Posted by Big Gav
Tom Whipple's latest article looks at moves in the oil price in light of peak oil.
But then the great pendulum of events reversed. One by one the fears began to melt. Diplomacy quieted much of the Middle East. The hurricanes of 2006 curved towards Europe where they harmlessly watered the fields of Ireland. Nigeria turned quiet. Chavez kept threatening, but the speculators no longer listened.
Fear factor after fear factor diminished into a perfect storm of good news. Week after week the good news for oil prices kept coming. US stockpiles continued to build. Cooler weather reduced the use of natural gas for air conditioning. A giant oil find was made in the Gulf of Mexico. Even the US economy cooperated by showing some signs of slowing, thus raising the specter of reduced demand for oil.
As the price fell, the normal technical factors of speculating came into play. The bulls bailed out. Margin calls were made. Overcommitted hedge funds went bust.
Now what does all this have to do with peak oil? The short answer is, so far, very little. Naturally, higher or lower prices will affect demand and therefore exacerbate or mitigate the supply situation. Tight supplies already are reflected in the base price of oil before we get to the speculative factors. This is how we got from $20 to $60 a barrel. If the price stabilizes in the neighborhood of $60 after the speculative premium is wrung out of the market, then we will have some idea of where simple supply and demand for oil prices the product.
Behind all the good news for oil prices, however, depletion of the world's finite oil supply continues at 85 million barrels per day, day after day, after day. Bad news for the future of oil production continues to come out, but it is lost in the shuffle or not recognized for its importance. Many now hold that the good news of a great new oil find deep beneath the Gulf of Mexico is, in reality, bad news. If ultra deep-sea oil, which is very expensive and may take many years to exploit, is all we have left, then we are close to the end of cheap oil.
During the last few weeks, slippages in major oil exploration projects have came to light. Of particular note is the BP's great Thunderhorse platform, which seems to have developed metallurgical problems associated with extracting oil from great depths. If this turns out to be a generic problem, then the new frontier of ultra deep-sea oil wells may be a while in coming.
The bottom line remains that peak oil is still very real and, if anything, the news from recent weeks suggests the peak may be moving closer rather than receding.
An interesting sidelight to the last few weeks has been the paranoia surrounding rapidly dropping gasoline prices. According to a Gallup poll, 42 percent of Americans, mostly Democrats, believe that the administration is deliberately manipulating gasoline prices to improve their chances in the November elections. As noted above, there are numerous factors that are more than adequate to drive down prices to current levels. Prominent among these factors is the normal drop in demand between the summer driving season and the winter heating season.
In 2005, gas and oil prices experienced a similar drop after the spike caused by the summer hurricanes.
The problems BP are having getting Thunderhorse into production are worth pondering in light of all the phoney excitement over the (old) Jack-2 discoveries recently.
P PLC plans to retrieve and rebuild all seabed production equipment from Thunder Horse field in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico following a series of tests in 4 months that showed metallurgical failure.
Consequently, BP does not expect production from Thunder Horse to begin before mid-2008. The company said it's too early to estimate the additional costs involved in replacing the affected systems.
The original projected start up was for late 2005, but it has been pushed back as BP has resolved "technology gaps" that emerged during development, a spokesman said.
Thunder Horse field was discovered in 1999. The project involves some of the highest-temperature, highest-pressure wells in the gulf.
The semisubmersible platform weighs more than 50,000 tons and is designed to process 250,000 b/d of oil and 200 MMscfd of gas. BP operates the development, owning 75% interest, and ExxonMobil Corp. owns the remaining interest.
The platform had to be restored to normal trim last year. That incident is unrelated to the latest subsea equipment issues, BP said.
I mentioned the "green revolution for Africa" launch recently - Grist has a look at some of the pitfalls that may await this initiative.
In a bid to move "tens of millions of people out of extreme poverty" and "significantly" reduce hunger, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has teamed with the Rockefeller Foundation to launch a new "Green Revolution" in Africa.
These high-profile foundations have committed a combined $150 million toward fulfilling their admirable goals. But a look at the original Green Revolution, and its dubious record in Africa, raises serious questions about the wisdom of their effort.
The Green Revolution started in 1943, when the Rockefeller Foundation sent a team of scientists to Mexico to develop higher-yield varieties of wheat, maize, and other crops. An act of altruism, yes, but the move by Rockefeller, then the best-endowed U.S. foundation, may have had other motivations.
For one, the U.S. was embroiled in World War II, and Nazi Germany had made overtures to Mexico. For another, the Mexican government had also nationalized the country's oil supply in 1938 -- a direct blow to Standard Oil, the Rockefeller family-owned oil monopoly with global interests. As University of Texas economics professor Harry Cleaver Jr. has put it [PDF], the foundation seemed to believe that "the friendly gesture of a development project might not only soften rising nationalism, but might also help hang onto wartime friends."
At any rate, the Mexico project eventually succeeded. Financed by Rockefeller and later Ford Foundation cash, what became known as the Green Revolution essentially dispersed cutting-edge U.S. agricultural technology -- "dwarf" grain varieties, petrochemical fertilizers, and large-scale irrigation systems -- through much of Latin America and Southeast Asia. To make a long story short, where the program took hold, grain yields surged, the prices farmers fetched for them on global markets plunged -- and small-scale farmers lost out.
Unable to compete with larger operations -- which had the cash to buy the Green Revolution "package" of hybrid seeds, fertilizer, and pesticides and could access lavishly funded irrigation projects -- smallholders began a mass migration to the cities in the 1960s and '70s. In Southeast Asia, long held up as one of the Green Revolution's success stories, the urban population swung from 20 percent in 1975 to 35 percent in 2000. The World Bank reckons that by 2030, more than half of Southeast Asians will be urban dwellers.
The agricultural modernization that has caused this large-scale depopulating of the countryside is often hailed as one of the great achievements of the 20th century. Yet the environmental and social costs of chemical-intensive agriculture have caused hand wringing even in mainstream policy circles.
MonkeyGrinder is continuing to wage "holy war" against the Ethanol King and the idea that we can continue to fuel the present day transportation system with corn instead of oil.
Critics of peak oil often sidestep dealing with issues of geology and production, and dive straight in with attacks on the resulting scenarios, as if that might falsify the science and the observations of a century.
A favored rubric used in the critique of “gloomy” scenarios is to pseudo-falsify them by associating them with religion. In other words, should one claim people around the world are going to starve, and worse that overfed Americans might hit their ideal weight, one will be tarred with the brush of the Christian Apocalypse. In this way, many rationalists are lumped in with those who take the book of Revelation literally.
Thus categorized, they are humiliated and forgettable -- in the minds of critics.
This is instructive, because it allows the stray cornucopian thinker who might be reading this blog an insight into how I conceive of Vinod Khosla in my pitifully illogical and bad chemical soaked brain.
I think Vinod Kosla sincerely appeals to as broad an audience as possibly on basically religious grounds, with a shamanistic frosting of reason and science around his gooey, globalist new- age vision.
He shepards a flock of boomers who need the salve and balm of forgiveness for consuming the world - - but not actual change. Oh no.
Technology Review has a look at what is happening at the Emerging Technologies Conference
The world's exploding energy demand--coupled with the growing risk of catastrophic rises in sea levels and climate change driven by greenhouse gases--create a singular challenge that demands urgent policy action, energy experts said at an MIT conference yesterday.
"If we don't throw everything we have at energy efficiency right now, and start to do things we know how to do right now [in fossil-fuel alternatives], we don't have a chance" of halting drastic planetary changes, said Nathan Lewis, a chemist at Caltech whose research interests include new solar-power materials. Lewis spoke yesterday as part of a panel on energy at the Emerging Technologies Conference.
Robert Armstrong, an MIT chemical engineer and associate director of the MIT Energy Initiative, said meeting a projected doubling of global energy demand in 50 years, while maintaining greenhouse-gas levels below twice preindustrial levels, would require adding another global energy infrastructure of today's scale--but with zero carbon-dioxide emissions. Considering that, right now, around 86 percent of energy consumed by humans comes from fossil fuels, "certainly these are grand challenges," he said.
As a result, the world needs to massively implement conservation and efficiency measures, install renewable power sources, build new nuclear power plants, and sequester carbon dioxide underground, where possible, said Joseph Romm, a former assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Energy and founder of the Center for Energy & Climate Solutions. "Global warming is going to transform the lives of every single person in this room," he said. "Within 20 years, if not 5 years, it will become the issue, the only issue. It will require a massive redirection of capital."
Technology Review also has an interview discussing some new developments in battery technology.
Biology may be the key to producing light-weight, inexpensive, and high-performance batteries that could transform military uniforms into power sources and, eventually, improve electric and hybrid vehicles.
Angela Belcher, an MIT professor of biological engineering and materials science, and two colleagues, materials science professor Yet-Ming Chiang and chemical engineering professor Paula Hammond, have engineered viruses to assemble battery components that can store three times as much energy as traditional materials by packing highly ordered materials into a very small space.
Through a combination of genetic design and directed evolution, Belcher has created viruses that coat themselves with inorganic materials they wouldn't touch in nature, forming crystalline materials, which are doped at regular intervals with gold to enhance their conductivity. Then the coated viruses line up on top of a polymer sheet that serves as the electrolyte, to form one of the battery's electrodes (see "Virus-Assembled Batteries"). The device looks like a thin sheet of cellophane.
Now Belcher is engineering viruses to assemble the second electrode, with the goal of creating an extremely compact, self-assembled battery.
We sat down with Belcher, who is presenting her work today at Technology Review's Emerging Technologies Conference, to learn how the work is progressing.
The Guardian reports that B&Q are following the lead of Curry's in the UK and stocking solar panels and wind turbines - hopefully Bunnings start doing the same here soon.
The do-it-yourself chain B&Q is to sell wind turbines and solar panels as home energy generation moves into the mass market.
From next month, every one of B&Q's 320 UK stores will display the energy-saving turbines, which transmit electricity, and three types of solar panel, which produce hot water. Both will fit on domestic roofs.
The move comes just a month after electrical retailer Currys started a pilot scheme selling solar panels.
B&Q has a reputation for being more environmentally friendly than most retailers and has recently been supporting the Climate Clinic, which includes Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, at party conferences. Yesterday the retailer's chief executive, Ian Cheshire, said it was "responding to genuine customer interest" in eco-friendly, DIY energy generation.
Wired's Autopia blog has a post on diesel hybrids.
While some companies such as GM, Citroen, and Ford are pushing ahead with plans for diesel hybrids, Toyota says it won't go there. Toyota says combining the premiums of diesel engines with hybrid motors would price the vehicles out of the market, according to the BBC.
Diesel buses that use regenerative braking to transfer energy to the electric motors are shuttling commuters all over the world every day, so I'm not so sure that Toyota is correct for saying there's no market. Citroen believes there is, and is showing off a diesel hybrid sports car at the Paris Auto Show (via Autoblog). and is working on other models. If people are willing to pay a $10,000 premium for extra performance, they might be willing to pay $5,000 extra if it increases fuel efficiency by 50 percent or more as well as improving power off the line.
As I've been saying for 2 years, diesel hybrid technology makes the most sense for trucks, buses and large passenger vehicles, and we'll see a handful of models within the next couple of years.
TreeHugger has a report on new developments in wind power for shipping - the kiteship.
We've seen the advantages of using huge sails to make freighters more efficient before; a company called KiteShip has taken it a step further with what they call Very Large Free Flying Sails (VLFFS) and control systems, technology and techniques for launching, controlling and recovering these sails aboard not only commercial vessels, but pleasure and racing yachts and even aerospace applications. Self-described as a "group of forward-thinking sailors, designers and visionaries," KiteShip has been harnessing the power of the wind for three decades. Their portfolio includes sails designed for freighter retrofits (like the kind we saw from Sky Sails); they also offer bi-directional kite boards and rule-legal spinnaker replacement kites for racing yachts (wind power can be fun, too) and have even been working on programs to explore the surface of Mars, the atmospheres of the gas giants and Earth's own stratosphere.
George Monbiot continues his examination of the global warming denial industry and their backers in the fossil fuel industry in "Who's Paying ?".
On the letters page of the Guardian last week, a Dr Alan Kendall attacked the Royal Society for “smearing” its opponents. It had sent an official letter to Exxon, complaining about the oil company’s “inaccurate and misleading” portrayal of the science of climate change, and its funding of lobby groups which deny that global warming is taking place. The letter, Dr Kendall argued, was an attempt to “stifle legitimate discussion”.
Perhaps he is unaware of what has been happening. The campaign of dissuasion funded by Exxon and the tobacco company Philip Morris has been devastatingly effective. By insisting that manmade global warming is either a “myth” or not worth tackling, it has given the media and politicians the excuses for inaction they wanted. Partly as a result, in the United States at least, these companies have helped to delay attempts to tackle the world’s most important problem by a decade or more.
Should we not confront this? If, as Dr Kendall seems to suggest, we should refrain from exposing and criticising these groups, would that not be to “stifle legitimate discussion”?
There is still much more to discover. It is unclear how much covert corporate lobbying has been taking place in the United Kingdom. But the little I have been able to find so far suggests that here, as in the US, there seems to be some overlap between Exxon and the groups it has funded and the operations of the tobacco industry.
The story begins with a body called the International Policy Network (IPN). Like many other organisations that have received money from Exxon, it describes itself as a “think tank” or “an independent educational charity”. It seems to me that a more accurate description would be “lobby group”. But while the BBC would seldom allow someone from Bell Pottinger or Burson Marsteller onto the air to discuss an issue of concern to their sponsors without revealing the sponsors’ identity, it has frequently allowed Julian Morris to present IPN’s case without declaring its backers. The International Policy Network has so far received $295,000 from Exxon’s corporate headquarters in the United States. Julian Morris told me that he runs his US office “solely for funding purposes”.
The IPN argues that attempts to prevent (or mitigate) manmade climate change are a waste of money. It would be better to let it happen and adapt to its effects. It published a book this year arguing that “humanity has until at least 2035 to determine whether or not mitigation will also be a necessary part of our strategy to address climate change … attempting to control it through global regulation of emissions would be counterproductive.” Morris has described the government’s chief scientist, Sir David King, who has campaigned for action on global warming, as “an embarrassment to himself and an embarrassment to his country.”
Like many of the groups which have been funded by ExxonMobil, IPN has also received money from the cigarette industry. Morris admits that it has been given £10,000 from a US tobacco company. There is also a question mark about his involvement in a funding application to another tobacco company, RJ Reynolds.
Crooked Timber has an update to their watch on the Republican war on science.
WASHINGTON – The Bush administration has blocked release of a report that suggests global warming is contributing to the frequency and strength of hurricanes, the journal Nature reported Tuesday.
The report drew a prompt response from Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg D-N.J., who charged that “the administration has effectively declared war on science and truth to advance its anti-environment agenda … the Bush administration continues to censor scientists who have documented the current impacts of global warming.”
Hey, someone should write a book about this sort of thing. Maybe give away a companion to the book for good measure.
I didn’t mention this in my previous post: Mooney’s book is now out in paperback – and cheap!
The US military has also been waging a war on wind lately as well (everything is game in the 21st century) - Mobjectivist reports:
I missed this news item when it came out earlier in the summer, but Air America's EcoTalk resurrected the issue of the military opposing new wind turbine projects because of potential radar interference. Even though some projects recently obtained a go-ahead, it still boggles my mind how the military can't resist taking a stupid pill and instead simply wiseup and drop the proposal.
Looking at the issue from the perspective of an engineer, I can say that no way will windmills cause interference that would overcome the abilities of a experienced radar technician to filter out. The turbines operate at a fixed (or at least very slowly varying) frequency which means that a straightforward notch filter should remove unwanted signals. After such filtering, radar should not experience a problem from phantom motion interference at all.
And I don't buy this rationale either:A bureaucratic delay was created by a provision in a congressional bill that wind energy companies say was drafted to create more hurdles for a high-profile and controversial offshore wind project near Nantucket, Mass.
The law required the Department of Defense to issue a report assessing the impact that development of wind turbines would have on military radar.
No way. This has got BushCo fingerprints all over it and they have followed the first law of projection by blaming the opposition for their own actions.
I was a bit surprised to read in this morning's paper that Henry Kissinger is still performing his Dr Strangelove act at The White House - it seems Henry thinks the Iraq quagmire can be drained - it just requires a triumph of the will. How many Iraqi he is willing to kill isn't mentioned.
The Bush Administration has lied about the level of violence in Iraq, especially against American troops, according to the investigative reporter Bob Woodward, who has spent the past two years researching and writing his new book State of Denial.
Woodward says that not only has the Administration lied about the level of violence, but it has buried intelligence reports that warn of the insurgency in Iraq getting worse in 2007.
The book, a detailed account of the war in Iraq, will hit the book stores in the next few weeks, and observers say it will not please the US President, George Bush - who agreed to be interviewed by Woodward - or his senior officials.
Woodward will be interviewed on the American program 60 Minutes tomorrow and The Washington Post will publish excerpts of the book at the weekend.
According to Woodward, there is an insurgent attack on coalition forces in Iraq every 15 minutes, which means close to 100 attacks a day. The Pentagon last month reported 800 attacks a month in Iraq, including attacks on Iraqi forces and Iraqi civilians - far below Woodward's figures.
On a clip for 60 Minutes, Woodward says both the White House and the Pentagon are not telling Americans the truth. "The truth is that the assessment by intelligence experts is that next year, 2007, is going to get worse and, in public, you have the President and you have the Pentagon saying, 'Oh no, things are getting better"', he said.
"Now there's public and then there's private. But what did they do with the private? They stamp it 'secret'. No one is supposed to know. The insurgents know what they are doing. They know the level of violence and how effective they are. Who doesn't know? The American public."
The Woodward claim came just two days after a US intelligence report, parts of which were declassified by Mr Bush after leaks of key findings to the media, said that the war in Iraq had became a "cause celebre" for jihadists around the world. White House and Pentagon officials denied Americans were being lied to about the level of violence in Iraq.
Woodward also claims Mr Bush and the Vice-President, Dick Cheney, often meet with a former secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, who has become an informal White House adviser. "Now what's Kissinger's advice?" Woodward said. "On Iraq, he declared very simply, 'Victory is the only meaningful exit strategy.' This is so fascinating. Kissinger's fighting the Vietnam War again because, in his view, the problem in Vietnam was we lost our will."
While my expectations of politicians in general are pretty low, and when it comes to US Republicans I generally expect there is no level to which they won't stoop, but this guy takes the cake - accusing a legless, ex-Iraq veteran of wanting to "cut and run" from Iraq.
Oh dear. I’m sure he didn’t mean it. In Illinois’ Sixth Congressional District, long represented by Henry Hyde, Republican candidate Peter Roskam accused his Democratic opponent, Tammy Duckworth, of planning to “cut and run” on Iraq.
Duckworth is a former Army major and chopper pilot who lost both legs in Iraq after her helicopter got hit by an RPG. “I just could not believe he would say that to me,” said Duckworth, who walks on artificial legs and uses a cane. Every election cycle produces some wincers, but how do you apologize for that one?
The legislative equivalent of that remark is the detainee bill now being passed by Congress. Beloveds, this is so much worse than even that pathetic deal reached last Thursday between the White House and Republican Sens. John Warner, John McCain and Lindsey Graham. The White House has since reinserted a number of “technical fixes” that were the point of the putative “compromise.” It leaves the president with the power to decide who is an enemy combatant.
This bill is not a national security issue—this is about torturing helpless human beings without any proof they are our enemies. Perhaps this could be considered if we knew the administration would use the power with enormous care and thoughtfulness. But of the over 700 prisoners sent to Gitmo, only 10 have ever been formally charged with anything. Among other things, this bill is a CYA for torture of the innocent that has already taken place.
Death by torture by Americans was first reported in 2003 in a New York Times article by Carlotta Gall. The military had announced the prisoner died of a heart attack, but when Gall saw the death certificate, written in English and issued by the military, it said the cause of death was homicide. The “heart attack” came after he had been beaten so often on this legs that they had “basically been pulpified,” according to the coroner.
The story of why and how it took the Times so long to print this information is in the current edition of the Columbia Journalism Review. The press in general has been late and slow in reporting torture, so very few Americans have any idea how far it has spread. As is often true in hierarchical, top-down institutions, the orders get passed on in what I call the downward communications exaggeration spiral.
The Onion reports that things aren't as quite as bad as many people fear - while Bush and the gang may be able to drag any anyone they feel like off into some secret CIA run prison, torture them and then subject them to some kangaroo court well away from the normal justice system (which would now appear to be an optional extra), they can't exceed allowable amperage levels on detainees' testicles. This would be something of a relief if The Onion wasn't a satirical magazine - unfortunately this limit is just a myth.
Led by a bipartisan group of senators critical of White House policy on suspected terrorists, the Senate passed a bill Thursday that prohibits interrogators from exceeding 100 amps per testicle when questioning detainees. "Even in times of war, it is counterproductive and wrong to employ certain inhumane interrogation techniques, and using three-digit amperage levels on the testicles of captives constitutes torture," said Sen. John Warner (R-VA), who has also supported reducing the size of attack dogs and the height of nude pyramids. "Using amperages of 99 and lower, with approved surge protectors on the jumper-cable clamps, are the hallmarks of a civilized society." The legislation did not address amperage restrictions on suspected terrorists' labia.
The movie "Jesus Camp" (which sounds like some modern day american echo of the Hitler Youth, though I presume the makers could be propagandising a little) got a mention in the local paper - culture war madness manifesting at a local level rather than the highest echelons of government.
Jesus Camp is the story of three children, Rachel, now 10, Levi, now 13, and Tory, now 11, and the summer camp they attended last year.
Becky Fischer enlists a group of children as young as six as Christian soldiers in the service of God, as they weep, speak in tongues, collapse and writhe on the floor and find the power of enlightenment.
At one stage Fischer warns the children against Harry Potter. Warlocks, she says sternly, are enemies of God. If Harry Potter had been around in the time of the Old Testament, he would have been put to death.
She frequently uses war terminology, but says it is about a spiritual warfare, not one with guns and other weapons.
On her website, she answers her own questions, such as "Are you raising up Christian terrorists or another Hitler Youth Movement?" and "You are charismatic. Do you represent all evangelical Christians?"
She says: "Christians do believe they are in a cultural war for the lives and souls of people worldwide, and particularly for the minds and hearts of our children and youth."
In the US, the film has been rated PG-13, which means it is recommended that the three children should not see themselves on film. Perhaps the film classification board was concerned about young people being impressionable. The three young stars of the documentary, who attend the camp, are all from evangelical homes in Missouri.
Levi loves to preach, which he does to the summer camp. He is home schooled by his mother, who teaches him that the world was created by God 6000 years ago and that global warming is not a problem. Science proves nothing, she says.
Tory practises breakdancing and loves heavy metal Christian music. She does not like Britney Spears because her songs are about dating. In the film she wears a T-shirt that says: "My dad is in the army." At the end of the film, Rachel and Levi are filmed trying to preach the Gospel to a group of black men sitting beside a road. Rachel asks one man where he thinks he will end up when he dies. "Heaven," he replies confidently. This flummoxes them, so they retreat. As they walk away, Rachel says: "I think they were Muslims."
Jesus Camp is also discussed at Billmon and Cryptogon - twice.
A youth group at First Assembly of God church held a burning Wednesday night by burning anything they wanted to get out of their lives that they feel is hindering their relationship with the Lord.
Some of the items burned included CDs, DVDs, magazines, books and anything else they could think of. But unlike the negative connotations burnings are generally associated with, this burning was intended to be a positive event for everyone involved.
Mary Johnson, leader of the college and career group at the church, summed up what the burning is about: "Getting rid of junk in their lives that would hinder (their) relationship with the Lord."
The group has been studying the Bible, looking for ways to strengthen their relationship with God.
"We've been going through the Book of Acts looking at the early church," Johnson said. "(We've been) asking God 'would you do again today ... what you did in that early church."
The people participating in the burning included students and parents. Johnson said the burning wasn't the first burning that she has attended. She was at one several years ago in South Dakota and about two years ago was at another one here in Minot.
Johnson stated that a young man from the Air Force asked for the burning, and the church agreed.
Praise the Lord for the resurrection of Christian fascism...
Cryptogon also praised the movie "Who Killed John O'Neill" recently - I checked it out last night - not bad for a tinfoil movie, and as Kevin said, quite reminiscent of "Pi".