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Peak Oil

How long will it last?

Editorial, The Patriot-News (Pennsylvania)
The world consumed energy at a record pace last year, raising a question of global proportions: How long can the planet sustain ever-increasing levels of energy use?

… The energy plan that President Bush wants Congress to approve before it takes its summer break would have virtually no impact on the price of oil. Renewed conservation and efficiency efforts are called for, but the energy bill virtually ignores these easiest, cheapest and most environmentally friendly sources of petroleum.

It may be true that the world has 40 years of oil left. But it doesn’t have 40 years to figure out how it will manage once the Age of Petroleum expires. Long before then, the price will make oil too expensive to burn.
(20 June 2005)
The best editorials and coverage of peak oil continue to come from local and alternative media. Coverage from the national mainstream media (NY Times, broadcast networks, etc.) is skimpy in comparison. -BA

Peak Oil and Nuclear War

Roland Watson, New Era Investor
…Progressing into this new century, the disaster topics of the day are Global Warming and Peak Oil. Nuclear War is nowhere to be seen and is relegated to the “special interests” section. But if Peak Oil is the elephant in the living room, will Nuclear War turn out to be the brontosaurus (don’t ask me what type of living room we are talking about here)?
… So what may happen? The scenarios are manifold but revolve around that phase in the post-peak oil era where things are beginning to bite. The wealthy nations have already been purged of their excess wealth and consumerism but alternate energy sources are coming online and offering some promise. However, some nuclear armed nations are not progressing as rapidly in those areas as they ought to. Their populations demand energy for the basics as well as life’s little luxuries and they expect their governments to get it. The Middle East is now under a form of Western Protectorate as civil strife and war afflicts those oil producing nations and American warships ensure safe passage for oil supertankers through the Persian Gulf.
(20 June 2005)

Turning Point

James Howard Kunstler, Clusterfuck Nation
Iraq is not Vietnam, all right, because there is no way the US can pull out now without severe consequences, namely the loss of our access to all the oil in the Middle East — where two-thirds of the world’s remaining oil is.

…The world may no longer have a swing producer of oil, but this period can probably be viewed as a swing period of history. By that I mean a period when we hoped that there was a quick and easy way to keep the oil flowing westward and found out that it wasn’t so. The time is now coming when the American public won’t tolerate a dozen US casualties a week, nevermind fifty Iraqis. But Americans won’t Ytolerate $5 a gallon gasoline, either. We’ll now see how the public will reconcile these intolerances.
(20 June 2005)

Kunstler Interview #37
John-Michael Dumais, Oasis Forum, WKNH via Global Public Media
James Howard Kunstler discusses the content of his latest book “The Long Emergency” with John-Michael Dumais of Oasis Forum on WKNH. The interview covers U.S. military strategy in the Middle East, myths about alternative forms of energy, the effect of peak oil on the housing bubble, and Kunstler’s views on a forthcoming reevaluation of what has value within our society.
(19 June 2005)


Energy: Ignoring the Obvious Fix

Thane Peterson, BusinessWeek (commentary)
Industry lobbying against higher fuel economy standards is fierce. Yet that remains the best way to cut U.S. dependence on foreign oil
As Congress puts the final touches on a massive new energy bill, lawmakers are about to blow it. That’s because the bill, which they hope to pass by the end of July, almost certainly won’t include the one policy initiative that could seriously reduce American’s dependence on foreign oil: A government-mandated increase in the average fuel economy of new cars, SUVs, light trucks, and vans.

Opponents — mainly the domestic auto makers and the United Auto Workers — have successfully opposed a significant increase in mileage standards as government meddling that would anger consumers and cost jobs by further hobbling the companies that are already in financial trouble.
(20 June 2005)

The future of oil
(Interview with Matt Simmons)

Terry Lane, The National Interest (ABC)
A leading banker to the oil industry says we are living on borrowed time. A ‘fair price’ for oil would be more like $500 per barrel than $50 per barrel.
(19 June 2005)
The program includes an interview with “economic hitman,” John Perkins.

Nuclear power and climate change
– transcript
Terry Lane, The National Interest (ABC)
Two competing views about whether we can significanlty reduce greenhouses gas emissions by replacing coal with uranium.
Terry Lane: So let’s boldly go where no prudent broadcaster should ever go: right into the argument about nuclear power generation. Dr Alan Roberts, from the Monash University School of Environmental Sciences has an article in the current issue of ‘Arena’, which is entitled ‘The Phantom Solution: Climate change and nuclear power’. Alan Roberts’ argument is that nuclear power generation is not going to save the earth. And Dr Roberts is here with me right now. Alan, good afternoon.
(17 April 2005)
Related story: U.S. nuclear power industry working on quiet comeback (USA Today).

Oil Rises as Surging Demand Strains World Production System
Crude oil rose to a record, surpassing $59 a barrel in New York, as soaring demand in Asia and North America stretches the ability of OPEC and oil refiners to keep pace.

Rising prices so far this year have done little to slow consumption, which in 2005 is forecast to exceed 2 percent for a second year. With OPEC pumping at capacity, consumers lack a buffer to cope with supply interruptions.
(20 June 2005)
Thanks to ldcdnd for this and many other article suggestions! Related article: Rising oil prices to shock? Not likely (Dallas Morning News).

Politics and Economics

Tax vote favors energy producers
Senate committee approves incentives worth $14 billion

Justin Blum, Washington Post via SF Chronicle
Washington — A Senate committee Thursday approved a package of tax breaks for energy production that would cost about $14 billion over 10 years.

The Finance Committee measure, which was sent to the full Senate for consideration as part of an energy bill, provides some tax breaks for traditional forms of energy but focuses heavily on incentives for renewable and cleaner-burning forms of energy. The measure is far more costly than the White House has requested and is almost entirely different from a package of energy tax breaks approved by the House in April.
(17 June 2005)

Ecuador: President walks a tightrope

Duroyan Fertl, Green Left Weekly
…On May 16, the new energy minister declared that Ecuador will review all of its current oil contracts with foreign companies, and on June 15, Ecuador’s Congress voted 64-1 to approve a reform package that redirects $745 million from an “oil stabilisation fund” into social programs and economic growth package instead of debt repayment.

Thirty-five per cent of the money will be used for investment, including reinvigorating Ecuador’s ailing national oil company Petroecuador. Fifteen per cent will be spent on education, 15% on health, 20% will be kept in reserve, and the rest will be spent on roads, research, and the environment, the funding comes into effect in 90 days.

The bill is opposed by Wall Street, Ecuador’s Central Bank, Ecuadorean opposition parties and the International Monetary Fund, which all claim that it will drive investors away and, if it causes a default on debt repayment, may end the dollarisation process and destroy the economy.

Oil is Ecuador’s biggest export, providing 43% of Ecuador’s national revenue, and any changes to the industry have huge flow-on effects. A reduction in global oil prices would hit Ecuador hard, and without a reserve fund, Ecuador could default on its payments.
(20 June 2005)
Also at Znet.


Europe’s Ecological Footprint

Joel Makower, WorldChanging
How many Earths does it take to feed a continent?

A new report shows that Europe uses 20% of the biosphere’s services to serve 7% of the world’s population — a resource demand that has risen nearly 70% since 1961.

Bad as that may sound, it’s nothing compared to Americans’ footprint on the planet.

Europe 2005: The Ecological Footprint is based on the Global Footprint Network’s National Footprint Accounts and presents case study and time trend data for France, Germany, Greece, Poland, and the United Kingdom as well as a comparison of the footprint of 25 European nations
(19 June 2005)

The Verdict of Science

Kurt Cobb, Resource Insights
It’s no surprise that human beings want all the benefits of science without accepting its verdict. The benefits come from understanding how to manipulate biological, chemical and physical processes to create a consumer paradise that is increasingly going global. The verdict comes from understanding how that manipulation is leading to oil depletion, global warming, water pollution, loss of biodiversity, soil erosion and a host of other effects that could eventually lead to the end of industrial civilization as we know it.

We think of science as objective, nonpartisan, and neutral. Yet, both those who believe in endless technical fixes and those who forecast ecological collapse cite science. How can this be? In fact, science has an ideology. Sir Francis Bacon noted that “knowledge is power.” In effect, that means science has been the handmaiden of what the ecologist calls “takeover” and “drawdown.” Takeover is merely the ecologist’s name for the taking of resources by one species away from another. Takeover is merely the ecologist’s name for the taking of resources by one species away from another. Farming is a good example. Takeover increases carrying capacity* for one species while lowering it for another (or possibly many others). Drawdown refers to the extraction of a resource faster than it is being replaced. The quintessential examples of drawdown by humans are fossil fuels and metals. But many more resources are now being added to the list including water and soil.

Because observation and inquiry form the basis of science, it was inevitable that the same science used to conquer the environment would discover its destruction. These discoveries are byproducts, and fortunate ones. They give us a chance to change course.

In a classic book on human population and resource use, Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change, human ecologist William Catton asks whether we humans are the same as all other animals. Are we destined for the terrible collapse that has always been the fate of other species that overshoot the underlying carrying capacity of their environment, or are we different enough to plan ahead and manage a population decline? His book and the question it asks are as relevant now as they were in 1980 when the book first appeared. Will we at long last accept the verdict of science?
(20 June 2005)
Now that peak oil is in the newspapers and in a movie, maybe we can start asking for some ecological depth. Catton’s book is a great place to start, and some excerpts of same are archived here, here, and here.

Solutions and Sustainability

Repsol YPF to Make Biodiesel in Argentina

John Laumer, Treehugger
The Spanish headquartered oil firm Repsol YPF (NYSE: REP) is planning to produce biodiesel in Argentina through the use of “advanced technology”.

…This TreeHugger is reminded of of a “BioMass Energy” conference in the early 1980’s at which a Brazilian expert gave a complete history of that nation’s sucessful and large scale ethanol production for transit fuel use. The slides shown of field laborers hand cutting sugar cane to “feed the beast” of sugar mills and then ethanol refineries put a chill in my spine as I suddenly realized that rainforest clearing and “low paid” labors of indigenous peoples were part of the equation. Ethanol has since fallen somewhat out of favor as a neat fuel in Brazil because modern engines don’t handle it as well as the old VW Bugs that were widely ran on it once did. Biodiesel again puts ethanol back into the transit picture, as a process input, but this time for an export market as well. Let us hope that the labor and rainforest dimensions are being addressed.
(14 June 2005)
Recommended by Big Gav at Peak Energy.