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Peak Oil

Preparing for Peak Oil in the Northern Rivers
A Permaculture Perspective
Tim Winton, The Permaforest Trust (Australia)

Links below are for Power Point presentation and MP3 voice audio of the “Preparing for Peak Oil in the Northern Rivers” talk by founder of The Permaforest Trust, Tim Winton, on Thursday the 19th of May 2005 at the Byron Bay Community Centre.

Download both files and click through the Power Point slides as you listen to the voice audio.
Preparing For Peak Oil Power Point 1.84 MB [PDF file] Preparing For Peak Oil Voice Audio 2.6 MB
(19 May 2005)

A 23-minute talk with slides. A good introduction that goes deeper than usual. With his permaculture background, Tim Winton is able to explain some of the concepts underlying Peak Oil, such as Energy Return On Energy Invested (EROEI) and ecosystem pulses. Tim used one apt phrase I’d never heard before: The Hydrocarbon Twins, that is, Peak Oil and global warming. -BA

Search for solutions must start now to avoid another energy crisis
Doug Clifton, Cleveland Plain Dealer (column)
If the Earth were a car, its gas gauge would be approaching E. Some argue that we have miles to go before we hit the empty mark. Others say we’re running on fumes.

But nobody disputes that the world’s oil supply is finite and that some day the wells will run dry.

What we do between now and then will determine the quality of life for generations. Do nothing – or do something lethargically – and the consequences are catastrophic.

In a world powered by oil and its derivatives, it takes no imagination to see the consequences of life without it – or even less of it. The economy would be the first to go. As oil supplies shrink, the price of everything, from gasoline to groceries, will soar.

Suburbs whose growth was fueled by cheap gas will shrivel and die. The trucks that brought goods to market will sit idle, as will the drivers who operated them. Entire industries will disappear. Our toasty warm homes will go cold.

Of course, we won’t do nothing. But will we do enough? And will we do it fast enough?
(12 June 2005)

Crude Awakening
(in Peoria)
Craig D. Rose and Dean Calbreath, Copley News Service (via Peoria Journal Star)
It’s the stuff of American romance: summer, a big car, a tankful of gas and the endless highway.

But that fabled love is now a troubled relationship.

We can still drive where we want, if the traffic isn’t too bad. And we can still drive something nice, if our credit holds out. But Americans can no longer control the cost of the gasoline that enlivened the romance.

To be sure, America long ago lost its energy independence and has at times lost control of prices, as it did when OPEC flexed its muscle in the 1970s.

But new forces in world energy markets, unrestrained consumption epitomized by the boom in sport utility vehicles and the depletion of oil have subjected the United States to buffeting by forces outside its control.

Call it the era of the permanent oil shock.
(12 June 2005)
This energy summary is a wire service article, so it will probably appear in multiple newspapers — just like the Associated Press story a few weeks ago. These wire service stories on Peak Oil are significant because they bring the news to hometown newspapers: to people who don’t use the Internet or read the Wall Street Journal. -BA

The Worsening of the Income Divide: Why Peak Oil Will Hit Hard….

Professor Goose, The Oil Drum
Bill Moyers amazes me. He does it again in this speech, entitled “Losing the American Revolution,” which has very little, at least prima facie, to do with peak oil.

Well, at least not until you start thinking about it.

When you start thinking about what $4/gal gasoline does to our economy, further worsening existing problems and inequities, especially those dealing with wealth concentration, etc., that have already been getting worse over the past few decades.

Then you starting thinking about what an already disparate class structure looks like after the coming problems hit with full force. It could get quite ugly.
(12 June 2005)

The Deal

movie publicity website
Written by a former vice president of Goldman, Sachs & Co. in collaboration with the former head of the Goldman Sachs Oil and Gas department; The Deal is a wake-up call for America. Against the backdrop of a Middle East oil war against radical fundamentalists, The Deal tells the story of a proposed merger between an American and a Russian oil company, and the lengths and depths to which our country will find itself forced to descend in pursuit of the next “black crack fix” unless we dramatically change our ways.

What’s more, it’s a film you can and should take your moderate and conservative friends to—an entertaining thriller with top-notch stars and a healthy dollop of sex and violence. Made on a shoestring budget rather than allow the major studios to water down its message (or focus group it to death), The Deal also paints an unusually realistic portrait of Wall Street, providing the first clear window on a world that has long fascinated many.

Bottom line: in addition to great entertainment, The Deal is a terrific jumping off point for serious discussions about the real crisis our country will face long before the first Social Security check bounces, and what to do about it.
(June 2005)


The dark and stormy Friday night entry

“Heading out,” The Oil Drum
I am, as you may recall, reading Twilight in the Desert by Matt Simmons. He and I agree on a lot of things, and in some instances I am perhaps stronger in my concerns than he. But I just gone through pages 60 to 90 and I have a couple of comments about two things – the first is the damage to the oil producing formations that he writes about in Chapter 3, and then the secrecy about production in the Saudi oilfields that he is concerned about in Chapter 4.

…the problem with more efficient extraction methods is that they also accelerate the oil removal and that means that the down slope of the curve after production has peaked becomes much steeper. A confirmation of that comes, unfortunately, from the UK where the decline in production from the North Sea is now reported, at Powerswitch as having climbed to 17% over the last year, which is an accelerating decline, and is a hint that the oil production problem will be on us much earlier than we might have hoped.
(11 June 2005)

2005 will be the Peak: Oil demand may outstrip supply this year, Talisman Energy warns

Rising oil demand could severely strain the world’s oil production and transportation systems late this year, predicts Jim Buckee, chief executive officer of Talisman Energy Inc.

“The system will be tested,” Mr. Buckee said yesterday after Talisman’s annual meeting. He suggested that projected demand of 86 million barrels of oil a day in the fourth quarter may not be met by enough supply.

While there have been predictions that global oil production eventually will rise past 100 million barrels a day, Mr. Buckee questioned whether the world will ever be able to produce 90 million barrels a day.
(4 May 2005)

IEA raises pressure on Opec ahead of meeting

Neil Dennis, Financial Times
The International Energy Agency raised its forecast for oil demand in the second half, putting pressure on the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries ahead of its meeting next week to raise official production levels.

The IEA, which advises 26 countries on supply and demand, said in its monthly report, released on Friday, that global demand will reach 86.4m barrels a day in the fourth quarter, up 200,000 barrels a day from its forecast last month.
(10 June 2005)

Politics and Economics

When it comes to Africa, Bush has more on his mind than aid

Torcuil Crichton, Sunday Herald
The over-riding American concern in Africa, as it is across the entire globe, is oil security. Oil, its extraction and supply, will always be the top priority for the US. The biggest returns, and the most important product out of Africa for the coming decades, will be petroleum. The returns are not for Africans though. While 70% of Nigerians exist on a dollar a day, Shell continues to make megaprofits from oil drilling in the country, taking an estimated $30bn out of the ground since the 1950s.

At present 12% of US oil comes from Africa and by 2015, when the UN’s Millennium Goals to halve world poverty will be laughably incomplete, that proportion will have reached 25%. To control the security of oil supply will, in all likelihood, require a large US military presence near the oilfields.

Fortunately for the US most of West Africa’s oilfields are offshore, and so less vulnerable to sabotage, insurrection or local instability. The oil has the added benefit of having shorter transportation routes to US refineries and not having to travel through vulnerable areas of the world.

As the world passes peak oil production, and some analysts believe the top of the graph is already disappearing in our rear-view mirror, the race for oil will become paramount. Rapidly industrialising China, the US’s chief competitor in the future, has already recognised the need to have Africa as a key source of mineral wealth. Agreements are already in place with the government of Sudan to provide oil that will fuel Chinese economic growth.

With oil becoming an economic weapon, there will be no shortage of regime changes, human rights abuses and privately sponsored coup attempts to control the flow of the most precious commodity.

Poverty and the needs of the African population will take second place to US geo-political strategy. In the lexicon of aid and trade, the NEPAD agreements and the AGOA, there are only three letters that really matter to the US in Africa, they are O-I-L.
(12 June 2005)

Energy tribes

Louis Proyect, Marxmail (email list)
One of the crowning ironies of the history of this racist, capitalist country is that Indian reservations today hold enormous quantities of coal, oil, gas and uranium. If the 19th century architects of genocide had been able to predict this startling outcome, they probably would have simply killed every last Indian in order to put a lock on future profits. The struggle for Indian control of these resources has turned out to be one of the sharpest struggles of the past 25 years.

What is the magnitude of these reserves? “Breaking the Iron Bonds,” by Marjane Ambler (U. of Kansas, 1990), lays out the numbers for the year 1974:

“The Interior Department said thirty-three reservations had as much as 200 billion tons of coal, which represented as much as 30 percent of all the coal west of the Mississippi. Federal estimates of uranium holdings ranged from 16 percent to 37 percent of the nation’s total. The department said forty Indian reservations held reserves of 4.2 billion barrels of oil and 17.5 trillion cubic feet of gas–3 percent of the nation’s known reserves. Most of these minerals still lay underground; so even if the tribes had been politically able to operate as a cartel, they could not have influenced energy fuel prices. Nevertheless, they represented the largest mineral owners in the country outside the federal government and the railroads.”

These reserves became the subject of intense interest in the early 1970s during the so-called energy crisis. Almost overnight, tribes who eked out a living as ranchers or farmers were receiving bids from some of the biggest and most avaricious companies in America.(11 June 2005)

Although this analysis by Marxmail moderator Louis Proyect was written several years ago about Native Americans, the general ideas apply to current political movements in Bolivia, Ecuador, etc. -BA


Global Warmin’ Is Fer Idjuts
Exxon writes America’s energy policy, BushCo chops up emissions reports. Is there any hope at all?

Mark Morford, SF Chronicle
Like anyone is the slightest bit shocked.

Like anyone is the slightest bit appalled anymore by the breathtaking litany of utter BS oozing forth from the White House these days, this time about how one of BushCo’s top oil-lovin’ henchmen has been hacking away at countless scientific reports for over two years, editing them at will, all to downplay the effects of emissions on global warming.

His name is Philip Cooney, and he has zero scientific training whatsoever and was formerly the “climate-team leader” (read: top flying monkey) and a lobbyist at the American Petroleum Institute, the largest trade group representing the oil industry. He is now chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the group that helps devise and set the nation’s environmental agenda; Cooney’s cuts and edits of scientific emissions and global warming reports often made it into final White House policy.

Isn’t that just the cutest thing? Aren’t you just, like, yawning with ennui at the bitter repetition of it all? At how savagely and biliously common these stories have become?

…So there you go. For the next 3.5 years, these alternatives appear to be the only path, the only means toward change. Via grassroots movements, regional lawmaking, commonsense ideas, collectives of like-minded people banding together despite their differences to thwart the idiocy and abuse and general autocracy of one of the most heartless and corporatized and least accountable administrations in American history. Think it’ll work? Think we’ll make it? Stock up on water, keep your fingers crossed and keep handy plenty of SPF 1000
(10 June 2005)

White House Official Resigns After Climate Documents Flap

Torcuil Crichton, AFP via Common Dreams
A senior White House official involved in a damaging controversy over his deleting of dire climate change warnings from US government reports has abruptly resigned, but the White House denies his departure had anything to do with the flap.

Philip Cooney, chief of staff of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, stepped down Friday without disclosing his future employment plans, announced presidential spokeswoman Erin Healy.

“He has accumulated many weeks on leave, and so he decided to resign and take the summer off to spend some time with his family,” Healy told AFP.

She added the resignation was “completely unrelated” to the release of documents this past week that show Cooney had given a thorough editing to US government documents on global warming — in what appeared to be an effort to make them look less dramatic.

“Mr. Cooney has been long considering options following four years of service in the administration,” the spokeswoman said.

The disclosure, however, turned into a diplomatic embarrassment for the White House because it came hours after President George W. Bush assured visiting British Prime Minister Tony Blair that his administration was viewing global warming as a “serious long-term” problem that it was determined to solve.
(12 June 2005)

Climate change is costing us, says BT boss

Richard Wachman, The Observer
The chief executive of BT has become the first boss of a British company to admit that climate change is already affecting his company, and that environmental damage could threaten the stability of the world’s financial system.

Talking exclusively to The Observer, BT boss Ben Verwaayen reveals that extreme weather in the form of flooding and high winds has hit BT’s British operations, and he fears that this is just the beginning.

He says: ‘Since the beginning of the year, the media has been showing us images of Greenland glaciers crashing into the sea, Mount Kilimanjaro devoid of its ice cap and Scotland reeling from floods and gales. All down to natural weather cycles? I think not.
(12 June 2005)

Bury CO2 at sea, says DTI

Oliver Morgan, The Observer
The government will this week unveil a radical new plan which it believes could solve the problem of greenhouse gas emissions for the next 60 years.

Energy minister Malcolm Wicks will on Tuesday announce a strategy for ‘carbon abatement technology’: effectively stripping out harmful carbon dioxide from power station emissions and pumping under pressure into exhausted North Sea oil fields.

Carbon capture and storage, as the technology is known, has gained ground in Whitehall as a method of cutting carbon dioxide emissions in the fight against global warming. It is being taken seriously at the DTI as well as the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs and, most importantly, at the Treasury.
(12 June 2005)

Solutions and Sustainability

Sweeter by the gallon

Brian Wilson, The Observer
…However, the great bulk of bioethanol will come from countries with hot climates. Per Carstedt, chairman of the BioAlcohol Fuel Foundation and driving force behind the Swedish industry, sees a golden opportunity for Tony Blair to combine his two G8 priorities – global warming and Africa. Carstedt believes that, by 2020, at least 100 million cubic metres of bioethanol fuel will be imported into Europe, mainly from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

The ground rules have to be set now, he says, to ensure it is done on a sustainable basis that brings prosperity, rather than the suffering that has so often accompanied oil wealth.

‘The scale of this new industry could result in the destruction of rainforests, pollution of rivers and the use of slave labour,’ says Carstedt. ‘But if African countries are helped to build the industry and international certification is introduced from the start, based on sustainability, this can be a far more effective instrument than aid.’

Britain’s EU presidency will create an opportunity to give impetus to a transport revolution whose time may finally have come – but that will also mean doing something closer home.
(12 June 2005)

US farm, oil groups spar over ethanol in bill

Chris Baltimore, Reuters
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Farm and oil industry lobbyists are waging a pitched battle of dueling facts and figures on the costs of corn-blended ethanol as the U.S. Senate prepares to debate an energy bill that would double its use.

The National Corn Growers Association and other backers of a plan to require U.S. refiners to blend 8 billion gallons of ethanol into gasoline a year by 2012 say it will give the oil-addicted economy a home-grown substitute. Gasoline prices should fall as more ethanol is used, they say.

Meanwhile, the American Petroleum Institute and refiners see it as a boondoggle benefiting a handful of Midwest farm states. They say an ethanol mandate will drive up pump prices and make corn — as well as groceries — more costly.
(12 June 2005)

Pig Poo Power

Big Gav, Peak Energy
Its time for one of my periodic roundup of energy news from the Viridian world.

The guys over at Energy Australia have obviously been busy thinking up creative ways to both avoid the looming electricity supply crunch in NSW, and to help the environment at the same time – this particular solution involves harnessing the power of pig poo by building a methane powered plant which will harvest the gas from five large lagoons filled with pig manure near Corowa.
(11 June 2005)
About a dozen stories on the wild, wacky and inevitable world of renewable energy.