Random Notes  

Posted by Big Gav

Energy Bulletin has a whole lot of good stuff today - quite a few of the following links are taken from there.

Richard Heinberg has a new article up called "Katrina, New Orleans, and Peak Oil".

Martin Hastings has another article out in his series on Australian LNG supply to California.

The Oil and Gas Financial Journal has a look at the situation in Saudi Arabia - "Endless Saudi oil: miracle or mirage?"

"The American Conservative" has an article by James Howard Kunstler on peak oil called "End of the Binge" (how many ways can you say "The Party's Over" ?). In spite of the title, they can publish some interesting stuff (for cranky and disgruntled right wingers like me anyway) - as one of their pre-election comments last year on Bush showed, while the "liberal media" might be scared of criticising the Chimp and his neo-con party line, that doesn't necessarily hold for the paleo-con press:

Bush has behaved like a caricature of what a right-wing president is supposed to be, and his continuation in office will discredit any sort of conservatism for generations. The launching of an invasion against a country that posed no threat to the U.S., the doling out of war profits and concessions to politically favored corporations, the financing of the war by ballooning the deficit to be passed on to the nation’s children, the ceaseless drive to cut taxes for those outside the middle class and working poor: it is as if Bush sought to resurrect every false 1960s-era left-wing cliché about predatory imperialism and turn it into administration policy. Add to this his nation-breaking immigration proposal—Bush has laid out a mad scheme to import immigrants to fill any job where the wage is so low that an American can’t be found to do it—and you have a presidency that combines imperialist Right and open-borders Left in a uniquely noxious cocktail.

An example of the impact of rising oil prices on plastic production - in this case, from Tanzania.
Soaring oil prices coupled with depreciated shillings have hit the plastic industry in Tanzania where plastic products are likely to sell at 70 percent more than their usual prices. Plastics are produced using mainly petrochemicals which are derived from crude oil that reached an unprecedented price level of 70 US dollars a barrel on the international market.

Harpreet Duggal, secretary-general of the Plastic Manufactures Association of Tanzania, told local media that prices of high- density polythene, the industry's main raw material, went up from 980 dollars per ton to 1,140 dollars a ton at the end of last month. Duggal predicted that the prices of high-density polythene could reach as high as 1,225 dollars per ton by the end of this month. "Companies are now left with two alternatives of either to improve efficiency or close down," said Duggal. The plastic industry in Tanzania directly employs 3,000 workers and holds some 10,000 others in indirect jobs.

The Houston Chronicle has a look at peak oil in the wake of the hurricane. Another Texas newspaper asks if Katrina will help the US to kick its oil habit.

The author of "Oil, Jihad and Destiny" looks at US energy policy - and doesn't like what he sees.

WoodMackenzie are saying that the damage to oil infrastructure from Katrina is three times worse than it was from Hurricane Ivan last year.

The Oil Drum has a note on damage to oil pipelines (which appears to be relatively limited) and describes how wells are plugged in the lead up to a hurricane, which limits the amount of oil spilled into the water if a rig or platform is destroyed, which I found quite interesting. They also have some notes on movements in and out of strategic oil reserves and the damage to Port Fourchon.

BusinessWeek has a piece on the difficulty of getting oil workers back to work in the GOM.

SW has a great post called "The Genie is out of the bottle", which includes the memorable and all-too-appropriate phrase "the glassy-eyed cult of the free market".
The IEA release has capped the market.'The United States will auction off 1 million bpd of crude oil from national reserves while European and Asian countries focus on releasing refined products."

Yes, this has stabilized the market. But look at what it means. It means that there was no, read zero, excess production capacity in the world. The only way that the market could be stabilized was for the IEA to invoke its emergency treaty and get the industrialized world to, in effect, create a production cushion out of our combined stockpiles. Now, it is possible that a combination of this new willingness to tap into these reserves as well as a slowing world economy will drive speculation out of the market. This could lead to dramatically lower prices in the near term. But ultimately the entire dynamic is an indication of the fact that we have run out the string. CERA notwithstanding, you just can't put enough rose coloration on the glasses to hide the fact that Deffeyes was almost certainly right. By this Thanksgiving, the goose will clearly be cooked. We will never produce more than 86 million barrels of crude oil per day in a given year.

I can't count the times I have had member of the glassy-eyed cult of the free market inform me that if I truly believed that the world was about to reach its peak in petroleum production, I should invest in oil futures because that would be a "sure fire way to make a lot of money". RIght. While politicians sit on the largest stockpile of crude oil ever to be accumulated by mankind. I don't give a damn how often or how piously Bush tells us that the SPR is not intended to manipulate the market, anything that will wind up causing shortages will be dealt with by adding to world production levels with releases from strategic reserves.

Alex at WorldChanging has written a long piece in the aftermath of Katrina called "New Orleans: Everything Has Changed" which looks at the lessons to be learned from the disaster - the first of which is hopefully obvious to even the most benighted global warming denier (no matter how large a retainer they are getting from Exxon) - "Climate Matters".
Now that the tragic chaos in New Orleans is finally being brought under control, the time has come for us to step back and take a good hard look at the situation in which we find ourselves.

This tragedy was no "Act of God" -- some utterly unforeseen tragedy about which nothing could be done. This was a completely predictable (indeed, predicted) unnatural disaster. For years, scientists and engineers have been warning of the danger New Orleans was in. For years, nothing was done.

We also know that Katrina was just a foretaste of what we should expect in the coming years. We are changing the weather with the pollution we spew from tailpipes and smokestacks, and the bill for that irresponsibility is starting to come due.

Katrina was a watershed moment. From here on out, the debate is over. Everything has changed, at least as dramatically as in wake of 9-11. From this moment forward, there is simply no ethical way to debate the need for a new, holistic, worldchanging approach to tackling the planet's biggest problems. As we begin thinking about how to rebuild New Orleans, we need also to recommit ourselves to a new vision for the future of the planet as whole.

We now live in a post-Katrina world. It's time for our thinking to catch up.

The BBC notes that global warming is going to cause greater problems with famine and malnourishment.
Climate change threatens to put far more people at risk of hunger over the next 50 years than previously thought, according to new research. Scientists say expected shifts in rain patterns and temperatures over that time could lead to an extra 50 million people struggling to get enough food. And the situation could be even worse if the important cereal crops do not show the improved yields many expect.

US and UK teams reported this grim assessment at a conference in Dublin. "We expect climate change to aggravate current problems," Professor Martin Parry told the British Association's Festival of Science. "If we accept that broadly 500 million people are at risk today, we expect that to increase by about 10% by the middle part of this century."

TreeHugger has a post up on taking regular "Energy Vacations", which sound kind of relaxing really.
We have been considering the idea of taking an energy vacation for a while now, and while randomly browsing peak oil blogs we found someone who had a similar idea: "This fall, plan a weekend, or two consecutive days and nights as an "energy vacation". Start upon waking Saturday and go until waking on Monday morning. During your "vacation", turn off your thermostat, refrain from using any lights and use electricity only sparingly - i.e. to keep food from spoiling. No driving. No TV. And, yes not even any blogging or 24 hour news updates.

TreeHugger also has a piece on a variant on the solar concentrator power plant - one which combines solar concentrators with biofuels to generate power 24 hours per day.
"Solar concentrators such as parabolic reflectors or fresnel lenses heat oil up to a temperature of 200C which is used to boil water to produce steam at a high pressure. The steam is super heated to temperatures of about 400C to 500C using biogas, wood gas, natural gas etc. [...] Maximum theoretical efficiency of a steam engine at 100 C is 20%. If we are able to increase the temperature of operation of the engine to say 400 C we get efficiencies of the order of 50%. [...] During bright sunlight the hybrid power station would be using 60% solar and 40% bio fuel. During the night the power would come from bio-fuel alone. But the demand during the night would be small. So less bio fuel would suffice during the night."

The gas doesn't even have to be of fossil origins; for example, biogas can be produced in great quantity with agricultural waste.

The hybrid turbine sounds like a great idea and we would really like a prototype to be made. If it works are well as predicted, we shouldn't waste any time before starting building a large number of power plants working on that principle!

And a final one from TreeHugger - tutorials on walking and cycling for those who've forgotten how.


You, a right winger? (albeit disgruntled) Given that I no longer know what the term even means.

Admittedly, if you put me in a room full of mainstream 2005 American right wingers there would most likely be harsh words and I'd probably end up beating them all up.

It depends how brainwashed they are and how willing they are to face reality though - I've never yet had any trouble convincing people here about the reality of peak oil for example (admittedly we're far less "conservative" than the US is), and that includes a number of thoroughly conservative people.

My definition of right wing is what I grew up with in the 1970's - in favour of free markets rather than socialism and against totalitarian style thinking and big government in general - essentially a cookie cutter Libertarian (though I'm willing to face the limits of this approach and I've come to quite understand the benefit of things like universal healthcare and schooling in building a strong and stable society - as do people like Warren Buffett I might add).

My background is in engineering and I've spent most of my life working in defence, energy and banking - none of which are known for attracting lefties.

As I've said repeatedly the modern day republican party is by and large a toxic brew of fascists, religious fundamentalists and what Libertarians would call "militant mercantilists". To me these are the evil fringes of right wing politics and I still fail to understand how such extremists have come to dominate - which is why I quoted that American Conservative piece that noted they'll discredit conservatism for gnerations, which mirrors my thoughts exactly. I guess its a testament to the power of fear, hate and greed.

Of course, how far the definition of "right wing" has drifted is illustrated by the fact that the Australian right wing party is the "Liberal Party" - in the wake of World War 2, Liberalism was right wing, and the alternative was socialism. Now it seems that liberal is used as a synonym for "commie" by these brownshirt nuts of the right and genuine left wing politics are almost completely suppressed.

In American terms I think people should ask themself what George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Dwight Eisenhower would say if they were resurrected and taken to Washington. I suspect George would start fomenting a revolution, Abraham would wonder how the South won and Dwight would say "fools - I warned you about the military industrial complex"...

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