How Much Energy Do We Have ?  

Posted by Big Gav

George Monbiot has a look at how well the UK would fare if it had to reduce its carbon emmissions enough to mitigate global warming. His back of the envelope calculations include some fairly large gains in efficiency and plenty of wind farm construction - but he still can't see a way past having to build some nuclear power capacity.

Obviously the UK is a relatively special case - it is crowded, has a cold climate and can't make much use of solar energy - other countries (Australia and the US in particular) don't have as many constraints so the case for nuclear in the UK doesn't generally apply elsewhere.

Are there enough renewables to keep the lights on? The answer will be comforting to no one.

In one respect, Simon Jenkins is right. “Nobody”, he complained in the Guardian last week, while laying out his case for nuclear power, “agrees about figures”. As a result, “energy policy is like Victorian medicine, at the mercy of quack remedies and snake-oil salesmen.”

There is a reason for this. As far as I can discover, reliable figures for the total volume of electricity that renewable power could supply do not yet exist. As a result, anyone can claim anything, and anyone does. The enthusiasts for renewables insist that the entire economy – lights, heating, cars and planes – can be powered from hydrogen produced by wind. The nuclear evangelists maintain, in Jenkins’s words, that “even if every beauty spot in Britain were coated in windmills their contribution to the Kyoto target would be minuscule.” All of us are groping around in the dark.

So though this is not a scientific journal, and though I am not qualified to do it, I am going to attempt a rough first draft, which I hope will be challenged and refined by people with better credentials. Some of my assumptions are generous, others are conservative. This will be far from definitive and, I am afraid, quite complex, but at least, on the day the government’s energy review is announced, we will have something to argue about.


This suggests that we could cut our demand for fossil fuel without building new nuclear power stations. But it is still too much: even 23GW will help to cook the planet. So the choice then comes down to this: we make up the shortfall either with nuclear power, as Simon Jenkins suggests, or with gas or coal accompanied by carbon burial (pumping the carbon dioxide into salt aquifers or old gas fields). The first option means uranium mining, nuclear waste and the threat of proliferation and terrorism. The second means insecurity (gas) or open-cast mining and air pollution (coal) and a risk (though probably quite small) of carbon seepage.

Neither option, in other words, looks pretty.

One more problem with the calculations is that they presumably assume that Britain's temperature (and therefore heating requirements) stay constant - however there is a spate of reports today about a slowdown in the Gulf stream and other north atlantic currents which will likely lead to a colling of Europe (New Scientist, BBC, Independent, Financial Times and National Geographic). RealClimate has some measured analysis of what is happening.

The Greens have prompted an Australian Senate enquiry into our future oil supply.

Tom Whipple's latest peak oil article looks at efforts in Washington to recognise peak oil.
Until recently, the phrase “peak oil” was among the last elected and appointed official in Washington wanted to hear or see in print. Should there be any doubt as to the correctness of their position, one only has to look at what happened when President Carter donned a cardigan sweater and told us how one day we were going to run short on oil and how we should start sacrificing now to prepare for it.

Relevant administration officials are well aware world oil production will peak someday, but for obvious reasons, they don’t want to acknowledge this until they absolutely have to. They hope beyond hope peaking won’t happen until after they retire so somebody else can deal with the unpleasant consequences.

We know President Bush understands peak oil, for we have the word of Congressman Bartlett, who last summer went down to the White House using his access as a staunch conservative Republican congressman to tell the President all about it.

Later, when asked of the President’s reaction, the congressman reported that it is a matter of the important and the urgent. We can interpret this to mean that yes, the President understands the serious consequences of peak oil, but, no, the evidence of imminent peaking is not yet persuasive enough that he should unleash unknown forces by an official acknowledgement that peak oil may be imminent.

Past Peak links to an interesting article on Craig Venter's latest plan - to engineer organisms to produce hydrogen or oil.
J. Craig Venter, who gained worldwide fame in 2000 when he mapped the human genetic code, is behind a new start-up called Synthetic Genomics, which plans to create new types of organisms that, ideally, would produce hydrogen, secrete nonpolluting heating oil or be able to break down greenhouse gases.

The initial focus will be on creating "biofactories" for hydrogen and ethanol, two fuels seen as playing an increasing role in powering cars in the future. Hydrogen also holds promise for heating homes and putting juice into electronic devices.

The raw genetic material for these synthetic micro-organisms will come from a diverse set of genes from a variety of species, according to the company. While many of the genes will come from some of the aquatic micro-organisms that Venter and his colleagues discovered during extensive ocean voyages in the last two years, the company will also experiment with genes from large mammals such as dogs.

"Rapid advances in high throughput DNA sequencing and synthesis, as well as high performance computing and bioinformatics, now enable us to synthesize novel photosynthetic and metabolic pathways," Venter said in a statement earlier this year. "We are in an era of rapid advances in science and are beginning the transition from being able to not only read genetic code, but are now moving to the early stages of being able to write code."

The Independent reports that carbon trading could rainforests back to life as investors seek to capture the value of carbon credits. All the more reason to sign on to Kyoto and back a real treaty to follow it in 2012.
New forests could blossom in tropical zones from Brazil to India as one of the more creative ideas produced by the Kyoto protocol begins to bear fruit. Someone has finally hit on a way to make money out of conservation.

Behind the idea is the fact that all Kyoto signatories are required to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases, in particular carbon dioxide, or face heavy fines - but if they cannot bring themselves to cut the emissions, they can buy "carbon credits" from countries or companies that are doing so.

The system works because greenhouse gases are a problem for the world, not merely for countries where the emissions take place. Likewise "carbon sinks", the forested areas that reduce the net quantity of global carbon emissions, can be anywhere.

The Motley Fool takes a "peek" at peak oil and makes some stock tips off the back of it (the author is a tar sands believer and sounds as if he's never heard of global warming, so don't take this one too seriously).

BP's alternative energy strategy has attracted some commentary at TreeHugger and WorldChanging.

Rigzone has articles on Woodside's plans to begin seismic surveys in the great australian bight next year, increased drilling from Santos in the Cooper Basin, an update on BP's delayed "Thunder Horse" platform in the gulf of mexico and a note on Indian efforts to increase exploration for oil and gas.

Taiwan is ramping up solar cell production, while Kyocera is planning to ship a new range of low cost solar panels next year.

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser has made some more comments on the Liberal party and Howard and Ruddock's abandonment of civil liberties and traditional western values. The Sydney Morning Herald also has a sedition-a-thon from a number of writers and comedians, while Peter Garrett has emerged from the Labor party borg and his vow of silence to criticise the new legislation as well. At least the moderate wing of the Liberal party managed to water down some of the more offensive parts last night.
Malcolm Fraser has considered quitting the Liberal Party after more than 50 years' membership, saying it has become "a party of fear and reaction". The former prime minister said last night he had decided to remain a member to support those who were seeking to "keep the Liberal flame alive" and to encourage others to pursue change from within.

Delivering the chancellor's human rights lecture at the University of Melbourne, Mr Fraser said he found his party "unrecognisable as liberal" and alien to the principles of its founder, Robert Menzies. On the night the Government's anti-terrorist laws passed the House of Representatives, Mr Fraser singled them out, saying the legislation was wrong because "it makes the fundamental assumption that liberty cannot defend itself".

"The reason I considered [resignation] seriously is because I believe this is not just another piece of policy with which one doesn't agree," he said. "Over several years there has been a fundamental departure from the basic idea of liberalism as I understood it. What I want to do is emphasise in the strongest possible way how serious this is, how people should not just let it fly over the shoulder and say 'She'll be right'."

Insisting it would be a long, hard task to achieve change, Mr Fraser said: "It might not be the next government. It might be the government after that. But there ought to be objectives to restore basic liberties and restore a true sense of the rule of law."

Iraq news seems to be focused on the "is it time to cut and run" question lately, with former National Security Agency chief William Odom noting that none of the (public) reasons for staying in Iraq make any sense, and on that basis its time to leave.

Of course, if the argument was made that we need to stay on account of the need to control the oil, at least we'd be having a discussion based on reality for once, even if it raises a lot of unpleasant questions about exactly just how far we're willing to go to maintain that control.
Everything that opponents of a pullout say would happen if the U.S. left Iraq is happening already, says retired Gen. William E. Odom, the head of the National Security Agency during the Reagan administration. So why stay?

If I were a journalist, I would list all the arguments that you hear against pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq, the horrible things that people say would happen, and then ask: Aren't they happening already? Would a pullout really make things worse? Maybe it would make things better.

Here are some of the arguments against pulling out:

1) We would leave behind a civil war.
2) We would lose credibility on the world stage.
3) It would embolden the insurgency and cripple the move toward democracy.
4) Iraq would become a haven for terrorists.
5) Iranian influence in Iraq would increase.
6) Unrest might spread in the region and/or draw in Iraq's neighbors.
7) Shiite-Sunni clashes would worsen.
8) We haven't fully trained the Iraqi military and police forces yet.
9) Talk of deadlines would undercut the morale of our troops.

But consider this...

Our dim-witted puppet emperor meanwhile is still too cowardly to face an audience made up of normal citizens and is forced to make his bizarre speeches to captive audiences at military bases, where he won't get asked any unpleasant questions. George insists there'll be no cuttin and runnin - just a glorious march forward to complete victory (and a plan to increase the use of american air power while Iraqis do the ground fighting).

Of course, at least George is wise enough not to share the podium with some insubordinate General who still clings to old fashioned ideas like torture being bad and a soldier's duty being to stop anyone who tries to commit such acts, unlike the increasingly erratic Donald Rumsfeld, who, when not trying to defend his barbaric practices, is busy trying to redefine the word "insurgent".
The definition of "insurgency", according to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language:

1. The quality or circumstance of being rebellious. 2. An instance of rebellion; an insurgence.

The American Jewish weekly "Forward" is calling for Bush's impeachment and the recognition of the inevitable (apparently the reference to Augustus' lost legions is a little inaccurate though).
There is a remarkable article in the latest issue of the American Jewish weekly, Forward. It calls for President Bush to be impeached and put on trial "for misleading the American people, and launching the most foolish war since Emperor Augustus in 9 BC sent his legions into Germany and lost them".

"As the pullout proceeds," he warns, "Iraq almost certainly will sink into an all-out civil war from which it will take the country a long time to emerge - if, indeed, it can do so at all. All this is inevitable and will take place whether George W Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice like it or not."

The New Gold Rush  

Posted by Big Gav

The Observer has an interesting piece on the rush for black gold going on above the arctic circle, now that global warming is liberating the region from its icy manacles.

Giant snowflakes tumble down outside the Kaikanten bar. Inside, Mustafa Mirreh from Somalia stares down his pool cue, trying to pot the black. His opponent, Italian engineer Pier Luigi Poletto, has turned to the slot machine. The Kilkenny beer has run out. There is only canned Guinness. This could be grounds for a fight, but French fishermen J-P and Max have been distracted by the rare sight of a woman crossing the floor.

These are the Klondikers of global warming: men from all over the world who have come to Hammerfest, gateway to the Barents Sea, to make their fortune from new resources - oil, gas, fish and diamonds - made accessible by the receding ice.

It is the dark season here - two months from November to January when the sun never rises above the snow-laced rocks around Hammerfest, ice-free thanks to the Gulf stream. In the horseshoe-shaped port, trawlers from all over the world wait for favourable weather to head back into the Barents Sea. Hammerfest, with its colourful wooden houses, feels cosy. But it is a nerve centre of the scramble for the Arctic's wealth that raises urgent questions.

The 14 million sq km Arctic Ocean is home to 25 per cent of the planet's unextracted oil and natural gas. With a population of four million, the region is much more stable than the Middle East. Global warming, in combination with the current high oil price, makes it ever more accessible. Yet the bordering countries - Russia, Canada, the US, Norway and Danish Greenland - have yet to agree on who owns what. Long-forgotten bays, waterways and islands are moving to the top of the international agenda.

Mirreh, 19, has spent eight months as a cleaner at Snow White, a giant liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant at Hammerfest, one of the world's biggest building sites. 'The wage is £20 an hour. I have saved £20,000. The problem is there is nothing to do and not enough women,' he said.

Another energy gold rush that is going on is the one for coal, which has seen a sharp rise in demand according to reports from Australia, the UK (maybe natural gas depletion will eventually be known as Scargill's Revenge) and the US.
What Parramatta Road is to car yards, the New England Highway is to coalmines. Head north-west through the upper Hunter Valley towns of Singleton and Muswellbrook and you will witness a vibrant mining mecca - Beltana and Bengalla, Camberwell and Cumnock, Mount Owen and Mount Arthur and many others mines yielding millions of tonnes of black gold a year.

The horizon is cut by the chimneys of the power stations that burn the coal to produce some of the world's cheapest electricity and the railway tracks groan under the weight of massive coal trains on their way to Newcastle - the world's busiest coal port.

Australia is in the midst of a mining boom driven by high commodity prices.

The latest report from the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics shows a record 241 minerals and energy projects on the drawing board valued at $29.4 billion - 15 of them coal-related projects in the Hunter. Last financial year, export earnings by the minerals and energy sector jumped by 29 per cent to a record $67.4 billion. Exploration spending increased by 20 per cent to more than $2 billion. The bureau predicts the value of minerals and energy exports will reach $87.2 billion in 2005-06, a rise of almost 28 per cent.

Government and industry are spending hundreds of millions of dollars upgrading railways and ports in the Hunter to cope with demand.

Chris Burgess, manager of Whitehaven Coal Mining, reckons the Kamilaroi Highway, which branches off from the New England Highway just north of the Hunter at Willow Tree and heads north-west over the Liverpool Plains through Gunnedah, will become the state's next great coal road.

The massive Gunnedah coal basin starts near Murrurundi on the Great Dividing Range and stretches for more than 200 kilometres, ending on the other side of Narrabri. "It's certainly an exciting area," Burgess says. "It's the new coal frontier."

As well as its Whitehaven open-cut mine between Gunnedah and Boggabri, the company is a partner in a new mine that opened earlier this year at Werris Creek. Whitehaven's East Boggabri mine will start operating about Christmas, while Belmont, also near Boggabri, should be going within two years. Each of the new mines will directly employ more than 50 people. The company is continuing extensive exploration of the Gunnedah basin and is looking at the possibility of opening another mine near Narrabri.

Whitehaven's coal is used in the heritage 3801 steam train and is exported because of its high quality.

Other companies have plans to establish mines in the the area and in August the State Government called for expressions of interest for exploration of the Caroona coal area near Werris Creek, where there are deposits of 500 million tonnes.

The chief executive of the NSW Minerals Council, Dr Nikki Williams, says the Gunnedah basin has 40 per cent of the state's estimated coal reserves and "in the next 10 years it is going to be very significant". If all the projects planned for the basin go ahead they will employ about 500 people directly and generate another 3000 jobs, half in the local community, she says.

The Mayor of Gunnedah, Gae Swain, says the area was hit hard when three coalmines closed in the 1990s and the mining boom is helping it get back on its feet.

But from the Lake Cowal goldmine development near West Wyalong to Caroona, there is also strong opposition to mining.

In the Caroona area, farmers are concerned that mining will irreparably damage the aquifer they rely on for irrigation. Andrew Pursehouse, an irrigation farmer, says the Government is opening the area for exploration with no hydrological study on the impact mining could have on the Namoi Valley aquifer that is his lifeblood.

The Government says it is "entirely appropriate" that any costly environmental studies be carried out by the company wanting to develop the area, but the farmers fear bias.

While prepared to consider mining on ridge tops if it can be proved there will be no aquifer damage, Pursehouse is opposed to any coalmining on the rich alluvial flats. "This is some of the best arable farming country in the world. Is the short-term gain from coal better than the long-term pain?"

Christine Phelps was among protesters outside the recent annual meeting of Centennial Coal in Sydney. Centennial's proposed Anvil Hill project is the biggest coalmine on the NSW horizon. The open-cut mine is expected to produce a massive 9 million tonnes of thermal coal, used mainly in power generation, a year after it opens in 2008. It will be built near the upper Hunter community of Wybong, about 20 kilometres from Muswellbrook.

It has plenty of supporters, but Phelps and fellow members of the Anvil Hill Project Watch Association say the woodlands around Wybong lie at the conjunction of three bioregions and are home to an "enormous number" of threatened animal and plant species. "It's a bit like a lost world," she says.

MIT Technology Review has an article ("Growing Biofuels") up on biofuel production in Germany by Choren, which seems to be the most advanced producer at the moment.
Biofuels produced from plant and animal feedstocks are growing by 10 percent per year. Nevertheless, if biofuels are ever to supply more than a small percentage of transportation fuels, the technology will need new, more efficient production methods. The most recent sign of such investment in new methods of production is Royal Dutch Shell's partnership with German biodiesel innovator Choren Industries.

Choren's technology addresses a key limitation with today's biofuels: most start as feedstocks such as corn syrup or vegetable oil, which are already in demand as foods. So competition for these feedstocks props up the price of conventional biofuels and, ultimately, even limits their production volumes. A study commissioned recently by the Canadian government, for example, concluded that diverting half of that country's hefty exports of canola to domestic biodiesel production would yield only enough biodiesel to meet 2.7 percent of current diesel demand in Canada.

Choren and other biofuel innovators such as Canadian ethanol developer Iogen (also partnered with Shell) work instead with biomass -- organic leftovers such as sawdust -- which are as abundant as they are cheap. The same Canadian study, for instance, revealed that the biodiesel produced from just 10 percent of the country's agricultural wastes would satisfy 16.7 percent of its appetite for diesel.


First, Choren's process heats biomass to 500 C, causing the tars to turn into a gas. The coal-like char left behind is then ground into a powder and blown into a high-temperature chamber, along with the gaseous tar. The resulting chemical reactions and temperatures as high as 1600 C break down the tars and simultaneously convert the carbon char into syngas pure enough for Fischer-Tropsch chemistry.

Steve Brown, Shell's London-based commercial manager for biofuels, says the result is a domestically produced fuel that outperforms both petroleum and plant oil-based biodiesel. Brown says studies that account for each joule of energy consumed in growing or pumping feedstock and fuel production show motoring on gasification biodiesel produces 85-90 percent less climate-changing carbon dioxide than using fossil diesel, while conventional biodiesel offers only a 50 percent reduction.

Using Choren's biodiesel also generates less soot and smog because the fuel contains none of the sulfur found in conventional diesel and few aromatic hydrocarbons, such as benzene. Carmakers DaimlerChrylser and Volkswagen, which helped finance Choren's pilot plant, test-drove on its fuels and measured a 30-50 percent drop in exhaust soot and up to 90 percent less smog-forming pollutants, compared to the cleanest grades of conventional diesel.

Shell's cash and expertise is helping Choren build the world's first commercial biomass-to-biodiesel plant. By early 2007, the company expects to be consuming approximately 67,000 tons of biomass and pumping out 15,000 tons of biodiesel annually. If all goes well, Choren plans to build a series of larger plants each capable of pumping 200,000 tons of biodiesel per year.

Even at that scale, though, Choren's biodiesel will be pricey. Rudloff predicts that Choren will produce biodiesel for €0.70 per liter (about $3.10 per gallon). That is marginally more than the cost of conventional biodiesel and two to three times more than wholesale diesel in the United States.

However, Shell's Brown cautions that biodiesel's price per liter is not the whole story. He says Shell believes biofuels use will double over the next five years because it responds to government pressures to reduce carbon emissions and to strengthen energy security, and that these advantages will be ultimately be rewarded.

Brown says government incentives are already leveling the playing field. Many European countries, including Germany, Austria, Italy, and Spain, exempt biodiesel from their hefty fuel taxes. Diesel fuel currently sells for €1.05 per liter in Freiberg, of which €0.65 is tax. That leaves plenty of room to guarantee biodiesel producers such as Choren and Shell a profit.

It's not surprising, then, that in Germany -- Europe's leader in biodiesel production and consumption -- Shell is now a major distributor of conventional biodiesel.

WorldChanging makes some comments about this new process in "The Biofuel dilemma", noting that biofuels won't be sufficient to meet increasing energy needs or handle oil depletion - they are best thought of as a "bridge" technology as we reconfigure the way we create and use energy in the coming years.
There's much to like about biofuels. They can replace fossil fuel uses without requiring significant modification of machinery. Since they are generally derived from vegetation, they're close to carbon-neutral (as the next crop of plants will take up the carbon dioxide released from burning the previous biofuel crops). Biofuels like biodiesel produce significantly fewer particulates and carbon monoxide than regular diesel, and produce few of the sulfur emissions leading to acid rain. And while some regions hope to become biofuel powerhouses, the ability to make biofuels is not limited by geography, so cartels and "peak production" won't become problems.

But biofuels have some notable drawbacks, too. Making biofuels from plants already in demand for food, such as soy, corn and canola/rapeseed, raises the prices of the food versions and reduces available supplies. And increased demand for biofuels is triggering the expansion of agricultural land, with devastating results in some areas. According to this week's New Scientist, the clearing of land in south-east Asia for palm oil production is the leading cause of rain forest destruction in the region; Brazil faces a similar problem with soya plants, already the primary cause of deforestation prior to the biofuel boom.

The solution may be to stop looking at new crops for biofuels, and to start looking at waste biomass.


Of course, this isn't the first attempt to make biofuels out of otherwise waste biomass. As I noted back in June, University of Wisconsin researchers figured out a better method of converting plant carbohydrates into fuel, using a biomimetic process. And just a few days ago, Jeremy posted about work done at the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory using "jungle rot" fungus as a natural method of breaking down cellulose for use in ethanol production.

We should be careful not to imagine that biofuels alone will replace our use of fossil fuels. We need a much bigger change -- a combination of high-efficiency systems, redesigned communities, and energy produced from clean, renewable sources. But changes of that scale take time. Biofuels, like hybrid cars and rooftop solar panels, are a kind of bridge technology, helping us get to where we need to go without cutting us off from our existing systems. It's crucial that our use of them doesn't make things worse in other ways.

TreeHugger points to a post on RealClimate about the collation and analysis of 650,000 years of greenhouse gas data and how it confirms a lot of the climate change modelling work that has been done.
Not long ago, we wrote about the new scientific research that shows that greenhouse gases are at their highest point in 650,000 years (with a strong progression in the past 50 year). Now, the scientists and climate experts at RealClimate have a post shining some light on the implications of the Antarctica findings, followed by a very interesting, and sometimes technical, discussion on the subject in the "comments" section. It will no doubt take a while to crunch all the new data and run new climate models, but this preliminary information is quite interesting and seems to confirm (once again) many theories.
This ice core extended the record of Antarctic climate back to maybe 800,000 years, and the first 650,000 years of ice have now been analysed for greenhouse gas concentrations saved in tiny bubbles. The records for CO2, CH4 and N2O both confirm the Vostok records that have been available for a few years now, and extend them over another 4 glacial-interglacial cycles. This is a landmark result and a strong testament to the almost heroic efforts in the field to bring back these samples from over 3km deep in the Antarctica ice. So what do these new data tell us, and where might they lead?"

First of all, the results demonstrate clearly that the relationship between climate and CO2 that had been deduced from the Vostok core appears remarkably robust. This is despite a significant change in the patterns of glacial-interglacial changes prior to 400,000 years ago. The 'EPICA challenge' was laid down a few months ago for people working on carbon cycle models to predict whether this would be the case, and mostly the predictions were right on the mark. (Who says climate predictions can't be verified?). It should also go almost without saying that lingering doubts about the reproducibility of the ice core gas records should now be completely dispelled. That a number of different labs, looking at ice from different locations, extracted with different methods all give very similar answers, is a powerful indication that what they are measuring is real. Where there are problems (for instance in N2O in very dusty ice), those problems are clearly found and that data discarded.

TreeHugger also notes that design visionary Bill McDonough has been named "Big Thinker of the Year" by Esquire.
The December 2005 "America's Best & Brightest" issue of Esquire (the one with Bill Clinton on the cover) declares William McDonough the 'Big Thinker of the Year - Designer of the Better World' for his achievements in "reinventing almost everything" for the better. They write: "There was a time when architect William McDonough was best known for his buildings. Then he decided to move on to bigger and better things. Like re-designing the whole world."

Talk about a nice compliment for the man, and one more step toward the mainstream recognition of green ideas. "His guiding tenet: Like nature, industrial design should be self-renewing; every product should not only be manufactured using nontoxic ingredients and green energy sources but also be capable of being broken down into its basic biological and technical elements so it can be reborn and reused at the end of its life span, whether in factories or compost heaps... It's a world in which no material is ever wasted."

Following on from my note about compressed air wind energy storage systems yesterday, Energy Bulletin has a more detailed article on the topic.
In a 2003 paper entitled “Large Scale Energy Storage Systems”, six students of engineering at Imperial College London noted that compressed air energy storage (CAES) systems typically relied on plants burning fossil fuels to compress the air stored in large underground caverns, which then used this air to produce energy at peak hours.

Also, besides burning fuel to complete the compression work in the first place, this air was mixed with natural gas and itself burned in a turbine to create the electricity.

The researchers also noted that another approach, called compressed air storage (CAS) would hold the compressed air in man-made vessels, but that “current technology is not advanced enough to manufacture these high-pressure tanks at a feasible cost. The scales proposed are also relatively small compared to CAES systems.”

A few years later, this is exactly the road now being taken by the industry, and by at least one technology developer.

Earlier in 2005, a Vancouver, B.C. company, Encore Clean Energy Inc., released news about a system it is working on that will allow wind energy producers to store energy in the form of compressed air in underground steel tanks or pipes, and release it through a special generator to create electricity when it is needed.

The company’s CEO, Dan Hunter, says his firm aims to be the first to build this kind of system for a wind producer and will use its unique technology to do it.

Encore will make use of its core technology, the Magnetic Piston Generator (MPG), as the turbine for its wind energy storage systems.

To close, I'll go back to The Observer, who have a good article (via Energy Bulletin) that points out a lot of the things that I like to blabber on about - we're running out of oil, oil dependency has all sorts of unpleasant side effects, global warming is caused by fossil fuel consumption and needs to be dealt with - and we need to come up with a solution to all of this.

The article notes that the nuclear industry is putting itself forward as the solution to these issues - and that this is just one possible solution, which needs to be compared against the cleaner, long term alternative of renewables based solutions.
The great game of the 21st century is being played out before our eyes, but few seem to notice.

Last week, Tony Blair hinted that he was prepared to go ahead with a new generation of nuclear reactors at an as yet unknown cost. In Iraq, an American-inspired deal to hand over development of oil reserves, the third largest in the world, to US and British companies is being rushed through by the oil minister and Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Chalabi before next month's election.

In Russia, President Putin has ruthlessly constructed a monopoly of oil and gas production which controls some 90 per cent of the country's reserves. On the way, he imprisoned Mikhail Khodorkovsky, stripping his oil giant, Yukos, of its assets and, in a separate deal, paid off Khodorkovsky's fellow oligarch, Roman Abramovich, with US $13 billion for his stake in the oil producer Sibneft.

The link is the supply of energy to the high-consuming, wasteful Western democracies. With about 50 years of oil reserves left and maybe 85 years of gas, the struggle for control of the world's energy resources will increasingly dictate events. It will impact on each of us and there will be almost no area of domestic or foreign policy unaffected by this desperate scramble. Lest people think that the invasion of Iraq was undertaken to establish democracy and eliminate Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, rather than to secure Iraq's oil reserves, then last Monday's revelations about Chalabi's 30-year binding contracts should give them pause. If you imagine that Tony Blair's musing on the nuclear option popped out of the blue, just remember Putin's visit to Britain in October and the conversation the two leaders had on the sidelines of the Russia-EU summit. Believe me, they were talking about gas, not chatting about democratic reform in Russia.

Having consolidated Russia's state monopoly, Putin came to Europe with his power greatly enhanced. More than 25 per cent of Europe's natural gas is supplied by Russia: By 2020, that figure will be nudging 40 per cent. The former KGB officer has got his hand resting on Europe's throat and with rising gas prices, it cannot be anything but sensible for Blair to look at other options.

These events and the cold assessment of what lies ahead are way above an average individual's understanding or awareness. We are so used to having all the energy we require that we are barely conscious of our needs and do not trouble ourselves with realities of the world as it is and, more seriously, as it will be.

I am often reminded of Sydney Pollack's 1975 classic thriller, Three Days of the Condor, which starred Robert Redford as Joe Turner and Cliff Robertson as a CIA officer named Higgins. Turner uncovers the CIA's covert plan to invade the Middle East and secure the oil supply for the US. At the end of the film, the two meet outside the offices of the New York Times, where Turner has just delivered a dossier exposing the CIA's operation. Higgins asks the idealistic Turner what the US government should do when people start running out of fuel.

Turner replies: 'Ask them.'

'Not now; then!' Higgins snaps. 'Ask 'em when they're running out. Ask 'em when there's no heat in their homes and they're cold. Ask 'em when their engines stop. Ask 'em when people who have never known hunger start going hungry. You wanna know something? They won't want us to ask 'em. They'll just want us to get it for 'em!"

Never a truer word was spoken in an espionage thriller. When the film was released in the wake of Watergate, Joe Turner seemed unquestionably heroic, but 30 years on, it's possible to admire Higgins's scathing realism for the reason that at least he's not having it both ways.

Today, there's so much in the liberal stand against the war in Iraq that is simply politics for the naive, who tremble at the idea of the war while at the same time demanding as much energy as they can use. We were lied to about Saddam's WMD because realists like Dick Cheney, Alastair Campbell and Ahmed Chalabi knew that the Western public would not accept that oil was even part of the mission in Iraq. They know that in our hearts, we just want them to get it for us.

Trafalgar Or Waterloo ?  

Posted by Big Gav

Brendon Nelson and Ian McFarlane were both on the nuclear campaign trail today, publically calling on Howard to consider the case for nuclear power, in a continuation of the steady PR effort that kicked off with the Financial Review's peak oil article at the start of the year. On the plus side at least Nelson was publically noting that global warming is caused by human activity, at the risk of him getting verbally tarred and feathered tomorrow by wingnut commentators like Andrew Bolt.

Labor and the Greens were both dismissive of this latest effort to undermine the "3 mines" and no nuclear power status quo, with Bob Brown commenting "Let's be clear about this, nuclear power is not the answer to global warming and if there's a million dollars spare let us put that into solar power in this sunny country.".

I guess the Liberal effort did help to slightly steer the days news commentary away from their wipeout in the Pittwater by-election, with moderate supporters of the Liberal party seemingly deciding to get some payback on the extreme right of the party in the wake of putsch against John Brogden by voting for an Independent instead.

LAURIE OAKES: Now could I get you to put your Science Minister hat on for a minute. You're a nuclear energy advocate. When are you going to set up a proper scientific inquiry into whether Australia should move to nuclear power?

BRENDAN NELSON: Well I have - Laurie, I've put a formal proposal to the Prime Minister, and as you can see he's got a few things on his plate at the moment - but what I'm proposing is that the Australian Academy of Science and our learned academies in humanities and social science collectively at a cost of just under $1 million, conduct a full examination throughout Australia of the, if you like, the geological, the environmental, the physical, the social science and all of those aspects of examining the prospects of a nuclear power industry in Australia be examined.

So I've put a proposal to the Prime Minister, jointly with the Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane, and the Prime Minister will consider that in due course.

As far as Australia's future is concerned, given that our energy demands are going to treble over the next 40 years, it is obvious that human behaviour has contributed to global warming, notwithstanding the enormous coal deposits that we have in our country I think we owe it to our future to examine all of our options.

We can't responsibly dig, if you like, 30 percent of the world's uranium out of the ground, export it overseas, and allow some 440 reactors to operate and expand in other parts of the world and not seriously consider this as an option for ourselves.

In other local news, Woodside and BHP have approved development of a new offshore (the charmingly named Stybarrow) oilfield near Exmouth.
Australia's two biggest oil players, BHP Billiton and Woodside Petroleum, approved development of the $US600 million ($814 million) Stybarrow oilfield off the coast of Western Australia yesterday.

The BHP-operated field will be the second of four planned fields in the Exmouth Sub-Basin, which is quickly becoming Australia's hottest new oil-producing region.

"Stybarrow represents the first opportunity for BHP Billiton to commercialise reserves in the Exmouth Sub-Basin, which is increasing in importance as an oil province in Australian waters," BHP energy group president Philip Aiken said.

The Stybarrow field will produce a maximum of 80,000 barrels a day beginning in early 2008. The recoverable reserves range between 60 million and 90 million barrels of oil, giving the project a 10-year lifetime.

The first oil from Exmouth Sub-Basin should be produced next October when Woodside and Mitsui's $1.48 billion Enfield project begins shipping up to 100,000 barrels a day.

Up in the northern hemisphere, speculation that the North Atlantic Oscillation may occur this year has been strengthened by the early advent of cold weather, with northern europe reporting Siberian conditions.
Last month, the Met Office issued emergency planners with an amber alert - a long-range warning of what could be a colder-than-average winter.

The alert was relayed to contingency planners in Government, including the NHS and Highways Agency, as well as energy companies. But as the weather warning reached the public eye, it was transformed into dire media predictions that the UK was facing the worst winter in 50 years, with temperatures plummeting below those usually found in northern Iceland.

But according to the Met Office, the forecast has been hyped out of all recognition.

For a start, the long-range forecast method, which examines patterns in the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) - the state of sea temperatures in the north Atlantic at any given moment - promises an accuracy of only 65%.

"It means we get the advice right two times out of three, but that means the other third is wrong," a Met Office spokesman said.

May saw warm waters off the southern coast of Greenland, coupled with colder sea temperatures on the eastern seaboard of the US.

"With that particular pattern we would be getting a negative NAO, and the strength of that negative oscillation is what gives us the prediction of a colder European winter," the spokesman said.

If the NAO does eventuate then no doubt shivering New Englanders in the US will appreciate Hugo Chavez's discounted heating oil for the poor offer all the more. As someone who has always appreciated the fine art of irritating the obnoxious, I have to say that he is doing a pretty good job of annoying that dumbass in the White House, who is too trapped by ideology to do the obvious thing to prevent this little propaganda coup - doing a little subsidisation of his own (a small windfall tax on oil company profits would pay for it easily I'm sure).
Venezuela's President, Hugo Chavez, has pulled off his greatest public relations coup yet in his campaign to irritate the Bush Administration with a deal to supply cheap fuel to thousands of poor residents of Boston and New York.

To the anger of many in Washington, Citgo Petroleum Corporation, a company controlled by the Venezuelan Government, will supply more than 45 million litres of oil at 40 per cent below market prices.

The deal is one of the most spectacular moves yet in Mr Chavez's attempt to market his "21st-century socialism" using his country's oil wealth.

While it will not change many minds in Washington about his populist and autocratic regime, Caracas hopes it will bolster Mr Chavez's claim as the coming leader of an anti-capitalist Latin America. Mr Chavez, who once dubbed President George Bush a "genocidal madman" and led a huge anti-US protest earlier this month, first proposed his fuel offer in August when oil prices were at a record high after Hurricane Katrina.

Joe Kennedy, the chairman of Citizens Energy, one of the organisations that will distribute the oil, said the deal highlighted the failure of oil companies in the US and the Government to step in to help.

"Our government has made billions of dollars just this year on the royalty payments the oil companies pay to the Government," he said. But when it is a question of poor Americans, "what do we hear from Washington? Sorry boys. There's no money in the till."

To promote his dream, Mr Chavez has offered cheap oil and refineries to his neighbours and pledged financial support for regional development programs.

Given reports that UK gas prices are now the world's highest, maybe Tony Blair should do some goading of Hugo as well and perhaps ask the Archbishop of Canterbury to follow Pat Robertson's lead and call for Hugo's assasination, in the hope that he may send some hydrocarbons their way. On the same subject, Jerome a Paris takes a look at a recent article in the FT that suggests there is a good chance they will freeze this winter and makes some pertinent comments on the externalities of the current energy industry.
The chemical industry can cut back its natural gas use, but that means less activity, and fewer jobs. And the general trend is to build new plants in countries that have access to cheap gas (i.e. producers like Iran, Qatar or Saudia Arabia). Once production has moved over there, it never comes back.

The power industry is also apparently busy switching some gas plants to coal use where it can (not everywhere). But coal prices have also doubled in recent times, so the impact on prices is just to avoid the most recent increases, but not the general trend. And coal is not good for pollution nor global warming.

The message I am not trying to convey is not necessarily one of doom and panic, but that we must get used to energy beign more expensive. If energy was properly priced, we would use it more wisely. We'd pay to have good security of supply (by paying for reliable sources, not by paying for an oversized military); we'd pay to avoid pollution (instead of dealing with the chronic illnesses it causes via the health system); we'd pay to have enough spare capacity (instead of making the poorest go cold if winter is too harsh and prices go up even more to get people to stop consuming - because that's what the "market" will provide).

Cheap energy is not a right, and it is not even a reality today, because you pay for your "cheap" energy today in other ways (taxes, healthcare, etc). Let's make the price of energy realistic, and then help those that really need help to get access to basic energy - and only them.

Let's stop worrying about energy supply, and worry instead about energy demand.

Of course, high gas prices aren't just a problem in the UK, with the head of Qatar Gas ruminating about a global recession caused by increasing gas prices.
A Qatar firm that is to supply a fifth of Britain's future gas warns high prices could spark a global recession.

Gas prices are at record levels with global demand for energy boosted by economic growth in China and India. Faisal al-Suwaidi, head of Qatargas, warned the high prices could spark a recession in the developed world.

Qatargas is to supply up to 20% of Britain's gas starting in 2007 at the earliest, with the fuel arriving in liquid form. The imports will come through a new terminal at Milford Haven.

Mr Al-Suwaidi said the high global prices would affect supplying nations as well as the consuming countries.

Polly Toynbee in The Guardian notes that there is a possibility that energy shortages in the UK may awake the "nuclear kraken" (in the week's most colourful turn of phrase). She also seems to suggest that some of the news flow may be manipulated, which, given my ever-increasing respect for the power of well organised PR campaigns, I can't entirely dismiss. She does understand the future of energy - efficiency, wind and waves (obviously UK writers won't be big on solar power as they only see the sun for a few months each year). One option some resourceful Irish people are turning to is a traditional source of heating - peat.
This is not cold weather for late November. There is no energy shortage. Domestic gas bills are the lowest in the EU. Electricity is 10% cheaper than in 1997. A few imprudent industries refused fixed prices to play the energy spot market, but squeal now the market is against them. They represent only 0.05% of industry, despite the CBI's Digby Jones crying wolf over yet another "government crisis".

Behind this scare is the nuclear power lobby waking like the kraken to warn of imminent power cuts, in time for Tony Blair's announcement next week of another energy review. It will be headed by the energy minister, Malcolm Wicks - a hopeful sign of sanity - but Friends of the Earth finds it somewhat ominous that we need another review just three years after the last.

A colossal decision on nuclear power will be made through a thicket of energy factoids. Note how cleverly the language is framed already, implying that nuclear is common sense and anything else is "alternative" to it - probably wearing woolly hats and fingerless gloves.

This will be a case study in political decision-making - rational and transparent or dismally dysfunctional. Watch how the wind of opinion changes, who manipulates it, how and why. See how emotion, political predilection and even gender swing the debate on both sides. Polls show Britain is evenly split on nuclear power, but that masks a huge gender difference: two-thirds of women are against, as they are across the EU. Is there something intuitively macho about glowing fuel rods? How cleverly the nuclear lobby insinuates that grown-up, real men - and by inference real political parties - know what has to be done. Wind, waves and energy-saving are for silly greens and big girl's blouses.

While we won't be tell for quite a while if Thanksgiving 2005 was the peak oil point or not (and I suspect we still have a few years to go at the current rate of production myself), WorldChanging and Mobjectivist have both noted the passing of Peak Oil Day.
Reasonable people may disagree, but Princeton geology professor emeritus Ken Deffeyes, author of 2001's Hubbert's Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage and 2005's Beyond Oil: The View from Hubbert's Peak (sense a theme?), stated on his blog in early 2004:
Although it is a bit silly, we can now pick a day to celebrate passing the top of the mathematically smooth Hubbert curve: Nov 24, 2005. It falls right smack dab on top of Thanksgiving Day 2005. It sounds a little sick to observe a gloomy day, but in San Francisco they still observe April 18 as the anniversary of the 1906 earthquake.

That's right -- according to one of the more preeminent peak oilers, yesterday was the day the world saw its maximum oil production. Probably.

The reality is that oil peaking is not a smooth curve, of course. Unexpected discoveries, technology improvements, and the like will sporadically increase output, even after the decline has truly begun. And, as we've noted in the past, peak oil matters most when demand exceeds supply. The best defense against peak oil nightmares is to stop using so damn much of the stuff. We know how to move to a cleaner, greener, higher-efficiency civilization; the time to do so is now.

Interest in alternatives to oil is steadily increasing, with Bill Gates investing in an ethanol plant (maybe our peak oiler at Microsoft has had a word or two in his ear). I couldn't determine if these new plants will produce cellulosic ethanol or just indirectly harvest government grain farming subsidies.

The Energy Blog also has posts on increasingly semiconductor production for PV panels, efficiency improvements in thin film solar cell production and a novel scheme for storing wind power.
The Iowa Stored Energy Plant (ISEP) will be the first plant in the world that will use energy from a wind farm plus supplemental off peak electricity to produce compressed air to be stored in an underground aquifer until it is need to produce electricity on demand. When demand for electricity is high, the air will be released and used in combination with a small amount of natural gas to drive combustion turbines to generate electricity. Wind power is undependable and not always available when needed, compressed air energy storage (CAES) mitigates this intermittency. This method will save one-third to one-half the natural gas that would otherwise be needed. CAES has been used in Alabama and Germany, but at these locations the energy for storage does not come from wind.

A separate section of the underground aquifer will also be used for storing natural gas. Gas storage will allow the facility and other gas utilities to buy natural gas when prices are lower. This type of gas storage is widely used in the U.S.

The BBC has an update on how play is progressing on the grand chessboard, with Russia seemingly re-establishing the ascendency in Uzbekistan.
The region is important for Russia, says Ms Antonenko, because it is one of the few left when Russia can maintain its status of a great power that it has lost elsewhere.

However, its ability to carry through its commitments, such as the new mutual defence pact, is doubtful, Ms Antonenko said. "It's important for it to seem like a military power, but Russia's ability to project power is very limited," she said. "It is not really involved in operations there and it doesn't want to divert resources from the Caucasus. It's a symbolic presence."

The most likely source of competition between the rival powers is over natural resources. Kazakhstan has enormous oil reserves, estimated at 26bn barrels, and Turkmenistan is rich in natural gas.

China is hungry for energy to keep its economy growing, the US is seeking to reduce its dependence on Middle Eastern oil, and Russia is keen to exploit potential transit routes for its resources through Central Asia.

Some analysts have described the interplay of US and Russia - and now Chinese - interests as a new version of the 19th Century "Great Game", which saw Russia and the British Empire compete for influence in the region.

Lutz Kleveman, author of The New Great Game: Blood and Oil in Central Asia, believes the US is using the "war on terror" to further its oil interests in the region.

Russia and China, he said, were gaining ground - Russia because it is an important regional trading partner, and China because it is becoming more powerful, in military and economic terms. China is buying up oil concessions and opening a major new pipeline to pump oil from Kazakhstan.

But others argue that Russia not only has its own, much larger oil reserves, but also that there is little evidence the region is such a priority to Moscow as, say, the Ukraine. The US denies it is revisiting Cold War rivalries on new ground. Earlier this year, US Assistant Secretary of State for Eurasian affairs Daniel Freid said: "We do not look at Central Asia as an object in a Great Game. We do no look at this as a zero-sum contest between us, the Russians and the Chinese."

Characterising the strategic interests at play in Central Asia as a new Great Game can also overlooks the most important players, according to Daniel Kimmage, a Central Asia analyst with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, a US-government funded overseas broadcaster. "[It] reduces everything in the region to the actions of those great powers, where in most cases local players are more important", he said.

On the ground, competition between the US, Russia and China has had a limited effect on domestic policy in the region, he said. Uzbekistan decided on its own to kick out US and Nato troops - albeit after Russian and Chinese encouragement, he said.

Empires and their games have followed some familiar patterns throughout history - Tom Dispatch takes a look the possibility the American Empire will collapse.
For some time, I have been suggesting that the aim of Republican strategy has been a Republican Party that permanently runs the United States and a United States that permanently runs the world. The two aims have been driven by a common purpose: to steadily and irreversibly increase and consolidate power in Republican hands, leading in the direction of a one-party state at home and a global American empire abroad. The most critical question has been whether American democracy, severely eroded but still breathing, would bring down the Republican machine, or whether the Republican machine -- call it the budding one-party global empire -- would bring down American democracy. This week, it looks as if democracy, after years of decline, has gained the upper hand.

The choice was and remains: empire or republic? Just a few years ago, the "sole superpower," the new Rome, master of the "unipolar" world, seemed to many to be bestriding the world. Some, like columnist Charles Krauthammer, were reveling in the triumph of "the American hegemon." "History has given you an empire, if you will keep it" he said, traducing Benjamin Franklin, who had said at the Constitutional Convention that the United States was a republic if you can keep it.

Others, like writer Michael Ignatieff, in a more somber mood, were preparing to shoulder the empire's inescapable global "burdens," which meant "enforcing such order as there is in the world and doing so in the American interest." Still others, like journalist Robert Kaplan, were touring the empire's far-flung garrisons, lionizing the "imperial grunts" and counseling that America's civil leaders should yield to military direction. Indeed, he said that "the very distinction between our military and operations overseas is eroding." The model for the future, he thought, should be the United States' long history of military intervention in Latin America.

But where is the American empire now, where the new Rome? Where are its subject peoples, its provinces, its Macedonias and Carthages and Egypts, its victorious armies and triumphal parades? Where, for that matter, are its arts and letters, its Colossus of Rhodes, its pyramids? Where is its Virgil? Would that be Bill O'Reilly, fountain of abusive misinformation, or Dan Bartlett, the White House Misspokesman? Can someone give me a tour of this realm? We might begin in Iraq. But perhaps we had better not. The tour would have to be cut short in the Green Zone, the American compound in downtown Iraq and the only "secure" territory in the country. Last week, more than 200 Iraqis were killed in attacks by suicide bombers (horrors scarcely mentioned in the debate in this country).

There seems to be a lot of talk floating around about withdrawal timetables for Iraq and the "Iraqification" of the fight against the insurgents - all of which is being spun as not at all like the withdrawal from Vietnam of course (there was some awesome historical revisionism in the AFR's editorial pages from former US Defence Secretary Melvin Laird on the topic this weekend). Obviously I'll believe this when I see it, but the political climate does seem to have shifted a lot since Katrina and the collapse in support for Bush and Regent Cheney. The squeamishness most normal individuals feel about officially approved torture has probably contributed to this shift as well - Digby notes that once you open this Pandora's box everyone is in trouble, which obviously even your traditional conservatives understand (even if the neo version doesn't).
As regular readers know, I have been exercised about the fact that some people believe that torture is no longer taboo --- that we are normalizing the concept in our minds in anticipation of the government legalizing it. Some have called me shockingly naive for not knowing that we have always tortured and abused and that this is nothing new, but I think this misses my point. It is true that our nation has always engaged in bad acts, I am well aware of that. But this is something new. We have high level people in our government attempting to create a legal torture regime on the basis of a new constitutional finding that the executive branch is unfettered by the rule of law in a time of war --- our current "war" conveniently having no obvious end. For a long, long time now, if our government tortured and abused, it at least had the decency to hide it.

If you want proof that torture is still not publicly acceptable in our culture, you need look no farther than the 90-7 vote in the senate. A whole lot of big shots, including tough guy red-state Republicans, don't want to be associated with supporting torture. They know damned well that it is beyond the pale. (For now.)

If we allow this to become normalized, I don't think it will stop at suspected terrorists --- eventually people will ask why we should have all these laws and prohibitions in the case of non-terrorist, but equally heinous, crimes. How do you tell the family of a victim of a suspected gang killing that the suspected perpetrators have a right to lawyers and a right not to incriminate themselves? Is their pain less than the pain of terrorism victims? Why shouldn't these "worst of the worst" be tortured by the police or the FBI to find out what they know? After all, more people could die if they aren't forced to give up their home boys.

The reason that people do not demand this now is because we have long required a public adherence to the rule of law --- and we have instinctively understood that authorities sometimes make mistakes, are corrupt or inept. Due process is required to mitigate those human failings. Yet, innocent people are still caught up in the system even with all these processes. Imagine what would happen if we didn't have them?

Once you introduce torture into the equation, justified by the fact that these are people alleged to be "the worst of the worst" you are letting go of the idea that innocent people are sometimes incarcerated, and that it matters that we don't treat innocent people barbarously, even if we are inclined by primitive notions of revenge to treat guilty people that way. We know that non-terrorists have been caught up in the net and have been tortured and abused. Even more horrifyingly, we know that even innocent, mentally ill people have been tortured and abused. (I don't think you can go any lower than that --- maybe children, but they did that too.)

There are important moral and human rights arguments to be made against torture of anyone, guilty or innocent. I believe that it makes an entire society, an entire culture, immoral. But the most immoral act of all immoral acts is to torture an innocent person. And since nobody is omniscient, to torture a person with no due process, no right to confront accusers, no way of proving their innocence, it is guaranteed that we are doing this under our torture regime. As I said, we know that we are.

One might assume that there is no one on the planet who thinks that torturing innocent people is right. Certainly, it's going to be hard to find intelligent educated people who believe that it is a moral good to do so. But not impossible. As it turns out there is a moral argument for torturing innocent people:


And to close, here's a tale from Canada, where former defence minister Paul Hellyer is reportedly demanding public hearings on the extra-terrestrial and UFO issue. Now, while I'm tempted to simply dismiss this as a fake story or the rantings of a madman, I may perhaps be being a bit harsh, having never really had any interest in the whole UFO conspiracy world or even being a regular X-Files watcher during its heyday. Plus my little digression into anti-gravity research a few days ago seemed to prompt visitors from a few unexpected (terrestrial) quarters, so I'm kind of tempted to see if any unusual readers are interested in this topic as well, if you'll forgive my little obsession with sousveillance.
A former Canadian Minister of Defence and Deputy Prime Minister under Pierre Trudeau has joined forces with three Non-governmental organizations to ask the Parliament of Canada to hold public hearings on Exopolitics -- relations with “ETs.”

By “ETs,” Mr. Hellyer and these organizations mean ethical, advanced extraterrestrial civilizations that may now be visiting Earth.

On September 25, 2005, in a startling speech at the University of Toronto that caught the attention of mainstream newspapers and magazines, Paul Hellyer, Canada’s Defence Minister from 1963-67 under Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Prime Minister Lester Pearson, publicly stated: "UFOs, are as real as the airplanes that fly over your head."

Mr. Hellyer went on to say, "I'm so concerned about what the consequences might be of starting an intergalactic war, that I just think I had to say something."

Hellyer revealed, "The secrecy involved in all matters pertaining to the Roswell incident was unparalled. The classification was, from the outset, above top secret, so the vast majority of U.S. officials and politicians, let alone a mere allied minister of defence, were never in-the-loop."

Hellyer warned, "The United States military are preparing weapons which could be used against the aliens, and they could get us into an intergalactic war without us ever having any warning. He stated, "The Bush administration has finally agreed to let the military build a forward base on the moon, which will put them in a better position to keep track of the goings and comings of the visitors from space, and to shoot at them, if they so decide."

Hellyer’s speech ended with a standing ovation. He said, "The time has come to lift the veil of secrecy, and let the truth emerge, so there can be a real and informed debate, about one of the most important problems facing our planet today."

Catalyst - Real Oil Crisis  

Posted by Big Gav

Well, I was at the pub so I missed Catalyst's peak oil segment this week - it looks like a reasonable job based on the transcript. One of the main interviewees was Jeremy Leggett, whose book "Half Gone: Oil, Gas, Hot Air and the Global Energy Crisis" I noticed in the bookstores yesterday.

The world's largest petroleum company is ExxonMobil – Esso. It employs 20,000 scientists to generate their own exhaustive data sets.

In their Melbourne 3D seismography room, I meet head of exploration, geologist Dr Doug Schwebel.

Doug Schwebel: OK this is a 3 dimensional image of the geology offshore Bass Strait in Victoria.

Narration: Doug acknowledges oil will run down eventually, he just vigorously disputes when.

Doug Schwebel: Well people have been predicting for over a hundred years that we’re going to run out of oil. It hasn’t happened. We don’t think it’s going to happen in the near term.

Narration: Exxon calculates twice as much oil left in the world as the so called 'early peakers' - placing peak oil decades away.

Doug Schwebel: I mean we’re talking at least out to 2030 with what we know today. And then potentially another 20 – 30 years beyond that with technologies that we can envisage might exist. You know if we can improve technology by only 10% then we can recover an additional 600 – 800 billion barrels of oil.

Narration: If this majority view is correct, we have plenty of time for a smooth, market driven transition to alternatives via hybrid cars.

Cruising in the balm of this reassuring future, it's tempting to dismiss the 'early peak' camp entirely, as a small bunch of vested interest doomsdayers.

But it’s not that easy.

Petroleum giant Chevron is now running these startling advertisements.

And here in Australia, some surprising people have come out in the early peak camp.

Earlier this year, Eric Streitberg asked an extraordinary question at the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association conference.

Eric Streitberg: I asked them to put up their hands if they thought that we had reached peak oil. Fifty percent of the people in the audience put up their hand saying that they believe we’re at peak oil and these are practicing petroleum industry professionals.

Narration: So what if they’re right?

This is what the early peak camp are terrified of – an apocalyptic gulf between dwindling supply and rising demand from the voracious east.

Jeremy Leggett: It’s panic that causes collapses in markets. People start selling their shares. That’s what happened in October 1929 and it just snowballs.

Eric Streitberg: Rationing - people having to queue for three days to get a tank full of petrol, people not being able to afford to heat their houses.

Peter Newman: Getting to 2 to 3 to 4 dollars a litre you really are grinding to a halt.

Narration: But couldn’t we just switch to alternatives – like solar cars or hydrogen?

Professor Peter Newman should know. He’s been trying to prepare his home town of Perth with a post-petroleum transport system - which includes Australia’s first hydrogen buses.


Posted by Big Gav

TreeHugger's Michael Richard and WorldChanging's Jamais Cascio both feature on the site for the Oil Change campaign that accompanies the new movie "Syriana".

Participant Productions was created by Jeff Skoll, ex-President of eBay and now Philanthropic billionaire. "Our goal is to deliver compelling entertainment that will raise awareness about important social issues, educate audiences and inspire them to take action."

For more info on their last movies follow these links: Good Night, And Good Luck, the "media" movie with George Clooney, North Country, the "sexual harassment" movie with Charlize Theron and Woody Harrelson, and Syriana, the soon to be released "oil" movie with George Clooney and Matt Damon. Each of these movies has a community website/blog where actors, producers, guest bloggers and regular visitors can post and discuss things related to the subject of the movie.

Today, launches its campaign for Syriana: Oil Change. I will be guest-blogging there for the foreseeable future and I hope that some of our readers will take the plunge, create an account and participate. Participant Productions are doing good things and bringing important issues to the mainstream consciousness. I seriously encourage people to see their movies (bring friends).

Weirdest Incoming Search Query Award  

Posted by Big Gav

I never cease to be amazed by some of the things I see in the logs, and while I should spend more time writing actual content rather than outing visitors, this one is too hard to resist.

I'll leave the (north american energy) company that this came from anonymous, but a google search on "nazi technology, including anti-gravity devices, a potential source of vast amounts of free energy" gets my award for most unusual search phrase to ever arrive at Peak Energy.

Google is showing signs of true presience I might add, because while I've never covered that particular topic before, I do have a post in the works which does glancingly touch on most of those key words (not in a positive way of course).

For those who are interested, this BBC article is the top search result for that particular query...

Hot Off The Press  

Posted by Big Gav

In global warming news (largely harvested from Energy Bulletin) Greenhouse gas emissions are up in Spain, Monaco, Portugal, Greece, Australia, New Zealand, the US ...

Australian greenhouse gas emissions have increased 23 per cent over the last 13 years, prompting environmental campaigners to call for urgent action.

A report prepared by the Bonn-based United Nations Climate Change secretariat and released this week ahead of the international climate conference in Montreal later this month warned that the western world was losing its grip on the climate change problem.

The report, covering the period between 1990 and 2003, found Australia's greenhouse gas emissions had risen 23.3 per cent on 1990 levels. The Australian Government's target is to limit emissions increases to 108 per cent of 1990 levels over the period 2008-2012.

A spokeswoman for Environment Minister Ian Campbell said the Australian emissions figure was misleading because it failed to take into account changes in land use. "The fact remains that Australia through the Government's $1.8 billion package of measures to address climate change is one of a handful of countries in the world on track to meet its Kyoto targets through domestic action alone," she said.

Australia has refused to ratify the Kyoto protocol. Greens senator Christine Milne said the figures showed there had been years of lost opportunity under the Howard Government. "Australia's greenhouse gas emissions are out of control. The Government which has belatedly acknowledged that climate change is a serious challenge for Australia has failed the community and should be condemned for its inaction," she said in a statement.

Senator Milne called on the Government to declare what position it would take at the Montreal talks and to declare whether it would finally ratify the Kyoto protocol as a sign of good faith.

Colin Brown, organiser of the Catholic Earthcare conference in Canberra this weekend, also said the figures revealed a decade of lost opportunity.

The Independent has a report on the melting of Greenland's glaciers - which notes "Global disaster will follow if the ice cap on Greenland melts - Now scientists say it is vanishing far faster than even they expected".
Greenland's glaciers have begun to race towards the ocean, leading scientists to predict that the vast island's ice cap is approaching irreversible meltdown, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

Research to be published in a few days' time shows how glaciers that have been stable for centuries have started to shrink dramatically as temperatures in the Arctic have soared with global warming. On top of this, record amounts of the ice cap's surface turned to water this summer.

The two developments - the most alarming manifestations of climate change to date - suggest that the ice cap is melting far more rapidly than scientists had thought, with immense consequences for civilisation and the planet. Its complete disappearance would raise the levels of the world's seas by 20 feet, spelling inundation for London and other coastal cities around the globe, along with much of low-lying countries such as Bangladesh.

More immediately, the vast amount of fresh water discharged into the ocean as the ice melts threatens to shut down the Gulf Stream, which protects Britain and the rest of northern Europe from a freezing climate like that of Labrador.

Glaciers are also rapidly disappearing in the Himalayas, with the Observer reporting that "Millions face glacier catastrophe - Global warming hits Himalayas".
Nawa Jigtar was working in the village of Ghat, in Nepal, when the sound of crashing sent him rushing out of his home. He emerged to see his herd of cattle being swept away by a wall of water.

Jigtar and his fellow villagers were able to scramble to safety. They were lucky: 'If it had come at night, none of us would have survived.'

Ghat was destroyed when a lake, high in the Himalayas, burst its banks. Swollen with glacier meltwaters, its walls of rock and ice had suddenly disintegrated. Several million cubic metres of water crashed down the mountain.

When Ghat was destroyed, in 1985, such incidents were rare - but not any more. Last week, scientists revealed that there has been a tenfold jump in such catastrophes in the past two decades, the result of global warming. Himalayan glacier lakes are filling up with more and more melted ice and 24 of them are now poised to burst their banks in Bhutan, with a similar number at risk in Nepal.

But that is just the beginning, a report in Nature said last week. Future disasters around the Himalayas will include 'floods, droughts, land erosion, biodiversity loss and changes in rainfall and the monsoon'.

The roof of the world is changing, as can be seen by Nepal's Khumbu glacier, where Hillary and Tenzing began their 1953 Everest expedition. It has retreated three miles since their ascent. Almost 95 per cent of Himalayan glaciers are also shrinking - and that kind of ice loss has profound implications, not just for Nepal and Bhutan, but for surrounding nations, including China, India and Pakistan.

In another sign of the business community starting to take the global warming problem seriously, the Rainforest Action Network has commended Goldman Sachs for its comprehensive environmental policy.

Scrutiny Hooligans has an update on the Amazon drought, and note that "Ecological implications of the Amazonian drought affect us all".
Sue Branford of THE GUARDIAN reports " Not far from the mouth of the Amazon, dead animals, including manatees -- mammals up to 3m long with flat, paddle-shaped fins -- and distinctive pink dolphins, line the banks of some tributaries. Normally, you would have to take a boat to cross these rivers but today, because of the Amazon basin's worst drought in memory, they are little more than mudflats with a trickle of water in the middle.

So far, the drought has had its most serious impact in the upper reaches of the river and its hundreds of tributaries in Brazil, Colombia and Peru. There, along many stretches, the water has fallen to the lowest levels ever recorded and has become impassable even for canoes. Some 600 Brazilian schools in Amazonas state have had to be closed and many hamlets, whose only contact with the outside world is by river, are running short of food and medicines. Several districts have been declared disaster areas and the army is having to bring emergency supplies to 900 towns and villages..."

I wonder if America will wake up to the reality of global warming and the multiple problems it is causing around the world. Its like the old adage about the pot of frogs cooking on the stove, who don't realize what is happening until the water is boiling. What gives with all the denial about it?

Wired has a look at the business opportunities presented by the need to mitigate global warming, called "Investors Bet on Global Warming" (also commented on at WorldChanging).
The Earth is warming up, and many people see this as a very serious threat to the planet and its inhabitants. Among the short list of side effects: melting glaciers, rising seas, scorching summer heat waves and a spike in severe storms. For investors -- particularly those fond of waterfront property and carbon-emitting fossil-fuel guzzlers -- climate change is also a factor worthy of weighty consideration in assembling a portfolio.

It's not just about averting risk. A good grasp on global warming could also offer benefits to savvy stock pickers. Businesses well-poised to meet mandates for reducing carbon emissions, developers of alternate energy sources and even forward-looking insurers could conceivably profit from climate-change concern, say analysts and institutional investors who follow climate change.

"(Global warming) started out as an environmental issue, but it crossed over to become a quite fundamental financial and economic issue," said Nick Robins, head of SRI (Socially Responsible Investment) Funds for Henderson Global Investors in London.

MonkeyGrinder has already demolished this parody of peak oil debunking ("Why $5 Gas Is Good for America") from the "bottomless well of stupidity" school in Wired today (along with associated collection of energy myths, "As Prices Rise, Technologies Emerge" - would someone teach this guy about EROEI and physical limits please), so I won't bother going into detail.

Instead, I will give the author some credit for writing an interesting (albeit hyped up) piece on solar power concentrators a few months ago, featuring Bill Gross of Idealab (not to be confused with Bill Gross of Pimco).
On a rainy Southern California morning, the venture that has Gross struggling to stay put in his Herman Miller chair is the one that planted the Sunflower in the Arizona desert. It's as much a personal cause as a business; for the first time in Idealab's tumultuous nine-year history, the Incubator himself has stepped in as CEO. He has taken a plywood-door desk right out in the bullpen with a cheerful crew of heat-transfer engineers, Jet Propulsion Lab veterans, CAD-CAM programmers, even a vending machine specialist hired for his expertise at building things reliable and maintenance-free. An 8-foot mirror-petalled prototype hangs from the high ceiling. A banner suspended overhead blares the company name: Energy innovations.

Gross talks the way the sun spews photons. During a 7 am breakfast in an empty local eatery that seems to be open early mainly for him, Radio Free Bill is broadcasting on all channels. The infomercial is pure energy - the kilowatt kind - and the pitch includes something for everyone.

For conspicuous consumers: "America's secret," he says, "is that each of us uses an average of 17 virtual horses' worth of electric power every day." He means that approvingly; no turn-the-lights-off Luddite, he.

For the no-blood-for-oil crowd: "The rest of the world needs cheap, reliable power too, if we're going to end the wars over energy and bring on a new age of global peace and toleration."

For investors: "Reinventing energy is a multitrillion-dollar opportunity. It's the next big disruption. It dwarfs any business opportunity in history."

For Energy Innovations' crew of 35 solar geeks: "We've been looking for a big problem to get our hands around, and we think we've got an answer."


There's just one problem: Covering large expanses of real estate with painstakingly processed silicon is expensive. Without what the industry coyly calls "incentives" - government subsidies, rebates, tax credits, and the like - photovoltaic panels wouldn't have much of a market. Even in sunny places like California, the pre-rebate cost of PV-generated electricity is roughly 21 cents per kilowatt-hour. Coal (from 4.74 cents per kilowatt-hour), natural gas (5.15 cents), nukes (5.92 cents), even windmills (5.15 cents) offer cheaper ways to keep the lights on.

But PV's price differential isn't quite as bad as it seems, thanks to one huge advantage: Solar panels are small enough to fit on rooftops, which is darn close to the electricity user. By bringing energy production and consumption together - something coal, nukes, and gas can't do - solar has the potential to cut out the middleman, along with his markup. That is, instead of competing with wholesale power from distant power plants, rooftop solar competes with retail kilowatt-hours delivered by the local electric company, which often are marked up as much as 1,000 percent over their original generating cost. What's more, retail prices typically peak on hot, sunny summer days, when air conditioners suck every last electron from the grid - precisely when solar panels are most productive. Add a final boost from government handouts, and solar can get over the hump, especially with homeowners and other customers whose motives might not be purely economic.

Hence the mainstream solar industry's strategy: Be patient. Keep priming the pump with government money. Eventually - say, 20 years from now - mass production and technological improvements will make solar power fully competitive with coal, gas, and nuclear. And then the market will explode.

WorldChanging has a look at Australian wave power company Energetech (who I've mentioned quite a few times) and their desalination project powered by the wave power generator in "Clean Power, Drinkable Water".
Australian company Energetech is one of the growing number of companies building systems to turn the motion of the ocean into usable energy -- something we've taken to calling "hydrokinetic power." Waves, tides even undersea currents can, in principle, be tapped to generate electricity; the technology is in transition from real-world experiments to early adoption, and the preliminary signs are that the systems can indeed produce usable amounts of power at competitive prices.

Energetech has taken their system a step beyond power generation, however. Working with a company called H2AU, Energetech added a small desalination system to a test deployment of a wave energy system at Port Kembla in Australia. Happily, the combination works splendidly.

The Energy Blog takes a look at a different type of fusion research (hydrogen boron instead the convential hydrogen-hydrogen mode) in "Focus Fusion".

More news on batteries from MIT Technology Review - "The Lithium Economy". Tom Whipple's latest piece in the Falls Church News Press also talks about the future being batteries.

Finally, WorldChanging has a post on cellulosic ethanol called "Jungle Rot: the Future of Ethanol ?".
Researchers at the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy lab (EERE) and National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) have been working for years on making ethanol out of cellulose--straw, corn stalks, and other agricultural waste leftover from growing food crops. This would mean ethanol would finally make sense as a fuel, because its Energy Return On Energy Invested would be positive (since the cellulose would be waste from food, it would be "free" in terms of energy), it could be produced in large quantities (since it would not compete with food for land), and it would be cheap.

The main obstacle to making ethanol from cellulose is that cellulose doesn't break down easily or quickly. But some years ago, people found that jungle rot (the fungus Trichoderma reesei) did it quite well. Since then, NREL, EERE, and many universities and companies have been trying to make it even more effective.

Iogen Corporation, in Canada, was the first company to have a cellulose ethanol manufacturing plant--in 2004 they opened a "demonstration-scale facility", and are working to scale to mass-manufacturing. Last month they told the New York Times that they plan to produce cellulosic ethanol at the equivalent of US$1.08 a gallon; but right now they're still working out some kinks. They're using straw as the feedstock, which costs about 50¢ per gallon of ethanol you can get from it, and according to EERE, the T. Reesi enzyme still costs about 50¢ per gallon of ethanol. However, EERE thinks they can bring down the cost of T. reesi tenfold, and Iogen has been smart-breeding more effective strains of it. Costs will also become less of an issue as oil prices rise.

This isn't going to sweep the world tomorrow, but eventually the threshold will be crossed where cellulose ethanol becomes cheaper and more eco-friendly than gas.

Is UK Oil Output Running On Empty ?  

Posted by Big Gav

Adam Porter's latest article on the BBC looks at the decline of UK oil and gas extraction and the implications for the local economy.

As Britain becomes a net importer of oil, as it first did this summer, not only does falling output cost money. So does the very expensive energy - oil, gas and liquefied gas - bought to replace it.

In this respect, government figures do not provide much hope for North Sea gas output either. Output fell 5.5% in the second quarter of 2005, according to DTI figures, while imports increased by 53.5%. "Gas has replaced nearly all our power generation," says Dr Smith. "But gas has its own problems. UK gas imports are increasing dramatically but otherwise there is no [other] significant energy source. For transport, where most of our oil is used, there isn't a viable alternative right now nor will there be one in the next five to ten years."

The UK is facing a sea-change in attitudes towards oil. Whilst high prices may ease the pain right now by providing extra tax for the chancellor, our own supplies are dwindling. "I am forecasting that the UK will be a net importer of oil around 2007," says Dr Smith. "By 2015 the UK will need to import between 600-700,000 bpd."

How much those imports will cost you and your family is an open-ended question. But unlike North Sea oil, it is one that will not simply fade away.

The BBC also reports that Tony Blair and the Confederation of British Industry are (shortsightedly) pushing the nuclear power option - and given the rapidly rising cost of gas imports and Britain's increasing dependence on these its not entirely surprising given the PR campaign the nuclear industry has been waging.
"A decision on the future of nuclear power has been allowed to drift too long," said the CBI's director general Sir Digby Jones. "It is high time this nation had an integrated coherent energy policy." And he warned that high-use large industrial outfits would have to "throw the switch" if the price of gas continued to rise. "This government is going to have to hold a proper constructive debate on nuclear power. We want them to have a public debate and stop prevaricating."

The call comes as the price of wholesale gas has almost doubled during the past week, prompting fears about winter supplies to industry in the UK. Experts believe tight supplies have triggered the rise. UK supplies are low as a pipeline from Europe is running at half capacity and shiploads of gas are being diverted to Spain and the US where prices are high.

UK energy minister Malcolm Wicks said the government was looking into why the gas interconnector was not working properly, but said it was operated by private companies and "is not something the government switches on and off". He admitted that the rundown in North Sea supplies and the delay in getting new pipelines from Norway up and running meant that some sectors of UK industry may experience a difficult winter or two. "We have got a tight equation between supply and demand of gas," he said.

Former Labour energy minister, Brian Wilson, told the Midday News on Radio Five Live he hoped the government would "give a clear steer in favour of nuclear power stations". He added: "Both in order to meet our environmental responsibilities but also to maintain security of supply and avoid this gross over-dependence on gas."

But former environment secretary Michael Meacher said that while the government had "to act quickly... I think we need nuclear like a hole in the head".

One final link from the BBC - this one on Russian Green's concerns about the energy boom in Siberia. I imagine if they kick up too much of a fuss that's where they'll all end up (assuming the CIA isn't using all the camps already of course - just kidding !).
"Do you know what is the brightest place on Earth in satellite images?" asks Aleksey Yablokov, leader of the new Green Russia party. "Not Los Angeles, not Tokyo. It's western Siberia."

The vast expanses of this sparsely populated region are lit by the flares of associated gas burned at oil wells. "I once flew there by night - the view was unforgettable. But these flares killed not millions, but billions of migrating birds", says Mr Yablokov, one of Russia's leading biologists and a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Former US Vice-President Al Gore called Siberian oil flares one of the main causes of global warming, in his book Earth In The Balance. The number of oil wells where gas is being burned has fallen considerably with the arrival of modern oil extraction technology in the post-Soviet era, Mr Yablokov admits. But he estimates that about 20,000 such flares are still lighting up the taiga (virgin forest).


Two years ago the Greens with enormous efforts thwarted an attempt by the oil company Yukos to lay a pipeline from Siberian deposits to China through pristine forest on the shores of the world's largest fresh-water lake, Baikal. It is also a highly seismically active zone.

But in October the government suddenly lifted its objections to a very similar project proposed by another company, after it had received the public backing of President Vladimir Putin. "Environmental impact assessment should not become an obstacle to the development of the country and its economy," he said then.

President Putin has set a target of doubling the country's GDP by 2010. He sees the oil industry as the engine that will drive the country's economy there and the Greens - as a fifth column standing in the way. Speaking in July, he said he knew that at least some environmentalists were sponsored by Russia's international competitors.

But Mr Yablokov believes it is the Greens who serve Russia's real national interests and protect it from imminent threats: "If Russia doubles its GDP, it will be a catastrophe," he warns.

Heading down to the southern hemisphere, Mobjectivist's latest modelling ffort takes a look at how long it will be until NZ topples off its own natural gas cliff. Presumably they'll either have to get lucky with a good find off Taranaki somewhere or they'll be shipping in some LNG from us.

The Australian reports that the marketing program for gas from the proposed Gorgon development offshore Western Australia is proceeding rapidly, with Chevron selling a large proportion to a Japanese customer. Environmental issues around their plan to sequester CO2 on Barrow Island still remain a concern though.
Chevron, the operator of the proposed $11 billion Gorgon export LNG project, has set itself a target of winning contracts for the rest of its share of production by the middle of next year, after yesterday reaching the halfway mark. Chevron reached agreement yesterday to sell Japan's Chubu Electric 1.5 million tonnes of LNG a year for 25 years, starting in 2010.

The deal, if confirmed, is expected to be worth $10 billion to Chevron and takes to 50 per cent commitments for its share of production from the giant project off the West Australian coast.

Last month, Chevron, which owns 50 per cent of the project, struck a deal to supply Tokyo Gas 1.2 million tonnes of its share of Gorgon production, also for 25 years beginning in 2010.

Both Japanese companies were foundation customers of the North West Shelf LNG project, which began export shipments in 1989, and are also seeking equity in the Gorgon project. The latest deal means arrangements are in place to market 5.2 million tonnes a year of Gorgon's initial production, with only ExxonMobil yet to announce marketing details for its 2.5 million tonnes a year share.


Chevron's marketing effort is concentrating on China, Korea, Japan and North America, with Mr Theobald noting Japanese customers were keen to take gas from Gorgon's scheduled start-up date of 2010. This is similar to the reported experience of the marketing team for Woodside's Pluto LNG development.

Public submissions on the Gorgon environmental impact statement closed on Monday, with conservationists continuing to express concern about the Gorgon joint venture's plans to sequester carbon dioxide in saline aquifers below the Barrow Island oil field.

Alan Kohler has a look at the imbalances in world trade and financial flows (exacerbated by higher oil prices) in "Somethings's gotta give in America".
Since September gold has risen 9 per cent to an 18-year high as the dollar has risen 7 per cent - which is virtually unprecedented. It has happened because oil revenues are being recycled as much into gold and domestic investments as petrodollars (remember them?), while Asia continues to recycle trade surpluses into US treasury bonds (and thus dollars).

So what's the problem? It's that the US dollar is overvalued and the country's competitiveness has eroded to the point where the cash rate arbitrage will be pitifully inadequate to hold the currency. This has occurred because Asian central banks, led by China, have been buying US bonds at ridiculously low interest rates in order to keep their own currencies and improve their own competitive position.

US consumers and businesses have been buying their goods from - and outsourcing their services to - cheap currency countries, which has stopped what would have otherwise been a natural depreciation of the dollar. As a result, the US current account deficit is now pushing $US800 billion ($1086 billion), $US300 billion higher than when, as research house Bridgewater Associates puts it, "private sector capital gave up on the dollar in 2002". It is also the biggest financing task the world has ever known.

Meanwhile, Asian current account surpluses are declining and those of oil-exporting countries are rising. According to the ANZ Bank's Saul Eslake, current account surpluses of the Middle East have quadrupled in two years to more than $US200 billion. Russia's surplus is up to $US120 billion and even Latin America is running a surplus now because of oil from Venezuela. In fact, Australia is about the only commodity exporting nation still running a deficit (because we are bigger consumers).

TreeHugger points to an article on New Scientist on the folly of turning rainforests into biofuels (something I complained about a while ago). TreeHugger also got a mention in BusinessWeek, which seems to be well ahead of most business periodicals in recognising the future of business. And one more link from them - a vibration and solar powered bike light.
We have griped before that biofuels are not perfect- that it takes a lot of energy and land to make it, and we are still better off living with less and not driving bio-hummers but riding bikes and driving smart cars. Now the New Scientist weighs in- In Asia rainforests are being chopped down to make room for palm oil; in Brazil, the paragon of biofuel and ethanol development, the rainforest is turning into soybean fields; The third world is being turned into a plantation to keep the SUV's running. We need sustainable, fair trade, subsidy free biofuel or we are trading one ecological disaster for another.

Update: I had a look through the logs a little after writing this and was rather surprised to see someone from the CBI had come along to read what I was saying about Digby Jnes within minutes of this being published. This real time media monitoring stuff is getting beyond a joke...


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