Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Posts Tagged ‘peak oil

When a society loses touch with reality

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Interesting post by James Kunstler:

Societies periodically go insane. Fallacious memes sweep through a frightened and confused populace and bad things happen, bad choices get made. Two bad ideas in particular infect the American thought-o-sphere these days: 1) that non-cheap oil can keep all the rackets of consumerism going; 2) that we can offset all the quandaries of non-cheap oil with accounting fraud and debt creation.

These ideas present themselves in the places of greatest authority and influence. The president says “we have a hundred years of shale gas.” The Wall Street Journal says that an inflating Dow Jones index stands for a growing economy. My recent favorite came out of the increasingly demented New York Times on Saturday: Even Pessimists Feel Optimistic About the American Economy. Quoting an econ professor named Tyler Cowen from George Mason University The Times said:

The recent surge in domestic oil and gas production signals “the start of a new era of cheap energy,” he said, while less expensive online education programs could open the door to millions of people who have been priced out of more traditional academics.

That was a two-fer of stupidities since A) it ought to be self-evident that $90-a-barrel oil is not cheap oil, and B) that because of A, there’s unlikely to be lucrative employment for people who learn double-entry book-keeping on their laptops. In fact, anyone who actually learns math over the Internet must conclude that $90-a-barrel oil will crash all the  supposedly normal operations of a consumer society, including the ability of oil-and-gas companies to get the capital investment necessary for further oil production.

None of these accredited morons seems to get the basic equation between available cheap energy — e.g. oil with a high energy-return-on-investment — and capital formation — the accumulation of wealth that can be deployed to produce more wealth-producing activity. That was only possible on the way up Hubbert’s curve. On the way down, alas, the relationship enters a Ponzi unwind of too many claims on excessive promises to pay. The net result is a society with a lower standard of living. Personally, I think it will go way lower, and way sooner than later.

The idea that on-line education is a sovereign tonic for economic vitality is just another gloss on the inane belief that technology can take the place of energy in the equation above. Tom Friedman, grand poobah, of The New York Times Op-Ed page is the cheerleader-in-chief for that meme, but it is accepted by virtually all authorities in business and politics, and their handmaidens in the academic chairs. As the American economy dissolves in an acid bath of capital scarcity and grievance, these idiots will be waiting for the next iPhone app that can power the electric grid — and thus all the new iPhones streaming out of the Apple factories of China into the hot little hands of nineteen-year-olds in Michigan taking “Macroeconomics” on the Kahn Academy website.

Speaking of China, The New York Times ran another humdinger over the weekend: . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

18 June 2013 at 3:37 pm

Posted in Business, Global warming, Government

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Looking at the post-Peak oil industry

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Here’s Kevin Hall of McClatchy interviewing Daniel Yergin on his book The Quest:

When Daniel Yergin published “The Prize,” an 873-page exhaustive historical narrative about oil, in 1991, it changed how policymakers and academics alike thought about energy. His new book “The Quest,” published Tuesday, is likely to do the same.

“The Quest,” equally meaty at 804 pages, is broader in theme. It’s subtitled “Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World.” As with his earlier work, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1992, Yergin relies on stories and vignettes to bring to life the changes and challenges that are taking place in the energy sector and the global scramble for oil.

Yergin, who’s now an energy consultant, begins where he left off, highlighting the events now reshaping global politics and oil politics. The introduction covers this year’s devastating tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan and the Arab Spring, involving the collapse of strongmen across the Middle East and North Africa.

“I was really struck that here are two very major sets of events, very different, halfway around the world but each of them with major impact on what our energy future is going to look like. Both of them came as surprises, and yet we will be for many years assessing and living with the consequences,” Yergin said in a lengthy interview with McClatchy ahead of the book’s release.

“The Quest” covers everything from the peak oil theory, which holds that the world’s oil production is in or near a permanent decline, to renewable and alternative sources of energy. It took Yergin five years to write it, and even in that time frame much changed in the energy sector.

In that five years, oil prices surged, Wall Street began treating oil contracts as prize investments, new technology boosted natural gas production from shale oil, and crude oil produced from ultra-deep drilling in the Gulf of Mexico began supplanting imported oil from the Middle East. And of course, there’s demand from China.

“One of the things that surprised me was China. China hardly appears in ‘The Prize,’ because China was not a factor in the world oil market,” Yergin said. “China in ‘The Quest’ is the only country that gets two chapters. And it’s very much a narrative explaining how energy and oil have evolved as part of this larger story of China’s emergence on the world’s stage.”

“The Quest” ends on the unfolding prospects for the electric automobile.

“Around 2008, the electric car — which has a very long history — started to gain political traction and political support. And companies started to get behind it. So the book really concludes on the future of the automobile — what will we be driving in 10 or 15 years? — and it’s not clear yet by any means, and I don’t think it will be clear until after 2015 or so where the electric will fit in,” he said, concluding himself that “at least our personal transportation is going to have a larger electricity component in some form.”

Here’s more on what Yergin thinks.

Q: “The Quest,” as a title, is a metaphor?

A: I think that there is really a huge challenge. We have a $65 trillion world economy. If we get back on track it could be a $130 trillion economy by 2030, in just a couple of decades. And the question is, “What is going to be the energy system? How are we going to provide the energy that an economy of that scale needs, and at the same time how are we going to ensure the security of energy and reconcile our energy needs with environmental questions?” I found those were the underlying issues that I kept encountering as I wrote the book.

Q: Why do you see the Arab Spring as so important to the future of energy? . . .

Continue reading. There’s a video at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

20 September 2011 at 9:24 am

Posted in Books, Business, Daily life

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Oil and the future of the US

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Very interesting article in Salon by Michael Klare:

America and Oil. It’s like bacon and eggs, Batman and Robin. As the old song lyric went, you can’t have one without the other. Once upon a time, it was also a surefire formula for national greatness and global preeminence. Now, it’s a guarantee of a trip to hell in a hand basket. The Chinese know it. Does Washington?

America’s rise to economic and military supremacy was fueled in no small measure by its control over the world’s supply of oil. Oil powered the country’s first giant corporations, ensured success in World War II, and underlay the great economic boom of the postwar period. Even in an era of nuclear weapons, it was the global deployment of oil-powered ships, helicopters, planes, tanks, and missiles that sustained America’s superpower status during and after the Cold War. It should come as no surprise, then, that the country’s current economic and military decline coincides with the relative decline of oil as a major source of energy.

If you want proof of that economic decline, just check out the way America’s share of the world’s gross domestic product has been steadily dropping, while its once-powerhouse economy now appears incapable of generating forward momentum. In its place, robust upstarts like China and India are posting annual growth rates of 8 percent to 10 percent. When combined with the growing technological prowess of those countries, the present figures are surely just precursors to a continuing erosion of America’s global economic clout.

Militarily, the picture appears remarkably similar. Yes, a crack team of SEAL commandos did kill Osama bin Laden, but that single operation — greeted in the United States with a jubilation more appropriate to the ending of a major war — hardly made up for the military’s lackluster performance in two recent wars against ragtag insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan. If anything, almost a decade after the Taliban was overthrown, it has experienced a remarkable resurgence even facing the full might of the U.S., while the assorted insurgent forces in Iraq appear to be holding their own. Meanwhile, Iran — that bête noire of American power in the Middle East — seem as powerful as ever. Al Qaeda may be on the run, but as recent developments in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and unstable Pakistan suggest, the United States wields far less clout and influence in the region now than it did before it invaded Iraq in 2003.

If American power is in decline, so is the relative status of oil in the global energy equation. In the 2000 edition of its International Energy Outlook, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) of the U.S. Department of Energy confidently foresaw ever-expanding oil production in Africa, Alaska, the Persian Gulf area, and the Gulf of Mexico, among other areas. It predicted, in fact, that world oil output would reach 97 million barrels per day in 2010 and a staggering 115 million barrels in 2020. EIA number-crunchers concluded as well that oil would long retain its position as the world’s leading source of energy. Its 38 percent share of the global energy supply, they said, would remain unchanged.

What a difference a decade makes. By 2010, a new understanding about the natural limits of oil production had sunk in at the EIA and its experts were predicting a disappointingly modest petroleum future. In that year, world oil output had reached just . . .

Continue reading. It seems obvious to me that Peak Oil, like global warming, is here to stay. In the meantime our broken political system fights ever more fiercely over ever more trivial matters.

Written by Leisureguy

17 September 2011 at 9:08 am

The post-oil economy

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The world will become smaller. Lloyd Alter at TreeHugger, in a post under the title "Why Your World is About to Get Smaller":

Why? Peak Oil. Jeff Rubin is a regular supplier of great quotes to TreeHugger (like his description of the tar sands: "You know you are at the bottom of the ninth when you are schlepping a tonne of sand to get a barrel of oil" )

For almost twenty years he was chief economist for CIBC World Markets, but has left that comfortable world to spread a not so comfortable message: Our lives are about to change, as the title says: Why Your World Is About To Get A Whole Lot Smaller. It is much the same message as delivered by James Howard Kunstler in The Long Emergency, but with more math and better credentials.

Rubin goes through the supply issues, of how we are running out of affordable oil, but also the demand side. It isn’t just transport; much of the middle east generates its electricity from oil, and now is producing much of its water. Ski Dubai alone burns the energy equivalent of 3,500 barrels of oil a day, enough to drive a car around the equator with quite a few barrels to spare.

Between the reduction in supply and the increase in demand, we are going to get squeezed as we come out of this recession and gas prices rise again. Rubin summarizes his thesis in the National Post:

Life as we’ve known it is up for grabs in a world of expensive fossil fuels. Expensive oil means a severe curb on the free-spending lifestyle that cheap energy has afforded us for some time now. It means you can say a long and wistful goodbye to the inexpensive products manufactured on the other side of the world. You may not love them, but they have been stretching our dollars for a while now and holding down inflation at the same time. You’ll miss them when it starts to become clear that your paycheque just doesn’t go as far as it used to.

But he sees some good news in this: …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

9 June 2009 at 9:35 am

Posted in Daily life, Environment, Science

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Transition to a low-energy economy

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Very interesting article in the NY Times Sunday Magazine:

The stage lights went up at the Panida Theater, a classy old movie house in Sandpoint, Idaho, and the M.C. stepped out of the dark with one finger high in the air. There was an uprising of applause and cheering. Then, shouting like a head coach before a bowl game, she said, “Sandpoint, are you ready?”

It was a Friday night last November. All around the little town of Sandpoint, beetles were blighting north Idaho’s pine forests. The previous day, the U.N. reported that emissions from automobiles and coal-fired power plants were collecting in brown clouds over 13 Asian and African cities and blocking out the sun. Iceland’s main banks had crumpled, and American auto executives were about to fly to Washington in private jets to plead for a bailout. Off the coast of Africa, Somali pirates were hijacking oil tankers. But the folks at the Panida Theater wouldn’t stop clapping. The Sandpoint Transition Initiative, a new chapter of a growing, worldwide environmental movement, was officially coming to life.

The Transition movement was started four years ago by Rob Hopkins, a young British instructor of ecological design. Transition shares certain principles with environmentalism, but its vision is deeper — and more radical — than mere greenness or sustainability. “Sustainability,” Hopkins recently told me, “is about reducing the impacts of what comes out of the tailpipe of industrial society.” But that assumes our industrial society will keep running. By contrast, Hopkins said, Transition is about “building resiliency” — putting new systems in place to make a given community as self-sufficient as possible, bracing it to withstand the shocks that will come as oil grows astronomically expensive, climate change intensifies and, maybe sooner than we think, industrial society frays or collapses entirely. For a generation, the environmental movement has told us to change our lifestyles to avoid catastrophic consequences. Transition tells us those consequences are now irreversibly switching on; we need to revolutionize our lives if we want to survive.

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Written by Leisureguy

19 April 2009 at 11:58 am

Posted in Daily life, Environment, Global warming

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Peak Oil and our future

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Interesting survey of articles on global warming and Peak Oil. It begins:

Will the world end in fire or in ice? That is, are we going to be hit by global warming or are we going to freeze because of lack of fossil fuels? We don’t know yet, but it is starting to appear clear that geology is placing a major constraint on anthropogenic CO2 emissions and, therefore, on global warming. Here, I present a brief summary of some of the recent papers that have appeared on the subject.

Until recently, most simulations of future climate have been run without taking into account "peaking" of the major fossil fuels. Concepts such as "peak oil" are not discussed, and not even mentioned, in the reports of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). But, with peak oil coming, or already arrived, the subject is starting to appear in scientific journals, blogs, and conferences. In a previous post , I reported about the "Mission Earth" seminar held in Zurich in 2009 where climatologists and depletion experts gathered to exchange views. Here, I present a short review of the status of the field. There is a very small number of papers published in scientific journals on this subject and I think this summary includes them all. I also tried to include a number of less formal studies published on the web or presented at conferences.

Some early papers raised the question of the discrepancy of the standard IPCC scenarios and the peak oil projections. The first one was probably Jean Laherrere with a paper published in 2001. Later on Anders Sivertsson , Kjell Aleklett and Colin Campbell wrote in 2003 in "The New Scientist" a paper titled "Not enough oil for climate change". They criticized the IPCC scenarios for being overoptimistic in terms of oil and gas reserves. These early papers didn’t attempt to calculate the future concentrations of CO2.

Perhaps the earliest attempt to quantify the effects of CO2 on climate while taking depletion into account was the work by Jim Hansen and Pushker Karecha, who produced a paper titled "Implications of "peak oil" for atmospheric CO2 and climate". This study was published in 2008 but became available on line as a working paper in April 2007. Hansen and Karecha start from the premise that the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere should not be allowed to exceed 450 ppm; larger values would lead to disastrous consequences. So, they examine several scenarios that involve policy measures to force the reduction of emissions. They find that, if no such measures are taken, CO2 concentrations might rise to near 600 ppm by the end of the century, mainly as the result of coal combustion which, here, is not assumed to peak as a consequence of depletion. Oil and gas would peak before 2030 and would give only a minor contribution to the total of the emissions.

Shortly after the paper by Hansen and Karecha, David Rutledge published a post on "The Oil Drum" website with the title "The coal question and climate change" (June 2007). Later on, in December 2008, Rutledge also presented his results as an invited talk at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Society. Rutledge set up an approach that would be used again by other authors; that is, he started with an estimate of the available resources, from that he generated a production curve that involves "peaking" and then he calculated CO2 emissions in the atmosphere. Then, by means of the software package named "MAGICC," available from NCAR, Rutledge generates climate scenarios in terms of CO2 concentrations and atmospheric temperatures. The results are that geological constraints on coal production (what he calls "producer limited" profile) would limit CO2 concentrations to about 480 ppm even without policy measures to curb emissions. Under these conditions, temperatures might rise of approximately 1.6 deg. C. Rutledge concludes that "if we wish to reduce the temperature rise, we must bury the CO2 (assuming that it will not leak out for 1,000 years), or establish preserves for fossil fuels that prevent them from being produced." …

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Written by Leisureguy

9 March 2009 at 11:44 am

Peak oil: looks like 2005 was the time

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Ken Deffeyes seems to have been right. He figured 2005 as the year of Peak Oil, and whimsically chose US Thanksgiving Day as the day the oil peaked. This gives us an anniversary date to celebrate and to be thankful for the age of oil and what it produced. Today Jad Mouawad reports in the NY Times:

Oil production has begun falling at all of the major Western oil companies, and they are finding it harder than ever to find new prospects even though they are awash in profits and eager to expand.

Part of the reason is political. From the Caspian Sea to South America, Western oil companies are being squeezed out of resource-rich provinces. They are being forced to renegotiate contracts on less-favorable terms and are fighting losing battles with assertive state-owned oil companies.

And much of their production is in mature regions that are declining, like the North Sea.

The reality, experts say, is that the oil giants that once dominated the global market have lost much of their influence — and with it, their ability to increase supplies.

“This is an industry in crisis,” said Amy Myers Jaffe, the associate director of Rice University’s energy program in Houston. “It’s a crisis of leadership, a crisis of strategy and a crisis of what the future looks like for the supermajors,” a term often applied to the biggest oil companies. “They are like a deer caught in headlights. They know they have to move, but they can’t decide where to go.”

The sharp retreat in all of the commodities’ prices over the last month, about 20 percent, reflects slowing global growth and with it reduced demand for more oil in the short term. But over the next decade, the world will need more oil to satisfy developing Asian economies like China. The oil companies’ difficulties suggest that these much-needed future supplies may be hard to come by.

Oil production has failed to catch up with surging consumption in recent years, a disparity that propelled oil prices to records this year. Despite the recent decline, oil remains above $100 a barrel, unimaginable a few years ago, causing pain throughout the economy, like higher prices at the gas pump and automakers posting sizable losses.

The scope of the supply problem became more clear in the latest quarter when the five biggest publicly traded oil companies, including Exxon Mobil, said their oil output had declined by a total of 614,000 barrels a day, even as they posted $44 billion in profits. It was the steepest of five consecutive quarters of declines.

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

19 August 2008 at 8:29 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

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Peak oil seems to be here

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I first became aware of Hubbert’s Peak in Ken Deffeyes’s book Hubbert’s Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage. It’s an extremely interesting book, and well worth reading.

Subsequently Deffeyes wrote Beyond Oil: The View from Hubbert’s Peak, in which he sets US Thanksgiving Day 2005 as the day we reached the peak. The particular day is arbitrary, but the years seems to be right. As he points out:

My late-2005 prediciton is a statement about the smoothed average of annual oil production. As we go over the top of the smoothed average, individual years, like wine vintages, have their ups and downs. At the time of this writing (in the middle of 2004), the year 2003 had the largest oil production. However, production in 2003 was only 3 percent larger than the production in 1998. That’s no 3 percent per year; it is only 0.6 percent growth per year. World oil production has ceased to grow. Decline is the next step. The picnic’s over.

In the preface, Deffeyes notes:

There was a tremendous flap during 2004 over Shell’s downgrading of oil reserves. Those of us who used to work for Shell were particularly surprised; typically Shell was overly cautious about almost everything. I have no private sources of information from inside the major oil companies. Mostlyy, I try to evaluate what they do, not what they say. For instance, an editorial in the June 21, 2004, issue of BusinessWeek complained that the 30 percent increase in oil prices induced only a tiny increase in company exploration budgets. Similarly, U.S. refineries are running close to capacity, but no new refineries have been built since 1976. Oil tanker ships are fully booked, but outdated tankers are being retired faster than new ones are being built. Instead, the industry seems to be hoarding cash, buying back stock, and paying out dividends. What is going on? Why don’t higher prices and increasing demand encourage investment? Suppose, for a moment, that the premise of this book is correct. We have already found most of the oil. Drilling for the few leftovers yields neither fun nor profit. Should the major oil companies drill a string of dry holes just to keep the editors of BusinessWeek happy? If, as I claim, world oil production is about to decline, then there is no point in adding refineries or increasing the size of the tanker fleet.

That is to say, actions speak louder than words. And today in the LA Times, you’ll find an article by Elizabeth Douglass on the debate on whether we’re at the peak now, or not for a few more years. But silently commenting on the debate are the signs from what the oil companies are actually doing—and not doing.

UPDATE: And, undscoring the point Deffeyes made above, this recent report from CBS.

Written by Leisureguy

22 July 2008 at 8:35 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

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The energy crisis is really a transportation crisis

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Very interesting chart at Treehugger. The post there excerpts this op-ed by Benjamin Turon, which begins:

Those in the “peak oil” camp, who predict that we are about to run out of easily accessible petroleum, warn that the drop in global oil production will bring dire consequences. Writer James Howard Kunstler, and like-minded groups such as the Capital Region Energy Forum, predict the collapse of Western Civilization and the establishment of an “Amish Paradise.” Yet they forget history and underestimate the technology available to sustain our technological civilization.

First, much of technology is based on electricity, not oil! Computers, telecommunications, lights, industrial machinery, household appliances are electric; electricity can also cook our food and heat our homes. While the power grid needs to be expanded and modernized, North America has abundant energy resources — including coal, nuclear, hydro, tidal, wind, solar and geothermal — to keep us in electricity without depending on oil-run power plants.

There are also substitutes for oil in the many synthetic chemicals and materials that contribute to modern life. Glass, ceramics, metal and wood could substitute for plastic in many products, and much of those products can be recycled. Coal and biomass can also be used as feedstocks for plastics, fertilizers and pharmaceuticals.

We are not so much in an energy crisis as a transport crisis, a troika of increasing congestion, environmental degradation and energy shortages.

As global demand for transport and petroleum products grows as a result of population and economic growth, demand is beginning to exceed supply, leading to an inflationary spiral of prices that could cripple the economy.

The goal should be to switch our transportation from being powered by petroleum to electricity, because electric vehicles can utilize a variety of power sources, and use it more efficiently than internal-combustion engines. Electric vehicles won’t compete with the food supply, as do biofuels, and are more practical than using hydrogen fuel cells. Overall pollution would be reduced, including greenhouse gases.

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 July 2008 at 8:40 am

More on Peak Oil

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I think Kenneth Deffeyes had it exactly right: he picked Thanksgiving Day of 2005 as the day we hit the peak of oil production. Kevin Drum talks about more indications that we’re past the peak. Hubbert did indeed accurately predict the peak of oil production in the US (early 1970’s), so the idea has been tested and found to work.

Just to be clear: the peak occurs at the time we’ve taken out only half of the oil in the ground—the easy half. From that point on, getting the oil and refining it becomes ever harder, and production (of usable oil) declines. The overall picture is very like a normal curve (a bell curve): starting low, ramping up, flattening out, and then declining. What the picture omits is the struggle to find a new way to live and new sources of energy: the supply is declining but the demand continues to rise. Moving from wood to coal as an energy source caused decades of turmoil and economic disruption, and one would expect that same to happen now. Of course, we have introduced some other variables: global warming and water scarcity. So this coming century will be interesting indeed. Sorry to miss most of it.

Written by Leisureguy

16 July 2008 at 10:20 am

Posted in Daily life

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Back to the 55mph speed limit?

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When the “double-nickel” was last mandated, the truckers were loud in their protests. Some truckers created rolling road-blockers, driving side-by-side at 55 mph so no one could pass. But this time the truckers are requesting lower speed limits. The story from McClatchy Washington Bureau by Dave Montgomery begins:

Is the double-nickel speed limit ready for a comeback?

Congress thus far has shown no movement toward resurrecting the 55-mph speed limit, but one of the Senate’s senior members — Republican John Warner of Virginia — says it’s time to start the conversation about an energy-saving national speed limit to help spare Americans from usurious fuel costs.

The 55-mph limit was imposed by federal law during the energy crisis of the mid-1970s, remained in effect for 20 years and ultimately was booted off the roadways by Congress in 1995 amid near-universal contempt among motorists.

Warner hasn’t specified what a new limit should be, but he points out that Americans saved 167,000 barrels of petroleum a day when the 55-mph speed limit was in effect. He told fellow senators this week that he’ll probably proceed with legislation after the Energy Department determines the most fuel-efficient speed limit for the nation’s highways.

“We have to take the lead in Congress, and hopefully the president will join,” Warner said on the Senate floor. “We have that duty.”

Among those joining the call for a national speed limit are truckers, who’ve been hammered by diesel fuel costs expected to reach $135 billion this year, $22 billion more than last year.

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Written by Leisureguy

12 July 2008 at 11:25 am

Posted in Daily life, Government

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More consequences of Peak Oil

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Sam Dillon reports in the NY Times:

First, Ryan Gibbons bought a Hyundai so he would not have to drive his gas-guzzling Chevy Blazer to college classes here. When fuel prices kept rising, he cut expenses again, eliminating two campus visits a week by enrolling in an online version of one of his courses.

Like Mr. Gibbons, thousands of students nationwide, including many who were previously reluctant to study online, have suddenly decided to take one or more college classes over the Internet.

“Gas prices have pushed people over the edge,” said Georglyn Davidson, director of online learning at Bucks County Community College, where Mr. Gibbons studies, and where online enrollments are up 35 percent this summer over last year.

The vast majority of the nation’s 15 million college students — at least 79 percent — live off campus, and with gas prices above $4 a gallon, many are seeking to cut commuting costs by studying online. Colleges from Massachusetts and Florida to Texas to Oregon have reported significant online enrollment increases for summer sessions, with student numbers in some cases 50 percent or 100 percent higher than last year. Although some four-year institutions with large online programs — like the University of Massachusetts and Villanova — have experienced these increases, the greatest surges have been registered at two-year community colleges, where most students are commuters, many support families and few can absorb large new expenditures for fuel.

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Written by Leisureguy

12 July 2008 at 10:40 am

Posted in Daily life, Education

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No more petroleum-powered Mercedes after 2015

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Interesting that at least one car company is facing the reality of Hubbert’s Peak. From Jaymi Heimbuch of Ecogeek.org:

In less than 7 years, Mercedes-Benz plans to ditch petroleum-powered vehicles from its lineup. Focusing on electric, fuel cell, and biofuels, the company is revving up research in alternative fuel sources and efficiency.

The German car company has a few new powertrains in the line-up that European journalists have had the opportunity to test out in their facility in Spain. One vehicle includes the F700, powered by a DiesOtto engine that combines HCCI and spark ignition to get nearly the same efficiency as diesel, but minus the expensive after-treatment systems. The engine can run on biofuels, and we may have a purchasable vehicle by 2010 – a year that seems to be popular for the debut of a lot of new alternative fuel car models, making ’08 and ’09 simply thumb-twiddling years for consumers. I don’t know, maybe car makers just like the roundness of “2010.” The company’s next big step will be to launch a Smart electric car which is fuel and emission-free.

Anyway, Mercedes is looking into electric vehicles, both battery powered and fuel cell powered. Not only are models in development, but we’ve also seen the company making steps towards their zero petroleum goal right now, from better cabs in London to Li-Ion battery improvements. The company also has about 100 Smart electric cars undergoing testing in London, with that favorite 2010 year as the projected market release date. Mercedes is making serious investments, already putting nearly $4 million into the pot of their long-term Sustainable Mobility plan, with another over $14 billion going in before 2014.

While car models may be able to run on fuels other than gasoline or diesel, we have yet to find a method of both running and producing vehicles entirely free of fossil fuels. I’m waiting for a mainstream car line that creates renewable fuel, clean running vehicles out of 100% recycled materials in plants run on 100% renewable, clean power…Will I even be alive when that finally happens? I have hope.

Written by Leisureguy

27 June 2008 at 9:50 am

The Oil Peak is here

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At least, it sure seems like it. From an article in the Independent on the refurbishing and repurposing of the oil rig Alwyn in the North Sea:

… “Alwyn started out as an oil well and platform more than two decades ago. As oil production has fallen, it has been adapted and changed,” says Bradshaw, a man who seems devoted to his life here in the middle of nowhere. The rig’s expanding team is having to work harder than ever to keep it going. A vast network of underground pipes has linked it to new pockets of oil and gas – some of the neighbouring platforms seem like they are just touching distance away. New techniques have been used to boost the quality of the last dregs of oil coming out of the ground. Empty reservoirs are being drained of natural gas. Now, a major discovery of a field of natural gas has meant that, after 21 years of work, Alwyn’s creaking infrastructure is being given a facelift to keep going for another 20 years. But it will also mean its conversion from the oil platform it once was will be complete.

The end of Alwyn’s oil well days is a familiar story in the North Sea. The rig men may be working as hard as ever, but UK oil production has been falling rapidly ever since 1999. In the past, that hasn’t been such a problem – other producers around the world have always been able to produce more of the black stuff to keep the wheels of world industry lubricated. But according to some, that may be about to change. Oil prices are so high – $137 a barrel – and predicted by Alexey Miller, head of Gazprom, the Russian state energy giant, to rise as high as $250 a barrel – that social tensions have begun to emerge, while the world’s leaders have been going cap in hand to oil producers, asking them to squeeze a few more barrels out of their wells. And as prices have kept on breaking records, an ever-growing worry looms in the background, the elephant in the room of the oil price rise: what if they can’t produce any more? What if, this time, the oil taps really are running dry?

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Written by Leisureguy

15 June 2008 at 5:28 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

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Peak oil?

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I read an article in the paper recently in which an “industry insider” said that oil reserves are much larger than estimated—twice as large. And yet production has been flat since 2005, just as one would expect that the peak. And, despite the reserves, if production begins to decline, it will be a clear sign that we’ve passed the peak. After all, when the peak is hit, the amount of oil still to come is roughly equal to the amount of oil used to date—it just gets harder and harder to produce.

His story is that oil companies are holding back production because they make lots of money with oil at $137/barrel (or more, as prices climb). And yet as the price of oil increases, the motivation and innovation to replace oil also increases: developing transportation that’s powered by electricity and/or fuels from biological sources (algae-produced gasoline and other biofuels), for example. I would think that oil companies would see that this direction is not in their long-term interests, regardless of short-term profits.

Written by Leisureguy

10 June 2008 at 2:31 pm

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Peak oil is here

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At least, it seems so. Consider this story by Hazrat Amin in myCrescent, an Islamic newspaper in the US, currently focused on Dallas:

“The prices that we’re paying at the pump today are, I think, going to be ‘the good old days,’ because others who watch this very closely forecast that we’re going to be hitting $12 and $15 a gallon, and then, after that, when world oil production goes into decline, we’re going to talk about rationing,” said Robert Hirsch, Management Information Services Senior Energy Advisor, talking to CNBC. He noted that along with significant rise in oil prices, consumers will see shortages including not getting oil when they need it.

According to a report on The Economist, “The price of oil may soon hit $200 a barrel—or so, at any rate, believes Shokri Ghanem, Libya’s oil minister. A few years ago such a prediction would have seemed absurd. But the price has doubled in the past year and has risen by 40% this year alone.” The report also said that the demand for oil is rising sharply in contrast with production. Global demand, meanwhile, continues to rise, thanks to an ever-increasing thirst for oil in fast-growing developing countries such as China and India. Their increased consumption is more than compensating for falling demand for oil in rich countries.”

“Our economy and way of life – especially in sprawling, car-crazy North Texas – depends on a steady and affordable supply of oil. It can’t last, because oil is not an infinite resource. We might not be at the end of the cheap oil era yet, but when that day comes, its dawn will look something like what we’re living through today,” states an editorial in the Dallas Morning News. Who would have thought that Americans will consider changing their lifestyle based on market conditions such as oil? I still remember President Bush boasting about driving big SUV. It never occurred to me that one day I will have to ‘plan’ my driving. One of the great benefits of living in the United States is the freedom to move around. If you wanted to go somewhere, you just go. If you felt like moving, gasoline and inflation was not the reason stopping you. It was the America, where little things could not affect us. We all thought (as people always do) that bad economy won’t happen to us. And like all the other nations we learned that no one is invincible.

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Written by Leisureguy

27 May 2008 at 2:19 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life, Government

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Shell CEO puts Peak Oil at 2015

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Time flies:

In a rare moment of candor, Jeroen van der Veer, the chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell, acknowledged what many have long considered a forgone conclusion: the end of the oil era is almost upon us, and sooner than you might think. The Oil Drum retrieved an e-mail sent to all Shell employees in which the CEO admitted the obvious (emphasis ours):

“Regardless of which route we choose, the world’s current predicament limits our maneuvering room. We are experiencing a step-change in the growth rate of energy demand due to population growth and economic development, and Shell estimates that after 2015 supplies of easy-to-access oil and gas will no longer keep up with demand.”

He went on to criticize the sluggish response by policymakers to the coming energy crisis:

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Written by Leisureguy

27 January 2008 at 9:17 am

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More Peak Oil

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Via Kevin Drum, this post. Bottom line:

This analysis looks at how existing oil fields are apparently declining, and finds a trend suggesting those declines are worsening, though the reasons for this are not clear yet.

Read the whole post.

Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2007 at 4:29 pm

Posted in Business, Environment, Science

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WSJ carries Peak Oil story

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Peak oil

The above graph shows several different projections of when oil production might peak. (None include the possibility that it has already peaked, though production has been flat for two years.) Part of the story:

A growing number of oil-industry chieftains are endorsing an idea long deemed fringe: The world is approaching a practical limit to the number of barrels of crude oil that can be pumped every day.

Some predict that, despite the world’s fast-growing thirst for oil, producers could hit that ceiling as soon as 2012. This rough limit — which two senior industry officials recently pegged at about 100 million barrels a day — is well short of global demand projections over the next few decades. Current production is about 85 million barrels a day.

The world certainly won’t run out of oil any time soon. [And no one has ever maintained that position. — LG] And plenty of energy experts expect sky-high prices to hasten the development of alternative fuels and improve energy efficiency. But evidence is mounting that crude-oil production may plateau [i.e., peak – LG] before those innovations arrive on a large scale. That could set the stage for a period marked by energy shortages, high prices and bare-knuckled competition for fuel.

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Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2007 at 2:17 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life, Environment, Science

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The 2008 hydrogen-fueled Honda FCX

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Amazing: it will be sold to the public, not just another prototype. And it should sell extremely well if we indeed are now past Hubbert’s peak: not buying gasoline and instead getting your fuel from water and sunlight (solar power) would become very attractive indeed.

Honda FCX

During Honda’s press conference at this year’s Tokyo Motor Show, the company’s CEO announced that the FCX sedan would enter production, and be on sale during 2008.

The FCX will include a fuel cell, battery pack and electric motor that produces a horsepower equivalent of about 135 hp. Honda’s advancements in the area of fuel cell technology have allowed it to claim a total range of 354 miles per fill up, which should be more than ample for most peoples’ day-to-day driving needs. The car will look more or less identical to the concept shown here, and size-wise it will occupy the same approximate footprint as the Acura TSX or BMW 3-Series.

While hydrogen is only available at very select refueling stations, the car can be filled up at home thanks to a wall-mounted fuel station. In principle this is similar to what Honda is currently offering with its natural gas-powered Civic, although it differs in that the CNG is merely piped through an existing network already feeding the home’s heating and appliances, where the FCX’s wall-mount actually creates hydrogen by breaking down water into its elements (hydrogen and oxygen) through a process called electrolysis. It is 100-percent green in that the system can be powered (and often is powered) by solar energy.

The production FCX will be unveiled sooner than expected, with a debut at this year’s LA Auto Show in November.

Written by Leisureguy

28 October 2007 at 3:21 pm

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