Random Notes  

Posted by Big Gav

Its seems that oil exploration is now back in fashion in the original oil producing areas of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Kentucky. As we deplete larger, cheaper fields, smaller fields become more attractive as well as polar and deepwater acreage.

The oil fire that has been burning in India for the past month has been quenched.

Shell's Bonga field in Nigeria is due online by end of month.

Shell's Bonga oilfield in Nigeria is now expected come onstream in late October, with an initial production rate of 100,000 barrels per day (bpd). Shell had previously said Bonga, which is over two years behind its original target start date and far above budget, would begin output in the fourth quarter. The company hopes to have two months of production this year.

The Oil Drum has a look at the depletion profile for large projects listed by CERA to go online this year.

Oil Search has added some Egyptian acreage to its PNG and Yemen fields. They also lost one prospective customer for PNG gas (BHP's operation at Olympic Dam), so that stockbroker who promised to do a nude lap of the dealing floor if it went ahead may be breathing a bit easier - however most indications are that they will still convert sufficient prospects for it to go ahead.

EV World has a look at the future of diesel as a fuel in Europe.
In my view, we may have reached 'Peak Diesel' already. In fact, natural gas now appears to be the rising star. Want proof?

Consider that sales of diesel cars in France and Germany have started to decline. Europe is becoming much more dependent on natural gas, as oil gets increasingly expensive to extract and world demand continues to grow. Natural gas is being delivered as CNG via pipelines from the lands to the east, and as LNG in tankers from Libya, Dubai, etc. All the major European manufacturers already offer CNG versions of one or more models. Honda is in league with Gaz de France to push its domestic gas refueling system, PHILL. Given the high levels of tax on diesel fuels across Europe, it's little wonder that bus and taxi companies are converting to CNG at a rapid pace, and sales of new diesel taxis and buses are falling away.

The European Commission and most European governments have just started a major push towards biofuels, and we can anticipate aggressive promotion of E85 (or similar) across Europe in order to achieve the demanding targets already set. The success of E85 in Sweden has not gone unnoticed in Brussels, Berlin, Paris and Madrid, even if London has only just woken up to its attractions.

The UK government is beginning to realize the full consequences of the UK's rapid transition from being an oil exporter to becoming as dependent on imports as the US. All those lovely oil revenues gone, gone! Meanwhile, England's wheat farmers, the most efficient in Europe, are pawing the ground, waiting for the government to declare its hand on the level of tax on E85. If the UK government gets it right, diesel will then wither away, in one of the few European countries which is already conforming with the European Union's decision to achieve tax parity between diesel and petrol. Soon, the only reason for buying diesel will be if it costs less per mile than E85. It won't in the UK, and probably not in France, Italy and Spain either.

It is important (to engineers at least) to make a clear distinction between diesel FUEL (i.e. a fuel derived from the heavier end of petroleum distillation) and compression ignition ENGINES, often referred to as diesels, after their inventor. The heavy distillate of petroleum caught the name from the engines! Put simply, diesel fuel is really 'bad' (our 'not-friends' have most of it, it's carcinogenic, it contributes to Global Warming and the tank is probably half empty already), but compression ignition isn't.

That's why I'm relaxed about Hawaii falling in love with 'diesel' engines, because they are going to compress vegetable oils with them. Provided Hawaii can stay on top of the emission problems, this is a good local defense against the 'three horsemen', Global Warming, Peak Oil and Energy (in)Security. We don't know who or where the fourth horseman is yet, but she sure as heck must be out there, somewhere, waiting to ride in!

There is speculation that the success of flex (ethanol / petrol) cars in Brazil is pushing sugar prices higher. Another example of the tension between biofuels and food consumers - will oil depletion result in starvation as richer countries buy the food of poorer countries so they can burn it ?

Forbes has a report wondering if the likes of Fedex and UPS may hit the wall due to higher fuel prices.

The Oil Drum reports another oil movie is about to be released - "Syriana".
Last night I saw a trailer for the movie Syriana. Much like The Deal and Oil Storm before it, Syriana is a movie in which bad things happen as a result of fuel shortages. Unlike those two movies, however, Syriana is a big budget Warner Brothers film starring George Clooney, Matt Damon, Jeffrey Wright, Chris Cooper and a bunch of other big names.

Perhaps more interesting than the movie itself is the fact that it's affilated with a new movie production company called Participant Productions, which also brings us the website Participate.net.

WorldChanging also has a post up on Participate.net.

Energy Bulletin is back from holidays and has hit the ground running with a stream of news - including a roundup of the Petrocollapse conference in New York.
Dr. John Darnell PhD., Roscoe Bartlett's energy advisor, gave a 35 minute presentation on adaptation lessons from the Apollo 13 mission that we could apply to the problem of peak oil. Overall he struck me as being the most optimistic person that spoke at the conference and that's not saying much since in any other room, he would be considered an alarmist. His style was low-key and less dramatic than Kunstler, but no less effective at conveying the magnitude of the problem and the need to take immediate action to reduce demand.

His proposal is to reduce demand is a controlled annual 5% reduction (worldwide I assume) ahead of the geological decline rate to provide a hydrocarbon cushion for the future to help transition to a low energy economy and give time for alternatives to ramp up. He gave several examples of an energy self sufficient house, a 300 mpg car and other ways of reducing energy consumption.

After the conference, a small group of folks including one of the volunteers (Mitch) and Michael Kane (another speaker) asked him about the awareness at the highest levels of government. As many of you know, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett met with President Bush on June 29th. Basically Roscoe asked the President what his legacy will be given the war in Iraq is not going well, the deficit is high, Social Security reform is on the backburner of the Republican Congress and his popularity is getting lower. Rep. Bartlett basically proposed a crash program of preparing America for the implications of peak oil as soon as possible. While Dr. Darnell (you can call him John when he has a pint in his hand) says that the highest levels of government is aware of the peak oil problem, he says that they are afraid of creating a panic prematurely. He added that local government is probably not very aware of the problem being as imminent.

I thought Kunstler's speech was fairly good, although I'm not sure peak oil theorists should be starting to snipe at one another already, given his only slightly veiled allusions to Mike Ruppert.

On the other hand, Mike's speech (foretelling imminent disaster within weeks) and some of his posts around the traps lately would seem to have laid his credibility rather definitively on the line - you would have to assume that if the US doesn't collapse by the end of the month he would have to admit that he has been proven rather categorically wrong (which I've always assumed is a situation a good conspiracy theorist never puts him (or her) self in - surely rule number 1 is keep it vague and unprovable either way ?).
Americans were once a brave and forward-looking people, willing to face the facts, willing to work hard, to acknowledge the common good and contribute to it, willing to make difficult choices. We've become a nation of overfed clowns and crybabies, afraid of the truth, indifferent to the common good, hardly even a common culture, selfish, belligerent, narcissistic whiners seeking every means possible to live outside a reality-based community.

These are the consequences of a value system that puts comfort, convenience, and leisure above all other considerations. These are not enough to hold a civilization together. We've signed off on all other values since the end of World War Two. Our great victory over manifest evil half a century ago was such a triumph that we have effectively - and incrementally - excused ourselves from all other duties, obligations and responsibilities.

Which is exactly why we have come to refer to ourselves as consumers. That's what we call ourselves on TV, in the newspapers, in the legislatures. Consumers. What a degrading label for people who used to be citizens.

Consumers have no duties, obligations, or responsibilities to anything besides their own desire to eat more Cheez Doodles and drink more beer. Think about yourself that way for twenty or thirty years and it will affect the collective spirit very negatively. And our behavior. The biggest losers, of course, end up being the generations of human beings who will follow us, because in the course of mutating into consumers, preoccupied with our Cheez Doodle consumption, we gave up on the common good, which means that we gave up on the future, and the people who will dwell in it.

There are a few other impediments to our collective thinking which obstruct a coherent public discussion of the events facing us which I call the Long Emergency. They can be described with precision.

Because the creation of suburbia was the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world, it has entailed a powerful psychology of previous investment - meaning, that we have put so much of our collective wealth into a particular infrastructure for daily life, that we can't imagine changing it, or reforming it, or letting go of it. The psychology of previous investment is exactly what makes this way of life non-negotiable.

Another obstacle to clear thinking I refer to as the Las Vegas-i-zation of the American mind. The ethos of gambling is based on a particular idea: the belief that it is possible to get something for nothing. The psychology of unearned riches. This idea has now insidiously crept out of the casinos and spread far-and-wide and lodged itself in every corner of our lives. It's there in the interest-only, no down payment, quarter million-dollar mortgages given to people with no record of ever paying back a loan. It's there in the grade inflation of the ivy league colleges where everybody gets As and Bs regardless of performance. It's in the rap videos of young men flashing 10,000-dollar watches acquired by making up nursery rhymes about gangster life - and in the taboos that prevent us from even talking about that. It's in the suburbanite's sense of entitlement to a supposedly non-negotiable easy motoring existence.

People who believe that it is possible to get something for nothing have trouble living in a reality-based community.

This is even true of the well-intentioned lady in my neighborhood who drives a Ford Expedition with the War Is Not the Answer bumper sticker on it. The truth, for her, is that War IS the Answer. She needs to get down with that. She needs to prepare to send her children to be blown up in Asia.


The desperate defense of our supposedly non-negotiable way of life may lead to delusional politics that we have never seen before in this land. An angry and grievance-filled public may turn to political maniacs to preserve their entitlements to the easy motoring utopia - even while reality negotiates things for us. I maintain that we may see leaders far more dangerous in our future than George W. Bush.

The last thing that this group needs is to get sidetracked in paranoid conspiracy politics, such as the idea that Dick Cheney orchestrated the World Trade Center attacks, which I regard as just another form of make-believe.

The Long Emergency looming before us is going to produce a lot of losers. Economic losers. People who will lose jobs, vocations, incomes, possessions, assets - and never get them back. Social losers. People who will lose position, power, advantage. And just plain losers, people who will lose their health and their lives.

There are no magic remedies for what we face, but there are intelligent responses that we can marshal individually and collectively. We will have to do what circumstances require of us.

We are faced with the necessity to downscale, re-scale, right-size, and reorganize all the fundamental activities of daily life: the way we grow food; the way we conduct everyday commerce and the manufacture of things that we need; the way we school our children; the size, shape, and scale of our towns and cities.

These are huge tasks. How can we bring a reality-based spirit to them?

I have a suggestion. Let's start with one down-to-earth project that we can take on with confidence, something we have a reasonable shot at accomplishing, and fairly quickly, something that will address our energy problems directly and will make a difference for the better. Let's get started rebuilding the passenger railroad system in our country. Nothing else we might do would make such a substantial impact on our outlandish oil consumption.

We have a railroad system that the Bulgarians would be ashamed of.

While I'm touching on conspiracy theories, the BBC had a piece on the Bilderbergs last week as part of their "Who Runs Your World ?" series. For those who've never tried the spectacularly difficult challenge of untangling the conspiracy theory world into probable, possible and outright crazy theories (which would probably take several lifetimes and isn't recommended if you value your sanity) the Bilderbergs are one of a continuum of organisations that are regularly accused of being part of a secret world government (along with the CFR - Council on Foreign Relations - which is a US only body, and the Trilateral Commission, which is a US-Europe-Japan grouping). Other terms you may come across are the New World Order (which seems to encompass all of the above) and the Illuminati (much more shadowy, with roots in Bavaria in the late middle ages) and of course the Freemasons. Are any of the theories true ? I certainly don't know, but they do have some novelty value if you've done as much reading as I have over the years and like to encounter a novel take on things occasionally. A good example I came across last week (which touches on almost everything referenced above) was via a Google Alert which threw up this, errr, unusual theory from "Conspiracy Planet" accusing Chomsky of being a poodle of the New World Order.

The Sydney Morning Herald has an article that indicates it is unlikely that the French will be permitted to open a uranium mine in Kakadu (where my Crocodile photo above was taken) which, if true, is a relief, as the location of the proposed mine is Nourlangie rock, which is a national treasure. On the other hand, it seems likely that ERA will get to open Jabiluka once the Ranger mine runs out of uranium.

Rivalry between Japan and China over east china sea oil and gas is still simmering.
Japan’s trade minister warned Friday that Tokyo would take “bold action” if it confirms that China is building a pipeline in disputed gas exploration sites in the East China Sea. Trade Minister Shoichi Nakagawa said that Japan has detected a Chinese vessel carrying a massive load of pipes headed for the region, and Beijing has not responded to its requests for an explanation

PeakOil.com has a snippet about increasing US troop levels in Paraguay (across the border from Bolivian natural gas resources).

WorldChanging has an interesting new angle on global warming - the advent of climate change games.
Political and environmental games are not new, but few have focused specifically on climate issues while still remaining more a game than a pedagogical exercise. This is changing, now that the European Climate Forum -- with support from re-insurance giant Munich Re -- has sponsored the development of several climate games:
Climate games may make the difference when communicating highly complex issues of climate change because they introduce a rather simple but very important element into communication: having fun. As known from the science of learning, having fun catalyses learning processes remarkably and makes people interested in subjects they would not make inquiries into otherwise.

Climate games are both tools for communicating scientific issues and objects of scientific inquiry themselves. The latter applies because looking on the communication processes climate games trigger is one of the fields of the science of stakeholder dialogues.

The three games now available from the ECF represent an increasing degree of sophistication not just about the climate, but about game design as well.

WorldChanging also has a post on green design in China, in particular an effort led by innovative desiger Bill McDonough.
There is no green Chinese future without green Chinese cities and villages, and there is no bright green future for the planet without a greening China The case could be made that how China grows its cities and revitalizes its villages over the next twenty years may well prove one of pivots on which our hopes for a bright green future turn. We've covered ally Bill McDonough's vision for the Huangbaiyu Cradle-to-Cradle Village. Now, Newsweek profiles the project and the man:

If McDonough's method could be summed up in a phrase, it might be to leave nothing to chance. In each of the six cities, he is starting with a thorough examination of the land to be developed. He figures out how rainwater runs off and enters aquifers, how animals migrate, what plants grow where. He studies sunlight angles and wind patterns. Then he sketches in parks, which interconnect so citizens can walk or ride bicycles from one to the next and wildlife can carry on without disruption. Next comes the plan for the infrastructure, beginning with the angle of the streets. He slants them at a 15-degree angle to the winds in order to break up cold winter blasts and help keep city air clean. And orienting them on a diagonal rather than a rigid east-west grid also maximizes the sunlight that reaches apartments year-round. The cities are zoned for mixed residential, commercial and industrial use to ensure that transportation connects residences to the workplaces. Shops will be on the ground floor, residences above, and the rooftops will have farm plots. Bridges over the streets will connect the plots. The farmers will live downstairs. Energy efficiency will be maximized through new types of building materials and a solar-powered energy grid.


gav, I'm surprised to see the report on diesel fading in Europe. Previously I understood diesel had a big future as the engine is more efficient than a petrol engine, and as biodiesel comes onto the market.

You weren't the only person to say that.

Looking at the article I don't get a good feel for how valid his claims are (or exactly what "peak diesel" means in this case given his enthusiasm for diesel engines). To a certain extent he seems to be acting as an ethanol lobbyist.

My feeling is that diesel hybrids appear to be the way of the future (for the next decade or so). The jury is still out as far as how much volume we can get biodiesel up to before it impacts on food production. though

The US state of Minnesota is making some waves with its biofuel mandates. It is the only state that manadates all gasoline sold there be E10 (10% ethanol), in 10 years the requirement will rise to 20% ethanol. It is also the only US state to mandate B2 biodiesel in all pumps. It has more than 160 E85 stations, more than anywhere else in North America.

For more, see www.CleanAirChoice.org

Thanks - that is encouraging (hopefully local biofuel producers are getting a good EROEI on these fuels and aren't simply subsidy farming).

gav, I'd have to agree that a biodiesel/hybrid car has a future, as far as any automobile has.

It's interesting to see how far a state like Minnesota has tackled the issue. Australia is way behind, and I believe Aus domestic oil production peaked about 2000.

Flex fuel hybrids are the future for individual cars in my book. Combined with better urban planning, good public transport and more use of rail and shipping for goods movement (though that is probably harder to achieve).

Our oil production peaked a while ago and we are hopeless as far as encouraging alternatives...

That Noam Chomsky tirade is exhausting. I think he forgot to link Chomsky to supressing the news behind the OJ Simpson case, passenger pigeon extinction, and faking the moon landing.

It actually makes Chomsky seem more reaonable than ever. Was that the writer's intent?

I'm not sure that there is any value in speculating on the intent behind anything posted on Conspiracy Planet.

I was dubious about even giving them a link, but they seem to be so widely read I figured it couldn't make much difference one way or the other.

I like reading the odd bit of tinfoil but that one was way out of order from my point of view - and, as you say, incredibly long winded.

Poor Noam - its not like he doesn't have enough freepers howling for his head without the conspiracy world getting stuck in as well...

Regarding biofuels in Minnesota and your fine nation in the Sothern Hemi, some nice folks from the Queensland government visted us recently to see how Minnesota makes, markets and uses biofuels. We have also played host to trade delegations from Japan and Europe in recent years.

Montana and Hawaii have passed E10 mandates as well, but they are not yet in effect. Iowa and Wisconsin are considering similar laws, and North Dakota wants to try voluntary goals that would mirror an E10 manadate, if achieved.

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