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Peak oil & energy supplies - April 16

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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage.


Oil Without Apologies: Chevron's CEO on energy and peak oil

Kimberley A. Strassel, Wall Street Journal
John Watson, Chevron's CEO, says Americans must stop taking affordable energy for granted. That means more 'oil, gas and coal.'
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... The Chevron CEO is a rare breed these days: an unapologetic oil man. For decades—going back to Jimmy Carter—politicians have been peddling an America free of fossil fuels. Mr. Obama has taken that to an unprecedented level, closing off more acreage to drilling, pouring money into green energy, pushing new oil company taxes, instituting anticarbon regulations. America is going backward on affordable energy, even as oil hits $110 a barrel.

Enter the tall, bespectacled Mr. Watson, who a little more than a year ago stepped into the shoes of longtime CEO David O'Reilly. An economist by training, soft-spoken by nature, the 53-year-old Mr. Watson is hardly some swaggering wildcatter. Yet in a year of speeches, he has emerged as one of the industry's foremost energy realists. No "Beyond Petroleum" (BP) for him. On energy, he says, America "has a lot to learn."

Starting with the argument—so popular among greens and Democrats—that we are running out of oil. "Peak oil"—the theory that global oil production will soon hit maximum levels and begin to decline—is a favorite among this crowd, and it is one basis for their call for more biofuels and solar power. Mr. Watson doesn't dismiss the idea but explains why it remains largely irrelevant.

In theory, he says, "we've been running out of oil and gas for a long time," yet technology creates new opportunities.
(16 April 2011)



Japan, Oil and the Fragility of Globalization

Andrew Nikiforuk, TheTyee.ca
... The Catholic theologian Ivan Illich once noted (and yes, he is the inspiration for this eclectic column) that societies that consume large amounts of energy (and especially imported energy) ultimately lose their flexibility and robustness to a web of authoritarian complexity such as the Tokyo Electricity Corporation. It is, afterall, the world's fourth largest utility and a consortium of liars to boot.

After the quake, Japan's big energy dilemma remains the same: how can a nation unsustainably fashioned by a flood of cheap oil (less than $20) 40 years ago, reboot or rebuild now that oil exceeds a $100 a barrel?

This arresting drama has a science fiction-like quality because Japan reflects both our petroleum pasts and our energy futures. It is the world's petroleum everyman. In many ways Japan's fate is our collective fate.

By any measure oil, probably the island's longest Kabuki performance, has transformed Japan more than any of Mother Nature's regular energizers including typhoons, fires, volcanoes and yes, rousing earthquakes.

Yet the magnitude of the Japanese quake was a reminder that the Green Gal not only bats last and hardest but whenever she damn well pleases.

'Energy and Equity' starts today -- Andrew Nikiforuk's new weekly Tyee column about oil, energy and civilization.
(14 April 2011)



Thinking about peak oil and Transition in Ghana

Edem Srem, Modern Ghana
... in the 21st century, we can see that our continued dependency on oil threatens the future of all of us, both rich and poor. As supplies fall further behind demand, the world faces economic crisis and western countries are scrambling to secure their access to the last reserves.

... Ghana's preparedness to build more hydro-electric dams is a plus for our progress to welcome the peak oil stage and climate change.

Other renewable resources Ghana as a country can tap, is the abundant solar power, especially in the Northern sector. It is projected that the North alone can produce the solar power the country needs and even export to other countries. There must also be a shift from the use of private transport since less private cars will mean less fuel consumption and less accidents on our roads. An example that also needs to be followed is the North American Organization “Just Transition”.

This is a coalition between workers and communities affected by oil exploitation. Just transition argues that workers must be intimately involved in the process of transition from environmentally damaging activities and that the pollution industry must contribute to a fund to sustain the environment.

What Ghana can do is to start the formation of Transition Towns which will train and prepare communities for the peak oil stage which hits the world and Ghana soon. The transition campaign will include; training people to stop too much fossil burning, use of bicycles and walking, more convenient ways of storage apart from the fridge and public transport use.

Without an effort to develop clean, renewable and locally sourced fuels to replace oil, the ensuing scramble for energy could be disastrous for both the environment and world peace.

Edem Srem is a journalist.
(15 April 2011)



While the Saudi elite looks nervously abroad, a revolution is happening

Soumaya Ghannoushi, The Guardian,
The gap between the Saudi regime's conservative ideology and modern urban reality has fed discontent across society
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The Saudi regime is under siege. To the west, its heaviest regional ally, the Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, has been ousted. To its north, Syria and Jordan are gripped by a wave of protests which shows no sign of receding. On its southern border, unrest in Yemen and Oman rages on. And troops have been dispatched to Bahrain to salvage its influence over the tiny kingdom exerted through the Khalifa clan, and prevent the contagion from spreading to Saudi Arabia's turbulent eastern provinces, the repository of both its biggest oil reserves and largest Shia population.

... Frequent protests urge political reform, and internet campaigns demand the election of a consultative assembly, the release of political prisoners, and women's rights – one that called for a day of rage on 11 March attracted 26,000 supporters.

The government's response was in keeping with a country named the region's least democratic state by the Economist Intelligence Unit last year.

... Along with the visible political threats facing the regime, it is beset by a more potent social challenge. This is the product of the advancing process of modernisation in Saudi society, with growing urbanisation, mass education, tens of thousands of foreign-taught students, and widespread communication media, with one of the region's highest percentages of internet users (almost 40%, double that of Egypt). The country's gigantic oil wealth has taken the society from a simple, predominantly desert existence to a model of affluent consumerism in the space of a few decades. Yet this rapid transformation has not been matched at the culture level, causing a yawning gap between social reality and a conservative ideology imposed by the regime and justified via an intimate alliance between the ruling clan and the Wahhabi clerical establishment with its austere Hanbali interpretation of Islam. This is not to say that the clerical council and its religious police are the decision-makers in Saudi Arabia. They are mere government employees who provide a divine seal for choices made by the king and his coterie of emirs. Their role is to issue the monarch with edicts like the one that sanctioned the "appeal to infidels for protection" when US troops were summoned to the Gulf in 1991.

As a price for political quietism, the clerics' hands are left untied in the social realm, where they are granted unlimited authority over the monitoring and control of individual and public conduct. No one has paid a greater price for this ruler-cleric pact than women. While turning a blind eye to the monarch and his elite's political authoritarianism, financial corruption, and subordination to American diktats, these divine warriors turn their muscle on women instead. Every minutia of their lives is placed under the clerics' watchful gaze, rigorously monitored by draconian religious edicts rejected by the majority of Muslims; they are denied the right to drive, enter into any form of legal agreement, vote, or even receive medical care without a guardian's consent.

... Externally the regime draws sustenance from its "special relationship" with the US. In return for keeping the oil supply steady and pouring billions into the American treasury through arms deals, the Al-Saud family gets a US commitment to complete protection.
(14 April 2011)

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