Newsweek: will we hit $100? / Physicist-author David Goodstein on peak oil / Links, links, links from TOD and Gristmill

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Peak oil - May 9

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Wash. Post cites Hirsch report, says Bush knows about PO

(Original: "For Sound Energy Policy, Don't Look to Congress")
Warren Brown, Washington Post
Congress thinks we're stupid. Maybe we are. We, most of us, refuse to accept that we are living in a world of rapidly increasing demand for declining fossil fuel resources.

We believe more oil is to be found around the corner, in the next country, beneath the ocean, under or in the next rock. Maybe it is.

But people who have spent much of their professional lives looking at this issue say it really does not matter that more oil is waiting to be found somewhere. They believe there will never be enough of the stuff to fuel, feed, clothe, house and move a constantly growing global population.

Those people include Vice President Cheney, White House energy adviser Matthew Simmons and, believe it or not, President Bush.

For some time now, Cheney and Simmons, an energy investment banker, have been telling Bush that oil as we know it is about to go away. Their advice largely is why the president in his State of the Union address in January warned that America has become "addicted to oil." That is why the president, a scion of the Texas oil patch, uncharacteristically chided his fellow Republicans in Congress for offering yet another tax break for the nation's oil companies, this one facilitating quick write-offs of the costs of resource exploration.

...People enjoy poking fun at Bush, portraying him as something of an errant fraternity boy. But this president is nobody's dummy. He fully understands the concept of "peak oil," the high point of the bell curve at which 50 percent of the provable reserves in any oil field have been recovered.

(7 May 2006)
The column goes on to describe the Hirsch Report and its implications.

The claim that President Bush knows about peak oil is surprising, as is the suggestion that Cheney has been preaching PO to Bush. We know that Rep. Roscoe Bartlett has spoken briefly to Bush about peak oil and that several friends and former advisors to the President are peak oil believers. However, we have yet to see any public announcement from Bush or Cheney about peak oil. What does columnist Warren Brown know that we don't? -BA


The Oil Drum reports on PO & Environment Conference (Day One)

(Original: "The Forum is where you debate")
Heading Out, The Oil Drum
...So how was the first evening? Well it has to be a struggle, when you have the full burden of the Hirsch Report to cover in 30 minutes, to be able to hit all the important bits. Roger [Bezdek] did his commendable best, and covered the basic points in regard to where our salvation might come from, and, while steering as cautious a line as he could, why we are already a little late getting to the case, and how bad this might make the future.

Bill [McKibben] is already into that scenario, having spent some time living purely from the local harvest, which brought to him, and thence to us, the benefits of the local farmers' market economy and interaction. I must, however, confess to a small personal foible, and that is when, within the first two minutes of a talk, or paragraphs of a column, I hear or read about how absolutely filthy coal is, it sort of gives me a hint that I may not completely agree with what is going to follow. And I did not. Bill would be, I suspect, much further along the "we're all toast" path than I am comfortable with, and (if I heard right) he felt that all the money being spent on remedial technology would be better disbursed, with a higher rate of return, by mailing low powered fluorescent light bulbs to everyone in the US. He feels, therefore, that we need to re-align our social arrangements and considers the Cuban experience indicative of a potential path forward. (I deleted my editorial comment here). I noted that his talk followed very much along the line of "The Long Emergency" - with which, you may remember, I have some significant disagreements.

As I noted to Eric in a post on why these meetings are, to me so valuable, the best part of them can come in the discussion and questions. The first was to Roger, and since there were three roadworks between me and the airport today, the question is timely. It was that "given the arrival of peak oil, how does that impact the sums being spent on modern highways" (editorially shortened). Roger replied that very obviously, as gas costs continue to rise, so the plans for new construction may well need to be revisited. He noted, in passing, that the most rapidly growing part of the community is that which commutes more than 50 miles to work, and that is the one that will be the most vulnerable.
(7 May 2006)


The Oil Drum reports on PO & Environment Conference (Day Two)

(Original: "Rough notes for a Monday morning")
Heading Out, The Oil Drum
...I will admit that I am a great fan of Representative Bartlett, as was noted, he has gone out ahead of the crowd on this and brought the topic of Peak Oil some attention. (He is surrounded by the press at the break). But, as he noted, there is a concern that here, he is largely speaking to the choir. Actually I don't think so, I was surprised, looking at the attendee list, and listening in on conversations, at the number of oil industry folk that are here, and taking note. He gave his usual broad intro to the subject, sad that time constrained both him and Ken Deffeyes. I was struck by how energetically he gave his talk (he was born in 1926) and thought it a pity that the topic was so grim.

Dr Deffeyes gave more comment on King Hubbert and Hubbert Linearization, (its in his second book) and these were two informative, and very entertaining talks. And while the Powerpoints are on the website these are the sort of talks that are much better heard. Both speakers are convinced and knowledgeable of their subjects, and have a wealth of info on which to draw. (Dr Deffeyes analogy was that of trying to fit his book into a coffee mug).

There were a couple of new things not that widely known, I thought to the two talks, Representative Bartlett's fourth slide, as one - and his comment that he did not get elected so that his grandkids would come and spit on his grave. He does feel that we can get through this if we make a determined effort, but recognized that we are not, noting that both the Hirsch Report and the Corps of Engineers report have been bottled up, and not got much recognition (outside our small community).

The other thing to note and follow-up on is the emphasis, at the end of Dr Deffeyes talk, on Methanol (Beyond Oil and Gas - The Methanol Economy by George Olah etc and the transition to Dimethyl Ether (DME) of which he spoke quite favorably).

Hmm! Time to get back to my seat!

And I was right! Because, after Michael Klare gave a talk on how we got to where we are today, at peak within a few feet, proposed that Peak Oil will be a more immediate problem than Global Warming, even though that is coming, and concluded that we are living in increasingly dangerous times...
(8 May 2006)


When the Circuit Breaks: America's Energy Crisis - 1975
(movie)
Concept Films, Inc., U.S. Federal Energy Administration
(1975)

Explains that all forms of energy have circuit breakers; when demand exceeds supply, the circuit breaks; when several circuits break at the same time, we have an energy crisis. Examines the traditional sources of energy, looks at the present to show how demand is steadily gaining on supply, and looks to the future to see what new sources of energy show the greatest promise. Expresses the ambivalence with which Americans and their government have addresses sustainable energy issues. Promotes the achievement of U.S. self-sufficiency in energy by 1985.
Part I // Part II
(1975)
Suggested by Bleep at peakoil-dot-com


Will We Hit $100?

Karen Lowry Miller, Newsweek International
The first oil shock of the 21st century is now upon us, even if it has not (yet) hit the global economy. This time, the early fallout is measured in largely political terms—in the growing cockiness of oil states like Venezuela, the defiance of Iran, the expansion of state oil companies from producing nations like Russia, the backlash against hugely profitable oil giants and the near desperation of incumbent politicians in consuming nations like the United States and Germany. In recent weeks, as the price of oil passed $70 a barrel, the price of gas topped $3 a gallon in the United States and ex-oilman George W. Bush unleashed an investigation into possible price manipulation by Big Oil, the old power relations of our oil-based world were clearly being turned upside down.

...Worse, there is an increasingly strong case, perhaps even an emerging consensus, that we are heading for a new price reality—one that until now has been the province of oil-conspiracy crackpots and environmental end-of-timers

...The reason the new spate of forecasts is so scarily convincing is because they don't rely upon sweeping but unprovable claims that the world is running out of oil. This has been the case put forward for years by "peak oil" theorists, who say today's prices are a symptom of the fact that we have found all the oil we can pump economically, so it's all downhill for supply. Since no one has found a way to X-ray the planet to determine exactly how much oil is left, peak-oil theory is based in part on faith in pessimistic geology. Oil bulls respond with their own article of faith: that there is oil down there, and improving technology can and will find it.

Some of the most worried analysts now assume that the bulls are right: there is plenty of oil in the earth. But technology alone can't solve the problem—not soon, anyway—if the industry is not deploying it. "Peak oil is a red herring," says Barclays Capital analyst Paul Horsnell. "It's all about fundamentals." The problem is that the major oil-producing nations have not spent enough—and don't plan to spend enough—to meet rising demand, particularly from the United States and China, in the near to medium term.
(15-22 May 2006)
Good article on the business side of the oil crisis. Surprisingly poor on the underlying issues. Writer Miller treats peak oil as if it were a matter of belief. Rather than investigate the issue itself, she relies on that stand-by of lazy journalism: "Optimists say this, pessimists say that..."

Rather breathtaking is the phrase that "no one has found a way to X-ray the planet to determine exactly how much oil is left". With that, Miller sweeps aside science and rational thought -- all the work that has been done by geologists and analysts for the last 50 years.

Assuming that peak oil is one of the most important issues of our time, couldn't a publication with the resources and talents of Newsweek muster the effort to investigate it? At least to do a Google search?

A second problem is Miller's name-calling.

You don't get to use phrases like "oil-conspiracy crackpots and environmental end-of-timers", unless you do your homework first. Especially when she is admitting that they were right!
-BA


Author David Goodstein's lecture explores peak oil

Abraham Hyatt, San Luis Obispo Tribune
He warns of an energy crisis and the shortcomings of alternative fuels in talk at Cal Poly; some in the audience wanted more on how to avoid maximum oil usage
------------
A renowned author and physicist warned a packed audience at Cal Poly’s Spanos Theater on Sunday evening of an energy crisis that could cripple the nation and the world in the coming years.

But some people in the audience said it was a message they’d already heard, and they criticized David Goodstein for not elaborating on ways the impending calamity could be avoided.

Goodstein, vice provost and professor of physics at Caltech, is famed for his 2004 book, "Out of Gas: The End of the Age of Oil," which The New York Times Book Review named as one of its "100 Notable Books of the Year."
(8 May 2006)
The original has links to more material by Goodstein.


Links from TOD

Yankee, The Oil Drum
Today is commenter and contributor appreciation day (because I declare it so). On TOD:NYC, peakguy and baloghblog discuss relocalization. Chris at TOD:UK covers parliament's reaction to the current energy situation in the UK. Engineer-Poet writes a letter to US voters about gas prices. Robert Rapier takes on the 60 Minutes report on ethanol last night. Odograph discusses the mileage that his Prius gets. Khebab takes on Norway at GraphOilogy. Jerome a Paris is looking for input on the current draft of "Energize America - A Blueprint for U.S. Energy Security". Yes, I know some of these have already been reported in earlier comments, but check them out if you haven't seen them! And if you'd like to nominate a blog post of your own for commenter appreciation day, go ahead and put it in the comments.
(8 May 2006)
Thanks to Yankee for mining the TOD Comments for good links.


Links, links - get 'em while they're hot!

David Roberts, Gristmill
Many links, mostly on energy policy, some on renewables and climate change.

Monday link dump, part one
Monday link dump, part two
(8 May 2006)

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