Happy Feet  

Posted by Big Gav

Grist reports on the new movie "Happy Feet" (noting its not a true story unfortunately). Once again I'm impressed at how books and movies about global warming (and those by its deniers) get released right on queue for various international conferences.

Warning: If you don't want to know the ending to Happy Feet, read no further.

On its opening weekend, the tap-dancing penguin raked in $42.3 million, topping the debut of the much-anticipated Bond flick Casino Royale. If you thought your eight dollars would buy an hour and a half of a warm and fuzzy penguin love story set to music, you'll be surprised by the realistic and serious tone of the film (as well as the penguins with Mexican accents ...).

There is singing, there is dancing, there is the light-hearted humor you would expect from a film starring Robin Williams. But all of this is secondary to the much bigger story line: the penguins are starving because humans are stealing all their fish.

"Mumble," the tap-dancing protagonist played by Elijah Wood, takes it upon himself to find the truth behind the declining fish supply. He and his friends embark on an adventure that includes industrial fishing vessels scooping outrageous amounts of fish out of the ocean and dialogue that could have been ripped from my organization's own press releases.

But like any animated children's film, this story has a happy ending. The writers could have taken the easy way out and fed the penguins from a genie's wish or a fairy godmother. Instead, they chose to bring back the fish the only way we're actually going to bring back the fish: by passing and enforcing smarter fishing laws. I daresay this is the first children's movie to end with a montage of political resolutions.

As luck would have it, the movie's release came just days before a crucial United Nations vote. For months, the UN has been debating a moratorium on high seas bottom trawling -- the most destructive form of industrial fishing. Even President Bush was in favor of this moratorium. But on Thursday, while most of us were feasting and watching football, U.N. negotiators failed to agree on the moratorium, proving we still have a long way to go to achieve our happy ending.

Grist also has a post on "Wind, sun, storage, and efficiency", which looks at the intermittency issue that needs to be considered for a lot of renewable energy generation, like wind.
Previously noted that efficiency is essential to eliminating fossil fuel use, because non-fossil sources have an overall market price cost higher than coal, natural gas, and even oil. This is not as obvious as it seems. Up to a point, renewable energy is competitive with fossil fuels; the problem is, that point is never a majority of consumption.

Take electricity.

You can produce unsubsidized wind power at 4 cents per kWh -- cheaper than natural gas, cheaper even than "clean" coal. Unfortunately wind (like most renewables) provides variable power. It can be predicted to some extent, but comes on nature's schedule, not when wanted. That doesn't matter much as long as it supplies around 20% or less of total demand. Up to that point, the utility can treat it as negative load; added power when the wind slows or stops comes from existing operating and spinning reserves.

Beyond that point, wind energy without storage requires additional capital, additional reserve-generating capacity. That brings the price up steeply. There are regions that have more wind capacity than this, sometimes a great deal more. But they manage it by exporting electricity to other utilities. If you look at the grid as a whole, and not just local sub-grids, you will find no place where wind supplies much more than 20% of consumption in practice -- without storage.

There are non-fossil fuel sources that don't suffer from this problem, but they are limited. Geothermal electricity is reasonably priced and fully dispatchable, but cost-effective world resources are limited with current technology. (Yes, there are nations like Iceland where that is not a problem, but it is true for most of the world.) The same applies to hydroelectricity. Biomass energy is inexpensive when produced from waste, but still more costly than oil when purposely cultivated on energy farms -- with serious water consumption, land use, and net energy issues.

In short, you have to add storage, and storage is expensive.

Adam at Energy Bulletin comments:
Gar Lipow reviews the storage options and concludes that all have some problems, which is not to say useless -- but "efficiency is the key". One thing which could have been mentioned is dynamic demand control technologies. See Intermittency of Renewable Energy by Chris Vernon for a good intro.

Obviously storage is key to the clean energy / smart grid future that I like to bang on about - there is quite a wide range of options for storing energy, and I think we're going to see more and more applications for these appearing in the coming years.

Jim at The Energy Blog pointed to a great text called "Energy Storage: A Nontechnical Guide" a while back which looks at a lot of energy storage options, including:

# pumped hydroelectric storage (PHS)
# compressed air energy storage (CAES)
# flow batteries - vanadium redux, zinc bromine, polysulfide bromide and cerium zinc
# sodium sulfide battery
# lead-acid battery
# nickle cadmium battery
# flywheels
# electrochemical capacitors
# superconducting magnetic energy storage
# thermal energy storage

Each of these is applicable in different areas - for example, we're likely to see ultracapacitors and the various types of batteries being used in hybrid and electric vehicles (such as the Lithium Ion batteries in the Tesla Motors car) being used for in-house local storage (as per Richard Smalley's vision) and the V2G (vehicle to grid) idea that is becoming popular (and is most likely to appear in the wild first).

Jim also pointed to an article that listed some examples of energy storage being used to make wind power more effective in various situations (including on King Island in the Bass Strait).
Coupling energy storage technologies with wind turbines can solve many of wind power’s operational issues and support the continued expansion of wind energy production. It should be noted that many types of renewable energy production already benefits from energy storage technologies. By decoupling the production and delivery of energy from renewable resources, storage technologies can make the generated energy more useful and more valuable.

To date, the wind power industry has made great strides in enhancing the capability of wind turbines and how they are integrated into the overall power market. Although the direct production cost may now be competitive with other power generation resource at certain locations, its effective usage cost is sometimes still higher due to inherent qualities of the wind resource. Storage technologies can provide additional flexibility to mitigate these issues.

* Small Grids: Provide system stability (frequency and voltage).
* Large Grids: Provide local system stability and enhance transmission deliverability.

Storage Technologies

A number of energy storage technologies are currently in use or being evaluated for use in conjunction with renewable energy resources. Some of these technologies include:

* Flywheels: Flywheels store energy in a rotating mass of either steel of composite material. Through the use of a motor/generator, energy can be cycled (absorbed and then discharged) a great many times without reducing the life-span of the device. By increasing the surface speed of the flywheel, the energy storage capacity (kWh) of the unit can be increased; by increasing the size of the motor/generator, the power (kW) of the unit can be increased.

* Flow Batteries: Flow batteries store energy in charged electrolytes and utilize proton exchange membranes similar to fuel cells. By flowing the (charged or uncharged) electrolytes through the cell, energy can be cycled through the unit. By adding additional electrolyte, the energy storage capacity (kWh) of the unit can be increased; by increasing the number of cells, the power (kW) of the unit can be increased.

* Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES): CAES facilities store energy in compressed air held in underground chambers. These facilities charge (compress the air) the cavern at night with low cost system power; this air is then used as input for a gas turbine during peak price periods during the day, allowing all of the energy output to generate energy instead of compressing air in pre-combustion. By increasing the volume of air in the underground chamber, the energy storage capacity (kWh) of the unit can be increased; by increasing size of the compressor and turbine, the power (kW) of the unit can be increased.


Remote Power – Island Grids

Small, remote power grids, many times referred to as (or actually exist as) island grids rely heavily on diesel reciprocating engines for their power. Although reliable, these units must respond to significant changes in daily or hourly load, with peak power levels many times far above average load levels. For these reasons operating costs on these systems can be extremely high due to transportation cost of the fuel and mandatory minimum run-times of the diesel engines. In many locations, wind turbines are being added to compliment and hopefully supplement these power sources. To assist this wind energy to integrate further and in a more meaningful way, many developers are looking to energy storage facilities to balance out the constantly changing power supply and demand levels into a far more effective operating regime.

The benefits of using wind energy can be quite high. A number of studies by US Government Laboratories (NREL, LLNL, etc.) have shown that adding wind to a diesel-powered local grid can reduce fuel consumption by 40%-50% and total costs by 30% to 50% for areas with plentiful wind resources.(1) However, because of the small size of these power grids (lack of system inertia, etc.) simply adding wind turbines to small power grids cannot be done haphazardly—a systematic review of the load and potential additional wind turbines must be undertaken to ascertain potential benefits, and to determine what level of wind penetration is best. For many of these power grids, the opportunity exists to have wind resources well in excess of 50% of the peak load.

The same studies that showed that increasing the wind penetration can lower the diesel fuel costs on these systems also showed that adding a storage component can gain an additional 10%-20% in system cost reductions. Although wind turbines provide power with no fuel cost, they bring with them operational characteristics that cause the overall system to operate at sub-optimal conditions many times due to the variability of the wind energy, the non-dispatchability of the wind energy, and the additional system stabilization requirements (frequency and voltage) required. By alleviating some of the stress on the system by operating as a dynamic source and sink for power (a shock absorber), energy storage can be a beneficial additional to these island grids for three general reasons: reducing diesel starts/runtime, providing system stability, and improving the reliability of supply from increasing the level of wind penetration for the system.

The value of energy storage to the system increases as the wind penetration increases, as there will be an increasing amount of time that the available wind power exceeds the total system loads. According to one NREL study(2), at 50% wind penetration, storage can provide 20% greater fuel saving and 20% fewer diesel run-tine than non-storage wind/diesel systems alone.

The Engineer Poet also has some notes on batteries and energy storage in his mammoth post at The Oil Drum on energy options for North America in the post peak world.
If the fuel cell can't go on the vehicle, electricity has to be generated elsewhere and stored on the vehicle.

That means the possibilities are limited only by the capabilities of batteries. For over a century that capability was limited indeed, but that's changing with amazing speed. The drive to pack more energy into smaller cellphones and laptops has led to an explosion of new technology with performance once found only in science fiction. It used to be sized and priced like gemstones, but it's getting to be available in economy-size packages too.

I won't go too far into the details of these technologies, except to detail their breadth. Lithium-ion batteries are coming in at least two new flavors, one based on titanium oxide and the other on iron phosphate; these have already hit the market in high-performance cordless tools. Lead-acid batteries look to make a comeback, with carbon foam replacing bulk metal for electrical connections and mechanical strength (eliminating most of the corrosion which limited their lifespan and also slashing the weight). There's even a dark horse in the race, an ultracapacitor from EEStor. These batteries charge in minutes (Altair Nano claims 0-80% in 60 seconds flat or 0-100% in 6 minutes for 15,000 cycles; ultracaps are probably limited only by the wiring); it could make filling at a gas pump feel slow.

These technologies are hitting limited-production vehicles today. Tesla Motors has sold out its first run of electric roadsters, powered by off-the-shelf lithium-ion cells. 250 miles of range is enough for lots of driving, and a network of fast charging stations would make them suitable for most trips.

But most of us can't afford cars with $30,000 battery packs just to run on electrons. Fortunately, most driving is within a few tens of miles of home; some estimate that a car which can run its first 60 miles on electricity before switching on a conventional engine can eliminate 80% of liquid fuel demand. (Shorter ranges would probably be effective as well; 30 miles of electric range would probably suffice to replace well over half of that 80%, because shorter trips could still be all-electric.) This isn't science fiction; CalCars has already done this with the Prius+. The combination of hybrid efficiency and grid-power assist turns a sedan which might attain 35 MPG with a standard drivetrain into an economy monster which can average up to 180 MPG of gasoline, plus 200 watt-hours of grid juice per electric mile.

In a similar vein, Technology Review has an article today on making electric vehicles practical.
Today's battery technology is adequate for electric vehicles with a range of more than 200 miles, but the batteries are still very expensive and require elaborate safety mechanisms. There are also concerns that they won't last long enough to be attractive to most consumers.

But current research will double energy-storage capacity while also increasing the lifetime of batteries, improving safety, and cutting costs more than enough to make electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids practical for the mass market. At least these were the predictions of researchers presenting their latest work at the Materials Research Society (MRS) meeting in Boston this week. And although many significant challenges remain, an experimental type of rechargeable battery that's like a fuel cell could increase battery storage that much more.

Stanley Whittingham, inventor of the first commercial lithium-ion battery and professor of chemistry, materials science, and engineering at the State University of New York, at Binghamton, says current research should make electric vehicles practical--with the following caveat: they'll probably be used for trips of less than 100 miles. Those who want 300-to-400-mile ranges typical of gasoline-powered vehicles will need to turn to plug-in hybrids: vehicles much like today's gas-electric hybrids, but with a much larger battery pack that makes it possible to go longer on electric power, thereby saving gas. These batteries could be partly charged by an onboard gas engine, but also by electricity from a wall socket.

Whittingham says that while he expects battery capacity to double, it's not going to get much better than that. The real advances in batteries, he says, won't be in energy capacity, but in safety, longevity, and cost. If electric vehicles are to be widespread, one of the most important goals of battery research must be to replace the cobalt now used in the lithium-ion batteries found in cell phones and laptops. "There's just not enough [cobalt] in the world," says Whittingham, who is working on mixed-metal electrodes, which require little to no cobalt.

One promising new type of battery, which actually has lower storage capacity than today's lithium-ion batteries, could nevertheless prove a boon to plug-in hybrids. Lithium iron phosphate batteries use iron, a very cheap metal, instead of cobalt, and they have an inherently safe chemistry (see "Safer Lithium-Ion Batteries"). What's more, they operate at a lower voltage that will extend the life of the electrolyte, and therefore the battery.

South African efforts to commercialise biodiesel from algae production using the GreenFuels process seem to be proceeding rapidly.
South African fuels firm De Beers Fuel Limited plans to produce 16 to 24 billion litres of bio-diesel a year from algae within five years with an initial investment of 3.5 billion rand ($487.4 million), it said on yesterday.

The company has bought licenses for 100,000 acres to be developed into algae farms - for which the initial investment is targeted - and within five years from now the intention is to increase that land area to 800,000 acres.

De Beers Fuel, which is unrelated to the world's biggest diamond producer De Beers, said in a statement that South Africa uses about 8.1 billion litres of bio-diesel yearly.

De Beers Fuel already runs a plant which produces 144,000 litres of bio-diesel daily from sunflower seed oil, at Naboomspruit in the northern Limpopo province. A bio-diesel algae reactor installed at the plant will be showcased to investors, experts and the media later this week.

"The project is highly capital-intensive. The first 100 acres will require about 3.5 billion rand, this has been sourced mainly from foreign private equity groups," Hendy Schoombee, a senior official at De Beers Fuel said. "We had initially intended to list the company to raise the money. We might list at a future date to raise money for further expansion," he said.

One acre of algae can produce 92,000 litres of bio-diesel, compared to 350 litres produced from one acre of a sun-flower seed farm, he added.

The Energy Blog has some notes on the BBC article on increasing the energy efficiency of lighting (and slashing a significant amount of world power consumption in the process).
The BBC News website has an article "Lighting the key to energy saving" that quotes the IEA as saying a global switch to efficient lighting systems would trim the world's electricity bill by nearly one-tenth. Better building regulations would boost uptake of efficient lighting, it says. Nineteen percent of global electricity generation is taken for lighting - that's more than is produced by hydro or nuclear stations, and about the same that's produced from natural gas.

There is a strong case for introducing lighting measures into building codes. Currently codes have a lot of energy measures in them, but with few exceptions there aren't specific provisions for lighting.

A related article argues for banning the incandescent light bulb, which includes this quote: "They waste so much energy that if they were invented today, it is highly unlikely they would be allowed onto the market."

The Energy Blog has strongly argued for more energy efficient lighting since being enlightened while researching the post: "Wal-Mart's Bright Idea"

In local news, the head of AGL has declared "Natural gas is the future, not nuclear". The second half of that statement is certainly correct, though natural gas won't last forever (as per the dicussion in the comments recently, another 20 to 40 years would seem to be a reasonable timeframe for getting power from gas in eastern Australia - though I'm still uncertain how much coal seam methane we have and how long it would last).
AUSTRALIA would not need nuclear power to meet greenhouse gas emissions targets while satisfying increasing electricity demand, AGL Energy chief executive Paul Anthony says.

Rather, Australia's power industry would probably shift to natural gas-fired plants to meet energy demand and cut emissions, especially as companies took into account a likely price being placed on carbon emissions, Mr Anthony said yesterday at a conference in Sydney.

Last week, a draft government report suggested Australia could use nuclear power in 10 to 15 years, and that 25 reactors could be built by 2050, producing one-third of the nation's energy needs.

"While Australia has a huge abundance of uranium, I don't believe it needs to embark on a nuclear-build program," Mr Anthony said. "Importantly, Australia will continue to have a secure, competitively priced electricity supply even if emissions are to be reduced. Gas and renewables will play an increasingly important part in meeting electricity demand."

AGL assumes in its investment decisions a price of $11 a tonne of carbon emitted. Electricity prices would probably rise as natural gas and coal prices increased, Mr Anthony said.

No non-government-owned companies would build new coal-fired generators in Australia, because of the risk of regulations being introduced that would place a price on carbon emissions, he said.

"I don't believe there's a single private-sector company in Australia that would consider building a new coal-burn power station with the overhang of a potential carbon regime. Only government generators don't have to bear the full costs of that because the likes of me, the taxpayer, bear the brunt of it and, quite frankly, I think it's sinful."

China is still the focus for BHP and their mission of exporting as much Australian dirt as they can dig up. Chip Goodyear indirectly acknowledged peak oil while still insisting it will be part of the energy mix for a long time to come (well, thats what I remember when I first read The Age article, though its been rewritten during the day to delete any mention of future oil supply - curse you Winston Smith). BHP are pushing uranium and nuclear strongly (though their puppet in the Lodge has already indicated that anyway I guess).
We produce four of these energy sources - coal, gas, uranium and oil - and we see all of them playing an important role in meeting the world"s current and future energy needs.

If you look at the expected growth in energy consumption from 2001 to 2050, you can see that compared with Australia and the United States, the energy consumption of India and China is expected to increase dramatically.

That"s hardly surprising given the pace at which those economies are developing. China builds new power plants every year at a rate equal to Australia"s total electricity generation capacity.

But it means that access to a whole portfolio of energy sources, including nuclear, will become even more vital for the developing countries.

In fact two weeks ago, the International Energy Agency in its 2006 "World Energy Outlook" said - "Nuclear power remains a potentially attractive option for enhancing the security of electricity supply and mitigating carbon-dioxide emissions".

That of course is the real challenge for the world today. And that is why we advocate that no responsible company or government can ignore the full range of energy options.

Of course, programs to encourage energy efficiency are equally important. But even with strong energy efficiency initiatives there will continue to be a significant and growing requirement for additional sources of energy into the future.

I do not think that anyone will argue that access to affordable energy and development of minerals and metals is critical to taking people out of poverty and driving social and economic change.

One of our challenges as a member of the global society is to help meet the world"s minerals and energy needs, while mitigating the potential impact of greenhouse gas emissions on climate.

Tinfoil time - given how enamoured I am with technological solutions to everything (though I freely admit they aren't the only solution and just using fewer resources is often the simplest and most effective way to go), maybe its time to visit Cryptogon looking at the "rise of the machines". I wonder which side Arnie will be on in real life ?
U.S. Army to Game Designers: Take Out Vulerabilities to Technology

They’re making warfighting doctrine internally consistant with the other fallacies of technological society. They’re not learning from Their mistakes in Iraq. The Myth of the Machine is so tantalizing, it blinds even the most power mad psychopaths, and opens them up to strategic defeat.

That’s good news.

In the early battles of the Rise of the Machines, victory will go to the side with the monkey wrenches, not the side with the terminator robots.

The bad news? The bad news will be the result of another couple of decades worth of autonomous weapons research and design. You won’t want that thing to knock on your door late at night:

Via Wired:

“They didn’t ask for hole punchers,” says Mark Long, co-CEO of Zombie, where the game was built under contract. “High tech has all kinds of low-tech vulnerabilities and they didn’t want the vulnerabilities programmed in.”

There's also plenty of speculation about China and the US dollar in more recent Cryptogon posts.

Update: I see tonight's post on RI is about Mike Ruppert so I guess I should include it. I've always been dubious about Mr Ruppert for one reason or another (which I know makes me once again out of step with most of the peak oil world) but I am sorry to see him in ill health...
From the Wilderness was my first 9/11 looking glass. The writings of Ruppert and associates such as Peter Dale Scott and Daniel Hopsicker before they fell out (there seemed to be much falling out around Ruppert) helped contextualize the terror for me within the ongoing criminal enterprise of the National Security State, in which the Bush regime was not an aberration but its apotheosis.

But that was then. These days in the 9/11 Truth demimonde, early and clear-eyed researchers like Scott, Paul Thompson and Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed are rarely heard over the likes of Morgan Reynolds and the thermate/"mini-nukes" debate, and rather than contributions such as the discovery of 9/11's concurrent war games we have "scholars for 9/11 Truth" tearing one another new impact holes over speculation on space-based beam weaponry. If you think that indicates progress, and that we're closer to 9/11 justice than we were three years ago, I don't know what more to tell you.

So what happened to Ruppert and From the Wilderness, besides his own imperfect self? That Peak Oil idée fixe of his, for one. While I'm not of the It's all a Hoax! school, I do believe the issue is subject to grave manipulation, and may even have been solved, though not for us nor our children's benefit. There is also a peculiar fascist tug to some Peak Oilers propositions, which Ruppert either hasn't noticed or hasn't been concerned by.

Many have questioned Ruppert's motives, but I think that largely comes by providing a subscriber-based service. Investigative journalism, and keeping your client-base happy and thinking they're getting their money's worth, may not be concomitant after all. Such lines of inquiry are perhaps best pursued open source.

It was Ruppert's bizarre eulogy for Gary Webb, in which he patted his own back with Webb's dead hand by boasting "there would be no FTW with its 21,000 subscribers in 40 countries" without him and said "God took the gun from my mouth and placed it to Gary’s head," that made me think this man was on the clock. Seeing a braggart and a bully brought low by his own demons is one thing, but seeing the ruin of an investigative community that broke stories which could have broken governments is something else.

The Middle Is Nigh  

Posted by Big Gav

TreeHugger asks "If You Don't Turn Your Computer Off, Who Will?".

The answer, of course, is the penguins. This is part of an excellent advertising campaign by Électricité de France (EDF,) which also provides a lot of power to the UK. The ads show various animals assisting us in being more energy efficient and read something like "If you don't preserve nature by switching off your computer / installing solar panels / using efficient lightbulbs, who will."

They're funny, and maybe they'll get the point across, but it could also be another move by EDF to polish up its green image. While they have been touted as a green energy company, really they're a low CO2 company, deriving almost 90% of their power from nuclear power plants. They have done very little with actual renewable energies. Still, public awareness is important, and we think these ads do a good job and make a good desktop background.

The BBC reports that 10% of the world's electiricy consumption could be saved by switching to efficient light bulbs.
A global switch to efficient lighting systems would trim the world's electricity bill by nearly one-tenth. That is the conclusion of a study from the International Energy Agency (IEA), which it says is the first global survey of lighting uses and costs.

The carbon dioxide emissions saved by such a switch would, it concludes, dwarf cuts so far achieved by adopting wind and solar power. Better building regulations would boost uptake of efficient lighting, it says.

"Lighting is a major source of electricity consumption," said Paul Waide, a senior policy analyst with the IEA and one of the report's authors.

"Nineteen percent of global electricity generation is taken for lighting - that's more than is produced by hydro or nuclear stations, and about the same that's produced from natural gas," he told the BBC News website.

Eight for the scrap heap

Incandescent bulbs
Low-efficiency fluorescent tubes
High-loss "ballasts" for fluorescent tubes
Halogen uplighters
High-loss halogen transformers
Mercury discharge lamps (often used in street lighting)
Low-efficiency vehicle lighting
Fuel-based lighting in developing countries

TreeHugger also has some quotes from David Attenborough on global warming and wasting energy.
We’ve already alerted you to Sir David Attenborough’s thoughts on global warming. In Australia, filming his new BBC TV series, Life in Cold Blood, he's taken the opportunity to air those feelings again: “All I do know is that climate change is happening, no doubt, and that's been no doubt for a long time. And I also know that humanity, human beings worldwide, are contributing to climate change. I also know that if it goes on the way it is, we are in for some very bad times. We ought now to have a worldwide change in moral attitudes that you don't waste energy, because energy is produced at a cost, and to waste it is sinful. I mean it … but mad as well.” When he’s spent 50 of his 80 years passionately broadcasting about life on earth, it would seem fair to suggest he knows a little something of what he says.

AutoBlogGreen ahs a post on hydrogen production in Iceland - the land of fire and ice (if you ever get a chance to go to Rekjavik, do it and go and visit the "blue lagoon" outside the main power station).
Iceland doesn't have any fossil fuel resources of it's own, but it has no shortage natural energy from deep within the earth. Thanks to abundant volcanic activity from the mid-Atlantic ridge, there is plenty of geothermal energy available. This has provided Iceland the opportunity to try and completely eliminate the import of fossil fuels over the next few decades.

Geothermal wells can be used to power electrical generators, which in turn are used to produce hydrogen from water. The Icelandic capital of Reykjavik now has a hydrogen filling station where the hydrogen is produced and stored on-site and used to power fuel cell buses. It's estimated that one tenth of one percent of the heat produced in the earth's crust would provide enough energy to meat global requirements for 13,500 years. The United States also has vast amounts of geothermal energy particularly in the west which, if it could be harnessed, would provide a means of generating large amounts of electricity without greenhouse gases or hazardous wastes like nuclear power.

ANother exotic island locale to adopt renewable energy is the Maldives, which is moving over to solar power as much as possible.
A system to reduce oil consumption by 40% in electricity generators has been implemented for the first time in the Maldives.

The Ministry of Environment, Energy and Water said on Saturday that a system to provide electricity to the whole island using solar powered electricity generators has been introduced for the first time in Alifu Dhaalu atoll Meedhoo and that its service was inaugurated by Minister Ahmed Abdulla.

The Ministry said that system would be able to provide all the electricity needed by using the solar panels during the daytime and will not use the diesel generators at all during that time. In that regard the solar power generators will be able to provide power from 6:30am to 5:30pm.

Minister Ahmed Abdulla said that the implementation of the system has proven to Maldivians that they do not need to rely solely on oil for their energy requirements and that they can use the various other resources available to them to provide the necessary energy. He also noted that it would not have been possible without a lot of help from various foreign sources.

Insurgents in Iraq are continuing to target oil infrastructure.
Insurgents Monday targeted key oil sites in Iraq, firing mortar rounds into an oil distribution center in northern Iraq and bombing a pipeline in a southern suburb of Baghdad, Iraqi officials said. The attack on the oil distribution center triggered a massive fire that halted the flow of crude oil to Iraq's largest refinery, a Kirkuk police official said.

The attack happened around 6:30 p.m. (10:30 a.m. ET) in Baiji, which is about 15 miles (25 km) northwest of Kirkuk, the police official said. Iraqi army and civil defense personnel were still on the scene hours later trying to put out the fire. Smoke from the blaze could been seen from miles away.

The refinery in Baiji has a daily production level of about 8.5 million liters of gasoline, 7.5 million liters of diesel and 6.5 million liters of white oil.

The second attack -- a bomb planted beneath an oil pipeline in the al-Rashid district -- also started a fire at around 11 a.m., an official with Iraqi civil defense said, adding that the civil defense put out the fire in about 2 hours. The pipeline carries crude oil from storage tanks near Latifiya, south of Baghdad, to the Dora refinery in the capital.

Oil smuggling is also a big problem in Iraq.
Smugglers were loading gasoline on a ship at an illegal port in southern
Iraq when police surprised them with a raid that ended with five smugglers and two policemen dead.

The October clash at Abu Flus was one of many attempts by security forces trying to stop smuggling of Iraqi petroleum products to neighboring countries, a practice that is costing the country billions of dollars every year.

Smugglers are selling millions of gallons of Iraqi gasoline, kerosene and diesel fuel outside the country every year. They then reap huge profits by selling the petroleum products back to the government for import.

"The most serious challenges facing the oil industry are smuggling and terrorism. They are both hitting the national economy, robbing Iraq and blocking development," said Oil Ministry spokesman Assem Jihad.

Despite the fact that Iraq has the world's third largest proven oil reserves, the government is forced to import refined oil products to cover domestic demand. As recently as September, the country's three main refineries were working at half their pre-invasion capacity, processing only about 350,000 barrels day compared with about 700,000 barrels a day before March 2003.

Aging refineries, corruption and attacks by insurgents on infrastructure, such as pipelines, have been blamed for the production shortage.

The Australian has an article on the ambitions of Woodside, and others, to ship LNG from Australia to the US.
NORTH America has been promoted as the holy grail for Australia's LNG operators but so far progress has been slow. Federal Resources Minister Ian Macfarlane has said the market could be worth $60 billion to Australian producers.

US officials say the US's gas supply shortfall will rise from 3.5 trillion cubic feet last year to 5.5tcf in 2010 and 7tcf in 2025. Yet turning the opportunity into firm sales for Australian firms is proving hard. BHP Billiton is behind schedule in developing an LNG receival terminal called Cabrillo Port in California.

A decision on the proposal has been pushed back to the first quarter of next year and the plan has run into high-profile not-in-my-backyard opposition from celebrities concerned any development off the Malibu coast could affect their property values.

Shell - which has said it will use its share of Gorgon LNG from Barrow Island to supply North American customers after 2012 through the Sempra-owned terminal in Baja California - won't be able to do so in that timeframe because Gorgon deliveries have been delayed by up to two years even before that project receives the go ahead.

Senior West Australian government sources said last week the environmental approvals process for Gorgon could be done before Christmas, citing concerns over the impact of the project on the nesting sites of the flatback turtle, dredging of load-out berths up to 4km offshore, as well as how construction of the huge plant could meet Barrow Island's strict quarantine procedures.

Woodside, which is promoting its innovative Oceanway disappearing loading buoy plan as a means of overcoming Californian environmental concerns, probably won't be able to supply North American markets from its existing production or even from the Pluto plant which is planned to be operating by 2010.

Pluto production, from a development that could cost up to $10 billion, is likely to be taken up by customers in North Asia, specifically Japan and South Korea, while the surplus capacity of the North West Shelf LNG project which Woodside manages is expected to be fully committed by the end of February. So that's why a virtual throwaway line by the company's CEO, Don Voelte, at a recent investor briefing is attracting interest.

Mr Voelte has been making the point that Woodside could not only supply LNG to the US west coast, it had received some interest from potential customers on the east coast - part of a market region described as the Atlantic Basin, which includes customers in western Europe.

While analysts have regarded Mr Voelte's previous remarks on Woodside being a potential supplier in the Atlantic Basin as "talking the book" for the company's future Australian gas developments, particularly the Browse Basin north of Broome, this may not be the only option.

Dave at The Oil Drum has a detailed look at the other end of the shipping lanes and the proepcts for LNG in the US.
As even a casual reading of the story The North American Red Queen: Our Natural Gas Treadmill indicates, the importance of future Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) imports to North America can hardly be overstated.

This story will discuss the emergence of a globalized LNG market and the ability of that market to supply the high volumes of LNG that the United State will need to avoid future shortfalls. Will such a globalized market really come to pass? What form will it take? What does the current LNG market look like? How will the United States become integrated into the expanding LNG trade? These are the questions we shall examine here.

"Moscow News" has an article on the wrestling going on over whether or not ">Iran can pipe gas inland to Georgia (and I imagine eventually to Europe once the ball starts rolling down the slippery slope).
U.S. Ambassador to Georgia John Tefft announced that his country is opposed to a long term strategic cooperation between Georgia and Iran regarding natural gas deliveries.

In an interview, which was published on Monday, Nov. 27, by Tbilisi newspaper Kviris palitra, the diplomat said that Georgian authorities incorrectly interpreted the statement of Deputy U.S. Secretary of State Mathew Bryza that the White House won’t be opposed to Tbilisi using Iranian gas to overcome its energy crisis.

“We have understood when Georgia imported a small quantity of gas from Iran following a force majeoure situation when the gas link from Russia was broken and Georgia was left with no gas supplies in the winter. But long-term strategic cooperation in this issue [of gas deliveries] between Iran and Georgia is unacceptable to us,” the diplomat explained.

Ambassador Tefft explained that the United States put a lot of hopes on gas pipeline that will transport gas to Georgia from the Shakh Deniz deposit in Azerbaijan. “Using this project will give Georgia additional reliable energy source. We support Georgia’s energy independence and are making all the efforts in this direction,” the U.S. Ambassador said.

Temporary agreement on supplies of Iranian gas to Georgia was signed after January 2006 blasts at the North Caucasus — Transcaucasis and Mozdok-Tbilisi gas pipelines. As results of the blasts, Russian gas deliveries to Georgia were temporarily interrupted.

The Oil Drum Europe has a good post looking at oil depletion in the UK.
In the wake of last week's $1000 attempted debunking of the peak oil hypothesis by CERA, I felt it was time to examine CERA's powers of prediction in relation to real world, deterministic data.

This article is going to be in two parts. This week I am going to look in detail at the architecture of UK oil production since 1975 and on this basis provide a combined top down and bottom up forecast for UK oil production to 2012, incorporating future production data kindly provided by Rembrandt Koppelaar. Next week I will look at other production models produced by CERA (pdf), Kemp, Koppelaar and the UK Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in relation to my own forecast produced here which is called Mearns2.

The starting point of this exploration of the architecture of UK offshore oil production is to look at the stacked field production history from 1975 to 1999 - which was the peak production year ...

The Kashagan field in Kazakhstan was the last huge oil field to be discovered - while it has often seemed to be a disappointment to many people, the latest reserve revisions have been up by 10% according to this badly written report.
Kazakhstan's Kashagan field will produce 25 percent more oil than expected, the Financial Times reported Monday.

The newspaper reported that peak production at the field, due at the end of the next decade, is expected to be 1.5 million barrels per day, 25 percent more than previous estimates. Italy's ENI, the field's operator, is expected to pump1.5 million bpd for more than 10 years, the newspaper said. In other words, Kashagan will yield 10 percent more reserves than assumed.

The field was expected to start production in 2005, but there have been setbacks and ENI is expected to announce more delays, the newspaper said, adding production was not likely to start before 2009.

The price tag for the field is expected to be in the mid-$30 billion range.

Bruce's latest Viridian rant is out, looking at the sulphur based geoengineeering approach to global warming mitgation. Call me conservative but I still think this is madness, and with all due respect to Stewart Brand, I don't think we're likely to get good at geoengineering before we wipe ourselves out in the process.

Bruce also has a swipe at peak oilers (Kunstler in particular) - I really wish the "peak oil = apocalyptic cult" meme wasn't so well established...

I can't be bothered reformatting it to something more readable (no offence Pope Emperor), but Bruce's interjections are between the ((()))s.
Key concepts:

climate change, Global Haze Proposal, Paul Crutzen, geoengineering, terraforming, sulfur in the stratosphere, volcanoes

Attention Conservation Notice:

This proposition is straight outta of Mark Twain's novel "The American Claimant" from 1892, except, uh, it just came out in WIRED.


(((Keeping up with the furrow-browed efforts of the global political class. They've been beavering away on Kyoto 2.0. Realistically, are these crumbling, oil-hungry nation-states and their violently disordered remnants gonna get on the same page? Even if the UN makes all the right noises?)))

(((A grimly detailed ten-point climate-change plan that's considerably less nutty than this one, only it'll likely get zero traction because it's from an unrepentant British socialist.)))

(((Yet another design contest for rousing public awareness of global warming. We Viridians were very into this kinda effort == about ten years ago. Nowadays we Viridians get rather more interested when large numbers of the public get killed by storms. Everybody now knows climate crisis is happening. They just figure maybe it won't bite them personally. Give it another ten years, and something like the "Greenhouse Mass Grave Design Contest" might be in order.)))

"God is still up there," says evil crank denialist James Imhofe. Precisely the sentiment I don't want written on my Greenhouse mass grave tombstone. That sentiment sure works for suicide bombers.

Metropolis is running a design contest for green energy, because Metropolis is hip. Plus, they've got good taste and ten grand! Wow!

Is anybody still worried about "Peak Oil"? You know what's happening this season? "Peak Solar." Everybody wants the silicon, and there just isn't enough to go round. So I guess we'll be eating dogfood out of cans soon. The suburbs are clearly doomed. Oh wait, did that make any sense? "Peak Solar" economics is so counterintuitive that I got all confused.

The real solution to our intractable difficulties: not artificial sulfur shot into the stratosphere, but bacteria that can eat junk. Okay, I'm kidding about that. Not.

Now for the good news. There's less methane in the sky. Nobody has a clue why. But hey, there's less, and that's good. It's great. Probably.

We didn't get blown to pieces by hurricanes in 2005. Hurricanes were remarkably few. Nobody has a clue why. But what the heck, we weren't Katrina'd straight to hell, and that was good. It was great. Merry Xmas.

Source: David Wolman, WIRED magazine


"Repeat after me: We humans have screwed up our planet. Feels better, doesn't it?

((("We humans have screwed up our planet, we humans have screwed up our planet, we humans have screwed up our planet." Hey wait! Facing the awful truth DOES feel better.)))

"Now that we've accepted this reality, at least we don't have to argue about it anymore. Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are at the highest they've been in at least 800,000 years. Greenland's ice sheet is melting fast. Some == probably a lot == of the current warming trend is because of us, and so are the consequent threats to ecosystems, food supplies, coastal cities, and all that other stuff from An Inconvenient Truth.

"Of course, that means we're responsible for repairing the damage, but stopgaps like carbon sequestration just aren't going to cut it.

(((Actually, it means that we human beings from the last two full centuries of fossil-fuel use are "responsible for repairing the damage," and most of us are dead. I'd say the clearest implication here is that WIRED readers would also be dead long before "humans" fully repair this situation, but what the heck, read on.)))

"Luckily, a growing number of scientists are thinking more aggressively, developing incredibly ambitious technical fixes to cool the planet. (((Uh-oh. Ever hear the useful expression, "Be careful what you wish for, you might get what you want?" That would be the Viridian moment o' truth there, when the ecosystem design boffins just roll the gizmo right off the launching pad and turn the blue sky bright green.)))

"These efforts to remedy the accidental experiment of climate change with intentional, megascale experimentation are called geoengineering. (((Or, as Stewart Brand points out, "we're already terraforming so we might as well get good at it."))) ...

WorldChanging also has some comments on bruce and the geoengineering option.

Past Peak has a demoralising post on long term trends.
More and more, I think we're fucked — we in the industrialized world, especially. The fundamental problem is that we're never going to voluntarily change course to the radical degree needed to stave off disaster. All of the trends that point to disaster — greenhouse gas emissions, depletion of nonrenewable resources, worldwide ecosystem destruction, species extinctions, etc. — are accelerating. In fact, the rate at which they're accelerating is accelerating. We see where it's all heading, and still we can't stop ourselves. We're addicts, addicted to comfort, power, artificial stimulation of all kinds, and like most addicts we’ll never recover without first hitting bottom — that's if we manage to recover at all. We'll take the path of least resistance until it ends in disaster and stops being the path of least resistance.

Here's a story that strikes me as the perfect epitome of what I'm talking about. BBC:
Marine scientists say the case for a moratorium on the use of heavy trawling gear in deep waters is now overwhelming and should be put in place immediately.

A new report prepared for the UN indicates the equipment is doing immense damage to the ecosystems around seamounts, or underwater mountains. ...

The swing to the left in Latin America continues, with Rafael Correa winning election in Ecuador against some bible thumping banana baron. I wonder what is in store for Chevron and co ?
LEFTIST economist Rafael Correa, a friend of Venezuela's virulently anti-US president Hugo Chavez, won Ecuador's presidential election today, according to exit polls.

On average, the three polls gave him a lead of 14.5 percentage points over Alvaro Noboa, a folksy, conservative banana tycoon. Ecuador's wealthiest man, Mr Noboa had earlier insisted he was headed to victory and urged voters to ignore exit polls.

Mr Correa, 43, has stirred unease on financial markets with his calls to renegotiate the country's debt and revise foreign oil companies' contracts in Ecuador. His friendship with Venezuela's Mr Chavez, and his determination not to renew a lease for a US military base in Ecuador also have caused concern in Washington.

Mr Correa, who once called George W. Bush a "dimwit", toned down his criticism of the US President after trailing Mr Noboa by four points in the first round of voting on October 15. He said yesterday he wanted "the best possible'' relations with Washington.

A former finance minister who describes himself as a "humanist, leftist Christian", Mr Correa says he is a representative of the new Latin American left that offers an alternative to strict free-market policies he says have proved a failure in Latin America.

Mr Correa saw his support rise gradually after the first round of voting, eventually grabbing the lead from his conservative rival. He had warned ahead of the election that his conservative had resorted to electoral fraud and might try to do so again.

As the voting was still under way, Mr Noboa insisted victory was his. Bible in hand, down on his knees and invoking God's name, the conservative banana baron predicted victory by a large margin, and urged Ecuadorans to pay no heed to exit polls he suggested were fixed by his rival.

"I am the president of labour, of the poor,'' the billionaire cried out at the gates of a polling station in Guayaquil, the country's second largest city.

Jeff Vail talked a little about Julius Caesar being misunderstood in a recent post, noting that some people (which I guess included me) mistakenly call him a dictator and fascist of sorts, but that there is a case that Caesar was really a populist with the good of the people at heart who has been demonised by the upper classes over the centuries. Jeff points to Michael Parenti's book on "The Assassination of Julius Caesar". I guess this book is basically a marxist take on the topic but its an interesting idea to consider.

I'm sure if you asked Caesar's foreign victims their opinion they might not care one way or the other of course (as I recall Caesar deliberately burnt and chopped down huge swathes of forests throught Gaul in order to wipe out the Druid priestly class and their sacred groves and thus sap the spirit of the Gauls - so he wasn't exaclty a green either way - though he was admittedly a genius on a number of other levels).

The New York Times has an interesting article on Warren Buffett and his dismay at "class warfare" in recent years in the US - and he's talking about the rich waging war against the poor. The subject of Republican economic mismanagement on a grand scale is also considered.
NOT long ago, I had the pleasure of a lengthy meeting with one of the smartest men on the planet, Warren E. Buffett, the chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway, in his unpretentious offices in Omaha. We talked of many things that, I hope, will inspire me for years to come. But one of the main subjects was taxes. Mr. Buffett, who probably does not feel sick when he sees his MasterCard bill in his mailbox the way I do, is at least as exercised about the tax system as I am.

Put simply, the rich pay a lot of taxes as a total percentage of taxes collected, but they don’t pay a lot of taxes as a percentage of what they can afford to pay, or as a percentage of what the government needs to close the deficit gap.

Mr. Buffett compiled a data sheet of the men and women who work in his office. He had each of them make a fraction; the numerator was how much they paid in federal income tax and in payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare, and the denominator was their taxable income. The people in his office were mostly secretaries and clerks, though not all.

It turned out that Mr. Buffett, with immense income from dividends and capital gains, paid far, far less as a fraction of his income than the secretaries or the clerks or anyone else in his office. Further, in conversation it came up that Mr. Buffett doesn’t use any tax planning at all. He just pays as the Internal Revenue Code requires. “How can this be fair?” he asked of how little he pays relative to his employees. “How can this be right?”

Even though I agreed with him, I warned that whenever someone tried to raise the issue, he or she was accused of fomenting class warfare.

“There’s class warfare, all right,” Mr. Buffett said, “but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

This conversation keeps coming back to mind because, in the last couple of weeks, I have been on one television panel after another, talking about how questionable it is that the country is enjoying what economists call full employment while we are still running a federal budget deficit of roughly $434 billion for fiscal 2006 (not counting off-budget items like Social Security) and economists forecast that it will grow to $567 billion in fiscal 2010.

When I mentioned on these panels that we should consider all options for closing this gap — including raising taxes, particularly for the wealthiest people — I was met with several arguments by people who call themselves conservatives and free marketers.

One argument was that the mere suggestion constituted class warfare. I think Mr. Buffett answered that one.

Another argument was that raising taxes actually lowers total revenue, and that only cutting taxes stimulates federal revenue. This is supposedly proved by the history of tax receipts since my friend George W. Bush became president.

In fact, the federal government collected roughly $1.004 trillion in income taxes from individuals in fiscal 2000, the last full year of President Bill Clinton’s merry rule. It fell to a low of $794 billion in 2003 after Mr. Bush’s tax cuts (but not, you understand, because of them, his supporters like to say). Only by the end of fiscal 2006 did income tax revenue surpass the $1 trillion level again.

By this time, we Republicans had added a mere $2.7 trillion to the national debt. So much for tax cuts adding to revenue. To be fair, corporate profits taxes have increased greatly, as corporate profits have increased stupendously. This may be because of the cut in corporate tax rates. Anything is possible.

The third argument that kind, well-meaning people made in response to the idea of rolling back the tax cuts was this: “Don’t raise taxes. Cut spending.”

The sad fact is that spending rises every year, no matter what people want or say they want. Every president and every member of Congress promises to cut “needless” spending. But spending has risen every year since 1940 except for a few years after World War II and a brief period after the Korean War.

The imperatives for spending are built into the system, and now, with entitlements expanding rapidly, increased spending is locked in. Medicare, Social Security, interest on the debt — all are growing like mad, and how they will ever be stopped or slowed is beyond imagining. Gross interest on Treasury debt is approaching $350 billion a year. And none of this counts major deferred maintenance for the military.

The fourth argument in response to my suggestion was that “deficits don’t matter.”

There is something to this. One would think that big deficits would be highly inflationary, according to Keynesian economics. But we have modest inflation (except in New York City, where a martini at a good bar is now $22). On the other hand, we have all that interest to pay, soon roughly $7 billion a week, a lot of it to overseas owners of our debt. This, to me, seems to matter.

Ross Gittins has an article on recently retired Reserver Bank boss Ian Macfarlane and his speech on all manner of subjects economic - including the phenomenon of stagflation. MacFralane has also noted that the next economic slowdown will hit households hardest.
What was it that caused stagflation? Well, certainly not the first OPEC oil shock in December 1973. Macfarlane reminds us that our inflation rate had reached double figures before the oil shock. (It had been steadily rising as the 1960s progressed, exceeding 7 per cent by the end of 1971.)

He even defends the OPEC price hike. Long-term contracts with the oil majors had kept the world price of oil steady in nominal US dollars for many years despite rising inflation and the devaluation of the greenback following the collapse of the Bretton Woods system of fixed exchange rates in 1971.

"Seen in this light, the large rise in oil prices was largely a 'catch-up' that was bound to occur at some stage," Macfarlane argues. That, of course, didn't stop the sudden leap in oil prices compounding the world recession of the mid-1970s.

As he explains, the oil price leap was a "negative supply shock" - an event that simultaneously pushes up the price level and reduces real spending in the economy, thus being inflationary and contractionary at the same time.

(The direct effect on Australia was limited, however, because at that time retail petrol prices weren't closely linked to the world price of oil. "Import parity pricing" of Australian produced oil was to come in 1977 under Malcolm Fraser. So the main effect would have come indirectly via the effect on our trading partners' economies.)

So what did cause stagflation? Globally, Macfarlane puts it down to the abuse of Keynesian policies for managing demand. "What was initially a good policy eventually was pushed too far - well beyond its natural limits," he says.

The macro managers became too willing to meet any deficiency in private demand by an increase in public demand, too willing to ignore worsening inflation in an ultimately futile attempt to push the unemployment rate lower than it could go given structural rigidities in the labour market.

(This, of course, is a macro manager's purely macro-economic explanation of the stagflation phenomenon. One of the lessons economists had yet to learn was that, in their enthusiasm for managing demand, they'd taken too little interest in the way steadily accruing government intervention was fouling up the supply side of the economy. So I'd attribute more responsibility to the consequent increase in "cost-push" inflation pressure.)

Within Australia, our difficulty in coping with stagflation was compounded by the policy errors of the McMahon and Whitlam governments. The McMahon government caused a lot of inflation pressure to build when it couldn't bring itself to revalue the Aussie dollar in response to the commodities boom that preceded the first oil shock.

US Today reports that the number 1 Toyota Prius evangelist in the US has died in a plane crashhttp://www.usatoday.com/money/autos/2006-11-26-toyota-engineer_x.htm.
A pilot who died when his aerobatic plane plunged into the sea was an engineer who promoted fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles and was dubbed the "American father of the Prius."

David Hermance, 59, didn't invent the gasoline-electric engine but the Toyota Motor executive made it palatable to a skeptical U.S. public, colleagues said Sunday.

"When that car came out, no one knew what it was," said Bill Reinert, a Toyota national manager. "Dave dedicated his life to championing this technology. He was the American father of the Prius," he said.

Hermance, a Huntington Beach resident and father of two grown children, also was a dedicated pilot. Authorities believe he was the only person aboard his single-engine Interavia E-3 when it crashed Saturday afternoon off Los Angeles.

There have been reports that Tesla Motors has announced a new sedan - alas they aren't true.
Following the enthusiastic response from its electric Roadster, Tesla Motors is working on a sedan. The new four-door model is tipped to share similar dimensions and performance with the BMW 5-Series, which, as the benchmark sports sedan, is a pretty ambitious target.

The Tesla sedan will have the electric motor and batteries up front, sending power down the rear wheels. Two powertrain options are expected to be on offer, the smaller featuring a range of 200 miles, and a more powerful version with a 300-mile range. Unlike the Roadster, with a Lotus-built aluminum structure, the sedan is expected to be made of steel. Tesla figures on building 10,000-20,000 sedans each year and will be sold globally.

Along with the sedan, the roadster will undergo an update by 2010, at which point the more powerful engine from the higher-end sedan will also likely be offered in the two-door, giving it some serious punch.

In the tinfoil slot is The Times (hmm, that doesn't sound right) reporting that the US has bombed a Madrasseh in Pakistan - apparently the Pakistani government has decided that this wasn't such a great idea.
THE bombing of a Pakistani madrasah last month, in which 82 students were killed, was carried out by the United States, a Pakistani official has admitted, writes Christina Lamb.

The madrasah in the tribal agency of Bajaur was bombed during a visit to Pakistan by the Prince of Wales amid allegations that it was being used to train suicide bombers.

“We thought it would be less damaging if we said we did it rather than the US,” said a key aide to President Pervez Musharraf. “But there was a lot of collateral damage and we’ve requested the Americans not to do it again.”

The Americans are believed to have attacked after a tip-off that Ayman al-Zawahiri, the deputy leader of Al-Qaeda, was present. Local people claimed the victims included boys as young as 12 and that the tribal area had been negotiating with the Pakistan government for a peace deal.

OK - thats not really tinfoil, just more "war on terror" nastiness (wouldn't it be easier to just kick the oil habit and forget about the middle east ?).

So here's some real tinfoil from RI on the Litvinenko affair (I still like Warren Buffett though - and I quite like what George Soros has to say as a general rule too). One commenter noted Litvinenko has been on the front page of the BBC site for 4 days - like a "head on a pike" (there are a number of other interesting snippets in there too - now the US election is over the troll population has pretty much disappeared).

AntiWar.com has an alternate theory (maybe this is tinfoil too, but its a lot straighter than RI, even with that stupid picture of Justin in the masthead), which is similar to the alternate that I came up with a few days ago but in a lot more detail - rising energy superpower Russia is being added to the "Axis of evil" via an orchestrated demonisation campaign. I guess the "Power of Nightmares" regarding international terrorism is on the wane too, so a new bogeyman could be needed to keep a few people in their jobs.

I'm not sure which theory (if any) to believe and I guess its possible both are true - a new cold war is deliberately being started and Putin is a monster as well...
I've been thinking about Alexander Litvinenko's alleged last words: "The bastards got me, but they won't get everybody." Not that the bastards won't try. In a year in which the Texas Academy of Science gave a standing ovation to its most distinguished member for a paper advocating the eradication of 90% of the Earth's population by airborne Ebola, only the unguardedly naive would think some bastards with the means wouldn't dream of getting everybody, or near enough everybody.

But before we make his last words our first, we should consider who he meant by them. Litvinenko's bastards were Russian, specifically Putin loyalists, though his employers in exile have also been called bastards and worse. Notably Boris Berezovsky, formerly lawless oligarch and latterly investor in Neil Bush's scholastic software firm "Ignite" (to which was funneled Barbara Bush's donation to the "Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund.") It's reported that weeks before his death, Litvinenko delivered a dossier on the Kremlin's takeover of oil giant Yukos to its former second-in-command, Leonid Nevzlin, who had found asylum in Israel. And that reminds me of another suspicious death on British soil: the 2004 helicopter crash of wealthy lawyer Stephen Curtis, managing director of Yukos after the jailing of Mikhail Khodorkovsky. To avoid Russian prosecution, and after weeks of anonymous death threats, Curtis approached Britain's National Criminal Intelligence Service "days before his death, offering information in return for protection." Two weeks prior to the crash, Curtis told his uncle that if "anything happened" to him, it would not be an accident.

Even as spectators, we want to choose sides. We want to know who are the good guys. For the past six years at least, that's often meant finding out which side the Bush family was on and then cheering on the other. But playing a single side would mean risking loss and so, by delivering his own son to crucifixion by James Baker, George HW Bush has won again. There have been other strange and uncomfortable and pathetic scenes, such as George Soros and Warren Buffet welcomed as white-knight plutocrats, and the uncritical embrace of a parade of self-described former Republicans, Bush insiders and CIA officials saying the darnedest things about 9/11.

I think of a passage in Litvinenko's Blowing Up Russia recounting the night in Ryazan when sacks of explosive hexogene rigged with a timing device were discovered in the basement of an apartment complex. The building was evacuated, except for an elderly woman who couldn't be moved and her daughter who refused to leave her. They remained within the emergency cordon, expecting their apartment to collapse upon them...

Deserts Of Gold  

Posted by Big Gav

The Guardian has an article on the potential of concentrating solar power, painting a somewhat utopian vision of Europe powered by the Sahara.

In the desert, just across the Mediterranean sea, is a vast source of energy that holds the promise of a carbon-free, nuclear-free electrical future for the whole of Europe, if not the world.

We are not talking about the vast oil and gas deposits underneath Algeria and Libya, or uranium for nuclear plants, but something far simpler - the sun. And in vast quantities: every year it pours down the equivalent of 1.5m barrels of oil of energy for every square kilometre.

Most people in Britain think of solar power as a few panels on the roof of a house producing hot water or a bit of electricity. But according to two reports prepared for the German government, Europe, the Middle East and North Africa should be building vast solar farms in North Africa's deserts using a simple technology that more resembles using a magnifying glass to burn a hole in a piece of paper than any space age technology.

Two German scientists, Dr Gerhard Knies and Dr Franz Trieb, calculate that covering just 0.5% of the world's hot deserts with a technology called concentrated solar power (CSP) would provide the world's entire electricity needs, with the technology also providing desalinated water to desert regions as a valuable byproduct, as well as air conditioning for nearby cities.

Focusing on Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, they say, Europe should build a new high-voltage direct current electricity grid to allow the easy, efficient transport of electricity from a variety of alternative sources. Britain could put in wind power, Norway hydro, and central Europe biomass and geo-thermal. Together the region could provide all its electricity needs by 2050 with barely any fossil fuels and no nuclear power. This would allow a 70% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from electricity production over the period.

CSP technology is not new. There has been a plant in the Mojave desert in California for the past 15 years. Others are being built in Nevada, southern Spain and Australia. There are different forms of CSP but all share in common the use of mirrors to concentrate the sun's rays on a pipe or vessel containing some sort of gas or liquid that heats up to around 400C (752F) and is used to power conventional steam turbines.

The mirrors are very large and create shaded areas underneath which can be used for horticulture irrigated by desalinated water generated by the plants. The cold water that can also be produced for air conditioning means there are three benefits. "It is this triple use of the energy which really boost the overall energy efficiency of these kinds of plants up to 80% to 90%," says Dr Knies.

This form of solar power is also attractive because the hot liquid can be stored in large vessels which can keep the turbines running for hours after the sun has gone down, avoiding the problems association with other forms of solar power.

Competitive with oil

The German reports put an approximate cost on power derived from CSP. This is now around $50 per barrel of oil equivalent for the cost of building a plant. That cost is likely to fall sharply, to about $20, as the production of the mirrors reaches industrial levels. It is about half the equivalent cost of using the photovoltaic cells that people have on their roofs. So CSP is competitive with oil, currently priced around $60 a barrel.

Dr Knies says CSP is not yet competitive with natural gas for producing electricity alone. But if desalination and air conditioning are added CSP undercuts gas and that is without taking into account the cost of the carbon emissions from fossil fuels. The researchers say a relatively small amount of the world's hot deserts -only about half a percent - would need to be covered in solar collectors to provide the entire world's electrical needs (see map).

The desert land is plentiful and cheap but, more importantly, there is roughly three times as much sunlight in hot deserts as in northern Europe. This is why the reports recommend a collaboration between countries of Europe, the Middle East and Africa to construct a high-voltage direct current (HVDC) grid for the sharing of carbon-free energy. Alternating current cables, which now form the main electricity grids in Europe, are not suitable for long distance transport of electricity because too much is lost on the way. Dr Trieb, of the German Air and Space Agency, says the advantage of DC cables is that the loss in transport is only about 3% per 1,000 kilometres, meaning losses between North Africa and Britain of about 10%.

"Contrary to what is commonly supposed it is entirely feasible, and cost-effective, to transmit solar electricity over long distances. Solar electricity imported to Europe would be amongst the cheapest source of electricity and that includes transporting it," he says. "CSP imports would be much less vulnerable to interruption than are current imports of gas, oil and uranium."

Algeria already exports huge quantities of oil and gas to Europe via pipelines but has a vast potential resource in sunlight that could make it a complete energy supplier to Europe. Many members of the Opec oil cartel, which have worried that alternative energies would kill demand for their oil, are blessed with hot, sunny deserts that could become a further source of energy income.

The two reports make it clear that an HVDC grid around Europe and North Africa could provide enough electricity by 2050 to make it possible to phase out nuclear power and hugely reduce use of fossil fuels.

Just a token post tonight - I've got a longer effort in mind for tomorrow when I have more energy (if you'll pardon the pun).

The Constant Gardener  

Posted by Big Gav

Joel Makower has a report on the GreenBuild 2006 conference up at WorldChanging.

Affordable housing groups increasingly are adopting green-building techniques, constructing quality houses that are cheaper to build, cheaper to live in, with fewer environmental impacts. Moreover, given that Habitat for Humanity, to name one such group, is among the top-20 largest builders in the U.S., this will help move the needle on environmental home building overall.

McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry announced the latest batch of Cradle-to-Cradle certifications, recognizing products that achieve "environmentally-intelligent design." According to the MBDC Web site:
This means using environmentally safe and healthy materials; design for material reutilization, such as recycling or composting; the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency; efficient use of water, and maximum water quality associated with production; and instituting strategies for social responsibility.

Among this year's newest C2C awardees is Steelcase, for its Answer workstation system, along with PolyVision, a Steelcase subsidiary, for its whiteboards made of "e3 environmental ceramicsteel," which contains no heavy metals, VOCs, or other toxic materials. Another C2C recipient is Icestone, a durable surface for countertops and floors made from 100% recycled glass.

And then there's the Vinyl Institute, which made a full-court-press this year to promote the "energy-saving, environmental and health benefits" of vinyl as a building product. The vinyl folks' efforts to make vinyl "green" is one of the more contentious issues in the green-building world. Many environmental activists opposed the use of vinyl products in LEED projects, noting that the production of PVC releases dioxin, a highly toxic persistent organic pollutant. The cult documentary (and 2002 Sundance Film Festival winner) Blue Vinyl focused on vinyl's environmental evils.

A few years ago, when the U.S. Green Building Council proposed to award LEED credits for buildings that eliminate the use of vinyl altogether, the industry went on the offensive -- not merely to kill the proposal but to make the case that vinyl has strong environmental attributes. The ensuing debate nearly brought down the USGBC but, in the end, the vinyl industry prevailed. A USGBC task force found that "the available evidence does not support a conclusion that PVC is consistently worse than alternative materials on a life cycle environmental and health basis."

Hardly a ringing endorsement, of course, but that hasn't stopped the vinyl industry from claiming greatness -- or, rather, greenness. A few snippits from its recent press releases:
Heightened interest in vinyl as a preferred material for "green" buildings was one of the most significant developments at the three-day GreenBuild International Conference & Expo in Denver, according to industry officials. . . .

"We were amazed at the traffic at our booth," said Vinyl Institute president Tim Burns. "More than ever before, architects, designers and builders came by to tell us of their increased interest in vinyl as a key factor in sustainability." . . .

Architects and designers are increasingly finding that vinyl's infinite flexibility, durability, and well-established, energy-saving qualities represent one of the most effective ways of meeting the evolving standards for green buildings, noted Vinyl Institute president Tim Burns.

And so it goes. The green-building industry is coming of age. And with that maturity comes growth, profitability -- and big, well-heeled players seeking to stake their claim. In doing so, they often find that there's enormous profit potential to be had by shaping the rules in their favor, never mind that doing so all but thwarts the environmental and social benefits intended in the first place.

We've seen it in organics. We're seeing it in green buildings. We'll soon, I predict, be seeing even more of it as companies seek to claim "climate neutral" status.

There's nothing wrong with big, well-heeled players coming in to these spaces, of course. We need their market clout and political standing to help make sustainability a standard operating procedure. But we need integrity, ethics, and responsibility. We need standards of excellence. And we need vigilance.

That's the lesson I learned at this year's Greenbuild, even from more than a thousand miles away.

Ted Rose also has some comments on the conference.
The grand-poobah of green builders, William McDonough, couldn’t contain his pride, bragging twice in one keynote about how his clients’ combined revenue totaled more than one trillion dollars. “We’re mainstream,” he announced.

The conference itself seemed fat and happy. Twelve thousand attendees shuttled from ballrooms to expo hall, a number that will be dwarfed next year by the twenty-five thousand expected in Los Angeles.

The reason for all the attention was as obvious and as it was sobering: The world’s carbon footprint is deepening and our building construction continues to fuel its expansion. The people in Denver had that very special worldchanging combination of qualities: a basic awareness of our precarious environmental situation and technical skills to transform it.

But it came obvious to me that the Denver cadre represented just one clique in a very large crowd. The number of licensed architects in the US dwarfs the number of GreenBuild attendees by a factor of eight.

EU Commissioner Jose Manuel Barroso has an article in The Guardian saying that Europe must accept the role of green pioneer in the world.
The facts are clear. We can all see the effects. Sir David Attenborough's Planet Earth television series is bringing viewers face to face with them every week. We know our planet is warming faster than ever, and that human activities are the main cause. We have experienced the 10 warmest years on record since 1995. Most of the world's glaciers are in rapid retreat.

The recent review by Sir Nicholas Stern sets out with stark clarity the price of indifference. And the impact goes beyond the economic - social and environmental costs would add to freshwater scarcity, lost food production and rising sea levels. Poor countries would suffer most, which can only mean new risks to global security.

Politicians, policymakers, businesses, families, young people - anyone with a stake in the future - knows that we need to act now to manage the problems of tomorrow. And by we, I mean the European Union, taking a lead with our system of rules-based co-operation, enabling us to tackle shared problems, seek common solutions and set world standards.

EU leaders meeting in Finland last month promised to step up the action on climate change and called on the European Commission to lead this policy process. The International Energy Agency's World Energy Outlook for 2006, (published on 7 November) shows that there is a credible alternative to 'business as usual'. Germany, which takes over the presidency of the EU in January, has made it clear that it will put a high priority on this.

From the "back to the future" files, high oil prices have prompted German company Enercon to explore wind powered ships.
A German wind turbine manufacturer wants to power large freight ships with wind energy as rising oil price have caused energy firms to become interested in the cutting-edge technology.

The computer-generated image of the freight ship of the future is at first startling: Out of each of the ship deck's four corners blooms a steel cylinder, looking like chimneys from a long outdated fossil fuel era. But the cylinders rotate and they don't give off any emissions. On the contrary, they are the key elements of a new wind propulsion system for ships, with which German company Enercon wants to save emissions and fossil fuels based on a physical phenomenon known for the past 150 years.

In 1853, Gustav Magnus, a physicist from Berlin, discovered that when air flows around a rotating object, its one side with the spinning increases the velocity of the air flow, while the other side, spinning in the opposite direction, decreases the air flow. The resulting pressure differential drives the object perpendicular to the direction of the wind -- like a curve ball in baseball or a top spin in Tennis.

In the 1920s, Anton Flettner, another German scientist, used the principle of the Magnus effect to power a sailboat: With wind blowing from the side, the rotating cylinders, two of which he mounted on his boat Baden-Baden, pushed it forward.

The Baden-Baden -- after a speedy cross over the Atlantic -- was even praised by Albert Einstein as having great practical importance, but its propulsion system never became a commercial success.

Germany's largest wind turbine manufacturer Enercon believes the wind ship today has a much greater potential to succeed than in the 1920s.

The petroleum prices shipping companies currently have to pay increased three-fold in the past two years. A wind-powered freighter could save massive amounts of crude oil and drive down costs by "30 to 40 percent," Rolf Rohden, an engineer at Enercon, told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper.

"Flettner banked on the system at the wrong time, so even the brilliant technology didn't help," he said.

Enercon has more than 9,000 wind turbines installed all over the world, and is increasingly relying on exporting its large turbines and rotor blades. With the new ship, overseas deliveries could be handled "as environmentally friendly as possible," Rohden said.

R & D magazine has an article on a biomimicry based approach to solar power - "Innovative Solar Cell Mimics Photosynthesis".
A ‘leaf-inspired’ PV cell design offers the possibility of inexpensively converting solar to chemical and electrical energy.

The U.S. alone uses about 30 trillion kilowatt-hours of energy each year, and with energy usage in other regions of the world rapidly growing, it is clear that developing alternative sources is imperative. Each square meter at mid-latitude locations in the U.S. receives 4 to 5 kilowatt-hours of solar energy per day; so tapping into that energy source seems an obvious path to alleviate energy shortages. But traditional methods of capturing solar energy are expensive to generate and deploy. For 15 years now, researchers around the world have been improving the efficiency and manufacturability of a non-traditional approach: the dye-sensitized solar cell. Their efforts are beginning to pay off.

A photonic crystal added underneath a layer of dye-sensitized titania nanocrystals enhances the efficiency by forcing reflection back into the light-absorbing region.

There’s plenty of solar energy around, the problem is converting it to a usable form. Because of the established infrastructure developed for distributing and using electrical energy, one of the most desirable approaches is to convert solar energy to electrical energy. Photovoltaic (PV) cells do just that, by transferring energy from an incident photon to an electron. That absorption occurs when the energy of the incident photon matches the energy needed to push an electron from one energy level to a higher available energy level. The trick is harvesting the energetic electrons before other naturally occurring processes return them to their lower energy state.

Traditional PV cells, for their part, are constructed from semiconductor crystals. The band gap of the semiconductor is tuned to match the energy available in sunlight so that a decent percentage of the incident light is converted into electrical energy. But then the real battle begins. If left to itself, the energetic photon will drop back down into the vacancy it left in the lower energy band. So PV cells are engineered with an electric field across the absorption region. When electrons are promoted into the higher energy band of the semiconductor, the applied electric field rapidly draws them away, eventually to an electrode that harvests them. But any disturbance in the process as the electron travels to the electrode will tend to bring the electron back to its lower energy state, so great care must be taken to ensure the purity and order of the semiconductor.

Industrial processes for producing semiconductors with high purity and order are already well-advanced because of the maturity of the semiconductor industry; so there’s not too much of a technological problem. There is, however, an economic problem. Semiconductor manufacturing facilities are extremely expensive to build, operate, and maintain. For electronic circuits, the cost is offset as devices get smaller and smaller, offsetting the cost of production through high volume. But solar cells need to be large to collect incident sunlight. And large pieces of semiconductor are expensive.

A “new” approach

In 1991, Prof. Michael Grätzel and his colleague Brian O’Regan, at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland developed a device architecture that introduced a new conceptual approach to PV energy generation. It would be more accurate to state they refashioned an old idea—a three-billion- year-old idea. They reasoned that the light-harvesting approach used by plants for billions of years must have features that could be adapted for use in PV cells.

One of the primary features is a separation between the light absorption and electron transfer mechanisms. An energetic electron generated in chlorophyll is rapidly transferred from molecule to molecule until it reaches a chlorophyll reaction center—a chlorophyll molecule modified with a metallic atom to modify its electron energy level structure. The reaction center then transfers the electron to an energy storage molecule. But this leaves the chlorophyll “short” an electron. It grabs the electron it needs from a surrounding water molecule. Grätzel followed that same model.

The Free Internet Press has an article (along with the most annoying ad I've seen in a long time) on the boom in clean energy jobs in the US.
The top of a large steel vat gently swings open, and a slab of silicon, cut into pieces the size of large bricks, is lifted onto a conveyor belt. On a mezzanine above the warehouse-style floor of the factory in Frederick, Bill Good is monitoring the six-foot furnaces that melt the silicon that goes into bricks, which are later sliced into wafers and turned into solar panels in a building next door.

Good, 53, used to work in a landscaping business, but like many people around the country he has found work in the alternative-energy industry. After two years, he said, "I could retire here."

That's the sort of job certainty many workers would envy. Growth in the solar, wind power and biofuel sectors has been fast and promises to be enduring. Last Thursday, BP PLC's solar division announced a $70 million plan to double the capacity of the Frederick factory and hire 70 more people.

"The demand for solar energy is so strong, not only in the United States but around the world, that we have to keep up," Lee Edwards, chief executive of BP Solar, said at a ceremony attended by Maryland politicians, congressional aides, BP employees and a group of local elementary-school pupils.

Many boosters of solar, wind and biofuels have tried to sell them as pieces of a new American economy, but these nascent industries rely on many of the same skills and materials as the old American economy - and that's good for people looking for jobs.

The wind turbines installed by Madison Gas and Electric Co. in Wisconsin, for example, were placed on towers that weigh 73 1/2 tons, mostly made of steel. They were built in Shreveport, Louisiana. Wind turbines also use components common in many endangered U.S. industries, such as gearboxes, rotors, control systems, disc brakes, yaw motors and drives, and bearings.

"What we need are policies that advance the climate for investment in these products," says Marco Trbovich, communications director for the United Steelworkers of America.

The ethanol sector has been adding jobs, too. In August, U.S. refineries produced 27 percent more ethanol than a year earlier, and 48 distilleries are under construction. Meanwhile, the solar industry has about 20,000 jobs nationwide, said Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association. That's a small number, but Resch said it is growing by 35 percent a year.

Expansions like BP's add another reason - along with environmental concerns and national security - for the boosters of solar, wind power and biofuels to use in pleading for more government support in the form of purchases, targets, import limits, subsidies and tax breaks for alternative energy. The Apollo Alliance - a group of environmentalists, alternate energy companies and unions - said in a 2004 report that a $30 billion federal program could create 3.3 million jobs over 10 years.

That sort of spending isn't likely, so the report's optimistic forecast won't be tested, but many governors and mayors are realizing that fostering renewable energy can be good for their states and cities. Under Gov. Edward G. Rendell (D), Pennsylvania has become a major purchaser of "green energy". The jobs created, while modest in number, have symbolic importance and make a difference in individual communities. In March, after receiving financing from the state and assurances from Rendell, Spanish wind power company Gamesa Energy said it would invest $34 million to manufacture towers and blades for wind turbines in Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania, which was hit hard by the closing of the last U.S. Steel Corp. facilities there in 2001. Gamesa said it expected to create 530 jobs.

Many of the jobs are good ones, in contrast to the low-wage food-service jobs that have bolstered employment statistics without improving quality of life for the people who hold them. "You're producing high-quality manufacturing jobs when others are moving out of the United States," said Resch. "If you look at the next high-tech growth industry in the United States, it can and should be solar energy."

Energy Bulletin has an interesting article from the Christian Science Monitor back in 1957 on Admiral Rickover and a speech he gave on energy.
Speechmakers and speeches are a dime a dozen in this windy city, so a man has to say something particularly significant or be particularly provocative to get the attention of the press these days. One such man and one such speech are Admiral H. G. Rickover (1) and his recent remarks on “Energy Resources and Our Future.”

Admiral Rickover is the Navy’s top man in nuclear propulsion; and his speech referred to is as full of startling, provocative, and significant observations as any your correspondent can remember coming across in years. Which proves there is plenty that is of importance for officials to say--if they will only abandon the obvious, the stereotyped, and the expected. In the short space allotted this Intimate Message I will paraphrase as nearly as possible the admiral’s admirable discussion.

This is what might be called the fossil fuel age. Coal, oil, and natural gas supply 93 per cent of the world’s energy. Water power accounts for only 1 per cent. Labor of men and domestic animals accounts for 6 per cent. This is in startling contrast to a century ago when fossil fuels supplied only 5 per cent of the world’s energy, and men and animals 94 per cent. Five-sixths of all the coal, oil, and gas ever consumed by man has been burned up in the last 55 years.

The rate at which fossil fuels are being consumed is breath-taking. All coal, oil, natural gas used before 1900 would not last five years at today’s rate of consumption.

The United States with only 5 per cent of the world’s population uses one-third of the world’s total energy output. This accounts for America’s high standard of living. Man’s first step up the ladder of civilization dates from his discovery of fire and his domestication of animals. Then slave labor was used to provide more energy. A reduction in per capita energy consumption always marks a decline in civilization. The exhaustion of wood fuel is said to explain the fall of the Mayan civilization. The depletion of forests for fuel in India and China lessened their energy base and lowered their civilizations.

Another cause of declining civilization comes from the pressure of population on available land. The point comes where land cannot support both the people and their domestic animals. Horses and mules disappear first; then the water buffalo is replaced by man--who is two and a half times as efficient as an energy converter as are draft animals. While domestic animals and machines increase productivity per man, maximum productivity per acre is achieved only by intensive manual cultivation.

It may well be that it was man’s unwillingness to depend on slave labor for energy needs that turned the minds of medieval Europeans to search for alternate sources of energy, thus sparking the power revolution of the Middle Ages which paved the way for the industrial revolution of the 19th century. When slavery disappeared in the West, engineering advanced. When a low-energy society comes in contact with a high-energy society, the advantage always lies with the latter. Europe not only achieved standards of living vastly higher than those elsewhere but did so while its population was growing at rates far surpassing those of other peoples.

Now what of the future of fossil fuels? It is an unpleasant fact that according to our best estimates total fossil fuel reserves (recoverable at not over twice today’s unit cost) are likely to run out at some time between 2000 and 2050 A.D. Oil and natural gas will disappear first; coal last. Nuclear fuels would seem to be the answer. But they have their drawbacks. They can't be used in small machines, such as cars, trucks, buses, tractors. We must remember that the oil we use in the United States in one year took nature 14,000,000 years to create.

Barring atomic war or unexpected changes in the population curve we can count on an increase in world population from 2,500,000,000 today to 4,000,000,000 by the year 2000 (2). It is an awesome thing to contemplate a graph of world population from prehistoric times to the year 2000 A.D., for 99 per cent of that time it stretches almost level. In the 8,000 years from the beginning of history to 2000 A.D. world population will have grown from 10,000,000 to 4,000,00,000, with 90 per cent of the growth taking place during the last 5 per cent of that period--or 400 years.

It took the first 3,000 years of recorded history to double the population of the world; 100 years for the last doubling; but the next doubling will be in 50 years. Calculations give us the astonishing estimate that the people living in this one year equal one-twentieth of the total number of human beings ever born into the world.

Bart from Energy Bulletin notes the Admiral's influence on Jimmy Carter:
Admiral Rickover was an amazing figure. Note that President Jimmy Carter - the only U.S. president to level with the public about energy - was a subordinate of Rickover's in the Navy. Carter said that next to his parents, Rickover has had the greatest influence on him.

Coal mining is probably the single most damaging activity anyone can perform - and its not only dangerous to the climate and the environment - its also dangerous for the miners, an endless stream of whom are sacrificed on the altar of King Coal.
Gas explosions in two regions of China have killed more than 50 coalminers, the latest fatalities to hit the world's deadliest mining industry.

An explosion in a privately owned mine in Fuyuan, in the south-western province of Yunnan, killed 32 men and injured 28 people on Saturday, the Xinhua news agency reported on Sunday.

At least 21 died in an earlier blast at the Yuanhua mine in Jixi, in the north-eastern province of Heilongjiang. Four miners managed to escape and rescuers were searching for six who were still missing, the reports said.

The Yuanhua mine is privately owned with an annual production capacity of 30,000 tonnes, Xinhua said. The causes of the explosions were being investigated.

A total of 3,726 miners died in more than 2,300 floods, blasts and other accidents in China's coalmines in the first 10 months of 2006.

The cold statistics highlight China's struggle to clean up the industry while trying to meet booming demand and high prices for coal, which fuels about 70 per cent of its energy consumption.

Perth's water desalination plant is now online but that hasn't stopped a few people pointing out that water recycling is a lot cheaper (and doesn't have any side effects).
AS THE anthem tells us, Australia is a nation "girt by sea".

Perhaps a modern-day verse would add that, dotted around the nation's edges, its people and industries are teetering on the brink of a barely quenchable thirst. And desalination is the latest high-tech solution to hit our salty shores.

This week, Perth Water Corporation chief executive Jim Gill filled a drinking glass and gulped down his first taste of the mighty Indian Ocean. "It tastes terrific," he said. As Victorian politicians toyed with the idea of introducing the technology, Australia's first desalination plant — the third largest in the world — opened last Sunday at Kwinana, south of Perth.

A few years ago, the idea of converting sea water to tap water was pie-in-the sky, Mr Gill admitted. "We had always thought it was off the planet economically," he said.

But the $387 million plant is now pumping its first water into WA's supplies. It will cost $20 million a year to run and will produce 45 gigalitres a year, or enough to fill an Olympic swimming pool in 25 minutes.

The idea for a desalination plant to help solve Perth's water crisis first took shape in 2001. But the corporation has had to weather criticism from environmentalists who argued the discharge could damage marine life and the ecosystem.

Cost to consumers was another issue. The Perth plant will add $43 a year to a household bill but the Government will introduce the increase gradually. Another concern was the huge amount of energy required to power the plant. But WA Premier Alan Carpenter deflected that by opening a wind farm to offset the energy used at Kwinana.

Environmental groups in Victoria are lukewarm about desalination, arguing as much water could be saved if 25 per cent of Victorian households recycled grey water for the toilet, laundry and garden.

At least one expert agrees. The head of civil and environmental engineering at the University of NSW, Nick Ashbolt, said desalination was an option, but home recycling of grey water was better. "We know we can desalinate water and it is as clean and safe to drink as anything else," Professor Ashbolt said. "But … it is the most expensive way to treat water and release carbon emissions."

Jason Antenucci, from the University of WA's Centre for Water Research, said he did not oppose desalination, but recycling waste water produced the same quality and was cheaper. "But there is general public opposition to drinking waste recycled water. Desalination is the path of least political resistance. I have no doubt we will see more (desalination plants) in Australia," he said.

The cost of the "War on Terror" to Australia so far - $20 billion (not including the cost due to higher oil prices). Imagine if we'd spent this on public transport, wind farms and solar panels instead of pissing it away in the desert.
FIGHTING the war on terror has cost Australian taxpayers more than $20 billion since September 2001.

The Federal Government alone has spent or committed more than $11.5 billion on domestic and international counter-terrorism measures, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The rest of the figure covers spending by states, territories and the private sector. The money is being spent on everything from training special forces to deal with weapons of mass destruction to a $74 million system enabling police and ASIO to tap phone calls.

The Age has pieced together the cost of the anti-terror campaign useing calculations from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, which has examined federal government spending, the Homeland Security Research Centre and annual reports.

The figure comes as the city of Baghdad was yesterday in lockdown, after the worst day of violence there since 2003. Authorities placed an indefinite curfew on the Iraqi capital and closed the airport, following a wave of car bombs in the district of Sadr City that killed 160 people and injured a further 275. Ports and the airport in the southern oil city of Basra were also closed as the nation moved closer towards sectarian civil war.

In a similar vein, here's a quote via Free Energy News:
"Presently, only 1% of the U.S. energy supply comes from renewable sources, including Solar, Wind and Hydro. If we applied the $400 billion dollars that has been spent in the Iraq war toward installing Wind Turbines on non-farmable lands in North and South Dakota, we could power the US, and become independent of imported oil." -- Jim Dunn, Center for Technology Commercialization, Nov. 19, 2006

While I don't think this is a problem, there are more signs of peak gold appearing.
Australia's gold output dipped slightly in the third quarter from the same period last year, despite new gold operations coming into production, a new report shows. Surbiton Associates said in its latest quarterly report on the Australian gold mining industry that production in the three months to September was 62 tonnes.

The result is a one tonne rise from the previous quarter but a two tonne drop from the same period of 2005."One of the outcomes of the higher Australian dollar gold price is that existing gold producers are taking the opportunity to treat lower grade ore," the consultancy's managing director Dr Sandra Close said.

"Gold grades have declined progressively over the last nine months so that now, the average recovered grade is just under two grams per tonne."

There are reports from Russia that Gazprom is looking at obtaining its own nuclear arsenal - in the form of floating nuclear power plants.
Russia's Rosenergoatom has said it will build eight floating nuclear power plants by 2015.

"In April 2007, the Sevmash shipyard will launch the construction of the first floating thermal power unit with the KLT40C reactor. It is planned to complete the deliveries of all the assembly parts by the end of 2008, and complete the pilot project in 2010," Sergei Krysov, deputy director general of the company, told an international conference.

The comments were reported by the Itar-Tass news agency. The news agency said the floating reactor will have five radiation protection barriers, and can withstand a 6-magnitude earthquake and a plane crash.

Rosenergoatom said one floating plant saves about 150 million cubic meters of gas a year. "Gazprom displayed considerable interests in floating nuclear power plants, as it needs at least five floating power units to develop new deposits in Yamal and the Kola peninsula," Krysov said, Itar-Tass reported.

If you're of a survivalist mindset and would like to continue practicing metal work after the oil crash, Kevin Kelly has the book for you - "The Complete Metalsmith".
I've spied this book in the cluttered workshops of many amateur craftsmen, and it is frequently nominated as the best all-around introduction to light metal work. If you take an entry class in jewelry, this is often the manual. (Complete in this case does not include welding or blacksmithing; this guide is best for metal projects smaller than a bowl.). The reason I like this manual is that it is quick, succinct, clear, and dense -- sort of like metal itself. The author assumes you wield a certain level of handiness, and that you can kind of figure out things yourself if you get a general sketch of what needs to be done. It shows you with simple drawings (no fancy photos here) things you might want to do with small bits of metal -- different methods of shaping it, different textures or patinas to coat it with, ways to cast it in molds, how to set stones in it, what metals to even use. In other words, it's a quick tour of metal work possibilities. It also lays flat on the table with its thoughtful metal spiral binding. Be sure to get the revised edition.

I see the guys doing the "V For Vendetta" act in Washington are still at it - the latest stunt was a 100 man protest.
We are making good use of the powerful concept of en masse activist resistance used in the movie, “V for Vendetta.”

“V” is helping us as we build support for the unalienable Right to a Response from Government to our Petitions for Redress of Grievances regarding the Government’s violation of the war powers, tax, privacy and money clauses of the Constitution.

“V” is helping us as we educate the public about the First Amendment’s guarantee of our Right to Petition Government for Redress of Grievances.

On November 6, 2006, a lone man in a “V” mask and clothing visited security checkpoints at the White House, the main Treasury Building, the Department of Justice and the Capitol, to deliver a letter and the Petitions for Redress. A short videotape of the encounters has made its way around the Internet, including links from sites such as MySpace.com.

The letter informed the leaders of the Executive and Legislative branches of the federal government that up to 100 people in “V” masks and clothing would gather in silent vigil at those locations on November 14th to await a response to the Petitions for Redress.

True to his word, at 11:00 A.M. on Tuesday, November 14, 2006, nearly 100 men and women in “V” masks and clothing could be seen walking along different streets in downtown Washington, DC, all heading to Lafayette Park across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House.

Crooked Timber recently had a post on "authors you've given up on". Obviously this is a fairly subjective question, but I found the 3 entries below interesting.

I didn't read "A Constant Gardener" but I thought the movie was top class - can anyone explain what the perceived problem with Le Carre is ? While I love Kim Stanley Robinson's books, I tend to agree that he's hard going lately and still haven't got around to buying "50 Degrees Below". As for Orson Scott Card, "Ender's Game" was one of my favourite books as a teenager, and I like the justification below for someone still liking it, but Card himself is pretty much a fascist nutjob and best avoided.
56. #44, I second Le Carre. The Constant Gardener was just ridiculous.


59. I want to like Kim Stanley Robinson’s new stuff, but just can’t read through the preaching.


60. Ender was the target of institutional childhood violence. He was very good at turning it around. That makes him the hero of every kid that was bullied.

I always thought that Ender’s real strength was to recognize that in a world consciously designed for the success of self-absorbed monsters, the most self-absorbed monster wins. He cannot even spare time for gloating or sadism - those are luxuries a true monster cannot afford.

Time for some tinfoil - my 2 favourite commenters popped up in the RI post on the Bobby Kennedy and Alexander Litvinenko assassinations.

First starroute:
There is definitely something central and essential about the idea of cultivating one's own garden (as Voltaire put it) -- and something false and self-limiting about setting out to save the world without having learned to save oneself.

Heroes and leaders just don't cut it. They are all flawed in one way or another -- either in their personal behavior, or in their policies and effects upon the world, or in both. There is something about the attempt to exert leadership -- the desire to *change* the world through the remote application of power -- that is naturally self-corrupting.

On the other hand, merely disengaging from the world -- "dropping out" in the 60's sense -- and having as little as possible to do with the things of this world also limits your effectiveness. (If a hermit lives a life of virtue out in the forest and no one witnesses it, is he really virtuous?)

I think this must be why the Sufis talk about being in the world but not of it. By being not of the world, you are free to attune your life to a higher imperative. But by remaining in the world, you force the world to take account of you -- you become a boulder in the middle of the river that parts the flow of the waters and directs them into new channels.

And you do that not by attempting to act upon the world -- which is the way of the man of power, and which leads to corruption by the ways of the world -- but by causing the world to attempt to act upon you.

As one example of what I mean, Rosa Parks did just that by the simple act of *not standing.* An act deeply rooted in her own sense of her unique value as a human being. An act with a zen-like foundation in non-action rather than in action. She did nothing -- and empires crumbled.

To state it another way, there are holes in our reality. This is true on every level. Jeff focuses on holes in consensual physical reality -- but there are also holes in everyday social and political reality.

From the point of view of those who are wedded to existing reality, those holes are yawning maws of chaos, out of which horror and destruction may come rampaging if they are not kept closed and papered over.

From the point of view of those who despair of present realities, those holes are gates of promise, leading to Eden or utopia.

But the point of view which transcends both hope and fear is that of the person who themself identifies with the holes -- who seeks to *become* a hole in reality, an opening from what-is into what-might-be, a glimpse of unrealized possibility.

And that, I think, has to be the real meaning of cultivating your garden.

And the Iridescent Cuttlefish (I think first complaining about people viewing something as a communist conspiracy and then linking to a Trotskyite web site might be pushing it a little but he gets points for invoking the name of Yossarian):
Seems to me that while the emotional inspiration of the Kennedys still lives, the idea that politics has anything to do with how the world is run is just absurd. Corporations control the political process, the scientific establishment, and the media. And yet, this control cannot be addressed by politicians, scientists, or journalists because they are controlled by corporations.

Fixing the world's problems would require reforming the three areas I mention, but that can't be done because of the real centers of power. So deeply ingrained in the American psyche is the 1950s slogan, "What's good for GM is good for America," that any attempt to dismantle the corporate state would not only be attacked by the three very public arenas of its control, but also by the well trained consumer-citizens who would view it as some sort of communist attack on their "freedoms".

The internet has great potential, but at this point not enough people have had their worldview affected by it. Viable alternatives to the way we live do exist--spreading the awareness of their existence is still the problem. The only practical means of influencing the collective consciousness is through the diffusion of memes, which are extremely powerful, ideogrammic, and self-replicating. Unfortunately, the best media for the transmission of memes are images, songs, and books...and the media which transmit these are controlled by the corporations which schedule the assassinations and the fake news and degradation of humanity and its habitat.

What did Yossarian do, anyway?

I'll close with Rob from Transition Culture with a post called "A Walk in the Woods # Exercise 4. ‘Kick the Can’".
Getting young people, boys in particular, to be quiet and focused in a woodland is quite a task. Getting them to become aware of their surroundings, to experience the sounds, smells and feelings of being in a wood can be hard work. It would be great, therefore, to have an exercise which brought boys into a sense of complete awareness yet of which they were unaware. This exercise is called ‘Kick the Can’ and is a years old game but one which I have also found to be very powerful with adults. It places you in a woodland with all your senses heightened, rooted to one place, intensely aware of your surroundings.

You will need;

A woodland, with dense enough undergrowth and enough trees to hide behind that people can ‘disappear’ into it.
A metal bucket or large can.
A stout stick.
2 lengths of brightly coloured rope.
Anything between 5 and 30 people.

How to Play.

Mark out, by tying rope around the trees, 2 areas. One is the Prison, and needs to be large enough to fit all the people playing. The second, which is immediately adjacent to the Prison, is the Troll’s area, which is about the same size, and needs to contain, in the middle, the metal bucket hanging from a tree. One person is the Troll. Another player takes the stout stick and hurls it as far as they can. In the time it takes for the troll to retrieve it and place it in the metal bucket, all the other players have to run and hide.

The Troll’s objective is to catch all the people, and he can only do this by seeing someone and calling their name. If you are seen and called, you have to go into the prison. The people in the prison can only be released if someone manages to sneak up and hit the bucket with the stick, at which point everyone is jail is freed. That’s it basically. What happens when you play the game is that when you are in your hiding place you have no option than to sit still and quiet, yet all your senses are heightened and you are acutely aware of the sounds and movement in the wood. I have played this game with boys who just want to play it all day. I have found it a fun but powerful way of really ‘being’ in a wood. It’s good fun too! Being tall, I never actually managed to hit the can, I was always spotted!


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