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Energy - March 28

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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage.

Record gas prices blamed on peak oil
(David Hughes interview)
Mychaylo Prystupa, CBC News
A prominent energy scientist blames record-high gas prices on the approach of peak oil — a point when the world’s oil fields will pump out their maximum amount of oil, then gradually decline.

"There's no question that's what's causing it,"says David Hughes, a recently retired geoscientist, who worked with the Geological Survey of Canada for 32 years.

His view defies conventional wisdom that turmoil in Lybia is to blame.

Production in that country's oil fields, which represent two per cent of the world's supply, has been shut down. That, say some experts, has led to a spike in gasoline prices.

"If we were not close to peak oil, (Lybia) should not have made any difference," Hughes said. "There should have been enough spare capacity in Saudi Arabia to easily offset what's happening in Libya.

"That tells you something about how tight oil production is."

Hughes has been crisscrossing Canada, giving talks from universities to trucking conferences, to sound the alarm that peak oil will cause the price of petroleum fuels such as gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel to skyrocket.
(28 March 2011)
EB reader Ed I from Canada says: "Will also be on CBC TV tonight (& until Wednesday). I think David Hughes will be interviewed."

US incomes rise, but disposable income drops. Blame oil prices.

Mark Trumbull, Christian Science Monitor
American incomes continued to rise in February, but not enough to offset rising prices at the gas pump and grocery stores. The unwelcome shift points to a potential danger spot in the economic recovery – the risk that inflation could chip away at consumer well-being.

... But as the recovery has taken hold, so has an upward trend in prices for basic commodities like grains and gasoline. In February, US consumers were basically forced to spend more because of rising prices for groceries and fuel. Adjusted for consumer-price inflation, the gains in household earnings disappeared, with "real" disposable personal income actually falling 0.1 percent for the month.
(28 March 2011)

Fukushima radioactive fallout nears Chernobyl levels

Debora MacKenzie, New Sceintist
Japan's damaged nuclear plant in Fukushima has been emitting radioactive iodine and caesium at levels approaching those seen in the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident in 1986. Austrian researchers have used a worldwide network of radiation detectors – designed to spot clandestine nuclear bomb tests – to show that iodine-131 is being released at daily levels 73 per cent of those seen after the 1986 disaster. The daily amount of caesium-137 released from Fukushima Daiichi is around 60 per cent of the amount released from Chernobyl.

The difference between this accident and Chernobyl, they say, is that at Chernobyl a huge fire released large amounts of many radioactive materials, including fuel particles, in smoke. At Fukushima Daiichi, only the volatile elements, such as iodine and caesium, are bubbling off the damaged fuel. But these substances could nevertheless pose a significant health risk outside the plant.

... The Chernobyl accident emitted much more radioactivity and a wider diversity of radioactive elements than Fukushima Daiichi has so far, but it was iodine and caesium that caused most of the health risk – especially outside the immediate area of the Chernobyl plant, says Malcolm Crick, secretary of a United Nations body that has just reviewed the health effects of Chernobyl. Unlike other elements, he says, they were carried far and wide by the wind.

Moreover the human body absorbs iodine and caesium readily. "Essentially all the iodine or caesium inhaled or swallowed crosses into the blood," says Keith Baverstock, former head of radiation protection for the World Health Organization's European office, who has studied Chernobyl's health effects.
(24 March 2011)
Mentioned by Mike Whitney at CounterPunch: Is Fukushima About to Blow?. -BA

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