Thomas Friedman: Green is the new red, white and blue

Thomas Friedman, NY Times via Gristmill
“The Mustache of Understanding speaks truth”
Posted by David Roberts at 10:49 AM on 06 Jan 2006

Woah. Tom Friedman is on fire. Of course you can’t read it unless you pay for Times $elect, so here are the relevant bits:

Sorry, but being green, focusing the nation on greater energy efficiency and conservation, is not some girlie-man issue. It is actually the most tough-minded, geostrategic, pro-growth and patriotic thing we can do. …

…The biggest threat to America and its values today is not communism, authoritarianism or Islamism. It’s petrolism. Petrolism is my term for the corrupting, antidemocratic governing practices – in oil states from Russia to Nigeria and Iran – that result from a long run of $60-a-barrel oil. Petrolism is the politics of using oil income to buy off one’s citizens with subsidies and government jobs, using oil and gas exports to intimidate or buy off one’s enemies, and using oil profits to build up one’s internal security forces and army to keep oneself ensconced in power, without any transparency or checks and balances.

… No matter what happens in Iraq, we cannot dry up the swamps of authoritarianism and violent Islamism in the Middle East without also drying up our consumption of oil – thereby bringing down the price of crude. A democratization policy in the Middle East without a different energy policy at home is a waste of time, money and, most important, the lives of our young people.

(6 January 2006)

Carbon the currency in a world of energy shortage

Johann Tasker, Farmers Weekly (UK)
British farmers must learn to contend with a world of energy shortages and rising oil prices, a government adviser has warned. Sir Jonathon Porritt, chairman of the Sustainable Development Commission, said burgeoning demand for oil – particularly in rapidly developing countries such as China – would revolutionise the global food supply chain. …

“When talking to farmers I just want to say: ‘Wake up and smell the carbon. This is what your lives are going to be dominated by. Start getting to grips with what it means to live in a carbon-constrained world, with oil selling at $100 a barrel’.”

Sir Jonathon said policy-makers should recognise the need for more sustainable energy use as the world’s population rose. But the Treasury’s recently published vision for the Common Agricultural Policy had failed to address the issue. “The document is still premised on an inexorable increase in the globalisation of the food economy – a seemingly unstoppable process by which every single consumer and producer is wrapped up in global supply chains whether they like it or not.”

It was possible that this new reality hadn’t yet passed across the desks of DEFRA policy-makers, said Sir Jonathon. But few analysts believed that oil prices were going to fall back as low as $25, $30 or even $40 a barrel. “All the agencies responsible showing projections of increasing energy consumption particularly in places like China tell us we are likely to see oil prices gradually rising.

That changes completely what is going to happen to supply chains around the world.”
(19 January 2006)

WELL meets TheOilDrum
Jason Bradford and Stuart Staniford, Global Public Media
Jason Bradford of Willits Economic LocaLization interviews Stuart Staniford of Staurt relates how he discovered Peak Oil and became involved in theoildrum, and gives an overview of recent news and analyses. The discussion includes topics such as economic growth, climate change, social change and mass psychology, and urban versus rural impacts from economic crises.
(5 December 2006, but just posted)

Peak Oil: aids, addiction and opportune infections

Bill Henderson,
So what do we know now about peak oil at the dawn of 06?

That we’re peaking and presently in the end of cheap oil phase. That energy prices will continue to rise or that we will enter a phony war period of improved supply. I’ll leave it to the experienced geologists, economists and business futurists to forecast supply and prices, and hopefully detail the probable shape of the peak. Instead I’ll use AIDS as an analogy for how we should be reacting:

“You’ve got AIDS.”

“Oh no Doc, I’m going to die from AIDS!!!”

“Not necessarily. There is now a proven treatment regime to treat AIDS. But the real problem is your lifestyle and your wider health. And the immediate danger isn’t AIDS but a range of opportune infections and cancers that will take advantage of your weakened immune system and could kill you long before AIDS will.”

Americans (and citizens of developed countries) have a lifestyle problem. …
(19 January 2006)

Peak America – Is Our Time Up?
Pat Murphy, Community Solution
New Solutions #7 (Peak America – Is Our Time Up?, PDF) summarized a part of the United States’ story which is not in our history books. It’s the story of a nation that joined Britain and other European powers as an imperial power. We suggested that the U.S. Empire is no longer sustainable and that trying to continue it runs the risk of a nuclear war fought over control of the remaining oil and gas resources.

This newsletter looks at our culture and where it’s headed. Evidence suggests that consuming has become our psychological reason for existence as our values have become increasingly materialistic. Just as we threaten the stability of the world with our imperialistic tendencies, we also pose a threat to ourselves as our standards of care and community decline, and it becomes more difficult for average Americans to attain or sustain well-being.

How does this bode for our place in the world? Is the American Century over? When the
impact of Peak Oil really hits, how will we deal with it? Will we cooperate with the rest of the world in sharing scarce resources, or will we rely on our status as the only Superpower to try to bully the world? And if the latter, would we survive?
(November 2005)
A long (8-page) essay with more cultural and political analysis than is common in Peak Oil discourse. Community Solution is the group that sponsored the two Peak Oil conferences in Yellow Springs, Ohio. -BA

On Keeping Warm

Tom Whipple, Falls Church News-Press
If you heat with natural gas, you must have noticed the price has been going up lately. Well, I have some bad news for you — this is only the beginning. For the 62 million households heating with natural gas in the United States , the cost of home heating has doubled in the last few years and there is no end in sight.

Unlike the situation with oil and oil products, only a minimal amount of natural gas — around 2 percent of total consumption— is being brought to America in liquefied form by LNG tankers. Currently 83 percent of our consumption comes from our own gas wells and 15 percent comes by pipeline from Canada . The problem is that our domestic production is declining, the Canadians are becoming antsy about sending so much of a valuable resource to the US , and we are going to have to compete with an increasingly desperate world for cargos of liquefied gas. …

As a nation we will have to make some choices.

The first step is to separate uses that must have natural gas, from those for which there is an alternative. For example, there are alternate ways to generate electricity and heat our buildings, but natural gas is necessary as a feedstock for making plastics and fertilizers.

At some point we clearly are going to have to phase out natural gas for space heating. As the oil age winds down, natural gas will simply become too valuable as a feedstock to waste on keeping us warm. …
(19-25 January 2006)

Light in the darkness

Peter Pettus, NY Sun
A new book about man’s “unappeasable appetite for energy”? With a promotional blurb from arch-Greenie Bill McKibben? It looks at first as if we are in for another Bush-bashing environmentalist diatribe telling us to turn down the thermostat, start walking, and join the Kyoto Protocol. But Alfred Crosby, emeritus professor of history, geography, and American studies at the University of Texas, has done something quite different and unexpected. He has written a direct and clearly expressed analysis of the energy problem without hysterics, apocalyptic threats, or partisan rancor.

The modest goal of “Children of the Sun” (W.W. Norton, 208 pages, $23.95) is simply to summarize the reality of our present energy “crisis” and to explain how we got here.This is a simple story, one would think, and most of us assume we already know it. But as Mr. Crosby leads us through the familiar tale – from the invention of cooking, to the Upper Paleolithic technological and cultural explosion, to the invention of agriculture and the domestication of animals – we gain a much clearer perspective of our recent evolution. Condensed and summarized in this fashion, we begin to grasp the cumulative weight and inevitability of our accelerating technological progress.

…What about that final holy grail of power, nuclear fusion? The solution to our energy problem would be simple: We would domesticate hydrogen fusion just as we did fire long ago. No problem with radioactive waste, possible meltdowns, or need to decommission plants as with fission reactors.The potential is unlimited, but how do we do it?

Reviewing the three main techniques, our best bet seems to be a type of magnetic containment device such as the Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor at Princeton.
(11 January 2006)
The article affects a tone of reason and common sense, but ends with that great techno-fantasy in the sky, fusion. Let’s not gamble the future of civilization on the off-chance that an elusive technology will be perfected in time. -BA