Posted by Big Gav
Today's Herald has an opinion column frm Paul Sheehan on peak oil called "A thirsty world is running dry" - unfortunately just another piece of thinly disguised nuclear industry lobbying, pushing the Rodent's "next energy superpower" meme. Maybe Johnny and Canadian PM Harper could have a mud-wrestle over who the coming energy superpower really is ?
Australia could profit hugely from the imminent end of world oil supplies.
The world's biggest oil company, Exxon Mobil, made a profit of $A13.6 billion last quarter. That works out at $54 billion a year, or $1 billion profit a week.
Last week, all five global oil giants reported their quarterly results and all told the same story: Royal Dutch $9.5 billion profit (up 40 per cent); BP $9.5 billion (up 30 per cent); ConocoPhillips, $6.8 billion (up 65 per cent); and Chevron, $5.7 billion (up 19 per cent). That's a collective quarterly profit of $45 billion - almost $3.5 billion a week.
The announcements came at exactly the same time that the coast of Lebanon was being despoiled by a large oil spill after Israel bombed a power plant near Beirut. As if the only true democracy in the Arab world needed another catastrophe.
The symbolism speaks for itself.
All this at a time when the world is paying record oil prices, fuel production is experiencing bottlenecks caused by a shortage of oil refineries, which suggests Big Oil must have good reasons not to expand supply. And the high cost of oil - required in the production and supply of nearly everything we buy - has rippled through the global economy, pushing up inflation and interest rates.
"Our society is in a state of collective denial that has no precedent in history, in terms of its scale and implication," writes scientist Jeremy Leggett in a book, Half Gone (2005), about the imminent arrival of "peak oil", when global oil reserves begin to run down. Half Gone argues that "peak oil" has already arrived, and we are not prepared for the consequences.
Even if Leggett has overstated his case, innumerable scientific reports have urged the need for a move away from oil dependence. In 2004 a unit of the United States Department of Energy warned: "A serious supply-demand discontinuity [shortage] could lead to worldwide economic chaos."
Yet there remains a breathtaking gap between the rhetoric of the war on terrorism and the absence of common sense. As Leggett writes: "Of America's current daily consumption of 20 million barrels, 5 million are imported from the Middle East, where almost two-thirds of the world's oil reserves lie in a region of especially intense and long-lived conflicts.
"Every day, 15 million barrels of oil pass in tankers through the narrow Straits of Hormuz, in the troubled waters between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The US Government could wipe out the need for all their 5 million barrels [from the Middle East] by requiring its domestic automobile industry to increase the fuel-efficiency of cars and light trucks by a mere 2.7 miles per gallon.
While the Rodent's tendency to hyperbole and outright lies is laughable as always, Australia could be a renewable energy powerhouse, with more than enough solar and wind energy available to harness without digging up the countryside and then filling it up with re-imported radioactive waste. Catalyst recently had a look at a number of local solar power developments.
Narration: There’s been a lot of talk lately about a nuclear future for Australia. But we already have an enormous nuclear reactor - pumping out phenomenal quantities of power, The Sun.
Dave Holland: There is sufficient solar energy to power everything that we do. The sun delivers about 17,000 times as much energy every day as what mankind uses. So the energy is there. What we have to do is to drive ways to harness that energy.
Narration: Australians are the second worst carbon emissions culprits per capita in the world. More than half our electricity needs are served by coal fired power stations, and while coal remains cheap and plentiful there’s little political advantage in changing the status quo.
Yet sunlight is also plentiful in Australia we have more of it than anywhere else on earth.
And solar has the right credentials it’s clean, green and infinitely renewable, but until recently harnessing the Sun has been expensive and unreliable. So has anything changed?
Mr Wes Stein: We’ve come a long way and now we’re right at the point of being able to say here it is industry, you can start to take it over right now.
Dr Paul Willis: While they haven’t received a great deal of publicity, Australia’s solar scientists have been quietly achieving behind the scenes. They now have a variety of technologies that will provide clean, cheap and sustainable energy from the sun.
Narration: For over 30 years the Liddell power station has generated electricity in the conventional manner, burning coal to create heat to make steam to drive turbines. Things are about to change dramatically thanks to the installation of a new hybrid solar-thermal power plant. The sun’s heat will preheat the water and thus cut the amount of coal used.
Soaring fuel prices are driving people away from large, heavy vehicles, but most people are still shying away from the idea of primarily using public transport. We'll see what effect rising interest rates have on the most vulnerable in the coming months...
NSW is addicted to the car, with almost six in 10 voters unwilling to catch public transport more often - even if the State Government improves the system.
A Herald/ACNielsen poll, taken in the lead-up to a summit this week on the future of the city's transport network, suggests the enthusiasm of the Carr and Iemma governments for building bigger and better roads has rubbed off on the public.
It found 74 per cent of people in NSW are "mostly travelling by car". Almost 60 per cent of all respondents would not travel more on public transport even if services were improved.
The poll of 1010 people, taken last week, found that only 13 per cent of people "mostly travel by public transport". Another 13 per cent use public transport and car about the same amount. Of that 26 per cent, about 55 per cent said they would not catch public transport more often if services were improved.
Public transport advocates blamed the reluctance to move away from cars on a lack of will to build light rail, improve bus services and build more bus lanes.
Rising energy prices seem to fuelling much of the re-emergence of inflation, and its difficult to see how raising rates locally can push this sort of inflation down, unless central banks globally are all acting to suppress demand simultaneously. Sportt Asset Management has a column on "cost pull inflation".
Pursuant to our “central banks losing control” theme, we were shocked two week ago when Shell Canada and Western Oil Sands announced that the price tag of their Athabasca oilsands expansion won’t be $7.3 billion (Canadian dollars) as initially projected, but rather $11 billion – or 50% higher! If that’s not inflation folks, then we don’t know what is. This isn’t the first, and we doubt it will be the last, cost increase that we’ll hear about in the oilsands. Costs there are a continually moving upward target. Announcements like this make it most obvious that the era of cheap oil is clearly over, especially when it costs so much for the world to get that incremental barrel of oil production, especially from heretofore unconventional sources. Remember that the oilsands were supposed to be the great saviour of the world’s energy problems. It would appear that this purveyor of abundant energy is on its way to ignominity due to spiraling costs.
As unfortunate as that announcement was for oilsands producers, this article isn’t about the oilsands. More interesting is what it implies for the cost of all things going forward. To wit, this article will be a general discussion on two inter-rated principles, or perhaps more accurately, two inter-related perils. One is cost-push inflation, and the other is Malthusian theory. As we’ve already said, we found the oilsands announcement to be shocking – so much so that it effectively changed the landscape. Not only is it highly inflationary, but we fear that it is the kind of inflation that threatens to pervade absolutely everything. It is difficult to envision a scenario where the cost of energy soars without impacting the cost of all things, whether good or service. Just about everything we do comes from or relies on energy.
The Chicago Tribune has an excellent feature on the energy situation called "Oil Safari".
What does it take to quench America’s mighty thirst for gasoline? Pulitzer-winning correspondent Paul Salopek traced gas pumped at a suburban Chicago station to the fuel’s sources around the globe. In doing so, he reveals how our oil addiction binds us to some of the most hostile corners of the planet—and to a petroleum economy edging toward crisis.
TreeHugger has posts on an ocean energy project in Oregon and paper produced using wind power alone.
While a number of European countries are moving full-steam ahead on wave power development, the idea of harnessing ocean waves to generate electricity has remained a concept here in the US. That may be changing soon, as New Jersey-based Ocean Power Technologies Inc. has applied for a permit from the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to build a 50 megawatts (MW) wave power installation off the Oregon coast. If approved, this would be the first utility-scale wave energy project in the country.
While other coastal areas in the US have been cited as strong candidates for "wave farms," Oregon seems committed to making this form of renewable energy a reality. We wonder if wave power will generate any of the criticism we've seen develop in response to other large-scale renewable generation installations.
Bloomberg reports on a large leak in Russia's main oil link to Europe (via Cryptogon - not sure why this caught their attention though).
Russia's Druzhba oil pipeline, the supplier of an eighth of Europe's imports, sprung a leak near the Belarus border, spilling crude over at least 10 square kilometers and sending oil prices higher in London.
The rupture in the Soviet-built pipeline may cause ``ecological catastrophe'' in the Bryansk region in western Russia, the Natural Resources Ministry said today in an e- mailed statement, citing local environmental groups. The ministry didn't say if deliveries to Europe were affected. Crude rose as high as $73.74 a barrel.
Robert Rapier at TOD has moderated his anti Vinod Khosla campaign a little and produced a good post on a phone discussion they had. Personally I think investing in cellulosic ethanol can't hurt (even though corn ethanol is useless) and expecting Vinod to lead the way for all of us may be a bit much - we should be encouraging more VCs to focus on renewable energy, nt beating up someone who is taking some first steps in the right direction...
We agreed on the following issues:
1. Current energy policy needs a dramatic facelift
2. A carbon tax is a good idea
3. Brazil is much more efficient at making ethanol than the U.S., and the ethanol tariffs should be lifted
4. Butanol may be a superior choice to ethanol
5. Grain ethanol subsidies should be eliminated
6. There is great potential in researching energy storage devices (e.g. batteries)
We disagreed on the following issues:
1. The issues surrounding corn ethanol aren't significant since it will be a transitory solution
2. The solution must fit in today's engines
3. Bashing oil companies is acceptable to achieve a political goal
4. Renewable electricity can't compete with coal
5. Cellulosic is scalable within the next 5 years
6. The consequences of failure to deliver can be very high
7. Food versus fuel will be a serious issue going forward
I already had a pretty good understanding of where he was coming from, but I have tried to accurately relay his position so that others may understand. This is the least I owe him after he spent that much time talking with me. However, we still have some fundamental areas of disagreement, and my impression is that he is concerned about Peak Oil, but not in the way I am concerned. My worry is that over-promising on cellulosic ethanol will prevent us from getting very serious about taking the steps we need to take as a society toward powering down while we still have some choices. I think we need to fund cellulosic ethanol, but until there are a few pilot plants operating, we just don't know if it will be feasible on a commercial scale.
I did have difficulty convincing him that corn ethanol is a bad thing, because his position is that it is merely a jumping off point to something much bigger. He said he wouldn't be investing in cellulosic if we weren't producing several billion gallons of corn ethanol. He said that corn ethanol is "priming the pump", and has shown the feasibility of ethanol as fuel in the U.S.
I see MonkeyGrinder has been roused from his summer sloth up there in the baking US Pacific Northwest (obviously he has been practicing one of Jay Hanson's post peak strategies).
I’ve been doing my best to enjoy a few weeks of sunshine, here in the lately overwarm state of Washington, country of USA. Secure in the knowledge that the problems facing the globe will still exist as the leaves change color and that focusing on positive hedonism for a few months can only help me analyze the human predicament in the long run.
Current events trump sloth.
The current war in the Middle East, a clash of cats paw (Hezbollah) and cats claw (Israel) raises anti Semitism to ironic heights of tail biting. One must examine the lettering on the holy text in the picture below to figure out whether the brown skinned dead child is a pepsi semite or a coke semite. The body count odds are ruthlessly stacked against the Lebanese, as Israel has conflated a questionable POW incident into a far ranging attack on the civilian infrastructure of an entire country.
Personally, I don’t have a pony in this race, provided it stays confined to current borders, (ill spent American tax dolloars notwithstanding). I refuse to cast this lopsided war in puny tribal terms, the picking of sides, as peak oil commentator James Kunstler does here.
Unfortunately, concern for a non-sequiter war with Iran and Syria expands as days stretch to weeks. Violent events, rather than cooling, can be seen converging towards a conflation point, an explosive increase in hostilities. One nitwit recently said that World War Three has already started. This can be seen as an attempt to bring around a mal result through force of will, or intent. Frankly, the scene is set for a major war whose genesis would be as lame as sacrificing millions for the death of an Archduke.
As with the run up to the invasion of Iraq, culminating in the comic denouement of the pathetic Saddam, a chorus of angels sings for blood and flowers, now to be planted in Iran. As with the preface to war in Iraq, real military actions by the United States rumble in the margins. Those skilled in pattern matching will have little trouble understanding possible new American deployments of troops to the Middle East.
Hezbollah’s strategy is childish and useless, other than as a rallying point for more stupid random violence. Israel’s strategy is overwrought and heavy handed, and has multiple apparent jump off points, given the pregnant, overwhelming force of the Israeli military in the face of Hezbollah pinprick rocket attacks.
Israel can smash the entire country of Lebanon, even parts far North of where the missile attacks originate, such as Beruit. COMPLETED.
Israel can declare victory and go home.
Israel can grab land and water (buffer zone) and plant fundamentalist settlers on the new border.
Israel can push close enough to Damascus that some response by Syria becomes an excuse for a wider war, drawing in Iran.
Israel or the United States might then bomb Iran.
At which time - -
All hell will break lose. The world has never fought a war in which the spectre of energy depletion loomed, and has never fought a war in which a series of simple asymmetric attacks can cut the global oil supply in half in days. Imagine the carnage as the globes supply of cheesy poofs dries up overnight.
One needs to do more than pray this doesn’t happen. One needs to do more than hippy around, caterwauling in the streets and running to Canada.
For Americans, this means voting out every democrat and republican who support these absurd foreign entanglements, in the November elections.
If given the chance.
I generally don't discuss Israel here - while I'm an Anglo-Celtic yobbo from the suburbs, part of my family is Jewish so I generally try to stay silent or give the Israelis the benefit of the doubt. I will note however I'm no fan of Ariel Sharon - who Billmon recently noted is still rotting away at the Tel Aviv Institute for Brain Damaged War Criminals, or, even worse, Bibi Netanyahu. And the "wall" idea is a clear demonstration of a refusal to understand the lessons of history.
MonkeyGrinder noted that there is more than a bit of speculation about the captured Israeli soldiers being seized by Hezbollah in Lebanon rather than Israel. I've got no idea if this is true or not, but it wouldn't surprise me. Other fringe theorising includes speculation that the war on Hezbollah is a neocon gambit to try and get the invasion of Iran kicked off at last, a plan to get the Israelis in on the oil pipeline act, or, on a completely tinfoil note, a plot to seize the water resources of the Litani river.
I've got no idea if any of these theories hold any water (the Iran one seems the most feasible - I tend to doubt the others, particularly as they would seem doomed to failure from the outset), but I do think the results so far have been pretty much an utter disaster for the Israelis, with the Lebanese uniting against them (along with the rest of the Arab world) and the propaganda war going very badly for them outside the confines of the extreme right wing press.
Billmon seems to have been Lebanon blogging full time since the latest outbreak of violence - one of the more interesting pieces is this one on "The Debacle".
"It is worse than a crime, it is a mistake."
Charles Maurice de Talleyrand
Napoleon's Foreign Minister
So is this the beginning of the end?Israeli troops have withdrawn from Bint Jbeil, the largest Shia town in the border district, after heavy street clashes against well-entrenched Hezbollah fighters caused high casualties.
Or the end of the beginning?The town was under heavy shellfire today in what UN officers suspect is a plan to force the last civilians to flee prior to destroying the town completely and killing any remaining Hezbollah fighters.
If the Israelis truly are contemplating "solving" the problem with artillery they can certainly reduce Bint Jbeil to a collection of destroyed or half-destroyed buildings. Unfortunately, the history of urban warfare shows that destroyed and half-destroyed buildings usually make even more effective fortifications than the intact variety -- particularly if the enemy has had time to build underground bunkers and fire positions and connect them with trenches and/or tunnels.
If the IDF's only goal now is to conclude Operation Clusterfuck with a "thunderous roar", then I suppose they might be able to call the destruction of Bint Jbeil another mission accomplished -- of the creating-a-desolation-and-calling-it-peace variety. However, if the plan is to regroup, bring up more divisions and resume the attack on a broader front, the problem remains unsolved.
The IDF could certainly flatten and then bypass fortified towns and villages like Bint Jbeil as it pushes north towards the Litani River, but that would require leaving screening forces to cover those strongpoints and protect supply lines and rearward assembly areas. Hizbullah, meanwhile, would be able to use its tunnel networks and its intimate knowledge of the local terrain to launch hit-and-run raids on those same vulnerable targets.
It's possible Hizbullah's total force simply isn't big enough to block a full-scale invasion -- at least not for long. But based on events so far, it seems highly unlikely the three reserve divisions the Israelis just mobilized would be enough to do the job. (I assume, although I don't know, that the reservists will replace regular divisions on other fronts so that they can be moved north to Lebanon.) A wider mobilization, on the other hand, would impose heavy political and economic costs that would only mount as time goes by.
In any case, it's obvious a serious effort to push Hizbullah beyond the Litani would take months, not weeks. Even if the Israelis are willing to do the bloody business, it's not clear the Cheney administration is prepared to hold out that long against the political and diplomatic pressures it faces (although I could of course be wrong if President Psychopath really is calling the shots.)
It seems more likely that the Israeli cabinet's decision not to endorse the IDF's plan for a major invasion was the proverbial blink in this eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation. I don't even know if Olmert still has hopes of carving out a notional two-kilometer-wide DMZ along the border. I mean, it's easy enough to say such a buffer zone exists, but if the Israelis really want one they're going to have to fight Hizbullah for every inch of it. And as I said, it's pretty clear the Israelis don't have much of an appetite for that kind of fighting.
At this point, and until they show me otherwise, I have to assume the Israelis now would be very happy just to get back to the status quo ante.
It's a dismal situation for the Israelis -- worse, in many, many ways, than what I would have called the worst-case scenario before the war started. This is what happens when your state-of-the-art blitzkrieg machine is exposed as a relic of a past century.
In 1870, when the Emperor Louis Napoleon declared war on Prussia, he was confident his armies could beat those of Kaiser Wilhelm I just as throughly as his famous uncle had whipped the Prussians at the Battle of Jena in 1806. After all, everyone "knew" the French were the masters of modern military science. In Europe's capitals the betting was on how long it would take the French to get to Berlin.
But the Prussians had undergone something of a revolution in military affairs since Jena. They'd reformed their Army, created the world's first general staff and mastered the use of railways to mobilize reserves and move troops quickly to the front.
The result was Zola's Debacle -- an utter defeat for the French, in which their entire army, and their Emperor, were cut off, surrounded and captured at the battle of Sedan. The political and military balance of power in Europe was transformed forever.
Israel's debacle obviously is not on anything like the same grand scale as Louis Napoleon's. If the IDF were willing to pay the blood price, it could still push Hizbullah back far enough to claim a temporary "victory." If the Israelis were willing to embrace genocide, they could probably "disarm" Hizbullah by destroying it completely. Such things have been done in the past, although in this case the act would have to be played out in full view of a global television audience.
Right now, though, the Israeli government seem to be quailing before those two options. Curiously, it also seems more willing to allow the home front to go on being bombarded than it is to sacrifice the lives of the soldiers who are supposed to protect the home front. The reasons for this are not clear to me, but then I'm not an Israeli.
What is clear is that the failure of Israel's blitzkrieg (and at the moment, it looks like a catastrophic failure, at least politically) will have enormous repercussions in the Middle East, just as the downfall of Louis Napoleon had in late 19th century Europe. By betting the ranch on a quick, decisive victory, the Anglo-Israeli alliance has committed both a crime and a mistake. The architects may escape punishment for the former, but I think the latter is going to come back to haunt them, and probably very soon.
William Gibson also notes that the Israeli's (like the US in Iraq) seems to have missed a paradigm shift (though to be fair, I think Rummy does actually get it - but he's finding creating a 4th generation evil empire a bit of a struggle against the entrenched bureacracy on one hand, and us "can't we stop fighting over oil" liberals on the other).
'I'm not sure I really get why the US and Israel haven't yet come to terms with the fact that this fourth generation war cannot be won with classic military action. I suspect it is the neocon influence which, throughout many decades, never gave a passing thought to terrorism or assymetrical warfare. They have been stuck in a cold war mindset (a mindset that was wrong about the cold war too) and have consistently seen the world through the prism of rogue totalitarian states. This is why, in spite of the fact that everything is going to hell in a handbasket in a hundred different ways, they persist in focusing on Iran (formerly Iraq) and ignoring all the moving parts that make their aggressive plans to "confront" these regimes simpleminded and doomed to failure.'
Myself, I keep going back to my no doubt sloppy and imperfect understanding of Thomas S. Kuhn's The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions. If the theory of "fourth generation war" is viewed as a new paradigm (and it seems to me to meet the criteria) then this is more than a failure of perception on the part of neoconservatives.
Consider the following, from the Wikipedia entry on SSR:
'According to Kuhn, the scientific paradigms before and after a paradigm shift are so different that their theories are incomparable. The paradigm shift does not just change a single theory, it changes the way that words are defined, the way that the scientists look at their subject and, perhaps most importantly, the questions that are considered valid and the rules used to determine the truth of a particular theory. Kuhn observes that they are incommensurable — literally, lacking comparison, untranslatable. New theories were not, as they had thought of before, simply extensions of old theories, but radically new worldviews. This incommensurability applies not just before and after a paradigm shift, but between conflicting paradigms. It is simply not possible, according to Kuhn, to construct an impartial language that can be used to perform a neutral comparison between conflicting paradigms, because the very terms used belong within the paradigm and are therefore different in different paradigms. Advocates of mutually exclusive paradigms are in an insidious position: "Though each may hope to convert the other to his way of seeing science and its problems, neither may hope to prove his case. The competition between paradigms is not the sort of battle that can be resolved by proof." (SSR, p. 148).'
This would explain, it seems to me, the apparently literal impossibility of explaining the fundamentally counterproductive nature of the United State's invasion of Iraq, or of what's currently going on in Lebanon, to those who disagree. Or, literally, vice versa. If you're behind the curve on the paradigm shift, if I'm reading Kuhn at all correctly, you're literally incapable of getting it. Or vice versa. "It is simply not possible, according to Kuhn, to construct an impartial language that can be used to perform a neutral comparison between conflicting paradigms, because the very terms used belong within the paradigm and are therefore different in different paradigms."
The bad news is that the policy-makers of the United States and Israel apparently (still) don't get the new paradigm, and the bad news is that Hezbollah (et al, and by their very nature) do. Though that's only bad (or double-plus-ungood) if you accept, as I do, that the new paradigm allows for a more effective understanding of reality. So if you still like to pause to appreciate the action of phlogiston when you strike a match, you may well be okay with current events. So many, God help us, evidently are.
I've heard that Kuhn fiercely lamented the application of SSR to anything other than the structure of scientific revolutions, but that's how it usually is, when the street finds its own uses for things.
Gibson also has interesting posts on Apophenia (including the Overton window concept, which should be more widely understood by would be political analysts) and the brain dead leader of the "free world".
One of the worst episodes of apophenia I've had myself, lately, was triggered this morning by the opening paras of a diary on Daily Kos (see below, sorry I'm too lazy to link, and my apologies to its author for forgetting his/her handle). My apophenia filled in the dots *real* good, on this material, catapulting me into a landscape resembling The Handmaid's Tale crossed with Thomas M. Disch's On Wings Of Song, with the bass tonalities lifted from Jack Womack's Ambient sequence. Not what you want, before coffee, or indeed ever. I must note, though, that Newt Gingrich, whatever else he may be, is a known writer of (ahem) science fiction, so that what we are projecting on, here, is really a sort of quantum apopheniac feedback loop, or, as we say in the trade "XXL bad mojo":
'I'm sure you all heard that last week, Newt Gingrich argued the U.S. was facing World War III as a result of developments in the Middle East. I'm sure that most of you reacted as I did to this - with a bit of annoyance and disdain; "there goes Newt again," content to believe he is simply making a lame effort to rally flagging support for Republican policies.
'But today, I have been reconsidering this. I think that what Newt has been saying is incredibly significant, and we ought to be paying it a great deal more attention than we have been.
'What Newt is proposing is nothing short of the radical mobilization of the entire American nation behind a war effort led by the far right - that "calls for restraint would fall away" if Americans adopted his framing. It could become the pivot around which the GOP shifts into a very new, and extremely ugly, mode of governance - turning the nation into an all-out war state with repressive World War I-esque laws meant to silence dissent and force the population to work even harder to support neo-con policies without any option to do otherwise.'
There's a million other links to post but its time for me to sleep - maybe there'll be more tomorrow...