Although the world has not run out of oil and North America has not run out of natural gas, and there are still lots of potential kilowatts to create, we have run short of any way to grow the supply of each of these energy sources. There is little growth in worldwide oil supply from new projects coming on stream.
January 16, 2003 USA Today
as presented by Paul Erlich
| Population |
[billions of people]
|X|| Energy/Person |
[killowatts = 103 watts]
|=|| Total Energy Use |
[terawatts = 1012 watts]
|2100||10||3|| 30 (>2X now)|
Matthew Simmons, a well-connected industry insider has concluded that some of the world's largest oil beds may be on the verge of collapse. Author of the recently published Twilight in the Desert: The Coming, Simmons is founder of an investment bank that handles mergers and acquisitions among energy companies and has predicted that the price of a barrel of oil could hit the high triple digits within a few years. To postpone this he says we should be drilling in the Arctic and other contested spots. At the same time, he's calling for improvements in efficiency, as well as a return to local farming and manufacturing. He said that we are either at or very close to peak oil and have to assume that five or 10 years we'll be producing less oil than today. And yet we expect that oil usage will grow by 30% to 50% over the next 25 years. It's a problem that could end up leading to more geopolitical fights and give way to a very ugly society. The odyssey began in the early 1980s when Simmons realized that his firm was threatened by a collapse in the oil business. So many experts in the energy market, including government analysts, don't base their opinions on actual data, because the relevant data are confidential. No major oil-producer allows audits of the data on their reserves which leaves the experts playing a guessing game. An inventory of the top oil fields showed that nobody had ever listed even the top 20 oil fields by name. There are only about 120 fields in the world that produce half of the world's oil supply. The top 14, which make up 20% of global supply, are over 53 years old. In Saudi Arabia there are only five key fields producing 90% of their oil. During a trip to Saudi Arabia they plied us with data that didn't add up, even vaguely. The major Saudi fields are at risk of reaching their peak, at which point they will see their output decline. Simmons started a year ago saying that we need to prepare for triple-digit oil prices that will be set by demand and supply. Current oil prices are cheap, consider that $65 a barrel translates to 10 cents a cup, cheaper than bottled water. For decades, Saudi Arabia has been injecting water in each key oil field to keep pressure high. The Saudis are injecting between 15 and 18 million barrels a day of water to recover 8 million barrels a day of oil. What they are doing is rapidly depleting the high-quality, high flow-rate oil, so they'll be left with vast amounts of oil that just won't come out of the ground without massive water input or thousands and thousands of wells being drilled. Sadad al-Husseini, a former executive of Saudi Aramco, corroborated this thesis. The foreign minister of Saudi Arabia spoke at Rice University and said, "We're as transparent as anybody." Until we force that same standard of disclosure on Exxon and Shell and BP, there's no reason to expect Saudi Arabia to behave better. Ultimately, we have to create new forms of energy. Solar and wind are not helpful on the transportation front. Biofuels need to be examined, but corn-based ethanol is a scam because it requires such intensive oil inputs. There are some 220 million cars on the road in the U.S. and the problem with hybrids and hydrogen, which many people think is the alternative energy, is it will take 30 years to turn over the entire vehicle fleet. We don't have 15 or 20 years, much less 30. We have to find more energy-efficient methods of transporting products by rail and ship. We have to liberate the workforce and let them work in their village, through emails, faxes and video conferencing. We need to return to local farms and attack globalization. Manufacturing things close to home will begin to make sense again. rw
There is a close relationship between peak oil and population. The world's present annual consumption of oil is nearly 30 billion barrels. The world's present population is nearly 7 billion.
The peak of world oil production is about 2010, and the most likely rate of decline after the peak is 6%. That means production will fall to half of the peak level in 11 years, i.e. in 2021.
Population size is directly correlated with oil supply. It is only with abundant oil that a large global population has been possible, and it was oil that allowed population to grow so quickly.
If oil production drops to half of its peak amount in 11 years, world population must also drop by half to 3.5 billion. A drop from 7 billion to 3.5 means that, the annual population decline rate will be 6%.
But how will it be possible to reduce the population from 7 billion to 3.5 billion in 11 years? Cutting the birth rate without increasing the death rate would not have a great enough effect on the final numbers. Since most of the people now living would still be alive in 2021, the population would not be reduced sufficiently. There is, in fact, no feasible political means of reducing population by 6% annually.
The only solution will be famine, chosen by Nature, as she does for so many other species. The process will be set in place by the decline in resources, and the consequent decline in industrial production. Without fossil fuels, agricultural yields will decline to about 30%. The famine has already started, to judge from the decline in world food supplies. Roughly similar declines will occur in everything from mining, electricity, and manufacturing, to transportation and communication.
Planning for such a scenario should have been started long ago. Even at this late date, however, what is needed is to accept the facts and to ease the way for those relatively few who will constitute the future of humanity. rwKaren Gaia says: I question statements like "the most likely rate of decline after peak is 6%" A lot more information is needed here. Even so, there is no question that peak oil will bring a decline in food production and famine is the result. Already 2 billion people are malnourished.
Northwestern University's Gregory Ryskin, has a theory: The oceans periodically produce massive eruptions of explosive methane gas. He has documented the evidence that such an event was responsible for the mass extinctions that occurred 55 million years ago.
BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling operation may have triggered such an irreversible, cascading geological Apocalypse that will culminate with the first mass extinction of life on Earth in many millions of years.
The warning signs would be the appearance of large fissures or rifts splitting open the ocean floor, a rise in the elevation of the seabed, and the massive venting of methane and other gases into the surrounding water.
The people and property located on the greater expanse of the Gulf Coast will be the first exposed to poisonous, cancer causing chemical gases and the full fury of a methane bubble exploding from the ruptured seabed.
Methane is now streaming through the porous, rocky seabed at an accelerated rate and gushing from the borehole of the first relief well. The EPA is on record that Rig #1 is releasing methane, benzene, hydrogen sulfide and other toxic gases. Workers there now wear advanced protection including state-of-the-art, military-issued gas masks.
Reports state that the upper level strata of the ocean floor is succumbing to greater and greater pressure causing a huge expanse of the seabed-to bulge. Some claim the seabed in the region has risen an astounding 30 feet. The subterranean methane pressure at the wellhead has now skyrocketed to a 40,000 pounds psi.
Another expert has calculated that the ruptured well is spewing 60% oil and 40% methane. Other fissures, have been spotted as far as 30 miles distant.
Methane levels in the water are now calculated as being almost one million times higher than normal. If the methane bubble erupts, the ocean bottom will collapse, displacing up to a trillion cubic feet of water or more and creating a towering supersonic tsunami annihilating everything along the coast and well inland. Like a thermonuclear blast, a high pressure atmospheric wave could precede the tidal wave flattening everything in its path before the water arrives.
While some say the frozen underground methane sea is gradually melting from the nearby surging oil that's estimated to be as hot as 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
U.S.: Warning to Gulf Volunteers: Almost Every Cleanup Worker From the 1989 Exxon Valdez Disaster is Now Dead.June 30, 2010 CNN
CNN reported that the vast majority of those who worked to clean up the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska are now dead, and that the life expectancy for those who worked to clean up the Exxon Valdez oil spill is only about 51 years. Considering the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is many times worse than the Exxon Valdez disaster, who would want to be on a cleanup crew. What we have out in the Gulf of Mexico is a "toxic soup" of oil, methane, benzene, hydrogen sulfide, other toxic gases and very poisonous chemical dispersants such as Corexit 9500.
The true health toll of this oil spill is not going to be known for decades.
Already a large number of workers cleaning up the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico report that they are suffering from flu-like symptoms. Exposure to the oil disaster has resulted in 162 cases of illnesses reported to the Louisiana state health department.
400 people have sought medical care for upper or lower respiratory problems, headaches, nausea, and eye irritation after trips to Escambia County beach.
A new report called the "Hidden Costs of Energy: Unpriced Consequences of Energy Production and Use", is the most thorough cost accounting of energy sources.
Those who say wind and solar are too expensive to compete with coal confuse price with cost. The hidden costs of oil are even larger. When you add up all the costs of all the different kinds of energy, solar and wind are often less expensive than fossil fuels. And the price of solar is going down, while the costs of coal and oil are going up. rw
The collapse of modern industrial society has 14 parts. (1) Fossil fuels, (2) metals, and (3) electricity are a tightly-knit group, and no industrial civilization can have one without the others. The decline in fossil-fuel production is the most critical (4) food and (5) fresh water become scarce; grain and wild fish supplies have been declining for years, water tables are falling, rivers are not reaching the sea. Matters of infrastructure then follow: (6) transportation and (7) communication - no paved roads, no telephones, no computers. After that, the social structure begins to fail: (8) government, (9) education, and (10) the large-scale division of labor that makes complex technology possible.
There are four others that form a separate layer, (11) crime, (12) cults, and (13) craziness the breakdown of traditional law; the inability to distinguish mental health from mental illness. (14) chaos. From a chronological viewpoint, there is a clear division into two phases. In the first phase the major issues will be inflation, unemployment, and the stock market. The second phase will be characterized by the disappearance of money, law, and government.
Modern industrial society is composed of fossil fuels, metals, and electricity. Electricity, can be generated on a global scale only with fossil fuels. The same dependence on fossil fuels is true of metals; in fact the better types of ore are now becoming depleted, In turn, without metals and electricity there will be no means of extracting and processing fossil fuels. Electricity is the most fragile, and its failure will serve as an early warning. Production of steel requires 420 million tonnes of coke annually, as well as other fuels adding up to an equivalent of another 100 million tonnes. To maintain industrial society, the production of steel cannot be curtailed. But the interconnections among fossil fuels, metals, and electricity are innumerable. As each of the three members of the triad threatens to break down, we are looking at a society that is far more primitive than the one to which we have been accustomed.
The entire world's economy is based on hydrocarbons. These provide fuel, fertilizer, pesticides, lubricants, plastic, paint, synthetic fabrics, asphalt, pharmaceuticals, and many other things. We are dependent on hydrocarbons for manufacturing, for transportation, for agriculture, for mining, and for electricity.
Everything in the modern world is dependent on oil. As the oil disappears, our entire industrial society will go with it. There will be no means of supporting the billions of people who now live on this planet. Above all, there will be insufficient food, and the result will be terrible famine.
A good deal of debate has gone on about "peak oil," the date at which the world's annual oil production will reach (or did reach) its maximum and will begin (or did begin) to decline. The exact numbers are unobtainable, mainly because individual countries give rather inexact figures on their remaining supplies. The situation can be summarized by saying that at least 20 or 30 major studies have been done, and the consensus is that the peak is somewhere between the years 2000 and 2020. Within that period, a middle date seems rather more likely.
It seems to indicate an annual rate of increase of about 4% from 1930 to 2000, and an annual rate of decline of slightly over 3%, which would mean that around 2030 oil production will be down to about half of the peak amount. More-recent predictions of the annual rate of decline tend to range from about 4 to 9%. Starting at a peak of 30 billion barrels in 2010, a decline of 9% would mean dropping to half of that amount in 7 years. Advanced technology is used to maximize productivity, which in turn has the ironic result that when the decline actually occurs it is swift.
As oil declines, more energy and money must be devoted to getting the less-accessible and lower-quality oil out of the ground. As more energy and money are devoted to oil production, the production of metals and electricity becomes more difficult. One problem feeds on another. It is important to consider not only peak oil in the absolute sense, but peak oil per capita. The date of the latter was 1979, when there were 5.5 barrels of oil per person annually, as opposed to 4.5 in 2007.
New oil wells have to be drilled deeper than the old, because newly discovered deposits are deeper. Those new deposits are therefore less accessible. But oil is used as a fuel for the machinery and for the exploration. When it takes an entire barrel of oil to get one barrel of oil out of the ground, as is increasingly the case with new wells, it is a waste of time to continue drilling.
Much of modern warfare is about oil. The real "forces" are those trying to control the oil wells and the fragile pipelines that carry that oil.
Alternative sources of energy will never be very useful, mainly because the amount of energy output is not sufficiently greater than the amount of energy input. Fuel cells cannot be made practical, because such devices require hydrogen derived from fossil fuels; if fuel cells ever became popular, the fossil fuels they require would then be consumed even faster than they are now. Wind and geothermal power are only effective in certain areas and for certain purposes.
Nuclear power presents significant environmental dangers. Mainly because the US was the world's largest producer of uranium, the peak of global production was at approximately the same date. The mining and milling of such ore requires more energy than is derived from the actual use of the ore in a reactor. The world's usable uranium ore will probably be finished by about 2030, and there is no evidence for the existence of large new deposits of rich ore.
Solar energy is popular, but to meet the world's present energy needs by using solar power, then, we would need an array the size of France. The production and maintenance of this array would require vast quantities of hydrocarbons, metals, and other materials.
To believe that a non-petroleum infrastructure is possible, one would have to imagine solar-powered machines creating equipment for the production and storage of electricity by means of solar energy. This equipment would then be loaded on to solar-powered trucks, driven to various locations, and installed with other solar-powered devices, and so on. Such a scenario might provide material for a work of science fiction, but not for genuine science.
Without fossil fuels, the most that is possible is a pre-industrial infrastructure. The pre-industrial world did not include feeding 7 billion people. We cannot step back into Jane Austen's day, when the population was a mere billion. Those who expect to conquer the future with space-age technology will have to pray that nothing goes wrong with toys that were invented at a time of abundant petroleum and the machinery that went with it.
Figures from the US Geological Survey, however, indicate that within the US most types of minerals are past their peak dates of production. The depletion of all minerals in the US continues swiftly in spite of recycling. Iron ore may seem infinitely abundant, but it is not. Iron ore is becoming scarce.
Annual world production of grain per capita peaked in 1984 at 342 kg. For years production has not met demand, so carryover stocks must fill the gap, now leaving less than two months' supply as a buffer.
The world catch of wild fish per capita peaked in 1988 at 17 kg; by 2005 it was down to 14 kg. Over the past 50 years, the number of large predatory fish in the oceans has dropped by a startling 90%. The losses in the production of wild fish are made up by aquaculture, but this causes its own problems: inshore fish farms entail the destruction of wetlands, spread diseases, and deplete oxygen. Millions of tonnes of other fish must be turned into food every year for use in aquaculture.
Fresh water is declining in many countries around the world, particularly Mexico, the western US, North Africa, the Middle East, Pakistan, India, China, and Australia. By the year 2025 about 2 billion people will be living with extreme water scarcity, and about two-thirds of the world will be facing water shortages to some extent.
The diversion of water for agriculture and municipal use, combined with the effects of global warming, is causing rivers to run dry. The Colorado, the Ganges, the Nile, and the Indus are now all dry for at least part of the year before they reach the sea.
Most countries with water shortages are pumping at rates that cannot be maintained. The shallower aquifers could be replenished if pumping were reduced, but the deeper "fossil" aquifers cannot be rejuvenated when their levels are allowed to fall.
Agriculture uses more than 70% of the world's fresh water and is mainly responsible for the depletion of aquifers of both types. This is leading to political strife. Because of falling water levels, new wells are drilled to greater depths than the old, with the result that the owners of the old wells are left without water. Sixty percent of the world's 227 largest rivers have numerous dams and canals, and there are not many other rivers that are free from such obstructions.
With technology that does not use fossil fuels, crop yields diminish considerably. Less than a third of the yield that a farmer would get with modern machinery and chemical fertilizer.
A hard-working adult burns about 1 million calories per year. The food energy from a hectare of corn grown with "low technology" is about 9 million calories. Under primitive conditions, then, 1 hectare of corn would support only 9 people.
We need to allow for fallow land, cover crops, and green manure, for inevitable inequities in distribution, and for other uses of the land. We must account for any rise in population. A far more realistic ratio would be 4 people to each hectare of arable land.
In the entire world there are 15,749,300 km 2 of arable land. This is 11 percent of the world's total land area. The present world population (in 2010) is about 6.9 billion. Dividing the figure for population by that for arable land, we see that there are about 440 people per km 2 of arable land. In other words, we have already reached the limits of the number of people who can be supported by non-mechanized agriculture.
The world's population went from about 1.7 billion in 1900 to 2.5 in 1950, to nearly 7 billion in 2010. It has been said that without fossil fuels the population must drop to about 2 or 3 billion. The above figures on arable land indicate that in terms of agriculture alone we would not be able to accommodate the present number of people.
It is only with abundant oil that a large population is possible. It was industrialization, improved agriculture, improved medicine, the expansion of humanity into the Americas, and so on, that first created the modern rise in population, but it was oil in particular that made it possible for human population to grow as fast as it has been doing. But the world a hundred years from now might not be a mirror image of the world of a hundred years in the past. The general depletion of resources might cause such damage to the structure of society that government, education, and intricate division of labor will no longer exist.
Overpopulation is the overwhelming ultimate cause of systemic collapse. It is also countered by the simple statement that people should not have children if they have no means of feeding them. Overpopulation can always be passed off as somebody else's problem. Without a central governing body that is both strong and honest, it is that very lack of strength and honesty that makes traditional democracy an anachronism. For all that might be said against their politics and economics, it is the Chinese who have made the greatest effort at dealing with excess numbers, although even their efforts can hardly be considered a success.
Discussion of overpopulation is the Great Taboo. Politicians will rarely touch the issue, although we no longer hold our breaths waiting for such people to speak the truth about anything. Even the many documents of the United Nations merely sidestep the issue by discussing how to cater to large populations, in spite of the fact that such catering is part of the problem, not part of the solution.
In view of the general unpopularity of family-planning policies, it can only be said euphemistically that nature will decide the outcome.
Humanity has struggled to survive in terms of balancing population size with food supply. The same is true now, but population numbers have been soaring for over a century. Famine caused by oil-supply failure alone will probably result in about 2.5 billion above-normal deaths before the year 2050.
The increase in the world's population has followed a simple curve: from about 1.7 billion in 1900 to about 6.1 billion in 2000. A quick glance at a chart of world population growth, on a broader time scale, shows a line that runs almost horizontally for thousands of years, and then makes an almost vertical ascent as it approaches the present. That is not just an amusing curiosity. It is a shocking fact that should have awakened humanity to the realization that something is dreadfully wrong. rw
The age of cheap oil has now ended as demand starts to outstrip supply. The current oil reserve estimates should be downgraded from between 1150-1350 billion barrels to between 850-900 billion barrels, based on recent research. The common belief that alternative fuels such as biofuels could mitigate oil supply shortages and eventually replace fossil fuels is pie in the sky. There is not sufficient land to cater for both food and fuel demand.
We have to make better use of the remaining resources by improving energy efficiency. Alternatives such as a hydrogen economy and electric transportation will only play a major role in the medium to long term.'
Oil supply challenges will be compounded by rising demand and strengthening environmental policy. Mitigating the oil crunch without using lower grade resources such as tar sands is the key to maintaining energy stability and a low carbon future.
Political and financial objectives have led to misreporting of oil reserves.
Additional demand for oil could be met by non- conventional methods, such as the extraction of oil from Canada's tar sands. However, these methods have a far higher carbon output than conventional drilling, and have been described as having a double impact on emissions owing to the emissions produced during extraction as well as during usage. rw
Sooner or later oil will run out. Several Kuwait scientists have studied this matter with a multicycle Hubbert model. In 2008 the price per barrel rose to $140 which was an all time high; then the price plunged to less than $50/barrel losing more than 64% of the maximum price in less than a three months period. This behavior affected oil production in all exporting countries.
Yet despite the fluctuations, demand for oil in some countries, such as China and India, has increased because of the rapid growth in the transportation sector and consumer demand. Yet world oil supplies have to come to an end.
Forecasting the future is difficult, some new supply source may be discovered is one example. Demand may increase and wars consume yet more. Alternate energy sources may also be discovered.
Accurate prediction of oil production is affected by fluctuating ecological, economical, social, and political factors.
The Kuwait study was done to predict world crude oil supply with better accuracy.
The original Hubbert peak theory says that for any given area, the rate of petroleum production tends to follow a bell shaped curve.
Early in the curve (pre-peak), the production rate increases because of the discovery rate. Late in the curve (post-peak), production declines because of resource depletion. Hubbert's Peak was reached in the continental US in the early 1970s, and peaked at 10.2 million barrels a day. Since then, it has been in a gradual decline.
The Kuwait approach overcomes the limitations and restrictions of the original Hubbert model with more than one cycle depending on the historical oil production trend and known oil reserves. The world production is estimated to peak in 2014 at a rate of 79 million barrels/day. OPEC has a remaining reserve of 909 barrels, which is about 78% of the world reserves.
OPEC production is expected to peak in 2026 at a rate of 53 million barrels/day. On the basis of 2005 world crude oil production and current recovery techniques, the world oil reserves are being depleted at an annual rate of 2.1%.
Sooner or later oil will run out. Several Kuwait scientists have studied this matter with a multicycle Hubbert model. In 2008 the price per barrel rose to $140 which was an all time high; then the price plunged to less than $50/barrel, losing more than 64% of the maximum price in less than a three months period. This behavior affected oil production in all exporting countries.
Yet despite the fluctuations, demand for oil in some countries, such as China and India, has increased because of the rapid growth in the transportation sector and consumer demand. Yet world oil supplies have to come to an end.
Forecasting the future is difficult, some new supply source may be discovered is one example. Demand may increase and wars consume yet more. Alternate energy sources may also be discovered.
Accurate prediction of oil production is affected by fluctuating ecological, economical, social, and political factors.
The Kuwait study was done to predict world crude oil supply with better accuracy.
The original Hubbert peak theory says that for any given area, the rate of petroleum production tends to follow a bell shaped curve.
Early in the curve (pre-peak), the production rate increases because of the discovery rate. Late in the curve (post-peak), production declines because of resource depletion. Hubbert's Peak was achieved in the continental US in the early 1970s, and peaked at 10.2 million barrels a day. Since then, it has been in a gradual decline.
The Kuwait approach overcomes the limitations and restrictions of the original Hubbert model with more than one cycle depending on the historical oil production trend and known oil reserves. The world production is estimated to peak in 2014 at a rate of 79 million barrels/day. OPEC has a remaining reserve of 909 barrels, which is about 78% of the world reserves.
OPEC production is expected to peak in 2026 at a rate of 53 million barrels/day. On the basis of 2005 world crude oil production and current recovery techniques, the world oil reserves are being depleted at an annual rate of 2.1%.
Subsidies can be justified in theory if they promote an overall increase in social welfare. However, the consensus of expert opinion is that fossil-fuel subsidies have a net negative effect, both in individual countries and on a global scale. Fossil-fuel subsidies alter fossil-fuel prices, leading to market distortions with consequences that go well beyond the specific policy objective that the subsidy is intended to achieve. These distortions have wide environmental, economic and social impacts, in many cases increasing energy consumption and GHG emissions, straining government budgets, diverting funding that could otherwise be spent on social priorities such as healthcare or education, and reducing the profitability of alternative energy sources.
The principal reason for opposing coal plants is that they are changing the earth's climate. There is also the effect of mercury emissions on health and the 23,600 U.S. deaths each year from power plant air pollution.
The Sierra Club reports that 123 plants have been defeated, with another 51 facing opposition in the courts. Of the 231 plants being tracked, only 25 currently have a chance at gaining the permits necessary to begin construction and eventually come online. What began as a local resistance to coal-fired power evolved into grassroots opposition from environmental, health, farm, and community organizations. The American public is turning against coal.
One of the first setbacks came in 2007 when a coalition headed by the Environmental Defense Fund took on Texas- based utility TXU's plans for 11 new coal- fired power plants. A quick drop in the utility's stock price caused by the media storm prompted a $45-billion buyout offer from two private equity firms. However, only after negotiating a ceasefire with EDF and the Natural Resources Defense Council and reducing the number of proposed plants from 11 to 3, thus preserving the value of the company, did the firms proceed with the purchase. It was a major win for the environmental community, which mustered the public support necessary to stop 8 plants outright and impose stricter regulations on the remaining 3. Meanwhile, the energy focus in Texas has shifted to its vast wind resources.
In May 2007, Florida's Public Service Commission refused to license a huge $5.7 billion, 1,960-megawatt coal plant because the utility could not prove that building the plant would be cheaper than investing in conservation, efficiency, and renewable energy sources.
This point, made by Earthjustice, a non-profit environmental legal group, combined with strong public opposition to any more coal-fired power plants in Florida, led to the quiet withdrawal of four other coal plant proposals in the state.
In July 2007, Citigroup downgraded coal company stocks across the board and recommended that its clients switch to other energy stocks. In January 2008, Merrill Lynch also downgraded coal stocks. In early February 2008, investment banks Morgan Stanley, Citi, and J.P. Morgan Chase announced that any future lending for coal-fired power would be contingent on the utilities demonstrating that the plants would be economically viable with the higher costs associated with future federal restrictions on carbon emissions.
In August 2007 U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada announced that he was now against building coal-fired power plants anywhere in the world. Al Gore has also voiced strong opposition to building any coal-fired power plants. So too have many state governors, including those in California, Florida, Michigan, Washington, and Wisconsin.
One of the unresolved burdens haunting the coal sector, in addition to the emissions of CO2, is what to do with the coal ashâthe remnant of burning coalâthat is accumulating in 194 landfills and 161 holding ponds in 47 states. This ash is not an easy material to dispose of since it is laced with arsenic, lead, mercury, and many other toxic materials. The industry's dirty secret came into full public view just before Christmas 2008 when the containment wall of a coal ash pond in eastern Tennessee collapsed, releasing a billion gallons of toxic brew. Unfortunately, the industry does not have a plan for safely disposing of the 130 million tons of ash produced each year, enough to fill 1 million railroad cars. The dangers are such that the Department of Homeland Security tried to put 44 of the most vulnerable storage facilities on a classified list lest they fall into the hands of terrorists.
Climate scientists such as NASA's James Hansen, who says that it makes no sense to build coal-fired power plants when we will have to bulldoze them in a few years.
With more efficient lighting and appliances, if the efficiency level of the other 49 states were raised to that of New York, the most energy-efficient state, the energy saved would be sufficient to close 80% of the country's coal- fired power plants. The few remaining plants could be shut down by turning to renewable energyâwind farms, solar thermal power plants, solar cell rooftop arrays, and geothermal power and heat.
The handwriting is on the wall. With the likelihood that few, if any, new coal-fired power plants will be approved in the United States, this will send a message to the world. Denmark and New Zealand have already banned new coal- fired power plants. Other countries are likely to join this effort to cut carbon emissions.
Even China, which was building one new coal plant a week, is surging ahead with harnessing renewable energy development and will soon overtake the United States in wind electric generation. These and other developments suggest that the Plan B goal of cutting net carbon emissions 80% by 2020 may be much more attainable than many would have thought. rw
The new report, produced by the UK's Industry Taskforce for Peak Oil and Energy Security, updates the estimates of when oil demand exceeds production, which will account for the global economic slowdown. The unbiased attention that has been given to the report including that of the British government shows that a wider understanding of the problem is starting to take hold.
The first two variables determining the timing of the crunch encompass the balance of new oil supplies and declining production from existing oil fields.
The report says from 2011 on, the relentless drop in production of just over 4 million b/d from the fields that are currently producing about 85 million barrels a day will be barely balanced with production from new projects through 2014. After that world production will decline.
The world's ability to keep increasing its oil production will come to an end this year after 150 years of more or less steady growth. While new production will continue, these projects are five to ten years away from significantly adding to global production and likely will be overbalanced by the 4 million b/d annual drop in production from existing fields. New production will slow the depletion, but not enough to allow for global economic growth.
Currently world oil production is running about 85 million b/d; however, there is said to be another 6 or so million b/d of unused productive capacity that could start producing oil in a few months. Although some are skeptical about the size and quality of this "reserve capacity" which is in Saudi Arabia, in theory it could keep the lid on prices for a while.
The third major variable will be the growth or decline in global demand for oil. Demand from the US and other OECD nations appears to be falling slowly and all eyes are on China, India and other developing countries where demand grew rapidly in 2009 and shows every indication of continuing to increase in 2010 and beyond.
The best current thinking on the peak oil situation concludes that world oil production will stop growing at the end of this year; will balance annual global depletion of 4 million b/d for the next four years or so; and then enter into irreversible decline.
Geopolitical disruptions of oil supplies could, of course, trigger off price spikes at any time.
Governmental restrictions on carbon emissions could reduce the demand for oil and delay the task force's crunch beyond 2015.
Chris Barton, the government official responsible for Britain's energy security, and acknowledged that the government really does not know when peak oil will occur but acknowledged the risks could be serious. rw
In July 2006, the world's oil rigs pumped out crude at a rate of nearly 85.5 million bbl. a day. Since then, production has lessened, even as prices have risen from $75 to $98 per bbl.
A lot of geologists, a few billionaire investors, and various survivalists call this peak oil, with the middle to end of this decade as a likely turning point.
But the oil industry and the government agencies that work with it say that, to call it peak oil, is premature, that production will soon begin rising again, peaking at more than 110 million bbl. a day around 2030. There have been temporary drops in oil production before, usually during global economic slowdowns. But even 2030 is alarming, with most optimists agreeing on that figure.
Recently, however, chief executives of ConocoPhillips and French oil giant Total both declared that they can't see oil production ever topping 100 million bbl. a day. The International Energy Agency warned that "new capacity additions will not keep up with declines at current fields and the projected increase in demand."
This doesn't mean that oil production has peaked: some call it "peak lite," where the big issues are not so much geological as political, technical, financial and even human-resource-related (the world apparently suffers from a dearth of qualified petroleum engineers). In this scenario, production would not so much peak as plateau. But with demand rising sharply, especially from China and India, even a plateau could be precarious.
There are still massive reserves available in Canadian tar sands, Colorado shale, Venezuelan heavy oil and other unconventional deposits. But most of this oil is hard to extract and even harder to refine, thus it won't make up a significant share of global production anytime soon. Most experts agree that the pumping of conventional oil outside the OPEC has already peaked or will peak soon, even with discoveries like the recent 8 billion-bbl. find off the coast of Brazil.
OPEC currently accounts for 41% of world oil production. Optimists believe this share will rise dramatically in the coming decades.
Pessimists, like energy-industry investment banker Matt Simmons, in his 2005 book Twilight in the Desert, questioned whether Saudi Arabia, OPEC's top producer, really can pump much more oil than it does now. Saudi output has dropped from 9.6 million bbl. a day to 8.6 million since the book was published, despite rising prices.
Saudi officials say they could up production at any time, saying the high prices are the fault of participants in futures markets and the falling dollar, not low production.
If in the coming years OPEC's members cannot boost production, we should have a global summit and say, "Gentlemen, it's nobody's fault, but we've peaked," says Simmons. "We've got to embrace some conservation practices that are draconian, or we will be at war with each other."
The oil peakists figure that cheap oil is the essential fuel of modern capitalism, which will founder without it. Hopefully it is more true that innovation is the essential fuel of modern capitalism and that high oil prices will drive rapid advances in conservation and alternative energy.Karen Gaia says: who is right - optimists or pessimists? We can pray that it is the optimists, but we should be prepared in case the pessimists are correct. In any case, curtailing use of oil is the right answer. If you don't think we have a choice, then think again, or a worse choice will be forced upon us.
Since the earth is 70% covered by water, and the water cycle replenishes water on a continuous basis, the idea of 'peak water' may seem strange for most people.
Glaciers are melting and oceans are rising, which means water will be more plentiful. But it is the location of the water that matters. Shortages in the wrong places could lead to food shortages, famine, and starvation in those regions, and effect the economic future of nations.
Many politicians have ignored resource issues for the last 30 years of debt- financed good times with relatively low prices for all natural resources and commodities.
Investment manager Jeremy Grantham says "We must prepare ourselves for waves of higher resource prices and periods of shortages unlike anything we have faced outside of wartime conditions."
Comparing peak oil to peak water:
While oil is non-renewable and limited, it is replaceable by other more costly alternatives; water is renewable and relatively unlimited, but there is no substitute and it is only useful in the precise places.
Oil is finite, while water is literally finite, but nearly unlimited at a cost.
Long-distance transport of oil is economically viable while with water it is not.
If the world's population grows from 6.7 billion people to 7.5 billion by 2020 - a possible projection by the U.N., water use would increase by 40% to support the food requirements of the additional people. 1.8 billion people would be living in regions with extreme water scarcity.
Since the U.S. is an exporter of wheat, soybeans, rice and corn ($80 billion worth in 2008), drought or additional consumption in the areas where these crops are grown would have worldwide implications.
70% of the globe is covered by water, but most of it is saltwater. Desalinization can convert saltwater into freshwater, but it is only useful on coastlines and is 15 times more expensive than natural freshwater.
2% of the earth's water is considered freshwater, most of which is locked up in glaciers, permanent snow cover and in deep groundwater.
Challenges of freshwater:
Regional scarcity solutions are not easy:
In the Southwest U.S., much of it desert, solutions are difficult. Lake Mead, the country's largest artificial body of water, which provides water to Arizona, California, Nevada and northern Mexico is dangerously depleted. Housing developments in this region have been stopped by lack of water.
On the Colorado River there is more water allocated than there is water, which is not a problem as long as some people are willing to sell their water. For example, Chevron leases water from its shale oil project to the city of Las Vegas for drinking water. The day may come when Chevron won't extend the lease.
Many areas are using ground water that will be used up entirely in just a few decades.
In the U.S., suburban sprawl, with its lawns and ponds, has put intense pressure on local water supplies. In drought years Maryland, Virginia and the District fight over the Potomac water - lawns sucking up 85% of the river's flow. 67 million more people are expected to inhabit the United States by 2030, making water shortages even more severe.
In the midwest, parts of the Ogallala Aquifer - the great underground reservoir stretching from Texas to South Dakota - has started to run dry. "When you go to your house and turn the shower on and there is no water, it's a serious situation'" a farmer says.
In the last 10 years there has been a steady erosion in the amount of grain grown per capita. With developing countries growing rapidly, the need for imports of grain could drive up the cost of food everywhere.
The Chinese are converting farmland to industrial uses, while at the same time demanding more meat and grains in their diet. The price spike in 2007 and 2008 is a sign of a costly future for consumers. According to the U.N. in 2008, global food reserves were at their lowest level in 30 years
We should call them peak cheap oil and peak cheap water, instead of just peak oil and peak water, because the cost of producing or supplying them will continue to rise.
Food shortages and skyrocketing commodity prices are inevitable, with peak water playing significant role. The evidence is before our eyes:
We know that peak oil is the more likely trigger for armed conflict. For example, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor because the U.S. was cutting off its oil supply. The Middle East, Russia, Brazil, Canada have the oil, while the United States, China, Europe, Japan need the oil. The struggle resulting from peak water is not yet on the radar screen, but is coming up.
Interview with Herve Duval by Richard Heinberg of the Post Carbon Institute
It has become evident that oil has peaked in 2008 and the author suggests July 11, 2008 as Peak Oil Day
The media has led us to believe that the origin of the financial crisis is found within the financial system. The lack of confidence in future growth due to cheap oil production peaking may also be a major factor.
In 2008 we saw the biggest energy price spike ever. Energy price spikes have historically led to recessions, and this recession began somewhat earlier than expected and was deeper and more persistent than any other in recent decades.
Bubbles in the housing and finance sectors made financial collapse inevitable. While the fall in real estate values and rise in foreclosures are not directly related to oil, the impacts on the airline, trucking, and automotive industries are largely from energy prices.
We have been conditioned to expect to always have increasing amounts of cheap energy with which to power the engines of production, which has become an expectation of growth, leading to ever-increasing levels of debt and in increased financial leveraging. When the amount of energy available started to level off or decline, the entire financial house of cards came tumbling down.
World leaders assume the crisis to be financial in origin, and so it must also be transient: we think all we have to do is prop up the banks sufficiently and the economy will begin to grow again. But with declining energy supplies, the economy cannot grow.
We need an economy that can supply basic human needs without increasing the rate at which we consume resources. We need monetary systems and financial institutions that are not based on debt, interest, and leveraging.
Speculation in energy futures does not help us adjust to the winding down of cheap fuel. There will continue to big swings in fossil fuel prices unless controls are imposed. When fuel prices rise, the economy takes a hit. When the price collapses, that discourages investment in future energy production.
OPEC increases or decreases production to keep the oil price steadier than it would otherwise be. But with declining production and little or no spare production capacity, this cannot be done. Only Saudi Arabia has this ability and cannot balance production rates for the whole world much longer.
An international agreement to ration production and consumption is proposed in the book "The Oil Depletion Protocol", but in the end, fossil fuels will be used by those who can pay for them. Sometimes this occurs indirectly: China burns coal on behalf of North America and Europe so that it can produce cheap goods for export.
Development based on consumption of fossil fuels has now become a trap, creating dependence upon energy sources that are becoming more scarce and expensive. Poor nations will now be much better off avoiding that trap altogether.
The solutions to both climate change and fossil fuel depletion are similar: reduce fossil fuel dependency, and increase renewable energy production. But solutions like the capture and storage of carbon from coal-fired power plants make no sense, requiring enormous investment and decades for deployment. The peak of world coal production is probably less than two decades away. It would make more sense to build renewable energy production capacity.
To avoid conflicts over energy resources we need to reduce competition for those resources by reducing dependence upon them.
Increasing shortages of fresh water for irrigation are in part due to climate change, which is in turn due to carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. Soil erosion is often caused by modern industrial production methods involving the use of tractors and other fuel-fed farm machinery. The genetic uniformity of modern crops makes them more susceptible to evolving pests,thus requiring the use of more petroleum-based pesticides.
The inevitable reduction in the supply of tractor fuel will hurt farmers, and agricultural chemicals will become increasingly unaffordable. High petroleum prices will make the long-distance distribution of food more costly. Climate change and drought will shrink crop yields. We must reform our entire food system so as to reduce its reliance on fuel.
A U.S. Energy Policy; a Realistic Way for the United States to Meet Its Global Obligation Toward Greenhouse Gas Reduction..March 17, 2009 Fred Brown
President Obama has proposed that 25% of our electrical energy be from renewable sources by 2025. We need at least 75% in 8 years, and this is quite doable.
Nationwide peak summertime electrical consumption is now 783,000 megawatts. 75% of this would be 587,000 megawatts. So we would need 587,000 one-megawatt wind generators by 2017. President Obama proposes "clean coal technology". There is no way to burn coal without producing greenhouse gases. Coal is mostly carbon and carbon is the problem.
T. Boone Pickens has proposed an increase in wind generators with the natural gas savings to be diverted to fuel for cars and trucks. His plan is feasible and would reduce air pollution.
But if we are going to run our vehicles on compressed gas it should be hydrogen, not natural gas. Honda is manufacturing hydrogen powered cars. And whereas electrical energy can be economically transmitted only about 300 miles, hydrogen can be sent thousands of miles through pipelines.
The best way to finance the conversion to a wind power/hydrogen economy is to raise the federal gasoline tax to a dollar a gallon from the present 15 cents. A raise in the gas tax would require political courage but would encourage conservation, alternative and public transportation, reduction of pollution and traffic congestion, and the saving of lives. rw
Mexico is our #3 source of oil, providing 1.3 million barrels per day (mbpd), or about 6% of our total.
Mexico's largest oil field, Cantarell, peaked in 2003 at 2.1 mbpd, but its production is crashing at about 38% per year. It is now producing about 0.77 mbpd, and will probably fall to 0.5 mbpd before tailing off at a gentler rate.
Mexico's largest producing region is now the Ku-Maloob-Zaap (KMZ) complex, adjacent to the Cantarell complex. It's smaller than Cantarell, and at 0.78 mbpd it is near its planned maximum production rate.
Nitrogen injection was initiated which we indicates that Mexico would rather maximize its revenue now than worry about tomorrow.
Oil is Mexico's number-one export. With its oil revenues in decline, the state is finding it increasingly difficult to fund operations-including operations against illegal drugs. Drug cartels have grown and have now taken to open war with the authorities, who are finding themselves outgunned against better funded adversaries.
An estimated 10,000 people have died since Mexico's president Felipe Calderan took office in 2006 and began a campaign against organized crime. The atrocities include torture, beheadings, and public displays of mutilated corpses. Extortion and protection rackets are proliferating. The nation's 32 independent states, a decrepit judicial process, and an ineffective and disorganized federal police force have left the nation ill-equipped to control the cartels.
US cities along Mexican borders Texas are contending with increased violence and trade in weapons.
What does the estimated $20 billion trade in illegal drugs from Mexico have to do with energy? Mexico's exports of oil and gas to the US account for over one-third of the government's revenues, and their decline is expected to widen the country's current-account deficit to an average 3.6% of GDP in 2009-13.
The declining production of Cantarell will deprive Mexico's economy of roughly $5 billion. At the same time, a large number of migrant workers in the US are going back home as their work here dries up.
Add to that declining tourism revenues, due to poor security and a loss of income due to the falling price of oil, and you have an economy that is on the ropes.
It will be very difficult for the Mexican government to maintain order, and fight the drug cartels under such severe pressures.
It will also make it very difficult for Pemex to raise the capital to expand its oil and gas production. Mexican law prohibits foreign companies from owning its petroleum resources, so it relies heavily on debt backed by foreign issuers to fund its operations.
Given the increasing uncertainty of Mexico's future, it is hard to imagine how Pemex will continue to invest at the necessary levels, $20 billion in capital expenditures are planned for this year, to keep its oil and gas flowing to US markets.
On current trends, Mexico's oil and gas exports to the US will cease entirely within seven years.
How will the US adjust to a 6% loss in its oil supply when all of its other major suppliers are also in decline?. Our remaining reserves at home will become an important answer, and those barrels will sell for much higher prices than they do today.
Sugar cane is grown in Brazil to satisfy a demand for ethanol. Brazil hopes to supply drivers worldwide with cheap ethanol, considered an antidote to climate change, but thousands of Brazilian plantation workers harvest the cane at slave wages.
The plantations around Brazil's ethanol zone look like a war zone during the harvest, as the burning fields light up the sky. In the morning, when only embers remain, tens of thousands of workers with machetes head into the fields and harvest the cane, which is used to distill ethanol.
Cane cutters last an average of 12 years on the job before they are so worn out that they have to be replaced. There is nothing else, those who do not cut sugarcane go hungry. a million people toil on the plantations and in Brazil's ethanol factories. The power lies in the hands of militias, working for the sugar barons, who intimidate workers and drive away small farmers in support of a global vision.
"By 2030 we will be the world's largest fuel supplier," says Brazilian President In 2008 Brazil produced just under 26 billion liters of ethanol, projected to rise to 53 billion by 2017. More than 30 countries use ethanol as an additive to gasoline. The US plans to satisfy about 15% of its
The Coming Oil Train Wreck; First Stop: Mexico?.December 22, 2008 http://www.financialsense.com/Market/allison/2008/1222.html
With oil having fallen from $147 to under $40 per barrel in less than six months and gasoline now at less than $2 a gallon, there is little media alarm over the stark IEA (International Energy Agency) report other than to highlight that 2009 will feature 'demand destruction'. The message sent to the public: lower oil prices ahead, problem solved. Unfortunately, the critical message of 9.1% global oil depletion was ignored. There are only a few alarmists such as Matt Simmons.
The world's energy system is at a crossroads. Current global trends in energy supply and consumption are patently unsustainable- environmentally, economically, socially.
Sadly, oil - created over millions of years - is finite. Oil is a one-time gift that will likely be wrapping up its brief lifespan late this century. To add to the problem, exploration and production around the world is downsizing, as the dramatically lower oil prices make projects uneconomical. The current global oil production is 72 million barrels per day. If the world spends a fortune trying to mitigate the depletion rate, it is estimated global production will fall to 25 million barrels per day by 2030.
The chances of finding super-giant oil fields, and soon, are not overly promising. Mexico has long relied heavily on Cantarell, the super-giant discovered in 1976. Over millions of years, the massive crater produced over 30 billion barrels of oil.
The most troubling aspect is that the decline rate is accelerating, estimated at 2.5% per month currently, or 30% annually.
Promising offshore discoveries in Mexico will likely take decades to bring to production.
Replacing the 1.3 million barrels per day the US now imports from Mexico won't be easy. For Mexico, the problems run much deeper, as they must quickly diversify their economy or face wrenching economic and social dislocations.
Combined with a 9.1% depletion rate, the imbalances are growing. A crossroads is coming, where demand will re-ignite at some point and supply will have difficulty catching up. We have a liquid fuel crisis. We are decades from electrifying the transportation system, and wind, solar and nuclear will not solve a liquid fuel shortage. At least in the US, the best opportunity appears to be rapid conversion to natural gas-powered transportation.
The peak-oil ill be a crisis for many, but a great opportunity for others. As a citizen, it is important to begin preparing for a difficult energy future.
PG&E (Pacific Gas and Electric) will buy 550 megawatts from OptiSolar, who would install thin-film solar panels on 9.5 square miles of ranchland in San Luis Obispo County and buy an additional 250 megawatts from SunPower Corp., that would use an additional 3.5 square miles of San Luis Obispo land.
The purchase could show that photovoltaic power can be affordably produced on a large, centralized scale and makes large-scale solar an increasingly large part of the energy in the West. California's utilities are under a state mandate to generate 20% of their energy from renewable sources.
PG&E received just 11.4% of its energy from renewable sources in 2007, while Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas and Electric got 15.7% and 5.2% of their power from renewables.
Together with the 800-megawatt deal, solar contracts would increase renewable energy to 24% of PG&E's portfolio by 2013. Solar power until now has been too expensive for utilities, costing about 40 cents per kilowatt hour, compared with 10 cents for natural gas and 12 cents for wind power. The contracts would not affect electricity rates paid by consumers.
OptiSolar and SunPower said they are able to offer a lower rate than traditional photovoltaic projects for a variety of reasons. Some experts cautioned that there are hurdles to cross before those 800 megawatts of power become a reality.
The plants will need approval from state and local government. Environmentalists will complain because of the amount of land involved. PG&E will have to develop transmission lines to move the power to its customers. And OptiSolar and SunPower will need to finance construction of all those solar cells.
President Bush repeats his call for Congress to lift the moratorium on offshore drilling. Interior Secretary Kempthorne said that his department is laying the groundwork so offshore drilling in new areas could begin in three years.
But many of the untapped offshore areas would likely remain off-limits. GOP leaders all say that states should decide whether to open their shorelines to drilling. But many governors in coastal states are saying, "No, thanks!"
Some 8.3 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico were opened up to drilling two years ago, so Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi don't matter in this debate.
What's at stake is an estimated 18 billion barrels of oil off the coasts of other states.
Some 10 billion is in Californian waters, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants it left alone. Chances are slim that Arnie and other state lawmakers would permit drilling near their shores. Gov. Gregoire (D) and Oregon Gov. Kulongoski (D) want to fight for more offshore drilling.
New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine (D) and North Carolina Gov. Easley (D) spoke against offshore drilling, citing the damage it could do to their states' tourism, real estate, and natural resources.
Maine Gov. Baldacci (D) and other political leaders say "no way," fearing for their state's fishing industry and environment. Massachusetts tried offshore drilling and found there wasn't much oil plus opposition to drilling is "fierce." Maryland's governor is opposed.
It's proved politically unpopular in Virginia. Florida Republicans have backed McCain's drilling call, and a number of Florida voters are shifting in the same direction. Public support for drilling has jumped from 50% to 60%. Most Democratic leaders in the state remain bitterly opposed.
About 57% of Americans would support drilling in places currently off limits if it would bring down gas prices.
Exxon Mobil reported the best quarterly profit ever for a corporation. Record earnings for Exxon have become routine as the surge of oil prices filled its coffers. The company's income for the second quarter rose 14%, to $11.68 billion, compared to the same period a year ago. Exxon's profits were nearly $90,000 a minute over the quarter, but it was less than Wall Street had expected. Exxon's shares fell 4.6%.
The disappointment from investors put pressure on Exxon Mobil's chief executive to search for new fields. The sell-off in Exxon stock continued a trend as oil and natural gas prices have fallen sharply from record levels. But problems surfaced in the company's report, a 10% drop in oil production and a 3% decline in natural gas production from the second quarter of 2007.
The production decrease was viewed with concern by energy analysts. "High commodity prices are driving the record earnings, not growth in production.
Crude oil prices in the second quarter averaged 91% higher than the same quarter in 2007. Natural gas prices averaged $10.80 for every thousand cubic feet, up 43% from a year ago. Exxon earned $10 billion in the quarter from exploration and production, up from $6 billion a year ago. But the company's $1.6 billion in profit from refining was less than half that in last year's quarter. Earnings from its chemical business of $687 million were down $326 million from last year.
The company intendeds to disburse $125 billion in capital spending over the next five years to produce more oil and natural gas.
Royal Dutch Shell, Eni and Repsol, three of Europe's largest oil companies, also reported strong profits. Shell reported its output had declined by 1.6%. Repsol's by nearly 20% percent. Shell, reported a 33% increase to $11.56 billion, from $8.67 billion in the period a year ago.
Oil companies are under pressure to find new reserves.
Adding together the output of all the major oil companies, this appears to be the fourth straight quarter of production declines. The total decline might exceed 600,000 barrels a day, reflecting the difficulties the oil companies had in gaining access to make up for the decline of mature fields.
Exxon's production tumbled because of Venezuela's expropriation of Exxon's assets last year, and declining production in many fields around the world.
Democrats in Congress were quick to criticize Exxon's profit. "Big Oil is plowing profits into stock buybacks instead of increasing production.
In 1968, Paul Ehrlich published The Population Bomb, a scenario of imminent population explosion and ensuing disaster. The second part of his message - that society must limit population growth - drew howls of protest. Virtually every one objected to the discussion of human reproduction as a condition of food and habitat. Now homo sapiens has become so powerful that it can undermine the ability to support much of life.
Underlying all is the issue of population. When Ehrlich wrote The Population Bomb, there were 3.5 billion people on Earth; there are now 6.7 billion. Each person we add now disproportionately impacts on the environment and life-support systems of the planet.
There is a growing sense that population will again emerge as a central component of the debate on global warming. But it's a discussion that's open to distortion. Superstitious thinking is that technology will support and improve living standards for ever greater numbers of people, or that some kind of natural phenomenon will take the problem out of our hands.
If the US still had the 140 million people we had at the end of the second world war we wouldn't be dependent on foreign oil, and we'd be emitting far less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
It's incomprehensible that we're in a presidential campaign and no one is discussing any of these issues. Except for some developing countries, the globe was not racked by food shortages through the 1970s because advances in farming and technology were able to sustain larger populations.
Yet the issue of overpopulation and overconsumption remain near the centre of Ehrlich's study. We have grown in number to the point where our presence is disabling the planet like a disease.
Consumption may be more thorny than population. Debate in the US tends to skip over the question of curbing domestic energy use and carbon emissions to the question of how to curb growing Indian and Chinese pollution. With petrol reaching over $4 (Ł2) a gallon the price does not reflect its true cost. Historically, the rise of environmental consciousness has been rapid. The trouble is, the environment has been going downhill far faster. rw
With concerns about climate change mounting, the era of coal-fired electricity generation in the US may be coming to a close. In 2007 151 coal-fired power plants were in the planning stages in the US. But during 2007, 59 were either refused licenses or abandoned. Close to 50 coal plants are being contested in the courts, and the remaining plants will likely be challenged when they reach the permitting stage.
What began as local resistance to coal-fired power plants is evolving into national opposition. Growing concern over pending legislation to regulate carbon emissions is creating uncertainty in financial markets. Leading to downgrading coal stocks and requiring utilities seeking funding for coal plants to include a cost for carbon emissions. In 2008 there was introduced a bill to ban new coal-fired power plants without carbon emissions controls nationwide until federal regulations address greenhouse gas emissions. If Congress passes this bill, it will deal a death blow to the future of coal-fired power generation. rwKaren Gaia says: in order for this to happen, we need to put more money into renewables and conservation right now.
Senator Obama proposed tightening the regulation of oil speculators to ease high gasoline prices. He proposed closing a legal provision requested by Enron that exempts crucial energy commodities from government oversight. He also proposed preventing traders of American crude oil from routing transactions through offshore markets to evade American limits and he called on the Government to investigate market manipulation and oil futures.
How large a role investment plays in pushing up commodity prices is not clear.
While some analysts believe that large flows of money into largely unregulated exchanges have distorted markets and pushed up prices, most energy experts see no support for that theory. They point out that traditional market forces, like growing demand from emerging countries, and limited growth in oil supplies, can easily account for the increase in prices.
As news emerged that Saudi Arabia planned a production increase, Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, welcomed the Saudi move but said that it would dampen prices only "a little bit."
Obama supporters assailed Mr. McCain for saying that he now favors allowing coastal oil drilling by states that want it.
McCain supporters said that opening up offshore drilling would signal that betting on future high prices is risky.
China has overtaken the US as the leading emitter of carbon dioxide, its emissions increasing 8% in 2007. In 2007 China's emissions were 14% higher than those of the US. China's emissions are likely to continue growing because they are tied to the country's economic growth and its mix of industry and power sources.
China is dependent on coal and has seen its most rapid growth in industrial sectors: cement, aluminum and plate glass.
About 20% of China's emissions come from its cement kilns.
The data emphasized the importance of getting China to sign on to any new global climate agreement. The Kyoto Protocol will be replaced by a new agreement to be signed in Copenhagen at the end of 2009.
Late last year, UN experts warned that the world had only a few years to reverse growing emissions.
China had been acting progressively on environmental policy in the past year.
Emissions in the original EU states fell 2% in 2007, though this drop was at least partly attributable to a warm winter. High oil prices have created an interest in coal-fired power plants, which are heavily polluting.
Protests over fuel prices erupted in Asia as truckers in Hong Kong and demonstrators in India and Nepal added their voices. As oil hit $139 a barrel, businesses said they can no longer cope with pump prices. Two protesters were killed, one in Spain and one in Portugal, as they attempted to block traffic.
Truckers in South Korea voted to strike, and Malaysian Prime Minister pledged about $306 million to maintain support among provincial lawmakers angry over the fuel costs.
Several hundred trucks and buses in Hong Kong snarled traffic. Drivers were demanding reductions in fuel taxes. The protests in India and Nepal were smaller but reflected spreading anger over prices.
Fuel taxes are the issue for truckers in Europe, because they account for a large portion of the retail price of fuel. "We're doing this for our industry and our customers," said an organizer of a go-slow protest in Scotland.
Protests began to hit home as Spanish media reported that gas stations in some areas had run out of fuel and some markets were reporting shortages of fresh produce.
Traffic jams formed at a crossing on the French border, where Spanish drivers refused to let foreign trucks enter. The Spanish Interior Ministry announced that the first fatality was a protester struck by a van at a picket line in Granada. The van's driver, accelerated when protesters started throwing rocks at him as he tried to drive past.
The second death was a protester in Portugal who was run over as he tried to signal for a truck to stop.
In Britain, Prime Minister Brown cautioned the public against panic buying of gas and diesel ahead of a threatened strike by 500 oil tanker drivers. Officials worry that the strike, could create fuel shortages at the pump. rw
In his latest report "Oil and Gas Rust - An Evil Worse Than Depletion", Simmons lays out the result when Peak Oil meets aging equipment.
Almost all oil and gas fields reside thousands of feet underground. Almost all "newer" oil fields lie under the sea. Oil has to be extracted, processed, refined and transported over long distances. The entire oil value chain is built of steel. Steel begins to corrode the day it is cast.
Had the world appointed an energy czar, he would have ordered a forced abandonment of rusting oil systems when leaks became too toxic. Leaks are dangerous to human health. Because rust never sleeps, leaks remain constant
As oil declines, brine generally takes its place, sweet light oil turns into sour heavy oil. Declining oil basins rarely have facilities replaced, and these factors accelerate corrosion and rust.
The presentation gets scary as Simmons says that based on April 2008 figures from world oil production peaked in 2005!
Biofuel is a renewable fuel that is not sustainable. Production of biofuel from crops in a relatively underpopulated nation like America, is one thing. Production of biofuel from crops where rainforest stood a year earlier, is something else entirely.
Biofuel will not make a significant dent in global energy production, yet it is profitable. Biofuel is playing its part in rainforest destruction, and we need to put equal energy into monitoring the health and extent of our rainforests. Sustainability principles for biofuel are absolutely essential.
We are learning how to extract biofuel from crop residue, timber industry byproducts, animal and municipal wastes. Policies need to be structured to accelerate these 2nd generation methods of extracting and refining biofuel. Better yet, technology needs to deliver 3rd generation biofuels that are grown in factory environments.
With these sorts of innovations the goal of producing 25% of all energy from renewable sources by 2025 may not have been ambitious enough. One of the biggest challenges will be to watch for unintended environmental consequences. Sustainability must strive to produce 25% of all energy from renewable sources by 2025 - by the 25x'25 Alliance, March 2008
Congress affirmed that 25x'25 is the goal of the US, to derive 25% of its energy use from renewable resources by 2025.
25x'25 Sustainability Principles
Renewable energy producers and consumers should have equitable access to renewable energy. Renewable energy production should improve air quality.
Renewable energy should maintain or enhance landscape biodiversity. Renewable energy production should bolster the quality of life in communities where it occurs.
Renewable energy production should be energy efficient, and conserve natural resources. Renewable energy production should result in a net reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
Introduced or non-native species can be used for renewable energy production when there are appropriate safeguards. All regions should have the opportunity to participate in renewable energy.
New technologies, can play a significant role in renewable energy production, provided they protect environmental values.
Renewable energy production should maintain or improve water quality.
Renewable energy production systems should maximize water conservation, and protect water resources.
The Yasuni National Park is a 2.5 million acre rainforest at the intersection of the Andes, the Amazon and the Equator. It is also the heart of a struggle between oil exploration and to permanently protect one of the most biologically diverse regions of the planet.
Only 2.5 acres of this forest contains as many tree species as in the US and and is home to jaguars, woolly and spider monkeys, and harpy eagles. Some of the species live on the brink of extinction. This was the home of 16,000 Waorani, but yoday, there are no more than about a thousand. One of the key reasons is the arrival of multinational oil companies in the latter part of the 20th century. A new plan could bring a halt to this exploration.
Tasuni falls between Ecuador and Peru. The Ecuadorian government granted an environmental license for Petrobras, the Brazilian state-owned corporation, to drill for oil in Block 31 that is believed to hold up to a billion barrels of oil. The Peruvian government has approved environmental impact studies for two areas. Armed with new contracts, the companies have attempted to win over the people of the forest by offering the indigenous villagers clothes and candy in return for permission to drill.
With the tacit permission of the villagers, Petrobras started to set up the infrastructure for oil exploration on the outer edges of Yasuni. Local authorities soon started to complain about Skanska's work in the area, saying Skanska behaved in a suspicious manner. An official in the provincial environmental office in Coca says that the company refused to cooperate with them. Petrobras' permit was revoked and the company was asked to conduct an environmental feasibility study.
Villagers say that Skanska hired people from the local population to perform dangerous jobs. They are accused of having purchased food supplies in the villages, but failed to pay.
One of Skanska's regional managers, an Argentinian oil exploration veteran said that "People here are slightly backward. You never know when the barbarians are going to start shooting arrows from the bushes". Skanska engineeers pay for security guards, but the company also has an agreement with the military for support. The oil companies supply the military with infrastructure, food, fuel, living quarters and emergency medical care in exchange for protection.
Attorney Bolivar Beltran says that the contract violates Chapter V of Ecuador's constitution. The population is being exposed to health hazards related to oil spills and waste dumping while they live in fear of the companies.
Today the future of the ITT fields remain uncertain. The government would refrain from exploiting Yasuni in exchange for receiving at least $350 million annually from the international community.
Coal Can't Fill World's Burning Appetite With Supplies Short, Price Rise Surpasses Oil and U.S. Exporters Profit.March 20, 2008 Washington Post
Coal is suddenly in short supply and high demand worldwide.
International spot prices of coal have risen by 50% or more, surpassing the escalation in oil.
Forty five ships were in Australian ports waiting for coal deliveries slowed by torrential rains. China and Vietnam, banned coal exports, while India's import demands are up. Factory hours have been shortened in parts of China, blackouts across South Africa and Java.
Mining companies are enjoying a windfall. Coal buyers have begun locking in long-term contracts at high prices.
In the US coal exports helped lower the trade deficit. Coal exports account for 2.5% of US exports, and grew by 19% to $4.1 billion.
Many companies are wondering whether high prices are here to stay. World consumption of coal has grown 30% in the past six years, twice as much as any other energy source. Meeting rising demand will prove difficult. The United States will need to make major investments in mines, railways and ports.
Consol Energy, one of the biggest U.S. coal producers is trying to decide whether to expand output at its Appalachian mines and to add capacity in Baltimore's harbor.
High prices would raise the cost of US electricity, half of which is generated by coal-fired plants.
Coal generates 39% of carbon dioxide emissions. Legislation could impose higher costs on those who burn coal, forcing utilities and factories to become more efficient and curtail its use.
China, is the world's largest consumer of coal, and its consumption is increasing by about 10% a year. China has vast coal resources, but its growing appetite has outstripped production. In January 2007, it imported more coal than it exported. Because of shortages, electricity was rationed in 17 provinces, most of them in the south. Concerned about inflation, Beijing is freezing electricity prices even as coal and oil prices soared.
Demand has created incentives for small illegal coal mine operations. The government has shut down 11,155 such mines since 2005, further crimping supplies.
India relies on outdated energy policies while trying to keep pace with booming demand. By 2012 India expects to add 76,000 megawatts of power. About 94% of India's coal mining is in the hands of government-owned companies. Because the government is worried about social unrest, the prices for coal and electricity are kept low.
Although India's coal reserves are vast, they haven't been fully developed. The government hopes to boost coal production by 50% by 2012 and quadruple it by 2030. India expects to import 51 million tons by 2012. By 2022, imports could climb to 136 million tons.
British coal consumption has climbed steadily over the past six years. Coal has surpassed gas again as the leading fuel for electricity plants.
Britain imports coal from Russia, Australia, Colombia, South Africa and Indonesia.
U.S.: A Real Freak Out.March 18, 2008 Kunstler.com
The train wreck of bad debt meets the Saint Paddy's Day Parade of bacchanalian excess at the grade-crossing of destiny. The train is carrying America's financial system, but the engine driving it is peak oil, because declining energy resources means declining capital wealth that leads to the reinvention of American life by other means.
There are those who believe we will 'high-tech' our way out, and those who believe we'll organize our way out.
One of the implications is the probability that we will try anything besides the right things to keep the old game going for a while.
The touting of hybrid cars, and the flimflam of energy independence, the "environmental" crowd" squanders most of its attention on how to keep all the cars running on something other than gasoline.
I hate to think of the political consequences when their disappointment catches up to the reality that the suburbs and the way of life they entail will not be rescued.
Now, we'll also bail-out all those who tried to become rich by getting something for nothing at both ends of the the housing bubble. The bail-out is likely to accomplish nothing except the more rapid bankruptcy of government at all levels and a second Great Depression.
One game is to prevent the "assets" of Bear Stearns from going to the auction block, on which they would be discovered to be nearly worthless.
The next thing in store for America will be oil-and-gasoline shortages. While frightened money pours into the oil futures markets, driving the price up, imports of oil and gas to the US may not be as reliable as it had been. The exporters may be changing their terms of doing business with us. Shortages are going to be a real freak out. rwKaren Gaia says: with the growth of population and availabilty of cheap transportation, we have pushed ourselves out from the congested city centers. We have nearly used up the huge reserve of oil and natural gas and coal when we should have been conserving for our grandchildren and the bulging population we have produced. We will pay the price of our greed in the near future.
Nigeria is the 10th largest producer of crude oil in the world and the fifth largest supplier of oil to the US. As of January 2007 Nigeria had 36.2 billion barrels of proven oil reserves. To date Nigeria has made about $650 billion but has very little to show for it. Around 70% of the 130 million Nigerians live on less than $1 a day with life expectancy barely topping 50 years. In the Niger Delta where most of the oil reserves are found, the rivers have been polluted. The fish in the local rivers are gone. Agricultural land can no longer grow food. Shell has shipped oil from Nigeria for over 50 years, leaving the Niger Delta undeveloped. Nigeria's refining capacity is insufficient to meet local demand and Nigeria imports petroleum products.
Ghana needs to be very circumspect with how it handles the emerging oil boom.
The government must make sure that the oil companies take business and social responsibility seriously. The oil companies must address the provision of facilities to improve the lot of the local communities.
Our justice system must bring such crooks and recalcitrants to book irrespective of the person's social, economic, or political standing.
In an age of industrialization, and computerization, we cannot afford power outages. The current power outages have caused many businesses to lose their equipment and machinery. The mining industry has been hit and there are reports that cat-scan machinery at our hospitals have been damaged resulting in many untimely deaths. Our hospitals are badly maintained and have been no new major ones being built despite the increases in the country's population. in the population of the elderly and retired.
We need to increase the contribution of industry, creating more employment opportunities.
In the rural areas nobody cares about living conditions. Most are not fit for habitation by humans. If we want the rural areas to be attractive they must be upgraded. Rural industries must be cited in these areas to encourage the youth to stay. This will call for the provision of good roads, electricity, water, etc.
We have failed to maintain the road and rail systems we inherited from our colonial masters. There must be super-highways linking all major towns and cities in the country. Ghanaians need to develop maintenance for sustainability. New and first class highways must be constructed from the north to the south.
Successive governments must maintain development projects started by the previous government. We need creativity and innovation in our political dispensation. We need new and bold ideas from our political leadership.
Every house in Accra and all other cities and towns must be required to construct water closets employing the use of septic tanks until we develop an elaborate and efficient sewage system. However, we need water to flush the waste. The government, has to make sure there is provision of adequate and constant running water before it can enact such a law.
When it rains in the cities like New York City, the water running into the curbs and underground drainage systems are as clear as tap water or water that falls on the roofs with no sediments to block the drains. In Accra all the silt is washed into the gutters causing them to overflow resulting in severe flooding.
The government must ensure that the necessary infrastructure, constant flowing electricity and water, expanded and reliable communications system, conducive business environment, effective, efficient, and reliable court system, efficient transportation and ports systems, efficient health care delivery system, well equipped schools across the country, to mention, but a few, are in place if we want Ghana to progress towards a middle-income status.
For an improvement in the quality of life, we need to monitor and match the country's natural growth by increasing infrastructure to keep pace with our population growth. The 21st century will call for greater collaboration among government, private industry, and higher education for complex research and development projects in the fields of technology, agriculture, health, the sciences and engineering. This must begin with formal networking among individuals in the universities/polytechnics, private industry, and the government. rwKaren Gaia says: no mention is made of the need to curtail population growth and the solution: voluntary family planning.
China, India and Brazil will more than double their energy use and greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 if they fail to improve energy efficiency. Cost-effective retrofits could reduce these countries' energy use by at least 25% and advanced technologies reduce their energy demand growth by 2030 by at least 10% and CO2 emission growth by 16%.
Good solutions can work as long as the financing and investment environment is in place and there's commitment from policymakers.
China, India and Brazil are among the world's top 10 energy consumers and are home to 40% of the world's population. They account for more than half of all energy demand by developing countries and will be responsible for 42% of growth in energy demand by 2030.
The main obstacles to energy efficiency are inadequate organization and institutional systems and the necessary funds, but there is gradual improvement in terms of energy efficiency.
A commercially viable energy-efficiency sector is now emerging in China after a decade of strong government support. In Brazil, an energy-efficiency fund provides a platform for further improvement.
The exuberance over ethanol has given way to a dreary hangover, especially among those who invested heavily in the production facilities. Biofuel factories, clustered largely in the corn-growing states, will produce 6.4 billion gallons of ethanol this year, and another 74 facilities are under construction. Now many are losing money. The price of a bushel of corn is near $4.00 again. At the same time, ethanol prices plummeted and profit margins vanished.
The use of corn-derived ethanol as a fuel has economic problems all its own. Even though companies that use ethanol in their gasoline receive a federal tax credit of 51 cents per gallon, ethanol struggles to compete economically. The boom in ethanol production is driving up the price of food. In the US in 2007, about 20% percent of corn went to ethanol. Since most of the rest is used to feed animals, the prices of beef, milk, poultry, and pork are all affected by increases in the cost of corn and The could bring about shifts in agricultural markets worldwide and cause food shortages.
This comes at a time when the need for alternatives to petroleum-based fuels is becoming urgent, and worries about the greenhouse-gas emissions from the 142 billion gallons of gasoline used every year in the US are deepening. Expanded use of biofuels is central to the federal government's long-term energy strategy. Hitting both targets will require significant technological breakthroughs. In the US ethanol means the corn-derived version. Proponents of corn ethanol say that its production levels cannot go higher than around 15 billion gallons a year.
Advocates of biofuels have called for ethanol to be made from alternative feedstocks but the technology is four to five years from commercial viability. Advanced biological techniques for creating other biofuels, such as hydrocarbons, are still in the lab.
The economic and market limitations of corn ethanol are a reminder of the difficulties facing developers of new biofuels. The problem is so huge that technology has to do it at a price that is competitive. The numbers speak for themselves. At $4.00 a bushel of corn, ethanol production costs $1.70 a gallon; to gain a 12% profit the producers need to sell at $1.83 a gallon. Corn derived ethanol is not a "green fuel" because making ethanol takes a lot of energy. About 25% more energy is squeezed out of the biofuel than is used to produce it, other fuels yield much bigger gains. You're getting a slight saving in terms of greenhouse-gas emissions, but not much.
Corn-derived production could have repercussions throughout the agricultural markets. Not only are corn prices up, but so are soybean prices, because farmers planted fewer soybeans to make room for corn.
The volume of corn required by the ethanol industry is sending shock waves through the food system. Because a larger percentage of their income goes to food, he says, this is going to hit poor people.
All these factors argue against the promise of corn ethanol as a solution to the energy problem. Even if all the corn planted in the US were used for ethanol, the biofuel would still displace only 12% of gasoline consumption.
Since the oil crisis of the 1970s, chemical and biological engineers have chased after ways to turn the nation's reserves of "cellulosic" material such as wood, agricultural residues, and perennial grasses into ethanol and other biofuels. The U.S. DOE announced up to $385 million in funding for six "biorefinery" projects that will use various technologies to produce ethanol from biomass. The country has enough forest and agricultural land to produce 1.3 billion tons of biomass that could go toward biofuels.
It takes less energy to grow cellulosic materials than to grow corn, and portions of the biomass can be used to help power the production process. For decades, scientists have known of bacteria that can degrade cellulose and produce some ethanol. Yet none can do the job quickly enough for large-scale manufacturing.
One bacteria, Clostridium phytofermentans, decomposes nearly all the components of the plant, and produces prodigious amounts of ethanol. A company in Amherst, SunEthanol, will attempt to scale up ethanol production using the bacterium.
By 2050, the world will need a billion hectares more land for food. That's the land mass of the entire United States just to feed the world. It makes sense to grow biomass for fuels on infertile land no longer used for agriculture.
Instead of ethanol, California startups are planning to produce novel hydrocarbons fermented from sugars, but more closely resemble gasoline, diesel, and even jet fuel. The problem is that nature offers no known examples of microrganisms that can ferment sugars into the types of hydrocarbons useful for fuel.
If eventually commercialized, the hydrocarbon biofuels could overcome many of the economic disadvantages of ethanol. Unlike ethanol, hydrocarbons separate from water during the production process, so no energy intensive distillation is necessary. Sugar cane offers the most viable way to make biofuels today.
Khosla envisions biofuel production increasing over the next 20 years. Production of corn ethanol will level off at 15 billion gallons a year by 2014, but cellulosic ethanol will reach 140 billion gallons by 2030. At that point, biofuels will be cheap and abundant enough to replace gasoline for almost all purposes.
In the Midwest, there are lingering questions about how the nation's agriculture will switch to biomass. The main point is whether corn ethanol will lead to new technologies--or stand in their way. Unless the cost is reduced significantly, cellulosic ethanol is going nowhere. If cellulosic biofuels are to begin replacing gasoline within five to ten years, facilities will need to start construction soon.
This fall, A company announced that it had begun work in Georgia on what it claims is the country's first commercial scale cellulosic-ethanol plant. It will use thermochemical technology to make ethanol from wood chips. A facility in Tennessee will be the first cellulosic-ethanol plant built to use switchgrass. But these production plants are federally subsidized or are a result of partnerships with state development organizations; attracting private investment for commercial-scale production will be a huge and risky challenge. It will take another 10 years to optimize production processes for cellulosic biofuels. rw
$2500 Car Raises Tough Questions.January 20, 2008 Sympatico MSN Finance
Recently introduced by India's Tata, the Nano costs $2,500 and promises to improve the quality of life for the thousands of Indians who are starting to form a growing middle-class.
Up to five people can fit into a Nano - although there's no air conditioning, radio, power steering or electric windows. But it gets about 54 miles to the gallon.
As countries like India and China continue to post strong economic growth, individuals begin to prosper and the demand for cars begins to take shape.
Some have denounced the Nano as a source of further CO2 emissions in an over-polluted country. Why not invest in more public transport, instead of putting hundreds of thousands of cheap little cars on the roads of India?
But why should they not be entitled to the same conveniences that we take for granted?
There are about 18.5 million vehicles registered in Canada for a population of 32 million. The US has .8 vehicles per person.
We use around 53 billion litres of gas or diesel fuel. The governments we have elected have made limited progress with the formulation of a comprehensive environmental policy. Telling voters that they have to tighten their belts is never considered a popular tactic at the polls.
There's no question that people in India and China are as entitled to the consumer comforts that we've enjoyed for so long. The question is whether they'll learn from our mistakes - or merely be the victims of them. rw
Energy demand is expected to grow in coming decades. Jeroen van der Veer, Royal Dutch Shell's chief executive, recently offered his views on the energy challenge facing the world and the challenge posed by global warming
You go from six billion people to nine billion people in 2050. Many more people climbing the energy ladder creates that enormous demand for energy.
Politicians think we have a choice between fossil fuels and renewables. We have to grow both fossil fuels and renewables. And that will be a huge effort.
In the very short term, carbon emissions will increase. But over time people will figure out ways, that while using fossil fuels, you try to find carbon solutions. The problem is that many of the renewables, if you take the subsidies out, are still too expensive. There is no lack of oil or gas, or coal. The problem is that the easy-to-produce oil or gas will be depleted. But if you look at difficult oil or gas, which the industry call the unconventionals, such as oil sands or shales, they may be exploitable. But per barrel, you need more technology and investments, and per barrel you need a lot more brain to produce it. It's much more expensive.
Ethanol -- Solution Or Boondoggle?.December 23, 2007 Sentinel
Ethanol from corn promises an unending supply of renewable energy. Yet some energy experts calculate that producing ethanol consumes about as much energy as burning it releases. When ethanol production began, calculations of benefits were theoretical. Now we have data and the news isn't good for ethanol. As production ramps up, we should see gasoline use ramp down if ethanol is really a net benefit. Since ethanol makes up about 3% percent of our vehicle fuel, we should see a corresponding decrease in gasoline use. But U.S. gasoline consumption has increased by 1.4% annually for the past five years. If ethanol had replaced gasoline, we should have seen a 1.6% decrease in gasoline use (1.4 - 3%.
Total miles driven increased only 1.2% from 2005 to 2006. The only explanation is that growing corn and distilling it into ethanol uses as much energy as it offers. One reason is that the appearance of corn growing by solar energy is an illusion. About 9/10ths of the energy that goes into corn comes not from sunlight, but from oil and gas. Tractors run on oil, fertilizer is made mostly from natural gas and moved around on oil-consuming trucks, combines harvest using oil and the list goes on and on.
Ethanol production is a disaster, one that will get worse as new distilleries come online in the Midwest. We are seeing higher prices for milk, chicken and other corn-based products. High corn prices hurt us and cause suffering in the third world.
We should do the following as soon as possible:
Phase out the federal subsidy of ethanol production. This costs billions.
End tariffs on imported biofuels, Brazil and other countries can make ethanol with minimal fossil fuel inputs. Increase CAFE fuel economy standards. The energy would actually not diverted to a new fuel infrastructure. European passenger vehicles get about 47% better fuel economy than American ones, and they still cruise the autobahns at breathtaking speeds.
Promote renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. The major obstacle to a rational policy is not engineering, but politics. We will continue to need small amounts of ethanol as an oxygenating additive, safer than the MTBE it replaces. But corn-based ethanol as a gasoline substitute is a tragic illusion. rwKaren Gaia says: having other countries make biofuels has been equally disasterous. Otherwise I agree with this article.
Data from the International Energy Agency IEA show a loss of momentum in the growth of oil production during the last few years. From 82.90 million barrels per day (mb/d) in 2004 to 84.15 mb/d in 2005, output only increased to 84.80 mb/d in 2006 and then declined to 84.62 mb/d during the first 10 months of 2007.
The combination of world production starting to decline while demand continues to rise rapidly is putting upward pressure on prices. If production growth continues to lag behind the increase in demand, how high will prices go?
There are many ways of assessing the oil production future. One is the relationship between oil discoveries and production, by the Hubbert who noted that the discovery of new reserves in the US peaked around 1930, and correctly predicted in 1956 that U.S. oil output would peak in 1970. Globally, oil discoveries peaked in the 1960s. Each year since 1984, production has exceeded new discoveries, by a widening gap. In 2006, 31 billion barrels of oil were extracted, exceeding the discovery of 9 billion barrels.
The world's 20 largest oil fields were all discovered between 1917 and 1979. Annual output from the aging fields is falling by 4 mb/d. Offsetting this decline with new discoveries is becoming increasingly difficult.
Among the post-peak countries are the US, which peaked at 9.6 mb/d in 1970, dropping to 5.1 mb/d in 2006; Venezuela, peaked in 1970; and the United Kingdom and Norway, peaked in 1999 and 2000.
Russia is now the world's leading oil producer. Two other countries with substantial potential are Canada, largely because of its tar sands, and Kazakhstan, which is developing the Kashagan oil field in the Caspian Sea. Other pre-peak countries include Algeria, Angola, Brazil, Nigeria, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.
Production may be peaking in Saudi Arabia, Mexico, and China. Saudi officials claim they can produce far more oil, but the giant Ghawar oil field-the world's largest by far-is 56 years old and in its declining years. Saudi oil production for the first eight months of 2007 show output of 8.62 mb/d, a drop of 6% from the 9.15 mb/d of 2006. If Saudi Arabia cannot restore growth, then peak oil is on our doorstep.
In Mexico, output apparently peaked in 2004 at 3.4 mb/d. Mexico could be an oil importer by 2015. Production in China, may also be about to peak.
Geological knowledge has improved in the past 30 years and it is inconceivable that major fields remain to be found.
When oil output is no longer expanding, no country can get more oil unless another gets less.
Oil-intensive industries will be hit hard. Cheap airfares will become history. The airline industry's projected growth will evaporate. The food industry will be affected by rising oil prices, since modern agriculture and food transport are oil-intensive. Pressures will intensify on the auto companies that are developing plug-in hybrid cars to bring them to market quickly.
Higher oil prices have been needed to reflect the indirect costs of burning oil, such as climate change, and to encourage more-efficient use of a resource that is fast being depleted. The US has neglected public transportation and 88% of the workforce travels to work by car.
Efforts to prevent oil prices from rising depend on reducing demand, largely within the transportation sector. And the US must play a lead role in cutting oil use.
World oil production will fall by half as soon as 2030, and shortages of fossil fuels will lead to wars and social breakdown.
Global oil production peaked in 2006 earlier than most experts had expected. The report predicts that production will fall by several percent a year. The world will not be able to produce all the oil it needs as demand is rising while supply is falling. The most alarming finding was the steep decline in oil production after its peak, which is now behind us.
Official industry estimates put global reserves at about 1.255 gigabarrels, equivalent to 42 years' supply at current consumption rates. But it thinks the figure is only about two thirds of that.
Global oil production is about 81m barrels a day. But EWG expects that to fall to 39m by 2030. It also predicts falls in gas, coal and uranium production as those energy sources are used up.
The report presents a bleak view of the future unless a radically different approach is adopted. Anticipated supply shortages could lead to mass unrest as witnessed in Burma. The world is at the beginning of a change of its economic system, triggered by declining fossil fuel supplies and will influence almost all aspects of our daily life.
The International Energy Agency has made it clear that only a massive and immediate investment in sustainable energy will prevent a global crisis.
"Alarming" growth in worldwide energy needs will within a generation threaten energy security, accelerate global climate change and possibly bring worldwide shortages and conflicts.
It's an unusually pessimistic view from an agency that has long said oil production, with trillions of dollars of investment, could meet rising energy needs. But the explosive growth of China and India has caused a seismic change in thinking at the IEA, which says we must move swiftly, boldly and decisively beyond fossil fuels if we are to avert a crisis. rw
A growing group of human rights and environmental activists point to the dangers that biofuels pose to environmental sustainability and the livelihoods of communities around the world.
Most of the policies envision substituting biofuels for fossil fuels without reducing our overall consumption of energy. These proposals are backed by agribusiness, biotech companies, and oil interests that are now investing billions in ethanol and biodiesel plants. But agrofuels are not easily renewable because the Earth's landmass is itself a finite resource. To produce 7% of the energy that the US gets from petroleum would require converting the country's entire corn crop to ethanol.
Growing agrofuels on a mass scale is already jacking up food prices, depleting soil and water supplies, destroying forests, and violating the rights of indigenous and local people.
Agrofuel plantations in Brazil and Southeast Asia are being created on the territories of indigenous peoples who have traditionally lived in and protected these ecosystems. Agrofuel expansion threatens to divert the world's grain supply from food to fuel. Corn will become more expensive. Already in June soaring demand for biofuels is contributing to a rise in global food import costs.
Small-scale farmers in Colombia, Rwanda, and Guatemala feel compelled to grow luxury crops such as flowers and coffee for export while their families go hungry. The crops required to make enough biofuel to fill a 25-gallon tank could feed one person for a year.
Agrofuels Don't necessarily reduce the greenhouse gas emissions. The most common method of turning palm oil into fuel produces more carbon dioxide emissions than refining petroleum. Corporate plans for expanding biofuel production involve destroying ecosystems to create massive plantations that rely on chemical fertilizers and toxic pesticides to maximize production. A five-year moratorium on the conversion of land for agrofuel production should be accompanied by the development of new energy technologies that do not compromise global food security.
Creative and practical solutions for meeting our energy requirements -including some local, sustainable biofuel programs - are being developed around the world.
According to a study by the German-based Energy Watch Group, World oil production will fall by half as soon as 2030, and extreme shortages of fossil fuels will lead to wars and social breakdown.
Oil production will now fall by 7% a year.
This is a huge problem for the world economy and is in contrast to projections from the International Energy Agency, which says there is little reason to worry about oil supplies.
However, this study relies on actual oil production data which are more reliable than estimates of reserves still in the ground. The group says official industry estimates put global reserves at about 1.255 gigabarrels, 42 years' supply at current consumption rates. But it thinks the figure is only about two thirds of that.
Global oil production is currently about 81m barrels a day expected to fall to 39m by 2030. It also predicts falls in gas, coal and uranium production as those energy sources are used up.
Britain's oil production has dropped by half to about 1.6 million barrels a day.
The report presents a bleak view of the future unless a different approach is adopted. Supply shortages could lead to mass unrest as witnessed in Burma this month. For government, industry and the wider public, just muddling through is not an option any more. The world is at the beginning of a change of its economic system, triggered by declining fossil fuel supplies and will influence all aspects of our life. rw
During the period of industrialization, the human population has been related to the amount of energy we have used. As industrialization progressed, the amount of per capita energy has risen from 1.2 TOE (ton of oil equivalent) in 1966 to 1.7 TOE in 2006, global energy supply tripled, the population doubled.
Global energy consists of oil 36%, natural gas 24%, coal 28%, nuclear 6%, hydro 6% and renewable energy such as wind and solar about 1%. A standard measure is called the tonne of oil equivalent (toe). Our oil supply is finite, non-renewable, and subject to a declining production rate, known as Peak Oil. When we start producing oil from a region, we develop the most accessible oil fields first and as they go into decline try to replace them with new fields that tend to be smaller and don't compensate for the decline of the large fields.
About 60% of the world's oil supply is extracted from only 1% of the world's oil fields. A number of well informed people have declared that the peak has arrived. The post-peak decline rates vary all over the map. In most countries the demand for oil is increasing. In oil exporting nations, rising oil prices have stimulated economic growth which has resulted in a higher domestic demand for oil. When the exporting nation's production begins to decline the amount of oil available for export declines at a faster rate than the production decline.
The supply situation with natural gas is very similar to that of oil. Gas reservoirs show the same size distribution as oil reservoirs and we drilled the big ones first. The natural gas supply will exhibit a similar bell-shaped curve to what we saw for oil.
The gas market is small due to the difficulty in transporting gas. Most of the world's natural gas is shipped by pipeline that limits gas to national and continental markets. The peak of world gas production may not occur until 2025, but we will have less warning than we had for Peak Oil, and the decline rates may be shockingly high.
Coal has a terrible environmental reputation, going back to its widespread use in Britain in the 1700s. Weight for weight, coal produces more CO2 than either oil or gas. Coal is abundant.
If electricity is to replace some of the energy lost due to the decline of oil and natural gas, this will put more upward pressure on the demand for coal. China is installing two new coal-fired power plants per week.
A model projects a continued rise in the use of coal to a peak in 2025. There will be mounting pressure to reduce coal use. The model has the annual decline in coal use from 0% in 2025 to a 5% annual decline in 2100. Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) which involves the capture and compression of CO2 from power plant exhaust, which is then pumped into played-out gas fields for long term storage.
This technology is in the experimental stage, and there is much skepticism surrounding the security of storing CO2 in porous rock.
Since nuclear reactors have a lifespan averaging 40 years, a lot of the world's reactors are approaching the end of their life. The replacement rate from the UIC planning table is only about three to four reactors per year for at least the next ten to twenty years. Within the next twenty years we will have retired over 300 reactors, but will have built only 60. The drop in capacity between now and 2030 is the result of new construction not keeping pace with the rapid decommissioning of large numbers of old reactors. After 2060 we will start losing global industrial capacity due to the decline in oil and natural gas. As a result, by 2060 we won't have the capability we would need to replace all our aging nuclear reactors.
To stay with the rate of decommissioning of our current reactor base we would need to build 17 new reactors a year forever.
Hydor power is relatively clean, has the ability to supply large amounts of electricity quite consistently. Its problems include destruction of habitat, the release of CO2 and methane from flooded vegetation, and the disruption of river flows.
Hydro power has capacity growing to about double its current level by 2060. It then declines back to the current level by 2100 due to a general loss of global industrial capacity and a reduction in water flows due to global warming. Renewable energy includes such sources as wind, photovoltaic and thermal solar, tidal and wave power etc. The whole renewable energy industry is still in its infancy and at the moment, shows little impact but enormous promise. Wind power, for example, has experienced annual growth rates of 30% over the last decade.
Proponents of renewable energy support a conviction that all things are possible.
Dreams of replacing the world's gasoline with ethanol and biodiesel are struggling against the limits of low net energy in biological processes.
It's unrealistic to expect that they will achieve a dominant position in the energy marketplace. Peak contribution will be in 2070 and then declines because many renewable energy sources are dependent on a high level of technology and manufacturing capacity. Fossil fuels are the most important contributors to the world's current energy mix, but all three are in rapid decline by the second half of the century.
Unfortunately, the loss of fossil fuels means that the total amount of energy available to humanity by the end of the century may be less than one fifth of the amount we use now. While our per capita food energy consumption has remained relatively constant the energy we each use for the rest of our activities has grown almost thirty times from our early agricultural days. The world's population has increased from 200 million in to 6.6 billion today.
The consumption of an early industrial man in 1875 was 2.5 TOE per year. For comparison, the global average per capita non-food energy consumption in 1965 was only 1.2 TOE per year.
A declining world energy supply would affect countries at opposite ends of the consumption spectrum quite differently. Human beings need a significant amount of energy to sustain even a relatively poor quality of life. As energy supplies decline and per capita energy falls, the quality of life of those on the bottom end of the consumption scale will be drastically affected.
Those at the bottom of the economic ladder have no ability to reallocate their discretionary spending and they will be out-bid and have to do without some amount of fuel or electricity.
Over 4.5 billion of the world's 6.6 billion live in countries that have per capita energy consumptions under 2.0 TOE per year. As energy supplies decline, these countries are at risk of vast increases in mortality and their populations begin to fall below the minimum energy level required for sustaining life.
Some oil producing countries will sell much of their product on the international market for the money it will bring. Such actions may result in a deprived and discontented population, giving rise to fuel riots and even the threat of revolution. This will result in a wave of nationalization of oil resources so that governments can direct its distribution and control the local price.
Oil importing nations will need to reallocate their discretionary money toward the purchase of oil. If that cannot buy enough to satisfy their needs they will be forced to reduce their consumption. Producing nations that are keeping their oil off the world market will be at special risk of becoming targets in a resource war. Under those assumptions, the world population would rise to about 7.5 billion in 2025 before starting an inexorable decline to 1.8 billion by 2100.
The carrying capacity of a given environment is the maximum number of individuals that the environment can support sustainably at a given level of activity.
It is obvious that the current level of human activity is not sustainable. The fact that it has been possible at all is mainly because of the use of fossil fuel, a non-renewable resource.
When a population rises beyond the carrying capacity of its environment, the existing population cannot be supported and must eventually decline to match or fall below the carrying capacity.
There are two ways a population can regain its balance with the carrying capacity. If the population stays constant or continues rising, its activity must fall. If per capita consumption stays constant, population numbers must decline.
Populations in serious overshoot always decline. This population reduction is known as a crash or a die-off, and can be very rapid.
Our use of oil has allowed us to perform prodigious feats of resource extraction and waste production that would simply have been inconceivable without the one-time gift of oil. At the same time, the use of fossil fuel and other high-intensity energy has allowed us to mask the underlying degradation of the Earth's carrying capacity. As our supply of energy begins to decline, we will see the true extent of our ecological depredations. As we have to rely more and more on the unassisted bounty of nature, the consequences of our actions will begin to affect us all.
With less energy we won't be able to hide the existing ecological losses. As our energy supply declines we will do ever greater damage to the ecosphere in our attempt to forestall the inevitable.
The impact of diminished carrying capacity will start now, and will reach about 40% by 2100. This 40% number represents the extent to which carrying capacity has been diminished and can no longer be masked by energy use.
The human race is out of time. We are staring at hard limits on our activities and numbers, imposed by energy constraints and ecological damage. We have come to this point so suddenly that most of us have not yet realized it. The first impacts from oil depletion will be felt within five years, far too short a time to accomplish any of the unraveling or re-engineering it would take to back away from the precipice. We are committed to going over the edge into a major population reduction.
The need for action is more urgent now than ever. We need to start now to put systems, structures and attitudes in place that will help cope with the difficulties. We need to develop new ways of seeing the world and each other, new values and ethics. We need to minimize the misery and ensure that as many healthy, happy people as possible emerge from this long trauma with the skills and knowledge needed to build the next cycle of civilization. rw
Dick Dalton, a professor at Lincoln University, suggested that for the world to change for the better, each individual is going to have to contribute.
Dalton's was one of several messages delivered recently at Westminster College, which addressed dozens of topics related to conservation, natural preservation and energy consumption.
Robert Kennedy Jr. has devoted himself to environmental causes and sued to stop companies from polluting the Hudson River.
Paul Roberts, one of the symposium's featured speakers, predicted a shock when gasoline prices begin reflecting the actual cost of exploration, refining and pollution control. Roberts said it's going to take a lot of work to convince people about the energy-related challenges that loom on the horizon. We will have to come up with a new way of thinking about how we use energy.
Many people have yet to reach the point where the price of oil affects lifestyles.
Roberts predicted that as China builds its economy, it will compete for access to what remains of the world's oil supply.
He said for every three barrels consumed only one new barrel is discovered.
He said ethanol production was not a solution and predicted the coming oil crisis would lead to the rediscovery of small communities.
Gasoline is more expensive in Europe and in Russia motorists pay a tax to cover carbon dioxide emissions. One student said her hometown has a population of more than 50,000 but that it is easy to get around by walking or by public transportation.
Americans are going to have to make a major shift in their living habits and give up the idea of always using a car to get around.
"Green buildings" use reusable and recycled materials, regionally-manufactured, as well as the building's ability to save energy.
One thing is the use of "green roofs," in which vegetation is used to clean and retain water as well as reduce heat effects.
Kennedy said there was a close bond between a vigorous democracy and the protection of the environment.
The biggest threat to the environment is the corrosive power and control of the government," Kennedy said.
"They have put polluters in charge of virtually all of the agencies that are supposed to be protecting Americans from pollution," Kennedy said.
"Over the past seven years, a negligent press has let down American democracy in informing the public about environmental crimes," Kennedy added. "We need an aggressive and independent press that is willing to stand up and speak truth to power."
Kennedy said saving plants and wildlife is not the end goal of environmental protection. It's all about giving future generations the chance to communicate with God through the "undiluted work of the creator." rw
Climate Change: Development Offsetting Gains in Efficiency.September 19, 2007 Climate Change
Doha is the capital of Qatar, a tiny state east of Saudi Arabia. Since I was last there, a skyline that looks like a mini-Manhattan has sprouted from the desert. This once sleepy harbor now has a profile of skyscrapers, thanks to a huge injection of oil and gas revenues. Dalian, in China had a mini-Manhattan area and seems to have grown two more since. It is a blessing that their people are growing out of poverty -- they're following the high-energy growth model pioneered by America. "Americans" are popping up all over, people who once lived low-energy lifestyles but, by dint of wealth or hard work, are now moving into U.S.-style apartments, cars and appliances.
Our planet cannot tolerate so many "Americans," the world consumed about 66.6 million barrels a day of oil in 1990. We're now consuming 83 million barrels a day.
Demand for oil has grown 22% in the U.S. since 1990. Chinas oil demand has grown nearly 200% in the same period. By 2030, the thirst for oil is forecast to increase by another 40% if we maintain business as usual. We're fooling ourselves. There is no green revolution, or, the counter-revolution is trumping it at every turn. Without a technological breakthrough in the energy space, all of the incremental gains we're making will be devoured by the exponential growth of all the new and old "Americans." rw
At the root of all the crises of the world is overpopulation. Too many people using too much of our planet's finite, non-renewable resources and filling its waste repositories of land, water and air to overflowing. It is becoming clearer every day that bringing about a sustainable balance between ourselves and the planet will require us, in very short order, to reduce our population. Our numbers must not generate more waste than natural processes can return to the biosphere, and that most of the resources are either renewable through natural processes or are entirely recycled. A sustainable population must not grow past the point where those natural limits are breached. It is obvious that the current human population is not sustainable. Carrying capacity means the sustainable level of population that can be supported and implies that all the resources a population uses are renewable within a meaningful time frame. A graph of world population makes it obvious that something has massively increased the world's carrying capacity in the last 150 years. The population rose very gradually as humanity spread across the globe. Around 1800 this began to change, and by 1900 the human population was rising dramatically. Oil first entered general use around 1900 when the global population was about 1.6 billion. Since then the population has quadrupled.
Are there other factors besides oil? The main one is the increase in food production created by the growth of industrial agribusiness. You find at its heart our friend petroleum
Industrial agriculture as practiced is supported by mechanization, pesticides/fertilizers and genetic engineering. The first two are dependent on petroleum to run the machines and natural gas to act as the chemical feedstock. Food production is showing strain as it struggles to maintain productivity in the face of rising population, flattening oil production and the depletion of soil fertility and fresh water. World grain consumption has exceeded global production in six of the last seven years, falling over 60 million tonnes below consumption in 2006. Global grain reserves have fallen to 57 days from a high of 130 days in 1986. Without large quantities of cheap oil, this revolution could not have occurred. As the oil supply begins its inevitable decline, food production will be affected. Over the next decades the food supply key to maintaining our burgeoning population will come under increasing pressure, and will be subject to its own decline.
Oil and natural gas together make up about 60% of humanity's primary energy. Oil is at the heart of humanity's enormous energy economy as well as at the heart of its food supply. Humanity's use of oil has quadrupled the Earth's carrying capacity since 1900.
If the population stays constant or continues to rise, per capita consumption must fall. The population may fall to a lower level than was sustainable. We are getting signals from our environment that all is not well and seem to be telling us we are approaching the maximum carrying capacity. While humanity has not yet reached the carrying capacity of a world with oil, our population today is at least five times what it was before oil came on the scene, and it is still growing. If this resource were to be exhausted, our population would have no option but to decline to the level supportable by the world's lowered carrying capacity.
The theory of Peak Oil says that the world's oil production will decline and the signals of Peak Oil are all around. The decline in oil supply will reduce the planet's carrying capacity, thus forcing humanity into overshoot with the inevitable consequence of a population decline. The rapidity of the decline following the peak will determine whether our descent will be a leisurely stroll down to the canyon floor or a headlong tumble.
This is a looming catastrophe that is the product of our species' continuing growth in both numbers and ability, an exponential growth that is taking place within the finite ecological niche of the entire world. Our recent growth has been fueled by the draw-down of primordial stocks of petroleum which are about to deplete while our numbers and activities continue to grow. This is a simple recipe for disaster. rw
National Petroleum Council Pictures Life After Conventional Crude.July 17, 2007 Houston Chronicle
The National Petroleum Council, in a draft report released this week, confirms that conventional crude oil supplies won't keep up with global demand in the next quarter century. It recommends an array of future approaches, such as improving vehicle fuel economy; pushing biofuels, oil shale, and tar sands; opening off-limits areas to drilling; and curbing carbon dioxide. rw
A new type of a room-size battery, (NaS) may be poised to store electric energy almost as easily as a reservoir stockpiles water. Compared with other batteries plagued by limited life spans or unwieldy bulk, the sodium-sulfur battery is compact, long-lasting and efficient.
Utilities could defer construction of new transmission lines, substations and power plants. The batteries make wind power a more reliable resource. And they provide backup power in case of outages. Power demand is projected to soar 50% by 2030 and other methods of expanding the power supply are facing obstacles. Congress is likely to cap carbon dioxide emissions by traditional power plants. Communities are fighting plans for high-voltage transmission lines needed to zap electricity across regions.
American Electric Power (AEP), has been using a 1.2 megawatt NaS battery and plans to install a larger one next year. If you've got these batteries distributed in the neighborhood, you have, in a sense, lots of little power plants. The NaS battery is the most advanced of several energy-storage technologies that utilities are testing. The oldest collects water after it spins a turbine and uses a small amount of electricity to send it back and repeat the process.
Lead-acid batteries last about five years because the acid corrodes components.
A NaS battery, uses a porcelain-like material to bridge the electrodes, giving it a life span of about 15 years and takes up about a fifth of the space. Ford Motor pioneered the battery in the 1960s.
Japanese businesses have installed enough NaS batteries to light about 155,000 homes. In the USA, AEP is using the 30 by 15-foot-high battery to supply 10% of the electricity needs of 2,600 customers. The battery, which cost about $2.5 million, is charged by generators at night, when demand and prices are low, and discharged when power usage peaks.
The battery lets AEP postpone by about seven years the $10 million upgrade of a substation. After it upgrades the substation, AEP can move the battery to another location.
A more intriguing goal is to wring more energy out of wind farms. Wind typically blows hard at night when power demand is low, producing energy that cannot be used. NaS batteries could let AEP store wind-generated power.
AEP plans to install another NaS battery in West Virginia to provide backup power in case of an outage. In Long Island, N.Y., a group of utilities plans to install a NaS battery that is charged at night, when power prices are low, and discharged during the day to pump natural gas into tanks for the buses. That cuts electric costs and eases stresses on the grid. The biggest drawback is price. The battery costs about 10% more than a new coal-fired plant.
A group of Iowa municipal utilities plans to use wind turbines to compress air to be stored in an underground cavern. The air would be released at peak periods to run turbines and generate power for about 200,000 homes. rw
A group of more than 10 banks agreed a standard for "carbon offsets" bought by companies and individuals. They were reacting to a risk to their reputations following reports of problems in the market for carbon offsets. In April the FT found examples of companies trading carbon offsets that carried no environmental benefits.
The main problems lie in the fact that - unlike the market for credits set up under the United Nations-brokered Kyoto protocol and the European Union's greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme - there are no standards. The banks agreed to base their standard on a system of checks set up by the UN under the Kyoto protocol. Companies will have their operations checked by independent third parties.
Offsets must be based on projects that clear methodologies for cutting carbon. Companies cannot claim offsets from generating nuclear power or from hydroelectric dams.
The banks hope that by publishing the criteria they can encourage companies and consumers buying offsets to check that their offsets meet the criteria.
Most credits are issued under Kyoto, by which developed countries agree to cut their emissions by about 5% by 2012. The UN issues credits to projects that cut emissions in developing countries, and the credits can be bought by developing country governments to count towards their emissions reduction targets.
The market for carbon credits under Kyoto was worth about $5bn (âŹ3.7bn, ÂŁ2.5bn) last year.
Coal has provided the majority of our electricity and has been a principal source of energy since the Industrial Revolution, but also produced the global warming issues we face today.
We must combine the economic reforms of a new industrial revolution based on clean energy.
There are two main issues: "coal-to-electricity" and "coal-to-liquids." Capturing carbon pollution and sequestering it underground would make it possible to use coal as a major electricity source; turning coal into liquid to replace gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel would make global warming worse. The process is not new. It was adopted on a large industrial scale by the Germans in World War II, and later by an embargoed apartheid South Africa.
Without carbon capture and storage, liquid coal fuel contributes more than double the pollution produced by a burning petroleum-based fuels. But when carbon capture systems are added, it is worse for the environment than regular gasoline. Liquid coal is also expensive with small returns compared to the amount of energy needed to create it. The water resources would be staggering: 4.6 billion gallons per year of liquid fuels from coal would require 21 to 60 billion gallons of water per year.
China backed off from liquid coal fuels. Instead, they are relying on fuel economy standards. Here the Markey-Platts bill mandates a fuel economy increase to 35 mpg by 2018, and 4% a year after that. This would reduce America's oil dependence by 10%.
Compared with ethanol, made from grasses that grow wild, and garbage, liquid coal just doesn't stack up. Cellulosic ethanol's total heat-trapping emissions can be as low as a quarter of those from conventional gasoline.
The other coal technology is carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). But we have a huge stake in solving the CCS problem, without it we are unlikely to convince China and India that they can grow while controlling global warming.
We need to enact policies to create the market for cleaner fuels. That means a market-based system for capping heat-trapping emissions and giving businesses flexibility. But we'll also need new standards to ensure coal-fired plants are using this technology. rw
It's clear that it will be more costly not to act on global warming than to act. Voters, investors, activists, business leaders, and policy experts are pushing for clean energy to create jobs, limit climate change, and reduce America's dependence on foreign oil. But the laws, regulations, subsidies, and tax credits continue to make fossil fuels a less expensive choice for consumers.
The three largest technology IPOs of 2005 were solar-energy companies and clean energy is the opportunity of the 21st century.
Wind power now costs about 5% of what it did 25 years ago. Solar energy costs are down more than 90% since 1970. The price of renewable energy will drop another 45% over the next 20 years.
Support for a new energy future is coming from everyone, and includes the CEOs from DuPont, GE, and Duke Energy. But our energy habits are stuck in the past. Carbon dioxide emissions are up 19% since 1990 and still rising. Oil imports are up 70% since 1990 and still rising. Renewable sources provide 6% of America's energy and that share is not rising.
Consumers will not change their energy habits until we reach the point at which clean energy beats coal and oil in price, convenience, and availability.
If we want to change the future, we have to change the rules.
Good rules align the interests of individuals and corporations with the public interest. Capitalism, bounded by smart rules has in the past delivered the desired result more easily than anyone thought possible.
But the world is different today. Geologists estimate that the Middle East has over 6% of the world's oil reserves, the U.S. just 3%. Emissions from our power plants and vehicles are wrecking the world's climate.
The rules today give oil and gas companies billions of dollars in tax breaks and research subsidies but do not factor in the indirect costs of oil. Auto companies sell cars that get as little as 13 miles per gallon. Utility companies make more money when their customers waste energy and less when they save it. Until 1984, telecommunications in the US were monopolized by AT&T. For a time, that ensured dependability during the early years of the industry. But when rivals emerged, the government changed the rules. The market took over, and the telecom revolution began.
Many of our competitors are moving more quickly to capitalize on the new jobs and industries that will come with clean energy. Because of their rules, our competitors are farther along than the US in the transition to new energy, and have captured most of the growth and jobs along the way. Japan is now the world leader, producing 43% of the world's solar-energy products. Europe produces 90% of the world's wind turbines. Brazil has led the way on biofuels.
We still have a chance. Our educated workforce, top-level universities, and culture of innovation still position us to capitalize as the world moves to clean energy.
Here are five rule changes that would reduce emissions, give consumers new choices, launch new businesses, and accelerate the transition to new energy technologies:
Put a price on carbon, that would create a market for any technology that reduced global-warming emissions.
Carbon limits should be broad-based, predictable, and achievable. Congress should pass tough standards for "carbon efficiency." This is the technology of the future, and it is where Detroit should be making its investments.
EPA should require oil companies to phase out the harmful additives in their gasoline. Benzene, toluene, and xylene. Today, these toxic additives make up more than a quarter of every gallon of gasoline.
Make energy efficiency the business of utilities. When a utility can make more money helping people save energy rather than use energy, that's a smart set of rules.
Utilities should be able to earn a return on structural investments in energy efficiency just as they do in a new power plant. Utilities should be compensated for buying solar panels and geothermal heat pumps. Modernize the electric power grid to be more efficient. A modernized, digitally connected national electricity grid will be more secure, reliable, and resilient. A modern grid will also be able to manage intermittent power flows from renewable-energy sources and give producers.
The government should boost incentives and dramatically increase R&D spending for clean energy. Coal can continue its large role in meeting the nation's power needs only if its global-warming emissions can be sequestered. A program of research and development is needed in this area. To pay for this work, we can cut back our handouts to the oil companies. Subsidies for clean energy should be increased as the price of oil falls, and reduced or eliminated if oil stays near current levels. Within a decade, clean alternatives to oil will not need subsidies if the scale of markets is large enough. rwKaren Gaia says: the author of this article seems unaware of the pitfalls of biofuels.
The rush to energy derived from plants will drive deforestation, push small farmers off the land and lead to serious food shortages and increased poverty unless carefully managed. Rich countries want to see crops grown for fuel to help stabilise the price of oil, open up new markets. But the UN urges governments to beware their impacts. The report, which predicts winners and losers, will be studied carefully by the emerging multi-billion dollar a year biofuel industry which wants to provide 25% of the world's energy within 20 years.
17 countries have committed themselves to growing the crops on a large scale.
Last year more than a third of the US maize crop went to ethanol, a 48% increase, and Brazil and China grew the crops on nearly 50m acres of land. The EU has said that 10% of all fuel must come from biofuels by 2020.
Growing biofuel crops can be harmful to farmers who do not own their own land, and to the poor who buy food. Biofuel programmes can result in a concentration of ownership that could drive the poorest farmers off their land. The crops could transform the rural economy potentially leading to problems. Still larger companies will enter the rural economy, controlling the price paid to producers. Using biofuels results in some reductions in emissions but this is provided there is no clearing of forest that store centuries of carbon.
A new study warns that the rising cost and dwindling supply of oil will make the US military's ability to respond to hot spots around the world "unsustainable in the long term."
The study concludes that all four branches of the military must take immediate steps toward fielding weapons systems and aircraft that run on alternative and renewable fuels and apply new energy technologies that address alternative supply sources and efficient consumption. Weaning the military from fossil fuels quickly would be a herculean task, as the bulk of the US arsenal is dependent on fossil fuels and have been designed to remain in service for several decades.
Pentagon advisers believe the military's growing consumption of fossil fuels leaves Pentagon leaders with little choice but to break with the past as soon as possible. We are at the edge of a precipice and we have one foot over the edge. Just cutting back won't work.
"Transforming the Way DoD Looks at Energy," is a potential blueprint for a new military energy strategy and includes a detailed survey of potential alternatives to oil. The report adds a powerful voice warning that, as oil supplies dwindle during the next half-century, US reliance on fossil fuels poses a serious risk to national security.
The Department of Defense is the largest single energy consumer in the country.
The military's energy consumption has grown as its arsenal has become more mechanized. In WW II, the US consumed about a gallon of fuel per soldier per day, In 2006, the US operations in Iraq and Afghanistan burned about 16 gallons of fuel per soldier on average per day.
The Pentagon's strategic planning has placed a premium on being able to deploy forces quickly around the world from the US.
The National Defense Strategy calls for an increased US military presence around the globe to be able to combat terrorist groups and respond to crises. The US military will have to employ new technologies, and manage a more complex logistics system. The costs of relying on oil are consuming an increasing share of the military's budget. Energy costs have doubled since Sept. 11, 2001, it says, and the cost of conducting operations could become so expensive that the military will not be able to pay for some of its new weapon systems.
The US spends an average of $44 billion per year safeguarding oil supplies in the Persian Gulf. Achieving an energy transformation at the Department of Defense will require the commitment, personal involvement, and leadership. rwKaren Gaia says: wouldn't it have been a whole lot easier taxing gasoline starting twenty years ago and using the money to develop renewable energy? Then there would have been no need for this terribly costly war. Let's not kid ourselves - it's not a war on terror - it's a war to protect oil.
Oil ended 2006 at just over $60 a barrel. This reassured the public that all talk about Peak Oil was hysterical blather from a lunatic fringe. But another ominous trend can account for the stalling of oil prices in 2006. Third World has dropped out of bidding for it and using it. They cannot afford $60 a barrel.
This is manifesting itself in local resource wars, genocides, falling life expectancies, and in places, an unraveling of the sociopolitical order. The major trend on the oil scene for the past 12 months has been the inability of the world to lift production above 85 million barrels a day. It is unclear how much more demand destruction will come out of the Third World before bidding intensifies between the developed nations.
One commentator is advancing the idea that we are entering an oil export crisis that will presage a more permanent world-wide oil emergency. Major oil exporting nations are using so much of their product, because of rising populations, that their net exports are falling at an alarming rate. This combines with depletion rates around 3% a year.
The question of total oil reserves remains murky, but using a straightforward mathematical model, the world is at the same point in production as the lower-48 United States was in 1970. We know that three of the four super giant oil fields are past peak and there is plenty of evidence that the greatest of them all, in Saudi Arabia, is perhaps "crashing" into a super-steep decline.
Discovery of new oil remains paltry. Meanwhile, companies developing tar sand production announced that their costs of production were rising substantially, and how much of Canada's fast-disappearing natural gas reserves will be squandered in melting tar. American corporate farmers have entered into a racket with congress to subsidize ethanol production from corn and biodiesel fuel from soybeans.
America remains ignorant of the futility of this project, which is a net energy "loser." Americans will have to choose between food and making fuel.
Expect the bidding on the futures markets to regain intensity between the United States, China, Europe, and Japan. The sad truth is that we burn up most of the oil we use in cars, and American life is now so hopelessly based on incessant motoring that citizens cannot even go down to the unemployment office without driving. Over the next decade, the gap between U.S. demand for natural gas and dwindling supply may amount to one-and-a-half times the current equivalent of our oil imports.
Natural gas is used for heating and accounts for just under 20% of our electricity production. Gas prices are responding only to the shortest-term signals, rather than to the catastrophic long-term reserve picture.
We are unlikely to solve our natural gas problems with imports because of the cost and difficulty of moving the stuff by means other than pipelines and most of the remaining gas in the world is in Asia. rw
Op Ed by Charles Hall and Nate Gagnon on Oil Supplies.April 05, 2007 OpEd by Charles Hall and Nate Gagnon on Oil Supplies
An article "Oil innovations pump new life into old wells" by Jad Mouawad is misleading. The author would have us believe that technological innovations will increase the oil recoverable from known fields to compensate for the dearth of new discoveries. It gives a false sense of security about our difficult oil situation. Steam injection has been used in the Kern River field since 1965 and oil production in this field peaked in 1984 and has been declining sharply since about 1997. Most of the innovations are old technologies, implemented in the 1920s. Depletion is more important than technological development. The increases in production from the Kern River and Duri fields are small relative to the production declines from many of the world's most important oil fields. All have been subject to the kind of technologies mentioned, sometimes for many decades, and all are clearly in steep decline or have ceased production. The best oil field technology in the world has not stopped the US production from declining by 50% since its peak in 1970. Furthermore, many of the technologies mentioned in the article tend to be extremely expensive in dollars and in energy. Making steam and pumping it into the ground to dispersed oil-field sites, requires enormous investments of energy. The dismissive comments about peak oil theory are ill informed and ignore the importance of the message from geologists, other scientists, environmentalists, financiers and citizens who see a serious situation ahead of us for oil and, especially in North America, natural gas. Hiding our heads in the sand and putting our faith in technological developments seems to us to be a very bad idea. rw
The Peak Oil Crisis: the GAO Report.April 05, 2007 The Peak Oil Crisis
The Government released its report on peak oil and it is clearly a milestone through the oil age and the first time the staff of a major government agency has looked at the issue. It concluded that if peak oil occurs soon, it could cause world-wide recession. The US, as the world's biggest consumer of oil, is the most vulnerable. 60% of the world's oil reserves are now controlled by unstable countries; at best, the US could hope to replace about 4% of its liquid fuel consumption with alternatives by 2015;. The key question is "when will it happen," and "when will the economic troubles begin?" The GAO concluded that peak production will between now and 2040.
Judging from the blogs, most people following peak oil are outraged at the judgment that the most that can be said about the timing of peak oil is "sometime in the next 33 years."
Despite quiet preparations for peak oil, no national leader has as yet said anything similar - the consequences are simply too unpredictable.
No responsible government agency will officially conclude that serious economic problems are coming.
It is likely that the world will muddle into the era of peak oil as it has muddled into global warming. The real dilemma of coping peak oil, is simple. If the government should lay out the full ramifications of peaking the most immediate consequence is likely to be serious economic setback. The alternative is to leave the future with room for hope. Talk about reducing dependence of foreign oil instead. No responsible government wants to see economic troubles start any sooner than necessary. The National Petroleum Council is poised to pronounce on the issue in the next few months. If governments have their way, we will stumble into peak oil over a period during which gasoline prices cycle inexorably upwards. rw
The Peak Oil Crisis: the GAO Report.April 05, 2007 The Peak Oil Crisis
The Government released its report on peak oil and it is the first time a major government agency has concluded that peak oil could cause a world-wide recession. The US is the most vulnerable to the consequences of peaking.
60% of the world's oil reserves are controlled by unstable countries. At best, the US could only replace about 4% of its liquid fuel with alternatives by 2015.
A hydrogen-based economy is not in the immediate cards.
The GAO concluded that peak production will come before 2040, thereby removing any sense of urgency. Despite quiet preparations for peak oil in many countries around the world, no national leader has as yet said anything the consequences are too unpredictable.
No government agency will officially conclude that serious economic problems are coming soon. Those who had hoped the report would confirm that world oil production was hovering at the edge of a collapse were bound to be disappointed.
The GAO could make an even bigger splash by convincing the president to go on prime time tell the American people that all available evidence leads to the conclusion that, soon, gasoline will be too expensive for them to afford. They should immediately sell their gas guzzlers, put their over-mortgaged houses on the market, stop using credit cards, dump all their stocks, and plant a garden.
It is likely that the world will muddle its way into the era of peak oil in much the way it has muddled into global warming. If the government should lay out the ramifications of peaking, the immediate consequence is likely to be serious economic setback.
The alternative is to leave the future a bit murky with room for hope. There will probably never be an unambiguous report on the timing of peak oil. If governments have their way, we will stumble into peak oil over a period during which gasoline prices cycle upwards and various compensating actions are taken.
More US college students are looking into careers in alternative energy, and US universities are adding courses on clean energy and the environment.
The number of Berkeley undergraduates in introductory energy courses has tripled and a new class in solar photovoltaics signed up 70 students.
Venture capital cash is fueling new companies and alternative energies like nanotech solar cells and biofuels. Venture capital for energy and environmental technology nearly doubled from a year earlier to US$1.28 billion.
At Stanford University the Petroleum Engineering Department has renamed itself the Energy Resources Engineering Department and The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering has offered courses in green architecture and sustainable development.
A Stanford conference, which included senior partners from some of Silicon Valley's top venture capital firms, had 1,400 attending. 60% to 70% were students, hoping to talk about opportunities with venture capitalists. Students want good jobs in clean-tech companies and to help move the energy industry to renewable fuels.
The clean tech industry will have a direct impact on our world in the next decade.
There is a 'fad' dynamic to this, but it is going to be a long-term thing. Technological innovation, the rising cost of oil, conflict in the Middle East and the public's growing awareness of global climate change are having an impact.
Within the last decade, technology has made it possible to unlock more oil from old fields, and, higher oil prices have made it economical to go after reserves that are harder to reach. In a study published in 2000, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated that recoverable resources of conventional oil totaled 3.3 trillion barrels, of which a third has been produced. More recently, an energy consultant, estimated that the total base of recoverable oil was 4.8 trillion barrels. That is likely to grow with new technology.
There is still a minority view that oil production has peaked, but the theory has been fading. Environmentalists do not think that consuming an increasing amount of fossil fuel is desirable.
Increased projections for how much oil is extractable may become a political topic. But by reassuring the public that supplies will meet demands, oil companies may find legislators more reluctant to consider opening areas to new exploration.
Petroleum Exporting Countries will likely see its clout reinforced in coming years. The 12-country cartel, is poised to control more than 50% of the oil market in coming years, as Western oil production declines.
Oil companies say they can see few alternatives to fossil fuels which means that global carbon emissions will continue to increase. The quest for new discoveries is taking place alongside returning to old or mature fields because there are few virgin places left to explore.
At Bakersfield, Chevron is using steam-flooding technology and computerized three-dimensional models to boost the output of the field's heavy oil reserves.
âI am very, seriously worried about the future,â said the president of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas. âOil is in limited supplies.â
Oil executives say peak-oil theorists fail to take into account the way that technology, combined with higher prices that make searches for new oil more affordable, are opening up opportunities to develop supplies. Oil companies can only produce one barrel for every three they find. Two usually are left either because they are too hard to pump out or because it would be too expensive.
New seismic tools giving geologists a better view of oil fields, and the ability to drill horizontal wells could boost reserves.
Saudi Arabia's total reserves were almost three times higher that the officially published figure of 260 billion barrels.
Thanks to more sophisticated technology, ultimate reserves in Saudi Arabia eventually reached 1 trillion barrels.
After decades of trial and error, Chevron believes it will be able to recover up to 80% percent of the oil from the Bakersfield field, more than twice the industry's average recovery rate at a cost of $16 per barrel compared with only $2 a barrel in the Persian Gulf.
Oil companies have been injecting gases and liquids into oil fields, including water and soap, natural gas, carbon dioxide and even hydrogen sulfide.
Analysts estimate there are about 1 trillion barrels of heavy oil, tar sands, and shale-oil deposits in places like Canada, Venezuela and the United States that can be turned into liquid fuel by enhanced recovery methods like steam-flooding.
Oil companies are now in a race to increase supplies to catch the growth of consumption. The world consumed about 31 billion barrels of oil last year. Demand is forecast to rise 40% by 2030.
US California;: S.F. Supes Vote to Ban Plastic Shopping Bags; Supermarkets and Chain Pharmacies Would Have to Use Recyclable Or Compostable Sacks.March 2007 San Jose Mercury News
San Francisco outlaws plastic checkout bags at large supermarkets in six months and large chain pharmacies in a year.
Fifty years ago, plastic bags were seen as a more environmentally friendly alternative to the deforesting paper bag. Now 180 million plastic bags are distributed to shoppers each year in San Francisco. They are hard to recycle and easily blow into trees and waterways, where they are blamed for killing marine life. San Francisco officials considered a 17-cent tax on petroleum-based plastic bags before reaching a deal with the California Grocers Association that called for large supermarkets to reduce by 10 million the number of bags given to shoppers. The grocers cut back by 7.6 million, but city officials called that figure unreliable.
Under the legislation, large markets and pharmacies will have the option of using compostable bags made of corn starch or bags made of recyclable paper.
The legislation is one in a string of environmentally sensitive measures adopted by the city in recent months.
It takes 430,000 gallons of oil to manufacture 100 million bags. Compostable bags can be recycled in the city's green garbage bins. The lone dissenting voice noted that 95,000 small businesses in San Francisco will continue to use plastic bags and we need to move on to the larger issues in San Francisco. rw
Britain's leading organic certification body may withhold its seal from produce flown in by air, which could hit African producers of organic fruit and vegetables.
The Soil Association certifies more than 70% of the organic produce sold in Britain. If it withheld certification, organic producers might turn to other certification bodies.
The ban could impact companies which fly in freshly harvested organic pineapples from Ghana to UK customers. Transport has also been an issue in other organic sectors including milk.
Britain's dairy farmers have been struggling to keep pace with demand for organic milk. Britain is self-sufficient in conventional milk but it imports some organic milk.
The rise in imports has sparked concern in Britain's organic movement, which has argued against transporting food long distances.
A group, including General Electric, DuPont and Alcoa, is aimed at accelerating Congressional action on emissions controls and the creation of a market for CO2 to be traded to achieve the greatest reduction at the lowest cost.
This could send a strong signal that businesses want increasing political momentum for federal emissions controls.
Many expressed concern that various state efforts could lead to a scattershot system, or that harsher measures could be imposed.
The group includes four utilities Duke Energy, based in North Carolina; PG&E of California; the FPL Group of Florida; and PNM Resources of New Mexico also BP and Lehman Brothers.
The negotiations did not produce model legislation, but a set of principles that they suggest as a guide to any legislation. Such a system would allow better-performing companies to sell or trade unneeded credits, and all companies would be able to determine whether it would be more efficient to clean up their emissions or buy credits from others.
The principles include a range of emissions levels from 100% to 105% of current levels within five years, then down to 90% to 100% in 10 years, and 70% to 90% in 15 years. The chief executives agreed to discourage further construction of sources that cannot capture carbon dioxide.
This comes close to a rejection of almost all new coal-fired power plants on the drawing boards. The technology that would bury carbon dioxide emissions is still in development. The most important thing is to have a diverse portfolio of resources, and coal has to be part of that mix.
GE's Ecomagination program combined pledges of emissions reductions with a new emphasis on energy-efficient and climate-friendly technologies.
An efficient cap-and-trade system would stimulate the development of new technologies to cut energy use and provide renewable energy.
Exxon invited environmentalists, socially responsible mutual funds and religious investors to a two-day retreat with company executives to analyze the government's options for mandatory reductions in greenhouse gases.
In a telephone interview, Exxon's vice president of public affairs acknowledged that the company has made an effort for several years to open up, because it felt misunderstood or unfairly maligned.
He said: "We should reduce emissions in ways that are cost-effective and sustainable."
There is a role for policy," he said. "The devil's in the details, and we want to be part of that discussion."
The company seems to have "moved from outright denial to what seems to be a more nuanced position" on climate change. The Worldwatch Institute, said "They realize that they are losing in their attempt to confuse the science of climate change. They want to be in there to influence the course of discussion."
President Bush lifted a ban on oil and gas drilling in Alaska's Bristol Bay, which clears the way to open 5.6 million acres of the waters northeast of the Alaska Peninsula. There will be study and public comment before any oil and gas development could take place. Alaska state and some local and native groups had asked that the ban be ended to spur the local fishing-dominated economy.
There are believed to be 200 million barrels of oil and 5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas 3 to 200 miles from shore. Development could produce up to 11,500 jobs and new tax revenue for the state.
But the area has fisheries with huge annual catches of salmon, cod, red king crab, halibut and herring.
Concern over those fisheries prompted limits to drilling in 1990 after the Valdez tanker oil spill.
Opening the waters to oil and gas drilling has outraged environmentalists and fishermen.
The areas for leasing overlaps the migratory route for all of the wild salmon the western Alaska river system.
But others welcome the economic potential with caution.
The Aleutians East Borough's administrator said developing the offshore oil and gas brings jobs and helps the economy which has declined because of competition and farm-raised salmon.
Environmentalists maintained that local support has been overstated and many of the native groups, and fishing groups oppose oil and gas development. More than 30 people wrote Bush, urging him to keep oil and gas rigs out of the bay.
There will be environmental review before any leases are issued. The royalty rate for new deep-water oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico will be raised to 16.7% from 12.5%. The move is to get oil companies to renegotiate flawed 1998-99 deep-water leases that avoided royalty payments. rw
An indigenous tribe from the Peruvian Amazon sued the Occidental Petroleum company, alleging that the company knowingly put the health of the Achuar at risk and damaged their habitat.
A lawyer for the Achuar said: "The widespread lead poisoning of hundred of children and the exposure of hundreds of adults and children to contamination demands damages. But theAchuar want relief to clean up the mess.
The claim comes after members of the tribe attended Occidental's AGM to force the company to address their grievances.
A tribal representative, said that people are sick and dying. The water is not fit to drink and we can no longer eat the fish or the animals.
By 1975 Occidental was the largest onshore oil field in Peru, with 230 wells producing 115,000 barrels of crude oil a day - 42% of the nation's oil production.
Occidental sold its concession to the Argentinian Pluspetrol in 2000. But the Achuar argue that Occidental is responsible not only for what it did over 30 years but also for setting up the systems that continue to pollute the area.
A report claimed that Occidental dumped toxic oil by-products into rivers and streams. The report, states that Occidental "knowingly employed out-of-date practices and used methods outlawed in the US, and in violation of Peruvian law".
A spokesman for Occidental, said he had not seen the claim, but the company had ceased all activity in the area in 1999. He said the report contained inflammatory statements, unfounded allegations and unsupported conclusions. rw
A study by finds that the average American drove 13,657 miles in 2005, down from 13,711 in 2004. Last year also saw SUVs comprise a smaller part of new-vehicle sales. While gas consumption continues to rise, demand grew only 0.3% last year and 1% for the first 11 months of 2006. Gas costs about 3.8% of average household spending. The graying of the population has contributed, as older drivers tend to drive less. rw
Twenty-six years ago, Paul Ehrlich, John Harte and John P. Holdren bet Julian Simon that the prices of five key metals would rise in the next decade.
Ten years later, there was a decline in the metals' prices after accounting for inflation. Human inventiveness, stimulated by modern markets, would always trump scarcity.
In the 1990s ideas (not physical capital or material resources) were the new source of wealth.
But today, Mr. Ehrlich and his colleagues may have the last laugh. The world's supply of cheap energy is tightening, and humankind's output of greenhouse gases is disrupting the earth's climate.
The most important resource is energy, the one ingredient essential for every economic activity. A measure of the cost of any energy source is the amount required to produce it. We can evaluate any project that generates energy by dividing the amount of energy it produces by the amount it consumes.
This is the "energy return on investment" or EROI. As the average EROI of an economy's energy sources drops toward 1 to 1, an ever-larger fraction of the economy's wealth must go to producing energy. The EROI for conventional oil has been falling for decades. The trend is most advanced in US production, where petroleum resources have been exploited the longest. From the early 1970s to today the return on investment of oil and natural gas extraction in the United States fell from about 25 to 1 to about 15 to 1.
We've most likely tapped the highest EROI oil and gas fields, and the best rivers for hydropower. Now, as we're turning to alternatives like nuclear power we're spending more energy to get energy.
For example, tar sands have an EROI of around 4 to 1. Climate change could also constrain growth. Without restraints on greenhouse gas emissions, by 2100 the annual costs of damage from climate change could reach 20% of output.
Sometimes even the best scientific minds can't crack a technical problem quickly, sometimes market prices give entrepreneurs poor price signals. and, sometimes there just isn't the political will to back the changes needed.
Despite decades of increasingly dire warnings about the risks of dependence on foreign energy, the country now imports two-thirds of its oil; and during the last 20 years, the country's output of carbon dioxide has increased by a fifth.
As the price of energy rises and as the planet gets hotter, we need higher investment in innovation.
What is Peak Oil?.November 23, 2006 Eclipse Now - Dave Lankshear
Oil production starts off slow, then as more wells are drilled, volumes increase until production plateaus. This is the maximum output you will ever produce from that oil field. Soon, the oil field goes into decline as the deeper oil takes more energy to extract, and is more expensive to process. You have moved from a growing output of cheap oil to a decreasing output of poor quality oil.
If we really are at peak oil production, it means that the stark fact is that the Earth holds a finite supply of oil. We are now consuming 4 barrels of oil energy for every barrel discovered.
Exxon-Mobile announced that all non-OPEC oil producing nations would peak in the next 5 years and the world will then rely on OPEC to supply any increase. Oil demand will increase by a million barrels per day each year after 2010 as demand for oil has never been higher. The economic consequences will be catastrophic. Oil provides 90% of transport energy, and the feedstock for our chemical and plastics industry. Smaller nations dependent on tourism will become bankrupt. Skyrocketing oil prices will throw us into the Greater Depression. Industrial agriculture is dependent on oil for pesticides and transporting fertilizers to our farms and many believe humanity is already in a state of worldwide overshoot. They argue that oil is the growth medium that has enabled the human population to reach 6 billion. Without oil our crop yields will collapse. The human population may have to "adjust" to pre-industrial revolution agricultural numbers.
If oil depletion is imminent then the outlook for civilization does appear far more alarming. The technical challenges are vast. Some studies argue that solar cells are net energy losers when including the energy required to construct the solar cells factory. Most bio-fuels have a poor or negative energy use because of the high-energy input from oil pesticides and gas manufactured fertilizers. You have to burn more electricity to manufacture it than you get back from hydrogen. Some people recommend bio-fuels, but growing any crop for fuel would quickly compete with farmland and only give us a tiny fraction of the transport fuel we need. There are many other questions of cost, time to implement, and infrastructure needs. What will we use to replace plastics? What about power backup for when the wind doesn't blow and the sun doesn't shine? We do have new technologies. We also have eco-city designs that save energy, and would allow a very comfortable lifestyle. Yet it is all too little too late. Our governments are still sleepwalking into this crisis.
Peak oil leaves me questioning the ethical basis of our way of life. Sustainability is now a matter of conscience affecting social justice and poverty. This planet has limited energy resources that the first world has largely consumed at the expense of developing nations. rwKaren Gaia: Oil depletion is not just the fault of overconsumers. It is the "fault" of large numbers of consumers. It is even becoming the "fault," in part, of the extremely high growth rate of numbers of people who are just starting to use fossil fuels. For example, China's use of fossil fuels is starting to outpace the U.S.'s use. When it comes down to it, unchecked population growth is the problem.
Google believes the sun eventually can deliver as much as 30% of the power at its 1-million-square-foot campus in Mountain View about 35 miles south of San Francisco.
The project will require installing more than 9,200 solar panels on the offices. Google bought the campus for $319 million earlier this year.
The solar panels are expected to produce about 1.6 megawatts of electricity. The job is being handled by Pasadena-based EI Solutions. Google wouldn't disclose the project's cost. The anticipated savings should enable Google to recoup the solar project's costs in five to 10 years. Energy costs are a major concern at Google, consumes power to run the computer farms that keep its search engine humming.
Google co-founders also are big supporters of alternative energy. Despite technological advances, solar power is still two to three times more expensive than fossil fuels in the U.S. and relies on government subsidies to compete.
Yesterday the EPA released its ranking of the most fuel-efficient vehicles. Toyota Prius ranked No. 1, gets 60 mpg city and 51 mpg highway. Toyota and Honda vehicles took seven of the top 10 spots, although hybrid versions of Ford's Escape and Mercury Mariner also made it into the top 10. The least fuel-efficient car was the Lamborghini SpA L-147/148 Murcielago with automatic transmission, which gets 9 mpg in the city and 14 mpg on the highway. The ranking didn't include trucks or SUVs which weigh over 8,500 pounds and are exempt from fuel-economy rules. rw
Companies are not building power plants and power lines fast enough to meet growing demand. The amount of power that could be generated or transmitted would drop below the target levels meant to ensure reliability on peak days in Texas, New England, the Mid-Atlantic area and the Midwest during the next two to three years.
After the blackout of 2003, Congress set up a process that would give the authority to fine American companies that did not follow certain operating standards. It is seeking a similar designation in Canada, since electrically speaking the border is irrelevant.
This is the first report to recommend specific action.
Utilities should be encouraged to pursue financial incentives for customers to cut use during peak hours and reward customers' installation of more efficient equipment or, reward a factory for closing when electricity supplies are expected to be tight.
Planning for adequate capacity has become difficult with the restructuring of the electric industry. Hundreds of companies are involved in only one or two phases of the process. Getting permits to build new power lines has become more difficult.
The balance between supply and demand depends in part on changes in technology. Grid operators can push more power through existing lines, plant operators have found ways to make generators more reliable and increases in the efficiency of how electricity is used could slow demand.
Demand will increase by about 19% over the next 10 years in the US and slightly less in Canada. The construction of power plants and transmission lines will fall short of what is needed. In this country, utilities have contracts with new power plants for only about a third of the capacity that will be needed; in Canada, about two-thirds.
The US Interior Department says it is willing to withdraw sensitive wetlands from an area in Alaska that it wanted to open to oil and natural gas drilling.
The US District Court of Alaska blocked the plan to allow development on lands around Teshekpuk Lake, saying the assumptions about the environmental impact were faulty.
The department told the court it would pull the wetlands so the matter could be studied further.
The department initially wanted to search for crude oil and natural gas on about 8 million acres. Environmentalists were concerned because 373,000 acres were being put up for lease for the first time.
The reserve is estimated to hold between 5.9 billion and 13.2 billion barrels of oil and 39 trillion to 83 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Steps would be taken to limit the impact of drilling at the biologically sensitive areas near Teshekpuk Lake. Opponents countered the oil and gas were not worth possibly harming the wetlands habitat. The 23 million-acre National Petroleum Reserve, about the size of Indiana, was created in 1923 to provide energy supplies for the US military. rw
California sued the six largest U.S. and Japanese automakers, claiming carbon dioxide emissions from their vehicles are harming the health of Californians and the environment. The suit argues that the companies have violated public nuisance laws by contributing to global warming and seeks tens of millions of dollars in damages.
They filed the suit because the automakers and the federal government have failed to address global warming.
California will ask other states to join the suit.
A trade group blasted the lawsuit, taking exception with the argument that the automakers aren't doing enough. The industry has embraced clean diesel, flexible fuels and hybrids and has more than 9 million vehicles on the roads that use one of those advanced technologies. Honda said it has a legacy of leadership in fuel economy and low emissions, and is committed to developing environmentally-responsible technology.
It supports California's goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions, but it's a matter that should be left to the federal government. California said the top six automakers produce vehicles that emit a total of 289 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in the US each year, 92% of all auto emissions.
A lawsuit challenging a California mandate to reduce carbon dioxide emissions is set to go to trial in January.
California, nine other states and the city of New York, filed a lawsuit challenging the Bush administration's new fuel economy standards for SUVs and light trucks.
California will face two hurdles proving a causal link between auto emissions in California and global warming and quantifying damages.
California is basing its case on the state's public nuisance laws because automakers have repeatedly argued that all other state options should be blocked on the grounds that the federal government pre-empts states on matters of national policy. rw
The president of Ivory Coast, Laurent Gbagbo, named a new government on Saturday, 10 days after a toxic waste dumping scandal forced the cabinet to resign.
He changed his environment and transportation ministers, both of whom had come under heavy criticism. Prime Minister Banny, named by foreign mediators to head an interim government, remained in place. Other ministers also kept their posts. Public anger boiled over after poisonous sludge was dumped around the city, protesters dragged the former transportation minister from his car and beat him up. Others burned down the home of the director of Abidjan's port.
About 30,000 people have sought treatment, health officials said.
Residents have accused the authorities of being slow and not providing enough information about the waste, which was unloaded by a Panamanian ship chartered by a leading world commodity trader, Trafigura Beheer BV, based in the Netherlands.
The company has said it advised the Ivorian authorities that the waste needed to be disposed of correctly.
The new cabinet grew from 32 to 36 after the Interior Ministry and the Justice and Human Rights Ministry were each split in two.
Tensions are likely to remain high as a UN backed transition expires at the end of October. Mr. Gbagbo has said he remains the lawful leader of the country. But rebel and opposition sides have rejected prolonging his mandate.
Noxious fumes from the toxic waste still hang over parts of Abidjan. Hospitals have been overrun, and residents have been wearing paper masks to try to filter out the fumes. Specialists brought said it appears to contain hydrogen sulfide, which can be deadly in high concentrations. rw
Three oil companies report successful production tests in the Gulf of Mexico. Chevron, Devon Energy and Statoil ASA, the Norwegian oil giant, reported that they had found 3 billion to 15 billion barrels in several fields 175 miles offshore, 30,000 feet below the gulf's surface. They expressed hope that they had the potential of being even larger than those at Prudhoe Bay.
The US has reserves of 29 billion barrels, which the discovery could increase by 50%. It comes as the output of shallower wells in the Gulf of Mexico is ebbing, and environmental resistance to offshore drilling in areas closer to coastlines remains strong.
Success at these depths in the Gulf of Mexico would facilitate ultra-deepwater exploration elsewhere in the world. It will take more than a year of drilling to confirm the value of the find, and the depth will make extraction extremely expensive. By itself, it appears that the discovery could make little more than a dent in the country's energy dependence.
In addition, there is a shortage of rigs able to drill in deep water.
According to Chevron, the successful test was the culmination of about two years of drilling by the three companies. Shell, BP, Exxon Mobil, Anadarko Petroleum and PetrĂłleo Brasileiro have leases on comparable waters in the Gulf, and the successful test is likely to set off a wave of drilling. These are very expensive wells to drill, and the production facilities required are also going to be very expensive.
The Gulf of Mexico may represent the last area in the US where large oil and gas reserves remain, although some experts see the potential for big discoveries deep off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Because the new reserves are far off the Gulf coast, they seem unlikely to attract the opposition from environmentalists who oppose drilling close to beaches. rw
Philippines;: Saving Taklong Island: Upv Scientists and Volunteers Work Together to Clean Marine Reserve of Oil Slick .September 01, 2006 The News Today Online
Taklong Island, which is maintained by UP in the Visayas, may still look its pristine self. Nearer one can see the oil slick floating on the water, blackened mangrove roots, and the beachfront with darkened rocks as well as drums of accumulated fuel collected by volunteer cleaners. But underneath, compacted oil has mixed with sand.
The oil spill was caused by the sinking of M/T Solar I, which carried bunker fuel. The Taklong and Tandog islands, as well as the nearby coastal barangays and adjacent marine waters, have been declared as the Taklong Island National Marine Reserve, signed in 1990. The primary purpose is to protect and preserve the ecological, scenic, scientific and educational features of the area, which is 1,143.454 hectares, 960 hectares of marine waters with corals and seagrass beds and 183 hectares of land mass and mangrove patches.
The area has a naturally rich fishery resource which, managed well, could support the needs of the coastal and adjacent barangays. The initial assessment shows that the mangroves are the hardest hit in the reserve. The trees may survive the oil spill, but cutting them is a sure way of killing them. The young mangroves will have difficulty surviving. What is important is to keep the coastline stable and ensure that there will be seedlings in the next season.
So far, those who dived last week and until today haven't seen an indication of oil sinking even in the shallow grass beds. But we can see the oil slick on the surface. A team of researchers is collecting samples on the island right now "to determine what happens." For fish staying under the mangroves where the oil is deposited, their food supply and the toxicity of the water will affect them. There will be a consequence on the adult population. It will recover, that's nature. It is good that we have data now we can compare the research results to the original data we have on the reserve. Mangroves serve as a nursery for marine organisms, that's why we cannot expect a lot of marine organisms to grow into adults in the next several months. The marine ecology will eventually balance itself but the time of stabilization is uncertain. The original plan was to take out the affected sand outside the island but considering the volume it will have a huge impact on the beachfront. We hope to wash off the oil from the sand by boiling and then return it back to the beach for further cleaning by the rain. rw
Is the age of cheap oil about to come to an end? According to many experts, we are about to reach the point of "peak oil" -- the level at which supply can no longer keep up with demand. Follow the link to a video on Peak Oil.
Discovery of asbestos in Prudhoe, partially shut down some corroded pipelines.
As many as 200 workers have been stripping off a layer of insulation to make way for testing the steel pipes.
This week, BP halted the insulation removal, and sonic testing, after learning that asbestos was in the tarlike resin between the insulation and the pipe.
Prudhoe production stands at less than half its normal output of 400,000 barrels a day.
BP is under orders from federal pipeline regulators to better test its pipes to make sure that new holes and leaks could develop.
The asbestos-infused resin is present only on pipelines in the western half of Prudhoe. The resin has an asbestos content of 5% to 10%. But it doesn't easily break up and fly around in the air in such a way that workers can breathe it.
Workers sometimes have to use lots of muscle power to peel off the insulation and resin and then buff the pipe for a good sonic corrosion test.
Generally, a content level of 1% or more constitutes an asbestos material.
A Japanese tanker spilled about 1.4 million gallons of crude oil in the eastern Indian Ocean following a collision with a cargo ship. In a separate oil spill, the Philippines said that a tanker had sunk in rough seas about 312 miles southeast of Manila, and 528,000 gallons of industrial fuel was leaking from the accident.
Faced with a potential catastrophe, the Philippine coast guard called for a national mobilization of resources to mitigate the impact. The tanker was carrying about 77.6 million gallons, or 250,000 tons, of crude. It had left port in Oman bound for Japan.
There were no reports of injuries aboard the tanker, which was registered in Singapore.
The Senate wants to expand oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico but the House wants to open coastal waters to drilling everywhere unless a state objects.
By a vote of 71-25 the Senate directed the Interior Department to sell leases in 8.3 million acres of the east-central Gulf of Mexico. GOP leaders hoped to vote on a bill that would raise the minimum wage and make permanent a cut in the estate tax. Democrats are trying to block the bill, arguing the two issues should not be combined.
Many Senate Republicans said that the vote could lead to open waters that have been under a drilling moratorium for 25 years. The House passed legislation that would allow development 50 miles off any state unless it formally objects.
Any bill that goes beyond the 8.3 million acres would run into a filibuster in the Senate.
Domenici will lead Senate negotiators in a conference with the House on offshore drilling. Both chambers agree more offshore oil and gas development is needed.
Many who opposed the bill feared it could lead to oil and gas drilling along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, now protected by the moratorium.
The bill would give the four on the Gulf of Mexico 37.5% of future royalties, compared to less than 2% today.
US consumers are starting to notice the problems with our current energy agenda. We have 5% of the world's population, but consume 26% of the oil. Our lifestyles are based on an immediate access to cheap, dependable, and abundant energy sources.
The current economic policy is not a sustainable. We are a net importer of agriculture, manufactured goods and energy. We may be surprised how quickly we can lose our status. The US has to utilize its resources to become a global leader in energy. The Administration is advocating two major sources of alternative energy, hydrogen and corn-based ethanol - unfortunately, both are not cost-effective solutions.
Hydrogen technology is expensive to produce and unreliable, it is unlikely that it will be able to compete with the current electric grid. Expectations of near-term hydrogen transitions make no economic or environmental sense.
Corn-based ethanol is currently capable of being produced in abundant amounts but it will only be a stepping-stone to other ethanol-based alternatives. It is not energy-efficient, good for the environment, and it will not reduce our reliance on foreign oil. Deriving ethanol from corn is energy-exhausting, requires a vast amount of cropland, and pollutes water tables with a great deal of fertilizer runoff. Our planet has a food shortage and a rapidly increasing population. Setting aside cropland for a conversion process that yields little or no return makes no economic sense.
Global warming is the greatest economic risk that our society will face. It is imperative that we accept global warming as a risk to our national security and energy-efficiency is the most cost-effective strategy for minimizing carbon dioxide emissions. One of the most damaging trends in American energy use is that we continuously offset conservation efforts by large increases in consumption subsequent to a price reduction. There are many actions we can take to protect our environment, our economy, our energy security, and our national security. We must increase fuel efficiency standards and help but not completely alleviate our auto emissions problem.
We need to require a minimum amount of energy be from renewable energy sources by a target date and increase funding for renewable energy. We need to develop more programs that involve limiting carbon dioxide emissions. A transition to a renewable energy economy will require government subsidies and tax incentive programs. Despite these high initial costs, these actions will yield greater benefits for America's economy in years to come. rwKaren Gaia says: unfortunately, our fuel economy was sacrificed in order to lessen fuel emissions. We need to find ways that they don't work against each other.
BP is closing 12 oil wells on Alaska's North Slope as a precaution after allegations that more than 50 were leaking.
Most of these wells were in Prudhoe Bay.
BP blamed the incident, the largest-ever spill in Alaska's North Slope, on a small hole caused by corrosion. Up to 267,000 gallons were believed to have spilled onto the frozen ground.
The 12 well shutdowns affect about 8,000 barrels a day out of a total daily production of about 800,000 barrels. BP plans on running tests on the affected wells.
BP was cautious in addressing the leaks of arctic ice pack. The material is usually crude oil or diesel fuel. A typical well has about 168 barrels of freeze protection material.
None of the leaked material had reached the Arctic tundra.
We have no reason to believe that continued operation poses a risk to workers or the environment."
BP will invite regulators from the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and the Alaska Department of Conservation to observe the integrity tests. BP also will appoint an independent ombudsman to receive future concerns about BP operations. rw
The House voted to allow energy companies to tap natural gas and oil beneath waters from New England to Alaska.
Opponents of the federal ban argued that the nation needed to move closer to energy independence and gas and oil could be taken without threatening the environment and coastal beaches. Florida's two senators have vowed to filibuster any legislation that would allow drilling within 125 miles of Florida's coast. Other senators have strongly opposed ending the restrictions.
Many fear that development could despoil coastal beaches, should there be a spill, and threatens the recreation and tourist economies of states where development has been barred since the early 1980s.
A Republican from California and a leading proponent for lifting the moratorium, argued that drilling would be prohibited within 50 miles of shore and states could extend the ban up to 100 miles.
But a Democrat said states would have to overcome numerous hurdles to continue the drilling restrictions, including having state legislatures and the government seek such protection every five years. The bill would revamp how the federal government shares oil and gas royalties with states, producing a windfall for four Gulf states -- Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Alabama -- that already have oil and gas rigs off their shores.
The eastern and western Gulf of Mexico produces virtually all of the country's offshore oil and gas. Under the bill, states' share of royalties would increase to 50% over 10 years and eventually could rise as high as 75%. States currently get less than 5% of royalties from offshore oil and gas leases in the central and western Gulf.
The Interior Department estimated that revenue sharing could cost the federal government as much as $69 billion in lost royalties over 15 years. The White House favors much of the bill but opposes the changes in royalty revenue sharing, which would have a long-term impact on the federal deficit.
The Interior Department estimates there are about 19 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 86 trillion cubic feet of natural gas beneath waters currently under drilling bans. But supporters of the moratorium argue there's four times that amount of oil and gas available in offshore waters, mainly in the central and western Gulf of Mexico and off parts of Alaska.
But a Republican from Pennsylvania argued that developing more U.S. energy resources is needed to ease supply shortages that have led to soaring natural gas prices and increasing American reliance on oil imports. rwKaren Gaia says: the higher our consumption now, the harder the fall, the bigger the crash.
The federal government may use California's pollution rules for lawnmowers and other small-engine machines as a national standard. This would be bad news for much of the small engine industry. California aims to cut their emissions by about 35%.
The govt is concerned that this source is going to continue to be a bigger source for air pollution, so we are interested in putting forth cost-effective standards for the country. Missouri is home to the nation's largest small engine maker. Briggs & Stratton has resisted California's approach, which would require adding catalytic converters. The company says this would be so costly that jobs would have to be sent overseas, and there could be fire risks. An EPA study rejected any safety risk, but the small-engine industry have criticized that finding, and the industry is funding its own safety study.
Officials from Honda and Kohler support California's rules.
But the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute said that many in the industry don't want to see those regulations applied nationally.
California officials testified that the rules were necessary to meet federally mandated clean air attainment goals. Environmentalists and regulators from other states testified in favor of giving the state a waiver to implement its rules and pave the way for national standards.
In addition to sending tremors that knock down buildings, earthquakes increase the permeability of rocks to transmit fluids including oil.
Permeability governs how fluid flows through rock, whether it's water or oil, so this has practical implications for oil extraction.
The amount of permeability is directly related to the amplitude of the shaking.
Potentially if you could increase permeability you could greatly increase the available oil you could tap out of a reserve.
One way is by mimicking the effects of an earthquake but scientists do not understand the physics well enough, or how to tune the vibrations, to increase the flow of oil.
One possibility would be to use trucks that shake the ground to take a type of X-ray of the Earth to find out the structure of rocks and where the oil is located.
If we understood the physics of the permeability enhancement well enough, the vibrations could be tuned to increase with the flow of oil. The scientists made their discovery after studying 20 years of data of water seeping in and out of wells during seven earthquakes in California.
Every time an earthquake occurred the permeability jumped and the surrounding rocks became up to three times more permeable. A few months later the permeability returned to normal.
A measure advanced in the House would allow oil and gas development in restricted offshore waters unless a state prohibited it.
The Committee approved in 29-9 vote. The bill's prospects in the Senate are poor as Florida's Representative has threatened to filibuster any legislation that would end the drilling moratorium in coastal waters outside the western Gulf of Mexico.
Waters within 50 miles of shore would still be protected, but drilling would be allowed in areas beyond that unless a state acts to preserve the ban.
A drilling moratorium outside the western Gulf has been in effect for 85% of U.S. coastal waters since 1981.
Pombo and other drilling advocates emphasized that the bill would permanently protect waters within 50 miles of shore, and would give states the opportunity to protect waters up to 100 miles from shore.
World demand for oil is set to increase 37% by 2030.
Demand will hit 118 million barrels per day, but OPEC's share will fall from 39.7% to 38.4% as West Africa and the Caspian increase production.
Oil production in Norway is expected to decline from 3.6 million bpd to 2.5 million bpd by 2030.
Much of the world's oil demand is projected for use in the transportation sector. The US will be the largest consumer of petrol, with 27.6 million bpd, up from this year's 20.8 million.
The higher price is expected to temper demand and boost the appeal of other sources of energy. Oil represented nearly 38% of the world's total energy consumption in 2003, but is expected to fall to 33% by 2030. rw
Scientists said the huge amounts of organic material embedded in the sedimentary layers suggested that the center of the Arctic Ocean could hold vast oil deposits.
They were reluctant to focus on the work, saying it would be unfortunate if their climate studies prompted new oil exploration that could liberate more greenhouse gases and further warm the climate.
But one of the authors remained confident that the prospect was real. If the oil exists, it would probably take decades to develop techniques for exploiting such midocean deposits. A quarter of the world's undiscovered oil and gas resources lie in the Arctic, according to the United States Geological Survey. rw
Even though peak oil may be imminent, most countries are counting on higher oil consumption in the decades ahead. Yet in a world of declining oil production, no country can use more oil except at the expense of others.
Some segments of the global economy will be affected more than others, among these are the automobile, food, and airline industries. Cities and suburbs will also evolve.
Stresses within the U.S. auto industry were already evident and their affiliated industries will also be affected, including auto parts and tire manufacturers.
Food will become more costly, diets will be altered as people move down the food chain and consume more local, seasonally produced food. Rising oil prices will draw agriculture into the production of fuel crops, setting up competition between affluent motorists and low-income food consumers. Airlines, both passenger travel and freight, will continue to suffer and cheap airfares may become history.
Air freight will be hit hard and one of the early casualties could be the transport of fresh produce from the southern hemisphere during the northern winter as the price becomes prohibitive.
During the century of cheap oil, an enormous automobile infrastructure was built in industrial countries that requires large amounts of energy to maintain. The United States, for example, has 2.6 million miles of paved roads, covered mostly with asphalt, and 1.4 million miles of unpaved roads to maintain even if world oil production is falling.
Modern cities depend on concentrating food and materials and then disposing of garbage and human waste. As cities grow larger garbage must be hauled longer distances and the cost of garbage disposal also rises. At some point, many throwaway products may be priced out of existence.
People living in poorly designed suburbs are often isolated from their jobs and shops. Suburbs have created a commuter culture. Shopping malls and discount stores, were all subsidized by artificially cheap oil. Isolated by high oil prices, suburbs may prove to be ecologically and economically unsustainable.
In the coming energy transition, countries that fail to plan ahead may experience a decline in living standards. The inability of national governments to manage the energy transition could lead to failed states.
Political leaders seem reluctant to plan for the downturn in oil even though it will become one of the great fault lines in the history of civilization. Developing countries will be hit doubly hard as expanding populations combine with a shrinking oil supply to steadily reduce oil use per person. This could translate into a fall in living standards. If the US, the world's largest oil consumer and importer, can reduce its use of oil, it can buy the world time for a smoother transition to the post-petroleum era. rw
Royal Dutch Shell reports that oil spills at its facilities rose 50% from 2004 to 2005. Hurricane damage and sabotage of a major pipeline in Nigeria was responsible for a goodly portion of the spillage. The amount went from 6,724 tons to 9,921 tons. A ship that sank off the coast of Freeport, Texas, in 1976 has leaked 300 gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Officials disagree on whether it is fuel oil or crude oil. Crude is less toxic, but stays in the environment longer. The Texas General Land Office has concluded that the leak poses no environmental problem. rw
Analysts are far from a consensus, but several now believe that the oil peak is imminent.
When production turns downward, it will create a world unlike any we have known during our lifetimes and future historians may distinguish between before peak oil (BPO) and after peak oil (APO).
The oil prospect can be analyzed in several different ways. Computer models to project future oil production and prices use of the reserves/production relationship to gain a sense of future production. Hubbert theorized that the time between the peaking of new discoveries and the peaking of production was predictable. New reserves in the US peaked around 1930, he predicted U.S. oil production would peak in 1970. He was correct.
A second approach separates oil-producing countries into those where production is falling and those where it is still rising. Of the 23 leading oil producers, output appears to have peaked in 15 and to be rising in eight. The post-peak countries range from the US, to Venezuela, the UK and Norway. The eight pre-peak countries are Saudi Arabia and Russia. Other countries with potential for increasing production are Canada, because of its tar sands, and Kazakhstan, which is still developing its oil resources. The other four pre-peak countries are Algeria, Angola, China, and Mexico.
The biggest question mark is Saudi Arabia. Its production peaked in 1980 at 9.9 million barrels and output is now 1 million barrels below that. Saudi officials sat they could produce more but analysts doubt whether the Saudis can raise output. Some of its older oil fields are depleted, and it remains to be seen whether pumping from new fields will do more than offset the loss from the old ones.
This analysis comes down to whether production will increase enough in the eight pre-peak countries to offset the declines in the 15 countries where production has peaked. The two groups have the same total production capacity but if it falls in one of the eight, world output could decline.
A third way to consider oil production is to look at the actions of the major oil companies. One bit of evidence is the decision by leading oil companies to invest in their own stocks. ExxonMobil invested nearly $10 billion in buying back its own stock. ChevronTexaco used $2.5 billion of its profits. With little new oil to be discovered and demand growing fast, companies appear to realize that their reserves will become more valuable in the future.
Closely related is the lack of any substantial increases in exploration and development. This suggests that the companies agree with geologists who say that 95% of all the oil has been discovered. It is inconceivable now that major fields remain to be found and it may take a lot of costly exploration to find that remaining 5%.
Among those reporting that 2004 oil production exceeded new discoveries were Royal Dutch/Shell, ChevronTexaco, and Conoco-Phillips. Geologist Walter Youngquist notes that in 2004 the world produced 30.5 billion barrels of oil but discovered only 7.5 billion barrels of new oil.
Once oil companies or oil-exporting countries realize that output is about to peak, they will begin to think about how to stretch out their reserves. As it becomes clear that a moderate cut in production may double world oil prices, the long-term value of oil will become much clearer.
The geological evidence suggests that world oil production will be peaking sooner rather than later. A highly respected geologist says that the peak will occur in late 2005 or in the first few months of 2006.
The Saudi national oil company notes that new oil coming on-line had to be sufficient to cover annual growth in demand of at least 2 million barrels a day and the annual decline in production of over 4 million barrels a day. It's not sustainable. rw
If Latin America's economic ties with China do not change, the region will be unable to meet the MDGs. The historical circumstances make it necessary for these countries to stop exports of natural resources and enter the knowledge economy.
The Latin Economic Forum Inc brought together Latin American leaders, academics and key representatives to "focus on how to reduce poverty; use corporate social responsibility as a contribution to sustainable development, implement new business strategies and technologies to ensure a prosperous economy; and strengthen governance."
China is the world's biggest consumer of copper, tin, zinc, platinum, steel and iron. And Latin America is China's biggest supplier of these commodities. China has also become one of the top buyers of oil from Venezuela and oil represents 85% of Venezuela's exports and oil revenues are 50% of government expenditure. The political tension between Washington and Caracas has led the Venezuelan government to review its oil-export policies. Venezuela is interested in increasing oil exports to China and reducing sales to the US market.
But exporting commodities is a bad foundation for development, and is an unsustainable policy. Latin America is facing a dilemma: while opportunities for exporting raw materials are better than ever, but it ultimately entails the exhaustion of its natural riches. Chile's ambassador to the UN said three Latin American countries will succeed in meeting the MDG's while another five have a good chance of doing so.
So far, only Chile has reduced by half the proportion of people living in extreme poverty. Latin America and the Caribbean form the region with the largest gap between rich and poor in the world. The keys to development are social policies for the elimination of poverty and for the inclusion of women in the labor market.
The UN ambassador from the Dominican Republic emphasized the need for foreign investment but recognized the situation is not simple. "We cannot attract capital when, on the other hand, we do not have technology or skilled personnel."
It would be difficult for the region's countries to meet the MDGs, and the positive outlooks expressed at the meeting were to be expected, given that the speakers were official representatives of their countries' governments.
As for modifying Latin America's trade relations with an economic power such as China, one solution is to create small and medium-sized enterprises and generate employment and respect the environment. This would lay the foundations for building trade relations based on the entire production chain. rw
President Putin said that the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean oil pipeline should pass outside the drainage basin north of Lake Baikal. Environmental groups welcomed the move. Putin said the pipeline should run beyond a proposed line 40 km to the north of the lake. Academy of Sciences Vice President Nikolai Laverov proposed that the pipeline should run along the line of the watershed to the north of Baikal.
The leader of the Green Party of Russia, said Putin's statement was "a great victory for public pressure. It will save Baikal."
Transneft chief executive said that the length and cost of a new route line could be estimated within two months. He said he had been unprepared for Putin's decision, but that the project would go ahead as scheduled. Construction would start simultaneously from both ends and that Transneft would draft a new feasibility study and conduct an environmental study for the new route. Transneft's previous plans included a stretch of pipeline running 800 meters from the shore of Baikal. Environmentalists said any leaks could cause irreparable damage to the lake.
Head of conservation programs with the World Wildlife Fund in Russia, said the decision could signify that Russia would not follow the example of countries where state monopolies are more important than parliamentary opinions.
The pipeline is slated to carry up to 80 million metric tons a year from Taishet in the Irkutsk Region to Perevoznaya Bay in the Primorye Territory and could also supply oil to the Asia-Pacific region. Putin said construction of an oil refinery in Russia's Far East would help derive maximum profits from the pipeline and open up new markets.
High gas prices are not the result of oil-company price gouging. It's the market balancing supply and demand.
Politicians attempting to substitute oil-company bashing and demagoguery in the place of real energy proposals deserve only snorts of derision.
A new gas platform in the North Sea will run entirely on wind and solar power. The tiny platform, co-owned by Royal Dutch Shell and ExxonMobil, cost about $143 million to develop and was built for 40% of the cost of conventional platforms. It's the first of smaller, lower-impact platforms that will allow for better recovery of small pockets of gas. rwIt's good that oil producers now recognize that wind and solar are more efficient than fossil fuels for extracting oil offshore.
Follow the link for the video. Explosive fracturing to get the gas out contaminates the ground water, deep aquifers, and river watersheds with heavy metals and other carcinogens as well as enough volatile gases to make people's kitchen sinks and well pumps explode. Fracting with poisonous chemicals to release the natural gas embedded in US rock has been going on for ten yeas, exempt from Federal water pollution standards.
A California commission rejected the environmental impact report on a proposed $800-million floating liquefied natural gas terminal off the Ventura County coast. Dem Lt Gov Garamendi challenged whether the energy company had done enough to reduce emissions whether alternatives including energy conservation, greater reliance on wind and solar power, and a bigger natural gas plant under construction in Baja California, Mexico were considered. He questioned the cost-effectiveness of extracting natural gas in Australia, chilling it and shipping it in tankers across the Pacific Ocean.
BHP spokesman said the project would make California's energy supply more reliable and good for the state's environment. Natural gas burns cleaner than coal or oil. The so-called Cabrillo Port project cannot be built unless the commission and other regulatory bodies decide the 3,000-page environmental impact study is adequate.
The Coastal Commission object to the project, contending it would be harmful to the marine environment.
Even with advanced emissions controls, the environmental impact report states that the tankers, support vessels and floating gas processing plant would emit 160 tons of nitrogen oxides and 60 tons of hydrocarbons per year. The ozone impacts will be substantial and impact the health of residents. rw
Chevron has abandoned plans to build a natural gas terminal near the Coronado Islands. The decision was based on business needs.
Chevron decided to send gas from the Greater Gorgon gas fields off northwest Australia to Japan.
Environmentalists were pleased that the project had been abandoned.
The Coronado Islands are one of the world's most bio-diverse hot spots. It should be a park, not an LNG site.
The Mexican director of the Grupo de Trabaja de Termoelectricas Fronterizas, also was happy to hear the project had been canceled.
Chevron decided to go offshore because residents and environmentalists objected to plans to build LNG terminals on coastal land. The southernmost of the islands was to have served as a breakwater for a fixed, 980-foot-long concrete island with two regasification plants, storage tanks, a heliport and a dock to berth about four LNG tankers each week.
The project posed a risk to fish, sea mammals and birds, including the endangered Xantus' murrelet.
At least six companies or groups of companies have vied to bring LNG to the Baja California coast.
Moss Maritime and Mexican partner Terminales y Almacenes Maritimos de Mexico were granted a permit to build a floating project about five miles off Rosarito Beach.
Shell abandoned its project on the Costa Azul and reached an agreement to share capacity at Sempra's EnergĂa Costa Azul LNG receiving terminal. Sempra has an agreement with BP and Tangguh LNG to receive its LNG supplies from Indonesia, and Shell will receive its LNG from Russia's Sakhalin Island.
After four years, Long Beach stopped a controversial project that promised a new source of liquefied natural gas for California. The Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners effectively terminated the partnership of Mitsubishi Corp. and ConocoPhillips plans to build a $700-million liquefied natural gas plant.
Liquefied natural gas terminals have been favored by the Bush administration and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as a way to bring fuel from overseas. Air quality officials and environmentalists also favor LNG because it helps to alleviate smog.
But others expressed misgivings. Specifically, opponents raised safety concerns, citing the potential for a natural gas explosion that could kill hundreds of people. This project would have put over 140,000 people who live and work within 3 miles of that LNG terminal at risk. Other energy companies have proposed liquid natural gas terminals offshore where the risk to the public is minimal.
Last summer, the Port of Long Beach opted not to extend a contract that gave Sound Energy Solutions exclusive rights to build the terminal on 25 acres in the harbor.
In December, Harbor Commission President James C. Hankla told the Long Beach City Council that he intended to halt all work on the final environmental impact report unless the council indicated a clear willingness to proceed with the project. Neither Sound Energy Solutions nor the federal energy commission had adequately addressed safety issues. rw
What started as a natural gas well has become geysers of mud and water in East Jave. Eight villages are submerged, with homes and more than 20 factories buried to the rooftops. Some 13,000 people have been evacuated. The four-lane highway has been cut in two, as has the rail line. The muck has already inundated one and a half square miles.
It is spewing forth at the rate of about 170,000 cubic yards a day, enough to cover Central Park.
Observers are watching to see whether the government will hold the company that drilled the well accountable for the costs of the cleanup. The disaster occurred as the company Lapindo Brantas drilled to tap natural gas and used practices described as faulty.
But Lapindo was sold for $2 last month to a company, owned by the Bakrie Group, and many fear it will declare bankruptcy, allowing its owners to walk away.
A spokeswoman said it was too early to conclude that Lapindo had acted negligently. Some geologists said this was a natural mud volcano, perhaps set off by seismic activity.
Engineers are not hopeful that they can contain the problem. As the best of the worst options, the government plans to pump the mud into the Porong River, that will be the death of the ecosystem around that area. The sheer volume alone will smother everything in its path. The area's commerce has been devastated.
The problems when the company had reached about 9,000 feet, even though it had not installed a casing around the well as required under Indonesian mining regulations.
The company experienced a loss of pressure in the well and mud started seeping in from the sides of the unprotected well bore, at a depth of about 6,000 feet.
The mud was stopped by cement plugs but it then sought other avenues of escape, eventually breaking through the earth, and creating mud volcanoes in several places that resemble the geysers of Yellowstone.
If the casing had been in place, the mud would not have entered the well, and would not have discovered these other avenues to the surface, a conclusion supported by mining engineers.
So far there does not appear to be any government investigation. After the first eruptions, the police began an investigation, but it haslanguished. Any investigations would have to be by the central government in Jakarta. Lapindo should take responsibility, but Lapindo no longer exists, and the company may not have any assets.
Lapindo's parent company announced that it was selling Lapindo for $2 to Lyte Ltd., a company that is registered in the offshore island of Jersey. The majority shareholder in the parent company is the Bakrie Group, and the Bakrie Group is the sole owner of Lyte, and is owned by Aburizal Bakrie and his brothers.
Lapindo's parent company had said that it was selling Lapindo because of the huge costs it faced in cleaning up after the mud flow. An Energi spokesman said the Bakrie Group remained committed to cleaning up the mud, through Lyte. A concern is whether Lyte, which has been renamed Bakrie Oil & Gas, will declare bankruptcy. If the Bakrie Group does not pay, the Indonesia government will be left with the bill. rwKaren Gaia says: as energy demands increase from a growing population, the greater the need to look for energy in unsuitable places. The more the population grows the more it expands into unsuitable places.
California is unveiling initiatives to control greenhouse gases that would put it in the forefront of a campaign by state and local officials to regulate the causes of climate change. California's action plan contradicts the official position of the Bush administration. We can control what California is doing," said the state's environmental protection secretary. Among states scheduled to attend the Montreal talks are Vermont, Connecticut, Los Angeles, and New Mexico. Seattle Mayor has organized a campaign to tackle global warming that has enlisted the mayors of more than 180 cities. He said the goal is to show U.S. politicians that global warming can be good politics. Opinion polls have shown strong public support. Gov. Schwarzenegger pledged to slash California's greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 and was promising to lead the world's fight against global warming at a U.N. event in San Francisco. However, at the same time, his top energy advisor was working on a proposal to move coal-fired power from Wyoming to California. Coal-burning power plants are the leading emitters of carbon dioxide, which is the most abundant greenhouse gas. California receives more than a fifth of its electricity from out-of-state coal-fired power plants. State officials acknowledged that better coordination and stricter electricity-buying policies will be needed to achieve the governor's goals. Environmentalists said it remained to be seen whether California's proposals would survive what is expected to be a fierce lobbying push by oil refiners and other affected industries. A plan by eight Northeastern states to set a ceiling on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants was thrown into turmoil when Massachusetts Gov. Romney raised concerns about electricity costs. Silicon Valley venture capitalist John Doerr expressed support for a "cap and trade" system that would place a ceiling on emissions, but allow businesses to profit by selling "pollution credits". The Bush administration contends that setting a ceiling on greenhouse gases would damage the economy. Some states disagree, arguing that early action to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and conserve energy will save money. rw
The Senate voted to give federal regulators authority over the location of liquefied natural gas terminals. President Bush has pushed for federal control saying that a lengthy approval process could delay the building of facilities that are important for the economy. The bill would give the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission the final word on where terminals are built. The action came as part of a sweeping overhaul of national energy policy. The Senate rejected a proposal to establish a cap on emissions of greenhouse gases. Republicans criticized a mandatory limit as an unfair burden on the economy. The debate over liquid natural gas, or LNG, brought together conservatives and liberals representing states where terminals have been proposed. The terminals are projected to play a key role in the nation's energy needs. LNG accounts for about 3% of the nation's natural gas use, but it is projected to rise to more than 20% by 2025. The projects have generated concerns that they could pose safety risks or become targets for terrorist attacks. rw
International energy companies, the Bush administration and gas-rich countries are championing a global market for natural gas, with the US its largest importer. They are promoting gas as more plentiful and less polluting than oil and needed to sustain economic growth. But the US is low on production of natural gas and vast amounts of gas will have to be imported arriving by tanker. Large reserves of gas are in countries like Qatar, Iran, Russia, Angola, Yemen and Algeria. Competition has prompted a race to meet demand for the fuel in rich industrialized countries and the US faces resistance. Officials in states where terminals that could receive the gas tankers say they could fall victim to an explosion. President Bush has endorsed legislation, currently being debated in the Senate, that would allow the federal government to overrule the states. But he faces a fight in Congress too. Several senators are sponsoring an amendment to oppose greater federal authority. Eight new terminals for liquefied natural gas, or L.N.G., are to be built in the US by 2010. There are now four terminals built in the 1960's and 1970's. Energy companies want to construct more than 40 at a cost of $500 million to $1 billion each. Some scientists and environmentalists say that the nation is placing too little emphasis on improving energy efficiency and investing in other methods for producing power and heat. Utilities warn that in becoming more reliant on natural gas from abroad, the US would be running the same risk as when it came to depend on oil from the Middle East. Natural gas is expected to become the leading fossil fuel by 2025. The largest energy concerns are pursuing more than $100 billion to create a global market for gas. The rising consumption comes with a significant cost, we will have to depend on imports to allow people to keep consuming it. The price of natural gas has doubled in the last five years. Some nations want to control the price of natural gas much as OPEC has manipulated the oil market. In California resistance has mounted to plans to build several L.N.G. terminals. Natural gas can be difficult and expensive to ship. It must be cooled to 260 degrees below zero, squeezing its volume by 600. Once it reaches its destination, it needs to be reheated. A barrel of oil commands $50 on the world market today, while 6,000 cubic feet of natural gas, its energy equivalent, would probably cost $18 to $24, if delivered from a Middle Eastern country. Natural gas is also thought to be more plentiful than oil. BP estimates global gas reserves at 67 years at current production rates, compared with oil reserves at 41 years. The US, for much of the 20th century, was the world's largest oil producer, but began to import more oil than it exported after World War II. American production of natural gas is no longer enough to meet domestic demand. Reliance on natural gas increased after electricity companies designed more than 90% of power plants in the 1990's to run on natural gas. Strong demand for natural gas is occurring in the fast-industrializing economies of China and India. The US is expected to emerge as the world's largest L.N.G. market but will need to build the terminals to receive L.N.G. Concern over the possibility of damage from an accident or terrorist explosion has prevented such projects from getting off the ground. A report by Sandia Laboratories concluded that terrorists blowing a hole in an L.N.G. tanker could produce a spill of liquefied natural gas that could set off a fire that would cause second-degree burns on people nearly a mile away. The L.N.G. industry responds that the safety record of its tankers exceeds any other sector of the shipping industry. Only a few small accidents have occurred in the last three decades. Congress included in the energy legislation approved this spring, a provision that would usurp the authority of states to block L.N.G. terminals. Six governors wrote to the Senate committee, asking for states to remain on equal footing in L.N.G. reviews. Meanwhile, foreign governments that are pinning their hopes on exporting L.N.G. to the US are investing in ventures to build terminals. Qatar and 12 other gas-rich nations met in April to discuss ways to keep L.N.G. prices satisfactorily high. The group, called the Gas Exporting Countries Forum, is still in its infancy and for now is incapable of modeling itself after OPEC, but its members agreed to establish a liaison office in Qatar. Others view the growing reliance on imported natural gas in the US more ominously and are concerned about making the same mistakes we made with imported oil. rw
Some 36 years ago, a nuclear bomb was detonated in an 8,000-foot shaft on Colorado's Western Slope, hoping to reach a reserve of natural gas. They released the gas, but it was too radioactive to be used and a perimeter around the site was put off-limits. But if a Texan oil company's plans are approved, the company will get at the natural gas using called hydraulic fracing, which the company says won't disturb the radioactive material. Surrounding residents aren't so sure. rw
Long Island Sound is a 1,380-square-mile body of water and last year, 687 commercial vessels navigated it without incident. Officials are planning to moor a barge there that will offload liquefied natural gas (LNG). Energy corporations would like to build 30 to 40 LNG terminals in the US mostly in coastal communities. But such ideas are meeting with resistance. Both the president and Congress are getting involved, at a time when natural gas prices are close to an all-time high. The energy bill before the House makes Federal Energy Regulatory Commission FERC the lead agency and specifies that "FERC would be required to actively consult with the states to consider state and local safety priorities." One Senate bill on LNG siting, sets a one-year deadline for making decisions on each project. Maintaining states' rights is vital to groups around the nation that are opposed to the terminals. The battle over LNG terminals is not surprising; it seems that anything that has to do with energy has to be heavily scrutinized because there is no perfect location. The developers of the Long Island project hope they've found the perfect location, about nine miles from Long Island and 11 miles from Connecticut. They have consulted with lobstermen, marine biologists, and done sonar and soil surveys. It has held open houses and even met with opponents. But opponents have raised a host of issues, from the shad to the prospect of flammable vapor clouds. rw
Congress Fuels Fire Between FERC, States.December 03, 2004 Los Angeles Times
State officials are fuming over a provision in the year-end spending bill that says federal regulators should decide where liquefied natural gas terminals are built. Many lawmakers didn't know about it when they voted for the bill last month. State regulators said it could make it harder to block facilities that could harm the environment or pose safety and security risks. The provision leaves the Republican-controlled Congress leaning against its tendency to support states' rights. The language reflects the determination of President Bush and his allies to increase energy supplies. California has challenged the Energy Regulatory Commission's claim that it has sole authority to decide whether an LNG facility will be built in Long Beach. It would receive gas that had been cooled to a liquid so that it could be transported by ship. Supporters say it would signal Congress' backing on preventing a regulatory process from delaying energy projects. The provision declares: "These facilities need one clear process for review, approval and siting decisions âŚ a process that also looks at the national public interest, and not just the interests of one state." The California Public Utilities Commission said the language "shows a contempt for the people of California." Rhode Island's attorney general attacked the provision as a "usurping of a sovereign state's rights and ability to control its own destiny." Critics say the provision is what happens when Congress rushes to approve a 3,016-page, $388-billion bill, with most members acknowledging they hadn't read it. The provision dealing with LNG facilities grew out of a legal battle between California and the FERC. California officials contended that federal regulators didn't do enough during the 2000-01 energy crisis to hold down electricity prices, and they have been fighting the agency over how much the state should receive from companies that overcharged Californians. The California Public Utilities Commission contend they should have jurisdiction over the proposed Long Beach facility because it would bring natural gas into California for local use, not interstate commerce. Congress comes down on FERC's side and says the act "clearly preempts states on matters of approving and siting natural gas infrastructure associated with interstate and foreign commerce." The Long Beach terminal is among more than two dozen proposed throughout the US. An LNG facility off the Ventura County coast has been proposed, but state officials do not dispute federal jurisdiction because it would be in federal waters and the U.S. Coast Guard is responsible for such terminals. rw
U.S.: Norton Eyes Potential for Sage Grouse to Disrupt Development.November 10, 2004 San Francisco Chronicle
If the sage grouse is listed under the Endangered Species Act, federal restrictions could threaten efforts to extract the estimated $1.3 trillion worth of natural gas hidden under the Rocky Mountain range. The Fish and Wildlife Service will decide in response to petitions whether to consider the sage grouse a species whose survival is endangered or threatened. Any decision would be based on scientific review and weighed against government and private conservation efforts, including those by cattlemen, energy producers and state officials. Federal protections would require developers to minimize impacts and have consequences, particularly on Bush administration plans for more domestic energy production using public lands. The bird's habitat is spread among 770,000 square miles in 11 states, including natural gas fields. Oil and gas wells and pipelines affect a quarter of all sagebrush habitat. The sage grouse weighs up to eight pounds and as few as 100,000 remain. At one time there were 16 million of them among the sagebrush-covered expanses of the Western United States and Canada. Some $1.3 billion has flowed to states and private landowners to protect open spaces, wildlife habitat and endangered species, but officials do not know how much is solely to save the sage grouse. The Agriculture Department awarded $2 million to save grasslands for the sage grouse in Colorado, Idaho, Utah and Washington state. rw
The Bush administration and many Republicans want to allow drilling for natural gas in the Rocky Mountains, while Democrats and environmental groups support energy conservation and renewable fuels. Greenspan said we've got to make trade-offs that are difficult and will increase the the cost in energy if we restrict access to areas that contain natural gas. Gas prices doubled from a year ago to $6 per million BTUs. The stockpile is now about 15% below normal, with a forecast of $4.80-$5.10 per million BTU for 2003. The House Speaker will appoint a panel of 18 lawmakers to recommend legislation to boost gas production. Greenspan called for expansion of facilities to import liquefied natural gas (LNG). Terminals should back-up U.S., Canadian and Mexican production. Algeria, Nigeria, Trinidad, Russia and Venezuela are current and potential exporters of LNG and 14 projects have been proposed in recent months, including expansion of Georgia's Elba Island terminal and new facilities off Louisiana, Texas, California, the Bahamas and Mexico. Three LNG terminals exist in Cove Point, Maryland; Lake Charles, Louisiana; and outside Boston. Demand for natural gas is forecast to top 35 trillion cubic feet by 2025, a jump of 52%. rw
The Bush administration and Alan Greenspan are expressing concern about dwindling natural gas supplies. This comes as Congress debates a bill that could include drilling on federal lands in Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico, both oceans and the Gulf of Mexico. Greenspan expressed support for expanding the nation's nuclear power capacity, backed by the Senate in a 50-48 vote to retain federal loan guarantees for the construction of nuclear plants. rw
Energy Secretary Spencer Abrahamand the Bush administration said it sees only "limited opportunities" to boost dwindling natural gas supplies over the next 12-18 months and called for conservation to head off a summer shortage. On June 26 and emergency meeting was held to consider ways to conserve supply by reducing demand. Current U.S. inventories are at 29% below their 5 year average while spot prices are twice last year's. Abrahamand's letter to Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle said: "Therefore the emphasis must be on conservation, energy efficiency, and fuel switching" by utilities from natural gas to coal or other sources. Environmental groups complained that the pressure is on to open federal