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Better Escalade Than Never
Bush admin unveils meek new fuel-economy standards for light trucks

Amanda Griscom Little, Grist Magazine
The Bush administration yesterday raised fuel-economy standards for SUVs, minivans, and many pickup trucks — the most significant boost to efficiency requirements for the big vehicles in three decades.

Of course, as enviros have been quick to point out, that’s not saying much.

These final CAFE (corporate average fuel economy) rules, which are modestly stricter than draft rules released last August, will, beginning with the 2008 model year, ramp up standards for light trucks — a category that includes SUVs and minivans, and accounts for 55 percent of all vehicles sold in the U.S. last year. The vehicles will be divided into multiple categories based on size or “footprint,” each with its own miles-per-gallon target. The bigger the vehicles in the class, the lower the target. For example, smaller SUVs like the Jeep Wrangler will have to hit 26.4 mpg in the 2008 model year, gradually rising to 28.3 mpg in 2011, while bigger vehicles such the Chevy Silverado will have to reach 20.1 mpg in 2008 and 21.8 in 2011. The new rules will also, starting in 2011, apply to SUVs and vans that weigh between 8,500 and 10,000 pounds, such as the Hummer H2 and Chevy Suburban, which have until now been entirely exempt from fuel-economy standards.

Altogether, the rules are expected to yield an estimated average mileage for new light trucks of 24 mpg by the 2011 model year — an improvement of less than 2 miles per gallon over the 2007 standard. The current system requires each automaker to meet a single average target of 21.6 mpg for its fleet of 2006 model-year light trucks; that target will climb to 22.2 mpg for 2007.

According to the Department of Transportation, the new standards could save nearly 11 billion gallons of gasoline over the lifetime of light trucks from the 2008 to 2011 model years. That may sound like a lot, but it’s roughly equivalent to the amount of gasoline the U.S. guzzles in merely four weeks.

“It’s a bit like telling a three-pack-a-day smoker to give up one cigarette a day,” said Dan Becker, director of the Sierra Club’s global-warming program.
(30 March 2006)

Gas hits $2.50; expect worse this summer

Associated Press via MSN Money
The price of gasoline could rise this summer because of supply problems from the phaseout of a fuel additive found to contaminate groundwater, government and industry officials said at a Senate hearing Wednesday.

The additive, methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE, accounts for about 10% of the volume of every gallon of gasoline with which it is blended — or 1.4% of the nationwide supply — but refiners plan to stop using it next month because Congress refused to grant them protection from lawsuits.

MTBE will be replaced with ethanol, but there are doubts within the Energy Department and the oil industry about whether there will be enough of the corn-derived fuel to meet the anticipated surge in demand, and whether the country’s distribution system is ready to handle it.
(30 March 2006)

From an insider: rig prices, rig depth, and how to get a job

Prof. Goose, The Oil Drum
One of our oil industry insiders has sent us some interesting data on rig rates, well type/depth changes, and more on the oil situation in the GOM, as well as how the industry in Texas and the GOM is staffing its rigs.

First, here’s some combined corporate data (from 2 companies) that our insider has sent us. It shows how we are not only drilling more wells as fast as we can, but they are getting deeper, which in turn means more complicated and expensive.

…Some snippets from my email with our insider (who, you’ll have to trust me on this, knows his stuff)…
(30 March 2006)

China’s energy needs drive uranium search

Mary-Anne Toy, Sydney Morning Herald
CHINA began its mission to become a nuclear power in 1951, when it signed a secret deal with Russia under the guise of developing clean nuclear energy. But half a century later its voracious energy needs mean it is actually focusing on developing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

China’s energy self-sufficiency ended in 1993, when it was forced to become a net importer of oil to meet the demands of its surging economic growth, and although it is the world’s second-largest consumer of oil after the US, its fuel of necessity is coal. It is the world’s biggest producer and biggest consumer of coal, but the environmental degradation resulting from its reliance on freely polluting coal, much of it brown coal with a high sulfur content, is unsustainable.

The environmental degradation from China’s rapid industrialisation has reached the point where it is interfering with future growth. Bodies such as the World Bank have estimated that the cost of environmental pollution is equivalent to several percentage points of gross domestic product.

Monday’s surprise announcement that during his visit to Australia this week the Premier, Wen Jiabao, expects to sign a landmark deal, not only to buy uranium but also to give China a direct role in exploring and mining Australia’s uranium reserves, is the latest example of China’s determination to secure and diversify its energy supplies.

Under its 11th five-year plan, formally adopted this month, China is trying to diversify away from the polluting fossil fuels that have powered the development of its $US2.2 trillion ($3.1 trillion) economy, which this year has overtaken Britain to be the world’s fourth-biggest.

As part of that plan, China aims to increase its nuclear energy production sixfold by 2020. To achieve this, it will have to start up at least two new generators every year, with a capacity of at least 1 million kilowatts.
(30 March 2006)

War of the Future: Oil Drives the Genocide in Darfur

David Morse, via Common Dreams
A war of the future is being waged right now in the sprawling desert region of northeastern Africa known as Sudan. The weapons themselves are not futuristic. None of the ray-guns, force-fields, or robotic storm troopers that are the stuff of science fiction; nor, for that matter, the satellite-guided Predator drones or other high-tech weapon systems at the cutting edge of today’s arsenal.

No, this war is being fought with Kalashnikovs, clubs and knives. In the western region of Sudan known as Darfur, the preferred tactics are burning and pillaging, castration and rape — carried out by Arab militias riding on camels and horses. The most sophisticated technologies deployed are, on the one hand, the helicopters used by the Sudanese government to support the militias when they attack black African villages, and on the other hand, quite a different weapon: the seismographs used by foreign oil companies to map oil deposits hundreds of feet below the surface.

This is what makes it a war of the future: not the slick PowerPoint presentations you can imagine in boardrooms in Dallas and Beijing showing proven reserves in one color, estimated reserves in another, vast subterranean puddles that stretch west into Chad, and south to Nigeria and Uganda; not the technology; just the simple fact of the oil.

This is a resource war, fought by surrogates, involving great powers whose economies are predicated on growth, contending for a finite pool of resources. It is a war straight out of the pages of Michael Klare’s book, Blood and Oil; and it would be a glaring example of the consequences of our addiction to oil, if it were not also an invisible war.


Invisible because it is happening in Africa. Invisible because our mainstream media are subsidized by the petroleum industry. Think of all the car ads you see on television, in newspapers and magazines. Think of the narcissism implicit in our automobile culture, our suburban sprawl, our obsessive focus on the rich and famous, the giddy assumption that all this can continue indefinitely when we know it can’t — and you see why Darfur slips into darkness. And Darfur is only the tip of the sprawling, scarred state known as Sudan.
(19 August 2005)
PreEmptive Apology (animation by Mark Fiore)
DARFUR: Three Years of Genocide (The Progress Report). From this article, reader WT points out the following paragraph:

SITUATION ON THE GROUND DETERIORATING: “Darfur is poised to see a season of death like no other in this three-year catastrophe,” writes Eric Reeves, a prominent Sudan analyst. His assessment is echoed by several international officials: “No one disputes that the situation on the ground is unravelling, it’s getting worse,” Juan Mendez, special adviser to Kofi Annan on genocide prevention, said last week, while the U.N.’s humanitarian chief Jan Egeland warned earlier this month that “Darfur is returning to ‘the abyss’ of early 2004 when the region was ‘the killing fields of this world.'” The spike in violence is having a secondary (but also deadly) effect. When security deteriorates “to the point where humanitarian workers cannot stay in Darfur and continue to serve refugees, then disease and malnutrition will take over — and finish the genocidal work that the Sudanese government began.” Urgent action is needed now.

Blair demands green ‘revolution’

Tony Blair has called for a “technological revolution comparable to the internet” to slow global warming. Speaking in New Zealand, he said it was important to develop machines which produced fewer emissions, while maintaining economic growth.

Mr Blair promised to push for an international framework to supersede the Kyoto Protocol when it expires. The speech came after the government admitted it was unlikely to meet its target for cutting greenhouse gases.

…In his speech in Auckland, the prime minister said the framework to replace Kyoto – which expires at the end of 2012 – must include China, India and the US. Solutions needed to be applicable to the developing world, he added.

The BBC’s political editor Nick Robinson said Mr Blair’s move was “essentially pushing to one side all hopes that America would be chivvied or bullied to signing up to the Kyoto agreement”. It was “pushing aside hopes that newly-developed countries like China and India can be brought in too”, he said.

The prime minister says a less ambitious agreement which “stabilises climate change, and stabilises greenhouse emissions” is a real priority this year, our correspondent said.
(29 March 2006)