Drumbeat: July 23, 2012

Russia's Gazprom skeptical of US-led shale gas boom

(Platts) - Russian gas giant Gazprom believes the US shale gas boom is economically unsustainable -- and it's buttressing its claim with financial data collected by an American consulting firm located less than 20 miles from the White House.

Gazprom, the world's largest gas company, has been working with Pace Global Energy Services, a consulting firm in Fairfax, Virginia, to analyze how much money US gas companies are spending on hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. Because the two technologies are facilitating the production of so much cheap gas from previously inaccessible shale formations in Pennsylvania and other states, some US companies now want to export their gas to more lucrative markets in Europe and Asia.

But Sergei Komlev of Gazprom Export, the Russian gas giant's exporting arm, says those would-be exports are not likely to materialize for economic and regulatory reasons -- at least not on the scale that American companies are hoping for.

Drought Helps Fracking Foes Build Momentum for Recycling

The worst U.S. drought in a half century is putting pressure on natural-gas drillers to conserve the millions of gallons of water used in hydraulic fracturing to free trapped gas and oil from underground rock.

From Texas to Colorado to Pennsylvania, farmers, activists and opponents of the technique, also known as fracking, are using the shortage of rain to push the industry to recycle water and reduce usage -- efforts that could prove costly to the industry.

One company, Devon Energy Corp., estimates that recycling is as much as 75 percent costlier than pumping wastewater into deep wells. That disposal method, common in the industry, has also drawn complaints because it is linked to earthquakes.

Oil Plunges to Four-Day Low as European Debt Turmoil Intensifies

Oil dropped to the lowest level in four days in New York, dropping below $90 a barrel amid renewed concern that Europe is failing to resolve its debt crisis.

Futures tumbled as much as 3.7 percent as the euro dropped to an 11-year low against the yen and the cost of insuring Spanish debt surged to a record. International creditors meet in Athens tomorrow as concern grows that Greece may not meet its bailout targets. Crude also fell after a Chinese central bank adviser said the nation’s economy may cool further, putting at risk consumption in the world’s second-biggest crude consumer.

“The continuing saga of the euro, and in particular the travails of Spain and fears that this will soon be played out in France and Italy, is driving today’s sell-off,” said Christopher Bellew, senior broker at Jefferies Bache Ltd. in London, who predicts further price losses may be limited.

Asia Distillates-Gasoil margins climbs above $18

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Asian gasoil's crack spread climbed above $18 a barrel on Monday, the first time since February, as demand continued to support prices, traders said. The crack climbed to $18.41 a barrel, up 54 cents on the day.

UK gas falls to 2-month low, warm weather caps demand

LONDON (Reuters) - British prompt gas prices slipped to a two-month low on Monday as warm weather reduced buying from domestic gas suppliers, and filling storage facilities and lower exports added to low gas demand.

Gas for day-ahead delivery fell to the lowest since May 24 on Monday, shedding 1.00 pence day on day to 53.00 pence per therm on the back of a rise in temperatures that capped gas demand at around 30 percent below seasonal norms.

Bulls Ascendant as Wagers Climb to Three-Month High: Commodities

Speculators raised bullish wagers on commodities to a three-month high on mounting speculation that more economic stimulus will boost demand for everything from oil to metals and crop prices will keep rising as drought spreads.

Money managers raised their net-long positions across 18 U.S. futures and options by 7.5 percent to 1.13 million contracts in the week ended July 17, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data show. Wheat holdings reached a record, and corn bets climbed to the highest since March.

With customs union, Gulf edges toward closer economic ties

(Reuters) - In April this year, a queue of thousands of trucks built up at the Al Ghuwaifat border crossing between the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Weary drivers ate and slept in their cabs, some for as long as several days, because of a slow customs clearance process.

It took several weeks to reduce the logjam to normal levels. The incident underlined the difficulties faced by the six rich oil exporting countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) as they edge toward closer economic integration.

Abu Dhabi's Mubadala to drill for oil in Thailand

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Abu Dhabi's state-backed Mubadala Petroleum says it and its partners plan to begin developing an oil field in the northern Gulf of Thailand.

Mubadala said Monday it hopes to begin production from the Manora field in early 2014, with peak production of 15,000 barrels a day within a few months of operation. The project is expected to cost $246 million.

Israel's Shemen gets okay for offshore oil drill

(Reuters) - Shemen Oil and Gas Resources said on Monday it had received approval to drill for oil off Israel's southern Mediterranean coast from the Defence Ministry and military, paving the way for operations at its Yam-3 drill to begin.

Shemen plans to drill in relatively shallow water 16 km off the coast of Ashdod, a major port that is also home to a naval base and one of Israel's two oil refineries.

Cnooc Buys Nexen for $15.1 Billion in China’s Top Overseas Deal

Cnooc Ltd. agreed to pay $15.1 billion in cash to acquire Canada's Nexen Inc. in the biggest overseas acquisition by a Chinese company.

Nexen deal a major coup for CNOOC: analysts

The proposed acquisition of Canada’s Nexen by China Offshore Oil Corporation for $15.1 billion is an ambitious one that would be a significant success for the Chinese player, analysts have said.

China Foreign Deals Must Obey Market Principles, Regulator Says

Resources and energy made up 92 percent of China’s overseas mergers and acquisitions in the first quarter, according to a separate report from Hong Kong-based A Capital, a private-equity fund. China Petrochemical Corp. accounted for the largest deal, with the $4.8 billion purchase of a 30 percent stake in Galp Energia SGPS SA’s Brazilian unit.

Duke Merger Future Clouded by Rift With State Regulators

Duke Energy Inc. faces a divided board, alienated regulators and demoralized employees as state officials investigate management upheaval following its $17.8 billion takeover of Progress Energy Inc.

Distrust and disagreement between the two now-joined companies was stoked by an 18-month merger process, with tensions flaring between chief executive officers in the six months before the deal closed July 2, Duke directors and Progress’s ousted CEO said at hearings before the North Carolina Utilities Commission last week.

Reliance Set to Benefit From Rebound in Refining Margin

Reliance Industries Ltd., operator of the world’s biggest refining complex, is set to gain on a rebound in profit from turning crude into fuel from the lowest in more than a year as the U.S. and China seek to revive growth.

Profit from turning Dubai crude into fuel in Singapore, a regional benchmark, averages $4.26 a barrel this month, compared with $3.37 in the three months ended June 30, the lowest since December 2010, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Turning Dubai crude into diesel in Singapore is the most profitable since January, according to PVM Oil Associates Ltd., a London- based crude and refined-products broker.

Two more Syrian generals flee to Turkey, official says

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Two Syrian brigadier-generals fled to Turkey overnight, part of a group of about 10 people that included colonels and other military officers, a Turkish official told Reuters on Saturday.

China’s Iran Oil Imports Surpass 2011 Average Before Embargo

China bought more crude from Iran in June than it did on average last year before sanctions against the Persian Gulf nation imposed by the European Union that went into force July 1.

Iranian oil shipments rose 17 percent from May to 2.6 million metric tons, or about 635,000 barrels a day, according to Bloomberg calculations from data e-mailed by the Beijing- based General Administration of Customs today. China bought 2.3 million tons of crude from Iran on average each month, or about 557,000 barrels each day, last year.

Adnoc team targets cyber crime defence

Arabian Gulf nations are stepping up efforts to defend energy infrastructure from hackers as they make multibillion-dollar investments in the oil and nuclear sectors.

A team of 20 people from the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company and its subsidiaries are examining how to bolster cyber security as the emirate seeks to increase pumping capacity from 2.8 million barrels per day (bpd) to 3.5 million bpd by 2018.

Gov't panel: Nuke plant operator still stumbling

TOKYO (AP) — The operator of Japan's crippled nuclear power plant is still stumbling in its handling of the disaster 16 months later, by dragging its feet in investigations and trying to understate the true damage at the complex, investigators said Monday.

A critic on IMF working paper: The Future of Oil: Geology versus Technology

It is interesting to see how the IMF is spending the taxpayers' involuntary contributions.

The paper examines two hypotheses used to explain oil price movements:

1. The conventional "Peak Oil" supply-side view that exhaustion of resources leads to higher prices.

2. The economic/technological demand-side view that oil prices fluctuate with changes in aggregate demand, modified by technological advances which are themselves driven by higher oil prices.

The methodology was to build a mathematical model incorporating both those hypothesized mechanisms, and establish their relative importance by fitting parameters to recent data. The authors conclude (Fig. 11) that the "Peak Oil" mechanism is the more significant. Consequently, the real price of oil will continue to trend upwards, perhaps doubling within the next decade.

Should we take this prediction with a grain of salt? The answer is -- Absolutely!

Is a class society sustainable?

The end of human domination and exploitation is essential to a sustainable community. We cannot afford the luxury of the haves and have-nots (as if we ever could!), or the class warfare that results from such arrangements. A post petroleum society requires trusting, collaborative, peaceful relationships, ones built on an essential interpersonal integrity that is the hallmark of a just society. A sense of fairness must pervade the body politic. Despite our human differences, no one is one-down to another. A basic respect informs all of our interactions.

The One Capitalism That Dare Not Speak Its Name

In a special report on state capitalism last January, the Economist admitted that “the era of free-market triumphalism has come to a juddering halt.” Liberal capitalism in the U.K. and the U.S. isn’t just convulsed with internal crises caused by unregulated financiers. It now faced “a potent alternative”: state capitalism, which has on its side one of the world’s biggest economies -- China -- and some of its most powerful companies --Russia’s Gazprom OAO, China Mobile Ltd., DP World Ltd., and Emirates Airline.

“Across much of the developing world,” Bloomberg Businessweek recently reported, “state capitalism -- in which the state either owns companies or plays a major role in supporting or directing them -- is replacing the free market.” From 2004 through 2009, the article points out, “120 state-owned companies made their debut on the Forbes list of the world’s largest corporations, while 250 private companies fell off it.”

Can urban farming go corporate?

Farms have sprouted in cities across the country over the past several years as activists and idealists pour their sweat into gritty soil. Now Paul Lightfoot wants to take urban agriculture beyond the dirt-under-your-nails labor of love. He wants to take it corporate.

In June, Lightfoot's company, BrightFarms, announced a deal with The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Co., or A&P, to provide New York City-grown vegetables to the local chain's supermarkets year-round. The goods will grow in what the company says will be the country's largest rooftop greenhouse farm, a high-tech hydroponic operation that will boost yields, allowing the company to face-off with organic vegetables trucked from California, cutting thousands of miles from the supply chain while aiming to provide a fresher product at a competitive price.

Q.&A.: The Underside of ‘Green’ Transactions

At Rio+20, the global conference on sustainable development that got under way Wednesday morning in Brazil, discussions abound on advancing environmental goals in a way that will benefit local and national economies. But development experts say there is a dark side to some ostensibly “green” market initiatives: the appropriation of resources for biofuels production, carbon offsets, ecotourism and so on can have devastating consequences for local people.

In effect, their ecosystems can be “asset-stripped,” forcing locals from their homes and worsening poverty, according to 17 case studies presented in a special issue of the Journal of Peasant Studies. Examples include the creation of what researchers describe as a Maya-themed vacationland for ecotourists in Guatemala and “land grabs” for biochar production in eastern and southern Africa.

For Coast Guard Patrol North of Alaska, Much to Learn in a Remote New Place

As oil-drilling operations, tourists and freight haulers flock to an area once forbiddingly remote, the Coast Guard is arriving, too, for its biggest-ever patrol effort in the waters north of Alaska.

Arctic faces pollution threats as oil and gas giants target its riches

Environment campaigners say that drilling could have terrible effects on the waters and wildlife of the Arctic. "It took a vast effort to clean up the recent spill in the Gulf of Mexico," said John Sauven of Greenpeace. "There are no such resources to stop a spill in the Chukchi. The consequences could be devastating and very long lasting."

But Shell rejects this claim. It has an oil spill response capability that includes barges, helicopters, booms, and other equipment should anything happen, said an official. Drilling will be safe.

Exploiting the Arctic's vast oil reserves is just one cause of environmental unease, however. The far north is melting and far faster than predicted. Global temperatures have risen 0.7C since 1951. In Greenland, the average temperature has gone up by 1.5C. Its ice cap is losing an estimated 200-billion tonnes a year as a result. And further rises are now deemed inevitable, causing the region's ice to disappear long before the century's end.

Who’s ‘Most to Blame’ for Global Warming?

The answer: United States has, with China a distant second.

And figured on a per person basis, the “most responsible” is the United Kingdom, with the United States a close second, Germany a close third, and China a distant seventh.

The Endless Summer

Here’s what American exceptionalism means now: on a per-capita basis, we either lead or come close to leading the world in consumption of resources, production of pollutants and a profound unwillingness to do anything about it. We may look back upon this year as the one in which climate change began to wreak serious havoc, yet we hear almost no conversation about changing policy or behavior. President Obama has done nicely in raising fuel averages for automobiles, but he came into office promising much more, and Mitt Romney promises even less. (There was a time he supported cap and trade.)

Why Being Green Does Not Mean Being Poor

Our bills are not being driven up by the cost of renewables but, rather, by the rising cost of fossil fuels.

Why we need a national carbon fee and dividend

As we hear about fires, floods, heat waves, droughts, and freak storms across the country, the need for a coherent national policy to promote clean energy has become urgent.

There’s Still Hope for the Planet

Behind the scenes, however, a somewhat different story is starting to emerge — one that offers reason for optimism to anyone worried about the planet. The world’s largest economies may now be in the process of creating a climate-change response that does not depend on the politically painful process of raising the price of dirty energy. The response is not guaranteed to work, given the scale of the problem. But the early successes have been notable.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Continue to Climb in 2011

In 2011, the burning of fossil fuels, as well as other activities such as cement and oil production, produced 3 percent more carbon dioxide in 2011, bringing this segment of emissions to an all-time 37.5 billion-ton (34 billion-metric tons) high that year, a European analysis reports.

When Beijing Cleared the Air

Even with significant uncertainties factored in, the amount is striking. An effort by one city (the world’s 19th most populous metropolitan area, with 12.5 million people) led to emissions reductions that, if made permanent and multiplied by 360, would be enough to avoid the concentrations of greenhouse gases that could lead to dangerous levels of warming.

Imagine what could happen if bigger metropolitan areas like Tokyo (32.4 million people) Seoul (20.5 million) Mexico City (20.4 million) New York (19.7 million), Mumbai (19.2 million) and Jakarta (18.9 million) did likewise?

Bacteria outbreak in Northern Europe due to ocean warming, study says

LONDON — Manmade climate change is the main driver behind the unexpected emergence of a group of bacteria in northern Europe which can cause gastroenteritis, new research by a group of international experts shows.

The paper, published in the journal Nature Climate Change on Sunday, provided some of the first firm evidence that the warming patterns of the Baltic Sea have coincided with the emergence of Vibrio infections in northern Europe.

Flood risk rampant across Asia's factory zones

BANGKOK/HONG KONG (Reuters) - Global insurance companies are struggling to get a grip on their flood exposure in Asia nearly a year after one of the world's costliest disasters hit Thailand, with executives fearing an even worse event looms in the region.

Some firms learnt from the Thai floods, with new defences built to protect multi-billion dollar industrial estates in the country. Insurance premiums have also gone up, but factory construction in flood-prone areas remains rampant across Asia.

Climate science: the gathering storm

The signals are clear enough, and conditions that seem bad now may be regarded as relatively benign in decades to come.

We’re All Climate-Change Idiots

Yes, there are political and economic barriers, as well as some strong ideological opposition, to going green. But researchers in the burgeoning field of climate psychology have identified another obstacle, one rooted in the very ways our brains work. The mental habits that help us navigate the local, practical demands of day-to-day life, they say, make it difficult to engage with the more abstract, global dangers posed by climate change.

Robert Gifford, a psychologist at the University of Victoria in British Columbia who studies the behavioral barriers to combating climate change, calls these habits of mind “dragons of inaction.” We have trouble imagining a future drastically different from the present. We block out complex problems that lack simple solutions. We dislike delayed benefits and so are reluctant to sacrifice today for future gains. And we find it harder to confront problems that creep up on us than emergencies that hit quickly.

The NEW way oil corrupts governments and their citizens

Recently, the Canadian government has been making a lot of news- the kind that environmentalists cringe at:

It has backed off the Copenhagen Summit on Global Warming:


It has threatened a trade war with the EU over labeling tar sands polluting:


It has tried to ram “the evil” keystone pipeline down the US (read this in detail):


It is producing its own dubious counter science to dispute oil sands CO2:


It is silencing critics by “streamlining” environmental reviews of new projects:


In short, the Canadian government, once beloved by the US left for their progressive views and universal heath care, has become something of a north bordering Texas (without the boot scooting boogie). Now, this is unfair. I do seem to recall that Canada is a democracy and therefore has other parties, but darn (or however they cuss up there) where are these other parties? The conservatives seem pretty popular- which means they may actually reflect much of the citizenry’s views.

Now this got me to thinking. What could have made Canadians go from mild to wild in such a short time? What changed? In a word: tar sands (OK two words). Oil prices have finally gone high enough to make cooking that dirt lucrative. The only problem is that this occurred after a scientific consensus emerged that CO2 (which tar sands emit like burps after a drink of Canada Dry) is the main culprit in climate change/disaster.

And that got me thinking even further: what is the mechanism that allows oil producers to so quickly take over a government? And why is almost every major oil producing nation either un-democratic or on the way there (via unlimited cash in unbalanced elections)? Canada is making this shift also- I noticed this while spending my most recent 10 days there last summer on vacation. I watched a lot of TV in hotels, restaurants, etc. - read papers- and it’s getting more and more one sided there. FOX like news is everywhere- all day, all night.

How to refine democracy into authoritarianism
Here is the mechanism, as far as I can figure:
1. Oil brings in a lot of cash
2. Which gives oil companies large amounts of money to influence elections and, more importantly, buy extensive media time to shape public views.
3. Average citizens benefit from the additional tax revenues oil produces (for health care, etc) and therefore are invested in seeing oil companies profits- oil jobs also benefit citizens
4. International concern over global warming puts the average citizens into a defensive posture: We are not bad guys! Why are you all attacking us? Wagons circle around leaders.
5. Climate change denial opens a deadly portal. Once citizens and leaders start embracing fringe ideas one issue then it becomes easier to adopt extreme views on other issues. Soon, politics begin to radicalize and drift rightward.
6. Debate and discussion increasingly are viewed by elected extremists as dangerous threats to social order. Various pretexts are created to limit the range and scope of views allowable.
7. Eventually, the mechanism of democracy is hollowed out from within; leaving an empty shell that appears to be a representative government- this image is maintained for public relations purposes to placate the masses’ dreams of freedom.

In short, to paraphrase Lord Acton, Oil corrupts and Tar Sands corrupts absolutely.

How is this different than the old way oil corrupts? The old way just relied on massive money from oil exports going to dictators or monarchs to maintain citizen bribe money and military arms purchases to control those citizens. The NEW way relies on the cognitive dissonance of citizens of oil producing countries to not want to feel bad about destroying the climate- so they become deniers and give support to extremist elected officials. The old way oil corrupted relied on physical means (money, guns); the new way oil corrupts relies on psychological means (tribalism of deniers).

Obviously, this process has not occurred in all nations. But partly this may be due to the fact that fossil fuels were historically cheap and therefore a small part of most economies. As energy prices continue their relentless rise, energy companies will gain greater and greater money power over the other groups within their respective democracies. So, in the age of cognitive dissonance over climate change, it seems fossil fuels are the royal road to extremism. Fossil fuel supplies will eventually dwindle and declining EROEI will take over- cutting off the money pipeline. But for a while at least, and it could be a long while- Peak Oil could be peak democracy.

What's driving development of the tar sands forward is that it provides the greatest opportunity for creating jobs/wealth in Canada at the moment. Funding social programs such as health care requires economic growth as costs go up beyond the rate of inflation every year. While the Harper government gets a lot of bad press from environmentalists (and deservedly so!), an NDP or Liberal government would face the dilemma of either living with the consequences of having an economy generating very little new growth (and hence little new tax revenue) or promoting tar sands development as the Harper government has done.

If you want to get a sense of what it is like to have very little economic growth you only have to take a look at Ontario. Growth in Ontario has been anemic since the economic crisis of 2008. The province is continuing to lose manufacturing jobs and the unemployment rate in May, 2012 was 7.8%. The government has tried to shield Ontarians from the full economic impact by borrowing $15 billion per year to help pay for government services. This borrowing is not sustainable so it is just a matter of time before Ontarians take another hit to their standard of living.

I don't see any way we can reduce our dependency on fossil fuels without also reducing our standard of living. Until people accept this, we will continue to see extraordinary efforts being made to maintain fossil fuel production.

I think the issue has a lot more to do with Canada having a actual plan of how to use our natural resources.

There's no shame in developing our resources - the problem is when regulatory approval is given to Total, and soon Teck, to create a new surface mining operation using the same technology that has been creating our tailings problem for Sycrude, Suncor, Shell, et al. It's such short-sighted decisions that is wrecking the environment and must be ameliorated to make Oil Sands development sustainable. What Canada needs to do is take a little breather to develop an national energy policy, but I don't see that happening while Harper's in office.

Then the there's the aspect of research to solve these problems, the agencies that are suppose to supporting research seem to spend more time trying to devise "frameworks" than actually spend money solving doing research. I still haven't seen the OSTC roadmap which was suppose to be released a month ago, and since they're the new consortium (or more aptly cartel) who nearly exclusively decides who gets funding for research into tailings remediation this is kinda of an problem. And new developments, such as COSIA (http://www.cosia.ca/) seem to be exercises in futility, I mean so far COSIA's only achievement is hiring a bunch of lawyers to find out how to bring Syncrude's CEO in to the organisation as an equal member which is difficult since Syncrude is a joint venture of all of the other companies in COSIA. Nevermind how horrible Canada is to research, I mean it's cheaper for my company to use US DoE facilities than Canadian NSERC funded facilities, but I digress.

Right now what Canada needs to do is spend some time thinking and planning how to take advantage of our resources rather than the fire-sale that's going on right now.

Since you post under the name oilsandschemist, I presume that you know the difference between conventional oil and bitumen, (aka asphalt). Your shameless promotion of the unlimited development of this material for energy purposes suggests that you are posting with a rather strong bias against any discussion of the negative impacts resulting from the development of these "asphalt sands". One wonders if Canada were to develop a national energy policy which called for a reduction of CO2 emissions, including reduced development of tar (asphalt) sands, would you, as an avowed scientist, support that plan?..

E. Swanson

When did I say limitless development? Did you even read my comment. I implied the problem is the appalling "rubber stamping" regulatory approval that Total recently got for their Joceyln mine. Or did you read how I lament about the poor scientific culture in oil sands development. Where in my comment did I deny climate change, as you seem to imply I do?

My goal as a scientist is to find a way to harness the energy in the oil sands such that it is environmentally sustainable. It appears your worldview does not envision the possibility of an environmentally sustainable oil sands development; but I caution you this, these resources are being extracted whether you like it or not and I'm trying the best I can to to make my province, and world, better by using science to influence and improve the environmental impact of these activities. You may not approve of my pragmatism, but at least I'm trying to change the system for the better.

As a note (since you preferred to throw accusations before asking me to clarify my personal views): My personal view is that oil sands development has been too rapid and without a plan with regards to the environment or Canada's economic future. These two points would be paramount in any national energy policy to ensure we are economically sound but also committed to environmental stewardship.

Thanks for the clarification, perhaps I over reacted. I suppose my comment was addressing your use of the phrase "oil sands", instead of tar or asphalt sands. The general public is unlikely to understand the difference between oil and bitumin, especially the scale of surface disruption which may occur. The difference matters little to the chemist, as RockyMtnGuy points out, although the larger fraction of carbon in the heavy bitumin would suggest greater CO2 emissions per delivered BTU.

Unfortunately, any production of energy from a fossil source is not sustainable (depending on the definition of "sustainable"). A slow rate of extraction might appear sustainable on any reasonable human time scale, but it would appear that it doesn't matter whether the resource is extracted in 100 years or 400 years. The impact on climate is essentially the same, given the claim that the residence time for CO2 in the atmosphere is many centuries. If the rate of extraction remained small, then the eventual adoption of renewable resources would result in a less painful transition...

E. Swanson

Again, as a chemist I have to insist on oil sands or bituminous sands. Bitumen is nothing more than ultra-heavy crude oil, in fact if you read many Korean or Chinese engineering journals you often find that ultra-heavy crude is used rather than bitumen. Asphalt is a component of bitumen (as is it a component of all crude oils) but only up to 20% wt in bitumen, while tar is generated from the pyrolysis of plant materials.

I do not deny the surface disruption is an problem. It is, there's no way around that and for me this is the greatest immediate problem.

And again I have to state my pragmatism, I see the oil sands development as inevitable given Canada's political climate, so my goal to make the environmental impact less, think of it as a doctor giving life-support till a cure [renewable energy] is found.

giving life-support till a cure [renewable energy] is found.

Photon based energy exists in the form of PV.

The "accounting problem" is a photon in the now and the resulting watt it creates is "valued" for the watt not via the photon, nor when that photon was captured.

All that oilsand represents far more photons per watt than the number of photons to make a watt from PV.

And, while "money" is given a "value" for "time" (present value of money in accountant speak) - the ancient photons captured then converted into 'oilsands' are not given any kind of 'value' for their age.

till a cure [renewable energy] is found

That's the beauty thing about the situation: The carbon in the ground is already on the books, figured into the future, loaned-against, part of the portfolio, adjusted for by the market place... and it's said to be worth some thirty trillion dollars. So, there will be no changing of direction, such as switching to alternatives, if the interested parties can maintain control. That's why there is a war on wind, rabid denial of any world-wide climate effects from burning stuff, and total disregard of the environment: nothing must be allowed to spoil this $30,000,000,000,000 assumption.

We have five times as much oil and coal and gas on the books as climate scientists think is safe to burn. We'd have to keep 80 percent of those reserves locked away underground to avoid that fate. Before we knew those numbers, our fate had been likely. Now, barring some massive intervention, it seems certain.

Yes, this coal and gas and oil is still technically in the soil. But it's already economically aboveground – it's figured into share prices, companies are borrowing money against it, nations are basing their budgets on the presumed returns from their patrimony. It explains why the big fossil-fuel companies have fought so hard to prevent the regulation of carbon dioxide – those reserves are their primary asset, the holding that gives their companies their value. It's why they've worked so hard these past years to figure out how to unlock the oil in Canada's tar sands, or how to drill miles beneath the sea, or how to frack the Appalachians.

Very interesting article:
Global Warming's Terrifying New Math

Pro-Wind Signs Come Down on Lanai

The criminality of all this far exceeds monstrous events like what happened at Columbine, Aurora, Virginia Tech, et al. Sure, we all share some responsibility but there is still a criminal conspiracy in effect at the end of the day. What we are witnessing here is the end of the world as we know it. Any semblance of civilization existing after all the carbon is burned won't be worth living in.

We have five times as much oil and coal and gas on the books as climate scientists think is safe to burn. We'd have to keep 80 percent of those reserves locked away underground to avoid that fate. Before we knew those numbers, our fate had been likely. Now, barring some massive intervention, it seems certain.

From the rolling stones article.

When I was a kid, we had nukes enough to destroy the planet 7 times over, but no one wanted to use them. Now we have carbon assets 5 times to destroy the planet, and everyone wants to use them.

I don't know how accurate that 5X number is . . . but basic motivation problem is huge. We all want the convenience, power, and low price of fossil fuels so we are extremely reluctant to give it up. I don't think we will voluntary give it up until we are slapped down hard by climate change effects. And even then, it will be a struggle to keep people in line. It is just too tempting to those cheap & easy fossil fuels.

Electricity is powerful and cheap.

EVs have better performance.

PHEVs and EREVs are the best of both worlds.

The only barrier: entrenched legacy industries with political and media power.

"The Only Barrier.."

You tend to oversimplify the problems, while I'm usually very sympathetic to your goals.

There is a (ahem, HUGE) barrier of related inertia as well.. you might say 'That's only mass.. we can handle mass..' .. 'It's only habits, we can handle habits..' , 'It's only assumptions and old prejudices, we can handle those too..'

Sure, somewhat, given time and energy and materials and luck and decent ground conditions..

Go ask sisyfus.

"The only barrier:..."

The greatest barrier is us. The bar has been set so high for so long, people have little concept of regression. This applies to all of our predicaments. The process of unspoiling the child is always painful, especially when the parents are MIA.

My primary point here is that regression is unnecessary: renewable energy sources and electric systems (EVs, heat pumps, etc) are as good or better.

My secondary point is that the average person isn't the primary barrier to change: most people follow their leaders (political, religious, etc). The primary barrier is our leadership, which is coming mostly from the very wealthy.

OK, then,

The Primary Barrier.

Seriously, there's an enormous and building movement towards dealing with Climate Change among intellectuals/middle class. Resistance from elites in legacy iindustries and secondarily the workers in those industries are the primary problems.

We've seen that the response is -if not outright denial, "my piece of the action is small compared to all the rest, and obtaining the financial benefit for me and mine is my(our) bithright. Go ahead and limit the other guys, but Ill fight to keep my bonanza!"

Only about 10% of the oil sands area has deposits which are shallow enough to surface mine, the other 90% will have to be developed using in-situ techniques which aren't much different than conventional heavy oil fields such as can be seen in Kern County, California. The oil sands surface mines themselves aren't much different than oversize coal mines, and the reclamation techniques are the same.

The total CO2 emitted is a fraction of that emitted by coal-burning industries. The oil sands mines are very big compared to an average coal mine, but not to the total of the world's coal mines because there are thousands of them. Coal burning power plants in the US number in the hundreds and emit about 50 times as much CO2 as Canada's oil sands plants. China's power plants are even more numerous and emit even more CO2 than those in the US.

People focus on oil sands just because they are different than anything they have seen before. However, as the world's conventional oil supplies deplete, they are becoming the only option for a lot of people.

Somebody I know was having a conversation recently with some people from Minnesota who thought that the oil sands should be shut down. He said, "Did you know that 60% of your gasoline and diesel fuel in Minnesota comes from the oil sands?" No, it was news to them. They thought there would be no consequences to them, e.g. that they would face immediate fuel shortages.

People focus on the tar sands, because it represents another step down the resource pyramid in oil. We thought (and hoped) we would quit with the easy stuff. If we commit to going down a level or two, the volume of carbon available becomes damagingly large. It represents a fundamental decision to delay transitioning to a post oil world. Thats why people like McKibben are deadset against it. If we exponentially expand our rate of extraction, it is indeed a sizable chunk of carbon, which the planet cannot afford. The fact that you defend it so vehemently, is indicative of the fact that human greed can overwhelm our otherwise good judgment. When we see that X can make ourselves -and people close to us that, we rationalize it. Its only a small chunk of the planets carbon budget. These others are getting away with other pieces. Why shouldn't I get mine?

switch oil to crack,tar sands to meth. can't find enough crack, and it's too expensive . but there's a bunch of stuff to make meth in canada. hurry, make as much as you can,,quick . everybody knows the stuff kills ya , making it or smokin it. doesn't matter to a junkie..just gotta have more more more.

I presume that you know the difference between conventional oil and bitumen, (aka asphalt). Your shameless promotion of the unlimited development of this material for energy purposes

I resemble that remark. During my misspent youth I got a degree in Chemistry, in addition to one in Computer Science. I spent most of my career in the IT business and ended up as a Business Analyst consulting for the oil industry. I can see oilsandschemist's POV but not yours.

The difference between conventional oil and bitumen is that bitumen is oil that is too viscous to flow toward a well under reservoir conditions. If you have a hotter reservoir (e.g. in Venezuela) or if you heat the reservoir (e.g. with steam injection) then it will flow toward a well.

Chemically the difference is basically none, and a sophisticated heavy oil refinery can refine bitumen into products such as gasoline and diesel fuel without a great deal of difficulty. Thank you for asking.

Yeah, the difference between conventional crude and bitumen is generally defined by its API gravity, this being dependent on a crude's asphaltene and resin content. For your information Black_Dog, bitumen is around 15-20% wt asphaltenes and 10-20% wt resins, the rest (60- 75% wt) is good old fashion oil (saturates and aromatics). To compare Saudi medium crude is usually around 10% wt asphaltenes, but usually higher on the resins, so the amount of saturates and aromatics is similar to bitumen. So my chemistry instincts have to question your equivalence of bitumen to asphalt.

Also RMG, it's good to hear there's a life after a chemistry degree.

Apropos of not much, I was farting around with beeswax, lanolin, and jojoba oil after reading about how to combine them (why? useful for making multi-purpose lip balm, thread lube, and anti-moisture goop. All 3 compounds take roughly forever to go rancid). What's rather startling is how little beeswax it takes to create something that is essentially solid at room temperature.

So, yeah, I'm willing to believe that bitumen has a lot of lightweight stuff embedded in it.

Is it pretty good goop? Are you storing a quantity of it for maybe hard times or is it just a cheaper, better way of making those products?


Make Your Own Planet Whizbang Handle Rub (A Remarkable Wood Preservative) There are three simple ingredients in this “Whizbang” handle rub: boiled linseed oil, turpentine, and wax. The wax can be bee’s wax or paraffin (otherwise known as candle wax). You combine these three ingredients and heat them to get them thoroughly blended. When the mixture cools, you have a soft paste.


A year-long research project will examine the use of biodiesel as a carrier for wood preservatives used in the manufacturing of wooden utility poles. In most cases, the wood treatment known as DT-40 is applied to the poles using a blend of the preservative and diesel fuel which gives off strong odors. One Minnesota company has greatly reduced odor concerns without sacrificing performance by using a 20 percent biodiesel blend (B20) as the carrier. This use provides a market for nearly 400,000 gallons of biodiesel each year.

(for the rest of you who dislike weeding in your garden - "open source" plans for your own wheelhoe at the wizbang site)

I was messing around with running an engine on producer gas made from thermally decomposing high-density polyethylene (HDPE) in a retort. HDPE is chains of CH2 hundreds of units long. Heating it causes the chains to break into a spectrum of smaller lengths... the hotter, the shorter. So, if you allow the gases to condense at a range of temperatures, you get liquids with a range of chain lengths and so an absolute continuum of viscosities: from something like gasoline to diesel to very soft waxes to hard wax. These products are all called "paraffinic" or paraffins, a synonym of "alkane", the simple chains of carbons each with two hydrogens.


But, yes, it's "tar sands". Otherwise, this song no longer works:

Getting a degree in chemistry seemed like a good idea when I was a teenager because I liked chemistry. The issue of getting a good, high-paying job only raised its ugly head when I graduated, and going back and getting a computer science degree certainly helped there.

It was only later in my career that the chemistry degree became useful, because I could read the technical papers and write the business specs for an oil and gas facility management system. I could also talk to the engineers and other users in their own language, which the programmers couldn't.

It upset the programmers that I could do their job but they couldn't do mine. When doing systems testing, I would sometimes go through their code with a yellow highlighter and point out the errors they made. Often I would just write a page of code and tell them to copy and paste it into their program, rather try to explain to them the nuances of what they did wrong. They really hated that.

?They really hated that.

That is because the Ego of Programmers are like a delicate flower. A corpse flower - but still delicate.

(My "best" "smile" moments are when a coder told me to "put back lpd the way God intended" and the next release of the OS announced 1 week later had lpdng as the new print spooler, when I fixed one of his looping errors "I guess the fix can be left in" as the response and how my anti-virus running on open source software was replaced with over $20,000 of Microsoft hardware/software a firm was sending out viruses to all of their clients within 4 hours of switching off my solution.)


Totally cool comment.

You mention what amounts to totalitarian mechanisms at work in Canada now, which have been at work in other nations too.

George Orwell was an observer of totalitarian mechanisms one of which he called "bully worship". He further characterized bully worship as a "universal religion":

“We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men. It is not merely that at present the rule of naked force obtains almost everywhereBully-worship, under various disguises, has become a universal religion, and such truisms as that a machine-gun is still a machine-gun even when a “good” man is squeezing the trigger … have turned into heresies.”

(Bully Worship). Some of what you describe exposes some of the "DNA", the fundamental characteristics, of that secular religion still at work in our time.

Probably the central pillar is oppression, the powerful oppressing the weak:

But what all these climate numbers make painfully, usefully clear is that the planet does indeed have an enemy – one far more committed to action than governments or individuals. Given this hard math, we need to view the fossil-fuel industry in a new light. It has become a rogue industry, reckless like no other force on Earth. It is Public Enemy Number One to the survival of our planetary civilization. "Lots of companies do rotten things in the course of their business – pay terrible wages, make people work in sweatshops – and we pressure them to change those practices," says veteran anti-corporate leader Naomi Klein, who is at work on a book about the climate crisis. "But these numbers make clear that with the fossil-fuel industry, wrecking the planet is their business model. It's what they do."

(... Suicide Murder Pact ...). The goading you described is benign now, in one sense, but that is how the Jonestown mass murder suicide pact looked at first.

Then it became more and more sociopathic, psychopathic, and psychotic until all of them were dead.

The political reality in Canada is nothing like this. In the last Federal election, the majority of voters chose Conservative candidates in only one province - Alberta. In the other provinces and territories, the vote was split, due to the dysfunctional combination of Canadian multi-party system and first-past-the-post vote counting rules. In fact, most Canadians dislike the Conservative policies but remember how the liberals (the centrist party) sold out and adopted them in the past. So in the last election, for the first time since the 1930's, a significant number of voters chose the grass-roots socialist New Democrats. That split the centrist vote, and the Conservatives now have the majority of seats in Parliament, with only about a quarter of popular support. Average sentiments have actually shifted left and away from big government.

It is possible that the liberals will actually field an electable candidate next election (the last two seem to have been deliberately selected to repel voters), and after that the old Canada will be back. Meanwhile, all the bad-cop stuff like building the northern gateway pipeline and cleaning out the bureaucratic dead wood will be done.

Pendulums swing

Republican Party in California Is Caught in Cycle of Decline

Registered Republicans now account for just 30 percent of the California electorate, and are on a path that analysts predict could drop them to No. 3 in six years, behind Democrats, who currently make up 43 percent, and independent voters, with 21 percent.


As long as the Liberals are intent on duking it out with the NDP for the left they aren't coming back to power. The NDP do the Big Government economic self-destruction and class-warfare act much better.

I really think they're done. There aren't enough pragmatists left in the party to produce either a Chretien or a Martin. If they really run either Bob Rae or Justin Trudeau they may very well be doing it in their last election ever as a federal party.


The main thrust of my argument is not where Canada is today but where it is heading. The Democrats have won elections in the US but each time they get in power they move more to the right and the Republicans move even further still. Canada is on the same path in terms of environmental issues- it is unlikely liberals will seriously cut back on oil sands. Other issues will follow as part of the rightward drift (union busting, etc.)

The toxic combination is: rising fossil fuel industry money power over the other players in the economy + massive election funding + fossil fuel tax subsidy of popular social services + a public that bonds with the FF industry and goes denialist to cover for cognitive dissonance over becoming a bigger force in global warming destruction. This is the defensive psychic bond that will pit Canadians against environmentalists. BTW-the US is an example of an advanced stage of this process- fossil fuel companies rule both parties.

I did find it somewhat amusing and interesting that most of the Canadian comments focused on some variation of "the only problem is we need to get more money from this stuff" and "other nations are doing it too" and "some fossil fuels are worse". Peak morality?

... dysfunctional combination of Canadian multi-party system and first-past-the-post vote counting rules.

I have been on the planet for 60 years now, and I still cannot believe that grown-up democracies world-wide still accept first-past-the-post voting systems. The Australian voting system (preferential voting - where you must number all the candidates from 1 to n to cast a formal vote) works wonderfully to ensure that the will of the people is reflected in the representatives who make it into government.

A preferential system ensures that the least disliked candidate wins, and also ensure that the broad left (and also the broad right) can have their vote counted properly, even if they vote 1 for their favourite fruit-loop, and then 2 for a major party of fairly similar ideological bent. I have voted Green for years, but my second preference usually goes to Labor - because voting Green doesn't split the progressive vote under preferential voting.

I really agree with you here, we need a better electoral system in Canada.

It's kinda sad how in the last election the conservatives with 40% of vote got complete control of both the executive and legislative branches of the Canadian government, which really has does nothing but polarize our political system.

In a lot of places (especially the USA) there is a sort of mythical worship of the founding fathers and the system they set up. Its as if they had some sort of perfect conception of government, good for all times. To argue otherwise, puts the arguer on the wrong side of this mythos (which is strongly tied in with national pride and patriotism), so it is almost impossible to challenge the system. The fact that these founding fathers considered it to be an experiment, and one that included many serious compromises never rises to the surface. In fact they had expected politics to be pursued by individuals making the case to the citizens that they could best represent their interests. They were shocked how quickly it morphed into a partisan party system.

Indeed ... political reform in the USA seems almost impossible - the rules are set in hallowed concrete, it appears. And it suits a lot of vested interests to keep this meme going of course.

Mind you, a genuine Preferential Voting System in the USA might work against many progressive candidates, if there is a plethora (or gaggle) of fruit-loop right wing parties who preference each other, and then Republicans. And fewer Green/Left/Libertarian candidates are in the field.

Pace the conventional liberal view of the democratic process, the point of elections is not so that we can elect our flavour of government - whatever happens, the dominant vote-yerself-rich paradigm ensures that we only ever finish up with different flavours of centre-left tax-and-spend statism anyway - but that we can kick the inevitably corrupt and incompetent bastards down the steps of the legislature when their time is obviously up, without the unpleasant necessity of hanging them from the lampposts on the street below.

FPTP in an essentially two-party system is a far better mechanism for accomplishing that noble ideal than is PR and the shifting yet unchanging coalitions that prevail under it.

I think people need to realize that the Conservative Party which currently governs Canada is far to the left of the American Republican Party, and probably somewhat to the left of half of the American Democratic Party as well. Canadian politics are somewhat left-skewed, although not as much as in some European countries.

In the last election, the Conservative Party won, with considerably assist from the incompetent leadership of the Liberal Party, who came in third. The socialist New Democratic Party (NDP) came in second and is now the Official Opposition.

Some of the more left-leaning Canadians would liken the Conservative win to the Coming of the AntiChrist, although I would not be numbered among them. I've worked in the Southern US and know what true right-wingers are like.

The immediate issue is that the Conservatives are in favor of increasing oil production. The Liberals were generally in favor of increasing oil production, but they didn't make as big a deal out of it. The NDP opposes increasing oil sands production, but then they want to increase spending, and the question arises, "How are you going to pay for all those expensive social programs like Universal Medicare?"

The Conservatives think that taxing the oil industry is a good way; what's left of the Liberals don't know what they think; and the NDP wants to tax the rich instead, which is all well and good but they might not be able to find any of them left in Canada if they were elected.

A more specifically Canadian issue is that Canadian oil and gas production has been relentlessly increasing and not just one, but five out of the ten provinces are now oil and gas producers and are making large amounts of money from it. The provinces have constitutional authority over oil and gas resources, and for the most part actually own the reserves and are collecting royalties from them.

If the federal government passes laws restricting production, the provincial governments can nationalize (or provincialize) all the oil companies, as they have a constitutional right to do, completely remove them from federal regulation or taxation, and then we will be into a major constitutional and bugetary crisis because the federal government has no right to tax the provinces or any of their property, or dictate what they can do, except in wartime conditions.

Prudent politicians tend to avoid this kind of political firefight and the NDP should take note.

The only problem is that this occurred after a scientific consensus emerged that CO2 (which tar sands emit like burps after a drink of Canada Dry) is the main culprit in climate change/disaster.

Not to mention the river and land pollution that is passed downstream to the indigineous people living there.

The land pollution is a serious concern, probably the biggest concern at the local level. None of the oil sands players have demonstrated feasible methods to reduce tailings and eliminate their tailing inventories. It's shameful how we this has been allowed to persist.

Now the river pollution is another story. There was a lot of news about David Schindler paper about heavy metals and other toxic materials, yet Schindler did not in my opinion include adequate controls to determine if any of the river pollutants were anthropogenic. Here's the issue, the Athabasca River has for centuries been carving its way though the oil sands, if you travel down the river you can actually see bitumen seeping into the river from the banks, so there is no doubt that the Athabasca has elevated heavy metals and napthenic acids, but attributing this to mining operations requires a well thought out control. Right now there's a Geological Survey of Canada project by Paul Gammon looking at the isotopes of the heavy metals to determine where they originate which will give us a lot better idea of water pollution. Their preliminary work appears to suggest that mining operations are not affecting river quality, but I'll reserve judgement when they write their final report.

There was a lot of news about David Schindler paper about heavy metals and other toxic materials, yet Schindler did not in my opinion include adequate controls to determine if any of the river pollutants were anthropogenic.

It looks pretty clear cut to me, given that, in Schindler's study, the pollutants were measured from snow samples in the winter when the river was frozen over. How could the snow have become so polluted except from what came from the tar sands operation? And what fell on the snow in winter would fall into the river or runoff into the river in the other seasons.

It sort of glossed over the fact that there is naturally occurring oil and heavy metal contamination in the Athabasca River and its tributaries. Any study has to account for the fact that the rivers are naturally polluted, and deal with the issue of whether any contamination comes from the new oil sands mines, from the new urban population in the area, or from old naturally occurring sources.

Assuming it all comes from the oil sands plants is not a valid statistical method, and unfortunately there aren't any pre-industrialization studies of the pollution in the rivers to provide a benchmark to work from.

You seem to totally miss the point. Samples of snow were tested for various pollutants, not the river water since the river was frozen over in the winter. The pollutants in the snow could only have come from airborne pollution, not from the 'natural' pollution of the river, unless you can clue me in as to what other 'naturally occurring sources' might be.

Airborne pollution can travel vast distances from its source. I highly doubt you can find snow anywhere in the world that doesn't contain some type of pollution deposited from the air. The question then becomes how much of the pollution in the snow in the Athabasca area originated from the tar sand operations and how much originated elsewhere.

I have seen evidence of the amount of pollution that accumulates on the snow in my area when I went skate sking on a local parkway very late in the season. The snow had melted and all that was left was an icy surface perhaps an inch thick. After my ski outing I was surprised to find the bottom of the skis completely covered with black grime. It took a generous amount of wax remover and a lot of elbow grease to clean them!

Airborne pollution can travel vast distances from its source. I highly doubt you can find snow anywhere in the world that doesn't contain some type of pollution deposited from the air. The question then becomes how much of the pollution in the snow in the Athabasca area originated from the tar sand operations and how much originated elsewhere.



We show that the oil sands industry releases the 13 elements considered priority pollutants (PPE) under the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Act, via air and water, to the Athabasca River and its watershed. In the 2008 snowpack, all PPE except selenium were greater near oil sands developments than at more remote sites. Bitumen upgraders and local oil sands development were sources of airborne emissions. Concentrations of mercury, nickel, and thallium in winter and all 13 PPE in summer were greater in tributaries with watersheds more disturbed by development than in less disturbed watersheds. In the Athabasca River during summer, concentrations of all PPE were greater near developed areas than upstream of development. At sites downstream of development and within the Athabasca Delta, concentrations of all PPE except beryllium and selenium remained greater than upstream of development. Concentrations of some PPE at one location in Lake Athabasca near Fort Chipewyan were also greater than concentration in the Athabasca River upstream of development. Canada’s or Alberta’s guidelines for the protection of aquatic life were exceeded for seven PPE—cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, silver, and zinc—in melted snow and/or water collected near or downstream of development.

Here's the thing, there's a huge logical leap in presuming the elevated heavy metals in the snow is the reason why the Athabasca river has elevated heavy metals in the summer. The proper logic he should emphasis in the paper is "some heavy metals in the snow should end up in the Athabasca river causing some of the elevated heavy metal levels". I don't see anywhere in the paper where he tries to make a mass balance of the presumed total contaminants in snow to see if it is the same magnitude as elevations in the river, which his hypothesis requires. Or otherwise provide historical metal concentrations of the Athabasca river before development to demonstrate that the season difference in tributary concentration isn't natural phenomenon.

It's also unfortunate that in may instances he say "5-fold higher" or some amount of percent higher, because in this instance what matters is the actual amount, not the relative amount. The relative amount can make trace element concentrations seem more important than they are, and using misleading descriptions of data irks me as an analytic chemist.

This is why I dislike Schindler's paper.

There's a huge logical leap in presuming that precipitation levels in atmosphere is the reason why my foot is soaked with elevated levels of urine.

I'm guessing this comment is made at my expense?

In any case if you've dealt with bitumen/been to Fort Mac, you'd know that in the winter the bitumen seeps seize up because it's really cold, then in the summer as it warms up bitumen starts to naturally seep into the river. This definitely causes much of the elevated metal concentrations. Furthermore, these natural seeps occur in the same geographic region of the river as the surface mines and tailings ponds. There's been some extensive electromagnetic surveys mapping the salinity (this should be elevated by either seepage from the industrial activities or natural seeps) of the Athabasca river and other river analysis (see http://era.library.ualberta.ca/public/datastream/get/uuid:b263c6c6-5de3-... for details) and the mappings so far have not demonstrated any link between the tailings or mining activity and the elevation of metal concentrations.

I have to say I get frustrated with many environmentalists for trying to find problems where none exist. There already is a huge environmental disaster in the ridiculous inventory of fluid fine tailings and that there is no accepted method or strategy to limit production of these tailings or treat existing tailings. This is a HUGE PROBLEM which environmentalists should be focusing their efforts, there's no need to invent other disasters. But then again rallying against dispersed clay doesn't sound as sexy as heavy metal poisoning.

EDIT: To summarize my point I give this analogy, arguing about what is responsible the for the metal concentrations in the Athabasca is like arguing about whether the aspartame in your diet soft drink is toxic while standing next to Chernobyl (Chernobyl being the the tailings issue).

Yes - I suspect RockyMtnGuy and oilsandschemist will defend their role (and possibly long-term money-making careers, current or past) among the bitumen sands oil patch - to the death, despite what anyone here can possibly say. It's not surprising I guess, but the reality should be stated.

It's the degree in chemistry that makes the difference. We know exactly how toxic the "toxic chemicals" that people talk about are. When we read the original papers and look at the amounts, our BS detectors go off.

You're always exposed to toxic chemicals - that's not an option in our modern industrialized world. The real questions are, "how toxic and how much?"

It's the degree in chemistry that makes the difference. We know exactly how toxic the "toxic chemicals" that people talk about are.

Perhaps... though I'm much more concerned with synergistic effects of the multiple interacting chemicals we in our modern industrialized world are releasing into the environment. The combined toxcicity of which are still very poorly understood!

1 + 1 = 4!


Compartmentalized specialization isn't adequately able to deal with this kind of complexity.

"Question Everything!
When what is happening in your world doesn't make sense, when it doesn't conform to your beliefs about how things should work, it's time to ask hard questions. "
George Mobus

How does a degree in chemistry make you an expert in the effects of chemicals on human physiology? I have a degree in electric engineering - does that mean I'm an expert in the effects of electricity on the human body?

I guess a few years of research work in chemical biology helps me understand the effects of chemicals on human physiology ... that and the ability to read Environmental Toxicology and other trade journals further helps.

Chemists tend to be acutely aware of the toxicity of all the chemicals they work with. It's kind of a survival issue. You read through all the literature to find what studies have been done on it and what the effects are before you touch the stuff.

Electrical engineers could probably be more aware of the effects of electricity. I've seen a brass plaque on top of a mountain near here dedicated to the memory of an electrical engineer who was struck by lightning on the top. He was an assistant dean at the local university, in fact. I used to hike with his former girlfriend, but never discussed it with her because I thought it might be a sensitive issue.

His colleagues said his problem is that he thought he knew everything about electricity. In this case, a thunderstorm came rolling in, everyone else ran down the mountain as fast as they could, and he took his time putting his jacket on before he left. And just like that, KABOOM! he was dead.

Chemists tend to be more cautious than that. Mountaineers, too, those ones that are still alive.

My brother holds a PhD in chemistry. He claims that we know virtually nothing about how toxic chemicals are. For the individual chemical it is rather well understood, but the combos are virtually unmaped. He claimed it is common practice to more or less arbitrarily invent "safe levels", since it is in either case impossible to test how chem X interacts with millions of combos of millions of chems. It can not be done, and thus, is not done either.

What I don't understand is how in my posts in this thread I've been practically yelling about how the lack of tailings management is a massive environmental concern ... and people with your mindset seem to just ignore it.

I dislike the "toxic chemicals going to the river" argument because I honestly believe, from the data I've seen, that the oil companies will be proven innocent and instead of trying to solve the tailings problem that we KNOW is a disaster the government and regulators have been side-tracked by this folly, wasting limited resources. I mean at the last CONRAD water conference where we should be talking about how to solve our tailings problems the presentations were focused on this "toxic seepage" issue. Furthermore, I'm worried since it is likely the oil companies will be proven innocent the credibility of all people worried about the environment could be damaged.

I think the sensitivity is to anything that smells like the posturing and lies of vested interests. "We know exactly how toxic the "toxic chemicals" that people talk about are." is a ridiculous statement. No one knows the full details of a chemical cocktail's journey through all the varied creatures... Any lawsuit involving human's will prove that: Each side will assemble five experts in support of opposing theories. How much benzene would you suggest is safe to ingest? This is followed by a warm and homey "just downright country" campfire tale about a lightning strike divining true knowledge. I have no idea who is speaking and posting here on The Oil Drum. When I hear repeated empty echos of the profitable gambits "The environment is fine", "The warming does not exist or is fine", and "Renewables are silly", then the sources become suspect.

It is not so much the event being discussed, but the validity of the sources. There are any number of events, but the sources of information seem to split between science-based and profit-based.

If you read the writings of the people reading the report, the conclusion is that better data-gathering is needed.

And yes, fresh blueberry pancakes with real maple syrup are wonderful down by the lake in the crisp early morning.

"We know exactly how toxic the "toxic chemicals" that people talk about are." is a ridiculous statement. No one knows the full details of a chemical cocktail's journey through all the varied creatures...

No, actually we do know exactly how toxic the toxic chemicals are, particularly the ones that the oil industry produces. Anybody who can read the research papers can figure it out - the problem being that most people can't read the research papers.

There are problems with new chemicals in herbicides and pesticides, but petroleum is an old, old product. And, as far as exposure goes, you need look no further than your car's fuel tank and tail pipe to see where your main exposure to oil products is coming from. You'll be happy to know that the stuff that comes out of the ground is safer than the stuff in your car.

I like to point out to people that oil refineries don't remove the toxic chemicals from crude oil, they put toxic chemicals in. A lot of people pour their used motor oil down the drain - what do you think that does to the natural environment, particularly since it is contaminated with metal filings and combustion residues from the engine?

It's also unfortunate that in may instances he say "5-fold higher" or some amount of percent higher, because in this instance what matters is the actual amount, not the relative amount. The relative amount can make trace element concentrations seem more important than they are, and using misleading descriptions of data irks me as an analytic chemist.

I agree with your logical process, oilsandschemist. The sort of analysis you illustrate above is one reason I terminated my membership to the American Chemical Society during the Deepwater Horizon incident.

People sometimes read and interpret only what they want to read and interpret.


The title of the paper is, Oil sands development contributes elements toxic at low concentrations to the Athabasca River and its tributaries [Kelly et al] and among other things it says,

PPE [priority pollutants] concentrations in melted snow and in tributary and AR [Athabasca River] water did not exceed drinking water quality guidelines (Fig. S3). Nevertheless, increased deposition of elements considered priority pollutants under the US EPA Clean Water Act are of concern to human health. As indicated, a fish consumption advisory exists for Hg [mercury] in walleye from the AR

So, the pollutant concentrations do not exceed government water quality guidelines, and as the paper does not mention, much of the mercury that caused the fish consumption advisory comes from natural sources in the riverbed. There might be a potential mercury mine under the river somewhere.

Any industrial activity will release pollutants of some sort - you can't make an omelet without breaking eggs - and private automobile exhausts contribute most of the pollutants people are exposed to. The question should always be 1) do these pollutants exceed government guidelines? and 2) are they more dangerous than what people are normally exposed to? The answer in this case is, "probably not".

Here's the Alberta government's assessment of that study, as well as three other studies on the topic: Evaluation of Four Reports on Contamination of the Athabasca River System by Oil Sands Operations. Good reading if you are having trouble getting to sleep. As usual the conclusion is that they are interesting but more study is required.

Paul Krugman is jumping on the climate change bandwagon in his NYT commentary today:

Loading the Climate Dice

He uses the "loaded dice" analogy from James Hansen. He also points to the climate denialist as being part of an industry sponsored disinformation campaign, such as that funded by the Koch brothers...

E. Swanson

The question who is to be blamed for global warming (cumulative emissions yes, but starting with which year? Possibly since it was proven scientifically that global warming is caused by emissions from humans) will have to be settled in courts when compensation claims are processed


The plight of climate change refugees from Asian river deltas will be similar to what we see now in the Bangladesh - Myanmar area:



There was a case in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals (Comer v Murphy Oil) where the federal district court ruled that oil companies were responsible for global warming induced climate change that does damage to property.

On appeal a three-judge panel affirmed, one judge dissenting. The en banc court could not rule on it because they did not have a quorum, thus, the case became moot.

NOTE: The majority of judges in the Fifth Circuit lawyered for oil companies prior to becoming judges.

Also note that the federal judiciary is more conservative now than at any time since the "great" depression.

So now that Climate Change (and soon Peak Oil) is officially "real", we must set about to determine who we should blame. This is very important, because otherwise we might have to look in the mirror and discover the truth. And that would lead to the unthinkable - the revolting idea that we might have to change.

Look, I'm probably one of the last people to defend the actions of corporations or the ultra wealthy they serve. This is a simply natural way for the system (i.e. the masses and their government) to deal with these things once denial fails and people start to accept them as fact. At that point everyone starts looking for who to blame, while continuing to do the things that actually are responsible.

Good point. Gone is the time for pointing fingers. Today it is time to act.

we must set about to determine who we should blame.

I would think that finding who to blame is less important than making sure the attempts to correct the problem isn't 70% ineffective.
And in being 70% worthless, it enriches businesses like JP Morgan or Barclays.

The people who are concerned about AGW tend not to explain how the "investment bankers" reduce Carbon.

... we must set about to determine who we should blame

Congress is a step ahead of you ... from CRS

Climate Change and Existing Law: A Survey of Legal Issues Past, Present, and Future

At the threshold of many climate-change-related lawsuits are two barriers—whether the plaintiff has standing to sue and whether the claim being made presents a political question. Both barriers have forced courts to apply amorphous standards in a new and complex context.

Liability for harms allegedly caused by climate change has raised another crop of legal issues. The Supreme Court decision that the CAA bars federal judges from imposing their own limits on GHG emissions from power plants has led observers to ask: Can plaintiffs alleging climate change harms still seek monetary damages, and are state law claims still allowed? The one ruling so far says no to both. Questions of insurance policy coverage are also likely to be litigated. Finally, the applicability of international law principles to climate change has yet to be resolved.

Water shortages thought to be induced by climate change likely will lead to litigation over the nature of water rights. Shortages have already prompted several lawsuits over whether cutbacks in water delivered from federal projects effect Fifth Amendment takings or breaches of contract.

Sea level rise and extreme precipitation linked to climate change raise questions as to (1) the effect of sea level rise on the beachfront owner’s property line; (2) whether public beach access easements migrate with the landward movement of beaches; (3) design and operation of federal levees; and (4) government failure to take preventive measures against climate change harms.

Finally, immigration and refugee law appear not to cover persons forced to relocate because of climate change impacts such as drought or sea level rise.

One of the reasons to bring forward compensation claims now is to demonstrate to those who continue business as usual that this will become very expensive for them.

That would be everyone benefiting from fossil fueled industrial society.

It will be the decision makers, see link below.

No, that's just the blame game. The decision makers and and corporations are corrupt and there are conspiracies, at the expense of the environment and people's best interests, but that is not the root cause. The presence of corruption does not mean there is no real problem, rather it is usually the fact that there is a problem that allows the manipulators an opening. The root cause is us, in aggregate, using too much fossil fuel. If you only go after the decision makers you will accomplish nothing - well, worse than nothing as you make the rest feel like it's being taken care of and they are not at fault.

It just kills me to see people blaming the government for not reducing CO2 emissions when it is us the people who directly or indirectly through the goods we purchase account for most of the emissions. Politicians do not generally show leadership until they are convinced enough voters will support change to ensure their reelection. We have several recent examples in Canada where a politician has tried to provide leadership on an environmental issue only to be punished by the voters. A Federal Liberal leader floated the idea of a carbon tax and was absolutely savaged by the governing party and the electorate in the next election. The Liberal party in Ontario is thought to have lost 5 or 6 rural seats due to a backlash against wind power in the election last fall. In my city, Ottawa, attempts to build a light rail system keep getting derailed by NIMBY's who don't want it running through their neighbourhood and people who simply don't want to see money spent on light rail. Recent extreme weather events such as the widespread drought and heat waves in the US are starting to convince more people that climate change is a reality. Let's hope this trend continues.

I refused to drive to the beach to hold hands to protest the BP oil spill.

Perhaps I should have, there were lots of Surf Betties there.

Here in coastal central California people are organizing to protest fracking.

I tell them if they are against fracking they should stop driving. They are not amused.

Give me any mechanism for protest and I will show you consumption of resources to carry it out.

This has amused/annoyed me for years. When I lived in San Luis Obispo (in the so-called Central Coast area of California), one year the Earth Day celebration was moved to the neighboring city of Los Osos. So a lot of folks were going to DRIVE to an Earth Day event. When I would ask, " you're going to drive to an Earth Day event?", I would get that impatient stare in response. A few years later, I was living in Humboldt county, in northern California. A lot of people drove to San Francisco, attending a large organized protest, to protest the Iraq war chanting, "no blood for oil"! They DROVE a considerable distance to protest what they saw as a war to benefit the oil industry. Then there used to be those inane emails exhorting us to boycott some particular chain of gas stations on some date, as this would send " a message". I mentioned to a couple of people that not driving would send an even bigger one. You can imagine the, er, positive response THAT got!

You typed your missive into a system that draws about two hundred and fifty gigawatts: 250,000,000,000 watts, or about 2% of the world's energy consumption... and I'll bet you breathed out, too.



It's unfortunate, sure.. but we're all here in the mud pit, and the few trying to claw our way out of it will have to probably get dirtier in many ways, not necessarily cleaner.

It's important to remember that not every paradox is hypocrisy.. even the consciencious objectors have had to get into some fights to avoid going to war.

Well said!

I have to agree. The blame in any real sense is too widely dispersed, and as I argued before, much goes to people whose lives will have already ended by the time the damages are realized.

By the time those compensatiojn costs are processed, those who did most of the damage will be long gone. Sure we can punish the descendants, or more likely those ocuppying the same land/political jurisdiction as the past offenders (who may not be descendants, but could be economic immigrants).

I think you underestimate the speed at which global warming proceeds.

NASA climatologist James Hansen at Sydney Uni:

"Australia doesn't agree now that they got to stop their coal, but they are going to agree. I can guarantee you that within a decade or so because the climate change will become so strongly apparent that's going to become imperative"

20 seconds clip:

There were coal addicted politicians just 43 years old (born 1968 in the US)
In office 4 December 2009 – 28 March 2011

1 Nov 2010
CHEAP COAL WILL BE guaranteed to electricity generators after the New South Wales Government's decision to own and run a new coal mine in the state's central west.

Compare the date of Hansen's lecture and the decision on a new coal mine.

Article above: China oil imports

In Australia, there is talk of the Asian Century, Government website:

The scale and pace of Asia’s transformation is unprecedented and the implications for Australia are profound. The Australian Government has commissioned a White Paper on Australia in the Asian Century to consider the likely economic and strategic changes in the region and what more can be done to position Australia for the Asian Century.


The Century will go as far as the oil will flow

Crude oil peak in China and Asia


from here:

Incremental crude oil production update Jan 2012

Now we read:

Mining boom forecast to end in two years

A more significant development on the Chinese oil scene is Cnooc Buys Nexen for $15.1 Billion in China’s Top Overseas Deal above. As the article says, this is China's biggest takeover of an overseas company ever.

CNOOC is doing it because it is buying a Canadian oil company, and its oil and gas assets, for less than $20/barrel, which no doubt seems like a real steal to the Chinese. CNOOC tried to buy Unocal Corp for $18.5 billion in 2005, but the US government killed that deal.

It remains to be seen whether the Canadian government will approve it. It has been known to shoot down foreign purchases before, notably BHP Billiton’s $39 billion hostile takeover of Potash Corp, the world’s largest fertilizer producer, in 2010. It deemed Potash Corp to be a strategic national asset.

However, Nexen isn't in the very top rank of Canadian oil producers, and it hasn't been doing very well lately, hence its depressed price, so the Canadian government might be willing to let it go - particularly since CNOOC has promised to turn it into CNOOC's North American head office, retain all the staff, and step up capital spending.

US Crude Oil Production, 1900-2010, for major producing states and the Federal Offshore GOM:


Data from "Oil Prices, Exhaustible Resources, and Economic Growth" by James D. Hamilton, h/t TOD member aws.classifieds.

Note how LA and the GOM area sharply declined right before TX, along with a passel of minor states, some of which I haven't included here for clarity's sake. CA also had the second of three local peaks on its long bumpy plateau. It seems like these would be strong warning signs that the nation as a whole was in trouble; albeit, one can see how Hubbert's forecasts must have seemed unlikely before the peak, given the decades of ramping up that had taken place.

That bumpy plateau is intriguing. CA oil is very heavy, hence slow to extract, hence gentle in its decline. CERA would apply to the world as a whole with econometric factors at play, I'd imagine; there wasn't money to cushion TX decline so it was fairly steep; or at least I think that's the idea. Price shocks don't look to have slowed the fall there one bit.

re: A critic on IMF working paper: The Future of Oil: Geology versus Technology

The critic doesn't really know what he is talking about. The underlying paper, The Future of Oil: Geology versus Technology (PDF) is actually the most sophisticated model of the world oil economy that I have seen.

It takes a model of the world oil production curve, i.e. Hubbert’s Peak, creates a model of its effect on the world economic system, and explains why Hubbert linearization, a la Deffeyes, began to fail under the high oil prices of the late 2000's. The curve is beginning to deviate from Hubbert's due to economic factors.

Neither the Doomsters nor the Cornucopeans are going to like the paper's model of the future of world oil production because neither the "falling off a cliff" or "endless bounty" futures are supported by it. What it really predicts is that the current "undulating plateau" of oil production will continue for another decade, but at the same time, the real world price of oil will nearly double. That would put it at around $200/barrel by 2022.

It doesn't go beyond that because the authors are not sure the assumptions in their model will hold up under much higher oil prices. If they do, the price of oil might double again and again.

You can argue that people can't afford a real price of $200/bbl for oil, or that economic growth will come to an end, but that is factored into the model. Enough people can afford $200/bbl that prices can go that high. If you're not one of those people, you need to rethink your lifestyle.

However does this model factor in the dice-throwing implications of Climate Change from continuing to burn all that oil? For example, diverting resources from corn for food to corn for fuel has managed to help the US to some degree meet its gargantuan demand for fuel for cars with ethanol. But now the Midwestern drought is likely to directly impact ethanol production for the US with of course implications for US gasoline prices. Even as crude oil demand shrinks somewhat due to the economic downturns, now we will be hit with increasing prices basically as an impact of Climate Change.

No, it doesn't factor in Climate Change. The big factor there is the huge increase in burning coal in China, India, and other developing countries, plus the clearing of rain forests and production of charcoal by burning wood. The burning of oil is a relatively small contributor in the global context.

Fuel ethanol can't really be a major factor in replacing the world's oil because of the limited amount farmland and water for irrigation in the world. The US is now using 40% of its corn crop to produce fuel ethanol, and that is only contributing to 10% of its own gasoline supply.

With a major drought underway and the failure of the corn crop, the US has a choice between fuel and food - cut the percent of ethanol in the gas or watch the price of food skyrocket. Most other countries don't have any surplus farmland to begin with, nor any surplus water. Millions of people would starve if much of the world's food supply was turned into fuel. It would be the like the Irish Potato Famine, in which millions of Irish starved for lack of cheap potatoes while they exported their expensive grain to England.

As a Canadian, you may not be aware that the US has recently allowed the blending of ethanol at 15% in retail gasoline, compared with the present 10% requirement. Also, there's another mandate which requires the use of more ethanol in fuel, that ethanol to be produced from cellulose. Trouble is, there aren't any companies making that ethanol as yet, thus blenders might decide to mix more corn based ethanol into the fuel. Were something like that to occur, there would be the potential for using upwards of 60% of the corn as produced in last year's crop. This year, with less corn available due to the drought, that situation could result in an even larger fraction of the crop ending up as ethanol. I would guess that in the end, the price of corn for food would become too great for it's use as ethanol fuel...

E. Swanson

ethanol to be produced from cellulose. Trouble is, there aren't any companies making that ethanol as yet

Because you can do such with acids or magical enzymes - that makes it more expensive than via sugar->yeast pathway.

Too bad the path of cellulose -> heat without O2 and resulting Syngas burned to make hot sugar->yeast isn't considered a viable alternative. Because the de-gassed cellulose would be a fine bio-char and once added to cropland should lock up some of the C from the air into the land.

I think the U.S. production of ethanol from corn will remain about 1 Mb/d. As the consumption of gasoline in the U.S. declines the fraction of ethanol added to gasoline will increase. For example, 6 Mb/d of gasoline combined with 1 Mb/d of ethanol produces 7 Mb/d of E-14 which is a decrease from 9 Mb/d of gasoline and 1 Mb/d of ethanol yielding 10 Mb/d of E-10.

the burning of oil is a relatively small contributor in the global context"

doesn't seem accurate to me.

According to BP 2011 (I didn't look up the 2012 numbers), the world burned 4028 million tonnes of oil, 2858 mtoe of nat gas, and 3556 mtoe of coal. On the CO2 emissions tab, you can look up the conversion to CO2:

oil: 3.07 tonnes of CO2 per ton of oil equivalent
natgas: 2.35 t CO2 / toe
coal: 3.96 t CO2 / toe

which leads to emissions of
12366 million tonnes of CO2 due to oil
6716 "" due to nat gas
14082 "" due to coal

So yes, coal is the largest contributor of the fossil fuels, and of course its use is rising rapidly, but nevertheless it's not that much more than oil.

Thank-you for countering RMG's disinformation. As percentages of the CO2 emissions:

oil: 37.3%
nat gas: 20.3%
coal: 42.5%

I somewhat misstated the importance of burning oil as a contributor of CO2 emissions. I shouldn't have said it was "relatively small", I should have said it was a smaller contributor than burning coal, and left it at that.

Small mistakes can happen to the best of us :-) and I usually enjoy your posts very much!

Perhaps just one small addition: climate scientists say that we should move towards a 1-ton-CO2-society, i.e. no more than 1 ton of CO2 should be emitted per person and year in order for climate to have a chance to stabilize; that limit corresponds to 7000 million tons of CO2 per year

So the emissions of natural gas alone are already about the amount that we should not be exceeding in total, and both oil and coal alone are already way above what we should be aiming for. Scary....

Two things have never existed at the same time on this planet: 450 PPM CO2, and ice caps. We are now at 395 PPm (will drop to about 392 at the next anual minimum) and emits another 2 PPM per year. That gives us c:a 30 years at current emissions paths before we breach the 450 PPM line, and have then programmed the ice caps to melt. And that is 82 meter higher sea levels.

Do you think we can hit the breaks in time?

Simple answer: No

We still have our foot firmly on the accelerator. And judging from most responses here, there are no plans to lift our foot. I'm amazed how, given the already seen effects, the main plan is "how can we develop (rape) more of the planet's "resources".

I have to agree. Perhaps the more realistic question is could we reduce that in some way that is not catastrophic? I see the emissions as directly tied to having 7 billion people on the planet, and that reducing the emissions must mean reducing the population. Yes, we could each use less, but what mechanism is there to enforce that, and lacking such a mechanism who volunteers or who chooses? The coming conflicts will essentially be about who gets to stay on the planet. The time frames are just too short.

I see things about the same way as you. The problem is people times emissions per person and there are still billions of people who emit almost no CO2 and want to join in on the fun like the Western "developed" nations. Efforts to limit population in countries like India and China appear to have faltered and there are some countries, such as Japan and Russia, where there are calls for increased procreation due to demographic impacts of slowing growth. There are so many clueless people (and governments) still promoting both growth in economic activity and population that there's little hope that things will turn around in time to slow emissions. As people continue to add more babies to the mass of human protoplasm, eventually the problem will be "solved" by nature (because monocultures are unstable), whether humanity likes the solution or not...

E. Swanson

And then there are those who pat themself on the pat because they think they are in the business of "mitigating" the effects of things like tar sands. Oh how good this species is at rationalizing its rape of the only planet it has.

Perhaps one should also calculate the CO2 emissions for gasoline or diesel at the refinery gate produced from conventional and from tar sands. That would include the CO2 from burning the natural gas used to extract the bitumin from the sands and all the fuel used to power the trucks, etc. I'm sure this calculation has already been attempted, though I don't know of any results off the top of my head. A search of TOD finds numerous references to CO2 emissions from tar sands production, which might provide an answer...

E. Swanson


Longmuir's biggest criticism is human behavior, that this model can not factor geopolitical events. Your response to that criticism?

In that regard, I hope world oil consumption will be moderated in the near future by climate change considerations, not that I believe it will be effective.

Well, I'm not sure that Longmuir understood this paper, or even read it all the way through. It sounds more like a rebuttal to Hubbert and Deffeyes. The authors of this paper responded to most of his objections in advance and factored them into their equations.

For instance, Longmuir says:

The authors use a "linearized Hubbert" model to relate production capacity and remaining (assumed declining) resource base. Without boring everyone with the mathematics, Hubbert linearization has been exhaustively examined & rejected in the technical community.

Whereas the authors say:

However, oil supply shocks only made a minor contribution to this development, with the major driving forces coming from booming oil demand and, from 2006 through 2008, positive output gaps. Because both of these shocks lead to higher oil prices, the price mechanism that we added to Deffeyes’ (2005) Hubbert linearization specification is key to being able to account for the post-2003 deviations from the pure geological explanation of oil production and prices. But it is of course this geological explanation that is able to account for the strong underlying trends in the model, especially the upward trend in oil prices.

I'm not sure Longmuir followed that. The authors are not throwing the baby out with the bathwater like he did. They are saying that Hubbert linearization is valid for predicting the results of geological constraints on production, but must be modified for predicting the effect of economics on the production curve. Otherwise it will become invalid if prices become too high.

Longmuir is basically using a series of "straw man" fallacies and trotting out a series of "red herrings". Rather than fighting the real opponent (i.e. the rather sophisticated equations the authors present), he is setting up a straw man (e.g. Hubbert linearization) and fighting it. And he's not even fighting it himself, he is saying other people he doesn't name fought it and won (another fallacy called "appeal to anonymous authority").

I get annoyed by these gambits because I have done a lot of studying of logical argument, and in particular logical fallacies. I get particularly annoyed at politicians because they often use nothing but logical fallacies in their arguments, with no facts at all. They get away with this because most people don't even know what a logical argument looks like.

I'm not sure I would rely on the IMF for an economic forecast. They are pretty wedded to the status quo that is clearly unsustainable.

Assuming that they're modeling is correct, why would oil prices have to double in real terms just to maintain current production? Considering the amount of conservation that could be easily implemented, that kind of price would require a large amount of growth that doesn't seem to be in the cards at the moment.

I'm not sure I would rely on the IMF for an economic forecast. They are pretty wedded to the status quo that is clearly unsustainable.

Note the disclaimer:

This Working Paper should not be reported as representing the views of the IMF.
The views expressed in this Working Paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent those of the IMF or IMF policy. Working Papers describe research in progress by the author(s) and are published to elicit comments and to further debate.

Assuming that they're modeling is correct, why would oil prices have to double in real terms just to maintain current production?

Because, otherwise, as it says in the paper, production would decline in the face of increasing demand from China, India, and other developing countries. Despite declining demand in the US and UK, Chindia is not backing off from its increasing demand, so the consequence is flat consumption and increasing prices. That's basically Economics 101, the rest of the paper is more grad work.

Are you expecting the marginal barrel to be $200 at todays production rate? What type of production would that entail?

Rocky, having now read the paper, I don't find it very useful. We seem to be at a juncture on several fronts, in the oil world we are in the process of moving from conventional to various types of unconventional supply. We are also on the edge of economical substitutions such as EV, high milage conventional vehicles, compressed nat gas, GTL, etc that haven't been economical up to this point. On the economic front, the past history that is used to develop the model corresponds to an unprecedented rise in debt spending that has stalled.

Building a model from past events and trying to extrapolate that into the future doesn't seem too relevant to me. I would much rather see an original analysis from the ground up analyzing supply based on geology, current technology and a range of assumptions about availability of various deposits, coupled with an analysis of the cost and availability of alternatives and energy efficiency, and finally, superimposed on various growth rates that start in the negative range rather than +3.5% per annum.

They don't say anything about marginal costs. They are anticipating the market price of oil a decade from now will be nearly twice as high in real terms, which would be around $200/bbl in 2012 real dollars. In 2022 paper dollars, it could be considerably higher. That strikes me as being reasonable.

The type of production would be very intensive - lots of wells, lots of fracking, lots of EOR. Oil sands production will be much higher, but not high enough to make much of a difference in the global curve.

They determined that there were limited substitutes for oil, so by 2022 EV's, GTL, etc. will not make much difference. They assumed that consumption in the US and EU would continue to decline, but continued economic growth and increase in consumption in Chindia would more than offset that Western decrease. I think that's likely since I don't believe governments will roll out alternatives very fast, and I don't see much in the nature of new government initiatives that would make much difference. It's all talk and no action.

So, I'm planning to pay twice as much for gas in 2022. I think I'll survive.

Likewise, my FF and electricity usage is low so a doubling isn't too difficult to absorb. While I have difficulty envisioning $200/bbl it works for me from the standpoint that I'm interested in using biomass and even $150/bbl would do wonders for a ROR analysis.

I have my doubts on whether the global economy could accommodate $200 a barrel oil for any length of time without inducing some kind of severe recession or even depression. If that happened then prices would plunge to very low values (say $60) thus making all the marginal plays uneconomical. Plus if you consider that even today, the western economy struggles with $100 oil and is only maintaining some semblance of BAU by massive debt accumulation. It is not unreasonable to assume that as time progresses the west will be less able to tolerate price shocks or even significant price increases on the price of oil.

Moreover, much of the burden of high priced oil has been reduced by the low price of natural gas, it is quite likely going forward that this low price will not exist as either the shale revolution turns into bust, or if significant quantities are still produced, it will be exported thus US natural gas prices will go towards parity with European and Asian markets. Higher oil and energy prices will erode the purchasing power of consumers and will have a negative effect on economic growth, which is already depressed. And this all assumes we do not experience another financial implosion between now and 2020 which considering the events in Europe could be a rather large assumption to make. If the EU were to implode then it is likely we could see a return to $20 oil and this could have significant implications on oil exporting countries that could even effect Canada and its tar sands. At the very least it would slow down further development of these tar sands.

The U.S. is decreasing its consumption of crude oil. I think it has decreased 3 to 4 Mb/d over the last 4 years. If that continues over the next 8 years, then expect a 9 to 12 Mb/d decrease from the peak of ~21 Mb/d by 2020. That would mean less money flowing out of the economy to foreign countries and the economy could bear a higher price. The high price causes demand destruction.

The high price causes demand destruction.

I think that steady, and even lower prices could cause demand destruction of income falls sufficiently. IMO oil at $85/bl has about the same impact today as $100/bl oil had 4 years ago. An economy that is in decline will suffer more from energy costs than one in growth. And, an economy where average workers' income is dropping is in decline, even if the stock markets remain paradoxically robust.

On Zerohedge today we saw a quote from Tim Geithner that 'we bailed out the banks and lost the country.' It is all tied together - energy, climate change, & finance. And they are all in crises. It's like everyone knows... the just KNOW... the truth about this, and no one can speak it. Instead, a few FF industry funded 'scientists' are trotted out to 'debunk' the obvious, and the masses so crave a return to 'normal' that they buy in and drink the koolade.

Well, kiddies. The new normal is upon us... prayer, wishing on stars, and borrowing to prop up the financial system won't change the ultimate denouement of Western Civilization. At best it will add a chapter or two. The real question today is, "will we make the end of the year?" Maybe the Mayans knew something?


It's more or less irrelevant to your FF and electricity usage since little or none of that comes from oil consumption.

As a first approximation, take the amount of money you are spending on gasoline and double it. If you don't drive anywhere and aren't using any gasoline at all, it doesn't matter from your perspective. If you are, you might want to evaluate other alternatives.

Ev's will not make a substantial difference to oil consumption by 2022, but they sure will by 2032.

Given the inertia of a vehicle fleet which takes 15 years to turn over, the comparatively small numbers of EV's likely to sell at around the current price of oil is not going to make much difference to overall oil consumption.

If the thesis is correct that oil prices will double in real terms though, and given progress in battery and fuel cell technology in the intervening years, then by 2022 the proportions of conventional ICE cars would drop rapidly.

At $200/barrel with equal taxation between petrol burners and EVs and with no subsidy whatsoever the total cost of ownership of EV's is comparable even with present technology, and by 2022 would be far better.

This site has quite correctly in my view analysed peaking oil.
However quite incorrectly this has been extrapolated to peak energy, when no such thing is happening or is even essentially possible.

Of course fossil fuels will peak, but again the question is when, as the depletion curves for unconventional oil, gas and coal are very different to that for conventional oil.

That means we have time to build the two big, essentially inexhaustible resources out.

The first is solar.
I am often a critique of solar,when it is used as a magic wand and universal answer, for instance in Germany, where in the depths of winter when it is really needed it runs at about a tenth of summer peak.
This is engineering and financial insanity, brought about by a refusal to accept a role and place for nuclear, which can do the job there just fine.

That stricture does not apply however to the regions within perhaps 20 degrees of the equator, where maybe 60-70% and increasing of the worlds population live.
Solar will do just fine there.

The other resource is of course nuclear.
More advanced reactors have been resisted by the huge costs imposed on their development by the device of certification by the NRC, with years of delay and fabulous cost.

In spite of the extra umpteen billions of tons of CO2 and millions of deaths from air pollution this opposition led by organisations misleadingly titled 'Friends of the Earth' the likes of China and India are now in a position to ignore this political log jam, where greens and fossil fuel interests stymie progress and increase costs several fold, and that is where the bulk of increased energy demand will happen in the future.

So we have access to an energy source in nuclear which has a current cost for raw materials of around $5/barrel equivalent,using the politically motivated and hugely wasteful once through system.

The cost of the total energy in uranium is around 5 cents/barrel, and we already know how to get much closer to this price with more efficient burn and better, more efficient and safer reactors.

So there is no 'energy peak crisis' and physically such a thing is nearly impossible.

What there is in Western countries is a political crisis, as fossil fuel interests and their green allies keep proper sources of energy from being widely deployed.

This impasse will not last forever, and as the nonsensical energy policies espoused by the greens hit the real economy which is in trouble anyway, partly due to the effort to move away from oil, then the coalition will likely crumble.

In any case, the rest of the world will not get caught in this, and will rapidly roll out nuclear, now the stranglehold imposed by the US is weakened.

Much of the rest of the world also have access to solar, where it is sunny enough to be real asset, not a ludicrously expensive money sink which makes impossible the effective running of the grid and builds in fossil fuel use to 'support' it for decades to come.

Dave W wrote: "I am often a critique of solar,when it is used as a magic wand and universal answer, for instance in Germany, where in the depths of winter when it is really needed it runs at about a tenth of summer peak.
This is engineering and financial insanity, brought about by a refusal to accept a role and place for nuclear, which can do the job there just fine."

Here you misinterpret the German situation:

1) Even in the most pro-PV secnarios 200 GW PV is expected for 2050 which would produce 180 TWh/a. The German electricity demand is expected to be in the range of 600-800 TWh/a (including EVs and heating of buildings with heat pumps). Therefore, PV can provide a important contribution, but is NOT seen as silver bullet in serious studies. Check the Fraunhofer Institute, they publish good stuff in English.

2) The largest contribution can be expected from wind, which delivers more in winter than in summer,is with 8 cent/kWh for on-shore production already competitive and still has real potential by simnply increasing the full load hours of the trubines (repowering).

3) Nuclear energy is not longer accepted by the majority of the Germans, so best case for me is, that some of the plants will run a few years longer than currently planned, I do not expect new power plants in Germany, but really hope for a pragmatic coopration between France and Germany, because Germany has a base load problem, France a peak load problem in winter :-).

4)The FITs for PV will run out in ~3 years, the amount of PV installed after 2015 will tell us, how investors see PV in Germany. At the moment PV provides electricity for a lower price than the utilities. My bet is, that many small and medium sized companies - esp. supermaket chains which own the buildings, have a huge demand in summer during daytime and are able to think strategically - will IMHO install PV.

The only engineering the renewables everywhere industry has been great at is financial engineering to hide their true costs in mandates to take their output, paying huge feed in tariffs in the summer for power when it is not needed whist not charging people who put solar on their roof and so hit the grid with demand when it is most needed without paying the full marginal cost of such demand, and so on and on.

Here is the solar insolation in Stuttgart, one of the most southerly German cities:

As can be seen it varies from 0.71Kwh/m2/Day in Dec to 5.2Kwh/m2/Day in July.

It is perfectly obvious since this is the reverse of demand that solar pv is quite useless as a realistic energy source.

What it manages to do is to eliminate the possibility of running plant as true baseload capacity, so not only ruining the economics of other power sources, including things lie geothermal as well as nuclear, but also hitting efficiency hard.

The 'cunning plan' is to supplement that by another absurdity, wind, which bloweth when it listeth, and so needs a proper, on-demand further back-up - hello coal, and hello gas.

That is why Germany, and also allegedly green Denmark, have some of the highest per capita emissions in Europe, in contrast to nuclear France.

Of course this is all supported by utterly fake risk 'evaluations' based on linear no threshold for nuclear, which holds that if 100 aspirins will surely kill you, so will taking one a day for 100 days.

Needless to say there is little or no empirical evidence for this crazy notion.

In any case, whether or not the German people have been conned into paying a fortune to pay for installing solar in absurd locations, which will always need 'back-up' ie around 75% of energy supplied by fossil fuels is irrelevant to the thesis that there is no 'peak energy crisis', and the places that count are going to press right ahead with installing nuclear power which, as I said, has a raw material cost of as little as 5 cents BOE potentially.

If Germany under the influence of fake risk assessments chooses to impoverish themselves, that has no relevance to the world situation, and does not make what they are going through an energy crisis, but one of intelligence and basic risk assessment.

There is plenty of energy, available at reasonable prices.

If misled people refuse to access it, that does not mean that the energy is not available.

There is plenty of energy, available at reasonable prices.

This is the calculus that has brought us to the place we are now. Your only variables are amount of energy and price in terms of money at the point when the energy is released. Even from a purely financial point of view you omit the true costs associated with nuclear waste, which have been deferred to the future just like all the other wastes resulting from the industrial project of the last 300 years. And of course recognize no costs associated with the damage we do to the environment and biosphere. The people of Germany have rejected your flawed and limited calculations because they don't reflect reality, and you can't understand why, but that does not mean they are wrong in that.

Where they will be wrong is the belief that they can continue without sacrifice by simply changing energy sources to wind and solar, and when they find that out they will probably want go back to nuclear, but by then they won't be able to afford it.

Your comments ignore the facts of nuclear power. There have been massive subsidies provided to the nuke industry, such as the Price Anderson Act, which shifted the liability for accidents away from the industry and onto the public. Your statements regarding the danger of small doses of radiation ignore the effects of isotopes, such as plutonium, which are alpha emitters which cause local tissue damage when ingested in microgram amounts. The local impact of a large nuclear accident could well result in the abandonment of a large area downwind of the power plant, and the Fukushima Daiichi accident could have resulted in the evacuation of Tokyo, if the wind had been blowing toward that city. Finally, your insistence that the electric supply include fossil fuel backup ignores the fact that such backup could also be provided by storage systems, such as pumped hydro or batteries...

E. Swanson

I would also continue to point out that the heavy water-cooling demands and external power and social and economic stability required to TRY to keep Fission Reactors operating safely are all compounding parts of how Nuclear Plants will be very likely to add to our dangers and our burdens as the Climate, the existing power systems and the economy all sag and strain under burdens we see are almost entirely out of our hands now.

If DaveW is here, then there is some recent renewable energy issue on the net that needs to be swatted-down pronto. It would be more productive to discover what that is. The arguments presented are copies of those from a few months ago... utterly unmodulated by the responses elicited then. Note the off-hand denouncements made without any supporting references. The aspirin line is amusing, but bizarre.


However, German peak electricity demand is in the middle of the working day, so through a large part of the year solar PV can help meet that peak demand.

And the amount of solar PV can be predicted, allowing fossil fuel plants not to be switched on (with some loss of efficiency, perhaps).

There are many days this year on which German solar PV has provided 25% or better of demand for 5 or 6 hours during the middle of the day. On one Saturday they reached 50% of demand, in excess of 20GW delivered.

See: http://www.transparency.eex.com/en/ for actual vs planned power and http://www.sma.de/en/company/pv-electricity-produced-in-germany.html (7 hours of over 13GW power so far today, as I write).

To attack such a model, you can't attack the results (although showing an absurd result should motivate the search for what could be wrong), but you have to attack the assumpotions and data that goes into it. A good analysts doesn't start with conslusions, but tries to construct a model and obtain data. Then he crunches the numbers, and puts out the results. Ideally no value or ideological judgements went into it.

Of course in terms of political and PR battles, that is not what goes on in that sphere. But, if one is actually interested in a good faith attempt to come as close to the truth as humanly possible, you have to take the former approach.

The curve is beginning to deviate from Hubbert's due to economic factors.

Actually, that has been happening for several decades, due to a variety of so-called "above ground" factors:

Adapted from "The Growing Gap" ASPO

The Hubbert model is really not that hard to understand: The area under the production curve will eventually equal the area under the discovery curve. Hubbert NEVER gave any guarantee what shape the production curve would be, in fact he explicitly understood that economic and geopolitical factors could flatten the curve, just exactly as we have seen since the oil shocks 40 years ago.

Could other unforeseen factors affect the production curve? Yes, of course. Any idiot can see that. A nuclear holocaust or asteroid striking the Earth come to mind. It was NEVER the intent of the model to make precise predictions, despite the ongoing obsession with just that in the peak oil community. Hubbert himself gave range bound estimates for URR, another fact often completely lost on the average peak-oil commentator.

That said, the model has served remarkably well for over half a century as a guide to the life cycle of non-renewable resources. The clearest example of its successful application being the U.S., especially the lower 48, where all the factors for "ideal" production were in place over that time frame.


The problem is that the traditional model doesn't account for economics in that the oil-bearing shales were not necessarily accounted for in the original discovery curve. There needs to be an explicit mechanism to account for the shifting boundaries of economically recoverable oil, and unfortunately there is no model that can accurately predict what the ultimate boundary will be. For example, will we stop mining oil sands once traditional crude has depleted to the point that the standard oil infrastructure becomes uneconomical? In this case, there will be a tipping point where overall oil demand plummets, destroying the oil industry in the process.

This tipping point is intuitively inferred by many here who believe that at some point (perhaps a catastrophic decline of a few large fields) the economic contraction will destroy demand and put an end to current unconventional oil plays, which creates a positive feedback loop that will wipe out a significant percentage of our energy consumption with unintended feedback loops and a collapse of vital economic systems.

The model the authors propose does account for sources like oil-bearing shales and the shifting boundaries of economically recoverable oil, which is one of its strengths compared to the traditional models. There are huge uncertainties in it though, because we are getting into uncharted territory where we can't really be sure about what the parameters are.

Depletion of conventional oil will not affect oil sands production, other than to increase it. Oil sands producers and other companies are aware of what the constraints are and are acting to mitigate them. For instance, the railways are upgrading their tracks to serve the oil sands, companies are putting in LNG facilities for their trucks and equipment, and there is a direct bitumen-to-diesel fuel upgrader nearing the construction stages. They are ahead of the game on dealing with post-peak-oil issues.

But so far increasing production from shale oil and from the tar sands in Canada has not resulted in a material annual increase in global crude oil production, versus the 2005 annual rate.

Exactly right.

All I've heard so far is that unconventional might increase URR. So what? Let's be generous and assume URR can be increased significantly:

As Hubbert himself often pointed out, even a substantial range between bounds only alters the inevitable production peak by a few years, at best. Given how flat production has been to date, despite significant investment, then it follows that the best we could hope for is a few more years of "undulating plateau".

But at what cost? At what point do the accelerating economic and environmental costs (not to mention diminishing energy return) of those much lower quality resources rapidly overwhelm societies ability to cope? Fortunately, another model was developed a few decades ago to help us answer that question as well:

From Limits to Growth: 30 year update


Oh, I agree that unconventional won't stop the peak, but it has helped maintain the plateau. It also might have contributed to how slowly Europe is falling apart, although I suppose it will appear very fast in retrospect.

Gasoline pipeline rupture cuts supply line to Green Bay

A pipeline that carries gasoline to Green Bay is out of service after rupturing a little more than a 100 miles away.

The break means gas is no longer flowing north of the Milwaukee area. And that has local suppliers scrambling.

The pipeline, carries around 70,000 barrels of refined gasoline, jet fuel and diesel each day — or nearly 3 million gallons — from Chicago to Green Bay. The break caused about 42,000 gallons of fuel to leak in Jackson, which is northwest of Milwaukee, according to the company that operates the pipeline.

also Energy emergency declared in northeast Wisconsin after fuel pipeline shutdown

The increasing concerns over gasoline shortages following a major pipeline shutdown has prompted Governor Scott Walker to declare an energy emergency across northeast Wisconsin.

and Fuel begins flowing in repaired gasoline pipeline

Fuel began flowing in the Chicago-to-Green Bay pipeline about 7 p.m. Saturday after regulatory officials gave the OK to repairs made on the line.

... “All test results to date, including indoor air quality tests of residences in close proximity to the 10-inch pipeline, indicate that there has been no impact to the air or well water quality in the community as a result of the gasoline release,” the West Shore Pipe Line Co. of Arlington Heights, Ill., said in an email. “We are not aware of any risk to public health or safety.”

Prices of regular unleaded gas in the Green Bay metro area climbed about 10 cents per gallon in the two days since the break became public knowledge. Suppliers on Friday had been sending trucks to Milwaukee, Madison and elsewhere for gasoline.

Did the dry to wet conditions cause the break or are "we" going to blame the terr-o-R-ists?

Isn't Governor Scott Walker the same Teabag Governor who refused Federal money to extend Rail? Now it is an emergency if people cannot get gasoline for Auto Addiction...

No surprise really...

Gasoline retailers remain 'a little short' after repair of broken pipeline

Although a broken gasoline pipeline to Green Bay has been repaired, supplies have not yet been fully restored and a state emergency order remains in place.

An aide to Gov. Scott Walker said the emergency order, which eases trucking regulations for gasoline, likely will stand for several more days.
Chris Schoenherr, deputy secretary of administration under Walker, said officials intend to maintain the order until Thursday. Despite the pipeline repairs, Schoenherr said, many gasoline retailers remain “a little short.”

State officials said similar emergency orders were issued during a propane shortage in 2009 and a petroleum products shortage due to cold weather in 2007.

according to: http://en.trend.az/regions/iran/2049430.html
the strait of hormuz will stay open until iranian tankers and ships exit.
a bill which includes 14 preconditions has been passed and is awaiting ratification.it infers all sanctions should be eliminated on iran and the US & EU will pay a 3% tarrif on hormuz crude transit or the strait will be closed.

ll sanctions should be eliminated on iran and the US & EU will pay a 3% tarrif on hormuz crude transit or the strait will be closed.

Or, the US and EU will sink all of Iran's warships and shoot down all of their aircraft. There is always that option. I hope the Iranians realize that.

You can be sure that Iran has absorbed the lessons of Iraq in which insurgents systematically
sabotaged Iraqi oil pipelines after the US invasion. Also the lessons of the Somalian pirates who manage to capture huge oil tankers with more maneuverable small ships. All the billion dollar forces of the US Air Force could not stop miles of pipeline from being blown up. Nor is it likely that the US can totally prevent a disruption to shipping in the Strait of Hormuz. Any sort of disruption done by small boats, mines, torpedoes could send panic through global oil markets and oil speculators would likely bid up oil to $200 per barrel temporarily.
This is hugely dangerous game of chicken being played...

You can be sure that Iran has absorbed the lessons of Iraq in which insurgents systematically sabotaged Iraqi oil pipelines after the US invasion.

Yet they ignore the lesson that Sadam's government was dismantled and Sadam, himself, hung to death.

... Somalian pirates who manage to capture huge oil tankers with more maneuverable small ships.

They do so under the protection of international maritime law that forbids interdiction unless the ship is flying your flag. In a war zone pirates are dead meat because speed boats are slower than jets, helicopters and UAV's.

Yes. It sounds like (if actually implemented) an act of war. Really just an escalation/pay-back for the economic warfare being waged against Iran. But, those affected by the action are never interested in the psychology of the percieved aggressor, they will simply see this as an act of war directed against them, and respond accordingly. How many in the US were saying after Pearl Harbor, "well they were just responding to our strangling oil embargo"? If any were thinking that, they were smart enough to keep their mouths shut.

makes me think of 4 years ago,, Olympics were in China,GW and Putin
and the Georgia snafu.
and oil's price rise pre Chinese olympics:
http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2008/09/more-evidence-of-pre-olympic.html only different.
why am i in this handbasket and where the heck are we goin?

why am i in this handbasket and where the heck are we goin?

We must be in Montana... obviously we are in the Helena handbasket.


A provocation, on the run up to an election?

Sitting presidents, and prime ministers, love that kind of thing. All their Christmasses, come at once.

Prices are going down!
July 23, 2012
Heightened concerns about Europe push down oil prices by almost 4 percent
Benchmark U.S. crude prices fell by $3.69, or 4 percent, to finish the day at $88.14 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, which sets the price for imported oil, lost $3.57, or 3.3 percent, to finish at $103.26 per barrel in London.

Tanking the economy makes the U.S. Democratic presidential incumbent look bad -BUT- The lower gas prices make the U.S. Democratic presidential incumbent look good.

Prices are going up!
July 23, 2012
Renewed Strait of Hormuz trouble bolsters oil prices
Tension surrounding Iran, which has threatened to shut down the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, has pumped up the price of oil 18 percent in three weeks, the Wall Street Journal reports. Oil prices jumped 3.1 percent on July 19 on news that trouble could be brewing between Iran and Israel.

Tanking the economy plus driving gas prices higher makes the U.S. Democratic presidential incumbent look bad and makes money.

Remember when candidate Reagan struck a deal with Iran not to release the Carter-era hostages until after the election? This was the preamble to Reagan's Iran-Contra cocaine-sales-powered arms smuggling to Iran. Of course, these things never happened, but, still... ever see a Chatty Cathy doll? I wonder whose finger is in Ahmadinejad's chatty ring?


The oil price news is really full of people acting crazy. Every tiny movement is analyzed to the bone, for no good reason. I think what happened is fairly obvious; things didn't look "so bad", prices started to rise, then Greece had a fit, prices fell beyond what was reasonable, and we are now in a correction with prices rising slowly back into the "normal" range with Brent between $100 and $110.

Though yeah, what happened with Reagan really seems suspicious. But does Romney even have the pull to carry something like that off? Even if he tried, would it get him the presidency? Reagan was a charismatic dude promising miracles running against a pretty unpopular president. Obama is the charismatic one in this election, and Romney has basically no platform except "I'll make myself and my friends even richer". Plus he's got the most embarrassing financials ever. No way.

Ada, you don't understand the power of propaganda. The machine has not begun to gin out the spin that the 1% will use to elect one of their own. And, remember, there is NO limit on spending, and they have all the money, own all the media, and have lots of experience in doing this.

No, it may be close, but I fear that we will see 'most' Americans being led by their collective noses into perdition.

I really have enjoyed how badly the Romneys have played this, though. Even Ann ... her live, on the air, comment had such a 'let them eat cake' flavor.



Oil prices may get another input from Syria. Syria has graduated to attacking its largest city with jet aircraft. Syria has offered to use chemical weapons, adding the specification of "against outside forces", and are moving them around.

Syria's regime uses fighter jets for first time as it struggles to contain rebellion
Aleppo is Syria's commercial capital, Syria's industrial hub, Syria's largest city.

Syria rebels say chemical weapons moved to borders

Israel warns of war if Hezbollah gets Syrian chemical weapons
His comments came amid reports that Syrian government forces had moved chemical weapons to airports near its borders – a day after the regime of President Bashar al-Assad warned that it could use them if Syria is attacked by an external force.

Audio Program:
"We begin with the intensifying war in Syria where the embattled Assad regime resorted to the use of fixed-wing aircraft today in what is seen as a serious escalation. Joshua Landis the Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, who writes the daily newsletter on Syrian politics “Syria Comment”, joins us to discuss the end game in Syria and the possible use of WMD’s."

An Overview


Chemical weapons profile - Syria
Since the early 1980s, Syria has made efforts to acquire and maintain an arsenal of chemical weapons. Regional security concerns, and most notably Syria’s adversarial relationship with Israel, represent the most likely present-day motivation behind Syria’s chemical weapons program. Specifically, a series of disastrous military defeats to Israel in 1967, 1973, and 1982, followed by the weakening of Arab unity against Israel following the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty and Israel’s presumed acquisition of nuclear weapons, provided impetus for Syria to pursue a strategic deterrent against the conventional and nuclear Israeli threats.

Production Capability (Syria), Biological



US poverty on track to reach highest since 1960s

The ranks of America's poor are on track to climb to levels unseen in nearly half a century, erasing gains from the war on poverty in the 1960s amid a weak economy and fraying government safety net.

Poverty is spreading at record levels across many groups, from underemployed workers and suburban families to the poorest poor. More discouraged workers are giving up on the job market, leaving them vulnerable as unemployment aid begins to run out. Suburbs are seeing increases in poverty, including in such political battlegrounds as Colorado, Florida and Nevada, where voters are coping with a new norm of living hand to mouth.

See. There's growth in America. "Poverty is spreading at record levels "

Doesn't it feel good to be part of that growth?

It has only taken 32 years of uninterrupted right-wing fantasy economics to get us here. And don't tell me about the two Democrats in the White House. They have been part of the story...

No change to see here. Move along.


2 dead in seaside cliff fall fleeing Spain fire

The fire in Portbou happened when wildfires elsewhere forced the closure of the main highway linking Spain to France. Traffic was diverted to a smaller road via Portbou, where lines of cars safely motored toward the border.

But police determined Monday that someone in the cars had almost certainly thrown a lit cigarette out of a window, which Cortaba said had then started a fire on the pavement. With parts of Spain enduring one of the driest summers in decades, the fire raged out of control before the cars could leave and officials could shut down the road.

Not smarter than yeast...

The toss the cigarette out is such an ingrained habit, that few even realize they are doing it. This is why the forest service is forced to eliminate all public access during periods of exceptional fire-danger. You just can't sort out the well intentioned non-smokers, from the smokers, who even if well intentioned might with a moments inattention simply do what they normally do.

As a (mostly) former smoker, I think you are right but I find it extremely annoying. I have always made a point of throwing out butts properly, and actually refuse to throw anything out the window of a car... But in America at least there is no culture of doing so. I expect it actually dates back to when cigarettes did not have filters and littering was also more acceptable. In Japan, smoking is still more socially acceptable than in the US (not really acceptable but not as marginalized), but smokers are expected to carry portable ashtrays and properly dispose of their butts.

It appears that Europe has the same problem as America. So, how about some portable ashtrays and proper smoker's etiquette? I doubt any government is likely to promote the use of portable ashtrays, but they should.

Back in the eighties I was in Japan with a group of Americans. And I was tasked with not making a bad impression. Trying to get Americans to not throw ciggie butts on the ground is practically impossible.

Portable ashtrays have become quite common in France since a few years, at least amongst the youth. I know dozens of people in the range of 20-to-30 years carry their own, which they have often crafted themselves. A friend of mine even used to sell ashtrays he had made from salvage materials and decorated, in music festivals during the summer, to pay for his ticket.

And soon, the town of Paris will charge you 35 euros if you're caught throwing a butt on the ground. In Swiss, they have seemingly been doing this for decades. I don't know what's going on in other europeans countries.

In Singapore, people have sometimes been thrown in jail for throwing a cigarette butt in the street. It's a very clean, very controlled place, "Disneyland with the Death Penalty", as one writer put it. The penalty for importing narcotics is death.

A friend of mine developed a system for them to detect people peeing in elevators - Another thing you don't want to do there. Conceptually, it could stop the elevator, lock the doors, and send an alarm to the police station.

Role models.

I wonder if there's a lesson to be learned here. Advertisers know this: if they want to sell a product, they have to make their customers develop a habit of using it. And yes, you can change people's habits. Examples: drinking bottled water daily, even when there's perfectly acceptable tap water available. That "Febreeze" spray, that's supposed to remove odors from fabric. It was originally marketed as a way to freshen up clothing, etc., if you didn't have time to wash it. But that use was too infrequent to become habitual; people didn't remember to buy it or use it. So now it's marketed as something you apply to upholstery and carpets as part of regular housekeeping. The last step after vacuuming.

There's been a lot of speculation here about what social control, for good or ill, will look like in the future. I'm guessing it will be more Madison Ave. than Big Brother.

A Nation That’s Losing Its Toolbox

... at a time when the American factory seems to be a shrinking presence, and when good manufacturing jobs have vanished, perhaps never to return, there is something deeply troubling about this dilution of American craftsmanship.

This isn’t a lament — or not merely a lament — for bygone times. It’s a social and cultural issue, as well as an economic one. The Home Depot approach to craftsmanship — simplify it, dumb it down, hire a contractor — is one signal that mastering tools and working with one’s hands is receding in America as a hobby, as a valued skill, as a cultural influence that shaped thinking and behavior in vast sections of the country.

The decline started in the 1950s, when manufacturing generated a hefty 28 percent of the national income, or gross domestic product, and employed one-third of the work force. Today, factory output generates just 12 percent of G.D.P. and employs barely 9 percent of the nation’s workers.

... “In an earlier generation, we lost our connection to the land, and now we are losing our connection to the machinery we depend on,” ... “Young people grow up without developing the skills to fix things around the house,”

In a sense, the things we use these days aren't made in a way that is easily serviceable by the end user. Lots of computerization, and lots of plastic parts that aren't easy to get apart.

When I was young, we learned basic digital circuitry with TTL chips. You could wire them together - sometimes with a fairly simple microprocessor into a circuit that did something useful. But these days everything is a module of some that is either proprietary or not socketed so that the user has to replace the entire module. Even the repair shops don't bother trying to repair things - they are just trained to swap in new parts until it works again.

Even a car these days has multiple processors connected together over a bus. If you have the right dongle and software you can read virtually every switch and sensor on the car, which in a sense is quite useful for diagnosis. But if something goes wrong, you are kind of hosed.

Recently my wife's car had a weird problem where it intermittently wouldn't start. By the time I could get to it, the problem was gone, so I couldn't diagnose it. You take it to the dealer, and they would read the codes and start throwing parts at it in the hopes that that would solve the problem. Going through online forums, we concluded that the most likely problem was one of the connectors to the ECU wasn't making good contact - either this or a bad ground next to the ECU. So off I go to take off enough parts that I could get to the ECU and reseat the connectors and clean the ground. Who knows if that was really the problem - it hasn't recurred since I did this, but if it comes up again, I would be stumped.

I think the thing that is the closest to the original sort of thing a shade tree mechanic used to work on would be working on a bicycle. The things are still quite simple mechanically and with a handful of specialty tools one can perform virtually all of the tasks that one might need to do. The only real exception is that the newer frames are no longer steel, so you can't weld them any more, but fortunately that's not something one needs to do very often.

Complexity and miniturization, make it pretty difficult to impossible. Then even the things that can be dome by hand or simple tools are vastly less efficient than when done in a specialized industrial process. Think hand cranked drills, and screwdrivers, versus having powered tools to drill and screw in bolts. In the first case, it probably would take you several minutes per screw, while with the powe tools, the task could be accomplished in a few seconds. It is just so hard to compete against optimized industrial production, that it rarely makes any sense to try anymore.

They may be less speedy, but I don't think 'less efficient' is right.. like so much of what we talk about, you have to count more of the factors than just 'Production Time and GDP'

I've become more and more aware of the collapsing horizons in many such comparisons..

I use hand tools and power tools interchangably, and there are continual advantages and unfactored tradeoffs that favor what one at first expects to be dreadfully slow drudgery, but in fact leave you with time to think and work carefully while cutting or shaping, aim your tool better, or where task simply ARE done before the power tool would have been out of the case, powered up and it's bit screwed into place.

Of course, I'm talking about one-off processes in this example.. but there are others, like the lifespan of tools, too. I just made a tiring cut through some 3/4 ply with a basic, solid crosscut saw that has the initials of my namesake in it, from 3 gen's back. I sure don't have any skil saws still running from the 30's. My two rotary push mowers are from probably around my own birthday, early 60's.. chugging along just fine and I've never pulled a muscle when some rip cord snapped. .. and they actually make the neighbors smile to see them in use!

A few years back I dabbled with building harpsichords. I began to understand, in a small way, how they built things in earlier times. It's NOT doing it like we do now, only with hand tools. Different mindset. I found myself using more hand tools and fewer power tools. I observed to friends that power tools didn't really help all that much. Often times, when drilling the dozens and dozens of little holes for the harpsichord jacks, I found that a little so-called pin vise was much more accurate than the drill press. Looking back, I really enjoyed the relative quiet of the process.

Yes, but in terms of how many board feet of lumber the saw cut before it was used up, I'm not at all sure the hand tool wins. Now obviously that is an industrial values sort of measure, you may well have created more human pleasure from the hand saw, but probably not a greater volume of work.

Greater volume of work? Not at all! And when I build cabinets and furniture, I use power tools a lot. I am not a 'purist' about anything (unless one is a purist about not being a purist!). The harpsichords were a strictly 'one off' venture. And even then, as I think back, I did the 'major' milling with a table saw and a planer. That took a couple of hours, but all the work after that - of which there was plenty - was done with hand tools. I once had the pleasure of looking inside of a harpsichord from 1635 that was being restored. The interior woodwork was amazing crude. I mean CRUDE. But it worked. Like I said before, a different mindset.

It's worse. With the RoHS lead-free mandates, the solder can't be easily removed and replaced/reflowed - and they grow tin whiskers shortening the life of much of the electronics.

There'll be few 30-year-old LCD/Plasma TVs - most will have met its tin whisker demise long before.


When I was young, we learned basic digital circuitry with TTL chips

And yet, if you were asked to make a 32 byte programmable memory ROM and you used resistors and diodes[1] to make the ROM from a prof who claimed "Dynamic RAM is not used in Industry" one got an F because you didn't do it her way....

Did you forget the faster ECL circuitry?

But these days everything is a module of some that is either proprietary or not socketed so that the user has to replace the entire module.

Meh young'n. Everything old is new again. If I remember my TV repair days .... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Admiral_%28electrical_appliances%29 "selling" point was how the TV was modular and one could just swap out the 'defective' parts.

but if it comes up again, I would be stumped.

Again, the "punch line" for shows like the office is "this is IT - have you turned it off and on again"?
Go ahead....ask the local IT "guru" to explain how all the various hunks of software interact to get a result. If they are honest you should see a shrug along with some expletives.

working on a bicycle. The things are still quite simple mechanically and with a handful of specialty tools one can perform virtually all of the tasks that one might need to do. The only real exception is that the newer frames are no longer steel

Meet the http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Hc-DTwastk

[1] http://www.instructables.com/id/TOD-Diode-Matrix-ROM-intro-7-segment-dis...

And yet there is the maker movement.


(My plan - make a 3d printer to output wax to make castings. Not modern, sure. But still worthwhile.)

I spent the afternoon making an automatic chicken door opener using an old satellite dish actuator, a salvaged battery-powered programmable timer and a DPDT relay, all to be solar/battery driven. My sister is complaining about our new rooster waking her up at 6:30 (she's 1000 feet away, for Pete's sake), so I'll set the timer to open the door at 8:30 AM and close after dark. I told Sis to do what all good suburbanites do; close the windows and turn the AC on.

I think there's a future for folks who can retask old analog stuff when the reset comes. The $200+ chicken door openers I've seen are made from cheap throw-away parts from China using proprietary crap, plastic and circuit boards; mine is repairable, off-the-shelf stuff, lots of steel and simple relays. I plan to lose the race to the chicken door bottom.

I collect old analog electro-mechanical stuff; relays, actuators, switches, pneumatic valves, whatever. I'm not totally comfortable with the future of all-digital systems; that future may be limited. Too much complexity required.

I can go to Radio Shack and buy late 1970's tech - a 555 timer for $1.99.

I can get a programmable microprocessor that, in theory, can do more than the 555 for $1.99. The tech for that microprocessor should be able to be kept up unless humanity REALLY takes a down-tick.

If one is worried about future-tech perhaps you should learn how to make spring powered clockwork mechs. Such are good enough to track the sun to make a scheffir dish http://www.solare-bruecke.org/ it should be able to open/close a chicken door.

I had no idea that you could still get those things. 2$ seems kind of high though (I imagine that it only costs them a few pennies to make the things). But I suppose if I needed one, I wouldn't complain all that much..

6 pesos here:) I guess everyone in the USA sales chain wants their 30% and there are a lot in the chain.



555 timers are $0.29 to $1.49 at Jameco. There is also Mouser and Digikey for electronic parts.

Digikey published their last, actual, real, paper catalog. Now its just pixels.

In the interest of equal time, components can also be purchased from:


I think that's a pretty good thing, overall.

We're in a period of trade-offs, no less 'consequences' now.. but I still yearn for the Sears Christmas Toys Catalog, while I simultaneously wish that B&H Photo would stop mailing out these monstrous Paper Boat-anchors every quarter.

Makes sense - at the point where people cannot get online to view the Digikey catalog, they won't have business left anyway.

"The tech for that microprocessor should be able to be kept up unless humanity REALLY takes a down-tick."

Kept up for whom?? Wow... it's not the tech I'm concerned with. It's the complex economics required to produce that tech and support Radio Shack. No Radio Shack, no 555.

My Mother once told me about when their can opener broke in 1935. It took them weeks to find a new can opener; not an electric can opener, mind you, any can opener. Most of the can opener companies had either gone under or had problems sourcing materials, credit, etc. = can opener shortage.

I believe we have differing world views.

And I have faith in TPTB's love affair with control.

The up and coming security state along with a desire to have automation replace the troublesome workers who get in the way of consumption and production for consumption means the plants that place poison in refined sand will have a far higher priority than the vast majority of the TOD poster-ship.

If one of the machines needs to be level to operate correctly and you or I are the closest body to wedge under that machine, under we will go.


J.C. Penney (JCP) will say farewell to cash registers, checkout counters and cashiers by 2014, said Ron Johnson, the chain's CEO, during the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference, reports Time.


Coping: Robo-Waiters vs. Old Humans
(Tukwilla, WA) So here we are, having flown way more than halfway across America for meetings, eye surgery, and research and for some reason, it wasn't until last night that it gob-smacked me that several whole industries are about to be hit with internet-driven automation that will further reduce the number of employed humans, and that this, in turn would increase the number of people on the government "dole" dramatically.

Understand the uppity workers need to be shown how they should say "yes sir, no sir" to the employer:

New York’s Union Square was the scene of one of the largest protest demonstrations in years… Many militant speeches and many Unions, all in support of the locked out Con Ed Workers. Also present were representatives of Occupy Wall Street, showing their solidarity with the 99%.


Now, in what has become a test case in American labor relations, Caterpillar is trying to pioneer new territory, seeking steep concessions from its workers even when business is booming.

"If one of the machines needs to be level to operate correctly and you or I are the closest body to wedge under that machine, under we will go."

...where we will no longer be able to consume whatever the machine in designed to spit out. There's a critical point on the horizon when consumers will have neither the means nor the motivation to support TPTB's control or the systems to which it's being applied. I can already see it, just up ahead, and I, for one, am refusing to compete with the machine, nor will I feed it by choice. I suggest there's a point when you don't have the machines; they have you. We've crossed the line where machines are tools, and methinks the time of our utter reliance upon them will be historically brief.

Let's sum it up, Eric. The last jobs in America are Retail Sales and Wait People. The owners are getting rid of those now. Oh, and government workers are seeing minimum wage applied


Of course, those confounded low level workers can no longer engage in collective bargaining. What do they think they are? One-percenters?

All part of the day to day race to the bottom!

Oh, I forgot - there is always Power Ball. You may already have won!


A 555 is one of the most useful chips ever designed though you overpaid...here it costs 8 cents per piece, and it ain't even manufactured here.

I really liked the PIC16F785 with the fast analog op-amp and comparator, when I was still employed. Easy to prototype with.

My kind of tinkering!

We just got a tour of a Permaculture home 3 miles from the center of Portland yesterday, with all sorts of that kind of retasking and reuse of 'interchangable parts'. (They have ducks from a breed that simply doesn't quack, in deference to neighborhood comity) ... Well, my 9 year old comes home with some pretty Rust-colored chicken feathers, has now soaked them and cut them into little 'kid-sized quills', and we hope to see how well they and some 'Harry Potter styled Inkwells' will sell at the next farmer's market!

Some digital seems fine to me as long as it actually adds real value. But a lot of appliances these days have touch panels and computer displays, and it really is more for appearance and useless features and doesn't add any discernible value.

Years ago I was aligning a laser, and the power supply for the thing had some computer control in the thing that you would talk to over an RS-232 port. Thus you needed a computer of some sort to send commands to the thing. What I wanted was for the vacuum pump to be on and for the high voltage to be off (since I would be sticking my fingers in places that would be at around 10kV during normal operation). But the computer went a little nuts and turned on the high voltage while I had my hands in there, and I got one hell of a shock. The arc jumped from my thumb to one of my fingers (and from there to my middle finger), and my thumb was so numb that I could have pounded on it with a hammer and not felt a thing. After about an hour the feeling started coming back, and I had to keep it on ice for quite a while. Later I could go back and reproduce the problem - there were times when the high voltage would go on all by itself without any sort of command.

The upshot was that I looked over the circuit diagrams and found that I could take a blank circuit board, and mount some small toggle switches in the end of it, and wire it up so that I could manually turn on the pump and HV instead of depending upon the computer. All I needed to do was pull the one of the boards from the power supply and replace it with my dummy board, and I could perform maintenance tasks without having to worry about the high voltage suddenly coming on.

The thought comes to mind that in a similar vein, it would be possible to take a malfunctioning appliance and "lobotomize" it and simplify the controls. For example, the controls for an oven need not be complicated - at the most basic level you just need to apply power to the heating element (but where you would have no feedback mechanism to control the temperature - kind of like with a basic barbecue). A more advanced adaptation would be to add a means to automatically reduce the power when the thing gets close to the set point.

Yair . . . Ghung. Have you seen the anti-crow devises that work on the principle that a roosters first (and most annoying) crows of the morning are from his perch?

A rooster won't crow unles he's standing so these devises . . . essentialy a screen . . . are hinged and lower down over the perches when the birds are in the squatting position.

We used to do it manualy after dark with a fishing reel on the back verandah but I'm sure you could come up with away to make it automatic.


And yet there is the maker movement.


I fear that in the USA this may become hampered by patents and the health and safety fears.


As a boy in the 80s, I remember my father spending an inordinate amount of time trying to keep a Volkswagen Rabbit on the road. My 2006 Honda Accord has 92,000 miles and has never been repaired. Not once.

I remember taking our TV to the repair shop repeatedly in the 80s. My mother bought a TV with a tax refund in the early 90s, and it worked 16 years with no repairs before being replaced. The TV I bought for $180 in 1997 works fine. I wake up to the clock-radio my mother bought me as a gift 25 years ago. Works great. My 20 year-old Super Nintendo still works, though I don't play it much.

By the time I got to be a teenager in the early 90s, I lived in a world where things just worked. TVs didn't break, cars rarely needed repairs, clothes were cheap enough not to need patching, etc. The only things that didn't work so well were computers, so I can strip a PC to the boards and rebuild it. But they've gotten so reliable (my 2004 laptop ran 7 years with one repair) that kids today probably don't need to know how.

So while we lament some of the lost know-how, let's celebrate drastically improved reliability.

My 30 year old mixer makes bread. My 3 year old microwave is used as a safe to keep fur heads away from bits of food in process.


let's celebrate drastically improved reliability

You are just extrapolating your own personal experiences, reliability has actually gone down dramatically...at least for the end user. Both as a result of planned obsolescence and rising complexity.

Actually from a cost benefit POV given the complexity involved in today's products their reliability is astonishing but just from the reliability POV they fail miserably. Over engineering was quite common previously when corporations didn't have a stranglehold on all production, now it is a strict no no except in safety products where lawsuits matter. My own laptop failed just outside the warranty period while the old IBM pc still runs.

One reason why it sometimes seems as if old stuff keeps failing is because people have an emotional attachment with them and try to maintain them at great cost.

You are just extrapolating your own personal experiences, reliability has actually gone down dramatically...at least for the end user.

It seems to me you are just extrapolating your own experiences in response to mine, backed with strong statements but zero evidence.

You are right, I didn't point it out, apologies for that.
Here are the facts
1. Planned obsolescence has been on the rise for quite some time now
2. Things like ROHS compliance reduce the lifespan of electronic products.
3. Half life of most gadgets is notoriously low
4. Most modern chips are also notoriously susceptible to static (it keeps getting worse as chips get smaller) and EM interference is much higher now than it was 30 years back.
5. Higher complexity usually equals higher failure rate.

Given all that companies have no interest in building a phone or a device that lasts 10-20 years, I don't see how reliability can go up. Your point is only applicable in implements where high quality composites have replaced natural building materials.

As a boy in the 80s, I remember my father spending an inordinate amount of time trying to keep a Volkswagen Rabbit on the road.

My old man ran a Skelly station. And there was a 2 AM call one "moring" hootin' and hollering. The blue Chevy made 100,000 miles. (from his youngest sister - the old man being the eldest child and the Chevy was his/her Mom's).

Me, personally, have had 7 cars/trucks with over 150K miles and I don't see this as a some major milestone.

Not only had material science WRT metals advanced from the 1950/60/70's but so did the tolerances of machine tools.

I won't comment on "I remember taking our TV to the repair shop repeatedly in the 80s." because the brands were not listed.

I got to be a teenager in the early 90s, I lived in a world where things just worked. TVs didn't break, cars rarely needed repairs, clothes were cheap enough not to need patching, etc.

"were cheap enough not to need patching, etc" - VS just replacing. Clothes - Cotton still becomes brittle the higherthe temp - be it 1900, 1905, 1990. If you want your clothes to last line dry 'em or invest in a low temp cabinet dryer like the Staber. http://www.staber.com/dryingcabinet (pro tip: build your own)

let's celebrate drastically improved reliability.

JP is not without a clue on this request.

The drying cabinet would work well with a hydronic heating system. Put on a low priority circuit, it would help smooth out loads.

"Young people grow up without developing the skills to fix things around the house,”

Things are a lot less fixable than they used to be. I've had to set ignition points maybe six times in my life, and not at all since 1998.

But people program things on computers now, and even a spreadsheet macro counts. That didn't exist before the 1970's.

And if you want to, you can still manage carpentry or boat building, or even experimental aircraft. It's hard to do any of those if you live in an apartment in the urban core though, however transit friendly it might be.

UK's energy policy 'unworkable'

MPs have accused the Treasury of making the government's clean energy revolution unworkable and creating the risk of higher household bills

Whatever passes for energy policy in the UK these days is becoming more and more dysfunctional

UK to abandon climate targets?

The Chancellor has demanded that the Energy Secretary Ed Davey abandon the UK's pathway towards climate targets.

Gorillas filmed performing amazing feat of intellectual ability

Researchers working in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda have filmed gorillas dismantling snares set by poachers to catch smaller game. Previously, anecdotal evidence had suggested that silverback gorillas had been seen dismantling snares. In this instance it was two young blackback, mountain gorillas that were involved. The team, part of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund's Karisoke Research Center, filmed first a silverback motioning towards the snare. Next, two young male blackbacks arrived on the scene, surveyed the situation, then proceeded to take apart the snare, avoiding being caught in it in the process.

... wonder if one of them was named Caesar?

...or Ishmael?

Good for them...maybe we could train some of them with weapons as well just for self defense...

Great idea. Cause they would only ever use them for self-defense, and never dream of using them in skirmishes with their rivals... ;)

I guess it would be a good way to find out if they are any better than us :)

Oil giant CNOOC buying Canada’s Nexen for $15.1B in China’s biggest overseas energy deal

Chinese offshore oil and gas giant CNOOC Ltd. said Monday it has agreed to buy Canadian producer Nexen Inc. for $15.1 billion in China’s biggest overseas energy acquisition.

CNOOC and other big state-owned Chinese energy companies have stepped up purchases of oil and gas assets in the Americas as part of a strategy to gain access to resources needed to fuel China’s economy.

China bids for chunk of UK's oil, world price influence

China may soon get control of a large slice of UK North Sea oil supply, which is key to determining global oil prices, if bids by its state firms for assets of Canadian oil companies Nexen and Talisman are cleared by the regulators.

Together, Nexen and Talisman own stakes in UK North Sea fields that produce around 180,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (bpd) according to Reuters calculations, including 110,000 bpd by Nexen and 70,000 bpd by Talisman.

Spanish markets awaken to their own Black Monday
El País, Madrid.

The Spanish financial markets went into meltdown on Monday as the risk premium hit yet new euro-era highs and the stock market fell heavily after Murcia said it would join Valencia in asking for a bailout from the central government.

The sharp falls prompted the National Securities Commission (CNMV) to ban short selling on financial instruments around noon.

The 100-billion-euro European rescue package for Spain’s banks agreed on Friday did little to assuage market fears as did the 65 billion euros in spending cuts over the next two and a half years announced by the government of Mariano Rajoy, raising the specter of a need for a full-scale bailout.
At 2.30pm, the yield on the benchmark 10-year government bond was trading at 7.490, a level the government itself has acknowledged to be unsustainable.
That drove the spread with the German equivalent up 25 basis points from by Friday’s closing level to 635 basis points, the highest level since the single-currency system was introduced. The blue-chip Ibex 35 was down 2.09 percent at 6,115.60 points after even heavier falls on Friday.

We're ruined, we are going back to 1959.
Deleitosa, where the photographer Eugene Smith made a photographic essay published in LIFE, early sixties.

Not all of Spain was like that at the time, to be sure, but plenty of places were.
The young people now, who have lived through modern times of unbelievable and totally false prosperity are going to find very hard going back to those times.

If you can read Spanish you can amuse yourselves with this report, about the corruption in Plasenzuela, a village of 500 people.
La ‘omertà’ de Plasenzuela

Talk about jobs for the boys!
No one says a word now, most people there work for the ex-mayor; they have gone back to raise goats.

Debt crisis: Greek economy is in a 'Great Depression' says Samaras

Greek GDP is expected by the end of this to have shrunk by about a fifth in five consecutive years of recession since 2008, hammered by tax hikes, spending cuts and wage reductions required by two EU/IMF bailouts. Unemployment climbed to a record 22.6pc in the first quarter.

also Spain's Death Spiral

... It was after the Crash of '08 that investors turned forensic. Not all euro borrowers were the same, they discovered. And so rates began to diverge; lenders simply began to demand a higher yield to compensate them for the added risk they had been taking.

Predictably, the poorer countries in the Eurozone -- mainly the "Club Med" members of the Southern and historically non-Protestant tier -- couldn't afford higher rates. The more they would have had to pay in interest, the greater their budget deficits. The greater the deficits, the greater the risk of default. The greater the default risk, the more investors would demand for that risk. And thus: the death spiral.

One way out: default on your debts, quit the eurozone and start over in your own currency. That's what many of our Making Sen$e Greece experts have predicted for a few years. There's been little talk of it with regard to Spain. Until now.

That's because a Spanish default and/or euro exit would be dangerously momentous events. Spain is the world's 12th largest economy. Greece, by contrast is 38th, just two notches above Vietnam. If a Greek default is a big deal because banks that hold Greek debt would lose so much money, think of the havoc that a Spanish default represents.

I suspect that it may be better to go ahead and default sooner, rather than later.

Its seems to me that oil importing OECD countries are trying desperately to maintain their "Wants" based economies, when the new reality is that a more likely scenario is that we will be lucky to maintain a "Needs" based economy. Note that from 2002 to 2011, the absolute value of the rate of increase in Total Global Public Debt (8.5%/year) is about the same as absolute value of the rate of decline in the GNE/CNI ratio (8.1%/year).

If the GNE to CNIE ratio were to hit 1.0, China & India would be consuming 100% of Global Net Exports of oil.

The decline in the GNE/CNI ratio, which is an indication of the percentage of GNE that will be available to importers other than China & India, will of course make it increasingly difficult, and almost certainly impossible, to repay the debts incurred trying to keep some semblance of Business As Usual going in oil importing OECD countries.

Following is a comment that ties the GNE/CNI versus debt chart to some previous comments about Iceland defaulting.

GNE/CNI Vs. Total Public Debt:


GNE = Global Net Oil Exports*
CNI = Chindia's Combined Net Oil Imports

*Top 33 net oil exporters in 2005, total petroleum liquids, BP Data + Minor EIA data

Debt Data:

At the 2005 to 2011 rate decline in the GNE/CNI ratio (8.6%/year), the ratio would be down to 1.0 in 2030.

In other words, at the current rate of decline in the GNE/CNI ratio, in 18 years China & India alone would be consuming 100% of GNE. Of course, I don't think this will actually happen, but it's important to note that the rate of decline in the ratio accelerated from 2008 to 2011, versus 2005 to 2008.

There are signs of (relative) weakness in both China and India; however, there are also indications that China's domestic oil production may be peaking, which would increase the demand for imports.

In any case, this trend would make, and in my opinion has made, debt service, shall we say, "Somewhat difficult." Note that global annual (Brent) crude oil prices have doubled twice over this time frame, from $25 in 2002 to $55 in 2005 and then from $55 in 2005 to $111 in 2011 (with a year over year decline in 2009).

In my opinion, most oil importing OECD countries around the world, in a determined effort to deny the reality of resource limits, have gone massively into debt in an attempt to keep their economies going, waiting for what they believe will be an inevitable decline in oil prices, as a result of the inevitable resumption of the robust increases in global oil supplies that we have seen in previous decades.

A recent article in the WSJ (behind paywall):

In European Crisis, Iceland Emerges as an Island of Recovery

VESTMANNAEYJAR, Iceland—Three and a half years after Iceland collapsed in a heap, Dadi Palsson's fish-processing plant has the air of a surprising economic recovery. Mr. Palsson arrived at 4 a.m. on a recent workday. Twelve tons of cod were coming in. Soon, his workers would bone, slice and pack the fish for loading onto towering container ships headed abroad.

In 2008, Iceland was the first casualty of the financial crisis that has since primed the euro zone for another economic disaster: Greece is edging toward a cataclysmic exit from the euro, Spain is racked by a teetering banking system, and German politicians are squabbling over how to hold it all together. But Iceland is growing. Unemployment has eased. Emigration has slowed.

Iceland has a significant advantage over stressed euro-zone countries—a currency that could be devalued. That has turned its trade deficit into a surplus and smoothed its recovery . . . .

Unlike Ireland, for example, Iceland let its banks fail and made foreign creditors, not Icelandic taxpayers, largely responsible for covering losses.

It occurs to me that if most oil importing OECD countries are following Iceland's path, just at different rates, perhaps the following quote is relevant:

“If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well
It were done quickly”

We have gone from the management of the problems of plenty to the management of a world with limitations and decline. Everywhere we look, the issue is about managing the fall gracefully, be it in the US or outside. From an exponential growth scenario to an exponential fall scenario. The EU is facing the judgement day a little sooner as individual countries don't have the luxury to print their way out of the mess. No such restrictions apply in the US and so the problem can be pushed down the road. Iceland was smart, but I don't think they are any where close to the pre 2008 crisis economy where fishermen became bankers and bought million dollar yachts.

My version of the "Cliff" metaphor, from two years ago follows.

The OECD “Thelma & Louise” Race to the Edge of the Cliff

“Thelma and Louise” is an American movie that ends with the two main characters committing suicide by driving off the edge of a cliff. I’ve often thought that this cinematic moment is an appropriate symbol for the actions of many developed OECD countries that are in effect borrowing money to maintain or increase current consumption. The central problem with this approach is that as my frequent co-author, Samuel Foucher, and I have repeatedly discussed, the supply of global net oil exports has been flat to declining since 2005, with “Chindia” so far consuming an ever greater share of what is (net) exported globally. Chindia’s combined net oil imports, as a percentage of global net exports, rose from 11.2% in 2005 to 17.6% in 2010.

At precisely the point in time that developed countries should be taking steps to discourage consumption, many OECD countries, especially the US, are doing the exact opposite, by effectively encouraging consumption. Therefore, the actions by many OECD countries aimed at encouraging consumption in the face of declining available global net oil exports can be seen as the OECD “Thelma & Louise” Race to the Edge of the Cliff.

I suppose that the “winner” could be viewed as the first country that can no longer borrow enough money, at affordable rates, to maintain their current lifestyle. So, based on this metric, Greece would appear to be currently in the lead, with many other countries not far behind them.

Beijing swamped with heaviest rainfall in 60 years- 37 dead, 50,000 forced evacuations

The heaviest rainfall in six decades caused widespread havoc in this capital over the weekend, killing at least 37 people and forcing the evacuation of 50,000 others from waterlogged neighborhoods and villages, according to the state news media.

Officials said the rain, which began at noon and stretched into the early morning, was the heaviest since 1951. The city’s flood control bureau said the downpour in the city’s southwestern Fangshan district brought 18 inches of water and forced the evacuation of hundreds, including 350 students who were trapped at a military training site.

and Deadly mudslides sweep through Austria

Heavy rains hit the province of Styria, in central Austria, causing floods, landslides and mudslides. One person has been killed in Austria after torrential rains triggered mudslides and flooding across several provinces.

Bejings worry used to be the accelerating aproach of the Gobi desert. This is ironic.

It looks like we are seeing 100-year floods interspersed amongst 100-year droughts, with droughts being more in abundance. One year of flood, and 5 or 6 of drought... the drought destroys the vegetation, then the flood strips away the soil. Soon we will be living on Dune... without the sand trout.


Microgrid Keeps the Power Local, Cheap, and Reliable

commenter(?) says 11.7 mil to save 100k LOL

Also on latimes home:

After remaining stable for most of human history, the world's population has exploded over the last two centuries. The coming wave will reshape the planet, and the impact will be greatest in the poorest, most unstable countries. Videos

What absolute gibberish. A grid is a large interconnected electricity supply system, as used in modern parlance. So then what the hell is a "Microgrid"? If you read the article it is clearly a facility that has its own local generation, like has been done for years in third-world counties without a grid, only this uses more renewable sources. There's nothing wrong with this of course, it makes perfect sense as our old infrastructure unravels, but why use an oxymoron to describe it? Maybe they should call it "Gridless Grid"! The name is interesting, as it shows how we will continue to pretend the fallback, patched together things we create are actually the old luxuries we used to enjoy.

"So then what the hell is a "Microgrid"?"

From the article: a microgrid that integrates power from fuel cells, solar panels, wind turbines, and backup diesel generators

It the integration of power from multiple sources that is the defining feature of this "grid." And it is true, as you point out, that "grid" is commonly used to describe large scale networks - thus the designator "micro".

The term "microgrid" is not absolute gibberish. It neatly reflects both the purpose and the scale of the system so described.

It's not a grid. It's a facility with several local power sources. That's it. Do you think nobody ever had multiple generators at their facility before? The only difference is that they use a couple of different types of sources. Does it really need a fancy new name?

My objection is to selling it as some big new thing when it's hardly rocket science, and further to using inappropriate terminology. That kind of stuff just sets off alarm bells to me.

TW, What we call the electric grid isn't a grid either, and by your definition.

It's properly called a distribution system. A grid would imply multiple path choices for the power from the generation facility to the user. That doesn't happen except the rare parallel interconnections.

You're playing semantic games - there may not be multiple paths all the way to every end user, but at a level above that there are often multiple paths that allow for re-routing, at least within regions. But the differences between the electric grid and a single facility are glaringly obvious, at least to anyone who isn't just trying to win a dispute on an Internet forum. Our local hospital has 3 generators. What if one of those was a PV array - would it be a "grid" then? Hogwash.

I think microgrid (which I take as small village level grid) has become the term of use. No use railing against it.

I do not believe this is village level - they are applying it to a single facility.

I do not believe this is village level - they are applying it to a single facility.

Ok, so it is a very very small, (micro) 'OFF GRID' Grid... >;-)

As I understand it, an electric grid is just a system of synchronized interconnected sources of electrical power generating devices that can supplement each other to provide electricity to storage systems such as banks of batteries, and circuits that feed lights, tools, appliances, etc..

I don't think it really matters what we call it.

Is this a for profit prison (alot of prisoners could be managed better with ankle bracelets)
Wonder what ever became of the super grid?(stay calm)
B.Fuller idea of connecting the hemispheres to balance night/day generation.
I wonder what the biggest limiting factor is? Probably politics
Even west & east coasts aren't connected( I guess benefits don't outweigh cost)

For profit prisons are a far, far more offensive thing than someone using stupid terminology. Perspective is important!

A 'microgrid' is a smallish portion of a larger synchronized grid which intentionally islands from the rest of the grid during a grid outage, hopefully without loss of power. Describing a single facility as a microgrid is a bit of a stretch, IMO.

Normally, grid systems are set up to prevent accidental islanding during contingencies. Microgrids do have a bit of a 'back to the future' element about them. Small isolated hydro towns in my area have been run isolated when the grid goes down for over 100 years. If we were able to invest in controls to make this happen automatically, safely, and without an interruption, I could legitimately talk about creating microgrids. I have never thought of individual facility cogens which do this as microgrids, however.

We're like an algae bloom or a fever.. we've blossomed, and there will be a crescendo, and then a precipitous 'die-back', it would seem to me.. as opposed to a die-off.. and then like in the aftermath of brushfires we start building, gradually at first, to see if we can't do it all over again.

Growth is more than a philosophy.. it's part and parcel of what we are. It seems to me..

I think it depends on what causes a population collapse. If the resource constraint is fresh water, then it would recover in time. If pollution causes it by bubbling hydrogen sulfide out of the oceans destroying the o-zone and poisoning the air, then a few anaerobic microbes might survive.

Hard Rain ...

In Fukushima, Surreal Serenity

KORIYAMA, JAPAN — The traditional inn nestled amid the mountainous countryside offered all the luxurious comforts for which these old-style hotels are famous. ... when I checked out, instead of a parting gift of a box of local confectionaries or a hand towel with the hotel’s name on it, the owner handed me a plastic bag containing a vinyl raincoat, cotton gloves and a gauze mask. “Just in case you need it,” he said. “Sometimes when it rains, the numbers are high.” He was referring to measurements of radiation.

Somewhere I saw a screenshot of a Japanese weather forecast, only the numbers represented radiation numbers. It's amazing what people can accept as normal.

Japan workers 'told to lie about radiation'
Reports say subcontractor at crippled Fukushima nuclear plant urged workers to under-report exposure to radioactivity.

An executive at construction firm Build-Up in December told about 10 of its workers to cover their dosimeters - used to measure cumulative radiation exposure - with lead casings when working in areas with high radiation, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper and other media reported on Saturday.

$90-110/b: The New 'Price Band' for International Oil

... Tehran’s Three $90/b Sabres

The first most obvious (and high profile) one, remains the Strait of Hormuz. ... The second tool is to create trouble in OPEC. That means either calling for emergency meetings in Vienna, potentially striking bilateral deals with Russia outside the cartel, or leaning on Venezuela, Algeria, Iraq, Libya and West African producers to apply political pressures on Gulf States. ... The third and most credible tool Iran has is to play on Shia unrest across the Middle East, forcing Gulf States to clip production. Saudi Arabia is particularly sensitive to this in the Eastern Province (and indeed Bahrain), not to mention the risk of future deterioration in Iraq to the North. Bottom line, Iran has ample geopolitical room for pricing manoeuvre. $90/b is the absolute price floor as far as Tehran is concerned.

Washington’s Three $110/b Rattles

The first will be calling on key OPEC producers to maintain, or increase output wherever possible to call prices. Directly translated, that means Saudi Arabia as the only OPEC producer able to significantly increase or reduce production at will. ... Second. Most analysts totally missed the significance of the latest G8 communiqué (May 2012), that made explicit reference to using the Strategic Reserve as a political tool - rather than its historical economic purpose of filling actual or imminent supply gaps. Third, the reserve is tapped the closer it comes to Presidential polling day. Bottom line; $110/b is the price ceiling where the US will start to act to prevent any further market rally.

Interestingly, the wind seems to have shifted noticeably around the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal. Today the BC government released its 'position' on the proposal:


While this shows something that smells like avoidance (understandable, given the current weakness of the governing party in the province), if the conditions the province lays out for supporting the pipeline actually were taken at face-value (ie., if they really mean something) it makes it quite unlikely the province would ultimately support the proposal.

Just to take one of the conditions - that there be in place " World-leading marine oil spill response, prevention and recovery systems for B.C.'s coastline." While this has weasel-language built-in (who's to say what would constitute 'world-leading', and how hard would it be to lead the world on this front?) it implies the province is pressing Enbridge in an area where there are very serious concerns (how would one really go about doing a half-way decent job with a major spill in the very rough waters that typically exist along much of the route into Kitimat?).

Of course there's also the problem that it's not at all clear what BC could do (legally/constitutionally) to stop this project even if it were to strongly oppose it....

Days on the Farm in 1934

This is a true story from the Great Depression, as told by Letty Owings, age 87. It is a true account of days on a small Western Missouri farm during the drought of the 1930s.

Mom had malaria fever and we had to have her outside. Old Doc Martin, the county doctor, had visited and given my mother quinine. He told us that we had to keep her cool, and that we had to have a block of ice. On the rare occasions that Doc Martin visited, he left with a chicken because we had no money to pay him. Sometimes, he politely declined to take a chicken.

After the doctor left with his chicken, we decided to move outside because we did not have ten cents to buy a block of ice for Mom. The farm houses during the Great Depression had small windows because there was no insulation and no such thing as double-paned windows. Some rooms in the farm houses had no windows at all; there was no breeze in the house. We had no electricity and no fan.

Nautilus survives 500 million years -- until humans fancy it

No matter how well adapted an animal may be, it can spell evolutionary doom to have feathers or even shells that become coveted by human beings. Take the nautilus, a creature that pulled easily through the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. It now hangs on the brink of extinction thanks to the misfortune of having a pretty spiraling shell.

GOP Leadership Silences Critical Thinking On Loan Guarantees While The Texas GOP Opposes All Such Thinking

GOP leaders have a message for any Republicans who dare hold a nuanced position on loan guarantees and clean energy deployment: Be quiet and get back in line to “where they’re supposed to be.”

The conflict emerged after Cliff Stearns (R-FL) introduced a bill called the “No More Solyndras Act” designed to end loan guarantees for clean energy. Rather than toe the party line, a few critical-thinking Republicans said they would rather see the the program reformed to better protect taxpayers, not kill the whole thing.

That didn’t sit well with leaders in the party who have made the loan guarantee program a political target this election season.

... It is perhaps no surprise that two Texas Republicans are being attacked for critical thinking — since the Texas GOP’s 2012 Platform actually opposes any teaching of “critical thinking skills.” The Platform contains a plank on “Knowledge-Based Education” that reads (on page 12 here):

Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.

None of that fancy “knowledge-based education” for Texas!

Granted, Solyndra was an incredibly dumb product that never deserved a second look, but peanuts compared to $8.3 billion in federal taxpayer-backed nuclear loan guarantees for Vogtle Units 3 & 4. According to - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_sLt5gNAQs. 1.5% of all Reactors built have Melted ... not to mention how risky the open spent fuel pool fiasco is. If so the probability of these 8.3 Billion dollars ever making a kWh is uncertain due to more serious incidents somewhere. How about the DOE not try to pick winners anymore?

Musings/angst about spending too much time with personal electronic devices...


Peak personal computing?

Or road to the Matrix?

...as I post this on my computer, then go to work and sit in front of a computer for ~9 hours.

I feel like I waste away when I sit in front of the puter. Metabolism slows, muscle aches, generalyl poor ergonomics, millions of keystrokes which take 30g of force each time. Too bad I don't have any other marketable skills.

I think peak PC is closer to reality than taking the red pill. Some of these days I just feel like zeroing every sector on my hard drives. :)

Pardon my curiosity, but, are you in Norway?

E. Swanson

Yes, Oslo.

A Google search suggests that you are still rather young, compared to the typical old fart who tends to frequent TOD. I too tend to be rather depressed, having noticed major environmental problems as far back as the 1960's when I found that I could not live in the California smog. My concerns and attempts to convince others that these were serious problems only resulted in my being branded "Doctor Doom" by those around me. As one learns more of the negative side of the problems facing humanity, it's easy to be overwhelmed by the immensity of the situation and to fall into a state of inaction or depression.

Hanging out here on TOD is great for the educational experience and the feedback, but it's still just hanging out. It takes much mental effort to change one's lifestyle and it's much more difficult to do so when surrounded by others who have no clue about your perspective. My suggestion (if you haven't already done so) is to find someone or a group to partner with which shares your views and is making a positive effort toward what we think will be the future. Remember that old hippie saying: "Today is the first day of the rest of your life". It's your life, don't waste it...

EDIT: I'm not good at seeing the effects of my own words before I write/say them. Maybe this piece is off base. Anyway, when folks express what might be called "depression", some may really be in a seriously distressed mental state. I hope that isn't you, but if it is, I'm sure folks around here would be willing to help if they can. That includes me, since I really have little to do in life these days. My e-mail address is in my profile...

E. Swanson

CNOOC’s Nexen bid an indication of how far goal posts have moved

CNOOC Ltd.’s blockbuster deal for Nexen Inc., if nothing else, is a stark indication of how far the goal posts have moved not only for Canada’s oil patch, but also for world oil demand.

The welcome mat for Chinese mega-investment is being rolled out as Ottawa, along with the rest of the world, comes to accept the preeminent role that Asian fuel demand will play for future commodity prices. Where the development of Alberta’s oil sands may have once relied on America’s energy needs, those days are passing.

Nexen deal could put other oil sands firms in play

A large but troubled oil sands project will fall into Chinese hands after CNOOC Ltd. agreed to pay $15.1-billion (U.S.) for Nexen Inc., in a takeover that signals even the most important members in the Canadian oil patch are vulnerable.

Never before has a foreign firm paid so much for a Canadian energy company – and never before has a Chinese firm paid so much for an overseas asset.

The Nexen takeover comes amid a series of investments that have seen cash-rich Asian companies pursue assets in some of Canada’s most important energy geographies, in the oil sands and the rich natural gas shale fields of northeastern British Columbia. But the size of the Nexen deal points to an increasing assertiveness by Chinese firms that suggests some of the largest firms in the Canadian energy constellation are now in play.

The Canadian government will probably rubber stamp the Nexen takeover because, while Nexen is the sixth-largest oil company in Canada, only 28% of its production is in Canada. The rest is in the Gulf of Mexico, the North Sea, and West Africa, which the Canadian government doesn't care about. Its oil sands project also has problems and it may need more capital to sort them out. For CNOOC though, all this smells of opportunity.

I'm torn on whether the takeover is good or not. On one hand I don't like seeing our resource companies sold to the Chinese on nationalist principle; but on the other hand I have had very poor dealings with Nexen, IMO they're on of the more "science-adverse" companies in the oil sands. So I'm hoping the new Chinese owners will change their corporate culture for the better.

The many and varied costs of Global Warming...

Foundation repair business soars as drought hits homes

As if shriveled crops, dead fish, water rationing and brown lawns aren't bad enough, some residents across the Midwest and South are seeing the drought in their own homes as foundations shift in dried-up soil.

Sometimes they'll even hear the shift.

"We will get calls where homeowners hear a loud pop," John Clark, general manager at Indiana Foundation Service, told NBC News. "They'll explain that they've heard the house move."

Swiss Re report from last year on drought caused property damage...

A hidden risk of climate change: More property damage from drought-induced soil subsidence in Europe

Europe is witnessing a dramatic increase in property damage as a result of soil subsidence. Climate change could magnify those risks, a new Swiss Re publication shows. A new loss model developed by Swiss Re and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) suggests that soil subsidence will worsen and spread in Europe, with some areas seeing a more than 50% rise in future losses.

Lloyd's Insurance post on the Swiss Re report...

Climate change leads to rising subsidence risks in Europe

As our climate continues to change, the risk of property damage from soil subsidence is not only increasing but also spreading to new regions in Europe," says Matt Weber, Head of Property & Specialty Underwriting at Swiss Re.

Swiss Re and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (known as ETH Zurich) have developed a new model to reliably estimate future risks and calculate expected losses from soil subsidence across Europe.

Climate change is likely to cause hotter, sunnier weather with more erratic rainfall, resulting in more droughts, which will increase the risk of subsidence. A prolonged heatwave may bake the ground, creating fissures that can tear apart the foundations of houses, bridges and factories.

It looks like everything above 500 meters is trending near or outside of -2SD. That much melt water can start to have an effect on the THC

Hi Seraph, would you put that in lay-person's terms please? THC I know: I also know it doesn't sound good... :-{

NASA: The Thermohaline Circulation (youtube)

The Great Ocean Conveyor Belt

The oceans are mostly composed of warm salty water near the surface over cold, less salty water in the ocean depths. These two regions don't mix except in certain special areas. The ocean currents, the movement of the ocean in the surface layer, are driven mostly by the wind. In certain areas near the polar oceans, the colder surface water also gets saltier due to evaporation or sea ice formation. In these regions, the surface water becomes dense enough to sink to the ocean depths. This pumping of surface water into the deep ocean forces the deep water to move horizontally until it can find an area on the world where it can rise back to the surface and close the current loop.

-2SD = -2 standard deviations, in other words, a big difference from the average albedo making the ice darker causing it to absorb more sunlight causing it to melt faster. The larger amount of fresh water entering the North Atlantic can disrupt the THC.

I see. Thank you.

Double Uh Oh!

From Arctic Sea Ice Blog; Neven and his band of thoughtful contributors are worth reading in the comments.

Unprecedented Greenland Ice Sheet Surface Melt

This just in from NASA (hat-tip Apocalypse4Real):

Satellites See Unprecedented Greenland Ice Sheet Surface Melt

July 24, 2012: For several days this month, Greenland's surface ice cover melted over a larger area than at any time in more than 30 years of satellite observations. Nearly the entire ice cover of Greenland, from its thin, low-lying coastal edges to its two-mile-thick center, experienced some degree of melting at its surface, according to measurements from three independent satellites analyzed by NASA and university scientists.

Grothar, a frequent commenter on Dr. Jeff Master's blog noted this...

1262. Grothar 1:22 AM GMT on July 25, 2012

It looks like Greenland may get a tropical entity.

That'll add to the melting!

Another chart that needs it's y-axis rescaled...

Great Lakes Water Temperatures At Record Levels

Andrew Freedman, Climate Central

RE: Drought Helps Fracking Foes Build Momentum for Recycling

That is the least of the water / energy worries in some locations:

Power plants may be forced to shut down, and oil and gas production may be threatened.

Our energy system depends on water. About half of the nation’s water withdrawals every day are just for cooling power plants. In addition, the oil and gas industries use tens of millions of gallons a day, injecting water into aging oil fields to improve production, and to free natural gas in shale formations through hydraulic fracturing. Those numbers are not large from a national perspective, but they can be significant locally.

All told, we withdraw more water for the energy sector than for agriculture. Unfortunately, this relationship means that water problems become energy problems that are serious enough to warrant high-level attention.

During the 2008 drought in the Southeast, power plants were within days or weeks of shutting down because of limited water supplies.

(NY Times). The phrase "unintended consequences" comes to mind.

And then there is the issue of increasing warmth of the water creating problems for nukes and coal. Maybe we should consider some alternative. Nah. Something will turn up. Meanwhile, our local utility has voted to sell excess water for fracking vs agriculture while we have a major agriculture threatening drowth in Colorado. It is about the money, of course.

Mexican official: CIA 'manages' drug trade

The US Central Intelligence Agency and other international security forces "don't fight drug traffickers", a spokesman for the Chihuahua state government in northern Mexico has told Al Jazeera, instead "they try to manage the drug trade".

Allegations about official complicity in the drug business are nothing new when they come from activists, professors, campaigners or even former officials. However, an official spokesman for the authorities in one of Mexico's most violent states - one which directly borders Texas - going on the record with such accusations is unique.

"It's like pest control companies, they only control," Guillermo Terrazas Villanueva, the Chihuahua spokesman, told Al Jazeera last month at his office in Juarez. "If you finish off the pests, you are out of a job. If they finish the drug business, they finish their jobs."

Super rich hiding up to $32 trillion offshore

Rich individuals and their families have as much as $32 trillion of hidden financial assets in offshore tax havens, representing up to $280bn in lost income tax revenues, according to research published on Sunday.

The study estimating the extent of global private financial wealth held in offshore accounts - excluding non-financial assets such as real estate, gold, yachts and racehorses - puts the sum at between $21 and $32 trillion.

This amounts to roughly the US and Japanese GDP combined. Roughly 10 million people worldwide have offshore accounts, with 100,000 people owning half of those secreted assets.

"What's shocking is that some of the world's biggest banks are up to their eyeballs in helping their clients evade taxes and shift their wealth offshore," said Christensen.

also http://www.taxjustice.net/cms/front_content.php?idcat=2

and Bust-Out King

Capitalism’s ‘Sacrifice Zones

We are watching these corporate forces which are supra-national … reconfigure the global economy into a form of neo-feudalism. We are rapidly becoming an oligarchic state with an incredibly wealthy class of overlords … [it is called] inverted totalitarianism, it’s not classical totalitarianism, it doesn’t find its expression through a demagogue or a charismatic leader but though the anonymity of the corporate state that purports to pay fealty to electoral politics, the Constitution, to the iconography and language of American patriotism, but internally has seized all levers of American power … as to render the citizen impotent.

and Chris Hedges on Capitalism’s ‘Sacrifice Zones’

BILL MOYERS: This is a tough book. It's not dispatches from Disneyworld. It paints a very stark portrait of poverty, despair, destructive behavior. What makes you think people want to read that sort of thing these days?

CHRIS HEDGES: That wasn't a question that Joe Sacco and I ever asked. It's absolutely imperative that we begin to understand what unfettered, unregulated capitalism does, the violence of that system, which is portrayed in all of the places that we visited.

These are sacrifice zones, areas that have been destroyed for quarterly profit. And we're talking about environmentally destroyed, communities destroyed, human beings destroyed, families destroyed. And because there are no impediments left, these sacrifice zones are just going to spread outward.

BILL MOYERS: What do you mean, there are no impediments left?

CHRIS HEDGES: There's no way to control corporate power. The system has broken down, whether it's Democrat or Republican. And because of that, we've all become commodities. Just as the natural world has become a commodity that is being exploited until it is exhausted, or it collapses.

ie. Capitalism's Sacrifice Zones. Caught this one Friday night on the tube. I am totally blown away by Moyer's choice of topics/interviewees (Matt Taibbi, Shelia Bair, etc) and it has become one of my favorite activities on Friday evenings. I know, pathetic :)

All of the programs are viewable online. A must see (I know there are a few greenies on here!) is Vandan Shiva on GMOs in the context of the global sociopolitical climate: http://billmoyers.com/episode/full-show-banking-on-greed/

Possibly the best show on TV. Moyers just keeps on ticking.

The Edward R Murrow or Walter Cronkite of our time.

Re: Sacrifice Zones - ... there are no impediments left

FBI Security to Privatize Criminal Justice


In light of the increasing desire of governmental agencies to contract with private entities to perform administration of criminal justice functions, the FBI sought and obtained approval from the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) to permit such privatization of traditional law enforcement functions under certain controlled circumstances.

A government agency may privatize functions traditionally performed by criminal justice agencies (or noncriminal justice agencies acting under a management control agreement), subject to the terms of this Security Addendum.

... what could possibly go wrong?


The Weaponization of Economic Theory

The result is a doctrine of financial war not only against labor but also against industry and government. Gaining the financial power to indebt economies at increasing speed, the banking and financial sector is siphoning resources away from the real economy. Its business plan is not based on employing labor to expand output, but simply to transfer as much of the existing flow of revenue as possible into its own hands, by capitalizing all such revenue into interest payments, on loans collateralized and pledged to creditors.


It is warfare.


Images... lots of galleries
Camden Abandoned

The world is closer to a food crisis than most people realise

Welcome to the new geopolitics of food scarcity. As food supplies tighten, we are moving into a new food era, one in which it is every country for itself.

The world is in serious trouble on the food front. But there is little evidence that political leaders have yet grasped the magnitude of what is happening. The progress in reducing hunger in recent decades has been reversed. Unless we move quickly to adopt new population, energy, and water policies, the goal of eradicating hunger will remain just that.

From the article:

Not only is the current food situation deteriorating, but so is the global food system itself. We saw early signs of the unraveling in 2008 following an abrupt doubling of world grain prices. As world food prices climbed, exporting countries began restricting grain exports to keep their domestic food prices down. In response, governments of importing countries panicked. Some of them turned to buying or leasing land in other countries on which to produce food for themselves.

Welcome to the new geopolitics of food scarcity. As food supplies tighten, we are moving into a new food era, one in which it is every country for itself.

Regarding consumers in food and/or (net) energy exporting countries, versus consumers in food and/or energy (net) importing countries, and regarding consumers in developed versus developing countries, as I have occasionally opined, some consumers, to borrow a phrase from "Animal Farm," are more equal than others.

I estimate that there are about 157 (net) oil importing countries in the world. I estimate that about one-half of the total post-2005 supply of Available CNE (Cumulative Net Exports) may have already been consumed.

Available CNE = The total estimated post-2005 supply of Global CNE that will be available to importers other than China & India.

U.S. Drought Could Cause Global Unrest

Twice in the last five years, rising food prices triggered global waves of social unrest. With drought baking U.S. crops, another round of soaring, society-straining price spikes may happen in coming months.

According to researchers from the New England Complex Systems Institute, commodity speculation — investors betting on food prices — will amplify the drought’s market signals, creating a new food bubble and the crises that follow.

According to Bar-Yam, excessive speculation acts as an amplifier, exaggerating whatever signal the market receives. Left alone, a highly speculative market would naturally experience boom-and-bust cycles, but this summer’s drought-precipitated surge in food prices will accelerate the next bubble’s formation.

Research Shows Chemical and Economic Feasibility for Capturing Carbon Dioxide Directly from Air

In a detailed economic feasibility study, the researchers projected that a CO2 removal unit the size of an ocean shipping container could extract approximately a thousand tons of the gas per year with operating costs of approximately $100 per ton. The researchers also reported on advances in adsorbent materials for selectively capturing carbon dioxide.

“Even if we removed CO2 from all the flue gas, we’d still only get a portion of the carbon dioxide emitted each year,” noted David Sholl, a professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering. “If we want to make deep cuts in emissions, we’ll have to do more – and air capture is one option for doing that.”

In its economic analysis, Sholl’s team considered all of the energy that would have to be put into the capture process. The cost estimates did not include the capital cost of establishing the capture facilities because the technology is still too new for reliable projections.

Working out the cost in terms of $ per ton doesn't tell me much. How much energy does it take per ton? If this energy comes from a fossil fuel source, or uses renewable energy that is replaced with fossil fuels, is there a net release or absorption of CO2?

The big picture is that the ancient solar energy was stored in the carbon bonds of the fossil fuel, and in releasing that energy we release the carbon. I am always skeptical of schemes that say we can bind that carbon back up again without putting similar amounts of energy back into the process. And if it doesn't require as much energy to bind the carbon, then will it be as stable long term? Free rides seem to be rather rare in the world.

The article didn't say what form of CO2 was produced by their device but my guess is that it would be a relatively pure stream of CO2 in gaseous form. Safely storing this gas would be an additional, non-trivial and likely energy intensive process. Indeed, the developers seemed more focused on using their device to provide a source of CO2 for industrial processes than on reducing CO2 levels in the atmosphere.

You're right, I misread what they were proposing - this is just to separate out the CO2, not to do anything with it.

Pulling CO2 from air vital, but lower-cost technology a stumbling block so far: researchers

Emerging techniques to pull carbon dioxide from the air and store it away to stabilize the climate may become increasingly important as the planet tips into a state of potentially dangerous warming, researchers from Columbia University's Earth Institute argue in a paper out this week.

The paper stands in contrast to a report put out last year by the American Physical Society, which flatly states that direct air capture of CO2 "is not currently an economically viable approach to mitigating climate change."

With Warming, Peril Underlies Road to Alaska

... today the ALCAN [Alaska Highway] faces challenges that could not have been predicted when it was built. By far the biggest is permafrost, the permanently frozen ground that underlies much of the road.

As the climate warms, stretches of permafrost are no longer permanent. They are melting — leaving pavement with cracks, turning asphalt into washboard and otherwise threatening the stability of the road.

On Clark's Yes-for-a-Price Pipeline Conditions

BC government's five provisos include weak no-brainers and faulty revenue claims.

Robyn Allan, The Tyee

After much attention last week as to what Premier Christy Clark might or might not say about the government's position on Northern Gateway, she doesn't say anything at all. Instead her conditions for crude oil pipelines in our province were delivered by the Environment Minister Terry Lake and Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Minister Mary Polak.

It should have been a "no" to the transport of heavy oil through B.C.'s land and West Coast waters because it's not in the interest of B.C.'s, or Canada's, long term economic growth, environmental protection or energy security. Instead we are presented with a list of weak conditions that telegraph "yes-for-a-price."

Thank You for Calling Me 'Alarmist'

Faced with Northern Gateway pipeline, no siren can be sounded too loudly.

Rafe Mair, The Tyee

The "liar" epithet cannot be taken seriously coming from a staunch and uninformed oil man. But I think "alarmist" demands a response.

I plead guilty to the plain meaning of that word. I have indeed been ringing the tocsin against the Enbridge pipeline since its conception. I hope I've done it with some success, for British Columbians have every right to be as alarmed as hell. Around 1,100 kilometres of pipeline through the Rockies, Coast Range and the Great Bear Rainforest over 1,000+ rivers and streams should be enough to scare the liver out of any who love this province. I'll go further on this point in a moment.

How little leaks can become big oil spills

Mark Hume, The Globe and Mail

A federal official who has investigated major pipeline oil spills in Canada – and who won’t be named because he spoke without getting approval from media handlers in Ottawa – says those problems are especially challenging in British Columbia.

That’s not the only difficulty in crossing mountainous B.C.

“In hilly terrain, there is also the danger of siphoning. The momentum of the oil on the downhill slope can pull the oil in the previous uphill slope up over the hill and down the other side, similar to siphoning gas out of a car’s gas tank. This increases the amount of oil spilled out of the break. This can also confuse the [computer control] system,” he says.

The computer monitoring system, he explains, measures the flow between two points – for example, two valves on either side of a hill. If a rupture occurs between those valves, and siphoning starts, the computer won’t immediately detect the leak, because oil is still flowing past both valves. So the oil company unwittingly pumps more oil down the ruptured line and out the crack.

And finally...

Hockey all-stars oppose Northern Gateway
Scott Niedermayer and Mike Richter speaking up against Northern Gateway!

How is CNOOC going to get that bitumen to China?

As a hockey player and a liberal pinko commie I do appreciate Niedermayer and Richter's concern for environmental matters and trying to somehow get involved.

Also love how their former career choice kind of blows up the stereotype of "them tree huggers" being a bunch of kumbaya singing weenies...

NHL All-Stars. Real tough guys.

Heh, looks like Christy Clark took a look at her polling numbers.

And my best guess for CNOOC getting their bitumen to China is a combination of railcars and the likely twinned trans-mountain pipeline to Vancouver.

"Heh, looks like Christy Clark took a look at her polling numbers."

Yup, she's probably left it too late though. That said...

Premiers' quarrel over resource revenue threatens to scuttle pipeline

A standoff between premiers has left the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline in peril, with Alberta Premier Alison Redford saying she won’t share any resource revenue and B.C. premier Christy Clark saying she’ll block the project without more cash.

Speaking Tuesday morning at an annual pancake breakfast at the Alberta legislature, Ms. Redford rebuffed B.C.’s day-old demand that more money – an unspecified “fair share” – be included if it’s to support the proposed $6-billion pipeline, which would carry Alberta oil to the B.C. coast for shipment to Asia.

“We will not share royalties, and I’ve seen nothing else proposed, and would not be prepared to consider anything else at this point in time,” the Alberta premier said.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark said she was taken aback by the comments, and repeated that Northern Gateway won’t go through without a slice of royalties. "If Alberta is not willing to even sit down and talk, then it stops here," Ms. Clark vowed.

awes/osc - There is actually a way for China to benefit via oil imports as a result of their Canadian oil reserves w/o the pipeline being built. Sounds complicated at first but not really. It's called a paper swap. China buys a contract to purchase oil from an exporter that is selling to the US. China could ship that oil to their country or trade the rights to that oil to a US refiner. Then China trades rights to that oil to a US refiner who, in turn, gets rights to the Canadian/Chinese oil. Oil that can be easy shipped now. And even more easily when the Canadian/Gulf Coast pipeline is eventually completed...as it will certainly be IMHO.

Such a paper swap was done between Japan and the US long ago with North Slope crude. It's illegal to sell oil produced from federal leases but it can be swapped. The motivation behind the Japan/US deal was to save transportation costs: the Japanese purchased oil was closer to US refineries and the NS oil was closer to Japanese refineries.

A similar trade by China would have a different incentive. Once China locks up different oil export sources (as they've been doing for more than 10 years) they are no longer available to US refiners. If the US refiners don't do the trade they lose access to oil which they formally did have available to them. To restore that access they have to make a trade with the Chinese that is mutually acceptable. What terms? I wouldn't try to speculate...too many variables that can change over time. But at the end of the day the Golden (or Black) Rule will dominate IMHO: he that owns the Gold (Black) will .... That Canadian oil may be landlocked but the Chinese will still own it and thus have much more leverage than a US refiner that doesn't have any rights to it.

And an even simpler approach (that may not be practical until we truly do start having serious supply problems): Chinese/Canadian oil is pipelined to the Gulf Coast, loaded onto tankers and shipped to China. Though it may pass thru the US the oil will always remain the property of China. No different than an Air France jet landing in the US. The pipeline doesn't care who owns the oil or where it ends up: they make money shipping oil...that's all they care about. Granted it would take some extreme market conditions for this to develop IMHO. But who can predict the future?

At least I give credit to the BC and Alberta politicians: they've given up the charade that the dispute has anything to do with protecting the environment and native rights. It's all about the money. And I have no doubts the Native people will get fully behind the pipeline project...once their price is met.

At least I give credit to the BC and Alberta politicians: they've given up the charade that the dispute has anything to do with protecting the environment and native rights. It's all about the money. And I have no doubts the Native people will get fully behind the pipeline project...once their price is met.

*BINGO!* You're right. It's all about the money. If there is enough money in the pot for them, the issues seem to magically disappear. The problem is that the BC politicians seem to think the pot is infinitely big.

When we were drilling wells in NE BC, the crews building the lease roads always seemed to be running into Indian graveyards and having to stop. The solution was simple - we hired the local Indian construction companies. They never ran into Indian graveyards because, as they claimed, they knew where they all were. They actually did a really good job building the roads, so it didn't make any difference to us whether it was a White or Indian company. Problem solved.

Unbeknowst to many of the Indian supporters and even the Indians, we actually wanted to hire Indian workers wherever possible. They lived there, knew the area, and there were no relocation expenses. We really just wanted them to firm up their education with a technical school diploma, and show up for work on time sober every day. If they did that, they were way ahead of the White workers who were more likely to have a hard drug problem.

Rocky - Speaking of unintended consequences: A while back I mentioned the anticipated shortage of gravel for roads and drill sites in N. Dakota. So a company shipped 70,000 8'X8' wooden pallets up there. Just chatted with one of the owners: losing their butts big time. Instead of the wet spring they assumed would drive demand for their locations boards it's been unusually dry. Boards are just sitting there collecting no rental payments. See...even the oil patch is taking some hits from AGW. LOL.

It should be noted that TCP is building an NG pipeline from NE B.C. to Kitimat now. This will be largely the same path that the Northern Gateway line would follow. I wonder if an NG pipeline can be converted to an oil pipeline?

Also, the existing oil pipeline from Edmonton to Vancouver is set to expand by late 2013, and start sending oil to Asia (China).

Note, this oil pipeline through the mountains has been operating for 59 years without any major accident. So, why shouldn't the Northern Gateway pipeline be able to operate without incident for just as long?

I wonder if an NG pipeline can be converted to an oil pipeline?

Yes it can be converted. This is how TransCanada got into the oil pipeline business. They started off as an NG pipeline company but have a number of underused pipelines because of the decline in Canadian NG production. They have been converting these to oil pipelines and have become a major oil pipeline company as well as an NG company.

Note, this oil pipeline through the mountains has been operating for 59 years without any major accident. So, why shouldn't the Northern Gateway pipeline be able to operate without incident for just as long?

Good point. The terrain the Northern Gateway Pipeline would run through is less extreme, less unstable, and less environmentally sensitive than much of the terrain the TransMountain Pipeline already runs through. People tend to forget how hard the railways were to construct along the same route, and how many railway workers were killed there.

Citizen scientists needed for SF State's 'ZomBee Watch'

The San Francisco State University researchers who accidentally discovered "zombie-like" bees infected with a deadly fly parasite want people across the United States and Canada to look for similar bees in their own backyards.

After being parasitized by the Apocephalus borealis fly, the "zombees" abandon their hives and congregate near outside lights, moving in increasingly erratic circles before dying. The phenomenon was first discovered on the SF State campus by Hafernik and colleagues, and reported last year in the research journal PLoS ONE.

With industrialized bee keeping practices this, along with a whole host of other parasites and diseases has probably already spread across the US.

I observed similar behavior last September. Honey bees would swarm and circle around my porch light in the wee hours of the morning. The bees appeared unhealthy and likely died. Although I am well read with regard to honeybees, I had no idea of this phenomenon, and if it happens again this year I will observe them much more closely and might be participating in the ZomBee Watch!

Researchers discover that 'red tide' species is deadlier than first thought

A University of Connecticut researcher and his team have discovered that a species of tiny aquatic organism prominent in harmful algal blooms sometimes called "red tide" is even deadlier than first thought, with potential consequences for entire marine food chains.

... which may be a problem if iron fertilization geo-engineering is attempted ...

Once thought to be a problem plaguing only the coast, causing fisheries closures and wildlife deaths, the research shows that open sea algae populations also occasionally bloom into a toxic soup.

The scientists found toxin-producing algae almost everywhere they looked within open regions of the Pacific Ocean. The scientists also detected domoic acid, the toxin that the algae produces. The toxicity exploded whenever iron was added to the water, producing a population boom.

"They grew like a fury," said UCSC ocean scientist Mary Silver, who designed the research. "They are really responsive to iron."


... also, it likes the heat.

Tomgram: William deBuys, The West in Flames

... More than scenery is at stake, more even than the stability of soils, ecosystems, and watersheds: the forests of the western United States account for 20% to 40% of total U.S. carbon sequestration. At some point, as western forests succumb to the ills of climate change, they will become a net releaser of atmospheric carbon, rather than one of the planet’s principle means of storing it.

... More generally, when forest ecologists compare notes across continents and biomes, they find accelerating tree mortality from Zimbabwe to Alaska, Australia to Spain. The most common cause appears to be heat stress arising from climate change, along with its sidekick, drought, which often results when evaporation gets a boost

While it is true that high temperature anomalies are increasing due to climate change (the now famous "loaded dice"), it seems unlikely that "heat stress" and drought are the universal cause of increased tree mortality over the entire globe. Trees that are decades if not centuries old will most certainly have seen previous episodes of prolonged drought, why would they so easily succumb now?

Much more likely is the idea that increased stress from high levels of pollution in the atmosphere is making the trees much more susceptible to drought, disease, and infestation than they would have been in centuries past.

Regular readers will probably already be familiar with the Wit's End blog:

Either way, if the forests of the world have flipped from being carbon sinks to being a net carbon source then we are well and truly fried. Positive feedbacks are a bee-atch, and all the happy talk in the world about "2deg C" and "350ppm" isn't going to change that.


Don't forget the transportation of pests all over the world. All the ash trees in North America will soon be gone thanks to the Emerald Ash Borer - not a small number of trees and that certainly won't help.

On the other hand the whole continent will probably soon be covered by Kudzu.

If the Kudzu doesn't win, the Multiflora Rose will. They are taking over around here and it's no fun to cut them down. At least, the roses make great hedges and smell nice for a few weeks in the spring...

E. Swanson

Around here (Pennsylvania) the Multiflora Rose battle was lost before I was born. Kudzu isn't here yet, but it's only a matter of time.

In Sweden we have problems with Heracleum mantegazzianum


They can be killed, but it is hard work. But I will not give up on my local turf.

Good point, but it still stands to reason that healthy, un-poisoned trees (not to mention healthy ecosystems) would not be nearly as vulnerable to mass infestation. Witness the Pine Bark Beetle, which AFAIK is native to the forests that are now being devastated in the West.


A lecture at Simon Fraser University. Worth watching to understand how, as Robyn Allan puts it, Enbridge has "rigged the assumptions" about the economic benefits of Northern Gateway.

Economist Robyn Allan uses oil industry reports to argue case against pipeline

This video captures economist Robyn Allan's economic assesment of the Northern Gateway project.

In short, she argues that even if you follow Enbridge's own reports, the pipeline makes little economic sense. For full analysis, see also these Tyee stories, here and here. And this is her open letter to Premier Clark urging her goverment to oppose the pipeline on economic grounds.

Carbon Talks is a partnership with Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue, in collaboration with SFU’s Beedie School of Business, the School for Public Policy and the School for International Studies. Their stated goal is to advance Canadian global competitiveness by shifting to a low-carbon economy.

The strange case of disappearing Mideast oil shipments: Mideast tanker rates fall to record lows.

Commercial oil tankers rates in the greater Mideast region fell to record lows this week, as oil exports out of the Mideast dwindled considerably. Last week I reported here that a cutback in OPEC oil shipments was ongoing, and that we had yet to see just how far OPEC was planning on reducing exports (OPEC’s exports fall from three month plateau on Saudi export cutback, reduced Chinese purchases).

While some say falling demand from oil importing nations is behind the fall in OPEC exports, which may only be part of the disappearing act. It was thought that Iran used a number of oil tankers as a kind of floating storage for oil they couldn't sell in the sanctions regime. Now they may be reducing those extra supplies as it becomes clear holding extra oil is not profitable - especially if oil prices are falling. It's also possible that Saudi Arabia increased exports in the March/April period by withdrawing some oil from storage, which also temporarily increased oil shipments and demand for commercial tankers.

Please note that KSA and Kuwait, for example, also operate their own oil tanker fleet - which continue to ship oil whether or not the shipping operation makes any profit.

July 23, 2012

Mideast crude tanker rates slide to record low

Jonathan Saul
William Hardy
LONDON, July 23 (Reuters) - Crude oil tanker earnings on the major Middle East route hit a record low on Monday as a glut of vessels and high bunker fuel costs took their toll on already depressed sentiment.

The world's benchmark VLCC export route from the Middle East Gulf (MEG) to Japan reached W33.72 in the worldscale measure of freight rates, or -$7,243 a day when translated into average earnings, from W33.61 or -$6,963 on Friday and W33.00 or -$3,899 last Monday.

"The VLCC market has gone from bad to worse ... with several factors behind the downfall such as rising bunker prices, plenty of new buildings and dry docked ships and of course the slow trickle of cargoes entering the market," broker Braemar Seascope said.


Oil-Tanker Glut Seen Rising With Returns Near Four-Year Low
By Rob Sheridan - Jul 24, 2012 11:41 AM ET

A glut of the biggest oil tankers in the Persian Gulf expanded, a Bloomberg survey showed, adding to pressure on owners facing returns near the lowest level in at least four years.


40 India nuclear plant workers contaminated

More than 40 workers at a nuclear power station have been exposed to tritium radiation in two separate leaks in the past five weeks, company managers said on Tuesday.

Two of them received radiation doses equivalent to the annual permissible limit, he said, but all those involved have returned to work

... environmental watchdogs have expressed concerns about safety in India, where small-scale industrial accidents due to negligence or poor maintenance are commonplace and regulatory bodies are often under-staffed and under-funded.

"The workers were exposed to radiation from 10 to 25 per cent of the annual limit," Jamb said. "Such minor leakages keep on happening but they cause no harm."

In November 2009, workers at a nuclear plant in southern Karnataka state fell ill after radioactive water contaminated their drinking water.

... just put a little lead foil on your badge and you'll be right as rain.

Satellites see Unprecedented Greenland Ice Sheet Melt

Extent of surface melt over Greenland's ice sheet on July 8, 2012 (left) and July 12, 2012 (right). Measurements from three satellites showed that on July 8, about 40 percent of the ice sheet had undergone thawing at or near the surface. In just a few days, the melting had dramatically accelerated and an estimated 97 percent of the ice sheet surface had thawed by July 12.

Inquiry Sees Chaos in Evacuations After Japan Tsunami

... Mr. Hatamura and his 10-member panel detailed how miscommunication among the nuclear site’s operator — the Tokyo Electric Power Company, or Tepco — local officials, the police and the Japan Self-Defense Forces set off chaos as about 340 patients, most of them elderly, were evacuated from a hospital facility near the plant. Eight patients who spent almost 12 hours on a bus died on board, while about 35 were mistakenly left behind at the hospital for two extra days. By the end of March, 40 patients had died, either from medical complications or from the fatigue of staying at evacuation centers, according to the hospital.

The report also faults Tepco for failing to give most workers dosimeters that would have kept track of their exposure to harmful radiation as they fought to contain meltdowns in the early days of the crisis. Tepco in fact had access to hundreds of dosimeters sent from other nuclear power plants across Japan, but managers failed to put them to use — a sign that the company paid little heed to worker safety, the report said.

Long lines, protests and fights as fuel shortage continues

The fuel crisis continued on Monday throughout the governorates. Several gas stations in cities across the country witnessed altercations between drivers fighting over the limited supply of gas.

Daqahliya saw long lines in front of gas stations and two drivers were injured in a fight when they tried to cut in front of the line.

Only diesel fuel was available in Minya today, where a police officer was wounded in a brawl in front of a gas station.

Dust storms + drought = Dust Bowl 2.0: Arizona hit by back to back dust storms

A dust storm, or haboob, enveloped the greater Phoenix area in a cloud of yellow-gray blowing dust on Saturday night. The dust storms are becoming more frequent. For the second time since Saturday, a dust storm muscled its way into the Valley, just in time for the afternoon commute.


There is a certain poetic justice in Arizona being invaded by the Arab word 'Haboob'. And not only is it Arab but it has 'boob' in the name for extra laughs.

I was thining exactly those 2 things too.

On returning from a family vacation in 2007 when we flew out of Phoenix I heard on the radio that it had just become the nation's 5th largest city (I think it was 5th). It's a city that only exists thanks to the energy of fossil fuels fighting back the realities of the environment in which it exists, and therefore it will not exist for all that much longer (with its population anyway). That environment is only becoming more hostile. The particular combination of factors that put an end to it are interesting but do not change the obvious end result.

Phoenix is built on a 2000 y.o. irrigation system, has roughly 1maf of gravity fed water supply, and uses less energy per capita than most of the rest of the country (not many HDD's).


This is not new, see the cite.

Also, Arizona isn't really neatly encapsulated by the jerks who happen to have stolen our headlines, anymore than CA is really prop 187, or the U.S. is Dubya.

Has the global violence spark ignited? Ethnic violence spreads across NE India: 22 dead, 500 villages burned, 30,000 displaced

Police shot at a roving mob in India’s northeastern state of Assam on Tuesday as security forces struggled to contain ethnic fighting that has killed 22 people and left remote hamlets in flames, forcing tens of thousands from their homes.

It's a 50 year old problem and violence keeps erupting from time to time. Nothing weird about it.

Wheel hub motor concept drives hybrid progress at MTSU

When news broke in 2009 that a former IBM engineer had devised a kit that turns any car into a plug-in hybrid for between $3,000 and $5,000, those interested in going-green technologies took notice and hoped it was more than just a concept. This month, Dr. Charles Perry and his team at Middle Tennessee State University, where he is now a professor, have something to show for the work that has been under way since 2008. Earlier this week, a school news release announced that Perry and team saw gas mileage increase anywhere from 50 to 100 percent on a 1994 Honda station wagon retrofitted with their laboratory prototype plug-in hybrid capability. This is a wheel-hub motor, plug in hybrid kit.

The key element in this gas-saving kit are electric motors in each rear wheel and a large lithium-ion battery, which is also mounted in the rear of the vehicle. The very point of the exercise, said Perry, now a professor in the engineering technology department of the school, has been to demonstrate the feasibility of adding an electrical motor to the rear wheel of the car without changing brakes, bearings, suspension —“anything mechanical.”

Image: http://mtsunews.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Wheel-hub-motor-retrofit-...


Very interesting!

I look forward to reading more about this concept.

If it pans out as a reasonably effective and suitable retrofit to existing cars, how difficult would it be to build these in in new-design cars?

Too much unsprung weight.

Unsprung weight is only an issue regarding handling in performance situations (i.e. it's irrelevant - driving as a sport is a relic of the past). Compare the weight of those wheel motors to live axles on leaf springs.

It's actually a clever concept. It may not fit on every vehicle, but it could work on many common designs. The biggest mechanical issue I see is that some vehicles were not designed to have the torque of forward driving forces applied at that point of the suspension and the geometry may not be appropriate, so it might create some strange handling characteristics. It's not going to break anything since the braking forces are applied there, but that force is in the opposite direction.

The best you could expect of it is to extend the usefulness of sunk investment in existing fossil fuel infrastructure a bit longer, but it does not require the huge energy investment of making a whole new vehicle. On balance I think it is a good idea that should be pursued, while being sober about what it can accomplish. A reasonable government might even subsidize the development and deployment of it. Needless to say, that won't happen.

Tropical plankton invade Arctic waters

For the first time, scientists have identified tropical and subtropical species of marine protozoa living in the Arctic Ocean. Apparently, they traveled thousands of miles on Atlantic currents and ended up above Norway with an unusual—but naturally cyclic—pulse of warm water, not as a direct result of overall warming climate, say the researchers. On the other hand: arctic waters are warming rapidly, and such pulses are predicted to grow as global climate change causes shifts in long-distance currents. Thus, colleagues wonder if the exotic creatures offers a preview of climate-induced changes already overtaking the oceans and land, causing redistributions of species and shifts in ecology.

China Grabs Island, Troops Arrive

On Tuesday, as blustery island winds buffeted palm trees, a new mayor declared Sansha with a population of just 1000 China's newest municipality.

Beijing has created the city administration to oversee not only the rugged outpost, but hundreds of thousands of square kilometres of water, aiming to strengthen its control over disputed — and potentially oil-rich — islands

and China’s Newest City Raises Threat of Conflict in South China Sea

Refinery Status

The following table lists unplanned and planned production outages at U.S. refineries as reported by Dow Jones Newswires. The information is compiled from both official and unofficial refining sources and doesn't purport to be a comprehensive list. ...

Why China pays big premiums for energy companies

China’s state-controlled companies sure know how to make their energy takeovers look compelling.

When Sinopec announced its plan to buy Daylight Energy Ltd. last fall, the Chinese firm offered a whopping 120 per cent premium to the previous day’s closing price. On Monday, CNOOC Ltd. offered Nexen Inc. shareholders a 61 per cent premium over Friday’s closing price.

But look a little bit deeper, and the numbers aren’t as sexy.

... keep in mind that the last three major Chinese bids – for Opti, Daylight and Nexen – were all for companies either in major distress, or had been sputtering for some time. In most cases, they lacked the development funds needed to produce the energy they’d secured in the ground, and for that investors had punished them.

Because China has such deep pockets and can afford these development costs in the long run, the prices paid aren’t as sweet once the vast reserves are taken into account.

Premiers' quarrel over resource revenue threatens to scuttle pipeline

A standoff between premiers has left the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline in peril, with Alberta Premier Alison Redford saying she won’t share any resource revenue and B.C. premier Christy Clark saying she’ll block the project without more cash.

Speaking Tuesday morning at an annual pancake breakfast at the Alberta legislature, Ms. Redford rebuffed B.C.’s day-old demand that more money – an unspecified “fair share” – be included if it’s to support the proposed $6-billion pipeline, which would carry Alberta oil to the B.C. coast for shipment to Asia.

This is interesting, but there's a fundamental problem for Christie Clark here - interprovincial and international pipelines are under Federal Government jurisdiction under the Canadian Constitution. The Federal Government has exclusive control over interprovincial pipelines, and federal laws override any provincial laws concerning them. This was hammered out in the courts long ago.

If Clark objects, the Federal Government can just overrule her. She can yell, she can scream, but she can't stop it if the National Energy Board approves it. The Federal Government considers it a national priority, so most likely the NEB will approve it.