The Bullroarer - Sunday 5th October 2008

The West Australian - Fears petrol prices could double

Petrol prices could double within six years as demand for oil soars but supply barely grows, warns a former chief engineer for petroleum giant BP.
Speaking ahead of a conference in Perth today which will focus on the growing global food and fuel price crisis, Jeremy Gilbert said the world had almost reached peak oil production while demand was tipped to grow by 50 per cent over the next two decades.

Improved extraction techniques meant oil fields were running down faster than expected while discovery rates for new fields had declined steadily since the late 1970s. The world would go through at least one decade of “energy deficiency”, in which oil supplies diminished but renewable energy sources did not reached adequate production levels, he said

ABC - 'Bailing out' the environment

The threat of a looming global financial crisis has led to the swift implementation of brave ideas by governments and regulators. The response may reveal how the world could avert the looming crises of climate change and resource depletion by backing the clean technology ('cleantech') sector. ... The world of course faces another potential catastrophe that could have an impact far worse than a financial meltdown: continuing global climate change and resource depletion.

After Gutenberg - An Important Commercial Message

Writing for the Melbourne Herald-Sun, Mary Bolling sees a battle brewing between cyclists and scooter-ists. “The Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce has asked Roads Minister Tim Pallas to consider allowing scooters to use bike lanes on key arterial roads, but Bicycle Victoria strongly opposes it.”

The Australian - LNG delays export plant as it searches for funds

GLADSTONE export hopeful LNG has delayed selecting a liquefied natural gas customer for its planned $500 million Queensland plant as it seeks help from potential buyers to finance the project amid frozen credit markets. The company, which has an agreement to process Arrow Energy and Shell's coal seam gas in the region, had hoped to select a partner last month but yesterday said it did not expect that to happen until next month.

The Australian - Woodside's North West Shelf Angel platform under budget

Woodside's executive vice-president of the North West Shelf, Eve Howell, trumpeted the completion of Angel on time and under budget, a feat that has become increasingly rare in the resources sector as materials and labour have become in short supply and expensive.

The Australian - Angel produces first gas at North West Shelf

WOODSIDE Petroleum said today the $1.6 billion Angel platform at the North West Shelf Venture has produced its first gas. The platform has capacity of 800 million standard cubic feet of gas and up to 50,000 barrels of condensate a day and its output will be processed at the North West Shelf Venture's integrated system at Karratha in Western Australia.

Reuters - Tokyo Gas signs 8-yr deal to buy LNG from W.Australia

Tokyo Gas Co said on Thursday it has signed an eight-year deal to buy a total of 530,000 tonnes per year of liquefied natural gas from Western Australia, starting from April next year.

NZ Herald - Power companies generate less for Govt coffers

At a time when the Government could do with the money, the combined fiscal contribution from the state-owned electricity generators looks set to fall. If the three companies adhere to the dividend policies in the statements of corporate intent they agreed with their shareholding ministers - Meridian 65 per cent, Mighty River 50 per cent and Genesis 40 per cent - the Government can expect to receive some $178 million in dividends from their latest profits, less than half the $383 million it got over the past year.

The Age - Marchers make voice heard on freeway noise

ABOUT 200 people marched along Burke Road, Glen Iris, in Melbourne's east yesterday to protest at an increase in noise levels once the Monash Freeway is widened.

The Age - Plan firms for water targets

MELBOURNE residents could be asked to cut their daily water use to 150 litres each this summer to counter the looming shortage caused by poor spring rainfalls.

ABC - Science first, economy second in climate change fight: chief scientist

Australia's new chief scientist has refused to be drawn on whether she agrees with the emissions cuts proposed in Professor Ross Garnaut's final report on climate change.

Peak Energy - No one cares more about the environment than oil companies

Peak Energy - Inpex to Use Bacteria at Old Oil Wells to Produce Gas

Peak Energy - Mobile Phone Towers Powered by Renewable Energy

Peak Energy - Paint Power

Peak Energy - Paint Power Part 2

Peak Energy - Chrysler Joins The EV Revolution

Peak Energy - The growth of Wal*mart

Peak Energy - Somali Pirates And Over-Fishing

Peak Energy - Handout Day

Peak Energy - Financial Eugenics

Peak Energy - Cooperation And The Wendigo

"MELBOURNE residents could be asked to cut their daily water use to 150 litres each this summer to counter the looming shortage caused by poor spring rainfalls."

That's not very ambitious, we use 150lt/day total in a household with three adults - 50lt each.

Well - state government and "ambitious" aren't exactly synonyms, are they...


But the thing is, household water use is only about 9% of all water use in Australia [source, ABS]. Agriculture is 70%, water supply, leaks and sewage is 8%, power stations 6%, manufacturing and mining 3% each.

It cannot be that only households are wasting any water. Surely other sectors of the economy can save water. Or perhaps we can even reduce some sectors and use the water more profitably. Agriculture returns about A$0.60/kl, and manufacturing $32-$680/klt. [source]

Our households could easily use much less water - ours does, as I noted above. But even if all eight million or so households used no water at all, it would only drop overall water use by 9% - not enough to cover the drought or climate change. Everyone must do their share.

No, water isn't really a fungible resource unless you want to build pipelines everywhere. Its more accurate to examine use within certain geographic areas.

We're already building water pipelines everywhere. It is, within a continent, an entirely fungible resource in every sense of the word.

I think you have to be careful comparing agricultural to household consumption in that way.

The water used to produce that food is accounted next to farmers, but people eat that food. If people start growing there own veggies and household water consumption goes up what then? Or if we stop growing that food and just manufacture?

There are many ways that agricultural usage of water can be improved... but probably the biggest would require a cultural change... by changing our diet.

I'm not sure if Id be an advocate of the statistics you sourced at Urban Ecology Australia. This argument that X litres produces Y dollars can be misleading...

By this argument then, if we produce any food at all then it should be beef and cheese. As these currently have greater $$ "values" per litre.

IF however you compare the amount of water required per mass of product produced then the CSIRO gives us:

* For 1 kilogram oven dry wheat grain, 715 – 750 litres of water
* For 1 kg maize, 540 – 630 litres
* For 1 kg soybeans, 1650 – 2200 litres
* For 1 kg paddy rice, 1550 litres
* For 1 kg beef, 50,000 – 100,000 litres
* For 1 kg clean wool, 170,000 litres

We could then go on to compare the calorific content of these foods. We could also wonder about the nutritional balance as well.

But using dollar normalisations skips over this important point.

I just found it in my search to respond.. but this site Water Footprint Network looks like it has some interesting stats.

For example the country comparator page tells us that although Japan only uses 1153 m3/cap/year, fully 64% of that is from outside the country...

Or "to produce one cup of coffee we need 140 litres of water". So when Mr and Ms Urban dweller sit down to have a cuppa... we need to think a little more widely.

As we recently saw with Dr Garnauts suggestion about meat, the average Aussie doesn't seem to be ready for such a cultural change.

Nor, it would seem, are large parts of the rest of the world that readily accept our beef and lamb exports.


That "Water Footprint" paper lists the following amounts of "virtual water" (average amount of water required to produce the commodity) for some common drinks...

1 glass of beer (250 ml) = 75 virtual litres of water.
1 glass of milk (200 ml) = 200 virtual litres of water.

So I know what I'll be drinking from now on!

(Thinks: I wonder how much virtual water there would be in a glass of water?)

The water used to produce that food is accounted next to farmers, but people eat that food.

Sure. And the loo flushes away my poo. So what? The point is that in a household there are efficient and inefficient uses of water, useful and wasteful. Water to wash my body after a hard and sweaty day's work we can fairly say is water better-used than the same amount hosing down the driveway. One sinkful to do the dishes is less wasteful than 20 sinkfuls.

If in households there are useful and wasteful ways to use water, efficient and inefficient uses, it stands to reason that there are useful and wasteful, efficient and inefficient uses of water in agriculture, mining and so on. Perhaps you've never lived in the country. I have, and farmers typically waste vast amounts of water. Huge sprinkler systems spray water from above onto paddocks on 42 degree centigrade days. On any day above 30 degrees, less than one-quarter of the water falling will actually arrive at the roots of plants in an open field.

There's lots of stuff like that, huge waste everywhere. Consider: if the agricultural sector could reduce water use by one-sixth, this would be equivalent to the domestic use stopping entirely. Reduce by a sixth? Surely they could manage that.

Sure. And the loo flushes away my poo. So what?

Is this a useful comment?

I simply try to make the point that YES, farming uses a lot of water... and I agreed with you that there could be savings, but my comment was to the indirect consumption of water by consumers in order to satisfy there wants...

So, that when you link to a site that uses statistics of $/L I suggest that the "waste" seen when farmers use centre pivot methods to produce pasture for beef or diary production is them responding in a "rational" economic way to a consumers desire for cheese and hamburgers for which they get paid a premium... at least by that statistic.

Thus I suggested caution. We under price water... or over value beef.

I suspect your comment about centre pivots was plucked out after your flushing exercise.

YES. It would be nice to see centre pivots preferably operated at night.
YES. In some areas they are sucking up ground water.
But they also replace flood irrigation and the potential for inducing salinity problems.

Are you suggesting that farmers are not rational economic agents?

A centre pivot is probably the most efficient way that large areas of pasture can be irrigated. You are not going to be able to drip irrigate pasture. This link from the Victorian DPI suggests that:

A well designed and well managed centre pivot should achieve an irrigation efficiency (IE) of 95%, where a well designed and well managed border-check irrigation system on appropriate soils should achieve 90%. On perennial pasture, this 5% difference corresponds to a water saving of about 0.5 ML/ha/year. (IE is the proportion of the applied water used by the crop.)

BUT ultimately farmers are doing this because of the foods we demand...

You assume too much.
I was born in the country. I well know what it is out there. I have seen the vast changes from the small family sized dairy to the monster industrial complexes of today. I have also worked in environmental research focused on the Murray region and have had frequent interactions with stake holders from all sides. It's not a simple issue.

I think Phil is away (ie. no Bullroarer tonight) but here's a story I noticed in the Curious Snail:

The end of the milk delivery era proved more difficult to deal with. I didn't see it coming, and so it was for my neighbours. We got a note one morning from our regular milkman informing us he would not be coming after the end of the week. Most of us expected he had sold the business.

But no one came in his place. And so started the three trips-a-week milk run to the local shops.

Without rational cause, so it seemed, where one day a suburb of some thousands of customers were served by one vehicle moving in the most efficient route around the streets, now we had thousands of individuals driving to the shops for nothing more than a bottle or two of milk, at considerable inconvenience.

There was additional petrol cost and wear and tear on thousands of cars. In this era, just over 20 years ago, there was very little interest in, or understanding of, climate change and other forms of atmospheric pollution.

The dismissal of the milkman is starting to seem like a bad decision given our advance in knowledge.

But worse was to come. In the era of the milko, the empty milk bottles would be put out with the cat, to be replaced with full ones next morning.

We would let the cat in as we brought the bottles in. And it all worked a treat.

As customers we did not know for certain, but had a rough idea that the average life of a bottle was 30 refills. Most of us also knew that the empties were not washed-out by hand, as on school factory visits we had seen first-hand the automated washing of Coke bottles. So it would be for milk bottles.

We soon discovered that the pleasant-to-feel, robust glass bottle was not stocked in the shops.

Plastics and cardboard containers, on a one-way track, had replaced the reusable bottle. We asked ourselves, had we as consumers demanded this of the milk firms? We certainly had not marched outside the large supermarkets threatening to withhold our custom if they did not remove the glass bottles which had served society from its earliest times.

The plastic bottles, as with all conventional plastic, are made from oil. The was no serious concern about Peak Oil, or the price of its derivatives at the servos when the replacement of glass bottles happened.

For information on the Container Deposit Legislation in South Australia.
Or you could try this pamphlet.

As kids it was great to be able to take a few large coke bottles back to the shop and get some lollies. It's all a bit more centralised now.

And another from Micheal Lardelli at Online Opinion - Peak oil and retirement:

Stockmarkets are plunging worldwide and retired people everywhere are watching with great discomfort as the value of their investments decline. Declining retirement incomes and inflating food and fuel prices are placing great stress on the elderly. The current dramatic volatility in the oil price is symptomatic of the tight supply (amplified by speculation and the current financial chaos) and is what one expects as the world peak of oil production is approached.

For many of us in the middle of our working careers the state of the stockmarket may not be as immediately worrying. However, the Australia of 2020 and beyond into which we will “retire” will be a very, very different place from 2008.
In only 12 years time Australia’s oil production will be but a small fraction of its peak rate in 2000. More importantly, the volume of oil available to buy on the world market is predicted to be at least 30 per cent lower than today meaning that oil prices will be far higher. (And if high oil prices are causing us to run a trade deficit in these commodity-export driven boom times then imagine the consequences of oil at far higher prices!)

There will be few private cars on the roads, and problems with food production and supply will drive a great increase in local growing of food (urban agriculture). We will be in the process of transitioning (with difficulty) to a society functioning (or “dysfunction”ing) at far lower energy levels compared to today. At the same time a growing cohort of elderly will be faced with fewer younger (productive) people in the economy to provide them with services.

What does declining energy availability mean for those of us entering retirement age beyond 2020? If we have some retirement savings now, what should we do with them? Will we be able to retire at all? ...

Big Gav,
Retired people (in Australia) are probably going to be the least affected by a post-peak oil world.
They won't need to commute to work and can use public transport when it isn't packed by commuters, and get concessions on fairs.
If their incomes decline below about $50,000 they get some top up from the old age pension.
Any super income is tax free.
They have time to grow a vegetable garden, save money by cooking instead of eating out.
They can travel during non-school holiday periods, when costs are less.
If they are worried about finances they can get a discount on drug medication.

Just the same I would rather be 16 again, than 60.