I, Rudy: At last the great divide is coming into focus  

Posted by Big Gav



Worldwide Sawdaust has a great cover image from American Conservative magazine depicting Rudy "War Is Peace, Freedom Is Slavery, Ignorance Is Strength" Giuliani.
This is the cover from this month's American Conservative magazine. I don't share most of the magazine's views, however, I think its interesting that paleoconservatives feel this strongly against Rudy. The fact that Glen Greenwald, a major progressive voice, is writing in the same publication is indicative of the fact that the real divide when it comes to electing a president isn't about left v. right as much as it is about liberty versus authority.

Here is what Giuliani had to say about freedom in 1994: that would be one decade after 1984. This is frightening:
What we don't see is that freedom is not a concept in which people can do anything they want, be anything they can be. Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do.

So just remember:

FREEDOM IS ABOUT AUTHORITY

FREEDOM IS ABOUT AUTHORITY

FREEDOM IS ABOUT AUTHORITY

BTW, just remember immigrant friends: the magazine is run by Pat Buchanan. He doesn't like you much either.

The likes of Glenn Greenwald and Tom Engelhardt also appear regularly in paleo-libertarian sites like Lew Rockwell now as well - and its not a coincidence (even if far left leaning readers are probably aghast at much of the content at these sites) - the old political divide is obsolete now.

Michael Porter at The Observer has an article in a similar vein, noting the great division in politics is no longer between left and right, but rather between authority and liberty.
Propaganda is theft because it attempts to deprive people of the truth. Our sister paper, the Guardian, ran a debate on liberty, rights and privacy and in it we saw two examples of government propaganda. The first came from the Justice Minister Jack Straw, who held that New Labour had 'deepened and extended' civil liberties - yes, and I am Scary Spice. The second was from columnist Polly Toynbee, New Labour's unblushing champion, who accused people like me - actually, especially me - of being right-wingers in liberal clothing and middle-class paranoids seeking victimhood.

Neither was successful because the authors do not understand the difference between refuting an argument and rebutting it. Straw is an old fashioned statist who believes if you go on saying a lie people will eventually believe it. Toynbee is something different. One senses panic rising from the realisation that it is very hard to deny Labour's programme against liberty when most of it is on the statute book.

So she scurries around wondering how she is going to hold the line. Her first ploy was to muddy the waters by questioning what is a reasonable freedom. For instance, she presents Labour's campaign against free speech as merely anti-discrimination laws, which is nothing like the whole truth. There is, she says, a clash between the right to free speech and the right not to be abused. The point is abuse is the corollary of free speech. I would prefer everyone to be well-mannered and respectful yet I believe gays have the right to be rude about the church and the church to be rude about gays, without either running to the law.

Next step is for her to practise this free speech by referring to what she calls my paranoia. That's fine by me but I'd just point out that there is a difference between fear and paranoia, as there is between sounding the alarm and being alarmist. And again, it's not as if I, or any of the other contributors to the debate, are making this up. It is irrefutably all there in Labour's record.

The breathtaking dishonesty of her argument is to describe anyone who opposes Labour on these grounds as a being a right-winger. In our democracy liberals exist in all parties - thank God - and it is eloquent of her desperation that she seeks to portray those who stand for liberty, rights and privacy as being individualists who are seeking the aura of victimhood, which of course decrypts as privileged middle-class dilettantes. The allegation comes from the hard-line sectarian communists of my student days, and it is hardly surprising to find the same generation still at it in New Labour, yet now adding notes of vanity, self-righteousness and priggishness.

The striking thing is how few in the government and among its supporters really grasp the substance of our complaints about liberty over the last 10 years. With dismal familiarity, we watch them move hastily from the matter in hand to rattle on about social justice. The trick, you see, is to portray concerns about liberty as a luxury for the privileged classes when what really matters is poverty and inequality. She must know that there can be no social justice without liberty, and vice versa. Besides, as the gap between the rich and poor widens every day, New Labour and its cheerleaders are at risk of causing nationwide symptoms of motion sickness when they strike this particular pose.

We are all victims of Labour's authoritarian laws but often the people whose interests New Labour claims to represent are especially penalised - for instance, the defendants who are pressurised in police stations to plead guilty by video link to crimes they have not committed because there is no adequate legal representation to hand. Why doesn't Toynbee write about the measures smuggled into the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act which will combine with the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act to make it legal for bailiffs to enter someone's home and seize property on a civil order? Jack Straw's Department of Justice is currently formulating the rules that will govern the force that may be offered to single mothers, old ladies, teenagers and young children who happen to be at home when the bailiffs come. Will she be reminding us that Labour has buried 400 years of protection against this outrage?

Jack Straw's performance last week was wondrously lacking in self knowledge, or at least the elementary sense of the truth we must expect in our ministers. But then Straw was Foreign Secretary when Britain went to war in Iraq and escaped all blame. His time as Home Secretary has escaped all criticism. He was speaking when Walter Wolfgang was hauled out from the Labour conference but did not intervene. He skated from Blair to Brown and then proceeded to blame Blair's people for cash for honours and the more recent illegal donations scandal. At every opportunity it seems he disparages Blair, most recently over Blair's refusal to condemn Israel's attack on Hizbollah in Lebanon. Why didn't he protest at the time? As doubts grow about Brown going the distance, I'll give you any money there's a message at the back of Straw's mind which says: 'You might just get a crack at Number 10, Jack. Who else is there?'

His approach to Labour's programme against liberty is simply to deny that it ever existed - which is to say that water flows uphill. This is not a matter of interpretation, but calculated propaganda, and the readers knew it. In the hours following publication, he was taken apart on the Guardian's Comment is Free blog about his failure to mention such things as ID cards, the restrictions on protest and the building of the database state.

The key sentences come from a feline passage in the middle of his article. 'We have "freedoms to" do things in a free society,' he wrote, 'but "freedoms from" as well. Freedoms from fear, crime and terrorism.' It is this notion of 'freedoms from' that has enabled the attack on liberty. Because people's fears are infinite it follows that Labour's urge to legislate is inexhaustible.

The air is clearing now. Each one of us is probably more certain where we stand in the ideological divide that is opening up. Are we for the growth of state power at the expense of individual freedom, or do we believe that our democracy depends on individual freedom and an inviolate system of rights? If you agree with the following propositions you may just find yourself on the opposite side to Straw and Toynbee:

That government exists to serve and respect the people and can only do so by trusting the people; that every individual has the right to privacy and that personal information is exactly that - personal; that every individual has a right to justice - access to proper representation, to know the evidence against them, and be punished only if a normal court of law has decided the law has been broken; that every individual has the right to communicate, move about, assemble and express him or herself without the state obstructing, interfering with or monitoring those activities; that government and the state are not the same thing; that good government is only possible when these liberties are respected and government is fully accountable to the people.

Harpers has a good article on universal (and illegal, for now) surveillence in the US - "Another Milestone on the Road to Serfdom".
What Lichtblau, Risen and Shane are describing is the dawn of a new National Surveillance State in the United States, a public-private partnership. And the object of this partnership—which emerges as a criminal conspiracy, quite literally, between telecom companies and the Bush Administration—is to watch and listen to you and everything you do. Of course, they will say it’s about “terrorists,” or about “narcotics traffickers.” And indeed every authoritarian and wannabe totalitarian system from the dawn of time has cast its snooping on citizens in just these terms. No problems with the honest citizen, they say, it’s the criminals and the enemies we’re after. We need your cooperation. But the technology used makes no such distinction—it is snooping on everyone.

We learn about this mostly thanks to an engineer who saw what was happening and began to ask questions.
The accusations rely in large part on the assertions of a former engineer on the project. The engineer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said in an interview that he participated in numerous discussions with N.S.A. officials about the proposal. The officials, he said, discussed ways to duplicate the Bedminster system in Maryland so the agency “could listen in” with unfettered access to communications that it believed had intelligence value and store them for later review. There was no discussion of limiting the monitoring to international communications, he said.

“At some point,” he said, “I started feeling something isn’t right.”

So the United States intelligence agencies in cahoots with major telecom providers are intercepting and reviewing your communications. This is occurring without warrants. And the legal community is in accord: it was criminal conduct. And that’s why the Bush Administration is frantically pushing right now for immunity: to ensure that its collaborators face no adverse consequences from their criminal acts. What kind of society does this sound like?

Now let’s tack on one further extremely disturbing fact. One telecom company said “no.” It was Qwest. The Qwest response to overtures was simple: “We’d love to work with you on this. But you do need to change the law so we can do it legally.” Apparently as soon as that happened, Qwest lost a series of important government contracts. And the next thing you know, the Justice Department was feverishly working on a criminal investigation looking at Qwest’s CEO on insider trading allegations—amidst very strange dealings between the Justice Department and the federal judge hearing the case. Of course, this is all the purest coincidence. Or maybe not. What kind of society does this sound like?

This is not the America we used to live in. It is not a nation that stood as a bulwark for civil liberties. It is a nation with an executive who is drunk on power. An executive who refuses to respect the legal constraints established by the Constitution, and even the criminal law.

As dawn turned to midmorning in the era of technology, thinkers agreed that the great threat facing mankind was the threat of a totalitarian rule. They saw the vision that Orwell transcribed, in which human freedom would be horribly constrained as the species assumed the role accorded to cogs in some massive machine. This was hard for Americans to envision—they were born and lived in a country that knew and seriously guarded civil liberties. But those who traveled abroad saw the evidence plainly enough, especially in the twenties and thirties, as totalitarian states rose and enslaved their peoples. Then fascism rose and fell. And after it, the efforts to build a Marxist-Leninist world imploded as well. But it’s wrong to suppose on the basis of these failed nightmare-utopias that the threat Orwell envisioned had passed. It has merely moved on, to a new form.

How would America and its market system behave in the face of such a threat? In the mind of some, like Hayek and Mises, the forces of the market would restrain an overreaching government and would serve to maximize human freedom. We needed to be on guard, of course, against the rise of monopolies and preserve the competitive edge. And we have to adhere rigorously to a principle of legality. As Mises reminds us, it is the centering of power in the hands of a few men and not in the rule of law, that presents the gravest threat to individual freedom in the market economies.

I don’t object to private businesses, including those in the telecommunications sector, cooperating with government, including the intelligence services. They should do so, of course, to promote society’s interest in collective security. But this cooperation needs to occur within the boundaries of the law, and it must respect the rights of their customers, and more broadly of the citizenry. What the Bush Administration and the telecoms did was wrong, and both should be held to account for their wrongdoing. That’s the way a state committed to the rule of law works.

The question is now before the Senate for a vote on the telecom amnesty bill. As usual, the White-Flag Democrats are abandoning opposition to the Administration’s initiative and are laying the foundation for it to be steamrolled through the Senate. Harry Reid’s conduct in particular has been reprehensible and spineless. This vote is a milestone on the road to serfdom. It’s time to put up a roadblock instead. Write or phone your senator immediately and advise them that you oppose the grant of amnesty for warrantless surveillance to telecommunications companies and that you expect them to do the same.

Bernhard at Moon Of Alabama notes that the process unfolding in the US has been "perfectly predictable".
From today's NYT we learn that at least four White House lawyers pondered the question of burning evidence of their crimes by deleting video tapes (I believe there are copies) of the CIA torture on Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri:
One former senior intelligence official with direct knowledge of the matter said there had been “vigorous sentiment” among some top White House officials to destroy the tapes. The former official did not specify which White House officials took this position, but he said that some believed in 2005 that any disclosure of the tapes could have been particularly damaging after revelations a year earlier of abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

The WH lawyers involved were Miers, Bellinger, Gonzales and Addington. Miers and Gonzales are lightweights. I don't know about Bellinger, but Addington has been the heavyweight on the team all along. Being Cheney's henchmen he explained the general overall strategy:
"We're going to push and push and push until some larger force makes us stop."

But what if no larger force appears?

The process is well known:
What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if he people could understand it, it could not be released because of national security.

That text applies to torture laws, the FISA changes, the Patriot Act and the War on Iraq budgets that still fly through Congress without any significant protest.

But it was written in 1955 and is an interview with an intellectual German about the 1930s/40s. The Goebbels strategy was "push and push and push" too. Back then the larger force appeared only in a very bloody fight over Stalingrad and even after that took years to succeed.

It is the creeping process that is alarming. It is still going on, strong. Several of the last Billmon posts warned about this.

The recent offhanded use of the words "bureau procedures" by the veteran reporter Walter Pincus to describe serious enacted laws really set off my alarm bells.

The creeping slime has seeped into the better folks minds. UESLA goes from there:
This is a difficult phase during our nation's rise to imperial glory. The transition from the rule of law to the rule of Strong Men requires, at times, the utmost patience from true patriots.

It is not something that happens overnight, although it will seem like that when it finally blossoms into full view.

Although done without fanfare, it is an absolutely vital step to refer to laws prohibiting torture as mere procedures. It is masterful. It is well over 51% of the victory, for it quietly and adroitly hollows out those laws. They no longer quite apply, and laws that no longer quite apply -- quite effectively no longer exist.

There are dumb laws in every State of the Union forbidding various things like eating ice cream on Sunday, using elephants to plow cotton fields, or keeping horses indoors. No one pays any attention to them, other than to chuckle over their inanity. Laws against torture, and treaties banning torture, are relentlessly joining this list.

Now that the restraints against torture have been effectively removed, the next steps will be easy. In the coming few years, this Mueller fellow will eventually be replaced with someone who is not hampered by regard for defunct laws, who can rule his domain within the empire by fiat and decree.

The same process is taking place in every domain of government. Inch by inch, decrepit laws like habeas corpus and quaint concepts like freedom of speech, honest elections, freedom of movement and assembly, and personal privacy become first hollow procedures, then dumb laws, and finally treason. In the vacuum left when laws become dumb, only Strong Men can hold society together.

America set out on this course many long years ago, with the birth of the National Security State after Dubya Dubya Two. We are approaching the flowering time.

The true nature of the Unitary Executive is the F├╝hrer Prinzip, rule by a hierarchy of Strong Men, each ruling their domain with absolute authority. This is precisely the slippery slope of legalized gangsterism rising in America, blithely overlooked by its consumers, the majority of whom still believe they live in a free society.

They don't. They have built their own prison, and elected their own jailers. They are living in a nation of hollow laws, a nation of procedures on their way to becoming dumb laws left on the books only for comic effect. Mute laws, stupid laws, quaint laws for the era before empire, for the era before Strong Men.

The Unitary Executive is rule by thuggery, by fiat, and by raw power. But it is not the cause of America's fall. No, it is the last symptom of America's internal rot, of the merger of unchecked corporate and institutional power with the institution of government itself. The businessman, the soldier, the priest, and the politician are standing forth now as the Strong Men who will ultimately save the nation from dumb laws like that "goddammed piece of paper" the Constitution.

The American populace made room for Strong Men by neglecting the duties of citizenship in favor of life as consumers. They made Strong Men necessary by letting crooks run the banks and towers of corporate power, and shysters write the laws. They demand Strong Men and Messiahs on every hand now to extricate themselves from the consequences of living beyond their means, beyond restraint, beyond moderation or common sense.

Just as they want a Messiah to rescue them from death itself, they want a Strong Man to rescue them from the rigors of citizenship, from the demanding duties of managing the nation. They habitually turn to boundless consumption, constant entertainment, and self congratulation instead, letting whomever promises more of all this to run the country, write the laws, and rule the airwaves.

In such a setting, reality becomes what you wish it to be.

The result is the largest pool of debt in human history, a bankrupt nation currently masquerading as the largest economy in the world. All hollowed out, all ruled by gangsters, by men above the law. The result is that the great American consumer party is over, and the result will be the American Reich, as Americans demand Strong Men to save them from consequences.

All perfectly predictable.

Links:

* The Times - The torture tape fingering Bush as a war criminal
* Ars Technica - Australia's controversial national ID program hits the dumpster. Well done to Rudd on this one.
* Huffington Post - Yes, Virginia, There is a War on Terror
* Reason - Romney, Torture, and Teens

And to close, here's Pro Libertate on the recent flap about the New York Times and others smearing Ron Paul again - " Ron Paul: The Smearbund Hates What It Can't Control and Doesn't Understand". It has a great photo of Rudy in drag...
The proverbial “Hand” that manipulates public opinion may be invisible, but it is readily detected by those who consume the news with any degree of critical intelligence. The Invisible Hand has rarely been less subtle than it's been during the past several days when it has summoned into existence a classic hate campaign against Ron Paul. The Hand has assumed a very familiar configuration – a pointing finger of spurious accusation at the end of a limp wrist.

In using the term “Invisible Hand” I do not mean that we are seeing the product of a highly organized conspiracy, with dozens or hundreds of people working with Jesuitical guile and Prussian efficiency. It is most likely a “conspiracy” in the precise etymological sense of the expression – a large group of people “breathing together,” or sharing the same inspiration.

It is certainly possible that “Mordor sent out the memo the libel Ron Paul,” in the words of the somewhat (but not entirely facetious) comment by the estimable Lew Rockwell. But whether or not a specific directive was handed down, it's certain that there has been a distinct change in the direction of the prevailing suck-up wind. Pundits, power brokers, and blogosphere second-handers know that in order to cultivate the favor of an alarmed but potent Power Elite it's necessary to join in the unfolding smear of Ron Paul. The result has been a torrential outpouring of unfiltered ... well, in the interests of decorum, suffice it to say that it's been a real colon-full.

The currency of this smear is the language of guilty insinuation, denominated in hints, winks, smirks, and “I'm-just-passing-this-along” deniable libels. None of the people giving circulation to the charge that Dr. Paul is somehow “linked” to white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups appears to believe that Paul himself harbors such views or impulses. This includes Don Black and others of that persuasion who are, as my perceptive friend Tom Eddlem points out, most likely looking for the free publicity they've obtained from Paul's detractors. (There is, as I've noted, an imperceptibly small chance that the Stormfront set might convert to libertarianism,which would require a complete re-examination of their premises.)

The first to put a whetted finger to the suck-up wind, and the source of some of the seminal smears against Ron Paul, was Eric Dondero, a former staff aide to Paul who has announced his intention to run for Paul's congressional seat. ...

But Dondero's soi-disant “mainstream libertarianism” makes generous allowance for imperial militarism: Like a number of celebrity libertarians, Donadero seems to believe that it's possible to have minimalist government at home while following a foreign policy of endless and unlimited interventionism. Or it's possible that he doesn't care at all about intellectual consistency, and he's just in the habit of spitting out words to watch them splatter.

Dondero announced his desire to unseat Dr. Paul following the now-famous confrontation between the good Doctor and the Demented Rudy Giuliani over the origins of the 9-11 attack.

“I have spent the early morning scanning the major political blogs, and news sites,” wrote Dondero on RedState.com, which is sort of a cyber-Volkischer Beobachter for Red State Fascists. “It's unanimous," declared Dondero after a small poll of people who agree with him. "Ron Paul got slammed by Rudy Giuliani last night for suggesting that we - the United States of America - are to blame for the attacks on 9/11. He even had the audacity to cite Osama bin Laden.”

One of the basic understandings shared by all libertarians is that the people of our country, and the government ruling us, are not identical, and our interests very rarely – if ever – coincide. Ron Paul has underscored that principle by pointing out that the attack on innocent Americans that took place on 9-11 was in large measure “blowback” from Washington's decades of foreign adventurism.

Although it requires a certain kind of dogmatic ignorance to do so, I can imagine how someone of a certain political bent could regard the government to be completely blameless in its foreign policy, and insist that its actions abroad have no material connection to 9-11. A person of that sort, however, couldn't honestly call himself a libertarian.

Dondero, it should be noted, wrote in the immediate aftermath of the first debate, in apparent anticipation that the machinery of mass conformity would make quick work of Dr. Paul. He described the exchange as “a horrible moment for Ron Paul. My former boss looked like a complete nutcase. He looked frail. His hands shaked [sic]. He showed his age. He was completely unprepared for Giuliani's romping response.”

Well.... not exactly. More than half a year later it's clear that Dr. Paul – whose demeanor was actually quite composed, and who made his points with plangent conviction – impressed millions of Americans (and millions more abroad) by the courage and decency he displayed in that exchange. He has become an increasingly effective spokesman of truths largely unspoken – about the Constitution, about the Federal Reserve, about our impending descent into bankruptcy and ruin.

Ron Paul: Real Conservatives Don't Start Wars, They End Them  

Posted by Big Gav in , , ,

The Huffington Post has a good little article on Ron Paul's views on energy policy (get out of the way of alternative energy) and his neoconservative foes in the Republican party who prefer to fight endless wars over oil.

Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) recently gained fame for breaking one-day online donation records, but he's still considered an underdog by many because of his single-digit polling and arguably radical views on a variety of issues. For one thing, he supports an immediate withdrawal from Iraq, a position that seems more at home with the Democrats these days. So why is he up there, debate after debate, standing out from the likes of Huckabee and Romney and McCain? Why isn't he trying to fit in if he wants to win the primary? Is he even a Republican?

He told me he is--just not the same kind as the rest of them.

"I think their definitions are different," he said. "Today, the Party has been taken over by a group called neoconservatives, and I don't believe they're really conservative. I think they're really liberal in the modern sense of the word--they're big spenders, they believe in entitlements, they believe in military adventurism."

Paul certainly doesn't believe in "military adventurism." He articulated an anti-preemption stance, geard toward avoiding another inextricable, Iraq-like conflict in the future. And unlike some politicians, he usually acts in accordance with his stated philosophy. For example, he was one of only six Republicans in the House to vote against the Iraq War Resolution.

"The traditional conservative--which the Republicans used to be--did not advocate aggressive war, usually got our country out of the wars such as after Korea and Vietnam..." he said. "We've done exactly the opposite. And because I'm a strict constitutionalist, this has separated me from the other candidates."

Some have called Ron Paul an isolationist, in part because of his views on foreign aid and the use of military force. He strongly disagreed with the association.

"I'm the last thing from an isolationist," he said. "An isolationist is a protectionist--they want to build walls around their country. They may want to bring troops home, but they also want to close the door for trade and travel and the spreading of ideas, and that's quite different. The Founders, I think, had it right when they said, 'Trade with people, be friends with people, but don't get involved in their internal affairs and don't get involved in entangling alliances,' and you'd be a lot less likely to fight people that you're trading with than if you have protectionist measures and sanctions on countries [like] we do today."

He added: "The same individuals who claim I might be an isolationist are the ones who are putting sanctions on countries like Iran and Iraq and Sudan, and yet the trade might stop us from fighting. I, for instance, think we should be trading with Castro, rather than putting sanctions on Castro, because it didn't do any good--after 40 or 50 years, it hasn't helped us a bit."

Finally, Paul believes that the United States should not be entirely dependent on other nations for its energy.

"I think the most important thing is to let the market set the price of energy and get out of the way of alternative energy," he said. "We've been interfering with the development of nuclear energy for 30 or 40 years. We don't develop any new nuclear power plants, but then at the same time we take money and we subsidize alternative fuels such as ethanol, which nobody's ever proven is an economically feasible alternative. So the most important thing is to recognize that the government bureaucrats and politicians have no idea what is the best alternative fuel, but if the market pushes the price of oil up, then people are going to say, 'Hey, they're running out of oil! And oil is now $200 a barrel, we better do something,' and the market's going to come up with the best alternative."

These goals may seem ambitious, but Paul is conservative about what he could accomplish unilaterally, stressing that he would need to rely on congressional support that a mandate, in the form of his successful election to the presidency, would grant him.

"You could [unilaterally] change the foreign policy and bring troops home and save a lot of money. And you could start repealing executive orders that have been so onerous. And you could refuse to enforce laws that are put on the books through regulations and by court orders or executive orders. So you could be discreet in what you enforce, but to really, really have the big changes, yes, you have to work and develop a consensus on what you're trying to do."

Gone Surfing  

Posted by Big Gav

I'm off on holiday for the next 2 weeks, so Peak Energy will be going on hold until I get back. I'd like to wish all of you a Happy Christmas / Holidays/ Hanukkah / Summer or Winter solstice or whatever name it is you give to the end of year holiday season, and I hope to see you back next year.

Its been quite a fun year for me - the political tide has turned somewhat, with the neocons on the ropes in the US and the Rodent out on his backside here in Oz, plus a steady stream of encouraging news about solutions for both peak oil and global warming (even if nothing meaningful has been done about either during the year from a political point of view).

For those new to the site, or regular readers who have somehow failed to read every single post, here is a sample of some of the posts I most enjoyed writing throughout the year :

* The Future Of Venture Capital - The year kicked off with a look at the latest (and most desperately needed) trend in technology investment - cleantech.
* Bright Green Buildings and Dark Green Buildings - A look at energy efficient architecture. Viridian Pope Emperor Bruce Sterling linked to this one from his Wired blog, which made the year from the point of view of this disreputable outpost on the edge of the Viridian world.
* The Shockwave Rider - A homage to John Brunner and the accuracy of his futurism. Easily my favourite post, even if it did generate some weird indirect feedback and some bizarre domains in the logs. Back in the search results at Google at last, after being exiled to some dark memory hole for several months after a brief stay on the front page of a search for "Shockwave Rider" straight after it was published. You can find it via Yahoo (number 7 today) too, but it seems to have disappeared from Live / MSN now. Chances are, if you read it you will learn something new.
* The Fat Man, The Population Bomb And The Green Revolution - Another book review that went a little feral - this time I looked at Herman Kahn's "The Next 200 Years" and tested some of his predictions. Make your "peak food" doomer friends read it.
* Black Earth - A look at Terra Preta / Biochar.
* The Turning Of The Worm - Further exploration of the world of soil.
* Better Living Through Green Chemistry - Who needs fossil fuels when you can make bioplastic ?
* Geothermia Revisted - A look at the potential power we could harness from the centre of the earth.
* Running Cars On Lawn Cuttings - An update on developments in the world of cellulosic ethanol.
* Tapping The Source - A brief look at some ocean energy projects. I'll do a much larger version next year.
* Queensland Shale Oil Billions in The Balance ? - An update on the question of shale oil.
* Jump Starting Electric Car Production - An update on developments in the world of lithium ion batteries.
* Iraq, Oil, Law And Order - The war in Iraq drags on, and should be a lesson to everyone as to why we need to abandon oil as an energy source anyway (amongst other much needed reforms). This one outlines the background behind the oil law the US is trying to get the Iraqi government to pass (thus far utterly unsuccessfully). While some peak oil followers find this inconvenient to acknowledge, there is far more oil under Iraq than is commonly believed, and a basic understanding of the proposed oil law combined the history of Iraqi oil exploration demonstrates what the war was all about. More at The Iron Butt Strategy, Honest John ?, and We're Not In Iraq For The Figs.
* The Air Car - A Breath Of Fresh Air Or A Waste Of Breath ? - Are these things for real ?
* Peak Oil In The Australian - Are these guys for real ?
* Should Natural Gas Be Used To Power New Zealand ? - Or these ones ?
* Use Your Vote Wisely - Mission accomplished - RIP Rodent.
* A Theory Of Market Power - Bits and pieces about energy politics and economics. I might try some free market philosophy around the economics of abundance next year that tries to come up with a system that both libertarians and marxists would find appealing (secure in the knowledge that I'll probably be roundly denounced by everyone).
* Dynamite Surfing. Totally off topic but a great piece of viral marketing.

The Air Car - A Breath Of Fresh Air Or A Waste Of Breath ?  

Posted by Big Gav in , ,

The primary impact of peak oil will be felt on our transportation systems. As road transportation is the primary consumer of oil, this is where we will need to make the most changes in order to adapt to less available oil.

There are a number of ways of adapting - most, if not all, of which have been discussed at length in the peak oil blogosphere. These include expanding mass transit systems, redesigning cities and towns to make them easier to walk or cycle around (or combining both of these approaches in "transit oriented development"), making greater use of electric cycles (or mopeds), using lightweight materials in vehicle construction, and - most commonly - switching to electric vehicles (particularly, in the medium term, plug-in hybrids).

One variation on the oil free car alternative is the "air car", which is powered by compressed air. The Age recently reported that IT MDI-Energy will be setting up a manufacturing plant in Melbourne, with cars expected to go on sale next year for less than $8000 and with running costs "80% lower than current comparable vehicles" (2 L per 100 km).

The company is claiming that the vehicles will be able to attain speeds of up to 110 kilometres an hour, and travel 150 kilometres on compressed air alone. The Age article also mentions another (hybrid) mode of operation where the air is heated using a fuel source, such as ethanol or diesel, which would make it "possible to travel from Perth to Brisbane without refuelling".

The car is refuelled by plugging it into the compressed air supply found at most service stations, and founder Louis Arnoux is claiming that the "engine technology could also be used to power homes". In other words, it is another way of implementing the vehicle to grid (or V2G) concept - which would be an interesting development as one of the main obstacles for this idea (once plug-in hybrids appear in significant numbers) is the impact of constantly discharging and recharging on battery lifespans (though recent developments in this area are promising too).

All of this sounds very promising (and the company promotes it as the solution for both peak oil and global warming). The question is - is it for real ?

Compressed air is similar to hydrogen - it is an energy storage medium, not an energy source. Critics point out that using compressed air simply shifts energy production from oil based engines to power stations - usually coal fired ones, particularly in Australia. On the other side of the ledger, compressed air is a safe, well-known storage mechanism (already in large scale use to store power produced by wind farms, for example), and the energy generation infrastructure can (and hopefully will) be converted from fossil fuel based sources to cleaner alternatives over time.

The Air Car was created by MDI (Moteur Developpement International) which is headquartered in Luxemburg, while the prototype factory is in the south of France. Originally conceived by former Formula 1 engineer Guy Negre back in 1991, the official names for the “Air Cars” are the OneCAT, CityCAT and MiniCAT. The OneCAT is expected to sit three or five people, with the MiniCAT and CityCAT models expected to follow.

MDI recently signed a deal with India’s Tata Motors, to build the air-powered vehicles in India. Zero Pollution Motors is looking to market the car in the US, and the Thai government has also invited Tata to manufacture the car in Thailand. A Colombian company (MDI Andina S.A) is also looking to produce the cars and sell them in Latin America.



The company has been talking about producing cars since at least 2000, so it is worthwhile remaining skeptical until cars start rolling off a production line somewhere.

WebHubbleTelescope had a brief look at the Air Car back in 2004.
The Air Car has gotten the press excited on and off over the years. The French design, which has received the most publicity, uses compressed air as an energy delivery mechanism. It has the potential for providing a clean-burning solution, but as usual it takes net energy to compress the air. No free lunch, unless wind or solar energy are involved to run the air compressors. And even there, we require energy to make the windmills and solar conversion devices.

As a sanity check here are two ways to calculate the energy value of 1 liter of compressed air. Remember that the gold standard is 1 GJ/30 liters for gasoline (or 33,000,000 joules/liter). First, if you compress air completely you actually get liquid. So we take the energy value of liquid nitrogen (air consists of 70% nitrogen by volume).

1. Energy Density/Specific Energy of liquid nitrogen = 320 KJ/l or 320,000 joules/liter
2. Heat of Vaporization of liquid nitrogen = 161 KJ/l or 161,000 joules/liter (to double-check the above value)

Looking at specific energy, this is at best 100 times less energy content than gasoline. On the plus side, the transfer to mechanical power is better than for gasoline (burning gas generates much wasted heat). Granted that advantage, we still have to generate the compressed air by using energy, and to top it off, we also have much worse energy density (i.e. energy per volume) than gasoline. You understand why consumers and corporations like gasoline (little energy overhead to extract a free lunch).

James Fraser at The Energy Blog had a look at the air car earlier this year when the Indian deal was announced, coming to the following conclusion:
This technology competes with the electric car. The claimed advantage of compressed air over electric storage is that it is less expensive, has a faster recharge time and pressure vessels have a longer lifetime compared to batteries. Both technologies have hurdles to overcome, demonstrating that the air engine/compressed air system is as light, efficient and cheap as available electric motors/batteries. The main issues to me are that the air engine has not been proven to be dependable and advanced batteries are still too expensive. ...

A discussion of the energy efficiencies of an air engine vehicle vs an electric vehicle would breakdown into the efficiency of the air compressor and air engine vs the efficiency of batteries and motors in the electric car, which I am sure the electric car would win. However because of the potentially low initial cost, low maintence cost and low operating cost compared to a fossil fueled vehicle the "air car" could find a niche market if it could be marketed before low cost batteries are available.

The Australian operation, IT-MDI Energy Pty Ltd, is a merger betweeen MDI and IT Mondial, Louis Arnoux’s IT business. The IT MDI-Energy venture has other ambitions besides transport, with its (in my mind, very confusing) website detailing plans to provide home power generation (shades of the key to Richard Smalley's "distributed energy grid" idea) and even broadband internet services in a “green” manner, using a combination of solar power and some sort of cogeneration technology. While the air car idea seems to have quite a lot of history behind it, much of the rest smells a lot like vapourware based on the information on the website.

When the article in The Age came out, Kiashu posted a few back-of-the-envelope calculations to The Bullroarer comparing the air car to a small petrol fuelled car in terms of fuel costs and carbon emissions, in which the air car fared pretty well.
If I remember my high school physics and chemistry right, the energy E required to compress air at 25C is,

E = 110,000 x ln (P1/P2) /m3/mol

There are about 45mol air in 1m3, so,

E = 110,000 x ln (P1/P2) /m3

This howstuffworks article tells us that an air car tank might have 300lt at 4,561psi, which is 29,999,087.707 - call it 30,000 kPa. Atmospheric pressure is 101.3kPa. 300lt at 30,000kPa will be 90,000lt at atmospheric pressure, or 90m3. And so we get,

E = 110,000 x ln (30,000 / 101.3) x 90
= 110,000 x 5.69 x 90
= 56,331,000J
which is 15.6kWhr

However, a company which supplies air compressors tells us that "Most systems typically waste 25 to 50 percent of the energy required to generate compressed air that actually provides useful work."

Let's be optimistic and assume that with lots of air cars zooming around, service stations will buy the most efficient (expensive) compressors. So we get just a 25% loss. This brings us to 20.9kWhr.

Let's round it up to 21kWhr to refill the tank. Again, this isn't the air car referred to in the article, but it gives us an idea of the order of magnitude.

21kWhr to travel 200km.

A regular small city car gets about 10km/lt. Petrol costs about $1.30/lt, and causes 2.32kg CO2e/lt. So to go 200km in a regular car would cost $26 and cause 46.4kg CO2e in emissions.

Electricity from coal cost $0.1355/kWh and 1.21kg CO2e/kWh, so the 200km journey would cost $2.85 and cause 34.9kg CO2e in emissions.

Electricity from wind costs $0.19/kWh and causes 0.04kg CO2e/kWh. So the 200km journey would cost $3.99 and cause 0.84kg CO2e in emissions.

The average Australian car is driven 15,000km annually. That'd be 75 refills, or 1,575kWh energy in all. That's not bad when the average household uses 6,000kWhr annually.

Presumably service stations could do things better than we could at home, since they can buy the big heavy and efficient equipment; if service stations supply so much compressed air, they'll start charging more for it, more than the power costs. Still, it seems that running it on compressed air will be significantly cheaper in money terms.

However, if the air is compressed by electricity got from coal, the greenhouse gas emissions will be comparable to simply burning petrol in the car.

Again, not perfect calculations, but the best we can do with the data we've got, and they give us an order of magnitude idea of the numbers involved.

There is another Australian company pursuing air powered vehicles - the Di Pietro Rotary Air Engine, which doesn't seem to have made much progress commercialising their technology, though it still appears in the press from time to time. From a recent ABC interview:
BLANCH : As the world wakes up to global warming, petrol prices rise and greenhouse gases pollute the atmosphere, what better than a car that creates zero pollution by running on nothing but compressed air? The dream started seven years ago for a Melbourne engineer, Angelo di Pietro, to advance his innovative air-driven 'Engineair' vehicle that he conceived, designed and developed and which could have an enormous impact on future motor-driven applications. I asked Angelo to list after zero-pollution, what he considered to be important improvements that his engine delivered over other motors.

ANGELO DI PIETRO : Our motor delivers high torque and low rpm, very high efficiency, low noise and it's a fraction of the weight of a traditional piston motor. It is cheaper to produce and is better for the environment, as less material and energy is used in its production.

BLANCH : So your motor is based on a rotary piston. How does your engine design differ from existing rotary engines?

ANGELO DI PIETRO : Uses a single rotary piston and pivoting dividers which runs almost frictionless.

BLANCH : Your motor's seven times smaller than the piston air motor currently in use, so what power does the engine develop with what about of compressed air?

ANGELO DI PIETRO: Although our motor is seven times smaller than the piston air motor, we develop much more power with considerable less energy, even by using our early motor's testing results of 2002, conducted by Monash University, we only use 770 litres per minute per horse power compared with the piston motor's 896 litres. We have advanced our technology today enormously and our scientific model predictions suggest that the new motor could be made at least four times more efficient for the same power output, compared to its commercial competitors.

BLANCH : So how do you get your motor to operate at a higher torque or with greater efficiency?

ANGELO DI PIETRO : By regulating air pressure and timing or manipulating the compressed air to perform the reverse function from when it was compressed.

BLANCH : You've designed the engine to be suited to a variety of applications and these range from commercial vehicles and motor scooters, buses, boats, trains and cars. Well that's a whole spectrum of transport, isn't it? So how does your engine adapt to such a range of vehicles?

ANGELO DI PIETRO : The engine can be scaled up or down in its size and will be built from different materials specific to each use, for example, carbon fibre or other plastics or even stainless steel for marine use. Our engine is best suited to a new generation of vehicles that can be built lighter as the need to build current heavier structures to support large heavy motors and all that goes with them is no longer required. This reduction in the weight of the engine and the elimination of many other components translates into fuel efficiency and economic benefits. ...

Dickheads Of The Year  

Posted by Big Gav

Bill Maher has a column in Rolling Stone listing his 13 dickheads of the year.

Its not a bad list (presumably Dick Cheney missed out because he has almost vanished from the public eye), and I like the concept. I might try to come up with a similar list for Peak Energy next year...

From the Rudy Giuliani description:

A phenomenon I still don't understand. Rudy says if a Democrat is elected in 2008, we'll be at risk of another 9/11, because . . . he was mayor of New York when they attacked the World Trade Center the first time? His slogan should be "Not on my watch . . . again." And if that's not enough of a reason for him to make this list, try this: The year before he was elected mayor, the NYPD made 720 arrests for marijuana misdemeanors. In the year 2000 under Rudy, that figure was 59,945. That's an increase of . . . a lot, dude. Why am I confident that he'll be on the list again next year?






Fuel Efficiency: Every Little Bit Helps  

Posted by Big Gav in , , ,

The Guardian has an article on the new CAFE standards proposed in the contentious US energy bill, pondering the lack of progress in fuel efficiency over the years. "What would Amory Lovins make of all this" ?

Before this week, the last time US politicians had put such a tight squeeze on the automobile industry over the fuel efficiency of its vehicles was 1975. It's now been 32 long years since the first standards were introduced - known as CAFE (corporate average fuel economy) - and all attempts to significantly improve them over this period have been soundly rebuffed by the predictable vested interests. Of course, there is no guarantee that the new standards, which were passed by the House of Representatives on Thursday, will survive a Senate filibuster, or a veto from the White House, but the new Democrat-inspired standards at least point to a coming sea-change in the US over its attitude towards tackling climate change. That's the hope, anyway. ...

But two new priorities now ring loud and clear in the regulators' ears - climate change and fast-rising oil prices (rearrange these two in order of priority for US politicians, as you choose). If you accept that it is a rare, frankly as yet unelected, politician who can convince people to drive their vehicles fewer miles each year, then the only hope of tackling rising transport-related emissions is to seek alternative fuels or greatly improve the efficiency of all vehicles consuming fossil fuels.

The new energy bill, which was passed by a vote of 235-181, demands that the car industry's average fuel economy must improve 40% by 2020 and achieve 35mpg. This sounds like a big rise at first, but considering it is coming from such a low base-point, it doesn't exactly invoke optimism that we have a chance of ever meeting the overall 80%-90% reductions targets across all sectors by 2050, as is now becoming the mantra for an increasing number of politicians. And it could yet be torn up, or compromised, as it continues its passage through Congress. Things are not much better in Europe. In October, the European Parliament voted to back a much-watered-down emissions reductions target for vehicles. ...

What must Amory Lovins make of all this? For decades now, as one of the world's most respected energy advisors, he has argued that improving fuel efficiencies year-on-year across all sectors benefits everyone (well, except for a few oil producers). Whether your concern is climate change, global political instability, or just squeezing the most from your dollar, everyone should want and seek fuel-efficiency gains. It's the ultimate no-brainer. Lovins has even advised the Pentagon - the world's largest buyer of oil - on how to reduce the amount of fuel it consumes on its excursions abroad through efficiency savings. In 2002, as the US prepared for another conflict in oil-rich Iraq, Lovins pointed out an off-beam way to avert such conflicts in the future. Simply by improving the average fuel economy of cars in the US by 2.7mpg, he said, it would extinguish the need for the US to import any oil from the Persian Gulf.

Lovins also often talks of a Japanese concept known as muda as another way of greatly improving fuel efficiencies over time. Muda is one of the Japanese terms for describing "waste" within any system. Combined with muri (lack of standardisation) and mura (inconsistencies), these underpin the business philosophy of Toyota in which it seeks to eradicate the "seven wastes" - Defects, Overproduction, Transportation, Waiting, Inventory, Motion and Overprocessing. This meticulous attempt to iron out any inefficiency in its systems (also sometimes referred to as "Lean Manufacturing") helped Toyota overtake General Motors to become the world's largest car manufacturer earlier this year. It has also played a huge part in Toyota becoming synonymous with hybrid technology, as displayed in its popular Prius.

Just how long do we have to wait before this attention to detail - when it comes to improving efficiencies, particularly fuel efficiency - becomes the norm across not just the car industry, but all sectors?

Fake Calm In Iraq  

Posted by Big Gav in , ,

Past Peak has an interesting update on the surge in Iraq and the fake calm it has created.

Meanwhile the US keeps calling for their Iraq oil law (its for their own good !) to be passed, and the Iraqi parliament continues its dogged resistance, citing irreconcilable differences.

There's no denying that US troop deaths are down in Iraq. Is peace breaking out? Don't believe the hype, says Pierre Tristam:
When Kuwait was liberated in 1991 — a strange concept, Kuwait having been free neither before being invaded by Iraq nor since — its citizens lined up the streets of their capital and waved thousands of American flags as troops drove by. "Did you ever stop to wonder," a man called John Rendon proudly asked during a speech to a government agency, "how the people of Kuwait City, after being held hostage for seven long and painful months, were able to get hand-held American, and for that matter, the flags of other coalition countries?" He answered his own question: "That was one of my jobs then."

The first Bush administration hired Rendon to produce the television show known as the first Gulf War. With the Rendon Group, his public relations firm, Rendon won multi-million dollar contracts to make the American occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan look good, and do the same on behalf of the Afghan and Iraqi governments. Propaganda has been a lucrative business in these wars. It gave us such classics as the fabricated toppling of Saddam's statue in Baghdad early in the war, the taxpayer-supported Pentagon effort to plant positive stories in the Iraqi press, and the more recent mini-series about the successes of the American "surge."

The propaganda controls are clearly in effective hands today. There's been no need, as there is in more discriminating Iraq, to plant positive stories in the domestic press. For the most part the mainstream news media here seem as willing as they were in 2003 to buy the Bush administration's latest recasting of the Iraqi catastrophe as a country on the mend. But caveats grow as lush as date palm in Iraq. Here's this season’s crop.

Al-Qaida was routed. Not exactly. The semi-mythical invention of "al-Qaida in Mesopotamia" was never a force as potent as its Iraqi enemies. One thing Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis agree on is rejection of foreign meddling, be it bin Laden's or Bush's. Iraqis reviled al-Qaida before the invasion and had no connection to 9/11. They revile al-Qaida more today, now that Bush's invasion made its brand of terrorism possible on Iraqi soil. Absent American troops, ironically, al-Qaida would have faced an unrestrained assault from Shiite and Sunni militants, to whom tribe comes before religion, and religion before caliphate.

That's just as true in the rest of the Arab world. A Brookings Institution survey of Arab opinion in six countries last year showed bin Laden’s popularity never breaking 5 percent. Bin Laden's popularity in the Middle East is itself an invention, convenient to the Bush administration's offensive posture there, inconvenient to Arabs who must pay its price. Bin Laden is the Arab world's Timothy McVeigh, a fringe loon, but one lucky enough to be constantly re-validated by Bush's monomaniacal war on Islamowhatever.

Refugees are coming back: The return of 25,000 refugees from abroad, out of a total of 2 million, is deceptive. News reports have generally neglected to mention that Syria, where most of Iraq's refugees have gone, shut its door to them two months ago and is now requiring refugees already there to apply for visas — through the Syrian embassy in Baghdad. In other words, Syria is booting them out.

Our friends the Sunnis. The Bush administration says the new alliance with former Sunni insurgents is a benefit of the surge's supposed rout of al-Qaida. But those Sunni insurgents had themselves began routing al-Qaida before their alliances with American troops, and well before the "surge" peaked. The Pentagon reversed the chronology to make itself appear as the new strategy's broker — and to obscure the deeper reason the Bush administration is aligning itself with Sunnis anew. Osama or a free Iraq are not it.

Our former friends the Shiites: Southern Iraq is already a fiefdom under the control of Moqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shiite who got rid of most of the British presence, and is biding his time before being rid of the American. Sunnis dread a Shiite take-over unrestrained by American occupation. So does Bush, because so do oil-rich Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Emirates, where militant, resentful Islam is the shifty sands under those authoritarian, unelected, lavishly corrupt and American-backed sheikhdoms. In Iraq, the Bush administration is rediscovering that a Sunni-dominated authoritarian regime wasn't such a bad thing after all. Lacking that, Sunnis as a proxy force against Shiite hegemony will have to do.

Peace isn't breaking out in Iraq. A colder, longer war is. It's further miring the United States in the shards of the Sunni-Shiite divide. And it's confirming once again in Arab eyes that America's end game is control of the Middle East's authoritarian houses of cards. If Enron was an emirate, Bush would be its principal shareholder right now, with America's foreign policy as collateral.

Seldom mentioned is the fact that Muqtada al Sadr unilaterally called a halt to attacks by his Mahdi Army. That had nothing to do with the "surge."

Past Peak has a follow up post called ""Iraq Doesn't Exist Anymore"".
From an excellent interview with Nir Rosen:
Question: Is the "surge" working as Bush claims or is the sudden lull in the violence due to other factors like demographic changes in Baghdad?

Nir Rosen: I think that even calling it a surge is misleading. A surge is fast; this took months. It was more like an ooze. The US barely increased the troop numbers. It mostly just forced beleaguered American soldiers to stay longer. At the same time, the US doubled their enemies because, now, they're not just fighting the Sunni militias but the Shiite Mahdi army also.

No, I don't think the surge worked. Objectively speaking, the violence is down in Baghdad, but that's mainly due to the failure of the US to establish security. That's not success.

Sure, less people are being killed but that's because there are less people to kill.

The violence in Iraq was not senseless or crazy, it was logical and teleological. Shiite militias were trying to remove Sunnis from Baghdad and other parts of the country, while Sunni militias were trying to remove Shiites, Kurds and Christians from their areas. This has been a great success. So you have millions of refugees and millions more internally displaced, not to mention hundreds of thousands dead. There are just less people to kill.

Moreover, the militias have consolidated their control over some areas. The US never thought that Muqtada al Sadr would order his Mahdi Army to halt operations (against Sunnis, rival Shiites and Americans) so that he could put his house in order and remove unruly militiamen. And, the US never expected that Sunnis would see that they were losing the civil war so they might as well work with the Americans to prepare for the next battle.

More importantly, violence fluctuates during a civil war, so people try to maintain as much normalcy in their lives as possible. It's the same in Sarajevo, Beirut or Baghdad — people marry, party, go to school when they can — and hide at home or fight when they must.

The euphoria we see in the American media reminds me of the other so-called milestones that came and went while the overall trend in Iraq stayed the same. Now Iraq doesn't exist anymore. Thats the most important thing to remember. There is no Iraq. There is no Iraqi government and none of the underlying causes for the violence have been addressed, such as the mutually exclusive aspirations of the rival factions and communities in Iraq. [...]

Question: The media rarely mentions the 4 million refugees created by the Iraq war. What do you think the long-term effects of this humanitarian crisis will be?

Nir Rosen: Well, the smartest Iraqis — the best educated, the professionals, the middle and upper classes — have all left or been killed. So the society is destroyed. So there is no hope for a non-sectarian Iraq now.

The refugees are getting poorer and more embittered. Their children cannot get an education and their resources are limited. Look at the Palestinian refugee crisis. In 1948 you had about 800,000 Palestinians expelled from their homes and driven into Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and elsewhere in the Middle East. Over time, they were politicized, mobilized and militarized. The militias they formed to liberate their homeland were manipulated by the governments in the region and they became embroiled in regional conflicts, internal conflicts and, tragically, conflicts with each other. They were massacred in Lebanon and Jordan. And, contributed to instability in those countries.

Now you have camps in Lebanon producing jihadists who go to fight in Iraq or who fight the Lebanese Army. And this is all from a population of just 800,000 mostly rural, religiously-homogeneous (Sunni) refugees.

Now, you have 2 million Iraqi refugees in Syria, a million in Jordan and many more in other parts of the Middle East. The Sunnis and Shiites already have ties to the militias. They are often better educated, urban, and have accumulated some material wealth. These refugees are increasingly sectarian and are presently living in countries with a delicate sectarian balance and very fragile regimes. Many of the refugees will probably link up with Islamic groups and threaten the regimes of Syria and Jordan. They're also likely to exacerbate sectarian tensions in Lebanon.

They're also bound to face greater persecution as they "wear out their welcome" and put a strain on the country's resources.

They'll probably form into militias and either try go home or attempt to overthrow the regimes in the region. Borders will change and governments will fall. A new generation of fighters will emerge and there'll be more attacks on Americans. ...

Links:

* Salon - Blackwater in Baghdad: "It was a horror movie"
* Middle Earth Journal - Iraq - Reduced Violence

I Was The Walrus  

Posted by Big Gav in , ,

The SMH has a report on mass deaths amongst walruses, with global warming being blamed.

THOUSANDS of Pacific walruses above the Arctic Circle were killed in stampedes this year after the disappearance of sea ice caused them to crowd onto the shoreline in huge numbers, it was revealed yesterday. Many of the youngest and weakest animals, mostly calves born in the spring, were crushed. Scientists blamed the mass deaths on global warming.

The deaths took place during the late northern summer and autumn on the Russian side of the Bering Strait, which separates Alaska from Russia. "It was a pretty sobering year - tough on walruses," said Joel Garlach-Miller, a walrus expert for the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Unlike seals, walruses cannot swim indefinitely. They typically clamber onto the sea ice to rest, or haul themselves onto land. But ice disappeared in the Chukchi Sea this year because of warm summer weather, ocean currents and persistent eastern winds, Mr Garlach-Miller said. As a result, walruses came ashore earlier and stayed longer, congregating in extremely high numbers, with herds as big as 40,000 at Point Shmidt, a spot that had not been used by walruses as a "haulout" place for a century, scientists said.

Walruses are vulnerable to stampedes when they gather in such large numbers. The appearance of a polar bear, a hunter or a low-flying airplane can send them rushing into the water.

I always think of the photo below when the walrus is mentioned - Goran Ehlme's "Beast of the sediment" from the 2006 Wildlife Photographer Of The Year competition.

2008 Energy Bill: The Senate Must Have a Sense of Humour  

Posted by Big Gav in , , ,

Green Chip Stocks is disappointed with the energy bill that has just passed through the US Senate, delivering big gains to the already heavily subsidised big oil companies and nothing for solar and wind power.

Another bill with the best of intentions bit the dust this week (at least in its original form) while big oil added another notch on its belt, squeezing out every last drop of influence from partisan politics. In the energy bill a measure for repealing tax breaks for large oil and gas companies and directing that funding to the renewable energy sector trembled and tumbled as the opposition won by a single vote.

But no worries, this filibuster is weak in the knees and buckled by letting the CAFE Standards slide through. And what a God send that is!

I mean nothing - absolutely nothing - could prepare us for the reality of peak oil, the caustic tide of global warming or WWIII over oil like the CAFE Standards. Just imagine the ramifications of our national fleet getting 35 mpg by 2020.

I know what you're thinking...

Who needs solar, geothermal, or wind power if your truck can get 22.2 mpg? Never mind the average light duty vehicle gets 21.6 mpg right now.

Exactly right! Bollocks to all that stuff.

Hell, over in Paris, according to the International Energy Agency, the average fuel consumption is 32.1 mpg. But, by golly, we're Americans, we like our fries honky tonk style and we certainly don't need to learn from Europe.

That would be utterly foolish. I wouldn't be able to sleep at night knowing big oil wasn't getting the tax breaks they deserve, and, ye gods, even worse, the car in my driveway was a diesel powered European Ford Focus that ticks off 46 miles per gallon.

Why would I drive that when the new energy bill says I won't have to get 35 mpg until 2020? Wow, talk about progress...

EarthTimes notes that the geothermal energy sector has done better than its clean energy cousins, getting a mighty $95 million dollars. That would pay for about 10 minutes of our oil war in Iraq - what where the Senators thinking !
Late yesterday evening, the Senate passed an energy bill that "will advance geothermal research and development for decades to come," according to the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA), the trade association for the industry.

The Senate passed bill includes the "Advanced Geothermal Energy Research and Development Act of 2007." These provisions are based upon compromise language between House and Senate bills that sought to revitalize geothermal research in light of recent reports by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) that show geothermal energy can be a major energy source in the future with continued federal support for market and technology advances.


The underlying bills were HR 2304, sponsored by Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA) and S.1543 introduced by Senate Energy Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM). Both had bipartisan co-sponsorship and support. The final provisions direct the Department of Energy to undertake a broad and aggressive research program to promote geothermal energy and authorize a total of $95 million annually for this new initiative.

Cryptogon sees a pattern - centralised energy systems will get government support, distributed energy systems ... not so much.
The point here is to make sure that individual clean power systems remain expensive and out of reach for most people. There’s going to be utility scale clean power, and you’re going to pay dearly for it. As for being able to call up your power company to tell them that their services will no longer be required, that’s probably always going to cost a fortune.

Via: Neutral Existence:

A new “scaled down” energy bill was passed through the senate last night and three of the most important items in the bill were taken out to appease oil funded republicans. Unfortunately our senators, democrats and republicans alike, failed our country and environment yet again by bowing to big oil and removing the most influential provisions and tax incentives this country has ever seen.

The tax incentives now set to expire in 2008 will end all federal tax credits on solar, wind and other alternative energy installations. No other tax incentive or provision has brought the solar industry closer to grid parity than this one and now it is gone. Grid parity is the point in which it will actually be cheaper to generate your own electricity on your roof than to buy from your local utility company. Now this idea is great for us, but bad for big business, (oil and coal) so of course, the lobbyist went to work on our republican senators and were apparently very affective at getting that tax break completely removed from the energy bill.

Second major blow to the renewable energy industry was the removal of the $22 billion dollar tax package designed to cut tax breaks for big oil companies and funnel the money towards the renewable energy industry. Of course this is bad for Big Oil considering how poor their financials are currently, (sarcasm: Big Oil showed record highs this year) so yet again the lobbyist went to work on our senators and “poof” the tax package is gone. Not only that, but Bush himself threatened to veto the entire bill if this tax package was not removed, showing yet again, a clear alliance with Big Oil and an unwillingness to do what is right.

Another major blow, was the removal of the alternative energy mandate which would have required all investor owned utility companies to get at least 15% of their electricity from alternative energy sources. Many utility companies complained that this would increase cost and again, “poof” another very influential and beneficial provision was removed from the energy bill.

Failure of Networked Systems  

Posted by Big Gav

David Clarke has a post up at The Oil Drum looking at some examples of network failure, and considering the idea that the energy, food and financial networks (with the financial network providing the control and feedback function for the others) are now linked.

In summary: The ability to measure and monitor the system gives us the capacity to avoid small avalanches in individual areas. However, if we keep adding load without adding capacity we overload the entire network and thus make an all-encompassing avalanche inevitable.

If we can’t add capacity, then it would have been better to allow a series of small avalanches.

A look at the financial markets at the moment might illustrate the same point. When we look at the “sub-prime” issues that are emerging, we see that the market created a series of “Investment Vehicles” that allowed risk to be shared. A complex network of interdependencies was created to share this risk, but capacity was not added to deal with the possibility of default. The various institutions that bought these “Investment Vehicles” thought they were buying assets, not debts. The institutions failed to recognise that they needed to add “capacity” in the form of liquidity equal to the possible value of defaults on this debt. As a result, now that load is being applied (in the form of defaults) it threatens to bring down the entire network, rather than just the single “node” that originated the debt.

The critical concept is that monitoring and networking the system allows us to go right up to the edge of disaster, and then move load to another part of the network until it, too, is on the edge of disaster.

Now that the networking effects have been discussed, I would like to push the analogy a bit further and look at how this plays out from a Peak Oil perspective.

Several years ago, sweet light crude oil started getting a bit more difficult to obtain. In response, we stopped talking about “oil” and started talking about “liquids”. The word “liquids” covers Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), ethanol, heavy oils, tar sands, and an increasing number of other oil-substitutes.

Essentially the part of the network called “Sweet Light Crude” turned red, so we started connecting the "Oil Network" to other networks.

We connected oil to the “food” network by turning food into ethanol. Actually food was already connected because you need oil to make food in the modern world, but now the circle is complete – previously we used oil to create food, and now we use food (corn, sugar, palm oil, etc) to create oil (or oil-substitutes).

Adding LNG and CTL (Coal-To-Liquid) to the network connects oil to other energy sources. As this connection strengthens and load starts to be applied, a shortage of any of these sources would have an impact in each of the other sources. To some extent, this has already started to occur.

Adding tar sands and various other oil substitutes to the network has made a surprising connection between the environment and oil. This connection takes many forms, but the most interesting lies in the fact that oil substitutes are less efficient than light sweet crude – much more CO2 is produced for any given amount of work done. This connection is emerging, and could have interesting repercussions. The problem applies to virtually all the oil-substitutes, so the widespread adoption of substitutes (particularly CTL and tar sands) might cause an environmental disaster which in turn would suppress ethanol production and create knock-on effects in other parts of the network.

The financial system has an important role to play in this network. If energy, food and the environment can be considered 3 portions of the network, then our financial system can be considered to be both a form of network monitoring, and the communication medium that the network uses to pass signals around. Consider the financial system to be similar to the blue cable running out the back of your computer. Your computer’s blue cable isn’t likely to run hot, but our finance system is a network of networks, and it is glowing red. In addition to monitoring and communication, the financial system provides support for maintenance and upgrades of the energy systems, so capacity in the financial system is critical.

When one part of the network develops a problem (say production of LNG suddenly drops), then messages get sent via the financial system (in the form of increased prices), and the other parts of the system accept the load, if they can, by increasing production. When compared to an Internet Protocol network there are many faults in this system. High latency leads to slow responses. Poor monitoring leads to conflicting signals or a failure to detect faults. Bad messages are often not corrected, leading to incorrect responses, and so on. ...

Big Oil lets the sun set on renewables  

Posted by Big Gav in , , , ,

The Guardian has an interesting report noting that Shell and BP (Back to Petroleum) seem to be abandoning the greenwashing approach and concentrating on fossil fuels (though Shell does seem to be keeping fingers in the wind and biofuels pies) - "Big Oil lets sun set on renewables".

Shell, the oil company that recently trumpeted its commitment to a low carbon future by signing a pre-Bali conference communique, has quietly sold off most of its solar business. The move, taken with rival BP's decision last week to invest in the world's dirtiest oil production in Canada's tar sands, indicates that Big Oil might be giving up its flirtation with renewables and going back to its roots.

Shell and BP are among the biggest producers of greenhouse gases in the world, but both have been keen to paint themselves green through a series of clean fuel initiatives. BP, under its former chief executive, John Browne, promised to go "beyond petroleum" while Shell has spent millions advertising its serious interest in the future of the environment.

But at a time when interest in solar power is greater than ever, with the world's first "solar city" being built at Phoenix, Arizona, a small announcement from Environ Energy Global of Singapore revealed that it had bought Shell's photovoltaic operations in India and Sri Lanka, with more than 260 staff and 28 offices, for an undisclosed sum.

The sell-off, to be followed by similar ones in the Philippines and Indonesia, comes after another major disposal executed in a low-key way last year, when Shell hived off its solar module production business. The division, with 600 staff and manufacturing plants in the US, Canada and Germany, went to Munich-based SolarWorld. Shell has however formed a manufacturing link, with Saint-Gobain, and promised to build one plant in Germany.

The Anglo-Dutch oil group confirmed yesterday that it had pulled out of its rural business in India and Sri Lanka, saying it was not making enough money. "It was not bringing in any profit for us there so we transferred it to another operator. The buyer will be able to take it to the next level," said a spokeswoman at Shell headquarters in London.

The oil group said it was continuing to move its renewables interests into a mainstream business and hoped to find one new power source that would "achieve materiality" for it. Shell continues to invest in a number of wind farm schemes, such as the London Array offshore scheme, which has government approval. Shell has also been concentrating its efforts on biofuels, but declined to say whether it had given up on solar power even though many smaller rivals continue to believe the technology has a bright future.

Environmental groups have always accused Shell of using clean energy initiatives as "greenwash" to deflect criticism from its core carbon operations, especially tar sands. The latest pull-out has annoyed rival business leaders at London-based Solar Century and local Indian operation, Orb Energy, who fear the impact of a high-profile company selling off solar business. Jeremy Leggett, chief executive of Solarcentury and a leading voice in renewable energy circles, said Shell was undermining the credibility of the business world in its fight against global warming.

"Shell and Solar Century were among the 150 companies that recently signed up to the hard-hitting Bali Declaration. It is vital that companies act consistently with the rhetoric in such declarations, and as I have told Shell senior management on several occasions, an all-out assault on the Canadian tar sands and extracting oil from coal is completely inconsistent with climate protection.

"This latest evidence of half-heartedness or worse in Shell's renewables activities leaves me even more disappointed. Unless fossil-fuel energy companies evolve their core activities meaningfully, we are in deep trouble," he said.

One area Shell hasn't abandoned is the algae to biofuel market, with construction of a pilot plant about to begin in Hawaii.
The oil giant is teaming with Hawaii's HR BioPetroleum to construct a pilot facility to grow the next-generation feedstock. The Hague, Netherlands-based Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDS.A), one of the world's largest distributors of first-generation biofuels, has made its latest move into next-generation biofuels, this time going green with algae.

The oil giant formed a joint venture with Hawaii startup HR BioPetroleum to build a pilot facility to grow marine algae and produce vegetable oil for conversion into biofuel.

Shell said it holds a majority share in the new venture, called Cellana, but financial terms of the venture were not disclosed. The company said construction of the new facility is starting immediately on the Kona coast of Hawaii Island, at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority site. But it might be a while before we see commercial-scale production.

"This will depend on milestones at the two and a half hectare demonstration facility," Olga Gorodilina, a Shell spokesperson, told Cleantech.com. That plant is expected to do research for up to two years. "The next step would be construction of a demonstration-scale commercial facility, let's say 1,000 hectares. All being well, the step after that would be the construction of a full-scale commercial facility of about 20,000 hectares."

Quicker rollout for energy smart meters  

Posted by Big Gav in , , , ,

The Australian reports that smart meters may be rolled out nationally rather than via individual state programs - "Quicker rollout for energy smart meters".

THE rollout of smart meters allowing households to calculate the cost of their electricity consumption is to be accelerated. The Ministerial Council on Energy - at its first meeting to be chaired by new federal Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson - yesterday decided on the minimum information the meters will collect.

Smart meters are seen as a way of allowing people to take responsibility for their electricity consumption and help curb the growth in demand. Mr Ferguson said after the meeting in Perth the decision put in place a framework for the rollout of the meters nationally.

The next MCE meeting early next year would discuss the cost benefit of the meters' introduction in different markets. Victoria has already committed to smart meters, while NSW Premier Morris Iemma included their introduction in his electricity reform measures announced earlier this week. "We are going to go down the path of national uniformity on smart meters and that's a decision related to the Prime Minister's overall climate change agenda," Mr Ferguson said after the MCE meeting. He said state energy ministers - all Labor - had supported Kevin Rudd's approach to climate change at the UN summit in Bali.

The SMH has a report on the Bali global warming summit - "Defining steps in a global dawning".
When two climate scientists last year projected that the great Arctic ice sheets could melt away altogether by 2040, they surprised and alarmed their colleagues. Now, according to new satellite data from the US Government's National Aeronautics and Space Agency, the volume of Arctic ice at the end of this year's northern summer has shrunk to half its size of four years earlier.

A NASA climate scientist, Jay Zwally, remarked this week: "At this rate, the Arctic Ocean could be nearly ice-free at the end of summer by 2012, much faster than previous predictions.

"The Arctic is often cited as the canary in the coalmine for climate warming. Now as a sign of climate warming, the canary has died. It is time to start getting out of the coalmines." The human canaries from the low-lying South Pacific island cluster of Micronesia are trying to get out, but there are limited options for flying. As the sea rises, the people of Micronesia are already moving houses and roads.

"For us this not about politics," a member of the country's delegation to the United Nations climate change conference in Bali, Jackson Soram, said. "It's about survival." So the negotiations under way this week are timely, and they are also too late.

They are too late because global warming is well advanced and some serious consequences are already upon us. The chairman of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Rajendra Pachauri, said last month: "If there's no action before 2012, that's too late. What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment."

Yet the UN negotiations under way this week in Bali are supposed to design a program of action to begin from 2012. But the talks are timely because we need to start somewhere, because this grouping is the best option for bringing all the world's major economies together, and because now is better than later.

Yet the UN negotiations under way this week in Bali are supposed to design a program of action to begin from 2012. But the talks are timely because we need to start somewhere, because this grouping is the best option for bringing all the world's major economies together, and because now is better than later.

It's pointless getting worked up about the Kyoto Protocol. It was not the solution. Even if the US and Australia had ratified the treaty, it would not have cut global carbon emissions. It was far too flatulent. But the American-Australian state of denial was costly, nonetheless. There was a great deal of policy work that might have been done in the past decade. But the Bush-Howard ideological belligerence towards the very existence of global warming delayed serious policy work and carried a real opportunity cost.

The Howard government, as a courtier to the Bush Administration's intransigence on global warming, put Australia on the wrong side of history. Kevin Rudd has acted swiftly to put the country on the right side. He is working to make Australia a part of the solution, rather than part of the problem. In the closed-door negotiations that will run late into tonight, Australia is seeking to craft an agreement that can bring the rich countries and the poor countries together to act. ...

Rudd is awaiting the report he has commissioned from the eminent economist Professor Ross Garnaut. For a leader in office less than two weeks, this is the responsible course to take. Garnaut said in a speech at the Australian National University last month that the world in the early 21st century was living through an era of prosperity so great, spreading growth and wealth so widely through the countries of the world, that he called it the "platinum age," greater even than a golden age.

"It is now clearer than it has ever been that the natural course of global development is for more and more of the world's people to aspire to, and to realise, living standards similar to those in the developed economies." He posited two risks to such an unprecedented spread of prosperity: "Climate change, and poorly designed responses to it, could bring the platinum age to an end." The world has to deal with climate change, but the policy responses have to be the right ones. It's a time for haste, but not panic.

Rudd told the UN conference in Bali this week: "The community of nations must reach agreement. There is no Plan B. There is no other planet that we can escape to." Unless, of course, it's the planet that Brendan Nelson inhabits.

With all nations beginning to debate in earnest how this vast and complex problem might be solved, consider the sad little effort by the new Leader of the Opposition. Nelson told reporters on Wednesday: "What is very important is that all of us as Australians and as global citizens know that we do have to act on climate change. We need, however, to fully understand what is going to be the cost of that action. And whatever the medium or long-term targets that Mr Rudd signs us up to, it's absolutely essential that we don't end up exporting jobs and industries from Australia to other parts of the world." That is not an extract - that is the entirety of his thinking on the subject so far this week.

Together with the Liberals' position on Work Choices, this confirms that the Opposition has not processed the enormity, and the reality, of what has just happened to it. As Rudd works to put Australia on the right side of history, Nelson should be offering constructive advice in how to succeed.

Instead of contributing to the great civilisational challenge, he's making juvenile political points. Stop echoing the failed lines of the Howard era, Brendan, and help the Liberals find a new voice.

Unfortunately, the SMH notes that the Bali summit has ended in deadlock -" March for a climate accord falters".
THE UN climate summit stumbled last night towards a compromise for launching a new global agreement, but it fell well short of the expectations that many countries took to Bali.

To the last minute, the United States fought hard to stop the declaration referring to the UN's scientific advice: for developed countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25 to 40 per cent by 2020 if the world wants to stop global temperatures rising above 2 degrees and avoid the most severe impacts of climate change.

Australia's Climate Change Minister, Penny Wong, was playing a key role in the final effort to drive a deal between the US and Japan on one side and the European Union, China and developing countries on the other. The battling delegations reached a consensus to launch formal negotiations in a bid to have a deal signed by 2009. And in key breakthroughs, nations agreed:

■ Cutting emissions by stopping deforestation should be included in the new deal;
■ To develop measures to transfer clean energy technology to developing countries;
■ To formulate policies to help poorer countries adapt to climate change that is already happening.

Delegates at the summit were warned that without deep cuts to emissions, the world faced a possible loss of 30 per cent of its animal and plant species, and as many as 50 million climate refugees in the next decades. ... Australia was criticised by both European diplomats and environment groups for its failure to stand with Europe and the developing nations to keep the scientific advice in the Bali test.

The SMH also has an article on the opening of a new runway in Antarctica.
Fittingly Wilkins's name is now etched onto the Antarctic continent in a blue ice runway stretched across four kilometres of a remote glacial plateau. The first touchdown on the Wilkins Runway this week by Australia's vessel of Antarctic discovery - an Airbus A319 jet - opens a new era in scientific exploration of the ice, and the possibility of a leap in understanding equivalent to the one Wilkins sensed as he scrawled excitedly into his notebook.

The opening of the air link between Australia and Antarctica, decades after it was first imagined, is belated but timely. The secrets held in the ice have never been more valuable to humanity, revealing the planet's climate history and exposing the minutia of unfolding change. As the American writer Barry Lopez observed on his Antarctic journey, it has become "a place from which to take the measure of the planet".

Deep ice core records, which contain bubbles of long-lost atmosphere, are fundamental to understanding the baseline of climatic history, says the veteran Australian Antarctic researcher and glaciologist Dr Bill Budd, whose work dates back 30 years.

The surrounding icy seas are the nursery of the krill and plankton that sustain marine food chains. The air link opens the way to more scientists to track ice sheet dynamics - their still mysterious movement and melt - and to plot atmospheric and biological changes happening now, says Dr Graeme Pearman, one of Australia's eminent experts on climate change, and the former head of CSIRO atmospheric research.



Ian Dunlop and Bruce Robinson from ASPO Australia have been featured in this article on "Carbon's Rocky Road", looking at the fading of interest in "clean coal":
Dr Peter Cook, who heads the Canberra-based research centre CO2CRC, said the disappearance of the CET "had left a bit of a gap". CO2CRC is a collaboration between all the major fossil fuel companies, several universities and some government departments.

It is managing a CCS demonstration plant in the Otway Basin, near Warrnambool, the installation of which has been bumpy. So far, extracting naturally occurring carbon dioxide and methane from a gas well has been successful. Not so easy has been transporting it 2km overland to a compression chamber and then injecting it down a 2km pipe through layers of rock into a depleted natural gas layer. ...

For coal industries and electricity generators that depend on fossil fuels, geosequestration is the holy grail. The theory behind it is that carbon dioxide can be harvested before it enters the atmosphere and then put under enormous pressure to turn it into a liquid, before being injected deep into the earth. Trapped between supposedly impenetrable layers of rock where oil and gas once flowed, it ought to be stored safely and indefinitely.

However that theory has not been tested, as CCS critics often remind the coal lobby, and even if it were to be demonstrated after billions of dollars are spent on creating the technology, it could take another 20 years before it becomes a commercial proposition.

If the climate change science is right, and greenhouse gases need to start declining soon, then CCS will be too little too late to be considered a meaningful form of mitigation.

Former head of the Australian Coal Association Ian Dunlop, who now is deputy convener of the Australian Association for the Study of Peak Oil, said he believed "we have probably left it too late for CCS". At the same time he warns that government policy should not pick winners and that there is merit in continuing to encourage research into the technology, if only just to prove whether it will succeed or fail.

Shortly after Australia first signed the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, Mr Dunlop was appointed by the federal government to chair a group that would design an emissions trading scheme for Australia. But Mr Howard squashed the project when he was converted into a climate sceptic by his US allies, according to Mr Dunlop, who had worked as an oil and gas sector executive for years. In the years since, Mr Dunlop has strengthened his resolve to warn governments and industries about the dangers of not taking climate change risk seriously.

In the meantime, CCS polarises the opinion-makers, with many scientists, such as AASPO convenor Bruce Robinson, dismissing it as science fiction.

Others, such as Tony Maher, head of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, label it as a panacea that must be applied. Mr Maher was selected by an international council of unions to give a short address in Bali's Plenary 1 on behalf of the world's workers.

Former Howard government adviser Guy Pearse, the author of High and Dry, has written that there are no plans on any scale or in any meaningful timeframe to capture most emissions from existing coal fired power stations. "But various co-operative research centres promote the idea that 'clean coal' is here and now," Dr Pearse wrote in his pre-election expose of the political links between the coal lobby and the former prime minister.

Stuff.co.nz has some retro peak oil doomerism, looking at some peak oil survivalists in the south island (mainland) of NZ - "Bags packed for doomsday".
The ‘twin tsunamis’ of global warming and peak oil could spell TEOTWAWKI - the end of the world as we know it - and already, quietly, some people are getting prepared because they believe we are talking years rather than decades. Helen, a petite 42-year-old Nelson housewife, is racing to build her own personal TEOTWAWKI lifeboat. Earlier this year, she and her American husband cashed-up to buy a 21ha farm in a remote, easily defensible, river valley backing onto the Arthur Range, north-west of Nelson.

The site ticks the right boxes. Way above sea level. Its own spring and stream. Enough winter sun. A good mix of growing areas. A sprinkling of neighbouring farms strung along the valley’s winding dirt-track road. The digger was to arrive this week to carve out the platform for an adobe eco-house. A turbine in the stream will generate power. A composting toilet will deal with sewage.

Then there is the stuff that could really get her labelled as a crank (and why she would prefer to remain relatively anonymous, at least until she is completely set up). Back at her rented house in Nelson, Helen shows the growing collection of horse-drawn ploughs, wheat grinders, treadle sewing machines and other rusting relics of the pre-carbon era, she believes she will need the day the petrol pumps finally run dry. ...

Jurgen Heissner is another Nelsonian who is seeing the writing on the wall. A founder member of the New Zealand branch of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas (Aspo), Heissner says it was like a blow to the stomach when he first comprehended how close we are to the brink. He immediately began the process of selling out of his thriving bio-paint business and getting ready for a new world order.

Heissner's young son crawls into the room, one foot tangled in the leg of his romper suit, and gazes up at us. Heissner's Japanese wife is in the kitchen making his 50th-birthday cake. Roses bloom at the window. Sun floods across the polished wood floor. And we're talking about TEOTWAWKI. Thank God we are in New Zealand, Heissner says in an accent still gruffly Germanic after 18 years here. The whole damn country is a lifeboat really.

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