Biodiesel And Dust  

Posted by Big Gav

The Guardian has an article on one possible victim of the move to biodiesel - orang utans.

A shocking UN report details how the booming palm oil industry is wiping out one of man's closest relatives as its forest habitat disappears. David Smith asks if it's too late to save them

The Orang Utan, one of man's closest and most enigmatic cousins, could be virtually extinct within five years after it was discovered that the animal's rainforest habitat is being destroyed even more rapidly than had been predicted.

A United Nations report has found that illegal logging and fires have been overtaken as the primary cause of deforestation by a huge expansion of oil palm plantations, which are racing to meet soaring demand from Western food manufacturers and the European Union's zeal for biofuels.

Palm oil is seen by critics as a cautionary tale about good intentions. As a vegetable oil it can enhance a healthy diet, and as a biofuel it can reduce carbon emissions which contribute to climate change. Yet it transpires that humans' pursuit of an ethical lifestyle could inadvertently mean a death sentence for one of the great apes.

The paradox was brought to world attention by Friends of the Earth, whose ongoing campaign for producers, manufacturers and retailers to commit to sustainable palm oil was recognised at last week's Observer Food Monthly awards with the honour for best ethical contribution to the industry.

The UN's environment programme report, 'The Last Stand of the Orang Utan: State of Emergency', says natural rainforests of Indonesia and Malaysia are being cleared so rapidly that up to 98 per cent may be destroyed by 2022, and the lowland forest strongholds of orang utans much sooner, unless urgent action is taken. This is a full decade earlier than the previous report estimated when it was published five years ago. Overall the loss of orang utan habitat is happening 30 per cent more rapidly than had previously been thought.

Responding to the findings, the Borneo Orang Utan Survival Foundation UK, a charity which works to rescue, rehabilitate and release the animals into protected forest, warned that at the current rate of deforestation by the palm oil industry, orang utans in the wild could be close to extinction by 2012.

Sounds like New Agers and Mayan devotees aren't the only ones who should be worried about 2012.

Mobjectivist has an interested look at the devastation of the Amazon in the quest to produce another biofuel.
Monkeygrinder found an interesting reference to deforestation occurring in Brazil to make room for sugar cane. This complements the interesting find that Khebab made of Borneo deforestation to make room for oil palm.

I tried to find a "good" example of jungle clearing in Brazil via Google Earth. This Google landmark fit the desciption:
If you see north west and south east of this placemark you will find a HUGE destruction of the amazon forest spreading just like a virus. Unfortunately this is us in action, the same civilization capable of creating such wonderfull things as google earth, is able to close the loop and show us some of our worst atributes.

An area of Amazon jungle larger than the U.S. state of New Jersey has been destroyed this year and work on a new highway is mainly to blame, environmental group Friends of the Earth and the government said on Wednesday.

The preliminary figures, based on satellite images, alarmed environmentalists because they suggest that Amazon destruction has surpassed its second-highest level reached in 2002-2003.

The data is based on a satellite system which has been monitoring Amazon deforestation on a test basis. The government's yearly figures, released in March, are based on data from a different satellite system.

The images indicated that from 8,920 square miles to 9,420 square miles (23,100 sq km to 24,400 sq km), or an area bigger than New Jersey, was cut down this year, said Joao Paulo Capobianco, the government's secretary of biodiversity and forests.

If confirmed, the total figure for this year's deforestation will be above the 2002-2003 level of 9,170 square miles (23,750 sq km), said Roberto Smeraldi, head of Friends of the Earth in Brazil.

The figure was especially worrying because it showed that for the first time in history Amazon deforestation rose despite a slowdown in agriculture during the year, he said.

A record level was set in the mid-1990s in a year marked by an exceptional incidence of fires.

Small farmers have been major culprits in the trend as they hack away at Amazon jungle to expand their fields.

The data showed a big jump in deforestation along a road running through the heart of the Amazon that the government has said it wants to pave.

'The big reason for this (destruction) is the BR-163 road,' Smeraldi said. 'The government knew about this; it was warned. What is surprising is that they are not even talking about their anti-deforestation plans.'

In the region of the road, deforestation soared by more than five times, Smeraldi said. Settlers have moved in even before the government started paving it.

Environmentalists have warned that roads, dams and pipeline projects through the Amazon -- home to up to 30 percent of the planet's animal and plant species -- represent the biggest threat to the forest because they open up access to large-scale development and settlement.



This snapshot spans an area 200 miles on a side.

The World Business Council For Sustainable Development reports that biofuels boom is spurring deforestation
Nearly 40,000 hectares of forest vanish every day, driven by the world's growing hunger for timber, pulp and paper, and ironically, new biofuels and carbon credits designed to protect the environment.

The irony here is that the growing eagerness to slow climate change by using biofuels and planting millions of trees for carbon credits has resulted in new major causes of deforestation, say activists. And that is making climate change worse because deforestation puts far more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than the entire world's fleet of cars, trucks, planes, trains and ships combined.

"Biofuels are rapidly becoming the main cause of deforestation in countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and Brazil," said Simone Lovera, managing coordinator of the Global Forest Coalition, an environmental NGO based in AsunciĆ³n, Paraguay. "We call it 'deforestation diesel'," Lovera told IPS.

Oil from African palm trees is considered to be one of the best and cheapest sources of biodiesel and energy companies are investing billions into acquiring or developing oil-palm plantations in developing countries. Vast tracts of forest in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and many other countries have been cleared to grow oil palms. Oil palm has become the world's number one fruit crop, well ahead of bananas.

Biodiesel offers many environmental benefits over diesel from petroleum, including reductions in air pollutants, but the enormous global thirst means millions more hectares could be converted into monocultures of oil palm.

Getting accurate numbers on how much forest is being lost is very difficult.

The FAO's State of the World's Forests 2007 released last week reports that globally, net forest loss is 20,000 hectares per day -- equivalent to an area twice the size of Paris. However, that number includes plantation forests, which masks the actual extent of tropical deforestation, about 40,000 hectares (ha) per day, says Matti Palo, a forest economics expert who is affiliated with the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE) in Costa Rica. "The half a million ha per year deforestation of Mexico is covered by the increase of forests in the U.S., for example," Palo told IPS.

National governments provide all the statistics, and countries like Canada do not produce anything reliable, he said. Canada has claimed no net change in its forests for 15 years despite being the largest producer of pulp and paper. ...

Energy Bulletin has a new roundup of biofuel related articles, including this one from Lester Brown on biofuel and food prices.
If you think you are spending more each week at the supermarket, you may be right. The escalating share of the U.S. grain harvest going to ethanol distilleries is driving up food prices worldwide.

Corn prices have doubled over the last year, wheat futures are trading at their highest level in 10 years, and rice prices are rising too. In addition, soybean futures have risen by half. A Bloomberg analysis notes that the soaring use of corn as the feedstock for fuel ethanol “is creating unintended consequences throughout the global food chain.” ..

Rising grain and soybean prices are driving up meat and egg prices in China. January pork prices were up 20 percent above a year earlier, eggs were up 16 percent, while beef, which is less dependent on grain, was up 6 percent.

In India, the overall food price index in January 2007 was 10 percent higher than a year earlier. The price of wheat, the staple food in northern India, has jumped 11 percent, moving above the world market price. ..

Ethanol euphoria is not an acceptable substitute for a carefully thought through policy. For Washington, it is time to decide whether to continue with the current policy of subsidizing more and more grain-based fuel distilleries or to encourage a shift to more fuel-efficient cars and a new automotive fuel economy centered on plug-in hybrid cars and wind energy. The choice is between a future of rising world food prices, spreading hunger, and growing political instability, or one of stable food prices, sharply reduced dependence on oil, and much lower carbon emissions.

After only giving a brief link to MonkeyGrinder's strange story about camels at Warakurna on the weekend, I thought I should dig up the lyrics to Midnight Oil's song about the place.
There is enough for everyone
In Redfern as there is in Alice
This is not the Buckingham Palace
This is the crown land
This is the brown land
This is not our land

Some folks live in water tanks
some folks live in red brick flats

There is enough, the law is carved in granite
It's been shaped by wind and rain
White law could be wrong
Black law must be strong

Warakurna, cars will roll
Don't drink by the water hole
Court fines on the shopfront wall
Beat the grog and save your soul

Some people laugh, some never learn
This land must change or land must burn
Some people sleep, some people yearn
This land must change or land must burn

Diesel and dust is what we breathe
This land don't change and we don't leave
Some people live, some never die
This land don't change this land must lie
Some people leave, always return
This land must change or land must burn

Warakurna, camels roam
Fires are warm and dogs are cold
Not since Lassiter was here
Black man's got a lot to fear

Some people laugh some never learn
This land must change or land must burn
Some people leave, always return
This land must change or land must burn

Der Spiegel has more on the disappearing bees story, with pesticides and GM crops being considered likely causes.
A mysterious decimation of bee populations has German beekeepers worried, while a similar phenomenon in the United States is gradually assuming catastrophic proportions. The consequences for agriculture and the economy could be enormous.

Walter Haefeker is a man who is used to painting grim scenarios. He sits on the board of directors of the German Beekeepers Association (DBIB) and is vice president of the European Professional Beekeepers Association. And because griping is part of a lobbyist’s trade, it is practically his professional duty to warn that “the very existence of beekeeping is at stake.”

The problem, says Haefeker, has a number of causes, one being the varroa mite, introduced from Asia, and another is the widespread practice in agriculture of spraying wildflowers with herbicides and practicing monoculture. Another possible cause, according to Haefeker, is the controversial and growing use of genetic engineering in agriculture.

As far back as 2005, Haefeker ended an article he contributed to the journal Der Kritischer Agrarbericht (Critical Agricultural Report) with an Albert Einstein quote: “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”

Mysterious events in recent months have suddenly made Einstein’s apocalyptic vision seem all the more topical. For unknown reasons, bee populations throughout Germany are disappearing — something that is so far only harming beekeepers. But the situation is different in the United States, where bees are dying in such dramatic numbers that the economic consequences could soon be dire. No one knows what is causing the bees to perish, but some experts believe that the large-scale use of genetically modified plants in the US could be a factor.

With Hubbert Linearisation being held in some disrepute lately as a modelling method for peak oil, Mobjectivist is having a look at a Cubic Growth Discovery Model.
A few months ago, I posited an oil discovery growth model which I consider follows reality better than any currently available model (which basically consists of none, since everyone bar a few contrarians seem to consider the Logistic model the end-game, and no one apparently seems to consider the discovery phase interesting from a modelling perspective). I used a model that features a time dependence which increases quadratically. This has worked in the past for human-effected discovery phenomena such as Wiki word growth. After thinking about a solid first-principle physical basis for such a growth regime, it finally dawned on me to re-think the geometry of the problem domain. Also, even though the quadratic solution showed a nice simplicity, featuring only an amplitude and a time-scale factor, the quality of the fit I thought could have used some more work.

The insight came to me as I thought how quadratic growth could occur in various geometric contexts. Of course, quadratic growth occurs in two-dimensions in the case of a circle which has a radius that increases linearly with time:

Area(Time) ~ (a*Time)2

Now, this makes sense from a discovery perspective in one key respect. If you consider that technology and manpower increases at least linearly with time (Moore's law notwithstanding), then the size of the discovery cross-section should at least track a radial increase. So the size of the prospected regions would follow a quadratic (n=2 power law). Each year a progressively larger geographical area gets sampled for oil until it hits a real physical constraint, i.e. the cumulative area sampled.

...

If this model indeed effectively describes discovery, why should it work? My thinking goes like this: we collectively have the one of the most highly sampled data source in human history. Every region of the globe has gotten probed, either randomly or systematically, such that we have few remaining unexplored regions on Earth. The cubic discovery model does basically puts a mathematical basis to a blind-man's dart game. I contend once again that we do not have to understand much about the geology of oil deposits. This model would probably work just effectively if we happened to start looking for expensive buried coins on a hypothetically previously unexplored beach and we could start by digging by hand, then using a metal detector, and finally using earth moving equipment and a sifter (you get the idea). This essentially explains why all the unique elements of petroleum geology get washed out; in the end if we deal with a sparsely populated sampled system, this kind of math should work out fine.


I combined the cubic growth discovery model with the oil shock depletion model via a convolution and came up with this model fit for the global oil production curve. I used 12.5 years for each of the shock model lags, which you can see in the progressively deeply shaded curves from discovery to production. (caveat, I only used Regime A of the cubic discovery so the discovery decay dies out rapidly around the year 2000)



ENN has an article on the self-reinforcing race for oil in the Arctic.
Barren and uninhabited, Hans Island is very hard to find on a map.

Yet these days the Frisbee-shaped rock in the Arctic is much in demand -- so much so that Canada and Denmark have both staked their claim to it with flags and warships. The reason: an international race for oil, fish, diamonds and shipping routes, accelerated by the impact of global warming on Earth's frozen north.

The latest report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says the ice cap is warming faster than the rest of the planet and ice is receding, partly due to greenhouse gases. It's a catastrophic scenario for the Arctic ecosystem, for polar bears and other wildlife, and for Inuit populations whose ancient cultures depend on frozen waters.

But some see a lucrative silver lining of riches waiting to be snatched from the deep, and the prospect of timesaving sea lanes that could transform the shipping industry the way the Suez Canal did in the 19th century.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates the Arctic has as much as 25 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and gas. Moscow reportedly sees the potential of minerals in its slice of the Arctic sector approaching US$2 trillion (euro1.5 trillion). All this has pushed governments and businesses into a scramble for sovereignty over these suddenly priceless seas.

Regardless of climate change, oil and gas exploration in the Arctic is moving full speed ahead. State-controlled Norwegian oil company Statoil ASA plans to start tapping gas from its offshore Snoehvit field in December, the first in the Barents Sea. It uses advanced equipment on the ocean floor, remote-controlled from the Norwegian oil boom town of Hammerfest through a 90-mile (145-kilometer) undersea cable.

Alan Murray, an analyst with the energy consultants Wood Mackenzie, said most petroleum companies are now focusing research and exploration on the far north. Russia is developing the vast Shkotman natural gas field off its Arctic coast, and Norwegians hope their advanced technology will find a place there. "Oil will bring a big geopolitical focus. It is a driving force in the Arctic," said Arvid Jensen, a consultant in Hammerfest who advises companies that hope to hitch their economic wagons to the northern rush.

It could open the North Pole region to easy navigation for five months a year, according to the latest Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, an intergovernmental group. That could cut sailing time from Germany to Alaska by 60 percent, going through Russia's Arctic instead of the Panama Canal. Or the Northwest Passage could open through the channels of Canada's Arctic islands and shorten the voyage from Europe to the Far East. And that's where Hans Island, at the entrance to the Northwest Passage, starts to matter.

The half-square-mile (1.3-square-kilometer) rock, just one-seventh the size of New York's Central Park, is wedged between Canada's Ellesmere Island and Danish-ruled Greenland, and for more than 20 years has been a subject of unusually bitter exchanges between the two NATO allies. ...

Ex US national security adviser Robert McFarlane says that renewable energy is the solution to the energy security problem.
The United States should accelerate development of renewable energy sources because of increased risk from terrorist attacks that could cripple the economy, former national security adviser Robert McFarlane said Saturday. Speaking at a renewable energy summit organized by Sen. Ken Salazar, McFarlane, who was national security adviser for President Reagan, said an attack last year on a Saudi oil terminal was a warning of what could happen if terrorists carry out their threats to go after oil supplies.

He said a truck filled with explosives came within 100 yards of the oil terminal before it was stopped. Had the attack succeeded, it would have knocked out a terminal that supplies 6 million barrels of oil a day for a year, tripling the cost a barrel of oil to $150 a barrel overnight. "They came within 100 yards of taking 6 million barrels a day off the market for a year," said McFarlane, who now runs an energy investment company.

McFarlane said Japan, which is heavily dependent on oil from the Persian Gulf, would have been the first to see its economy collapse if the attack had succeeded. He said there are a dozen terminals at risk in Saudi Arabia alone. He said renewable energy provides the best alternative because the number of stable oil-producing countries is dwindling. ...

McFarlane said new renewable energy technologies line ethanol from cellulose can be on the market in two years and solar energy could provide a substantial amount of the electricity the world needs. He said cars made from carbon and increased conservation also would help reduce the demand for fossil fuels.

Technology Review has an article on cheaper, more efficient solar cells (a title which left me with a strong sense of deja vu - I'm sure they've used that before).
Much more efficient solar cells may soon be possible as a result of technology that more efficiently captures and uses light. StarSolar, a startup based in Cambridge, MA, aims to capture and use photons that ordinarily pass through solar cells without generating electricity. The company, which is licensing technology developed at MIT, claims that its designs could make it possible to cut the cost of solar cells in half while maintaining high efficiency. This would make solar power about as cheap as electricity from the electric grid.

The effort uses a type of material called a photonic crystal that makes it possible to "do things with light that have never been done before," says John Joannopoulos, a professor of physics at MIT who heads the lab where the new designs for solar applications were developed. Photonic crystals, which can be engineered to reflect and diffract all the photons in specific wavelengths of light, have long been attractive for optical communications, in which the materials can be used to direct and sort light-borne data. Now new manufacturing processes could make the photonic crystals practical for much-larger-scale applications such as photovoltaics.

StarSolar's approach addresses a long-standing challenge in photovoltaics. Silicon, the active material that is used in most solar cells today, has to do double duty. It both absorbs incoming light and converts it into electricity. Solar cells could be cheaper if they used less silicon. If the silicon is made thinner than it is now, it may still retain its ability to convert the photons it absorbs into electricity. But fewer photons will be absorbed, decreasing the efficiency of the cell.

MIT researchers developed sophisticated computer simulations to understand how thin layers of photonic crystal could be engineered to capture and recycle the photons that slip through thin layers of silicon. Silicon easily absorbs blue light, but not red and infrared light. The researchers found that by creating a specific pattern of microscopic spheres of glass within a precisely designed photonic crystal, and then applying this pattern in a thin layer at the back of a solar cell, they could redirect unabsorbed photons back into the silicon.

Today's solar cells already reflect some of the light that passes through the silicon. But the photonic crystal has distinct advantages. Conventional solar cells are backed with a sheet of aluminum. The photonic crystal reflects more light than the aluminum does, especially once the aluminum oxidizes. And the photonic crystal diffracts the light so that it reenters the silicon at a low angle. The low angle prevents the light from escaping the silicon. Instead, it bounces around inside; this increases the chances of the light being absorbed and converted into electricity.

As a result, the photonic crystal can increase the efficiency of solar cells by up to 37 percent, says Peter Bermel, CTO and a cofounder of StarSolar. This makes it possible to use many times less silicon, he says, cutting costs enough to compete with electricity from the grid in many markets. The savings would be especially large now, since a current shortage in refined silicon is keeping solar-cell prices high and slowing the growth of solar-cell production.

Tech Review also has an article on engineering bacteria to harvest light.
Commonly used lab bacteria called E. coli can be converted into light-harvesting organisms in a single genetic step, according to new research from MIT. The genetic enhancement allows microorganisms that normally derive their cellular energy from sugars to switch to a diet of sunlight. These findings could ultimately be used to genetically engineer bacteria that can more efficiently produce biofuels, drugs, and other chemicals.

Some bacteria, such as cyanobacteria, use photosynthesis to make sugars, just as plants do. But others have a newly discovered ability to harvest light through a different mechanism: using light-activated proteins known as proteorhodopsins, which are similar to proteins found in our retinas. When the protein is bound to a light-sensitive molecule called retinal and hit with light, it pumps positively charged protons across the cell membrane. That creates an electrical gradient that acts as a source of energy, much like the voltage, or electromotive force, supplied by batteries.

First discovered in marine organisms in 2000, scientists recently found that the genes for the proteorhodopsin system--essentially a genetic module that includes the genes that code for both the protein and the enzymes required to produce retinal--are frequently swapped among different microorganisms in the ocean. (While we usually think of genes being passed from parent to offspring, microorganisms can exchange bits of DNA laterally.)

Intrigued by the prospect that a single piece of DNA is really all an organism needs to harvest energy from light, the researchers inserted it into E. coli. They found that the microorganisms synthesized all the necessary components and assembled them in the cell membrane, using the system to generate energy. "All it takes to derive energy from sunlight is that bit of DNA," saysEd Delong, professor of biological engineering at MIT and author of the study. The results were published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The findings have implications for both marine ecology and for synthetic biology, an emerging field that aims to design and build new life forms that can perform useful functions. Giant genomic studies of the ocean have found that the rhodopsin system is surprisingly widespread. The fact that a single gene transfer can result in an entirely new functionality helps explain how this genetic module traveled so widely. In fact for microbes, this kind of module swapping may be the rule rather than the exception."A new paradigm is emerging in microbiology: [microorganisms] are much more fluid than we thought," says Ford Doolittle, Canada Research Chair in comparative genomics at DalhousieUniversity, in Nova Scotia.

These findings and other research on proteorhodopsins could provide biological engineers with a new tool to tinker with.A paper published last month by Jan Liphardt and colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley, showed that E. coli engineered to have a proteorhodopsin pump can easily switch between energy sources: when bacteria are starved of their regular energy supply, they use light energy to drive their flagellar motor, a rotating tail that bacteria use to swim. The more light there is, the faster the motor goes.

Rhodopsin pumps could eventually be engineered into the microbes commonly used to produce drugs and other chemicals. These bacterial factories sometimes run short on energy. "Using these light-driven proton pumps, bacteria can be energized by light to increase their yields of metabolites or pharmacologically active substances," says John L. Spudich, professor of microbiology and molecular genetics at the University of Texas Medical School, in Houston. A cellular energy boost might come in particularly handy with the latest trend in bacterial production: engineering microbes to produce biofuels.

"It's sort of like creating a hybrid car," says MIT's Delong. "Instead of supplementing gas with energy stored in a battery, cells can supplement their energy metabolism with light."

I haven't done much tinfoil lately, so here's Cryptogon pointing to an article about an alliance between BASF and Monsanto to produce genetically modified food and biofuel.
BASF, a descendant of the Third Reich’s extermination industries, is teaming up with Monsanto to put pHood on your belly, biofuel in your SUV.

Have a nice day.

Via: STLtoday:

Monsanto Co. and BASF AG, a German competitor, on Wednesday promised to work together to deliver higher-yielding crops to meet increasing global demand. The companies announced a $1.5 billion research and development collaboration that, over a decade or more, could deliver hundreds of varieties of genetically modified corn, soybeans, cotton and canola.



A unit of BASF uses computers and robotics to measure more than 1,000 important chemicals that plants produce. It can track changes in the chemicals to see how a plant functions differently with the addition or subtraction of a particular gene. And it can do so quickly on many plant samples, said Peter Oakley, a member of BASF’s Board of Executive Directors responsible for Agriculture, Health and Nutrition. The company has compiled more than 1.5 million of these profiles for more than 35,000 genes. The resulting “genetic library” is a searchable database for researchers, he said.

The next important piece of the puzzle is a BASF Plant Science unit that rapidly measures about 20 performance characteristics in plant samples grown with promising genetic modifications. BASF can test 100,000 plants a year using this automated technology and those results, too, wind up in the database. As a result, researchers can quickly find and characterize useful traits and prioritize their development, Oakley said.

With this technology, Monsanto “has just connected a firehose to our pipeline,” Grant said. He promised product development “more, better, faster.”



Europe’s concern over global warming and demand for renewable fuels from plant sources could outweigh apprehension about biotech crops, said Christine Bruhn, director of the Center for Consumer Research at the University of California-Davis. “If the benefits are appealing, the people in surveys say they would consider biotech crops,” she said.

If the world is to produce enough crops to feed people and livestock, while providing corn for ethanol and soybeans for biodiesel, farmers will need high-yielding biotech crops, the companies said.

And to close, some quotes. First Tesla:
"Science is but a perversion of itself unless it has as its ultimate goal the betterment of humanity."

~ Nikola Tesla

And the best peak oil quote I've seen in a while, from Odograph, commenting on Robert Rapier's taking a break from The Oil Drum after getting a concentrated spray of doomer vitriol:
First they came for the Pornucopians, and no one spoke ...

And also, on the subject of non-doomer commentary about peak oil:
The "extreme doomer fringe" owns peak oil.

It's too late.

Peter Tertzakian was smarter than a lot of us. He wrote a whole book about "peak oil" but ... clever guy .... he did not used the words "peak oil" even once. Instead he talks about resource constraints, infrastructure limits, and supply chain evolution.

Maybe that's the answer Robert, find (or make) a nice site about "energy" and "oil production" rather than one about "peak oil." It works for Geoffrey Styles at Energy Outlook, right?

I think its also worth pondering the words of Bart from Energy Bulletin, when commenting on a recent post by Alex Steffen on Bill McKibben's approach to environmentalism.
Is there really a significant contradiction between Bill McKibben's relocalization and Alex Steffen's emphasis on technology? The differences seem more a matter of emphasis than of fundamental values.

McKibben comes from the environmental tradition of Limits of Growth, Wendell Berry, John Muir and Thoreau.

Steffen and WorldChanging are descended from the more optimistic, technically oriented tradition of The Whole Earth Catalog ("We are as gods and might as well get good at it.") and the Viridian design movement. Over the last few years, WorldChanging seems to have mellowed. They've run articles on peak oil and are writing positively about social movements.

I was struck by the classy way in which Alex Steffen offered his criticism. After the slugfests on discussion boards, one begins to appreciate the rules for courteous discussion:

* Understand what the other person is saying.
* Find common ground.
* Concentrate on advancing our understanding rather than "winning."
* Avoid personal attacks and go easy on attributing evil motives to people with whom you disagree.

2 comments

A long read, but quite interesting. I enjoyed all the included source docs. Found your blog looking for deforestation information but enjoyed spending the last 20 minutes reading. Thanks ... it was interesting.

Well - thanks - glad you found it interesting.

Brief posts don't seem to be my forte so I apologise if this is a time sink...

Glad to see people play rugby in Ohio too - I didn't realise that the sport had made it into the US (other than a few old Ivy League schools).

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