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United States & Canada - July 13

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Obama to meet Energy Smart Debbie

A. Siegel, The Huffington Post
Amid skyrocketing oil, gasoline, coal, and electricity (coming to a neighborhood near you) prices, 2008 offers Americans quite serious and stark choices between knowledgeable, impassioned, and thoughtful candidates when it comes to finding paths toward a prosperous 21st century economy, on the one side, and Fossil-Fool candidates focused on tightening our shackles to the ever-more costly (pollution, financial, otherwise) and archaic oil-coal based energy system.

One of these stark choices comes in California's 46th district, where Huntington Beach Mayor Debbie Cook is running against ten-term Congressman Dana Rohrbacher.

Debbie was one of the first on the Energy Smart Act Blue page. Tomorrow, Barack Obama is going to meet Energy Smart Debbie. Let's hope that this is not for the last time. Let's look at some indications as to why.

... Debbie Cook, CA-46, has focused on sustainability issues as Mayor of Huntington Beach, California, and serves on the board of directors for the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas (ASPO-USA) and Post Carbon Institute. Amid escalating oil prices, perhaps the Congress could use someone respected enough by the concerned community to be put onto ASPO-USA's board?
(12 July 2008)



Say good bye to the good old days

Randall Denley, The Ottawa Citizen
Perhaps plug-in electric cars, or electric light rail, is the wave of the future, but that electricity still has to come from somewhere. In Ontario, much of it is generated by plants burning coal or natural gas. The province is planning more nuclear reactors but they are many years from completion.

The consumer economy hasn't foundered in Canada, yet, but high oil prices are inevitably going to drive up our spending on essentials and cut what we spend on discretionary items.

With the direction we're going, we're going to look back at the past 20 years and wonder at how good we had it.

We'll remember an era when you could buy produce from all over the world at a low price regardless of the season, when ordinary people could afford to travel to exotic locations, when driving across town wasn't something you had to compute the cost of and when we had jobs that provided a little money to blow on luxuries.

Maybe it was a fool's paradise, but it was good.
(13 July 2008)



Soaring gas prices mean financial hardship

Lori Weisberg, San Diego Union-Tribune
Soaring gas prices mean financial hardship, major cutbacks for low- and middle-income households
---
Jacqueline Gonzales and her husband, David, a machine operator, can't imagine how they could cut a dime more out of a budget that allows them just $15 every two weeks for their big splurge: takeout from McDonald's.

Saddled with payments on a gas-guzzling truck and SUV and facing escalating food and gasoline costs, the Poway couple expect they'll be left with few options to economize should gasoline prices continue their rapid ascent. For now, their $925 monthly rent is reasonable, but any increase could be financially debilitating.

... Forecasts that prices at the pump could spike as high as $7 or $8 a gallon in the next few years are leading some experts to predict financial calamity for the lowest-income households.

In extreme cases, some could even face homelessness, financial counselors fear, as surging oil prices snowball into higher costs for everything from utilities to a carton of milk.
(13 July 2008)



Losing The Arctic Edge

Peter McKenzie-Brown, Language Matters
In a sobering presentation to the Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists, Dave Russum (VP of geosciences for AJM Petroleum Consultants) made a compelling case that Canada has fallen behind its rivals in the development of Arctic oil and gas, and that she needs to catch up. Only five countries have claims to mineral rights in the Arctic - the others are the United States, Russia, Norway and Denmark.

The United States became a major oil producer at Prudhoe Bay in 1977, and continues to produce from that supergiant field. Last year Norway began producing LNG from its Snøhvit field. Russia, which already has Arctic production in Siberia, will begin producing from Shtokman in the Barents Sea in 2014.

And Canada? This country’s most northerly oil production still comes from the 88-year-old Norman Wells field. A tiny amount of gas production serves a few small towns and villages in the Mackenzie Delta, but this service has as much to do with local development as petroleum economics. When energy prices crashed and Dome Petroleum collapsed in the mid-1980s, the industry decamped from Canada’s Arctic with great abandon.

Why? Several concerns have discouraged Arctic exploration for a generation. The main issue is geology. “In the Arctic most of the expected resources are gas,” says Russum, “and they are devilishly expensive to develop. Except for Prudhoe Bay, (the Arctic basins) have pretty much been gas plays, and we expect about 75% of the resource there to be gas. Oil has been the prize. If you couldn’t find oil, you didn’t want to develop there.” During the last two decades the expense and difficulty of Arctic development was worsened by surplus natural gas supplies in North America.

The situation has greatly changed in recent years, says the executive director of the Arctic Institute of North America. Benoît Beauchamp agrees that the Arctic is gas-prone, but says this is no longer an obstacle to development. In recent years natural gas has become recognized as a premium source of energy, although it generally serves continental rather than global markets.
(12 July 2008)



Peak Oil and the Rebuilding (Or Not) of Ground Zero
A Kinder, Gentler Holocaust

Jenna Orkin, Act 2: From the Wilderness' Peak Oil Blog
... Battles to publicize unpopular issues such as the lethal air quality following 9/11 or the arrival of Peak Oil in 2006 have two phases. The first consists of sailing against the wind. The mainstream press ignore the issue or repeat the government's lies. This is unpleasant but after the arrival of Phase Two, one looks back at it with some nostalgia. For the second phase occurs when the problem has grown so big and ugly, it can no longer be ignored.

Legend has it that Joseph Kennedy knew the stock market was about to crash in 1929 when his shoeshine boy gave him a tip on what to buy. Kennedy sold. The story is no doubt apocryphal (Kennedy was surely planning to sell anyway; the shoeshine boy, if there was one, was just the last straw) but it makes the point: When everyone knows something, it's too late.

So it's with some ambivalence that we note the growing acceptance of earth-changing upheavals ahead. 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the "Shock and Awe" campaign that morphed into a living example of "the war that will not end in our lifetimes..." One disaster after another has ended not in abatement but in simply being supplanted by a new disaster.

... The fact that oil plays into our bleak zeitgeist is also accepted even as people sputter in protest, "But what about wind/geothermal/solar/Brazil/hybrids/algae/electricity/bikes/some-genius-coming-along-with-something?" Pick your 'solution' which may be a wonderful thing in itself but will not replace oil in our autophagous economy that depends on infinite growth in a finite world. Nor will it replace those oil and gas products, pesticides and fertilizers, which account for the astronomical spike in population since oil's discovery in 1859 to 6.5 billion.

However, the worst is yet to come. Despite Congress' clueless scolding of "speculators," those speculators are not the main source of the current oil dilemma. Unlike the Hunt brothers in the seventies, oil speculators do not take delivery of, much less horde, oil. Few speculators have tankers of the stuff in the back yard. But when did reality ever trump a populist, vote-gleaning stand?
(12 July 2008)

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