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Peak oil, coal, and supplies - 6 July (updated 7 July)

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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage


Science and The Gulf Spill – Scientists Gauge The Impact of Oil

Erna Buffie, Suite 101
Whether deploying robotic gliders, tracking oil up the food chain or trying to stanch the flow of oil, scientists in the Gulf play a key role.

Right now, dozens of scientists are out in the Gulf doing what they do best - working on our behalf, gathering information, trying to estimate and mitigate the environmental impact of the spill.

So who is out there? What are they doing? And why should we be grateful they’re there?...
(1 July 2010)
related: The Gulf Oil Spill – Safety Problems Exposed by The Gulf Spill



Saudi Arabia’s real energy problem(s)

Kate Mackenzie, Financial Times
An interesting report from Saudi Arabia: the country’s king reportedly said at the weekend that he had ordered oil exploration cease in order to keep reserves for future generations.

From Dow Jones, quoting the Saudi Press Agency:

RIYADH (Zawya Dow Jones)–Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has ordered a halt to oil exploration operations to save the hydrocarbon wealth in the world’s top crude exporting nation for future generations, the official Saudi Press Agency, or SPA, reported late Saturday.

“I was heading a cabinet meeting and told them to pray to God the Almighty to give it a long life,” King Abdullah told Saudi scholars studying in Washington, according to SPA.

“I told them that I have ordered a halt to all oil explorations so part of this wealth is left for our sons and successors God willing,” he said.

However, the King’s comments perhaps shouldn’t be taken too literally; oil ministry official told Dow Jones it was not an outright ban as such, “but rather meant future exploration activities should be carried out wisely”.
(5 July 2010)
related: Saudi King Seeks Wise Oil Use, Not Output Ban, Sfakianakis Says


What happens when coal is gone?

Mariette DiChristina, Scientific American
What’s the best way to address a politically charged topic such as the future of energy? Remove the politics. “We’re going to skip over the politics,” Robert P. Laughlin, who won a Nobel Prize for physics in 1998, told a rapt audience of young scientists and others here at the 60th annual Nobel Laureate Lectures at Lindau. “I’m not interested in now but in the time of your children’s children’s children, six generations into the future and 200 years from now,” when all carbon burning has stopped because it’s been banned or none is left, he said. “Thinking about a problem this way is so simple. Instead of arguing about what to do now, I want to talk about what will happen when there’s no coal."

In two centuries, people will still want to drive cars, fly in airplanes and have lighting in their houses. “Everybody I know thinks there will be big price increases with the end of easy oil and there’ll be a struggle over the resources,” he said Monday. The young scientists in the audience “need to figure out how to keep that struggle from turning into a hot war.”

Toward that end, Laughlin established some principles about hydrocarbons such as gas, oil and coal: everyone wants the cheapest gas possible; when oil runs out, prices will fluctuate but can be managed with technologies in development; and when coal ultimately runs out, further innovation will have to happen to keep society stable...
(29 June 2010)


Saudi's Announcement

Kalpa, Financial News Express

"I have ordered a halt to all oil explorations"

With global oil production expected to peak around the year 2015 and their own reserves in question, this early July announcement from Saudi Arabia is not surprising.

Saudi King: Halt To Oil Exploration To Save Wealth

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has ordered a halt to oil exploration operations to save the hydrocarbon wealth in the world's top crude exporting nation for future generations, the official Saudi Press Agency, or SPA, reported late Saturday. "I was heading a cabinet meeting and told them to pray to God the Almighty to give it a long life," King Abdullah told Saudi scholars studying in Washington, according to SPA.

"I told them that I have ordered a halt to all oil explorations so part of this wealth is left for our sons and successors God willing," he said. A senior oil ministry official, who declined to be named, told Zawya Dow Jones the king's order wasn't an outright ban but rather meant future exploration activities should be carried out wisely.

....."King Abdullah's message does not mean that Saudi Arabia is changing it's view of the country's global oil balancing role or its commitments but only that it should be mindful of its future usage," he said.

"Swing" Producer
Saudi is what is known as the oil producer with excess reserve capacity. As OPEC's largest producer, it produced 8.26 million barrels a day in June. Currently, the U.S. gets 1.245 million barrels per day from Saudi Arabia out of the 18.9 million barrels per day that it uses or 6.6 percent.

The most recent EIA figures show global crude oil consumption at 85.5 million barrels per day. The U.S. currently uses 22% of the global oil supply. The ever increasing oil demand by emerging economies is expected to climb 1.6 million barrels per day in 2011.

Other Problems
In an effort to prioritize water security over food security, Saudi is in the process of ending its domestic wheat production by 2016. They are cutting substantial financial support to their wheat producers in effort to save their dwindling water supplies. Consequently, they are expanding wheat and barley storage facilities and grain port facilities while making arrangements with Australia, the U.S., the E.U., and Argentina for wheat imports. In 2007/08 Saudi Arabia was self-sufficient in wheat. In 2008/09, its wheat production fell 33.5% year-over-year. Soybean and animal fodder crops are also being phased out.

Saudi Arabia is an oil-rich, food-poor, water-poor kingdom with a rapidly growing population.

Editorial Notes: ED contributor Michael Lardelli just sent in this video link with the comment: This is great listening for a peak oil audience! (Transcript available here) The spilling fields From the website: As we watch the worst environmental disaster in US history unfold, it's worth comparing with our own gusher in the Timor Sea last year. The Montara well leaked uncontrollably for over 70 days before it exploded in a fireball incinerating the rig. With the findings of a Commission of Inquiry into the Montara spill still locked down by the Gillard government, will we ever know the true environmental impact?

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