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Energy Headlines - June 10, 2005

Click on the headline (link) for the full text.

Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage


Peak Oil

BBC on Peak Oil with Colin Campbell

Janet Cohen, The World Tonight, BBC Radio 4
"Colin Campbell features in a 10 minute discussion over `peaking oil production'. The common view expressed is that, irrespective of when the oil peak occurs, we need to switch to alternatives ASAP. 22 and a half minutes in...." - Bandidoz of peakoil.com .
(9 June 2005)


Energy tech draws MIT's eye

Michael Kanellos, CNET
MIT has established an Energy Research Council that will develop an outline for a university-wide plan for promoting research and engineering projects geared at alleviating the looming energy crisis. The group consists of academics from various MIT departments; an initial assessment will come February 1.

This is arguably the pre-eminent opportunity in the 21st century for bringing science and engineering to bear on human needs," said professor Ernest Moniz, who will head up the effort, in a prepared statement. "Fossil fuels make up 85 percent of the world's present energy use, and developing economies will greatly increase their use of fossil fuels to meet their economic and social goals."
(9 June 2005)


The Countdown for the Peak of Oil Production has Begun – but what are the Views
of the Most Important International Energy Agencies

W. Zittel, J. Schindler, L-B-Systemtechnik (via Energy Bulletin)
...The projections presented by USGS, EIA and IEA regarding the future availability of oil give reason to grave concerns because the comforting messages of these studies unfortunately are not based on valid arguments. These studies ignore future limitations in the supply of oil which are meanwhile apparent, and by doing this they send misleading political signals.

This article describes how, as it were, a “building” has been erected by well-known institutions:
· The supporting ground floor has been built by the USGS 2000 study: it describes, how much oil the world has at its disposal - it just needs to be found.
· On this the EIA has built a first floor which describes the future production potential. The result is that in fact any conceivable future growth of production will be possible - with growth rates exceeding everything that could be observed in the past.
· On top of this the IEA constructs a second floor: the predicted growth in oil demand for the next decades will not be restricted by any limits of supply.

However, if only one brick is removed from the ground floor, the whole edifice collapses like a card house.
(12 Oct 2004)
Submitted by reader Pete who says: "in your bulletin of 9 June I noticed a reference to Les Magoon of USGS. The german peakoil site 'energiekrise' has also commented on Magoon/ USGS before". Also posted on ODAC site (129 KB PDF).


Non-renewables

Why is it called the Empty Quarter?

"Heading out", The Oil Drum
Well I am now getting into Twilight in the Desert [by Matthew Simmons], and, while it would be wrong to describe it as totally dispassionate, it is a well written and relatively easy text to understand and enjoy, so far. This is going to become a fairly controversial subject before long, since the raw numbers are not getting any better and there are going to be some enemies generated. And while not wishing to step on Prof G’s toes in this area, historically to motivate the nation, there has had to be an enemy.

This may very well, in the intermediate term, become the Saudi family or the Arabian nation. And, while I tend to agree with Matt Simmons a whole lot more than I don’t, there should be some recognition that Aramco and the Saudi family do have some arguments on their side. Which, of course, means that it is time to visit the sandwich shop again.
(10 June 2005)


Politics and Economics

Zero Hour in Bolivia: What to Watch for Today

Al Giordano, The NarcoSphere (also at Common Dreams)
[Description of how the situation in Bolivia is coming to a head]
...Kind readers: A little more than a week ago, a very important news item almost slipped under radar.

In late May, in the nearby country of Paraguay, that nation’s Congress was convened in secret, after midnight, according to a May 31 report by the Argentine correspondent for the Mexican daily La Jornada. The reason: to rush through a law “that will permit United States troops to enter this South American country for 18 months, with immunity for all personnel that participate in activities of training and advising, including civilian personnel.”

Remember, kind readers, that under U.S. law, the number of North American troops who can be in nearby Colombia is limited to the hundreds: and they’re busy enough there already with a fifty-year civil war.

What Vaca Diez [President of the Bolivian Senate and next in line for power] is attempting is nothing less than creating the justification for the U.S. military to invade his own country of Bolivia, perhaps to protect strategic oil supplies, perhaps to “strengthen democracy,” as Condoleezza Rice and George W. Bush harped about on Tuesday in Florida at the Organization of American States meeting, or perhaps in the name of the “war on drugs” and eradicating the humble coca leaf once and for all.
(9 June 2005)
Too much is happening in Bolivia right now for EB to track it. I personally think it's the most significant story in the news -- it brings together the themes of natural gas supplies, globalism and US influence, indigenous peoples, and the leftward shift of Latin America. Also see Bolivia on a tightrope from Znet and For Bolivia, neo-liberalism is not an option from Common Dreams. -BA


Bolivia names new president

AP via CNN
SUCRE, Bolivia (AP) -- Bolivia's high court chief rose to the presidency late Thursday after two congressional leaders refused to assume the post, clearing the way for possible early elections that officials hope will curb violent protests.

The action came as lawmakers gathered in an emergency session and rapidly accepted the resignation of President Carlos Mesa.

The rejection of the top post by the two congressional leaders of the House and Senate automatically gave the job to Supreme Court Justice Eduardo Rodriguez, who had been third in the line to the presidency.
(9 June 2005)
The latest news.


Gore is transforming into fiery climate evangelist

Amanda Griscom Little, Grist
Al Gore, once derided by the right as a stiff, wooden Ozone Man, is now recasting himself as the fiery, headstrong Climate Avenger -- a blunt and passionate spokesperson about what he calls "a collision between our civilization and the earth." He is currently in negotiations to play a starring role in a big-budget, feature-length documentary on climate change.

Last Saturday in San Francisco, the self-described "guy who used to be the next president of the United States" delivered an hour-long multimedia presentation on the scientific evidence of global warming to hundreds of guests crammed into a tent for the culmination of the city's five-day-long U.N. World Environment Day celebration. The audience, peppered with celebrities, members of Congress, U.N. officials, and dozens of mayors from around the world, erupted into a standing ovation when Gore wrapped up his quasi-evangelical call to action.(Comments)
(9 June 2005)


The new nullification

Kurt Cobb, Resource Insights
Recently, 132 mayors across America announced they were going ahead with policies to fight global warming despite the Bush administration's rejection of such measures. In doing so, they were adding to a series of acts by states and localities that when taken together add up to a new and growing nullification movement.

Nullification is a long debated theory that says that states have the right to defy federal law or "nullify" it if they feel a particular law is unconstitutional. While the mayors were not exactly defying a federal law, they were openly snubbing an official federal policy of inaction on greenhouse gas emissions.

Their action and many similar ones are beginning to call into question the ability of the federal government to impose its will on the individual states and localities.

...The complexities of modern society make it more difficult for a central authority to create solutions to problems for an entire country. Since federal solutions are either not forthcoming or considered wrongheaded, states and localities are taking things into their own hands.

This second trend may be cause for both hope and despair. It means more power is devolving to the local level and that local politics are becoming more and more important. Fortunately, individuals and small groups can have far more effect on local governmental action than on federal actions. Perhaps unfortunately, the country is splitting into enclaves with deeply differing social and political views. This splitting may be inevitable, and it means the prospects for members of various communities across the nation will differ even more markedly in the future than they do now.

However, for those concerned about environmental and social justice issues, the new nullification may provide an opening to effective action in ways that have not been previously available.
(9 June 2005)


Environment

Global warming is a 'clear and increasing threat'

Paul Marks, New Scientist
Eleven of the world's most influential science academies warned world leaders that the threat of global climate change "is clear and increasing" and that they must act immediately to begin addressing its causes and consequences.

The stark warning came on Tuesday in an unprecedented joint statement from the heads of the science academies of Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Russia, the UK and the US
(8 June 2005)


If we make global warming history we'll all be better off
The G8 summit must deliver on climate change as well as on poverty

Robin Cook, The Guardian
...climate change will visit on the poor of the world a level of destitution and hunger that will swamp any progress on debt secured at Gleneagles. Africa will suffer both more frequent droughts and more serious floods. The projected increase in global temperatures within the lifetime of the younger protesters at Live 8 could increase crop failure in southern Africa by half.

...The lesson here is that if we want to halt global warming, we cannot leave the volume of carbon emissions to be the plaything of the free market. Climate change is a classic case where leaving every decision to be taken by what makes market sense for every individual results in an outcome that is potential suicidal for the collective, including those same individuals.

There is unfortunately a similar problem in the separate decision-making of the departments along Whitehall. It may seem rational within its own objectives for the Department of Transport to multiply the runways round Britain to match increased demand for air travel, but it makes no sense at all in the context of the government's commitment to cutting greenhouse gases, among which aviation fuel is the most damaging.

...The harsh reality is that we do not have 50 years to get climate change under control. The government convened an international conference of scientists earlier this year which produced alarming evidence that we may have less time than we thought to stabilise climate change. If we do not cut carbon emissions over the next decade, then the process may become irreversible. The Amazon rainforest may collapse into savannah and remove one of the carbon sinks. The increased acidity of the oceans may reduce their capacity to absorb half the carbon in the atmosphere. Once past these tipping points, the world will be confronted with runaway global warming.
(10 June 2005)


Rain Forest Myth Goes Up in Smoke Over the Amazon

Henry Chu, LA Times
REMANSO TALISMA, Brazil — The death of a myth begins with stinging eyes and heaving chests here on the edge of the Amazon rain forest.

Every year, fire envelops the jungle, throwing up inky billows of smoke that blot out the sun. Animals flee. Residents for miles around cry and wheeze, while the weak and unlucky develop serious respiratory problems.

When the burning season strikes, life and health in the Amazon falter, and color drains out of the riotous green landscape as great swaths of majestic trees, creeping vines, delicate bromeliads and hardy ferns are reduced to blackened stubble.

But more than just the land, these annual blazes also lay waste to a cherished notion that has roosted in the popular mind for decades: the idea of the rain forest as the "lungs of the world."

Ever since saving the Amazon became a fashionable cause in the 1980s, championed by Madonna, Sting and other celebrities, the jungle has consistently been likened to an enormous recycling plant that slurps up carbon dioxide and pumps out oxygen for us all to breathe, from Los Angeles to London to Lusaka.

Think again, scientists say.

Far from cleaning up the atmosphere, the Amazon is now a major source for pollution. Rampant burning and deforestation, mostly at the hands of illegal loggers and of ranchers, release hundreds of millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the skies each year.

Brazil now ranks as one of the world's leading producers of greenhouse gases, thanks in large part to the Amazon, the source for up to two-thirds of the country's emissions.

"It's not the lungs of the world," said Daniel Nepstad, an American ecologist who has studied the Amazon for 20 years. "It's probably burning up more oxygen now than it's producing."

Scientists such as Nepstad prefer to think of the world's largest tropical rain forest as Earth's air conditioner. The region's humidity, they say, is vital in climate regulation and cooling patterns in South America — and perhaps as far away as Europe.

The Amazon's role as a source of pollution, not a remover of it, is directly linked to the galloping rate of destruction in the region over the last quarter-century.
(8 June 2005)


It's Not Just Eskimos in Bikinis

Chip Ward, Common Dreams
When we hear the term "global warming," we usually imagine collapsing Antarctic ice shelves, melting Alaskan glaciers, or perhaps starving polar bears wandering bewildered across an ice-free, alien landscape. Warnings about climate change tend to focus on the Earth's polar regions, in part because they are warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet and the dramatic changes underway there can be easily captured and conveyed. We may not be able to see the 80% decline in the Antarctic krill population -- the tiny, shrimp-like creatures that are a critical food source for whales, seals, and sea birds -- but we can easily see satellite photos of state-sized chunks of ice shields separating from the continent. We can grasp the enormity of planetary glacial melting simply by comparing photos of glaciers taken just a decade apart. But as long as we're talking about ice in distant climes, global warming seems like something that's happening elsewhere and to somebody else -- or some other set of creatures.
(6 June 2005)


Solutions and Sustainability

Every British road may soon have its price per mile

Mark Rice-Oxley, The Christian Science Monitor
LONDON – To those who've never been, Britain may call to mind a John Constable painting: peaceful roads winding through pastoral landscapes.

But to motorists stuck in traffic jams that now clog its roads and provincial towns, it could feel more like Edvard Munch's "The Scream."

Congestion on British roads has become so bad that government officials are proposing a dramatic measure to stave off what they call "L.A.-style gridlock."

Under the plan, drivers would pay for using every single road in the country. Sophisticated satellite and global positioning equipment would track vehicles, charging them according to the route they take.
(9 June 2005)
Puzzling why an expensive high-tech solution like satellites is needed when the mechanism for fuel taxes is already in place. And why charge for miles travelled rather than fuel consumed? Apparently this proposal is aimed at preventing congestion, rather than discouraging oil consumption. So from point of view of PO or climate change, it would seem to be regressive. There are also the implications for privacy and government control, which are lightly covered in the mainstream articles. -BA
Other articles from the Guardian:
Public back road pricing scheme
Q&A: National road charging scheme
Darling unveils road charging plan


Coming in out of the cold: Cold fusion, for real

Michelle Thaller, Christian Science Monitor
PASADENA, CALIF. – For the last few years, mentioning cold fusion around scientists (myself included) has been a little like mentioning Bigfoot or UFO sightings.

After the 1989 announcement of fusion in a bottle, so to speak, and the subsequent retraction, the whole idea of cold fusion seemed a bit beyond the pale. But that's all about to change.

A very reputable, very careful group of scientists at the University of Los Angeles (Brian Naranjo, Jim Gimzewski, Seth Putterman) has initiated a fusion reaction using a laboratory device that's not much bigger than a breadbox, and works at roughly room temperature. This time, it looks like the real thing.

Before going into their specific experiment, it's probably a good idea to define exactly what nuclear fusion is, and why we're so interested in understanding the process.
(6 June 2005)


Dream Farms
Abundantly productive farms with zero input and zero emission powered by waste-gobbling bugs and human ingenuity

Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, Institute of Science in Society (ISIS_
Sustainable development is possible
------
Doesn’t it sound like a dream to be able to produce a super-abundance of food with no fertilizers or pesticides and with little or no greenhouse gas emission? Not if you treat your farm wastes properly to mine the rich nutrients that can support the production of fish, crops livestock and more, get biogas energy as by-product, and perhaps most importantly, conserve and release pure potable water back to the aquifers.

That is what Professor George Chan has spent years perfecting; and he refers to it as the Integrated Food and Waste Management System (IFWMS).

...upon his retirement, Chan spent 5 years in China among the Chinese peasants, and confessed he learned just as much there as he did in University. What he learned was a system of farming and living that inspired him and many others ...

...The integrated farm typically consists of crops, livestock and fishponds. But the nutrients from farm wastes often spill over into supporting extra production of algae, chickens, earthworms, silkworms, mushrooms, and other valuables that bring additional income and benefits for the farmers and the local communities.
(9 June 2005)


Forget the tiger - put sheep urine in your tank

David Adam, The Guardian
A British bus company is testing a new secret weapon that it hopes will help forward its push to cut its polluting emissions - sheep urine.

Stagecoach has fitted a bus in Winchester with a tank containing the animal waste, which is sprayed into exhaust fumes to reduce emissions of harmful nitrous oxides.

Andrew Dyer, managing director of Stagecoach South, said: "It is a novel way of reducing pollution but we believe it will work. There is nothing to worry about - we won't be asking passengers to leave a sample and we won't be carrying a resident sheep at the back of the bus."

The scheme is backed by Hampshire county council as part of an effort to reduce pollution. The bus carried its first passengers last month.

The urine is collected by the fertiliser industry from farmyard waste and refined into pure urea, which is then sold on to be used in the green engine technology. Ammonia from the urea reacts with nitrous oxides in the exhaust fumes and converts them to nitrogen gas and water, which is released as steam.
(10 June 2005)

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