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Toiling in the Dark: Africa’s Power Crisis

Michael Wines, New York Times
…Power blackouts – “load shedding,” in utility jargon – are hardly novel in sub-Saharan Africa, where many electricity grids remain chewing-gum-and-baling-wire affairs. Even so, this year is different. Perhaps 25 of the 44 sub-Saharan nations face crippling electricity shortages, a power crisis that some experts call unprecedented.

The causes are manifold: strong economic growth in some places, economic collapse in others, war, poor planning, population booms, high oil prices and drought have combined to leave both industry and residents short of power when many need it most.
(29 July 2007)

Buying shotgun shells will put a bigger hole in your wallet

Mike Leggett, American-Statesman (Texas)
If you haven’t bought shotgun shells in a few months – and most people have not – you’re in for a surprise when you buy a few boxes along with your hunting license next month.

Prices have been going up for at least a year, and they will go up again in September. Overall, prices on shotgun and rifle shells, along with components for loading, have increased more than 50 percent since Sept. 1.

I stopped by McBride’s Guns to get a lesson in shotgun trading last week from “Old Easy.” … when we got to talking shotgun shells, I was stunned to learn how much prices have increased.

“Since Sept. 1, we’ve had six price increases, and there’s another 15 percent increase coming in September,” McBride said. “We absorbed the first one or two, but then we had to raise prices ourselves.”

Remington, Federal and Winchester, the major shotshell manufacturers in this country, are all raising prices, citing the rapidly escalating cost of metals, mostly lead, essential to shell production. However, copper, steel and bismuth shotshells also increased during the same period. Fuel price increases have forced up the cost of shipping and delivering the shells, and war-time contracts have created competition for materials and manufacturing time.
(29 July 2007)
Peak ammunition? -BA

Peak oil – expensive food

Mary King, Trinidad & Tobago Express
At one time the need for more food resulted in the worldwide increase in arable land via the clearing of forests and irrigation of arid land. The land available has peaked and is decreasing because of salination of irrigated soils, diversion to bio-fuels and the growth of cities. Cheap fossil fuels allowed pumping of water for irrigation, and cheap food transport encouraged the growth of cities away from the centres of food production.

The economies of scale of large farms added to the growth of urbanisation. Cheap fossil fuels increased the ability of the farmer via mechanisation to till large areas of land, dramatically increasing the loss of top soil via water and wind erosion. Global warming, in part caused by fossil fuel use, also reduces food production yields.

…There are two schools of thought on the way ahead – further intensification of food production via genetic engineering of new crops and animal varieties, and ecological agriculture which is criticised as being unable to feed the massive human population without chemical support. Since fossil fuels will come to an end sometime, we have to find a food production system that is much less energy intensive.

… [Trinidad & Tobago] produces oil and gas which are expected with reserves depletion to become too expensive to exploit within the next 15 to 20 years. Conforming to product specialisation, again dependent on cheap fuel transport, T&T exports energy products and imports much of its food from the rents earned. Already food prices are increasing due to the increasing international energy prices, demand for food and to the high liquidity of the TT dollar in the local economy. Local subsidised energy prices will have no impact on the world phenomenon of increasing prices of imported food.

We have to grow more food. Our experience with steel down- streamers suggests that the production of fertilisers by foreign direct investors in T&T will not mean cheaper fertilisers to local farmers. T&T will have no alternative but to follow in Cuba’s footsteps and develop an agricultural industry that moves progressively away from energy intensive techniques into small family lots and co-ops.
(29 July 2007)

Building Circles of Community: “Lone Rangers” cannot survive collapse

Carolyn Baker, Speaking Truth to Power
A treasure trove of information pertaining to preparation for collapse can be found on the internet and in libraries throughout the world. Earlier this year I reviewed Mick Winter’s book on preparing for Peak Oil and have since posted on my site Stan Goff’s piece on “35 Ways To Prepare For Peak Oil”

My own article, “What To Do, What To Do?” addresses preparation for collapse from yet another perspective. Websites such as Matt Savinar’s Life After The Oil Crash, Energy Bulletin, and Post-Carbon Institute offer ongoing suggestions for preparation as well.

Yet the one topic which receives almost no attention is the notion of how individuals create community in the face of the collapse of civilization. This is curious since, in my opinion, all individuals raised in the culture of empire are deeply wounded emotionally and spiritually and have little experience of living harmoniously in community.

In fact, more often than not, people who are preparing for collapse tell me that their experiences with attempting to create and maintain community have been disappointing at best and disastrous at worst, so it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out why so few people address the topic.
(28 July 2007)
I’ve found that it’s easier to build community through existing structures, such as neighborhoods, community groups and extended family. The Master Gardeners program, for example, has great potential. John Michael Greer suggests the fraternal orders, which served as a social safety net in the 19th century. -BA

ODAC News – Sunday 29 July

Douglas Low, Oil Depletion Analysis Centre
Peak Oil in the UK – BNP
1/ Politicians fret over wrong crisis as Peak Oil looms – FEEDBACK (British National Party, July 2007)

Oil Prices
2a/ PETROLEUM ($US/bbl) (Bloomberg, Wed 18 Jul)
2b/ Investec’s Guinness sees oil price doubling (Reuters, Thu 19 Jul)
2c/ Surging oil prices darken inflation outlook (The Independent on Sunday, Sun 29 Jul)

3/ U.S. Foreclosure Filings Jump to Record in First Half (Bloomberg, Thu 12 Jul)
6a/ Asia markets tumble as debt panic spreads (The Times, Fri 27 Jul)
6b/ For all practical purposes the markets are closed right now (The Oil Drum, Mon 30 Jul)
Coal in the USA
4/ Coal’s Doubters Block New Wave Of Power Plants (Wall Street Journal, Wed 25 Jul)

Big Oil
5a/ Scramble for oil catches up with Exxon (MarketWatch, Thu 26 Jul)
5b/ Shell Bucks Trend With Q2 Earnings Growth (Energy Intelligence [International Oil Daily], Fri 27 Jul)
5c/ BP production drops again (AllAfrica, Tue 24 Jul)

UK Energy
7a/ UK Energy Security (The Oil Drum: Europe, Thu 26 Jul)
7b/ Energy Trends (UK DTI, June 2007)

Energy Crises in Sub-Saharan Africa
8/ Toiling in the Dark: Africa’s Power Crisis (NY Times, Sun 29 Jul)

Middle East Energy Shortages
9/ DUBAI: Energy shortages could scupper plans – FEEDBACK (Financial Times, Tue 24 Jul)

Russian Oil Production
10/ Russian oil output to plateau until 2020 – EconMin (Reuters, Tue 24 Jul)
(29 July 2007)