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Bracks urged to think ahead as ‘oil runs out’

William Birnbauer, The Age (Australia)
THE Bracks Government has been challenged to establish an office of oil vulnerability to assess the impact of declining global oil production and prepare for petrol shortages.

Bruce Robinson, convener of the Australian Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas, has also called for higher fuel taxes.

His comments come as Chris Skrebowski, editor of the Petroleum Review warns that world oil production could peak as early as 2010, after which oil flows will gradually decline, resulting in higher petrol prices and social disruption.

Mr Robinson said Australia was increasingly vulnerable to serious oil shortages and governments, councils, businesses and individuals should examine the risks.

The Queensland Government recently established a taskforce to report on peak oil production, its impact and possible remedies.
(27 Aug 2006)

Bush’s first energy rule: efficient enough?

Mark Clayton, Christian Science Monitor
The proposal for transformers would save $9 billion. Efficiency advocates say it should do more.
Long accused of dragging its feet on raising energy-efficiency standards for products, the Bush administration has proposed its first such standard.

Its proposal attracted little attention, since it didn’t mean better dishwashers or more fuel-efficient cars. Instead, it deals with transformers – those ubiquitous gray canisters that hang from utility poles and could save the nation billions of dollars if they were upgraded.

The question is how extensive the upgrade should be. Besides saving an estimated $9 billion in electricity costs, the Bush administration standard, unveiled Aug. 4, may also eliminate the need to build 11 new power plants over a 28-year period, the Department of Energy (DOE) reports. They would also reduce pollution and boost the reliability of the nation’s electric grid.

But instead of celebrating the proposal, energy and environment advocates say DOE has opted for “a very weak proposal” – one that fails to save additional mountains of energy and pollution that a slightly tougher regulation would achieve for about the same cost. The tougher standard would save much more than the DOE proposal over 28 years – about 120 billion kilowatt hours of electricity – or enough energy to power 10 percent of US households for a year, they say.
(24 Aug 2006)

Crumbling Infrastructure Worries Homeland Security Experts

Chuck McCutcheon, Newhouse News Service
WASHINGTON – A pipeline shuts down in Alaska. Equipment failures disrupt air travel in Los Angeles. Electricity runs short at a spy agency in Maryland.

None of these recent events resulted from a natural disaster or terrorist attack, but they may as well have, some homeland security experts say. They worry that too little attention is paid to how fast the country’s basic operating systems are deteriorating.

“When I see events like these, I become concerned that we’ve lost focus on the core operational functionality of the nation’s infrastructure and are becoming a fragile nation, which is just as bad – if not worse – as being an insecure nation,” said Christian Beckner, a Washington analyst who runs the respected Web site Homeland Security Watch (

The American Society of Civil Engineers last year graded the nation “D” for its overall infrastructure conditions, estimating that it would take $1.6 trillion over five years to fix the problem.
(25 Aug 2006)
Submitter DM writes:
I see this every day. Texas used to have the best roads in the country, and now there’s craters with lost Volkswagens in the bottom of them, and county government is having a hard time affording the asphalt to fix them.

UPDATE (Aug 28): reader Dave comments:
Saw the article about this, and just the last month or so I have been coming to the same conclusion. I drive between Austin TX and Louisiana (Hammond) several times a year, and it seems to me that things are slowly going downhill. I was in Canada, Vancouver, and things seemed notably better kept up!