Energy - May 22
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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage.
WikiLeaks: A battle to 'carve up' the Arctic
Chris Arsenault, Al Jazeera
Resource wars are possible as global warming melts polar ice - opening new areas to oil exploitation, cables indicate.
It is considered the final frontier for oil and gas exploitation, and secret US embassy cables published by WikiLeaks confirm that nations are battling to "carve up" the Arctic's vast resources.
"The twenty-first century will see a fight for resources," Russian Ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin was quoted as saying in a 2010 cable. "Russia should not be defeated in this fight."
Along with exposing an estimated 22 per cent of the world's oil, ice melting due to global warming will open new shipping lanes, the arteries of global commerce, which nations are competing to control. And Russia certainly is not the only country eyeing the frozen prize.
Per Stig Moller, then Danish foreign minister, mused in a 2009 cable that "new shipping routes and natural resource discoveries would eventually place the region at the centre of world politics".
Canada, the US, Russia, Norway, Denmark, and perhaps even China, have competing claims to the Arctic, a region about the size of Africa, comprising some six per cent of the Earth's surface.
"The WikiLeaks cables show us realpolitik in its rarest form," says Paul Wapner, director of the global environmental politics programme at American University in Washington. "Diplomats continue to think of this as a zero sum world. When they see exploitable resources, all things being equal, they are going to approach them through a competitive nation state system."
The cables come to light at a time when academics and activists fear resource scarcity, particularly over dwindling oil and drinking water supplies, could lead to new international conflicts.
(21 May 2011)
China Admits Problems With Three Gorges Dam
Michael Wines, New York Times
The Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric project and a symbol of China’s confidence in risky technological solutions, is troubled by urgent pollution and geologic problems, a high-level government body acknowledged Thursday.
The statement came as technicians were certifying the very last of the dam’s array of generators as suitable for hydroelectric generation, the final step in a contentious 19-year effort to complete the project in defiance of domestic and international concerns over its safety as well as threats to the environment, displaced people, historical areas and natural beauty.
According to official figures, the venture cost China about $23 billion, but outside experts estimate it may have cost double that amount. The dam has been plagued by reports of floating archipelagoes of garbage, carpets of algae and landslides on the banks along the vast expanse of still water since the 600-foot-tall dam on the Yangtze River was completed in 2006. Critics also have complained that the government has fallen far short of its goals in helping to resettle the 1.4 million people displaced by the rising waters behind the dam.
(19 May 2011)
The return of cold fusion?
Ugo Bardi, The Oil Drum
Back in 1989, during the craze of the “cold fusion” announcement by Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons, a colleague of mine told me about the theory he had developed. It was based on quantum mechanics, he said, and it would explain everything that had been observed in cold fusion on the basis of an adjustable parameter.
Alas, in the real universe parameters cannot be adjusted at will as in the memory of a computer. Cold fusion proved elusive; I myself spent some months at that time with a home-made contraption that should have produced it; looking for the helium atoms that should have been created. I found none and I was not the only one who was disappointed. At that time, practically everyone who had a physics or chemistry lab available tried. But nobody could reproduce the claims about fusion taking place in an electrochemical cell, not even the authors of the claims themselves. So, the idea of cold fusion died out rapidly; surviving mostly in the dreams of crackpots and conspiracy theorists. A few serious scientists kept working on it; there were more claims scattered over the years and a whole new term “LENR” (low energy nuclear reactions) was coined to describe the field. However, after more than 20 years it seems clear that it is not possible to obtain useful energy by cramming deuterium atoms into palladium, as Fleischmann and Pons had tried to do.
So, it would seem that cold fusion as a way of producing energy is something made of the same stuff dreams are made of. That was my conclusion after having worked on it and the reason of my initial reaction of total disbelief when I first heard of the claims of having attained just that dream by two Italian researchers, Andrea Rossi and Sergio Focardi. Yet, in physics there are no absolutes: everything known can be disproved and, in the end, it is the experimental reality that counts. So, I noted that Rossi and Focardi, unlike Pons and Fleischmann, seem to be able to reproduce their result according to several reports that appear reliable. Then, a friend and colleague of mine went to visit Focardi. My friend is not an easily duped person and he went there ready to debunk the hoax. He came back rather perplexed, saying something like, “well, there may be something in this story.”
So, what is happening? Have we really made a giant step forward in our quest for a clean and abundant form of energy?
(20 May 2011)
Author Ugo Bardi writes: "Besides, what do we mean, exactly, as "solving the energy problem"? Here, the discussion on TOD took a very interesting angle, with some people clearly spelling out the fact that if - by some miracle - we were to have cheap energy in abundance, "we'd torch the place" "
Jeremy Leggett interview
James Murray, Business Green
"I thought many others would feel the same, but that proved to be naïve"
James Murray and Jeremy Leggett discuss peak oil, Damascene Conversions, and the realities of running a green business
James Murray: It is fairly well known that you enjoyed something of a Damascene Conversion, leaving the oil industry to campaign on environmental issues and set up a renewable energy firm, but how did this shift came about? What made you leave the oil industry? Was there a specific moment, was it a gradual process, and how did you manage the transition?
Jeremy Leggett: I was a consultant to oil companies, and a trainer of their recruits, on the faculty at the Royal School of Mines in Imperial College. But my research was on the history of oceans. With the emergence in the mid 1980s of the first worrying modelling of greenhouse warming by scientists working in the "top" part of the climate system (the atmosphere) my understanding of what this meant in the "bottom" part of the climate system (the oceans) left me with a crisis of conscience. I felt I had to quit: to switch sides, as it were.
I thought many others would feel the same, but that proved to be naïve. I describe all this, and the subsequent years campaigning on climate change, in a book "The Carbon War."
James Murray: Why do you think the oil industry has proven so resilient? The evidence suggesting it has to decline becomes ever more compelling, yet as you admit you were "naive" to think those within the industry would depart or adapt?
Jeremy Leggett: Since then neuroscience has shed a lot of light on how we think, as individuals and collectives. We organise institutions around comforting narratives and tend to be resistant to uncomfortable narratives that threaten our status quo. The tendency of civilisations to be blind to resource depletion, in the run up to their demise, is well known to anthropologists. We have to break this trend.
(20 May 2011)
Apparently Jeremy Leggett is now guest editor of Business Green. -BA
Reflections Before the Collapse of Oil - Jan Lundberg interviewed in Shanghai Oriental Morning Post
Beilei Jin, Shanghai Oriental Morning Post
High oil prices and new international political and economic philosophy
In Jan Lundberg's interview with Oriental Morning Post - Weekly Edition, he told this reporter that petrocollapse is a global challenge and the next oil shock is just a matter of time. People need to be aware of this and start to live a simple, energy-wise and localized life before it's too late.
Jan Lundberg is an independent oil analyst who just published his autobiographical Songs of Petroleum. His father Dan Lundberg was the founder of the Bible of the oil industry "Lundberg Survey." Jan worked closely with Dan Lundberg for 15 years, during which time they accurately predicted the Second Oil Shock in 1979. In 1988 Jan had left for-profit work and founded Fossil Fuels Policy Action which coordinated the Alliance for a Paving Moratorium and published the Auto-Free Times magazine. Jan has been car free since 1989 and enjoys bicycling, walking, sailing, and taking trains.
1. You have often been referred to as the “progressive czar” of energy policy. What makes your analyses different from that of other analysts?
Most every oil industry analyst quoted in the news media focuses on short-term market objectives. This is what I used to do at Lundberg Survey when we were known as the "bible of the oil industry" in the U.S. I now incorporate the big picture when I think, write, speak and even sing.
But it is not enough to look beyond oil or the marketplace. Unfortunately, the non-market oriented energy policy analysts primarily consider political issues, thereby imposing their personal philosophies or social-justice dreams on any oil-related outlook. More often than not they do not consider oil realities, or if they do, they often do not understand oil supply dynamics.
2. How do you look at economics and the oil industry?
The way I look at economics, I don't focus on such factors as markets as ends in themselves, nor do I closely watch inflation trends or stock indicators. I'm aware of the unbelievable debt but admit I cannot fathom it. Rather:
I explore what are the physical realities, not the hands of the "free" market, that are the only basis of production, wealth and (most importantly) survival. It's true that an economic system of some kind must take care of exchange. But we all know that money is no longer anchored to actual wealth such as gold. Natural resources cannot be exploited indefinitely due to limits in supply and lack of cheap energy to extract and transport them.
The financial system is a house of cards similar to how the economy is a house of cards based on cheap but now depleted oil.
(10 May 2011)