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Los Alamos physicist: Is there energy for all in the 21st century?

Rajan Gupta, Los Alamos National Laboratory
Lecture to be given at several locations in New Mexico this month
(see original article for details)

Energy is essential for modern life and is a critical resource we take for granted. Unfortunately, we are increasingly confronted by many unsettling questions: Is there enough oil and gas remaining or will we face shortages? Are rising prices reflective of greed and manipulation or of real constraints? What will be the price of oil and gas next year and should we start changing our life styles? Is global warming already happening and is it a result of our “addiction to oil”? If the answer to these is “yes”, then what can we as individuals do to help ourselves, the nation, and the world? This talk will attempt to answer these questions by examining global oil and gas resources, which some regard as half full but should be viewed as being half empty.
(March 2006)
Rajan Gupta is a theoretical physicist (CV). His interests include HIV/Aids and energy security.

He has posted a thorough and informative slide presentation on energy security (119 slides, 4-MB PDF) with a section on peak oil.

Update (March 31) from reader Eugene Duran – (Peakfreak)

I attended Rajan Gupta’s presentation at the Museum of Natural history in Albuquerque last night. In attendance were about 100 – 150 people. Many questions were raised especially about C02 sequestration and global warming and Rajan did a good job of raising awareness of the current structure of gas pipeline infrustructure posing distribution problems. All this was done without mentioning ‘Peak Oil’. Although Rajan was attempting to be optimistic, the issues he raised have cause me even greater concern since we are moving so slow in our efforts.

Book review of Tertzakian’s “A Thousand Barrels A Second”

Dave Cohen, Life After the Crash
Peak Oil is a contentious issue and views of the theory are highly polarized. There are essentially only two main viewpoints and these can be summed up easily enough:

Viewpoint A: Imminent Threat

According to this viewpoint, Peak Oil is an imminent threat to cultural innovations which have characterized the Industrial Age. The easy to get “low hanging fruit” is gone now, oil will become increasingly scarce and expensive. If this process plays out quickly, the effects on present industrialized cultures will be disastrous. This will result in a unique crisis that will cause great suffering and perhaps “die offs” in the worst case scenarios.

Viewpoint B: Not a Problem

According to this viewpoint, PeaK Oil is a non-problem that can be solved by the human ability to innovate and create new technologies to solve the problem of producing ever harder to find and exploit new hydrocarbon resources. This will be accomplished by the invisible hand of Adam Smith if there is sufficient investment and the free markets are allowed to operate in an unfettered way.

The bias of this reviewer should be made clear at the beginning. I adhere mostly to position #1 and think the dire consequences of diminishing energy from fossil fuels is a clear and present danger to Industrial civilization. That said, Peter Terzakian’s A Thousand Barrels A Second: The Coming Oil Break Point and the Challenges Facing an Energy Dependent World is well-researched and tries to take a balanced approach to the problem as he sees it. What he attempts to do is stake out a position between the two extreme views in the sparsely populated middle ground. You won’t find any denial of the problem from him.
(24 March 2006)
Dave Cohen is a guiding light at The Oil Drum, which has comments on the article.

oGE – a Portuguese peak oil website

O Grande Estuário
oGE is a colaborative art and social project on post-carbon urban and art prospects.
(24 March 2006)

Rep. Bartlett and OilCrash

Tom Howell Jr., Capital News Service via The Jeffersonian
Maryland Congressman Roscoe Bartlett never spares words in his fight to prevent an American energy crisis, but the platform for his views on “peak oil” jumped from the House floor to the silver screen last weekend.

Bartlett, a Republican who represents northern Baltimore County, appears in the film “OilCrash,” which premiered March 11 at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas.

The 90-minute documentary examines whether oil demands have hit a breaking point. Its promotional material says, “This is the prediction of a worldwide catastrophe in six years from now … .”

CNN has also interviewed Bartlett for “CNN Presents ‘We Were Warned: Tomorrow’s oil crisis,'” which will air March 18.

Bartlett has delivered roughly 10 speeches on an impending oil crisis to his fellow lawmakers, making him a natural source for “OilCrash” filmmakers Basil Gelpke and Ray McCormack, of Lava Productions AG in Zurich, Switzerland.
(20 March 2006)

Washington DC Petrocollapse conference May 6

Petrocollapse press release, Culture Change
Berkeley – A conference on the effects of peak oil and the growing global energy crisis will take place in Washington, DC on May 6th at the All Souls Church, Unitarian from 9 A.M. to 7 P.M. Speakers include peak-oil author Richard Heinberg.

Experts on peak oil, small-scale agriculture and alternative energy will discuss “petrocollapse,” the imminent failure of the petroleum infrastructure to continue to provide the myriad goods and services that our consumer economy has grown accustomed to. Multimedia presentations will suggest solutions to the audience.

Conference organizer and speaker Jan Lundberg is a former oil industry analyst who ran the market research firm Lundberg Survey. Lundberg, who quit serving the oil industry so he could put his knowledge to use to protect the environment, says “M. King Hubbert, who developed the theory of peak oil, observed that we do not have an energy crisis but rather a culture crisis. This fits with the theme of the Washington DC Petrocollapse Conference that there is no technofix for our energy dilemma. Society will have to bring about a closer level of community and rediscover what local economics are about.”

Lundberg and a community-oriented network called Culture Change organized a similar conference in New York on Oct. 5. The May 6 conference will feature the addition of Richard Heinberg, the most-read peak oil author (The Party’s Over, and Powerdown). Films and music will be also offered as part of a varied program to stimulate discussion and action by attendees. Heinberg and Lundberg and others will perform music including oil-satire songs. Films include premiers of “Our Synthetic Sea” (plastics pollution in oceans) and “The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil.”

Lundberg says the Petrocollapse Conference asks, “What we can do in advance of the social upheaval and chaos that may produce a “national New Orleans,” to prepare or mitigate? What will the future look like during and after a transition to non-petroleum living?”

Scehduled peakers include:
Albert Bates Global Ecovillage Network; author
Diana Leafe Christian Communities Magazine
John Darnell, Ph.D Energy advisor
Richard Heinberg Author, The Party’s Over and Powerdown
Michael Kane From the Wilderness publications
Jan Lundberg Petroleum industry analyst;
Jenna Orkin Moderator; World Trade Center Environmental Organization
Joel Salatin Organic Agriculturalist
Mark Rabinowitz ; author, Permatopia
David Room Post Carbon Institute; Global Public Media
(March 22 2006)

Dublin April 19-23: ‘Learning to Live With Less Fossil Fuel’

convergence, cultivate (Ireland)
The implications of rising energy prices and our obligation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have brought us to a point where we now need to rethink how we use energy. If we act decisively this could mean a healthier, more fulfilled and ethical way of life that values efficiency, community and sustainability.

This conference will bring together policy makers, business and design leaders and people working in the energy sector to explore Ireland’s options and pathways to a low energy future. Particular regard will be given to peak oil and climate change.

This event will explore how we can improve the energy performance of electrical and electronic goods, the manufacturing process and our buildings and the built environment. Energy efficiency is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to reduce demand. How we communicate this and what policy options are available to lower our energy use and emissions will also be discussed.

Combining analysis, conceptual frameworks and real-life case studies, this highly participative event moves beyond chalk-and-talk, to engage and challenge delegates to think through the implications and opportunities of higher energy prices.
(March 2006)
Many talks and events are planned in the series. See the original article for details.

India: Time for Plan B for energy security?

Jayaprakash Narayan, The Financial Express (India)
We must look at supply in terms of nuclear, coal, and renewable energy, and demand management
The recent foreign policy debates are largely centred on our future energy needs. Frenetic economic diplomacy to secure nuclear power generation oil and gas contracts, and laying pipelines on the east as well as the west to transport fossil fuels, are certainly of value in the short and medium term. Long-term supply contracts and investments in exploration in oil-rich countries will give us some leverage. But we need to plan for the future with clarity in an integrated manner.

Let us look at the bigger picture to understand the threats to our energy security. A recent book-Plan B 2.0 by Lester Brown-paints a grim picture of the global situation in the next 100 years. Brown is not an evangelist with apocalyptic vision. He is an optimist who recognises the many opportunities to shape a better and more secure future in the next century.

Brown points out that we are very close to peak oil production and, “indeed, when historians write about this period in history, they may well distinguish between before peak oil (BPO) and after peak oil (APO).”

…As food and fuel compete for land, the need for biofuel production will raise food prices. That may actually be good news for a country like India, where 55% of the people living on agriculture enjoy only 21% of GDP. But massive investments, R&D and planning are required to tap our vast potential. Finally, India needs to look at demand-side management. Increased energy efficiency, better public transport, and imaginative urban planning are vital to reduce demand.

Clearly, integrated energy management is the key to our energy security. A segmented approach-coal, power, oil and gas, non-conventional energy, agriculture-can no longer yield dividend. Will the government act on Plan B quickly?

The writer is coordinator of the Lok Satta movement, and VoteIndia, a national campaign for political reforms
(24 March 2006)

This perspective from India is welcome. Unfortunately, Narayan devotes almost the entire essay to supply, barely mentioning demand. Demand management is critical for India, since as the Guardian points out, “the automobile industry there is growing at a rate of about 20% a year.”
Also see the NY Times series by Amy Waldman (unfortunately behind a paywall): Mile by Mile, India Paves a Smoother Road to Its Future and In today’s India, status comes with four wheels. She writes:

…India has become one of the world’s fastest-growing car markets, with about a million being sold each year. It once had only two kinds, Fiats and Ambassadors. Now dozens of models ride the roads, from the humble, Indian-made Maruti to the Rolls-Royce, which has re-entered India’s market some 50 years after leaving in the British wake.

Indians are discovering in cars everything Americans did: control and freedom, privacy and privilege, speed and status. Car showrooms, the bigger the better, are the new temples here, and cars the icons of a new individualism taking root. Foreign car companies, meanwhile, have discovered the Indian consumer – not to mention the country’s engineering brain power – and are setting up plants across India.

The growing lust for cars also reflects India finally having roads decent enough to drive them on. It is making a historic effort to upgrade its dismal, mostly two-lane national highway system into four- or six-lane interstates, its largest infrastructure project since independence in 1947.

…India’s state-run rail network may have been built by the British, but it came to represent a certain egalitarianism. Powerful and voiceless, rich and poor – all navigated the same chaotic, crowded stations and rode the same jam-packed trains, if not in the same class.

Cars, in contrast, reflect the atomization prosperity brings.

This is a far bigger change for Indian society than it was for America, which in many ways was founded around the notion of the individual. Indian society has always been more about duty, or dharma, than drive, more about responsibility to others than the realization of individual desire.

That ethos is changing. “Twenty years back one car was an achievement,” said Maj. Gen. B. C. Khanduri, who as minister of roads from 2000 to 2004 helped shepherd the new highway into being. “Now every child needs their own car.”

To him and others who grew up in a different society, that change bespeaks a larger, and troubling, shift. “The value system is finishing now,” he said. “We are gradually increasing everyone for himself.”