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Peak Oil

New site: “Oilcast – energy news audio on demand”

Adam Porter & Dani Gomez,
New site with audio downloads of commentary on energy issues. Adam Porter has written many articles on energy (see EB archives). The site has been online since March, but has been largely unpublicized. There’s also an archive of energy reports from multiple sources.

Latest offering is Oilcast #7: Exclusive: Demand oustripped supply in Q1 2005

OilcastsOilcast 7 looks at the Shell Scenarios report, a French government round-up ‘Oil Industry 2004’ that takes a long look at ‘Peak Oil’ theory…plus King Fahd’s secret lady friend… the rig count is down yet up…price rises could be nothing more than software and amazingly unreported anywhere else, demand outstripped supply in Q1 2005.

(8 June 2005)

Are We Running Out of Oil?

L B Magoon, US Geological Survey (.4MB PDF)
Q: So when is THE BIG ROLLOVER? [= Peak Oil] A: Nobody is sure, but those willing to forecast say somewhere between 2003 and 2020. Most everybody seems to agree that it will most likely be within our life time, and possibly quite soon!
Q: What should we do to prepare for THE BIG ROLLOVER?
A: Hang on tight, if we don’t recognize the problem soon and deal with it, it’s going to be quite a ride!
This paper is published with approval of the director of the U.S. Geological Survey, but the interpretations and opinions presented are the author’s, not those of the U.S. Geological Survey, whose scientists have diverse opinions on this and most other subjects.
An EB reader writes: “It looks like this was published several years ago by the USGS. When Googled I didn’t find it linked anywhere. No new information here, other than the meta information that this is an official publication of the US government.”

Life after the oil peak

Dan McMenahin, Cal Aggie (student newspaper at University of California at Davis)
Editor’s Note: In this final installment in its series on the issue of peak oil, The California Aggie discusses what the future may hold for a world in which oil has become drastically more expensive and rare.
(8 June 2005)

The Long Emergency: Running out of cheap gas to guzzle

James Howard Kunstler, Macon Daily (Georgia)
Excerpt from Kunstler’s newly released book, The Long Emergency.
(7 June 2005)

Politics and Economics

South American gas giant in turmoil

Bill Faries | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
LA PÁZ, BOLIVIA – The sound of exploding dynamite tossed by protesting miners in Bolivia’s capital is reverberating across South America.

For three weeks, largely indigenous protesters have paralyzed the government and its capital, La Páz, demanding nationalization of the country’s oil and gas resources and a new constitutional assembly. Two government ministers have resigned, rumors of a military coup have swept the capital, and Monday night President Carlos Mesa offered his resignation – for the second time in three months. Mr. Mesa said he will continue on as president until Congress decides whether to accept his offer.

Bolivia’s turmoil is leading neighboring countries to reexamine their energy dependence on this landlocked Andean nation.

With an estimated 53 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, Bolivia holds the continent’s second-largest gas reserves after Venezuela. Moreover, Bolivia’s location among the surging economies of Argentina, Brazil, and Chile means the country is well positioned to be the fuel supply for the region’s engine of growth. But complicated internal politics may push development of those resources far into the future.
(8 June 2005)
Also see the editorial from the CSM: Bolivia: Tiny nation, big troubles.

High Fuel Costs Taking Toll on Harvesters

Roxana Hegeman, Associated Press via KARE
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — After several seasons of battling rising costs and a widespread drought, many custom crop harvesters are calling it quits amid skyrocketing fuel prices.

Between 25 percent and 30 percent of the workers who travel the country harvesting crops for farmers have left the business in the past three years, said Dave Hermesch, a harvester from Cowetta, Okla., and former president of U.S. Custom Harvesters, the industry’s trade group.
(8 June 2005)


Study notes exploration successes, disappointments

Oil & Gas Journal
HOUSTON, June 8 — Energy consultant Wood Mackenzie Ltd. rated the biggest exploration successes in absolute terms during the last 10 years as Kazakhstan, the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, Angola, and Nigeria.

The conclusions appear in a study entitled, “Global Oil and Gas Risks and Rewards.” WoodMac analysts compared exploration performance and returns for international oil companies in 66 areas across 58 countries during 1994-2003.
(8 June 2005)


Ex-oil lobbyist watered down US climate research

Julian Borger, The Guardian
A former oil industry lobbyist edited the Bush administration’s official policy papers on climate change to play down the link between greenhouse gas emissions and global warming, it was reported yesterday.

Documents released by a watchdog group, the Government Accountability Project, show that as chief of staff for the White House council on environmental quality, Philip Cooney watered down government scientific papers on climate change and played up uncertainties in the scientific literature. Mr Cooney is a law graduate and has no scientific training.

The Bush aide had performed a similar role in his previous job for the American Petroleum Institute, a lobby group representing oil giants and focused on countering the virtual consensus among scientists that man-made emissions are rapidly heating the planet.

…at Tuesday’s White House meeting with Tony Blair, the president [George W. Bush] underlined the importance of further research.

“I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but we lead the world when it comes to millions of dollars spent on research about climate change,” he said. “It’s easier to solve a problem when you know a lot about it.”
(9 June 2005)

Solutions and Sustainability

Save the Buy-o-sphere:
sustainable consumption

Joel Makower, WorldChanging
The Journal of Industrial Ecology, on whose editorial board I sit, has just published an issue devoted to the topic of sustainable consumption — “an attempt to close the gap especially in environmental research between production and consumption,” in the introductory words of the issue’s guest editor, Dr. Edgar Hertwich, Program for Industrial Ecology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. The Journal is published by MIT Press.

…the entire issue is free and downloadable from the Journal’s site.
(8 June 2005)
More than two dozen articles online — great stuff!

Biofuels Take Off in Some Countries

Environmental concerns and hopes to cut oil import bills while helping farmers have rekindled global interest in biofuels, a form of “green” energy with the potential to become a key transportation fuel.

Biofuels include ethanol and biodiesel derived from organic matter such as sugar cane, vegetable or corn oils. Not all ethanol is suitable to be used as a motor fuel blend. The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts ethanol alone has the potential to make up 10 percent of world gasoline use by 2025 and 30 percent in 2050, up from around 2 percent. The following is a list of major biofuel-producing countries or regions…
(9 June 2005)

Biomass adds to ethanol debate

John Gartner, Wired
Federal subsidies have made growing corn for ethanol a profitable venture for Corn Belt farmers while irking free-market advocates. Now, new technology for processing biomass from widely available plant and tree residue could increase Beltway bickering over ethanol funding. Nearly all of the ethanol in the United States is currently produced by fermenting the sugars in corn grain, according to Robin Graham, the group leader of ecosystem and plant sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

…The economics of ethanol could soon change, as Oak Ridge National Lab’s Graham said that producing ethanol from the cellulose of plants is less costly than using corn grain. The cost of raw materials for biomass-based ethanol could be much lower, since tree and plant residue from clearing lots can be obtained for free, and switchgrass (a perennial crop that grows everywhere east of the Rocky Mountains) and corn stovers (dried leaves and stalks) are inexpensive to acquire, according to Graham.

Using corn grain to produce ethanol is relatively energy-inefficient when compared to utilizing biomass, Graham said. Producing ethanol from corn grain generates about 1.4 times as much energy as the process consumes, when pesticides and fossil fuels are factored in, she said. “The energy yield from cellulosic materials is like 10-to-1.”
(2 June 2005)
From a post by Big Gav at Peak Energy.

Biodiesel: A New Way of Turning Plants into Fuel

Sam Jaffe, Technology Review (MIT)
Eco-dreamers have long hoped for a way to drive around without contributing to global warming, but the slow pace of progress in alternative fuel technologies has kept that vision from materializing. Now, a promising new process, designed by researchers at the University of Wisconsin and outlined in a paper that appeared in the journal Science on June 2, could be a significant step toward turning that dream into a reality.

The paper details a new way to produce biodiesel fuel, which is made out of plant matter. Traditional biodiesel refining uses only the fatty acids of a plant, which typically make up less than 10 percent of the mass of dried plants. Rather than converting only the fat, this new method promises to turn all of the dried plant material, including roots, stems, leaves, and fruit, into biodiesel or heat energy.

Ethanol, the most popular and commercial biofuel, has long been refined out of plant matter, but it requires the costly, energy-intensive step of distilling every molecule of water out of the solution. In contrast, the new biodiesel process is based on aqueous phase reactions, which don’t need to go through the expensive distillation phase.
(7 June 2005)
From a post by Big Gav at Peak Energy.

Huge wind farm proposed to power London
Shell, others move ahead on $2.7 billion offshore project

Associated Press via MSNBC
LONDON – London could see a quarter of its electricity come from 270 wind turbines in what would be the world’s largest offshore wind farm, Shell and several energy partners said Tuesday in applying for permits to build the $2.7 billion project.

The London Array project would place the turbines on offshore platforms where the Thames River meets the North Sea around 60 miles outside London.

The turbines would generate around 1,000 megawatts and connect into Britain’s national grid to supply power for more than 750,000 homes, helping meet Prime Minister Tony Blair’s target of generating 10 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2010.
(7 June 2005)

Design instructors want the auto industry to go green, but students are resisting

James Sterngold, SF Chronicle
Pasadena — Environmentalists and politicians have long debated how to reduce the country’s dangerous dependence on imported oil, with little to show for their efforts. But if there is one place that might have a good shot at ending America’s love affair with gas-guzzlers, it should be here, in the leafy, hip confines of the Art Center College of Design.

Little known outside the auto industry, the school has long been the premier training ground for the elite auto designers of Detroit, Europe and Japan. Its graduates have helped produce the Volkswagen New Beetle, Chrysler’s PT Cruiser, the Honda Element and BMW’s Mini Cooper, and many have had a hand in designing the tanklike sport utility vehicles crowding suburban streets.

But now the school is initiating major changes — or at least, it is trying. Its president, Richard Koshalek, has pushed the influential institution to embrace a green-hued philosophy, rethinking its curriculum to reshape the future of transportation. The aim is to produce a new generation of graduates who will ensure that the fuel-cell future will bear little resemblance to the internal-combustion present.
(8 June 2005)

‘Fishy’ 70-mpg diesel concept car unveiled
DaimlerChrysler project was shaped by a tropical fish

DaimlerChrysler on Tuesday unveiled a diesel concept car that gets more than 70 miles per gallon, reduces some pollutants by 80 percent, seats four and looks like something that popped out of a Caribbean reef – only magnified.

The company attributed the high mileage and lower emissions to new technology and an aerodynamic design based on the biology of a boxfish.
(7 June 2005)
James Cascio over at WorldChanging comments on the Biomimetic concept car.