Tally Ho  

Posted by Big Gav

Today's Herald has an opinion column frm Paul Sheehan on peak oil called "A thirsty world is running dry" - unfortunately just another piece of thinly disguised nuclear industry lobbying, pushing the Rodent's "next energy superpower" meme. Maybe Johnny and Canadian PM Harper could have a mud-wrestle over who the coming energy superpower really is ?

Australia could profit hugely from the imminent end of world oil supplies.

The world's biggest oil company, Exxon Mobil, made a profit of $A13.6 billion last quarter. That works out at $54 billion a year, or $1 billion profit a week.

Last week, all five global oil giants reported their quarterly results and all told the same story: Royal Dutch $9.5 billion profit (up 40 per cent); BP $9.5 billion (up 30 per cent); ConocoPhillips, $6.8 billion (up 65 per cent); and Chevron, $5.7 billion (up 19 per cent). That's a collective quarterly profit of $45 billion - almost $3.5 billion a week.

The announcements came at exactly the same time that the coast of Lebanon was being despoiled by a large oil spill after Israel bombed a power plant near Beirut. As if the only true democracy in the Arab world needed another catastrophe.

The symbolism speaks for itself.

All this at a time when the world is paying record oil prices, fuel production is experiencing bottlenecks caused by a shortage of oil refineries, which suggests Big Oil must have good reasons not to expand supply. And the high cost of oil - required in the production and supply of nearly everything we buy - has rippled through the global economy, pushing up inflation and interest rates.

"Our society is in a state of collective denial that has no precedent in history, in terms of its scale and implication," writes scientist Jeremy Leggett in a book, Half Gone (2005), about the imminent arrival of "peak oil", when global oil reserves begin to run down. Half Gone argues that "peak oil" has already arrived, and we are not prepared for the consequences.

Even if Leggett has overstated his case, innumerable scientific reports have urged the need for a move away from oil dependence. In 2004 a unit of the United States Department of Energy warned: "A serious supply-demand discontinuity [shortage] could lead to worldwide economic chaos."

Yet there remains a breathtaking gap between the rhetoric of the war on terrorism and the absence of common sense. As Leggett writes: "Of America's current daily consumption of 20 million barrels, 5 million are imported from the Middle East, where almost two-thirds of the world's oil reserves lie in a region of especially intense and long-lived conflicts.

"Every day, 15 million barrels of oil pass in tankers through the narrow Straits of Hormuz, in the troubled waters between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The US Government could wipe out the need for all their 5 million barrels [from the Middle East] by requiring its domestic automobile industry to increase the fuel-efficiency of cars and light trucks by a mere 2.7 miles per gallon.

While the Rodent's tendency to hyperbole and outright lies is laughable as always, Australia could be a renewable energy powerhouse, with more than enough solar and wind energy available to harness without digging up the countryside and then filling it up with re-imported radioactive waste. Catalyst recently had a look at a number of local solar power developments.
Narration: There’s been a lot of talk lately about a nuclear future for Australia. But we already have an enormous nuclear reactor - pumping out phenomenal quantities of power, The Sun.

Dave Holland: There is sufficient solar energy to power everything that we do. The sun delivers about 17,000 times as much energy every day as what mankind uses. So the energy is there. What we have to do is to drive ways to harness that energy.

Narration: Australians are the second worst carbon emissions culprits per capita in the world. More than half our electricity needs are served by coal fired power stations, and while coal remains cheap and plentiful there’s little political advantage in changing the status quo.
Yet sunlight is also plentiful in Australia we have more of it than anywhere else on earth.
And solar has the right credentials it’s clean, green and infinitely renewable, but until recently harnessing the Sun has been expensive and unreliable. So has anything changed?

Mr Wes Stein: We’ve come a long way and now we’re right at the point of being able to say here it is industry, you can start to take it over right now.

Dr Paul Willis: While they haven’t received a great deal of publicity, Australia’s solar scientists have been quietly achieving behind the scenes. They now have a variety of technologies that will provide clean, cheap and sustainable energy from the sun.

Narration: For over 30 years the Liddell power station has generated electricity in the conventional manner, burning coal to create heat to make steam to drive turbines. Things are about to change dramatically thanks to the installation of a new hybrid solar-thermal power plant. The sun’s heat will preheat the water and thus cut the amount of coal used.

Soaring fuel prices are driving people away from large, heavy vehicles, but most people are still shying away from the idea of primarily using public transport. We'll see what effect rising interest rates have on the most vulnerable in the coming months...
NSW is addicted to the car, with almost six in 10 voters unwilling to catch public transport more often - even if the State Government improves the system.

A Herald/ACNielsen poll, taken in the lead-up to a summit this week on the future of the city's transport network, suggests the enthusiasm of the Carr and Iemma governments for building bigger and better roads has rubbed off on the public.

It found 74 per cent of people in NSW are "mostly travelling by car". Almost 60 per cent of all respondents would not travel more on public transport even if services were improved.

The poll of 1010 people, taken last week, found that only 13 per cent of people "mostly travel by public transport". Another 13 per cent use public transport and car about the same amount. Of that 26 per cent, about 55 per cent said they would not catch public transport more often if services were improved.

Public transport advocates blamed the reluctance to move away from cars on a lack of will to build light rail, improve bus services and build more bus lanes.

Rising energy prices seem to fuelling much of the re-emergence of inflation, and its difficult to see how raising rates locally can push this sort of inflation down, unless central banks globally are all acting to suppress demand simultaneously. Sportt Asset Management has a column on "cost pull inflation".
Pursuant to our “central banks losing control” theme, we were shocked two week ago when Shell Canada and Western Oil Sands announced that the price tag of their Athabasca oilsands expansion won’t be $7.3 billion (Canadian dollars) as initially projected, but rather $11 billion – or 50% higher! If that’s not inflation folks, then we don’t know what is. This isn’t the first, and we doubt it will be the last, cost increase that we’ll hear about in the oilsands. Costs there are a continually moving upward target. Announcements like this make it most obvious that the era of cheap oil is clearly over, especially when it costs so much for the world to get that incremental barrel of oil production, especially from heretofore unconventional sources. Remember that the oilsands were supposed to be the great saviour of the world’s energy problems. It would appear that this purveyor of abundant energy is on its way to ignominity due to spiraling costs.

As unfortunate as that announcement was for oilsands producers, this article isn’t about the oilsands. More interesting is what it implies for the cost of all things going forward. To wit, this article will be a general discussion on two inter-rated principles, or perhaps more accurately, two inter-related perils. One is cost-push inflation, and the other is Malthusian theory. As we’ve already said, we found the oilsands announcement to be shocking – so much so that it effectively changed the landscape. Not only is it highly inflationary, but we fear that it is the kind of inflation that threatens to pervade absolutely everything. It is difficult to envision a scenario where the cost of energy soars without impacting the cost of all things, whether good or service. Just about everything we do comes from or relies on energy.

The Chicago Tribune has an excellent feature on the energy situation called "Oil Safari".
What does it take to quench America’s mighty thirst for gasoline? Pulitzer-winning correspondent Paul Salopek traced gas pumped at a suburban Chicago station to the fuel’s sources around the globe. In doing so, he reveals how our oil addiction binds us to some of the most hostile corners of the planet—and to a petroleum economy edging toward crisis.

TreeHugger has posts on an ocean energy project in Oregon and paper produced using wind power alone.
While a number of European countries are moving full-steam ahead on wave power development, the idea of harnessing ocean waves to generate electricity has remained a concept here in the US. That may be changing soon, as New Jersey-based Ocean Power Technologies Inc. has applied for a permit from the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to build a 50 megawatts (MW) wave power installation off the Oregon coast. If approved, this would be the first utility-scale wave energy project in the country.

While other coastal areas in the US have been cited as strong candidates for "wave farms," Oregon seems committed to making this form of renewable energy a reality. We wonder if wave power will generate any of the criticism we've seen develop in response to other large-scale renewable generation installations.

Bloomberg reports on a large leak in Russia's main oil link to Europe (via Cryptogon - not sure why this caught their attention though).
Russia's Druzhba oil pipeline, the supplier of an eighth of Europe's imports, sprung a leak near the Belarus border, spilling crude over at least 10 square kilometers and sending oil prices higher in London.

The rupture in the Soviet-built pipeline may cause ``ecological catastrophe'' in the Bryansk region in western Russia, the Natural Resources Ministry said today in an e- mailed statement, citing local environmental groups. The ministry didn't say if deliveries to Europe were affected. Crude rose as high as $73.74 a barrel.

Robert Rapier at TOD has moderated his anti Vinod Khosla campaign a little and produced a good post on a phone discussion they had. Personally I think investing in cellulosic ethanol can't hurt (even though corn ethanol is useless) and expecting Vinod to lead the way for all of us may be a bit much - we should be encouraging more VCs to focus on renewable energy, nt beating up someone who is taking some first steps in the right direction...
We agreed on the following issues:

1. Current energy policy needs a dramatic facelift
2. A carbon tax is a good idea
3. Brazil is much more efficient at making ethanol than the U.S., and the ethanol tariffs should be lifted
4. Butanol may be a superior choice to ethanol
5. Grain ethanol subsidies should be eliminated
6. There is great potential in researching energy storage devices (e.g. batteries)

We disagreed on the following issues:

1. The issues surrounding corn ethanol aren't significant since it will be a transitory solution
2. The solution must fit in today's engines
3. Bashing oil companies is acceptable to achieve a political goal
4. Renewable electricity can't compete with coal
5. Cellulosic is scalable within the next 5 years
6. The consequences of failure to deliver can be very high
7. Food versus fuel will be a serious issue going forward


I already had a pretty good understanding of where he was coming from, but I have tried to accurately relay his position so that others may understand. This is the least I owe him after he spent that much time talking with me. However, we still have some fundamental areas of disagreement, and my impression is that he is concerned about Peak Oil, but not in the way I am concerned. My worry is that over-promising on cellulosic ethanol will prevent us from getting very serious about taking the steps we need to take as a society toward powering down while we still have some choices. I think we need to fund cellulosic ethanol, but until there are a few pilot plants operating, we just don't know if it will be feasible on a commercial scale.

I did have difficulty convincing him that corn ethanol is a bad thing, because his position is that it is merely a jumping off point to something much bigger. He said he wouldn't be investing in cellulosic if we weren't producing several billion gallons of corn ethanol. He said that corn ethanol is "priming the pump", and has shown the feasibility of ethanol as fuel in the U.S.

I see MonkeyGrinder has been roused from his summer sloth up there in the baking US Pacific Northwest (obviously he has been practicing one of Jay Hanson's post peak strategies).
I’ve been doing my best to enjoy a few weeks of sunshine, here in the lately overwarm state of Washington, country of USA. Secure in the knowledge that the problems facing the globe will still exist as the leaves change color and that focusing on positive hedonism for a few months can only help me analyze the human predicament in the long run.

Current events trump sloth.

The current war in the Middle East, a clash of cats paw (Hezbollah) and cats claw (Israel) raises anti Semitism to ironic heights of tail biting. One must examine the lettering on the holy text in the picture below to figure out whether the brown skinned dead child is a pepsi semite or a coke semite. The body count odds are ruthlessly stacked against the Lebanese, as Israel has conflated a questionable POW incident into a far ranging attack on the civilian infrastructure of an entire country.


Personally, I don’t have a pony in this race, provided it stays confined to current borders, (ill spent American tax dolloars notwithstanding). I refuse to cast this lopsided war in puny tribal terms, the picking of sides, as peak oil commentator James Kunstler does here.

Unfortunately, concern for a non-sequiter war with Iran and Syria expands as days stretch to weeks. Violent events, rather than cooling, can be seen converging towards a conflation point, an explosive increase in hostilities. One nitwit recently said that World War Three has already started. This can be seen as an attempt to bring around a mal result through force of will, or intent. Frankly, the scene is set for a major war whose genesis would be as lame as sacrificing millions for the death of an Archduke.

As with the run up to the invasion of Iraq, culminating in the comic denouement of the pathetic Saddam, a chorus of angels sings for blood and flowers, now to be planted in Iran. As with the preface to war in Iraq, real military actions by the United States rumble in the margins. Those skilled in pattern matching will have little trouble understanding possible new American deployments of troops to the Middle East.


Hezbollah’s strategy is childish and useless, other than as a rallying point for more stupid random violence. Israel’s strategy is overwrought and heavy handed, and has multiple apparent jump off points, given the pregnant, overwhelming force of the Israeli military in the face of Hezbollah pinprick rocket attacks.

Israel can smash the entire country of Lebanon, even parts far North of where the missile attacks originate, such as Beruit. COMPLETED.

Israel can declare victory and go home.

Israel can grab land and water (buffer zone) and plant fundamentalist settlers on the new border.

Israel can push close enough to Damascus that some response by Syria becomes an excuse for a wider war, drawing in Iran.

Israel or the United States might then bomb Iran.

At which time - -

All hell will break lose. The world has never fought a war in which the spectre of energy depletion loomed, and has never fought a war in which a series of simple asymmetric attacks can cut the global oil supply in half in days. Imagine the carnage as the globes supply of cheesy poofs dries up overnight.

One needs to do more than pray this doesn’t happen. One needs to do more than hippy around, caterwauling in the streets and running to Canada.

For Americans, this means voting out every democrat and republican who support these absurd foreign entanglements, in the November elections.

If given the chance.

I generally don't discuss Israel here - while I'm an Anglo-Celtic yobbo from the suburbs, part of my family is Jewish so I generally try to stay silent or give the Israelis the benefit of the doubt. I will note however I'm no fan of Ariel Sharon - who Billmon recently noted is still rotting away at the Tel Aviv Institute for Brain Damaged War Criminals, or, even worse, Bibi Netanyahu. And the "wall" idea is a clear demonstration of a refusal to understand the lessons of history.

MonkeyGrinder noted that there is more than a bit of speculation about the captured Israeli soldiers being seized by Hezbollah in Lebanon rather than Israel. I've got no idea if this is true or not, but it wouldn't surprise me. Other fringe theorising includes speculation that the war on Hezbollah is a neocon gambit to try and get the invasion of Iran kicked off at last, a plan to get the Israelis in on the oil pipeline act, or, on a completely tinfoil note, a plot to seize the water resources of the Litani river.

I've got no idea if any of these theories hold any water (the Iran one seems the most feasible - I tend to doubt the others, particularly as they would seem doomed to failure from the outset), but I do think the results so far have been pretty much an utter disaster for the Israelis, with the Lebanese uniting against them (along with the rest of the Arab world) and the propaganda war going very badly for them outside the confines of the extreme right wing press.

Billmon seems to have been Lebanon blogging full time since the latest outbreak of violence - one of the more interesting pieces is this one on "The Debacle".
"It is worse than a crime, it is a mistake."

Charles Maurice de Talleyrand
Napoleon's Foreign Minister

So is this the beginning of the end?

Israeli troops have withdrawn from Bint Jbeil, the largest Shia town in the border district, after heavy street clashes against well-entrenched Hezbollah fighters caused high casualties.

Or the end of the beginning?
The town was under heavy shellfire today in what UN officers suspect is a plan to force the last civilians to flee prior to destroying the town completely and killing any remaining Hezbollah fighters.

If the Israelis truly are contemplating "solving" the problem with artillery they can certainly reduce Bint Jbeil to a collection of destroyed or half-destroyed buildings. Unfortunately, the history of urban warfare shows that destroyed and half-destroyed buildings usually make even more effective fortifications than the intact variety -- particularly if the enemy has had time to build underground bunkers and fire positions and connect them with trenches and/or tunnels.

If the IDF's only goal now is to conclude Operation Clusterfuck with a "thunderous roar", then I suppose they might be able to call the destruction of Bint Jbeil another mission accomplished -- of the creating-a-desolation-and-calling-it-peace variety. However, if the plan is to regroup, bring up more divisions and resume the attack on a broader front, the problem remains unsolved.

The IDF could certainly flatten and then bypass fortified towns and villages like Bint Jbeil as it pushes north towards the Litani River, but that would require leaving screening forces to cover those strongpoints and protect supply lines and rearward assembly areas. Hizbullah, meanwhile, would be able to use its tunnel networks and its intimate knowledge of the local terrain to launch hit-and-run raids on those same vulnerable targets.

It's possible Hizbullah's total force simply isn't big enough to block a full-scale invasion -- at least not for long. But based on events so far, it seems highly unlikely the three reserve divisions the Israelis just mobilized would be enough to do the job. (I assume, although I don't know, that the reservists will replace regular divisions on other fronts so that they can be moved north to Lebanon.) A wider mobilization, on the other hand, would impose heavy political and economic costs that would only mount as time goes by.

In any case, it's obvious a serious effort to push Hizbullah beyond the Litani would take months, not weeks. Even if the Israelis are willing to do the bloody business, it's not clear the Cheney administration is prepared to hold out that long against the political and diplomatic pressures it faces (although I could of course be wrong if President Psychopath really is calling the shots.)

It seems more likely that the Israeli cabinet's decision not to endorse the IDF's plan for a major invasion was the proverbial blink in this eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation. I don't even know if Olmert still has hopes of carving out a notional two-kilometer-wide DMZ along the border. I mean, it's easy enough to say such a buffer zone exists, but if the Israelis really want one they're going to have to fight Hizbullah for every inch of it. And as I said, it's pretty clear the Israelis don't have much of an appetite for that kind of fighting.

At this point, and until they show me otherwise, I have to assume the Israelis now would be very happy just to get back to the status quo ante.


It's a dismal situation for the Israelis -- worse, in many, many ways, than what I would have called the worst-case scenario before the war started. This is what happens when your state-of-the-art blitzkrieg machine is exposed as a relic of a past century.

In 1870, when the Emperor Louis Napoleon declared war on Prussia, he was confident his armies could beat those of Kaiser Wilhelm I just as throughly as his famous uncle had whipped the Prussians at the Battle of Jena in 1806. After all, everyone "knew" the French were the masters of modern military science. In Europe's capitals the betting was on how long it would take the French to get to Berlin.

But the Prussians had undergone something of a revolution in military affairs since Jena. They'd reformed their Army, created the world's first general staff and mastered the use of railways to mobilize reserves and move troops quickly to the front.

The result was Zola's Debacle -- an utter defeat for the French, in which their entire army, and their Emperor, were cut off, surrounded and captured at the battle of Sedan. The political and military balance of power in Europe was transformed forever.

Israel's debacle obviously is not on anything like the same grand scale as Louis Napoleon's. If the IDF were willing to pay the blood price, it could still push Hizbullah back far enough to claim a temporary "victory." If the Israelis were willing to embrace genocide, they could probably "disarm" Hizbullah by destroying it completely. Such things have been done in the past, although in this case the act would have to be played out in full view of a global television audience.

Right now, though, the Israeli government seem to be quailing before those two options. Curiously, it also seems more willing to allow the home front to go on being bombarded than it is to sacrifice the lives of the soldiers who are supposed to protect the home front. The reasons for this are not clear to me, but then I'm not an Israeli.

What is clear is that the failure of Israel's blitzkrieg (and at the moment, it looks like a catastrophic failure, at least politically) will have enormous repercussions in the Middle East, just as the downfall of Louis Napoleon had in late 19th century Europe. By betting the ranch on a quick, decisive victory, the Anglo-Israeli alliance has committed both a crime and a mistake. The architects may escape punishment for the former, but I think the latter is going to come back to haunt them, and probably very soon.

William Gibson also notes that the Israeli's (like the US in Iraq) seems to have missed a paradigm shift (though to be fair, I think Rummy does actually get it - but he's finding creating a 4th generation evil empire a bit of a struggle against the entrenched bureacracy on one hand, and us "can't we stop fighting over oil" liberals on the other).
'I'm not sure I really get why the US and Israel haven't yet come to terms with the fact that this fourth generation war cannot be won with classic military action. I suspect it is the neocon influence which, throughout many decades, never gave a passing thought to terrorism or assymetrical warfare. They have been stuck in a cold war mindset (a mindset that was wrong about the cold war too) and have consistently seen the world through the prism of rogue totalitarian states. This is why, in spite of the fact that everything is going to hell in a handbasket in a hundred different ways, they persist in focusing on Iran (formerly Iraq) and ignoring all the moving parts that make their aggressive plans to "confront" these regimes simpleminded and doomed to failure.'


Myself, I keep going back to my no doubt sloppy and imperfect understanding of Thomas S. Kuhn's The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions. If the theory of "fourth generation war" is viewed as a new paradigm (and it seems to me to meet the criteria) then this is more than a failure of perception on the part of neoconservatives.

Consider the following, from the Wikipedia entry on SSR:

'According to Kuhn, the scientific paradigms before and after a paradigm shift are so different that their theories are incomparable. The paradigm shift does not just change a single theory, it changes the way that words are defined, the way that the scientists look at their subject and, perhaps most importantly, the questions that are considered valid and the rules used to determine the truth of a particular theory. Kuhn observes that they are incommensurable — literally, lacking comparison, untranslatable. New theories were not, as they had thought of before, simply extensions of old theories, but radically new worldviews. This incommensurability applies not just before and after a paradigm shift, but between conflicting paradigms. It is simply not possible, according to Kuhn, to construct an impartial language that can be used to perform a neutral comparison between conflicting paradigms, because the very terms used belong within the paradigm and are therefore different in different paradigms. Advocates of mutually exclusive paradigms are in an insidious position: "Though each may hope to convert the other to his way of seeing science and its problems, neither may hope to prove his case. The competition between paradigms is not the sort of battle that can be resolved by proof." (SSR, p. 148).'

This would explain, it seems to me, the apparently literal impossibility of explaining the fundamentally counterproductive nature of the United State's invasion of Iraq, or of what's currently going on in Lebanon, to those who disagree. Or, literally, vice versa. If you're behind the curve on the paradigm shift, if I'm reading Kuhn at all correctly, you're literally incapable of getting it. Or vice versa. "It is simply not possible, according to Kuhn, to construct an impartial language that can be used to perform a neutral comparison between conflicting paradigms, because the very terms used belong within the paradigm and are therefore different in different paradigms."

The bad news is that the policy-makers of the United States and Israel apparently (still) don't get the new paradigm, and the bad news is that Hezbollah (et al, and by their very nature) do. Though that's only bad (or double-plus-ungood) if you accept, as I do, that the new paradigm allows for a more effective understanding of reality. So if you still like to pause to appreciate the action of phlogiston when you strike a match, you may well be okay with current events. So many, God help us, evidently are.

I've heard that Kuhn fiercely lamented the application of SSR to anything other than the structure of scientific revolutions, but that's how it usually is, when the street finds its own uses for things.

Gibson also has interesting posts on Apophenia (including the Overton window concept, which should be more widely understood by would be political analysts) and the brain dead leader of the "free world".
One of the worst episodes of apophenia I've had myself, lately, was triggered this morning by the opening paras of a diary on Daily Kos (see below, sorry I'm too lazy to link, and my apologies to its author for forgetting his/her handle). My apophenia filled in the dots *real* good, on this material, catapulting me into a landscape resembling The Handmaid's Tale crossed with Thomas M. Disch's On Wings Of Song, with the bass tonalities lifted from Jack Womack's Ambient sequence. Not what you want, before coffee, or indeed ever. I must note, though, that Newt Gingrich, whatever else he may be, is a known writer of (ahem) science fiction, so that what we are projecting on, here, is really a sort of quantum apopheniac feedback loop, or, as we say in the trade "XXL bad mojo":

'I'm sure you all heard that last week, Newt Gingrich argued the U.S. was facing World War III as a result of developments in the Middle East. I'm sure that most of you reacted as I did to this - with a bit of annoyance and disdain; "there goes Newt again," content to believe he is simply making a lame effort to rally flagging support for Republican policies.

'But today, I have been reconsidering this. I think that what Newt has been saying is incredibly significant, and we ought to be paying it a great deal more attention than we have been.

'What Newt is proposing is nothing short of the radical mobilization of the entire American nation behind a war effort led by the far right - that "calls for restraint would fall away" if Americans adopted his framing. It could become the pivot around which the GOP shifts into a very new, and extremely ugly, mode of governance - turning the nation into an all-out war state with repressive World War I-esque laws meant to silence dissent and force the population to work even harder to support neo-con policies without any option to do otherwise.'

There's a million other links to post but its time for me to sleep - maybe there'll be more tomorrow...


Posted by Big Gav

I'm afraid Peak Energy is going (back) into winter hibernation for a few more weeks (just as things are getting interesting it seems) - see you all again in Augustsometime.

I'll may throw the odd tidbit into the link bucket - in the meantime you can find more news than you can read each day in the links to the right.

For those visitors who have come across this blog at random and want to know what on earth its all about, the quick version is:

1. Peak oil is real and a serious problem (although probably not in itself as serious as some of the collapsist schools of thought would have us believe)

2. Global warming is real and a serious problem

3. Oil dependence (and the desire to use it to control others) is leading us to do a lot of very unpleasant things (and thus you'll see a lot of references to Iraq, terrorism, resource wars and the propaganda and surveillence industries)

4. There are lots of solutions for dealing with all 3 of these problems - however there is a lot of inertia and political resistance hindering the adoption of these (and some solutions to peak oil are anti-solutions to global warming, so dealing with both requires some intelligent policy and investment decisions to be made - which is challenging given the present (sad) state of our collective leadership)

Global Warming: What You Need To Know  

Posted by Big Gav

It seems peak oil and global warming are both getting a run on the burbling box this week - Groovy Green notes that this time its the turn of US viewers, with a global warming documentary screening this weekend.

Coming up this Sunday evening set aside some time to check out the Discovery Channel’s feature on global warming:
Discovery Channel visits global warming tipping points across the planet, talks to the world’s leading experts, and examines the latest evidence about global warming in GLOBAL WARMING: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW. Produced by Discovery Channel, the BBC and NBC News Productions, and hosted by award-winning journalist Tom Brokaw, the two-hour special presents the facts and leaves it up to viewers to determine their own opinion about global warming. GLOBAL WARMING: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW premieres Sunday, July 16, at 9 p.m. ET.

Greening Antarctica  

Posted by Big Gav

While some things are meant to be green (like roofs, which increasingly are), other things aren't - like Antarctica.

The world's biggest meeting of Antarctic scientists has heard trees could be growing on the continent within a century.

More than 850 delegates are in Hobart this week for the combined meetings of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research and the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs.

US Professor Robert Dunbar, from Stanford University, says it is likely that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are set to double in the next century or two. The last time levels were that high was about 20 million years ago.

Professor Dunbar says Antarctica could return to how it looked then. "There were trees, there were bushes, there were fields of grass," he said. "In fact, the evidence of pollen fossils is that much of Antarctica was vegetated and these were plants that were able to adapt to periods of darkness. "But the key is that it wasn't cold enough to freeze water."

One positive aspect of melting ice sheets is that it makes it easier for desperate detritovores to find the remaining pockets of oil.
An international oil industry expert who says global oil supply has reached its production peak has warned places like Antarctica may not be safe from oil exploration.

Dr Ali Samsam Bakhtiari has given evidence to a Senate committee about his calculations that crude oil demand will out-strip supply within five or six years. He says one polar region in the Antarctic is already close to being exploited. "I hope that the oil industry will not go into Antarctica but when the price will be $200 or $300 per barrel, then anything can happen," he said.

Byron King from Whiskey and Gunpowder has a look at the impact of rising fuel prices on the airline industry, and the efforts being made by companies like Boeing to increase fuel efficiency. There seems to be some debate about the viability of using biofuels like ethanol for aviation, so energy efficiency may be the obvious best option - and given that I seem to have a few readers at Boeing, might I also suggest lobbying that helps prompt other sectors of the economy use less fuel (such as carbon taxes) might actually have a positive effect on the viability of the airlines in the long run. Bart also has some notes on the downsides of air travel at the end of the post on Energy Bulletin.
“What do you do when fuel is the price of champagne?” As a writer who focuses much on issues of Peak Oil, I believe that is an interesting way to ask the question. The last time I looked at the price of decent champagne (not even the high-end stuff), it was selling for the likes of $25 per bottle and up, or the equivalent of $125 per gallon. Ouch! So imagine a bottle of champagne with a fuel hose and nozzle running out of it. Try to envision some very pricey stuff bubbling out of the Dom Perignon-style bottle and into the fuel tank.

Oh, wait a minute. You do not have to imagine it. Just open up a recent copy of Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine, published by McGraw-Hill. There, in the center pages of the most widely read trade magazine in the high-end segment of the aviation industry, was a three-page advertisement that asks exactly this question and presents exactly this image on the first page. In the ad, Page 1, a fuel hose is running out of a champagne bottle. The sponsor of the ad was none other than one of the most famous corporate names in the world, Boeing. Welcome to the future of aviation.

Boeing isn't the only large organisation concerned about peak oil - the US military is clearly interested in prompting some scientific efforts to keep themselves airborne (which is a positive change from making a grab for oil producing regions).
DARPA sees which way the wind's blowing. They've put out a request for R&D proposals to try to find a way to produce military jet fuel from non-petroleum sources. Excerpt from the RFP:
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agencys (DARPA) Advanced Technology Office (ATO) is soliciting proposals...for BioFuels.

The Defense Department has been directed to explore a wide range of energy alternatives and fuel efficiency efforts in a bid to reduce the military's reliance on oil to power its aircraft, ground vehicles and non-nuclear ships. DARPA is interested in proposals for research and development efforts to develop a process that efficiently produces a surrogate for petroleum based military jet fuel (JP-8) from oil-rich crops produced by either agriculture or aquaculture (including but not limited to plants, algae, fungi, and bacteria) and which ultimately can be an affordable alternative to petroleum-derived JP-8. Current commercial processes for producing biodiesel yield a fuel that is unsuitable for military applications, which require higher energy density and a wide operating temperature range. [...]

The goal of the BioFuels program is to enable an affordable alternative to petroleum-derived JP-8. The primary technical objective of the BioFuels program is to achieve a 60% (or greater) conversion efficiency, by energy content, of crop oil to JP-8 surrogate and elucidate a path to 90% conversion. Proposers are encouraged to consider process paths that minimize the use of external energy sources, which are adaptable to a range or blend of feedstock crop oils, and which produce process by-products that have ancillary manufacturing or industrial value.

When push comes to shove and oil shortages get underway in earnest, the military will surely be in a position to push its way to the front of the line. Evidently, they anticipate that being first in line may not be good enough.

Handwriting on the wall.

I didn't see much chat about this report about prospects for future Iraqi oil production (long a subject of much curiosity for me) but I'm sure many peakist's would scoff at the idea of Iraq producing 9 million barrels a day. Personally I think this is entirely possible (and for quite a long period of time) but the situation on the ground would make it seem unlikely in the foreseeable future.
Iraq's oil production could reach 9.0 million barrels a day in 2016, up from around 2.4 million barrels currently, the head of international oil producer Heritage Oil, said.

But the lack of a clear development strategy for Iraq's oil resources is delaying the much-needed foreign investment required to reach this level of production, Micael Gulbenkian warned in an interview with Portugal's Lusa news agency.

"Iraq has gigantic potential," said Gulbenkian Saturday, whose company has projects in the war-torn country. "The Iraqi economy is a failure. The country doesn't have the means to develop and explore its national resources."

Iraqi authorities are torn between a policy which would seek to keep the development of the country's oil resources in national hands and a policy of openness to foreign investment in the sector, he added.

Iraq expects its daily oil production to reach 6.0 barrels per day by 2012 and be challenging Saudi Arabia as the world's largest producer by 2015, Iraq's Oil Minister Hussein Shahristani said last month.

Interestingly the oil CEO quoted would appear to be a descendent of Calouste Gulbenkian (also known as Mr 5%), who was instrumental in the maneouvring over the oil fields in Iraq a century ago (which reportedly made him the richest man in the world for a time) and the creation of the Iraqi Petroleum Company and the associated "red line agreement". He eventually fled to Portugal as part of his endless quest to avoid paying tax, where he set up the Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon, which is well worth a visit if you ever find yourself in town.
It began with a character known as "Mr. 5%"- Calouste Gulbenkian - who, in 1925, slicked King Faisal, neophyte ruler of the country recently created by Churchill, into giving Gulbenkian's "Iraq Petroleum Company" (IPC) exclusive rights to all of Iraq's oil. Gulbenkian flipped 95% of his concession to a combine of western oil giants: Anglo-Persian, Royal Dutch Shell, CFP of France, and the Standard Oil trust companies (now ExxonMobil and its "sisters.") The remaining slice Calouste kept for himself - hence, "Mr. 5%."

The oil majors had a better use for Iraq's oil than drilling it - not drilling it. The oil bigs had bought Iraq's concession to seal it up and keep it off the market. To please his buyers' wishes, Mr. 5% spread out a big map of the Middle East on the floor of a hotel room in Belgium and drew a thick red line around the gulf oil fields, centered on Iraq. All the oil company executives, gathered in the hotel room, signed their name on the red line - vowing not to drill, except as a group, within the red-lined zone. No one, therefore, had an incentive to cheat and take red-lined oil. All of Iraq's oil, sequestered by all, was locked in, and all signers would enjoy a lift in worldwide prices. Anglo-Persian Company, now British Petroleum (BP), would pump almost all its oil, reasonably, from Persia (Iran). Later, the Standard Oil combine, renamed the Arabian-American Oil Company (Aramco), would limit almost all its drilling to Saudi Arabia. Anglo-Persian (BP) had begun pulling oil from Kirkuk, Iraq, in 1927 and, in accordance with the Red-Line Agreement, shared its Kirkuk and Basra fields with its IPC group - and drilled no more.

The following was written three decades ago:

Although its original concession of March 14, 1925, cove- red all of Iraq, the Iraq Petroleum Co., under the owner- ship of BP (23.75%), Shell (23.75%), CFP [of France] (23.75%), Exxon (11.85%), Mobil (11.85%), and [Calouste] Gulbenkian (5.0%), limited its production to fields constituting only one-half of 1 percent of the country's total area. During the Great Depression, the world was awash with oil and greater output from Iraq would simply have driven the price down to even lower levels.

Plus ├ža change...

When the British Foreign Office fretted that locking up oil would stoke local nationalist anger, BP-IPC agreed privately to pretend to drill lots of wells, but make them absurdly shallow and place them where, wrote a company manager, "there was no danger of striking oil." This systematic suppression of Iraq's production, begun in 1927, has never ceased. In the early 1960s, Iraq's frustration with the British-led oil consortium's failure to pump pushed the nation to cancel the BP-Shell-Exxon concession and seize the oil fields. Britain was ready to strangle Baghdad, but a cooler, wiser man in the White House, John F. Kennedy, told the Brits to back off. President Kennedy refused to call Iraq's seizure an "expropriation" akin to Castro's seizure of U.S.-owned banana plantations. Kennedy's view was that Anglo-American companies had it coming to them because they had refused to honor their legal commitment to drill.

But the freedom Kennedy offered the Iraqis to drill their own oil to the maximum was swiftly taken away from them by their Arab brethren.

The OPEC cartel, controlled by Saudi Arabia, capped Iraq's production at a sum equal to Iran's, though the Iranian reserves are far smaller than Iraq's. The excuse for this quota equality between Iraq and Iran was to prevent war between them. It didn't. To keep Iraq's Ba'athists from complaining about the limits, Saudi Arabia simply bought off the leaders by funding Saddam's war against Iran and giving the dictator $7 billion for his "Islamic bomb" program.

In 1974, a U.S. politician broke the omerta over the suppression of Iraq's oil production. It was during the Arab oil embargo that Senator Edmund Muskie revealed a secret intelligence report of "fantastic" reserves of oil in Iraq undeveloped because U.S. oil companies refused to add pipeline capacity. Muskie, who'd just lost a bid for the Presidency, was dubbed a "loser" and ignored. The Iranian bombing of the Basra fields (1980-88) put a new kink in Iraq's oil production. Iraq's frustration under production limits explodes periodically.

A History of Oil in Iraq - Suppressing It, Not Pumping It

* 1925-28 "Mr. 5%" sells his monopoly on Iraq's oil to British Petroleum and Exxon, who sign a "Red-Line Agreement" vowing not to compete by drilling independently in Iraq.

* 1948 Red-Line Agreement ended, replaced by oil combines' "dog in the manger" strategy - taking control of fields, then capping production-drilling shallow holes where "there was no danger of striking oil."

* 1961 OPEC, founded the year before, places quotas on Iraq's exports equal to Iran's, locking in suppression policy.

* 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War. Iran destroys Basra fields. Iraq cannot meet OPEC quota. 1991 Desert Storm. Anglo-American bombings cut production.

* 1991-2003 United Nations Oil embargo (zero legal exports) followed by Oil-for-Food Program limiting Iraqi sales to 2 million barrels a day.

* 2003-? "Insurgents" sabotage Iraq's pipelines and infrastructure.

* 2004 Options for Iraqi OilThe secret plan adopted by U.S. State Department overturns Pentagon proposal to massively in crease oil production. State Department plan, adopted by government of occupied Iraq, limits state oil company to OPEC quotas.

The Energy Blog has an interesting (as always) post on "A Power Grid for the Hydrogen Economy".
An article describing a cryogenic, superconducting "SuperGrid" that would simultaneously deliver electrical power and hydrogen fuel is featured in the July issue of Scientific American.com.

The August 14, 2003 power failure that affected 48 million inhabitants of New York, northeastern US and Ontario and an even more extensive blackout that affected 56 million people in Italy and Switzerland a month later--called attention to the susceptibility of our power grids to failure. A more fundamental limitation of our grid is that it is poorly suited to handle the relentless growth in demand for electrical energy and the coming transition away from fossil-fueled power stations and vehicles to cleaner sources of electricity and transportation fuels. The following is but a sampling of the information in the report, which you may want to read, to fully understand the problem and the authors solution.
The authors are part of a growing group of engineers and physicists who have begun developing designs for a new energy delivery system they call the Continental SuperGrid. They envision the SuperGrid evolving gradually alongside the current grid, strengthening its capacity and reliability. Over the course of decades, the SuperGrid would put in place the means to generate and deliver not only plentiful, reliable, inexpensive and "clean" electricity but also hydrogen for energy storage and personal transportation. ...

Also at The Energy Blog, a "Roadmap for Development of Cellulosic Ethanol Production".
The U.S. DOE recently released a report detailing a roadmap for the development of cellulosic ethanol production. The report is based on the Biomass to Biofuels Workshop held December 7–9, 2005, in Rockville, Maryland, where more than 50 scientists representing a wide range of expertise convened to define barriers and challenges to the biofuel industry. This report is a roadmap, based on that workshop, for accelerating cellulosic ethanol research, helping make biofuels practical and cost-competitive by 2012 ($1.07/gal ethanol) and offering the potential to displace up to 30% of the nation’s current gasoline use by 2030. While other blogs and news articles have reported on the release of the report, no one has attempted to articulate the roadmap. The following are some brief excerpts from the report.

Fuels derived from cellulosic biomass—the fibrous, woody, and generally inedible portions of plant matter—offer an alternative to conventional energy sources that supports national economic growth, national energy security, and environmental goals. Cellulosic biomass is an attractive energy feedstock because supplies are abundant domestically and globally. It is a renewable source of liquid transportation fuels that can be used readily by current-generation vehicles and distributed through the existing transportation- fuel infrastructure. Ethanol from corn grain is an increasingly important additive fuel source, but it has limited growth potential as a primary transportation fuel.

2004_gasoline_ethanol_demand Achieving the ambitious goal of displacing 30% of the 2004 gasoline demand with biofuels by 2030 will require a rapid expansion of the fuel ethanol industry. Annual U.S. production will need to increase from about 4 billion gallons of corn grain ethanol to about 60 billion gallons per year from a variety of plant materials.

An annual supply of roughly a billion dry tons of biomass will be needed to support this level of ethanol production. A recent report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and DOE finds potential to sustainably harvest more than 1.3 billion metric tons of biomass from U.S. forest and agricultural lands by mid-21st Century (previous post).

The report found that only 6% of the 1.36 billion metric tons would come from grain, and since only about a billion tons are required, none of the feedstock need come at the expense of food producing acreage.

And to close, a blog post asking Where have all the butterflies gone? - one more victim of global warming ?
I was starting to think maybe I was crazy. But no, my perception seems to be pretty accurate. This spring and summer I have seen almost no butterflies. Practically zero. In fact, I would say less than 20. By this time last year and the previous year and most years before, I would see that many in week depending on my location. In fact, since being back in Missouri and spending lots of time in the garden, seeing 10 - 20 a day is not uncommon with 3-5 species represented in that count. Of course it's hard to say if one is seeing the same butterfly more than once but it's still very possible to get an idea if you're paying attention. Not only are we not seeing the butterflies but also zero caterpillars.

A few seconds of google turned up a whole slew of articles that verify my perception. Here's the first, Where have all the butterflies gone? : ...

The Triumph Of The Will  

Posted by Big Gav

Four Corners' episode on peak oil tonight was very well done - they'd obviously done plenty of research, and chose their primary interviewees well - Robert Hirsch, Chris Skrebowski and Colin Campbell featured heavily. The whole thing is now online (along with supplements on The Saudi Riddle, an online chat with some local peak oil commentators and a set of further resources).

JONATHAN HOLMES: No senior executive of Saudi Aramco - even one recently retired - will publicly contradict his own government. But Sadad Al-Husseini, who was, for many years, head of Saudi Aramco's exploration division, admits that making good on the Minister's promises won't be easy. Saudi Arabia is no exception to a global problem.

SADAD AL-HUSSEINI, FORMER DIRECTOR SAUDI ARAMCO: The easy oil has already been produced. The - the remaining reserves, as significant and substantial as they are, are going to be more expensive and gradually more demanding to produce. Therefore the future capacity is slower to come on stream than what it has been the traditional past.

JONATHAN HOLMES: Sadad Al-Husseini agrees with Robert Hirsch that the time for consuming nations to start worrying is now.

SADAD AL-HUSSEINI, FORMER DIRECTOR SAUDI ARAMCO: Well, I think in many of the major consuming countries, the leadership has been asleep on the watch. Everybody in the industry realises that oil and gas are the backbone of global economies. Somehow, I guess politicians felt that this was not going to be an issue on their watch, that it was too far into the future, and therefore didn't pay attention to it.

NEWSREADER: The biggest game in Los Angeles today was find the gas. Three out of four stations were closed. 99 out of 100 will be closed tomorrow.

JONATHAN HOLMES: Back in the early 1970s, when drivers queued at the petrol pumps throughout the western world, influential voices were prophesying the imminent end of the age of oil.

NEWSREADER: It's not likely California can avoid rationing - - -

JONATHAN HOLMES: Governments and oil companies today point out that it didn't happen then, and it won't happen now. But the doom-mongers are unabashed about crying wolf once more.

ROBERT HIRSCH, CONSULTANT US DEPT OF ENERGY: Well, the wolf did finally eat the boy.

CHRIS SKREBOWSKI, EDITOR PETROLEUM REVIEW: It's not that this data is secret. I haven't - haven't manipulated data. It's all data in the public domain. Anyone else can do this but it seems they'd rather not.

JONATHAN HOLMES: And you are being told by large numbers of people - with very official titles - that you're wrong.


JONATHAN HOLMES: But you're not?


JONATHAN HOLMES: We found no-one on our travels round an oil-dependent world who thought it likely we'll be buying crude at $20 a barrel, or petrol at 60 cents a litre, ever again. No-one denies either that the age of oil will ultimately end. What's in dispute is whether it will end decades hence, with a whimper, or soon, and, as George Miller predicted, with a most uncomfortable bang.

SBS' Dateline program also had a good episode recently on "Germany's New Power", featuring forward thinking energy visionary Hermann Scheer.
Already some homes here have been demolished. And here’s the reason why – the neighbouring lignite mine. It may be inefficient, subsidised and produce highly polluting brown coal, but the state government has decided the American multinational that owns it can bulldoze Huersdorf to expand the mine’s operation. Over the decades, dozens of other villages have met the same fate.

The fact that this mine continues to operate and devour entire villages is a pretty graphic illustration of how desperately Germany needs new sources of energy. On one hand this has led to a new push to reinvigorate the country’s nuclear program, on the other side there are those that say the future lies with renewable energy – an area where Germany already leads the world.

Another town – Swabisch Hall – post-card perfect and in no danger whatsoever of being bulldozed. Tourism is the big money spinner here – now it’s been joined by renewable energy. The visitors strolling across its covered bridges may not realise it, but they’re also traversing one of the Swabisch Hall’s renewable power sources. For tucked away discreetly along the river are a number of small-scale hydro-electricity turnines. This one generates about a million kilowatt hours a year – enough for about 60 houses. And here I find Hermann Scheer, the father of Germany’s renewable energy revolution.

HERMANN SCHEER, RENEWABLE ENERGY ADVOCATE: It’s a very old city, but a city with the most modern application of energy technologies. It is again an example how many devices, many small powr stations can substitute some large power stations.

Hermann Scheer has come to Swabisch Hall to address a solar power conference. He’s revered here as the author of Germany’s landmark EEG law. This law compels power companies to buy electricity at above market prices, from anyone using renewable technology to generate it. The result – thousands upon thousands of German companies, communities and individuals now sell power into the national grid.

HERMANN SCHEER: It’s the first step, yes. It’s a beginning. It’s the beginning of an energy revolution. The time of phasing out nuclear and fossil will come.

The renewable revolution has already come to the village of Juhnde. The dairy cows here are now producing more than milk. Their manure helps power the town’s new bio-gas plant – although the main raw material is a purpose-grown cereal crop produced by local farmers grateful for a new market. The mixture is fermented in large vats producing methane – the smell is yeasty – a little like a brewery. The methane powers generators – the electricity is sold into the national grid. And there’s a more direct benefit – excess heat warms water that’s then reticulated throughout the village.

ECKHARD FANGMEIR, LOCAL RESIDENT: Here’s the hot water grid, which is coming from the energy plant. The hot water is forwarded here by 80 degrees Celsius.

Local resident Eckhard Fangmeir proudly shows me his cellar – where his oil furnace once stood. He tells me he’s already saving A$1200 a year in heating costs.

ECKHARD FANGMEIR: I’m personally very, very happy because now I am independent. Independent of the international oil prices because we are producing our own energy here in our village – electricity and heat will be produced by our own energy plant and we are now independent.

Upstairs over coffee Eckhard and his wife Sabine explain their investment. 140 local residents own the bio-gas plant, borrowing most of the money from banks. With the plant producing twice as much electricity as Juhnde requires, in 20 years time the banks will be paid off and the residents will be fully-paid-up energy barons.

SABINE FANGMEIR: I think it’s a good idea because it is very environment friendly. There is no danger. No danger for us, no danger for our children, and the children of our children. And it’s all our own. Not one owner, not an oil company. It’s ours. And we all together are responsible for this plant.

The bio-mass plant at Juhnde has only been running for around six months, but already some 30 neighbouring villages are so impressed they’re planning to invest in their own plants.

Germany is now the world leader in renewable energy. 10% of its electricity requirements are now supplied by wind, solar, bio-mass and small hydro. That will grow to 20-25% within 15 years, when nuclear is scheduled to be phased out. This energy revolution can, in large part, be attributed to Hermann Scheer. As a young politician in the 1980s, his opposition to nuclear power led him to explore the possibilities of renewables.

HERMANN SCHEER: It was a surprise to me, that there was no politician, not in my country, and not in other countries who was really committed with sufficient knowledge on renewable energies. And then I concluded for me, in my mind, if that issue is so important then I should do that. It was a question of personal responsibility.

DAVID HOGG, CSG SOLAR: We’re using very thin silicon. We want the light to stay in the silicon. So we do that here.

The EEG law has also led to a boom in solar power. Near Leipzig I find a brand-spanking-new solar panel factory run by Australians, using groundbreaking technology developed over 20 years in Sydney, but now majority-owned by Germans.

DAVID HOGG: It uses crystalline silicon, which is what is being used predominantly in the industry for a very long time, but we’ve found a way of using a much, much thinner layer of the same material. So we get all the benefits without all the costs.

Germany’s support for renewable energy is sucking in technology from around the world.

The New York Times has an unsettling report on neo-nazis and other hate groups taking advantage of lax new recruitment criteria adopted by the US military courtesy of the Iraq fiasco to get some training (and on the job training) in preparation for a future race war.
A decade after the Pentagon declared a zero-tolerance policy for racist hate groups, recruiting shortfalls caused by the war in Iraq have allowed "large numbers of neo-Nazis and skinhead extremists" to infiltrate the military, according to a watchdog organization.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks racist and right-wing militia groups, estimated that the numbers could run into the thousands, citing interviews with Defense Department investigators and reports and postings on racist Web sites and magazines.

"We've got Aryan Nations graffiti in Baghdad," the group quoted a Defense Department investigator as saying in a report to be posted today on its Web site, www.splcenter.org. "That's a problem." [...]

The report said that neo-Nazi groups like the National Alliance, whose founder, William Pierce, wrote "The Turner Diaries," the novel that was the inspiration and blueprint for Timothy J. McVeigh's bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building, sought to enroll followers in the Army to get training for a race war.

The groups are being abetted, the report said, by pressure on recruiters, particularly for the Army, to meet quotas that are more difficult to reach because of the growing unpopularity of the war in Iraq.

Some of the recent news coming from Iraq is bad enough that its hard to see that neo nazis would be much worse (on the tinfoil plane, RI links up this story with a tale about a very perverted judge in the US and Valdimir Putin's bizarre stomach kissing episode in Russia that took the cliched politician kissing babies act to a new, and weird, low). Meanwhile it would seem the Salvador Option is still underway as well.
Five US soldiers were charged in a rape and multiple murder case that has outraged Iraqis, as documents obtained by Reuters on Sunday showed the rape victim was a minor aged just 14, and not over 20 as US officials say.

Days after former private Steven Green was charged as a civilian in a US court with rape and four murders, four serving soldiers were charged with the same offences, the US military said in statement that did not name the troops.


Green, 21, has since been discharged from the army due to a "personality disorder". The case came to light during stress counselling for a soldier last month following the kidnap and killing of two other men from the same unit near Mahmudiya.

A soldier cited in US court documents as the first witness told investigators that Green and three others drank alcohol and discussed rape. They then told the soldier to keep watch on the radio as they set off for the house, some in civilian clothes.

Two soldiers who said they went to the house accused Green of killing the parents and child before he and the other soldier in the home raped the woman. Green then shot her too, they said.

The East Timor situation seems to have quitened down (from a media standpoint anyway), but speculation continues about whether or not Mari Alkatiri's downfall was engineered by from outside the country. Surely not another tussle over oil and gas ? John Martinkus reports.
Mari Alkatiri's resignation was the culmination of a long-planned attack, writes John Martinkus.

THREE weeks ago in East Timor I was given information from senior members of the East Timorese military that confirmed what the now deposed prime minister had been saying all along. There had been three attempts since April last year to get senior command figures in the East Timorese army to carry out a coup against the Government of the former prime minister, Mari Alkatiri.

In light of what has happened since it seems obvious a very well orchestrated campaign has been carried out to bring the Government down. And it has worked. For reasons best known to themselves the opposition to Alkatiri enlisted the support of a group of junior officers in the East Timorese defence forces, the F-FDTL, who broke with the army command and took their weapons with them. They attacked the F-FDTL on May 23 and 24 and precipitated the widespread unrest in Dili that led to the international forces being called in. Then came the destruction of property by the gangs from the west, mainly aimed at those from the east who are perceived as supporting the Fretilin Government, then the string of allegations presented to the foreign press, that finally led to Alkatiri's resignation.

There is no doubt that whoever has been behind this campaign has covered their tracks and it will be difficult to link the interests involved to the destruction that has led to 150,000 East Timorese now living in refugee camps around the capital, too afraid to go home. But it was the plight of these people that was used as an instrument by the opposition groups to call for Alkatiri's removal even though the same groups had initiated the violence in the first place. It was a very callous and cynical political manoeuvre to say the least, especially considering these people are now facing chronic food shortages.

But some obvious questions have not been answered by the Australian press who have been almost unanimous in condemning the ruling Fretilin party that, like it or not, did have an overwhelming mandate to govern until mid next year that had been granted in elections supervised by the UN and declared free and fair - with much fanfare, I remember, as I covered them.

First, who started the violence? Surely in any other country if a group of disaffected soldiers takes off with weapons and then launches two very open assaults on the army, as Alfredo Reinado's men did on May 23 and 24, then shouldn't they be arrested? Yet they were given Australian SAS bodyguards and remain free after handing back only a fraction of the weapons they took with them.

The Al Gore show continues to roll onwards, with an excellent interview in Rolling Stone and some blunt words about the toxic disaster that is the tar sands industry.
Al Gore has pushed the buttons of Ralph Klein, premier of Canada's conservative Alberta province (think North Dakota, but even norther). Interviewed in the latest Rolling Stone, Gore disparaged Alberta's oil-sands industry: "For every barrel of oil they extract there, they have to use enough natural gas to heat a family's home for four days. And they have to tear up four tons of landscape, all for one barrel of oil. It is truly nuts." (The vice president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers confirmed Gore's figures, but demurred on the "truly nuts" part.) Klein -- who once suggested that ancient global-warming trends may have been caused by dinosaur farts -- called Gore "about as far left as you can go," and sputtered, "I don't know what [Gore] proposes the world run on, maybe hot air. ... The simple fact is America needs oil."

It's a beautiful day for enabling.

Billmon has been to see "An Inconvenient Truth", and while he's not the type to gush with praise for any politician, he did come up with yet another great post afterwards.
But in our increasingly debased political and cultural climate, just letting Al Gore be Al Gore isn’t commercially viable, not even in an art house documentary. Which I suppose is why the filmmakers felt compelled to weave in Gore's by-now familiar psychodramas – the same teary-eyed stories he used to tell (or exploit, depending on your point of view) in his political speeches. This includes, for example, the morality tale of the Gore family's decision to stop growing tobacco after his sister died of lung cancer. Like Al's old speeches, AIT neglects to mention that this supposedly guilt-stricken decision was made several years after her death.

This stuff is just as clumsy and annoying as it was when Gore was on the campaign trail. But in the Age of Oprah, such ploys are probably inevitable: Like Gore’s campaign handlers, the makers of AIT apparently felt the need to “humanize” his message, instead of letting the science speak for itself. But to me it only highlighted the long odds against what Gore is trying to do, which is to speak the language of reason to an increasingly irrational, post-Enlightenment world.

In that sense, Gore’s project makes him the diametrical opposite – the antithesis – of the unnamed Cheney administration official quoted by Ron Suskind immediately after the 2004 election:
'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality – judiciously, as you will – we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

There are, of course, some truly sinister overtones to that quote – echoes of Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will and totalitarian delusions about the mutability of “Aryan” or “proletarian” science. As a practical guide to running the complex affairs of a modern industrial superpower, it’s certainly demonstrated its flaws, in Iraq and elsewhere. But as a political slogan – that is to say, as the basic operating principle of a propaganda machine based on lies, fear and the emotional manipulation of popular myths – it’s proven extremely effective. Even now, when the regime’s real-world failures are obvious to most, the consequences in terms of lost public support haven’t been nearly as severe as one might otherwise have expected.

In part this reflects the complicity of the semi-official media – the same pack of intellectual juveniles who savaged Gore during the 2000 campaign. But their pro-lies, anti-reality spin isn’t entirely a product of the familiar culprits: corporate control, concentrated ownership, and the elite biases of what the glorified gossip columnists at The Note like to call the Gang of 500. After all, Gore is and always has been a born-to-the-purple member of that same elite (although his father, the Senator, was an honest-to-God rural populist of the old school – the kind of politician Gore Jr. occasionally pretended to be.)

There’s something deeper at work here than just conventional media bias or capitalist economics, although they're certainly part of it. There’s always been a powerful current of anti-intellectualism in American politics, just as there is in American life. It’s the dark side of democracy: The pressure to accept what the majority, or the most vocal minority, thinks is true as truth – even when the evidence is entirely on the other side. When Henry Ford said history was bunk, he wasn’t taking about the past but about the present, and his ire wasn’t directed at historians per se but at the revisionist historians of the Progressive Era, who were telling him and his fellow know nothings inconvenient facts they didn’t want to hear. Pump Henry full of Hillbilly Heroin and put him on the radio, and you’ve got Rush Limbaugh, still making the same point.

The difference between Ford’s time and Limbaugh’s is that the political presumption against rationality is now shared, or at least pandered to, even at the top of the political and cultural pyramid. It’s curious that people who are paid to think and write for a living, and who, like Gore, attended the “best” schools, are now nearly as susceptible to the politics of ignorance as your average conservative talk show host, but then the elite media ain’t what it used to be. Like academia, it’s fighting a losing rear-guard action against the spirit of the times and the angry, irrational prejudices that go with it.


Against the firepower of this kind of commercialized ignorance, it’s hard to see how Gore’s dogged rationalism has much of a chance – particularly when his truth is so highly inconvenient to the oil lobby, the coal lobby, the auto lobby and the utility lobby, and not just the flat earth lobby (sometimes known as the Republican Party.)

Unlike the popular and political cultures, corporate America is utterly rationalist – more so now, perhaps, than at any time in the past – but it also defines rationality as utility maximization in the current time period. Or, to paraphrase Al Gore quoting Upton Sinclair: It’s hard to make someone understand something if his salary depends on him not understanding it – especially if the costs of not understanding can be deferred to future generations. Combine that with a cheerful willingness to use popular ignorance and attenuated attention spans to serve short-term economic interests (a very different movie, Thank You For Smoking, comes to mind) and the corporate masters of astroturf PR and industry-funded junk science are in much the same position as their White House colleagues: Still firmly in control on the bridge of the Titanic, even as the forward compartments gradually fill with sea water.

There are, perhaps, some faint signs of hope – the unlikely popularity of An Inconvenient Truth being one of them. Ratings for Fox News are said to be down sharply, and someone recently sent me a link to the web site of The Progressive Review, where it is asserted that web traffic is also falling at a host of right-wing fountains of misinformation, from rushlimbaugh.com to townhall.com. Maybe, just maybe, the intellectual tide is turning.

But I doubt it. In my darker moments, it sometimes seems as if the entire world is in the middle of a fierce backlash against the Age of Enlightenment, the Scientific Revolution and the ideological challenges they posed to the old belief systems. The forces of fundamentalism and obscurantism appear to be on the march everywhere – even as the moral and technological challenges posed by a global industrial civilization grow steadily more complex.

Climate change is only one of those challenges, and maybe not even the most urgent one – at the rate we’re going, civilization could collapse long before the Antarctic ice shelves do. Maybe as a species we really have reached the same evolutionary dead end as Australopithecus robustus – intelligent enough as a species to create problems we're not bright enough, or adaptable enough, to solve. I don’t know. But if extinction, or a return to the dark ages, is indeed our fate – or our grandchildren’s fate, anyway – I think it will be a Hobson’s choice as to which cultural tendency will bear the largest share of the blame: the arrogant empiricism that has made human society into an instrument of technological progress instead of the other way around, the ignorant prejudices of the masses, who are happy to consume the material benefits of the Enlightenment but unwilling to assume intellectual responsibility for them, or the cynical nihilism of corporate and political elites who are willing to play upon the latter in order to perpetuate the former, which is, after all is said and done, their ultimate claim to power.

Apparently George Bush thinks nuclear power is a form of renewable energy - which prompted some people to try and do what a few years hanging around Yale drinking beer and performing weird rituals in The Crypt couldn't - educate him about something.
Dear Mr. President:

In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, you were quoted as saying that nuclear power "is a renewable source of energy."

Please be advised that nuclear power is not a renewable source of energy.

For that matter, oil, coal, and natural gas are also not renewable sources of energy.

Nuclear power and fossil fuels are environmentally polluting and non-renewable sources of energy.

The primary renewable sources of energy are biofuels, biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, and wind.


(Cylvia Hayes, Executive Director)

Alliance for Affordable Energy
(Micah Walker Parkin)

Arizona Solar Center, Inc.
(Daniel Peter Aiello, Chair)

Arizona Solar Energy Association
(Chuck Skidmore)


William McDonough also had some recent comments on confusion about nuclear power (in this case from Peter Schwartz, who should know better).
In response to a question from GBN's Peter Schwartz on why some green thinkers neglect to mention nuclear energy as a viable renewable energy source, William McDonough said: "Don't get me wrong: I love nuclear energy! It's just that I prefer fusion to fission. And it just so happens that there's an enormous fusion reactor safely banked a few million miles from us. It delivers more than we could ever use in just about 8 minutes. And it's wireless!"

John at The Real Deal notes that "Can’t grow yourself out of an energy crisis" - and turning food into fuel isn't much of an answer to anything.
Malaysia will not grant anymore biodiesel licenses because the manufactuers of biodiesel are sucking up all the palm oil.

”Malaysia has suspended giving new licenses for biodiesel production projects amid concerns that an excess of projects could deprive the food market of palm oil, widely used in cooking, a report said Monday.

Malaysia is the world’s biggest producer of crude palm oil, the main ingredient of biodiesel. Spurred by the interest in the fuel, touted as a cheaper substitute for gasoline and diesel, the government has so far approved 32 biodiesel projects with a combined production capacity of about 3 million tons.”

But it announced last week that it will stop issuing licenses for new biodiesel manufacturing projects until it completes a study of the palm oil downstream industry, the New Straits Times reported. It didn’t say when it expects to complete the study.

The Times quoted Malaysian Palm Oil Council chief executive Yusof Basiron as saying that the freeze on new projects was largely due to a surge in the number of applications for biodiesel production.

The government received 87 applications since last year, raising concerns that it could eat into crude palm oil, or CPO, reserves meant for food and oleochemical industries, he said.

“In any industry, there must be a realistic level. There must be a balance between CPO for food and that for fuel,” he added”

And to close, here's a snippet from Past Peak.
One day back in 1992 Lucy simply felt compassion for two boys — neither older than twelve 12 — who feared to spend the night on the rugged streets of Lima. Lucy only recently had learned of the existence of a subculture of street kids in Lima. Parents sometimes abandon these children — in some cases selling them into servitude — while other young boys and girls flee severe abuse at home. [...]

[W]hen Lucy encountered two young boys who expressed a deep fear for passing the night on the streets, she invited them to use her office as a safe haven. She told them to extend the invitation to any other child who shared their concerns. Since Lucy already had plans to attend a family party that evening, she informed the office custodian to give entry to any child who arrived in search of refuge.

After the party, Lucy decided to check in with her young guests. She hoped that the custodian, upon meeting the ragged vagrants, had not balked at her instructions. She half expected to find the boys sitting on the curb in front of her office, locked out. [...]

Lucy had a puzzle awaiting her that evening at the office. The key unlocked the front door but, try as she might, she could not shove it open. It felt like someone had lodged a rolled-up carpet behind the door to block the entry. With the help of her sons, Lucy finally moved the door to create enough space to squeeze through and pass inside the building.

As she reached blindly in the dark in search of the light switch, Lucy tripped over the "carpet roll." She caught her balance and leaned her body against the wall. Holding her pose, her fingers continued to work the wall until they eventually found the light switch and flicked it upward.

Lucy initially looked down at her feet and discovered several young kids curled up on the floor, sleeping, their bodies jammed against the door. She then cast her vision around the room, though it was hard to register at first what she saw. Every nook and cranny of the office was covered with sleeping children. "I even found young kids snuggled tightly inside the cupboards where we stored our office supplies," Lucy said.

Lucy counted more than 600 children who slept in her office that night. The word had passed like wildfire on the streets of Lima. Found: a shelter from the storm.

At that moment, Lucy did not know all the details that caused these boys and girls to run scared. But she clearly sensed that her life would never be the same. "Those children, stacked one against the other asleep on the floor of my office, looked so defenseless and vulnerable," Lucy said in a slow, soft voice. "They had no one to be their advocate, to defend their rights," she added. "I knew then what path I had to take."


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