keeps rising, where is additional oil going to come from in the future? The only honest answer is to admit that opinions on this differ — boy howdy, do they differ — and then provide a rundown of the four main growth possibilities.
(31 May 2005)
Ed: Kevin Drum’s blog, Political Animal, is sponsored by the Washington Monthly. His series on Peak Oil has been getting a lot of attention in the blogosphere, for example from James Cascio at WorldChanging.
Kevin’s previous posts on Peak Oil: Part I and Part II.
NEWS FLASH: Here’s Part 4. Part 5 is due to be posted tomorrow.

Interview with geologist Dale Alan Pfeiffer of “From the Wilderness”
WKNH via Global Public Media
In this two part interview Dale Alan Pfeiffer speaks on a wide range of issues related to global oil peak. Topics of discussion include the potential relation of peak oil to the recent passing of bankruptcy bill, an examination of the way the resource wars could begin to play out, and things that individuals can do to prepare for backside of Hubbert’s Peak. Dale Alan Pfeiffer, who specializes in Orogenic and Precambrian structural geology, is the Science Editor of Mike Ruppert’s From The Wilderness Newsletter and runs
(2 June 2005)

Energy-related News

An escape valve for greenhouse gas

Mark Clayton, Christian Science Monitor
Out on the gusty plains of Saskatchewan, miles of new clean-energy wind turbines will eventually be joined by a familiar old ghost of electricity generation: a new coal-fired power plant.

Such coal facilities are generally bad news for those worried about climate change. Fossil-fuel power plants produce about a third of all the heat-trapping man-made carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. And the 1,300 new coal-fired plants expected to be built over the next quarter-century will pump an extra 145 billion tons out by 2030 – and much more over their 40- to 50-year life spans.

But at least the Saskatchewan plant, slated to go on-line in 2013 about 110 miles south of Regina, will sport a newfangled escape valve. By designing in a few million dollars of extras – everything from extra ductwork and bigger boilers to extra open space right next to key areas of the plant – utility officials are creating one of the world’s first “capture ready” plants.

The idea: If and when government regulation forces it, the plant will be ready to accommodate any future technology needed to capture CO2 from its exhaust and pump it permanently underground.
(2 June 2005)

Nukes-Against-Global Warming Strategy Scored as Too Costly

Stephen Leahy, Inter Press Service (via Common Dreams)
BROOKLIN, Canada – Faced with the rising toll of global warming and soaring petroleum prices, countries like Canada and the United States are giving nuclear power another look. But this might be among the most expensive ways to produce electricity, say experts and environmental advocates.

Canada has the highest per capita energy use in the world and, like most industrialized countries, has been unable to cut emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. Under the Kyoto Protocol, an international pact to rein in global warming, Canada is committed to making significant reductions in its emissions of such gases, which are released when fossil fuels like coal and oil are burned and which contribute to climate change.

Motivated by growing energy needs and commitments to close polluting coal power plants, Canada is now considering building new nuclear power plants for the first time in 20 years. While nuclear plants do not produce greenhouse gases, they have a long history of expensive breakdowns. Additionally, the country faces the prospect of spending at least 24 billion Canadian dollars (19.2 billion U.S. dollars) to store radioactive wastes from the plants.
(2 June 2005)

Simpler – and safer

Peter N. Spotts, Christian Science Monitor
In its comeback bid, US nuclear industry eyes a new generation of reactors. Will they ease Americans’ worries?
(2 June 2005)

Sweden shuts nuclear plant in shift to wind

Reuters bia MSNBC
Voters backed move in 1980, before global warming became factor
(1 June 2005)

Venezuela govt ready to close ops of oil cos that evaded taxes till they pay

AFX via Forbes
CARACAS (AFX) – The Venezuelan government is ready to shut the operations of foreign oil companies that have evaded taxes until they pay what they owe, said the head of the Seniat tax office, Jose Vielma Mora.

Local media quoted Vielma as saying: ‘I don’t want oil companies to leave, but we do want them to pay.’ According to Vielma, three oil companies failed to pay 80 pct of the income tax.
(1 June 2005)

Oil Output Stagnates for 8th Month

Reuters, Moscow Times
Russian oil output has risen 50,000 barrels per day in May versus April to around 9.35 million bpd, but it is still below a post-Soviet high that was recorded last year, preliminary data showed on Tuesday.

The figures from the Industry and Energy Ministry extend the period of stagnation in Russia’s oil output, which experts say is mostly due to the Kremlin-led campaign against oil major Yukos, for an eighth consecutive month. (1 June 2005)

OPEC: No More Light Crude Capacity – Iranian Official

Rigzone / Dow Jones
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries should adhere to its output quotas to prevent a surge in unneeded heavy crude oil hitting the market, reducing producers’ income, a top oil official said Monday. Iran’s OPEC governor, Hossein Kazempour Ardebili, told the Iranian Students’ News Agency that more OPEC supply will merely fill oil inventories with crudes unsuitable for refineries.

“All extra levels of crude oil sent to the market stay in the oil stockpiles, since the crude oil coming to the market now has got limited refinery demand,” he said.

In the summer, refineries want light crude, which is more easily processed into gasoline, but OPEC has no more light crude capacity available, he said. (31 May 2005)

China: Three oil magnates’ opinions on energy

He Zhenhong, China Economic Net
The situation of supply and demand of petroleum and natural gas in China, the biggest consumer of petroleum, from this year onwards will become the focus of the discussions on world energy for a relatively long period of time. Chen Geng, General Manager of China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) maintained that China’s petroleum security will be in a grim situation at present and onwards. There are in the main five judgments.

Firstly, the gap between oil supply and demand is widening, emerging as one of the constraints to China’s economic growth. It is estimated that by 2020, China’s annual consumption of petroleum will have risen by about 3 percent on average, and petroleum import will be on the gradual increase on a year-on-year basis.
(2 June 2005)
Ed: Looks like an article directed at a Chinese audience, translated literally into English.

Swiss power giant warns of coming “energy crunch”

Switzerland’s largest electricity company Axpo says it has to act now to prevent a serious “energy crunch” that could develop over the next decade.

The firm unveiled proposals at a news conference to invest more than SFr5 billion ($4 billion) in measures including the construction of new gas-fired power plants – and tentative longer-term plans for a new nuclear plant
(2 June 2005)

Power shortages threaten India’s boom

Scott Baldauf, Christian Science Monitor
BOMBAY – On any given day, the city of Bombay has all the signs of an economic dynamo – with equal parts Silicon Valley, Wall Street, Hollywood, and Detroit rolled into one.

But drive outside the city, and the surrounding towns and villages are plunged into darkness, often for up to nine hours a day.

This is one of the painful facts of life in a state that has seen nearly 8 percent industrial growth in the past two years, but hasn’t built any new power plants to meet that growing demand. And it’s a warning sign for a country that’s trying to lure foreign business here and keep pace with China’s rapid expansion.
(1 June 2005)

North Korea, Facing Food Shortages, Mobilizes Millions From the Cities to Help Rice Farmers

James Brooke, NY Times
TOKYO, Wednesday, June 1 – To combat growing food shortages, the North Korean government is sending millions of city dwellers to work on farms each weekend, largely to transplant rice, according to foreign aid workers.

“The staff that work for us, the staff that work in the ministries, are going out to help farmers,” said Richard Ragan, director of World Food Program operations in Pyongyang, referring to North Koreans who work for the program. Speaking by telephone on Wednesday, he said that in terms of food supplies North Koreans “are inching back to the precipice.”

A decade ago, up to two million North Koreans starved to death in one of the rare peacetime famines of modern history. The famine was caused by a cutoff in Soviet aid, a collapse of North Korea’s industrial economy, and the reluctance of a highly xenophobic government to receive foreign aid.

Now, with worldwide opposition to Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program, foreign food aid is drying up.
(1 June 2005)
Ed: Peak Oil activists have pointed to two examples of food systems that might await us as energy becomes scarce: Cuba (an organic success story) and North Korea.

Policy debate: Power plants on Navajo land, Part 2

Brenda Norrell, Indian Country Today
SHIPROCK, N.M. – Four Corners power plants and coal mines on the Navajo Nation are some of the dirtiest power plants in the U.S. and among the nation’s top 50 power plants for mercury emissions, reports show.

”Mercury from power plants is harming our children,” said Dr. John Fogarty. ”New evidence from the Centers for Disease Control indicates that 30,000 women in New Mexico may have elevated levels of mercury in their blood.” Fogarty has served as a family physician on the Navajo Nation for six years and, as a faculty member at the University of New Mexico’s Masters of Public Health program, teaches courses on human rights and health care.

Fogarty joins Navajos pressing for health studies correlating their diseases to existing power plants and coal mines. They say the long-overdue studies should be completed before knowingly exposing Navajo communities to more air pollutants from new coal-fired power plants, such as the Navajo Nation’s proposed Desert Rock power plant in San Juan County.
(27 May 2005)

Solutions and Sustainability

Making the Community Better

Ianqui, The Oil Drum (guest post)
I first learned about Peak Oil through Prof Goose’s original posts on his personal blog. Then I started reading the super-alarmist websites, like Life After the Oil Crash, and then James Howard Kunstler’s Rolling Stone article, among others. But I found myself a little less fascinated by the dry facts of why this is happening, and more interested in reading about what’s going to happen to us. More importantly, I realized I personally can’t do much to force open the government’s eyes, but I can do little things that maybe will make my community better, and my own life easier later on.

This stuff is nothing new, but I’m hoping that by posting it here on TOD, other people will take it seriously too. If you already know, you can send this to other people who may not. We can’t practically move to Vermont and start organic farming, nor can we all buy a Prius. But there are easy, painless things that will hopefully be a start.
(2 June 2005)

Schwarzenegger unveiling global warming plan at U.N. conference

Terence Chea, Associated Press (via SF Chronicle)
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger stole the show at the United Nations environmental conference Wednesday by unveiling a plan to combat global warming by setting goals for reducing California’s emissions of greenhouse gases.

At the opening of the UN World Environmental Day Conference, Schwarzenegger signed an executive order that put the Republican governor on a different course from the Bush administration, which has rebuffed international efforts to address climate change.

Schwarzenegger didn’t announce any specific new policies, but said he would move ahead to impose greenhouse gas emissions standards for automobiles, increase use of renewable power and boost energy efficiency in state buildings and vehicles.
(1 June 2005)

Governor acts to curb state’s gas emissions
Goals put him at odds with many in GOP

Mark Martin, Chronicle
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in a strongly-worded speech declaring global warming an imminent threat, announced broad goals Wednesday to reduce greenhouse gases in California that many environmentalists and scientists hailed as an effort that could have profound ramifications around the world.

Speaking at the United Nations World Environment Day conference in San Francisco, Schwarzenegger argued for curbing carbon dioxide and other gases emitted from cars, power plants and industry, which most experts believe are raising global temperatures and threatening water supply, air quality and human health in California
(2 June 2005)

Don’t believe the hype

Eric de Place, Gristmill
To read today’s headlines you’d think Schwarzenegger just saved the world from global warming catastrophe a la the “The Day After Tomorrow.” But why?

In a speech to the United Nations World Environment Day gathering in San Francisco, the gubernator proclaimed that the scientific debate on climate change is over and that the world needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I suppose it’s encouraging that another prominent Republican has made such a declaration, in contrast to the willful ignorance of the White House. But isn’t this stuff common knowledge by now?
(2 June 2005)

Alternative visions
Five Bay Area conservationists are thinking globally – but outside the mainstream consensus – about sustainability

Matthew Hirsch, SF Bay Guardian
Just by hosting the United Nations World Environment Day, which kicks off June 1, San Francisco and the entire Bay Area will draw international attention to the region as a pioneer in sustainability. And the city has a lot to brag about: huge solar panels, zero-emission vehicles, and a thriving market for organic produce, just to name a few.

But have we really found solutions to the challenges facing modern cities, or is the Bay Area just better at crafting the image of what green cities should be? Below we present five alternative visions – written by grassroots activists – of what our urban landscape could become.

A common theme you’ll find in each is the need to go beyond piecemeal attempts at fixing problems like air pollution and urban sprawl. It’s not enough simply to substitute a “clean” fuel for a dirty one, for example, without tackling the entire transportation system and how it interrelates with the way we build affordable housing.
(1 June 2005)

If a green utopia on Treasure Island sounds far-fetched, dreamers have a plan

John King, SF Chronicle
Right now, San Francisco has a rare chance to do something that’s historic and audacious: create the world’s first green urban neighborhood on our very own Treasure Island.

Instead of a windswept former naval base with poor access to the Bay Bridge, 403 human-made acres could be a community where 20,000 people live mostly automobile-free lives. Energy would be generated by windmills; shops and parks would be within walking distance. Downtown San Francisco would be a 10-minute ferry ride away.
(2 June 2005)

New Urbanism in Denver

Terry Pristin, NY Times
… Ultimately expected to have a population of 30,000 when it is completed in about 2020, Stapleton is believed to be the largest project ever undertaken to fill in vacant or underused urban land.

Set against a backdrop of the downtown skyline and the Front Range of the Rockies, the project has been widely praised as a model of “new urbanism.” The houses, mimicking the style found in older, walkable neighborhoods here, are close together, with the garages in back and only the tiniest of yards. Front porches encourage passersby to stop and chat. About 1,100 acres have been set aside for parks.
(1 June 2005)

Paying decent wages should be part of ‘sustainability
(guest viewpoint)
Bob Bussel, Eugene Register-Guard (Oregon)
The city of Eugene is to be lauded for its interest in employing a “green” approach to its building and renovation projects.

Green building is a part of an economic development strategy known as “sustainable development,” which embodies practices that create economic prosperity, environmental regeneration and social equity – sometimes called the “triple bottom line.” A commitment to equity encompasses the workers whose labor translates designs into buildings and products, and should include consideration of labor conditions, wages and benefits.
(1 June 2005)

Pollution-free ship? Designers try their hand
Cargo concept relies on solar panels, wind and wave power

Simon Johnson, Reuters via MSNBC
STOCKHOLM, Sweden – Will technological advances, fuel costs and environmental concerns bring back commercial sailing for cargo ships?

Shipping firm Wallenius Wilhelmsen has designed a high-tech “back to the future” freighter powered solely by wind and waves in the expectation that increasing regulation and shipping costs over the next 20 years will force the industry to come up with greener vessels
(31 May 2005)

LED evolution could replace light bulbs
Could cut energy consumption, provide durable outdoor uses

Associated Press via MSNBC
NEW YORK – If a time traveler from a hundred years ago were to visit a home today, much of the technology would be completely alien. The television, cordless phone and computer would probably leave him flabbergasted.

But on seeing a light bulb, he might say, “Ah! Here’s something I recognize. A few of those grace my home, too.”

If the visitor comes back in 15 years, the fruit of Thomas Edison’s bright idea may be gone. The likely replacement: light-emitting diodes, or LEDs.
(1 June 2005)

One of Napa Valley’s premier wineries shows that sustainable farming can enhance already superb wines

. Blake Gray, SF Chronicle
Doug Shafer can see hawks, bats and scads of other critters at his family’s winery in Napa. But what he really likes watching is the electricity meter.

Shafer Vineyards installed solar panels in December 2004, cutting the monthly power bill from about $3,000 to about $40. On an overcast day, when he’s not busy with his duties as company president, Doug likes to unlock the giant metal box behind the winery and watch the power fluctuate — now they’re drawing power from the grid; now they’re sending power back.

“This is so cool,” he says, laughing. “I could watch the meter go backwards all day long.”
(2 June 2005)

Powered by hydrogen but pricier than a Rolls

Michael Taylor, SF Chronicle
Aside from a few odd names and identification logos plastered to their roofs and flanks, the cars assembled on the green of San Francisco’s Civic Center on Wednesday looked like, smelled like and, well, drove like most of the quiet, comfortable if not very exciting cars you can buy in any American showroom for $25,000 or so.

There were only two differences: Each of these nearly hand-made cars may well have cost $1 million — General Motors puts that price tag on its “HydroGen3” — and their power plants run on hydrogen, a fuel not easily found at the corner gas station.

The excuse for having the cars in San Francisco was the United Nation’s World Environment Day five-day conference — these cars that emit only water vapor are very clean. But the real point was that all of the world’s big auto manufacturers are competing fiercely for what is likely to be a lucrative market a few decades from now, once the world realizes that its supply of oil is finite and something else will be needed to power the 17 million new cars and light trucks Americans buy each year
(2 June 2005)

Ditch the car, we’re running out of oil

ABC Gold & Tweed Coasts (Australia)
Next time you fill up your petrol tank, enjoy it, it won’t be around forever.

Tim Winton is a permaculture expert speaking on the Gold Coast this weekend. He says it’s time for us to get ready for a world with less oil.
…What’s the good news? “There are plenty of positive alternatives. Everyone could live on a fifth of the energy budget they have now. It would mean a change in lifestyle, in the way they do things, and this is a much more difficult challenge than the technical challenges ahead of us”, Tim explains, “I don’t think we’re going back to the days of the horse and cart but I think we will have more localised economies. Really well designed, urban areas are great. There are a lot of solutions, I’ll mention permaculture, it’s custom-designed for living well with less. It was developed during the oil shocks of the seventies, it’s about using design to maximise your energy resources,” Tim Winton.
(2 June 2005)