Posted by Big Gav
Kurt Cobb has a post on how we've consistently underestimated global warming
In 1896 Svante Arrhenius, a Swedish chemist, theorized that increasing or reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere might trigger a change in climate worldwide. Cutting the amount in half, he surmised, could lower average temperatures by 5 degrees C and might bring on an ice age. But, was such a big change possible?
A colleague, Arvid Hogbom, had studied the carbon cycle extensively, calculating the amounts of carbon from various sources including those from industrial emissions. Using Hogbom's numbers Arrhenius calculated that a doubling of carbon dioxide would increase global temperature by 5 degrees C, surprisingly close to modern estimates even though he was working under severe handicaps including relatively low calculating power--he used paper and pencil--and limited data.
He also estimated that it would take 2,000 years to get there. (The latest estimates place this event in the middle of the current century.) Of course, Arrhenius shouldn't be blamed for this underestimate given the impossibility of knowing what lay ahead for population growth and industrialization. But, his was the first in what has turned out to be a consistent string of underestimates concerning the pace and severity of global warming.
Grist has a post on the clean, safe nuclear power that is the answer to our greenhouse gas and oil depletion worries.
Illinois nuke-power operator criticized for leaks and "incidents"
Quantity doesn't equal quality with Chicago-based Exelon Corp., which runs all six nuclear plants and 11 nuclear reactors in Illinois. There were at least four "incidents" at Exelon plants last week, including a false alarm at one generating station that initiated the first "site-area emergency" at a U.S. nuclear plant in 15 years. These came on the heels of disclosures that there were eight radioactive leaks and spills at Exelon plants since 1996 that went unreported to the public. One spill of roughly 3 million gallons of tritium-laced water in 1998 wasn't completely cleaned up eight years later. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) plans to introduce legislation this week requiring nuclear facilities to notify state and local officials of unintended or accidental radioactive leaks -- or face possible loss of their operating licenses.
There is a video of an Al Gore speech from late last year here( RealPlayer) which apparently is pretty similar to the one he gave recently at TED.
Gore identifies three reasons for the crisis we're facing: increasing population, increasing impact of the technologies we use, and the misconceptions of our thinking.
Unpacking those misconceptions, Gore addresses issues of doubt over global warming. There's no real disagreement about global warming - a survery of peer reviewed papers showed 928 supporting a theory of global warming and 0 opposing it. But there's a powerful lobby that is producing doubt, and suceeding - a survey of the popular press reveals that 53% of popular press articles have some doubt about global warming.
Gore argues that another misconception is that we need to balance environmentalism with economic impact. Showing a picture of the earth and a pile of gold bars in balance, Gore notes, "If we don't have a planet..." and trails off to laughter. If we do the right thing, he argues, we'll create a lot of wealth and a lot of jobs. Right now, we can't sell cars in China, because we can't meet their environmental standards.
Fortune has an article on Shell's battle with depleting reserves. Shell isn't having a great year (record profits aside, of course), with Nigeria recently levying a US$1.5 billion fine on them for polluting the Niger river delta (maybe they're trying to poison all those pesky militia dudes).
Judging by the $23 billion it earned last year, these should be the best of times for Shell, the Anglo-Dutch energy giant that ranks third among the top five Western oil companies. But Wall Street isn't celebrating. Instead, analysts are worried that buried beneath the record profit figures are worrying signs of a business in decline.
That's because Shell (Research) hasn't been able to find nearly as much oil and gas as it's now pumping out of the ground. In fact, it hasn't even come close -- replacing only 60 percent to 70 percent of what it produced in 2005 and only 19 percent in 2004. Shell has had reserve problems for years -- a controversy over improperly booked assets forced it to reduce estimated reserves by roughly 30 percent and led to the resignation of its CEO, Phil Watts, in 2004.
But what's troubling now is that Shell is falling way behind rivals like Exxon and BP despite spending billions more each year on exploring and drilling new wells. Last year Exxon replaced 112 percent of production, and BP came up with 95 percent. "I have never seen anything like this," says Fadel Gheit, a veteran energy analyst with Oppenheimer & Co. "Shell used to represent the gold standard in this industry, but lately they can't get their act together."
Somewhat ominously, the FT reports that Nigeria has turned to China for military aid to combat the coughing and spluttering insurgents (though this may just be a way of putting some pressure on the US to cough up lots more military aid).
Nigeria has criticised Washington for failing to help protect the country’s oil assets from rebel attack, forcing it to turn to other military suppliers, including China, for support.
Atiku Abubakar, Nigeria’s vice-president, told the Financial Times the US had been too slow to help protect the oil-rich Niger Delta from a growing insurgency. He said talks with the US over security plans for the region did not “appear to be moving as fast as the situation is unfolding” and Nigeria was instead sourcing military equipment elsewhere.
The Boston Globe has an introductory article on peak oil called "Oil Futures" which largely quotes from the Daniel Yergin plabook. Yergin also has an article in this month's "Foreign Affairs" (the journal of that eternal tinfoil bogeyman, the Council on Foreign Relations). Foreign Affairs also has an article on the new age of US nuclear primacy (so I guess a glow in the dark Tehran isn't far off).
On the eve of World War I, First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill made a historic decision: to shift the power source of the British navy's ships from coal to oil. He intended to make the fleet faster than its German counterpart. But the switch also meant that the Royal Navy would rely not on coal from Wales but on insecure oil supplies from what was then Persia. Energy security thus became a question of national strategy. Churchill's answer? "Safety and certainty in oil," he said, "lie in variety and variety alone."
Since Churchill's decision, energy security has repeatedly emerged as an issue of great importance, and it is so once again today. But the subject now needs to be rethought, for what has been the paradigm of energy security for the past three decades is too limited and must be expanded to include many new factors. Moreover, it must be recognized that energy security does not stand by itself but is lodged in the larger relations among nations and how they interact with one another.
Energy security will be the number one topic on the agenda when the group of eight highly industrialized countries (G-8) meets in St. Petersburg in July. The renewed focus on energy security is driven in part by an exceedingly tight oil market and by high oil prices, which have doubled over the past three years. But it is also fueled by the threat of terrorism, instability in some exporting nations, a nationalist backlash, fears of a scramble for supplies, geopolitical rivalries, and countries' fundamental need for energy to power their economic growth. In the background -- but not too far back -- is renewed anxiety over whether there will be sufficient resources to meet the world's energy requirements in the decades ahead.
Apparently Iran, and Russia have reached an agreement to enrich uranium for Iran's nuclear program in Russia.
Iran's nuclear chief says an agreement in principle has been reached with Moscow to set up a joint uranium enrichment facility on Russian soil, a deal that could assuage global concerns that Teheran wants to build atomic bombs.
Meanwhile random bombings are on the rise in Khuzestan - must be those oppressed native ethnic Arabs in the region chafing under the oppressive rule of the mad mullahs in Tehran...
The Iranian Oil Bourse debate continues, this time at Crooked Timber, with John Quiggin kicking off the discussion.
I got an email asking me about the Iranian Oil Bourse, which is causing great excitement among the Peak Oil crowd. Here’s my draft response. Comments appreciated.
“Bourse” is just another word for “exchange”, and the creation of one in Iran is an attempt to capture more of the economic activity associated with international oil markets and also perhaps to exert more control over oil markets.
The US gains directly from the fact that people hold US currency (since it costs almost nothing to print, but can be used by the US government to buy goods and services – this is called “seignorage”) and indirectly in terms of perceived power and influence from the fact that the $US is the dominant world currency. The switch to euros threatens both. However, the total benefits are not that great. The seignorage benefit to the US from overseas holdings of $US is between $15 billion and $50 billion per year, and the United States has many more important sources of power and influence than the $US.
The Energy Blog has a review of the book "Energy Storage: A Nontechnical Guide", which looks at some of the possibilities to fill one of the missing links in the "Smart Grid" future - energy storage technologies.
I recently received the book, Energy Storage: A Nontechnical Guide, by Richard Baxter, which I enjoyed reading and would recommend to anyone who would like a good reference on energy storage.
The book is written in a language that should be easily understandable to anyone, technically trained or not. It clearly explains how energy storage can decouple generation from demand, thus making possible a variety of uses including: storing power during off peak for use during peak periods, smoothing peaks and valleys in demand, eliminating or delaying expansion of generating facilities, dispatchable power, reducing the intermittency of renewable resources, making the grid more reliable and improving the quality of power.
Energy storage technologies
* pumped hydroelectric storage (PHS)
* compressed air energy storage (CAES)
* flow batteries-vanadium redux, zinc bromine, polysulfide bromide and cerium zinc
* sodium sulfide battery
* lead-acid battery
* nickle cadmium battery
* electrochemical capacitors
* superconducting magnetic energy storage
* thermal energy storage
The author, Richard Baxter is a Senior Technical Analyst with Ardour Capital Investments, an investment bank specializing in energy technologies and alternative energy markets. He has written over 40 reports and industry journal articles; a recent article appeared on Energy Pulse.
The Energy Blog also has a post on the US DOE awarding a research contract to FuelCell Energy to develop 100 MW Fuel Cell power plants - another variety of "clean coal" project.
The Department of Energy (DOE) today announced the third project selected under its new Fuel Cell Coal-Based Systems program. FuelCell Energy, Inc., of Danbury, Conn., will conduct research ultimately leading to the development of near-zero emission fuel cell power plants that efficiently convert coal to electricity.
Under the project FuelCell Energy is to develop an affordable fuel-cell-based technology that will operate on synthesis gas from a coal gasifier.
There is a Korean interview with Noam Chomsky which touches on both energy and the propaganda system. Its a bit long and he repeats a few points (like the new Asian Energy Grid and the Shanghai Cooperation Council), the implications of which could have done with a bit more explanation.
SUN WOO LEE: In the name of reconstructing Iraq, several countries dispatched troops to Iraq. How do you view this?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, the invasion of Iraq was an outright war crime. It is a clear, explicit war crime. It had no pretext, no justification and there was a reason for it: the reason was to take control of Iraq's enormous oil resources and to strengthen U.S. power in the region. I mean it is well understood by strategic analysts and international affairs specialists and has been for 50 years, that the reason the U.S. wants to control Middle East oil is not to gain access to the oil. They can do that through market processes - the oil is going to be sold, and anybody can buy it. The point is to have a strategic weapon against their rivals, meaning against Europe and Northeast Asia. Fifty years ago George Kennan, one of the leading planners, said that if the U.S. controls Middle East oil, it will have what he called veto power over anything Japan might do in the future for obvious reasons. You have your hand on the spigot; you can control what they do. And Japan understands it. That's why they have been trying to diversify their own energy sources. And the same is true for Europe. So the Iraq war should be a lever, a lever of power, against Europe and Asia.
SUN WOO LEE: You have presented the 'propaganda model' by which big transnational corporations and the media try to control the power of a nation. Please illustrate it.
NOAM CHOMSKY: What happened over the past century is that in the west, there were plenty of struggles for freedom and a lot of them achieved quite a lot. So the two countries most advanced were Britain and the U.S. and by a century ago they were the most free countries of the world and they were the most industrially developed. In both countries, elites understood--and we know this from their documents--that they no longer had the power to control the population by force. So therefore they have to turn to controlling them in some other way. I mean, the other way of controlling--attempt to control them--is by propaganda. I mean efforts to shape attitudes and beliefs. Out of that come the huge public relations industries, which developed in Britain and the U.S. And public relations advertising and so on is just propaganda. In fact, back at that time it was called propaganda. You know the word propaganda got kind of a bad image during the Second World War, associated with the Nazis and so on. So people dropped the term, but in the 1920s, it was straight out called propaganda. Like the name, texts of the public relations industry were called propaganda. And the Nazis, incidentally, recognized the force of Anglo-American propaganda and they mimicked it. The Nazi propaganda system was based on the U.S. and British commercial advertising system: same ideas, simple slogans, keep repeating, consumerism. So they picked it up. The German commercial advertisers were mobilized by Goebbels to create the Nazi propaganda system. It was very successful in Germany, horribly so.
Germany, remember, was the most advanced country in the western world. It was the peak of the arts and sciences, and so on, and within a few years it had gone to total barbarism. I mean a lot of it was propaganda borrowed from the Anglo-American systems. In the west, it's more sophisticated and subtle but everywhere you look you're just bombarded. I mean, take advertising. When you look at a TV ad for a car or a life style drug or something, you don't expect to be told the truth. I mean [if] you wanna find out about a Toyota or a Ford, you don't look at the ad because the ads are an effort to delude you. They wanna delude you with imagery. It's deceit. Everyone understands that. What they wanna do is undermine markets. They hate markets, basically. What they want is delusion and deceit by imagery.
And very much the same happens in other domains, in the public domain. So, let's take, say, elections. Elections in the United States by now are run by the public relations industry. So people have almost no idea of what the stand of the candidates is. In the last election in November 2004, it was about 10% who could identify the stands of the candidates. Now what you have is illusions. They create images to try to undermine democracy. And it's the same industry. Actually other countries are coming along behind. Europe is like a decade or two behind; they're moving in the same direction. Probably South Korea will, too. Elections will become just delusion, imagery and deceit. That makes a lot of sense from the point of view of the business world. They don't want people to become involved in public affairs.
And if you look at the media, it's pretty much the same. Take, say, the coverage of the Iraq war, the biggest issue. I mean, they claim there's criticism, but it's the kind of criticism you had in Russia during the Afghan war. Now if you read Pravda during the Afghan war, there would be critics and they'd say, "Look, too many Russian soldiers are dying. It's not working. We should put in a different general." That's the way the Iraq war is going. I mean if you went back to Pravda in the 1980s, nobody would say that "It is wrong to invade Afghanistan", or you know, "It's a violation of international law", and it would be all full of the, you know, benign intent: "We are not invading, we're there at the request of the legitimate government, we are trying to help the people." That's exactly what you read in the western press. People don't even think about it. They're so indoctrinated. They can't think about it.
On the subject of propaganda, Deconsumption and Mike Whitney both have posts on Obergruppenfuhrer Rumsfeld's display of disgruntlement with his propaganda system in front of the CFR recently.
Finally, Past Peak has some links to reviews of "V for Vendetta".