Major energy stories in the news today.

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Peak Oil

Canadian Environmentalist David Suzuki on Peak Oil
(“Matters of survival in a ‘shattered world'”)
The Japan Times
In a long interview, Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki says:

To me, a hope is that we are going to hit peak oil [when oil resources begin to decline] — and some geologists say we already hit it last year. The business community is now starting to take this very seriously.

The first thing to happen would be the big-box stores, like Home Depot and Walmart, collapsing because they are dependent on cheap oil to ship cheap goods. Also, in the suburbs of Canada we have these gigantic homes with two or three people in them, and the heating and cooling bills are enormous, and they depend on cars.

But the big thing is food. In Canada, food travels an average of 5,000 miles (8,000 km) from where it’s grown to where it’s eaten. This can’t go on.

The impact of [fossil fuel depletion] is going to create enormous suffering, no doubt about it.
(21 Apr, 2005)

Congressman Roscoe Bartlett Votes No on Energy Bill

Global Public Media
Washington, DC – Congressman Roscoe Bartlett today voted “NO” on H.R. 6, the Energy Bill.

“I voted no because the energy bill falls far short of President Bush’s strategy to respond to the reality of threats to America’s economic and national security from our dependence upon cheap imported oil. Oil isn’t forever. It’s a finite resource. We are relying upon countries that don’t like us to sell us their oil. We’re competing against other countries to buy oil, such as China now the world’s #2 importer behind America.”

“Increasing world demand and global peak oil, or stagnating production, means that oil prices will rise. The end of cheap oil is coming and coming fast. It is a tsunami we can predict that will have devastating consequences worldwide. The President recommends steps to meet this growing threat. I am hopeful the Senate bill and Conference will produce a final bill to implement the President’s vision that I can support.”

“America has only 2 percent of the world’s known oil reserves,” noted Congressman Bartlett. “We produce 8 percent and consume 25 percent of the oil produced worldwide and import 2/3 of the oil we use. We imported 1/3 at the time of the Arab Oil embargo. Oil production in the U.S. peaked in 1970 and has declined every year since then. Alaska and Gulf of Mexico oil slowed, but haven’t and can’t changed that trend. Energy experts agree that America can never produce enough oil domestically to meet our current or future demand.”
(21 Apr, 2005)

Anticiper la fin du pétrole

Le Monde diplomatique
On estime de 1 à 1,2 millier de milliards de barils les réserves de pétrole dites prouvées, soit 150 milliards de tonnes environ, ou encore à une production d’une quarantaine d’années au rythme actuel. Elles sont très inégalement réparties : près des deux tiers sont situées au Proche-Orient. Leur évolution ne permet cependant pas de prévoir celle de la production pétrolière, les données relatives aux réserves donnant lieu à de vives controverses entre écoles de pensée, les unes optimistes, les autres pessimistes.

Le groupe des optimistes est essentiellement constitué d’économistes tels que Morris Adelman et Michael Lynch, du Massachusetts Institute of…

ENGLISH VERSION (Hydrocarbons: what’s left? (subscription required))
GLOBAL “proven” oil reserves are estimated at between 1,000-1,200bn barrels, or about 150bn tonnes, and they promise another 40 years’ supply at current extraction rates. They are unevenly split, almost two-thirds being in the Middle East. These production volumes are not, however, guaranteed since those involved differ strongly about what actually constitutes reserves.
Optimists, mainly economists such as Morris Adelman and Michael Lynch at Massachusetts Institute of (…)
[Le Monde diplomatique is one of Europe’s most distinguished newspapers.] (Jan 2005)

The Green Dream Is Alive
Maybe it’s just the springtime, but I’m here to tell you that this Earth Day the Green Dream is alive. How can you not feel that way after you’ve just spent the day setting thrifty little lettuce and broccoli starts out in a well-manured field?

We’ve got to keep reminding ourselves of the Green Dream because, let’s face it: these are hard times for green-leaning folks as we see so many of our worst Cassandra-like predictions coming true. Even those of us who have shouted about global warming for years are surprised to see how quickly the climate is changing right now. The just-released Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, which brought together nearly 1,400 experts from 95 countries, told us that we have degraded nearly 60% of the planet’s capacity to support life with clean air, water and food. Then there is Peak Oil. Like most environmentalists, I knew it was coming – it’s basic physics – yeah, we’re going to run out of oil. But I believed those bastards when they said it wouldn’t happen for another 20 years. Let the grandkids worry about it.
(21 Apr, 2005)

Come on in — the quicksand’s fine

Unknown News
by The Feral Metallurgist [Chris Shaw]

Let me admit from the start that I am a dunce where money is concerned. Many of the finer points of economics are just arcane mysteries to me. Maybe that is a serious handicap … maybe not.
Now to make things really confusing, it is oil energy which sets the value of money, not the other way around.

For example, if we wish to boost nuclear power in the teeth of dwindling oil supplies, we will discover that the “cost” of plant, fuel mining, processing and other infrastructure will become uncomfortably high by present expectations. The more we try (and the more oil reserves we burn in the process) the higher will go the “price” of the essential ingredients. It will be like chasing our own shadows. The same effect will plague the remnants of the oil industry itself.

We could call that the Quicksand Effect.
(26 Apr, 2005)

Energy-related News

Climate of Denial

Mother Jones
By Bill McKibben
….To reduce the amount of CO2 pouring into the atmosphere means dramatically reducing the amount of fossil fuel being consumed. Which means changing the underpinning of the planet’s entire economy and altering our most ingrained personal habits. Even under the best scenarios, this will involve something more like a revolution than a technical fix.

You would think the Europeans would have had a harder time making reductions; after all, they were already fairly energy-efficient, thanks to decades of high taxes on coal and oil. Their low-hanging fruit had long since been plucked. For the United States, there were loads of relatively easy fixes. We could have quickly reduced our emissions by trimming the number of SUVs on the road, for instance, while the French were already in Peugeots. However, in certain ways, America was more firmly locked into coal and oil than our European peers: sprawling suburbs, oversized houses, abandoned rail lines. We had the single hardest habit to break, which was thinking of energy as something cheap. This staggering inertia meant that even when our leaders had some interest in controlling energy use, they faced a real challenge. Al Gore wrote a book insisting that the future of civilization itself depended on battling global warming; during his eight years as vice president, Americans increased their carbon emissions by 15 percent.

What makes the battle harder still is the tangibility gap between benefits and costs. Everyone is, in the long run, better off if the planet doesn’t burn to a crisp. But in any given year the payoff for shifting away from fossil fuel is incremental and essentially invisible. The costs, however, are concentrated: If you own a coal mine, an oil well, or an assembly line churning out gas-guzzlers, you have a very strong incentive for making sure no one starts charging you for emitting carbon.
(May/June 2005 Issue)

House OKs energy bill laden with tax breaks

SF Chronicle
Washington — The House approved an energy bill Thursday that will provide billions of dollars in tax breaks to boost domestic energy production, over the objections of lawmakers who called the measure a costly giveaway to the energy industry.

The Republican-controlled House easily passed the bill on a 249-183 vote, despite fights over drilling in the Alaskan wilderness and whether to protect the oil industry from lawsuits over the fuel additive MTBE, which has contaminated drinking water in states from California to Maine.
(22 Apr, 2005)

Soft vs. hard energy path: the political lines harden CS Monitor
New and Unimproved Washington Post

Saudis to Double Investment in Energy Production

Dow Jones Newswire
PARIS — Saudi Arabia, facing mounting pressure from the U.S. and others to step up output of oil and gas amid a surge in prices, plans to more than double its investment in energy development to $50 billion in the next five years from the previous five-year period, Friday’s Wall Street Journal reported.

Ali Naimi, Saudi Arabia’s oil minister, also said the kingdom had tossed aside its production cap set by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and is willing to sell its customers every barrel of oil they want, up to its current capacity of 11 million barrels a day. The planned increase in investment, Mr. Naimi said, would boost the kingdom’s oil-pumping capacity to 12.5 million barrels a day by 2009, a target Mr. Naimi had previously disclosed. Saudi Arabia also has said it was studying longer-term plans for capacity increases to about 15 million barrels a day.
(22 Apr, 2005)

Saudi fails to assure US over oil supply

Financial Times (UK)
Saudi Arabia failed to provide the United States with any new promises or assurances over oil supplies ahead of a key meeting between Crown Prince Abdullah and George W. Bush at the president’s ranch in Crawford, Texas on Monday.

Mr Bush voiced concerns this week about Saudi Arabian production and the country’s ability to increase output in the event of a severe supply disruption. His comments are the most vocal since he became president, and mark a departure from protocol by a US president about the world’s biggest oil exporter, and former special friend.

Analysts said Mr Bush suggested the possibility of launching an inquiry into Saudi reserves ahead of the publication later in the spring by Matthew Simmons, a US investment banker with close links to the Republican Party, which questions Saudi Arabia’s reserves based on published geological reports.
(21 Apr, 2005)

Susilo Wants Asia, Africa to Lead Energy Revolution

The Jakarta Post (via Yale Global Online)
Speaking before the upcoming Asian-African Summit, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called on leaders from the two continents to initiate increased use of renewable energy. High investment costs and limited incentives make renewable energy a tough sell across the region. Yet as conventional energy resources decline, nations are increasingly engaged in conflict over resource-rich border areas. Thus it is imperative that Africa and Asia turn away from fossil fuels and towards solar, hydro, geothermal, and wind power, says Susilo. “Should this be a success, millions of poor people will have the ability to access such energy at an affordable cost,” added the president. – YaleGlobal
19 Apr, 2005)

Silicon Shortage Stalls Solar

Wired Online
As demand for clean energy continues to grow, the solar industry forecasts millions of photovoltaic systems will dot the landscape by the end of the decade. However, a severe shortage of the silicon used in the systems threatens to dampen solar’s growth.

According to a recent solar-energy report from the nonprofit Energy Foundation, the U.S. solar industry could grow by more than $6 billion per year if the technology becomes cost-competitive with electricity from fossil-fuel sources.

Technology improvements are expected to reduce some of the cost difference over the next five years, but the federal government also needs to increase tax incentives for producing and purchasing solar energy, according to Energy Foundation Vice President David Wooley.

“They took it from a pathetic level to laughable and ridiculous,” said Wooley, referring to the current federal funding level for solar energy.

Wooley recommends a federal incentive plan similar to Germany’s, which gives a rebate to customers for each hour of electricity produced by solar energy.
(28 Mar, 2005)

Solutions and Sustainability

Imagine That: What the warming world needs now is art, sweet art

By Bill McKibben
Here’s the paradox: if the scientists are right, we’re living through the biggest thing that’s happened since human civilization emerged. One species, ours, has by itself in the course of a couple of generations managed to powerfully raise the temperature of an entire planet, to knock its most basic systems out of kilter. But oddly, though we know about it, we don’t know about it. It hasn’t registered in our gut; it isn’t part of our culture. Where are the books? The poems? The plays? The goddamn operas? Compare it to, say, the horror of AIDS in the last two decades, which has produced a staggering outpouring of art that, in turn, has had real political effect. I mean, when people someday look back on our moment, the single most significant item will doubtless be the sudden spiking temperature. But they’ll have a hell of a time figuring out what it meant to us.
(21 Apr, 2005)

Fourth ‘R’ for Earth Day – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle … Repair

Christian Science Monitor
by Wangari Maathai
Wangari Maathai, the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is Kenya’s deputy minister for environment, a member of parliament for the Tetu constituency, and founder of the Green Belt Movement.
…in Japan, I heard the story of a hummingbird from a professor I met. When the forest where the hummingbird lived went up in flames, the other animals ran out to save themselves. But the hummingbird stayed, flying to and from a nearby river with drops of water in its beak to pour on the fire.

From a distance, the other animals laughed and mocked it. “What do you think you are doing?” they shouted. “This fire is overwhelming. You can’t do anything.”

Finally, the hummingbird turned to them and said, “I’m doing what I can.”
(22 Apr, 2005)