free html hit counter Peak Oil Debunked: December 2005

Wednesday, December 28, 2005


Thermal depolymerization (TDP) is a technique which uses heat and pressure to convert organic waste into crude oil. The process is a favorite of business-as-usual cornucopians who think the US could easily produce 10mbd of oil from landfills and other sources of garbage. To demonstrate the viability of the concept, they point to the Renewable Environmental Solutions (RES) plant in Carthage, Missouri, which is currently producing about 200 barrels of fuel oil per day from turkey offal provided by a ConAgra turkey rendering plant.

The hype surrounding this tiny facility has been way overblown:
When RES opened in 2003, the media and the scientific community hailed the technology as a solution to America's dependence on foreign oil, global warming, contaminated feedstock and landfill shortages. That was just for starters. The New York Times Magazine's 2003 "Year in Ideas" issue cited RES, noting that "the day might yet come when we'll turn everything we don't want into the very stuff that, like it or not, makes our world go around." Scientific American named RES's parent company, Changing World Technologies, to its "list of winners," a prized spot among the top 50 innovators of 2003. Money magazine called Changing World Technologies "the Next Big Thing." MIT Technology Review, Fortune, Fast Company and Business Week were just some of those who weighed in on the technology's potential. And in Discover magazine, a story called "Anything Into Oil" described how the technology could ultimately produce 4 billion barrels of light crude oil a year — roughly half the amount that the United States used in 2001. Investors — including ConAgra, the New York real-estate investment firm Sterling Equities and tire distributor Max Finkelstein — have poured $100 million into Changing World Technologies, according to its 47-year-old CEO, Brian Appel.

Chemistry, it appeared, had caught up with science fiction, recalling the time-traveling DeLorean that runs on garbage scraps in the movie Back to the Future.Source
There is a catch, however. The plant stinks like you can't believe:
But the stench passing over her house these days in Carthage makes her want to gag. "There are really just no words to describe it," she says. "The smell is so horrible." If it makes her think of anything, she says, it's a corpse, rotting in the sun right there on her lawn. The reek sometimes lasts an hour or two. Sometimes it stays all day. "I have vomited in my yard," she says.Source
In fact, the stench from this plant has been so persistent and disgusting that the Governor of Missouri ordered it to shutdown yesterday:
Gov. Blunt orders RES in Carthage to close
Updated: 2005-12-28 17:28:28-06
JEFFERSON CITY Gov. Matt Blunt today ordered the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to temporarily close Renewable Environmental Solutions (RES) Inc., of Carthage until the department reviews the company's operations and gives them the opportunity to determine what additional steps it can take to become compliant with state air quality rules and operate without producing a vile odor.

Blunt also directed DNR to pursue every legal option to ensure the plant is compliant with state clean air laws and to refer any violations to the attorney general for legal action.

"The people of Carthage have endured terrible odors from the plant for too long,” Blunt said. “I want the business to be successful but the concerns of the people who live and work near the plant is more important to me. If left unresolved, this one business will have a negative impact on the region by hurting tourism and job growth. We simply cannot allow one company to bring down an entire community."Source
-- by JD


It's a few days after Christmas, and the peak oilers are already starting to cannibalize each other. You see, the whole peak oil Internet phenomenon runs on red meat, and if there's a lull in the bad news, the believers start to lose interest. It's gotten so bad that there was a guy on yesterday trying to sell his peak oil hideout!

So what we are facing in the short-term is not a shortage of oil -- but rather a shortage of red meat to feed the doomers. This is a grave crisis for the peak oil cottage industry. Rather than resource wars between nations, we are going to see wars between the top peak oil spokesmen, as they ruthlessly stab each other in the back to salvage a share of the ever-dwindling supply of peak oil credibility.

Kunstler is already firing salvos at Ruppert:
I regard the 9/11 conspiracy theories as a fantasy and a distraction from the real problems we face. It is especially unfortunate that they became associated with the Peak Oil issue, and that was obviously a result of Mike Ruppert's elaboration of them in his book Across the Rubicon, which brought discredit to his otherwise good reporting on the global oil situation, and tainted others like myself who regard energy as the crucial geopolitical and economic issue of our time. There is enough confusion in this nation without conflating the real concerns over energy with paranoid fantasies about government plots.Source

-- JD


Freeman Dyson is a great futurist. He conceived of the Dyson sphere (a sphere of solar collectors positioned around the sun to allow an advanced civilization to harvest the sun's energy efficiently). He has also worked on spacecraft driven by nuclear explosions, and developed mathematical ideas about the distant future of mankind (the Omega Point). At the same time, he is a very decent and down-to-earth human being.

Freeman Dyson

In this 2003 interview, he tells why he is an optimist:
You describe yourself as an optimist - why is this?

The reason I'm optimistic is easy to see; it's because I came through the 1930s. I was a teenager in the 1930s, when things were from every point of view much worse than they are today. We had a terrible economic depression, millions of people out of work, much more than now, we had Hitler to deal with, another World War coming up, which we all expected to die in - I didn't expect to survive World War II. We all expected it to be worse than World War I, and World War I was a terrible tragedy for England.

It was really a time to despair - even little things like pollution, England was filthy then compared to what it is now. I remember in London if you put on a clean shirt in the morning it was black by the evening around the collar and the cuffs. The air was filthy, the water was filthy, the Thames was so polluted that nothing could live in it - well, it's all been improved very greatly. It took just fifty years of careful attention to detail - those pollution problems are curable. The present generation has forgotten all that, they seem to think that just because pollution exists, it's a disaster. I would say the opposite, it's an opportunity for doing better.

So there are many reasons, but I think having lived through bad times is the main reason. World War II was bad enough, but it was nothing like as bad as we expected. We had read Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and he starts out with anthrax bombs - well, we expected anthrax bombs, there's nothing new about anthrax. It never happened, so we were lucky.

In all sorts of ways we were lucky; of course England had a better war than many places. But still, it was a tough war and nevertheless we survived, so, having lived through that, I can't take the present problems so seriously. I think none of the present-day problems are as bad as what we faced then.

And you see science and technology as being part of the solution?

It has been, yes, especially if you go to China and countries in Africa. They have a very different view of science because they know they absolutely need it. You can't imagine China in its present state of economic growth without modern technology, and of course China has got enormously more prosperous just in the last ten years. They have a very positive attitude toward technology, including genetic engineering.

The same is true of the people I know in Africa. For them, science really is a necessity of life. They don't have such mixed feelings about it.

Do we have a job to do as scientists here in the rich world, to persuade people that the doomsaying isn't necessarily correct?

Yes - but I don't try to impose my views on everybody. It's quite good to have some people to go around preaching gloom and doom, but I don't happen to agree with them. And I think it's unfair if we try to impose those views on the Chinese and the Africans.Source
-- by JD

Tuesday, December 27, 2005


Doomers often argue population density is bad for oil use, as the population has become denser we need more oil to support the burgeoning population.

As we have discovered in previous posts a great deal of oil use is powering cars, in fact nearly 50%. Therefore it is worth looking in detail at which people use cars, what for and in which areas.

Most car trips are made by people who, in short, don't have access to public transport or can't be bothered to walk. It comes as no surprise that less population density, the less public transport there is. It's also further to walk! True the US style suburbia (which Kunstler hates) is badly planned because it's urban living which requires a car, but this is the exception rather than the rule.

Most car trips are of some length in diverse rural areas. Peak oil is a significant (although not insurmountable) problem is these areas. Highly populated/topologically difficult countries like Japan and Switzerland have less use of cars. We can graphically see car use in cities too. In London as population/land use gets denser, cars progressively become less relevant (click images to englarge).

Travel to work by car, taxi or motorcycle in London

In central London they are irrelevant, although it should be noted that are large percentage of people coming in are from dormitory towns. Driving into a densely populated area is notoriously difficult because of space limitations.


Why people make trips is generally the same in most countries, but their length and by which mode is diverse depending on the nation.


In the UK around half of all trips are shopping (the most popular car trip), personal business and visiting friends. The latter has little effect on the economy, they are merely social calls. The former can, as is, be replaced by the internet. There is no reason these days to have everything other than local/very specialist shops/bars/restaurants/some clothes shops, accessible by walking. Most people could have their (main) goods delivered by electric vans from large (say rail/water served) warehouses located in towns. This has been going on for years in the UK with the delivery of milk. The result would be a massive cut in car/truck traffic, huge environmental benefits, a large cut in oil use, lower costs for retailers and families and more time spent at home, a complete win-win.
-- by Wildwell

Saturday, December 24, 2005


Futuristic farming methods are a popular topic here at POD, and we've previously talked about a number of ways to reduce/eliminate fossil fuel dependence (see

The following article from describes the rapid growth of "factory farming" in Japan:
Vegetable factories take root across Japan


The Asahi Shimbun

We are all used to automobiles, vacuum cleaners and the like being assembled on production lines, but lettuce and tomatoes may take a little getting used to.

Still, factories around Japan are pumping out a lot more farm food than you might think.

And there's good reason for it. For starters, chemicals are not needed because the tightly sealed facilities minimize exposure to harmful bacteria and pests.

Bad weather? Not on the vegetable production line, where light, temperature and water are all meticulously controlled by computer.

It's no wonder that the factories are a fast-growing business for start-ups as well as large companies seeking to take advantage of their dormant real estate.

One such business is Tsuchiura Greenhouse in Tsuchiura, Ibaraki Prefecture.

Visitors are required to don white linen clothes and rubber boots and clean their hands with a sterilizing agent before being led through an air shower that blows away dust.


"Factory farming is one of the most viable ways to save Japanese farming from its ills, such as a lack of new workers to take over from the current farmers and a declining self-sufficiency ratio of food," he says. "It's bound to be a big business in the near future."
-- by JD

Friday, December 23, 2005


A common peak oiler argument is that airlines are the "canary in the coal mine":
In mining lore there is a story about miners placing a canary in the mineshaft to test the safety of its atmosphere. If the bird lives, the air's breathable and you're probably going to be ok. If the bird dies, get out quick. In today's world, the airline industry is that figurative canary in the mineshaft. For those wishing to know where the peak-oil crisis--as it pertains to the economy--will start, I think it is here.Source
The theory is that airlines are more susceptible than other industries to high fuel prices, and we'll know we're in big trouble when the airlines begin to collapse.
Assuming that this is true, it's reassuring to see how healthy this "canary" is. This year has been a record-setting boom year for Boeing and Airbus:
Boeing may be on track to beat 1988 record for jet orders

SEATTLE (AP) — Boeing (BA) has booked 870 net jetliner orders so far this year, which the company says may put it on track to beat a record set in 1988.

Boeing and McDonnell Douglas, who have since merged, booked 877 net orders that year.

The aerospace company, which produces commercial airplanes in Seattle, said Thursday that it may win more orders before the end of the year. That could push its total over the 1988 figure.Source
If the airlines are on their death bed, why are they buying so many new planes?
Check out the chart for Boeing stock:
As you can see, that's hardly the chart of a dying industry. Higher oil prices have led to booming business for Boeing, not collapse. Part of the reason is the increased drive for fuel efficiency:
Overall, Boeing is on track to sell more airplanes than Airbus for the first time in five years, amid strong demand for both companies' offerings. Airlines have been especially keen on the 787 because it promises up to 20% more fuel efficiency than any model on the market today — a key selling point as many airlines struggle to make money amid high fuel prices.Source
This is interesting because it runs counter to the doomer theory that higher fuel prices lead to economic ills and decline. In the case of the aircraft industry, higher fuel prices are stimulating business, and driving new growth.
-- by JD

Thursday, December 22, 2005


The previous item (#192) made me curious about coal under the ocean, so I did some searching. It's interesting that coal was originally called "sea-coal" and was linked with the sea:
It is usually assumed that the term 'sea-coal' reflects the ease with which coal may be gathered on the seashore in some places, giving a hint as to how coal in this island was first discovered and (appropriately) named. The Oxford English Dictionary says: "Possibly in early times the chief source of coal supply may have been the beds exposed by marine denudation on the coast of Northumberland and South Wales." The antiquary, Leland, visiting the north in 1769, used the word 'sea-coal' in a similar sense: "The vaynes of the se-coles be sometyme upon clives [cliffs] of the se, as round about Coket Island."

Sea-coal, as coal washed up by the sea, and recovered from the shore, is current still in local use, referring to fragments collected off the beach into sacks and wheeled away on a bicycle (traditionally) for local use.

Collecting Sea Coal

The process was noted in the 1930s by J.B.Priestley: "Along the coast road between Sunderland and Seaham Harbour, we came upon quite a number of men riding or wheeling bicycles loaded with two or three small sacks of coal. I heard afterwards that these men descend very steep and dangerous cliffs near Seaham Harbour and pick up coal from the shore. They were now going to Sunderland to sell the coal."Source
It turns out that undersea coal mining has a long history, and is widely practiced:
The known submarine areas from which coal is mined at the present time, are Chili, Japan, the East and West Coast of Northern England, under the Firth of Forth in Scotland, on Vancouver Island, in British Columbia on the West Coast and Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia on the East Coast of Canada.Source
China recently joined the club:
Chinanews, Aug. 16 - China's first try of exploiting a seabed coal mine concluded successfully in Shandong's Longkou on August 14. During the operation, mechanized top coal caving technology was adopted for the first time in seabed coal mining, filling the blank in the world undersea mining technologies.

Beizao Coal Mine, a branch of Shandong Longkou Mining Group Company, is the first company in China to exploit undersea coalfields. On June 18, prophase work started at the coalfield with a 4.4 meter thick coal seam and a reserve of 89.2 kilotons, 359.5 meters below the Bohai Sea.Source
These mines can extend quite a distance into the sea:
The workings in these mines extend from a minimum of 0.7 miles to a maximum of 2.2 miles from the shore.

It may be of interest to note that Dominion No. 4 Colliery, recently closed, had penetrated further seaward than any other colliery in the field, the main deeps having reached a distance of 3.6 miles from the shore. It is also of interest to note that the deepest submarine mine in Nova Scotia, or probably anywhere, was, prior to its closure, No. 2 Mine of the Inverness Coal & Railway Company, where nearly 3,000 feet of cover had been reached.Source
Apparently, the longest undersea tunnel ever dug is the Seikan Tunnel (53.85 km) connecting Honshu to Hokkaido in Japan (click to enlarge):

-- by JD

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


Jan-Willem Bats has a great futurist blog called Our Technological Future which focuses on nano, AI, robotics and biotech. The current lead article describes the latest upgrade of Honda's Asimo robot, and links to some mind-blowing movies of Asimo running which I highly recommend.

Today Jan-Willem found an interesting news item in Dutch.

The original article:
Noren vinden gigantische voorraad steenkool
Het Noorse oliebedrijf Statoil beweert dat het onder de Noordzeebodem meer dan 3.000 miljard ton steenkool heeft gevonden. Dat is genoeg om het verbruik in de hele wereld gedurende eeuwen te voldoen. De grootste voorraad steenkool ligt onder een olieveld voor de Noorse kust. Statoil brengt het gebied nu in kaart en onderzoekt hoe het deze vondst kan ontginnen. De Britse oliereus BP schatte 's werelds toegankelijke steenkoolreserves onlangs nog op 900 miljard ton.Source
Here's a machine translation (roughly corrected with Jan-Willem's help):
Noren find huge stock coal
The Norwegian oil company Statoil claims that it under the North sea floor than 3,000 billion tons more has found coal. That is enough satisfy the usage in the complete world during centuries.
The largest stock coal lies under an oil field for the Norwegian coast. Statoil now map the area and examine how it can develop this find. The British oil giant BP recently still valued worldly accessible coal reserves on 900 billion ton.
Update:Thanks to popmonkey for finding a confirmation of this story in the English media:
Norway Has Vast, Inaccessible Seabed Coal – Statoil

NORWAY: December 21, 2005

OSLO - Vast coal reserves beneath the seabed off Norway could supply world demand for centuries if scientists ever found ways to tap the deposits, an official at Norwegian oil and gas group Statoil said on Tuesday.

If the coal were ever exploited, Norway might become for coal what Saudi Arabia is to oil, said Olav Kaarstad, an energy adviser at Statoil who oversaw a review of geological records from 600 wells drilled off Norway.

"We estimate that there are three trillion tonnes of coal off Norway," he told Reuters.

The International Energy Agency reckons that the world's economically recoverable coal reserves are about one trillion tonnes, or about 200 years of production at current rates.

"Of course the coal off Norway is terribly inaccessible. None of the resources are economically retrievable with today's technology," Kaarstad said.Source
-- by JD


We've discussed of the importance of developing space to ensure long-term industrial sustainability and continued prosperity. To be clear, this isn't an immediate solution to solve economic problems caused primarily by oil depletion, nor is it a long-term plan to one day get civilisation back on its feet following some fantasy apocalyptic oil disaster. It's a way to ensure new economic growth and true sustainability in the near term, probably within the next couple of decades, possibly even sooner. So it won’t prevent the problems of peak oil, but it will trigger economic recovery shortly thereafter.

The idea is basically that the industrialisation of space could end the peak oil recession (depression?) in a similar way that the industrialised military movement for World War II was the catalyst for the end of the 1930's depression. But assuming that humanity can wake up to the urgency of the need for space development, how exactly are we supposed to make it happen? I can hear the sceptics: “Progress lately has been less then impressive, we are looking down the barrel of an energy and economic crisis, and now we are supposed to set up industrial processes in space to ensure long term survival? HOW!?”

Here are a few ideas on how to encourage space industrialisation:

1) We re-prioritise our purpose in space.
To date, the vast majority of space missions have essentially served two purposes: science, and political grandstanding. Both of these are important and have their place. Many important and useful scientific discoveries have been made, and many technological achievements have come about thanks to some grandiose promises from politicians. However it's time to get serious about our future in space and focus all of our space related efforts towards providing a long-term future for humanity. We can think about awe-inspiring manned missions to Mars later, we can even hold off learning more about the solar system – after all, it's not going anywhere for a long while. Right now though, we need to focus on keeping advanced civilisation prosperous, and that won’t happen by wasting efforts on political statements in space, or even by focusing on learning about the galaxy around us purely for science's sake. It will happen by establishing space-based facilities to harvest resources from space. By building a new economic infrastructure not based on pulling resources out of the ground, but by pulling them out of the sky.

2) Space needs to be largely privatised.

Treating space development as a pseudo military endeavour is not the way to encourage growth. Government space agencies aren't set-up to be profit spinners. For prosperous economic sustainable development, space must be developed largely by the private sector. The nature of the free market means that private enterprise could achieve space projects far more cost effectively them government agencies. All that is needed is investment in the initial infrastructure.

3) Governments need to provide incentives to encourage private enterprise.
A recent example of steps in the right direction was the Ansari X-Prize, which resulted in the winning team, Scaled Composites, scoring a deal to build space craft for the first commercial space tourism enterprise, Virgin Galactic. Another X-Prize competition with more prize money should encourage further breakthroughs, and NASA is following the innovation prize concept. Here’s a thorough statement by Molly Macauley, a senior fellow at Resources for the Future, on encouraging innovation through prizes to encourage growth in both the private sector and in NASA. The following quote from the article demonstrates the importance innovation prizes had in establishing the aerospace industry:

Another notable and frequent use of prizes - and much of the inspiration for the X-prize -- was in the early history of aviation. Between roughly 1908 and 1915, the heyday of privately sponsored competitions for distance, elevation, and speed jumpstarted the aviation industry. Three dozen or so individual prizes during this period - at roughly the rate of four or more annually - fostered innovations that decidedly gave birth to the industry.

Innovation prizes, as well as possible tax incentives, can greatly help grow the fledgling space industrialisation process.

4) Governments should make key areas of knowledge public domain.
Government space agencies will certainly play an important role in industrialising space. The world’s space agencies all have important plans of their own for the future, but also have valuable knowledge and technical know-how from years of experience that would be of considerable benefit to growth in the private sector. A huge challenge for the private sector is overcoming problems that government agencies have long since solved. Sharing information would mean that private enterprises would not have to reinvent the wheel, which would go a long way towards opening up space for industrialisation.

A more specific explanation of what industrialising space will entail will be covered in part two of this post, however for a really detailed and explanatory analysis of the plan for the private sector to harvest resources from space and create a new industry, check out PERMANENT. (Projects to Employ Resources of the Moon and Asteroids Near Earth in the Near Term). From their site:

We can do this NOW with present-day technology and a philanthropic investor
All that's necessary is a minimal amount of initial, reusable infrastructure to be designed in coordination, manufactured, launched and emplaced in the remote reaches of space to bring the first asteroidal and/or lunar materials to high Earth orbit. From that point on, more than sufficient revenues will come in, the infrastructure can be expanded, risks are lowered, and the payback times shorten dramatically for additional ventures.
The key is getting the first "seed" industry going.

Industrialising space isn't science fiction. It's completely possible right now with current technology and can be done with limited human space flight, confined mostly to Earth orbit. Most importantly, it offers the best post peak oil potential for maintaining and growing advanced civilisation. The only thing unrealistic about space industrialism is people's limited perceptions of it.

Debunking doomer concepts
The concept of post peak economic growth through space industrialism debunks several popular doomer concepts, or at least amends them with optimistic outcomes. There are two important ones that I'd like to address.

The first is a statistic that is popular with many doomers: “One in six U.S. jobs are related to the auto industry. When the auto industry crashes, so does the economy.” Perhaps this will be true, perhaps not, but it certainly does not account for the possibility of other industries replacing these jobs in a post peak economic recovery. If space industrialism is embraced as a source of economic recovery, especially if the industry begins pre peak oil, then maybe the statistic will be one in six jobs are related to the space industry? And no, I'm not fantasising about one in six people living up there with captain Kirk, I'm talking about a thriving new source of employment through new economic growth. The post peak space industry won't consist mostly of astronauts and “rocket scientists” but of an extensive range of professionals covering a diverse range of disciplines such as engineers, construction workers, human resource officers, mining equipment specialists, accountants, public relations experts, project managers etc as well as a host of jobs that nobody has even imagined yet. An entire new industry with the potential breadth that space offers would offer a broad and eclectic range of job opportunities to everyday people living everyday lives here on Earth. These will be similar kinds of everyday jobs that the auto industry currently offers. The death of oil dependant industries, especially the auto industry, would likely mean economic recession. But these industries and the jobs they once offered will eventually be replaced by something else, and that something is likely to be the space industry.

Another doomer concept that space industrialism debunks is the shortsighted idea that goes something like: “For well over one hundred years civilisation has been entirely based on an oil infrastructure. In all this time with all the technology developed, we still haven't made any changes at all to our underlying oil-based infrastructure, and we won't be able to change this ancient infrastructure in a hurry.” It is true that it will indeed take a long time to make a transition to a new infrastructure. But unbeknown to most people (because they disregard the potential of space as mere science fiction), we have actually been making the transition to a new infrastructure for close to a century now. If wide-scale space industrialism is to be the bases of our infrastructure for the future, then we can consider a very large portion of the past 70 or so years as efforts towards making a transition towards our future infrastructure, even if we weren't consciously striving for this transition at the time. We can consider all of the considerable technological developments needed for the space industry as steps towards our future infrastructure. From the earliest developments in flight and aerospace, through to the latest advances in electrical engineering, it all is a necessary part of our transition. The transition to the new infrastructure also includes some of the considerable advances made in parts of the old infrastructure; for example advanced mining techniques employed today throughout the world will be crucial in cost effectively mining the same or similar resources in new environments. Doomers frequently argue that we don't have enough time to make a transition. They aren't seeing that we've unconsciously been making the transition for a very long time.

Peak oil will not be the end of economics, but an economic transformation where current jobs become obsolete to later be replaced by new jobs in new industries. Space-based resources are the sustainable infrastructure of the near future, and it's an infrastructure that we've naturally been moving towards since the very beginnings of the current infrastructure.
-- by Omnitir

Monday, December 19, 2005


Just a little over a month ago Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R - MD) wowed everybody at the ASPO USA Peak Oil Conference with his heartfelt defense of future generations. Here's Stuart's star-struck report from the Oil Drum (I'll quote it all so you can get the full emotional impact):
Roscoe Bartlett
Next came Roscoe Bartlett ("I'm a conservative Republican but I try not to be an idiot"). Roscoe didn't tell me anything I didn't know, but he said it so well that I don't mind admitting I was in tears by the time he stepped down amidst a standing ovation. So was Dave, just to prove I wasn't the only girlie-man in the audience.

The gist of his presentation was that we cannot continue growing exponentially in a finite system, and we should not try and "fill the gap" between post-conventional-oil-peak supply and demand, because the higher we manage to get supply by the time we do peak in all liquid fuels, the worse we as a civilization are going to crash afterwards. We need to figure out how to have a high standard of living while using less and less energy. We must be focussed on how to move to renewables as quickly as possible before we terminally mess up the planet. He opposes drilling in ANWR - he's been there and he doesn't think the environmental impact will be that bad, but he doesn't think when we have such tiny reserves as a nation that it makes any sense to use them up as fast as we can. He uses as a running example the contrast between Easter Island (where the inhabitants of a fascinating civilization ended up "living in caves and eating rats and each other"), and the Apollo 13 mission where by acutely careful energy and resource rationing and cooperation, the astronauts managed to eke things out and get home safely.
What kind of world are we leaving for our grandchildren and greatchildren? What will they say about us - what terrible people we were that we used up this rich endowment in such a short time?
I think what is so incredibly inspiring about Roscoe is that he's speaking his truth straight from the heart without the slightest concern about whether anyone's going to approve or not. These things desperately need saying, and he's going to say them and damn the short-term consequences. The normal slippery politician spin-shit is utterly missing from the man. He's a hero, or at least he's now mine.
Yah, that Roscoe's really something. The real deal, sniff sniff. Until today when he voted to drill ANWR.

Here's the report from AP:
House lawmakers opened the way for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as one of their last acts of an all-night session Monday bringing their legislative year to a close. [...] The ANWR provision was attached to a major defense bill, forcing many opponents of oil and gas exploration in the barren northern Alaska range to vote for it. The bill, passed 308-106, also included money for hurricane relief and bird flu preventive measures.Source
And here's Roscoe's 'Yea' vote.

Aren't politicians a bunch of filthy double-talking swine? Hey Roscoe, here's a little message for you from our great-grandchildren:

-- by JD

Sunday, December 18, 2005


Continuing from the previous article, it appears that Stevens and Frist will attach the ANWR drilling provisions to the defense bill, which also contains money for Katrina victims and LIHEAP (Low Income Energy Assistance Program).Source

Here's Feinstein's comment:
This is a brazen attempt by the Republican leadership to hold funding for our troops and relief for Hurricane Katrina victims hostage to a misguided effort to open up the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.Source
Here's McCain's comment:
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called Stevens' effort "disgusting" and couldn't say how he'd vote on the combined bill.

"I think it's disgraceful that I have to be put in that position," McCain, a drilling opponent, told the Washington Post.Source
The usual status quo brown-nosers can almost smell the gasoline fumes already. George Will says opposition to drilling ANWR is just a cover for collectivism:
A quarter of a century of this tactic applied to ANWR is about 24 years too many. If geologists were to decide that there were only three thimbles of oil beneath area 1002, there would still be something to be said for going down to get them, just to prove that this nation cannot be forever paralyzed by people wielding environmentalism as a cover for collectivism.Source
FOX News has a "common-sense" piece by shills from the Heritage Foundation refuting all that environmentalism bunk about ANWR:
Drilling for oil in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge makes so much sense, it's no wonder opponents have to twist the facts to turn it into a controversy.

We're talking about 10 billion barrels of domestic oil located in an area with a proven track record for environmentally responsible drilling. Yet a host of tall tales from environmental activists and like-minded journalists has made it a tough fight in Washington.

Congress is currently deciding whether to add ANWR drilling to the defense appropriations bill. Given the continued high oil prices and political turmoil in many oil-producing nations, now might be the best chance to get ANWR done. But it will happen only if the ANWR myths are exposed. Here are several:

ANWR Drilling Would Harm Alaska's Environment...

Oil Wells Would Despoil One Of The Few Remaining Pristine Places...

Drilling Is Incompatible With The Purpose Of National Wildlife Refuges...

Oil Development Harms Local Wildlife...

The Caribou Herds Will be Devastated...

Alaskans Oppose ANWR Drilling...Source
Personally I couldn't give a rat's ass about the caribou or the pristine tundra in ANWR. In fact, FOX News is probably right that the impact of drilling will be pretty minimal (although the impact of burning all that oil certainly won't be good for the Gulf Coast). I'm opposed to drilling ANWR because it's the last big chunk of domestic oil in the U.S., and when it's gone, there ain't no more. The Republicans are trying to paint ANWR as a solution for energy independence, but it clearly isn't. When they get done shooting up ANWR, the U.S. will be just as dependent as before, except all their domestic oil will be gone forever.

Of course, that's just where "they" want America to be 20 years from now. An abject petroleum junky, without a drop on her own soil. Military power is completely incompatible with such a state-of-affairs, and America is sleepwalking into a cunning trap. It works like this: bide your time, and let the U.S. run out of oil, while it cheerfully increases its hog-like consumption to 25 or 30 mbd. Then pull the plug and watch the Big Junky implode. This is a long-term strategic game of "last man standing", and an intelligent player would burn somebody else's oil, and leave his own in the ground for later. But America isn't intelligent is it? They're going to follow myopic pom-pom girls like George Will into the spiked pit.

The best strategy is to just let America keep sleeping for decade or two. Then they'll be in a situation like Ukraine and Western Europe vis-a-vis Russia:
The Russian natural gas monopolist Gazprom will halt all natural gas deliveries to Ukraine as of January, if no agreement is reached by the end of this year, said Sergei Kuprianov, a Gazprom spokesman in Moscow.

Gazprom officials during contract talks have said they want to raise the price of natural gas supplied to Ukraine from 50 to 160 dollars for 1000 cubic metres.

If Russia were to shut off gas supplies to Ukraine, western European nations would face a severe shortage of natural gas, as Russian natural gas enters the European market via pipelines through Ukraine.Source
See how slick that works? Ukraine and Europe are Russia's poodle -- impotent, emasculated victims of energy blackmail. To paraphrase W.S. Burroughs in Naked Lunch: "Oil and NG are the ultimate merchandise. No sales talk necessary. The client will crawl through a sewer and beg to buy."
-- by JD

Thursday, December 15, 2005


We've been following the ANWR story regularly here at POD. We've seen how Matt Simmons has been lobbying to drill ANWR for years. Last month, we reported that the House killed a Republican attempt to drill ANWR by attaching the drilling provisions to the budget reconciliation bill.

Well, the ants are back in the sugar bowl again. ANWR is the American equivalent of the last tree on Easter Island, and the chiefs can't seem to leave it alone. Gotta keep pumping out those Moai, doncha know.

Senator Ted Stevens wants to play the sympathy card and drill ANWR to help Katrina victims:
Sen. Ted Stevens said Wednesday he hopes to win votes for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge by putting it in the same bill as Hurricane Katrina relief money.

"It's going to be awfully hard to vote against Katrina," the Alaska Republican said.

ANWR oil leasing would raise federal revenue, and Stevens said he wants the House to agree to spend some on the hurricane-damaged states.

"And if it's in there, maybe disaster-area people will vote with me on ANWR," he said Wednesday.Source
Stevens is practically drooling with anticipation:
Details aside, Stevens pledged to stay in Washington until he passes an ANWR bill, even if that means keeping senators in Washington through the year-end holidays.

"Recess comes when we're finished, and that's one of the things we've got to finish," Stevens told a throng of reporters following him down Senate corridors Wednesday afternoon. "I've waited 25 years for this. Twenty-five years."(Source: same as above)
And that's just Plan A. Plan B is to attach ANWR to the Pentagon Budget. Can't very well vote against the troops, now can we?
Lawmakers and senior aides said they were seriously considering tacking the drilling proposal onto a Pentagon spending bill that is among those that must pass before Congress heads home in the next few days. The switch, they said, could clear the way for approval of the spending cuts sought by conservatives and the Arctic drilling plan that is a priority of Republicans and the Bush administration, provided they could defeat any filibuster.

"It's going to be on one bill or the other before I go home," said Senator Ted Stevens, Republican of Alaska, a leading proponent of opening the Arctic plain to oil production.Source
Bill First of Tennessee backs Stevens 100%. Maybe he should use the nuclear option?:
Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader, said he was willing to pursue any option to win approval of Arctic drilling. "I support opening ANWR to energy production to help increase our energy independence and protect our nation from terrorists taking our energy supplies hostage, and want to move it through the House and Senate however I can," Mr. Frist said in a statement. (Source: same as above.)
-- by JD

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


In the Hirsch Report, the authors propose a 10-year crash program for "mitigating" peak oil. The plan looks like this:

Basically, the idea is to fill in the supply-demand gap opened by peak oil with five new streams of oil (amounts provided after 10 years are given in parentheses):

1) Fuel-efficiency (1 mbd)
2) Heavy oil/Oil sands (8 mbd)
3) Coal liquefaction (5 mbd)
4) Enhanced oil recovery (3 mbd)
5) Gas-to-liquids (2 mbd)

At 19mbd after 10 years, this is definitely a crash program. According to the DOE it took the world 30 years (1975-2004) to add the last increment of 20mbd to the world's supply of conventional oil.

Some of these wedges don't pass the smell test. Take Heavy oil/Oil sands (8mbd) for instance:

Note that most of the contribution from this wedge (5.5mbd) comes from Venezuela, compared to 2.5mbd from Canada. Venezuela is supposed to scale up from 0.6 mbd to 6mbd over 10 years, while Canada scales up from 0.5mbd to 3mbd. Why is it going to be so much easier to scale up in Venezuela than in Canada? And what makes Hirsch et al. think that Chavez is going to comply with America's crash program to save the U.S. economy? Chavez can make more money in the long run by dragging his feet.

It looks like about 30% (5.5/19) of the U.S. mitigation strategy blows a flat tire right there.

The fuel-efficiency wedge is fishy too. As the authors put it:
From the time world oil peaking occurs or is recognized, it may thus take as long as 15 years until strengthened vehicle fuel efficiency standards significantly increase average on-road fleet fuel efficiency. However, care must be exercised in making extrapolations. Most "realistic" enhanced vehicle fuel efficiency standards might not actually decrease future total gasoline consumed in the U.S. due to the anticipated continued increase in numbers of drivers and vehicles. Thus, a new CAFE mandate might decrease the rate at which future gasoline consumption increases, but not necessarily reduce total consumption.(P. 76)
The enhanced oil recovery (EOR) option, apparently involves a crash program of injecting CO2 into oil fields world-wide:
Because it is impossible to evaluate the worldwide impact of Improved Oil Recovery (IOR) techniques, we can only provide a rough estimate of what might be achieved. We focus on a major subset of IOR technologies – Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR). While EOR can add significantly to reserves, it is normally not applied to a conventional oil reservoir until after production has peaked. As discussed earlier, the most widely applicable EOR process involves the injection of CO2 into conventional oil reservoirs to dissolve and move residual oil. Because EOR processes require extensive planning, large capital expenditures, procurement of very large volumes of CO2, and major equipment for large reservoirs, our simplified assumptions parallel those for our heavy oil and coal liquids wedges. We assume that the massive application of EOR worldwide will not begin to show production enhancement until 5 years after the peaking of world oil production, paced primarily by the difficulties of procuring CO2. We further assume that world oil production enhancement due to such a crash effort worldwide will increase world oil production by roughly 3 percent after 10 years. We translate the 3 percent to 3 MM bpd, based on our assumed world oil peaking level of roughly 100 MM bpd.(P. 82-83)
This clearly has problems. For example, what infrastructure is going to be used to deliver the CO2 to oilfields worldwide? And how much is the delivered CO2 going to cost? Are we going to be running it through pipelines, or transporting it in compressed form in ships?

Note: Dave has a detailed post on CO2 EOR at the Oil Drum today. The technique itself is definitely effective, as you can see from the following production profile for the Weyburn field (click to enlarge):

The problem is the logistics of moving around all that CO2.
-- by JD

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


As previously pointed out, the doomer concept of a permanent powerdown (and mass die-off) is a rather hard sell to the peak oil uninitiated. Regardless of what the different types of peak-oilers think the effects of peak oil will be, we can mostly agree on the need for raising awareness of oil depletion and conservation. Telling people we need to permanently powerdown and eventually die-out is no sensible way to encourage positive steps towards a better future. This approach tends to alienate people, often having the opposite effect then that desired by us all, resulting in people stubbornly ignoring the need for change.

This is why highlighting the light at the end of the tunnel is necessary when raising awareness of peak oil, and why it's important to keep an open mind about what the future may hold. If people believe that they are working towards a brighter future, they are far more likely to make the positive changes in their lives in order for that future to become a reality. Alternatively doomers would seem to prefer that the masses just give up and die, an attitude that will likely result in complacency, as is evident by many doomer attitudes on sites like

So what exactly is this light at the end of the peak oil tunnel?

The industrialisation of space. The promise of a new, virtually inexhaustible supply of resources free for the taking, offering endless energy, mineral and economic opportunities and an endless expanse in which to expand and to grow far into the future, while simultaneously reducing the damage done to the planet and restoring it's former beauty.

But why bother with space, how is it even possible, and couldn't the money be better spent?

The why, is simple. The reason to exploit space is that either we find new locations of resources (off-world), or we deplete all of the Earth's finite resources and eventually face extinction. It really is that simple. The Earth only has finite resources. Even if we overcome the energy limitations of finite fossil fuels, there are plenty of other finite resources that humanity consumes. Eventually these finite resources will run out, and either we find more resources, or we shrivel up and die. But guess what? Surrounding the Earth and the inner solar system are vast quantities of everything we will ever need. It's all made from the same stardust that the Earth and everything on it is made from. It's only logical to use it rather then perish.

The how is more complex and will take several follow up articles to explain various aspects. But the important thing to note is that exploiting space isn't an unrealistic proposition of building some magical Star Trek like technology and zipping off to distant planets. It's merely a simple matter of continuing a process that began over 70 years ago with early chemical rocket technology. It's about deciding that we are going to make it a priority, dedicating the necessary resources, and continuing the process one step at a time. More on how to industrialise space for our long-term benefit later…

The costs of developing space are undoubtedly as astronomical as the dream itself. However considering the long-term payoffs, and especially compared to other endeavours of the modern world, developing space is actually a bargain. As many people know, NASA is far from a cost effective space agency, but even NASA's operations are cheap compared to other things the developed world wastes money on.

Lets compare some costs:

Costs of space (NASA and European projects, in year 2000 U.S. dollars):
A single shuttle launch is currently estimated at around $300 million, and a European Ariane 5G rocket launch at around $165 million. Source
The International Space Station is estimated at around $100 billion, Source and the Russian Mir space station cost $4.3 billion. Source
The latest NASA Mars rovers cost around $600 million, and the European Beagle 2 Mars
probe cost around $50 million. Source
The Apollo moon landings cost $135 billion in 2005 dollars.

As we can see, space is considerably expensive. Arguably NASA could do things far more cheaply and is a poor fiscal performer compared to similar projects by other space agencies, but even considering NASA's tendency for over budgeted projects, the costs of space development are still justifiable for an endeavour as noble as ensuring our collective future.

Now lets consider the costs of a few other aspects of the modern world:
According to a study by the NDIA, in 1992 drug abuse cost the U.S. an estimated $246
billion dollars, and the costs are increasing each year. Source
Thanks to fast food culture, overweight and obesity medical expenses in the U.S. accounted for $92.6 billion dollars in 2003, and like drug abuse, is a problem increasing each year. Source
And of course lets not forget war, the pinnacle of wasteful endeavours.
According to this Source, the Iraq war has currently cost U.S. tax payers over $200 billion.
This site also has some interesting cost estimates for previous U.S. conflicts (adjusted to year 2000 dollars):
American Civil War -$62 Billion
Spanish American War -$5 Billion
World War One -$290 Billion
World War Two -$2,300 Billion
Korean Conflict -$111 Billion
Vietnam -$165 Billion
Perhaps we don't have our priorities right? Surely working towards setting up countless future generations with access to virtually infinite resources should be important to people?

We mourn the deaths of the 18 humans that have died in space in the history of space flight, yet we willingly send millions more to their deaths in pointless things such as road accidents, drug and obesity epidemics, and wars. We gladly spend considerable sums of money on things that offer little long-term benefit to humanity, and many things that don't offer any benefit at all, and yet many people consider space development to be a waste of money. This is very misguided thinking. The fact is, space development and progress represents the best possible investment humanity can be involved in. The potential benefits are massive, and far outweigh the costs. And above all else, space development is humanities only shot at true long-term sustainability. Space industrialisation is the light at the end of the peak oil tunnel, but only if we adopt the right attitude.

In my follow-up posts, I intend to primarily focus on the long-term future of humanity, and to elaborate on how industrialised civilisation will not be dismantling and heading for the caves, but evolving and reaching for the stars.
-- by Omnitir

Friday, December 09, 2005


In the comments we were discussing early mitigation. Anon wrote:
Roland, from your remarks I assume you live in the inner urban area of Sydney? Do you think that the scenario you describe will be practical for the satellite areas of Sydney... say western suburbs, central coast etc.? Many people live in areas where walking to shops etc. is not possible. [...]

I believe that a serious campaign must be launched immediately in Sydney to extend and consolidate public transport based on PO awareness. We can drop the doom histrionics and stick with the certain transport crisis, this is exactly the message Kjell Akelett described to me over a beer here in Sydney a couple of weekends ago. I also agree with Bob Hirsch, measures must be implemented BEFORE peak, a market based solution will be devastating.
To this I replied:
anon, there is a risk here that Hirsch himself points out -- the risk of mitigating too early (see 2. and 15. in Appendix VI of the Hirsch report). For example, what if you build a new mass transit system to service the outskirts of Sydney, but nobody uses it for years and years because the price of oil doesn't rise enough to justify switching? It's the risk of wasting a big pile of money (private or public) on a fiasco people won't use. That's what happened with Jimmy Carter's "synfuels" program in the 70s and 80s. It turned out to be a porkfest where the oil companies burned through billions of dollars of taxpayer money and produced nothing of any value.
I think people are still greatly underestimating the main risk of early mitigation: unrestrained pork. For example, consider this ironic development:
In Spain, Manuel Perez Becerra, secretary general of the Andalusian Beet Growers' Association, said that with current technology more energy is required to produce a litre of alcohol from beet than can be extracted from it once made.

Without tax breaks or subsidies of some sort it will not be viable to produce ethanol from sugar beet, he added.Source
What Mr. Becerra is saying is this: the EROEI of beet sugar ethanol is less than 1, therefore his industry needs taxpayer money. Clearly this is peak oil heresy of the rankest sort. If a process returns less energy than it consumes, then (according to peak oil theory) it shouldn't be done at all, let alone be subsidized by the government. But the funny part is that Mr. Becerra will fight back with peak oil theory. We can't wait for the market to act because it will be too late. We need to start mitigating the inevitable liquid fuels crisis now. That's why my industry needs your tax money. Better safe than sorry.

The problem is this: If you step outside the market framework, you are talking about a big pile of taxpayer money, and all the snake oil salemen and subsidy feeders lining up to get a piece. Who get's the money? The corn ethanol lobby? The beet lobby? The coal lobby? The refining lobby?

You could argue that refiners aren't investing to expand refinery capacity because they're all waiting for a handout. All they have to do is sit on their butts, watch rising gas prices put the squeeze on, and keep stressing that they really can't get the job done without assistance from the government:
Bob Slaughter, the president of the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association, told a House committee last week that Congress could expand tax incentives included in the energy bill as a way to encourage growth of the refining industry.Source
If the government is going to provide the funds because the market is too myopic, who will decide which projects get the funds? And how will they decide? I'd be interested in hearing serious answers to those questions.
-- by JD

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


In #178, I listed the nations of the world which have no coal. It's quite a long list, but even a cursory look shows that island nations and territories account for a large portion of these problem cases. With very few exceptions, islands have no oil, no gas and no coal, and are completely dependent on oil for all their energy needs, as you can see in the following Table of primary energy sources for Carribean nations in 1999 (click to enlarge, Source):

Even Puerto Rico, a quasi-state of the U.S., is severely oil-dependent:
In 2002, Puerto Rico generated an estimated 22.1 billion kilowatt hours (Bkwh) of electricity, predominantly from five oil-fired generators, with a fraction coming from small hydroelectric dams. As of 2002, installed generation capacity was 4.9 gigawatts. The five oil-fired plants are: the Costa Sur plant (1,090 MW); the Aguirre plant (900 MW); the Palo Seco plant (602 MW); the San Juan plant (400 MW); and the Arecibo plant (248 MW).Source
Efforts to wean Puerto Rico from oil (by shifting to coal/LNG) are progressing slowly, as you can see from the following graph (source: same as above, click to enlarge):

In the Pacific, Hawaii is in a similar situation. In 1999, 76.4% of Hawaii's electric power was generated by burning oil (Source):

Clearly, we have a problem here: how do we shift the islands away from oil, and shield them from the punishing effects of high oil prices (or shortages)? At first glance, it looks like dark clouds are looming, but these clouds have a silver lining: sugar.

Many islands like Haiti, Cuba and Hawaii have a long history of sugar cane cultivation. As they say in Cuba "Sin azucar, no hay pais" (no sugar, no country). This dovetails nicely with the rise of Brazilian sugar cane ethanol, which is cheaper per btu than gasoline. In fact, a great deal of the poverty in island nations like Cuba and Haiti is directly attributable to low sugar prices. Sugar cane ethanol can change that. Rising sugar prices driven by the increasing use of sugar for fuel open up a potential win-win solution for everybody. As Newsweek writes (Aug. 8, 2005):
A global biofuel economy, with a division of labor favoring the most efficient producers, is key to developing biofuels as a viable alternative to oil. For many developing countries, year-round growing seasons and cheap farm labor are a valuable competitive advantage over cold, high-cost northern countries. Super-efficient Brazil now sells ethanol at the equivalent of $25 a barrel, less than half the cost of crude.
Ideally, the solution will involve developed countries transferring simple, modular, nuclear technology (like the pebble bed reactor) to the islands so they can keep their power grids running, while the islands focus on producing sugar ethanol for export. Even if the islands are only supplied with NG or clean coal, their sugar production infrastructure is a smooth way to turn other energy forms into liquids, while making the islands more prosperous.
-- by JD

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


James Fraser is the author of the The Energy Blog, one of the Internet's best resources on energy R&D. From time to time, we talk about new technologies here on POD, but we also have other fish to fry. So if you want the real details on what's happening in energy R&D, Jim's blog is the place to go.

On Dec. 3, Jim posted on an interesting new technology called Direct Carbon Fuel Cells (DCFCs) being developed by SRI International. From their announcement:
DCFCs convert the chemical energy in coal directly into electricity without the need for gasification. SRI's new DCFC technology has several potential benefits. It produces electricity at a competitive cost from a variety of fuels including coal, coke, tar, biomass and organic waste. In addition, it is two times more fuel-efficient than today's coal-fired power plants, resulting in reduced carbon dioxide emissions. The process produces almost pure carbon dioxide, which can be contained in a concentrated stream and easily captured for downstream use or disposal.
And from Red Herring:
Unlike hydrogen and methanol fuel cells, SRI's carbon fuel cells use no catalyst or costly noble metals like platinum. That again cuts costs, and should increase reliability, said Mr. Dubois.

Finally, the technology makes it easier to capture carbon dioxide. Current legislation doesn't require the capture of carbon dioxide, but "the world is going in that direction," said Mr. Dubois. Such legislation would give SRI's fuel cells a competitive advantage because sequestering carbon dioxide from traditional coal plants is a complicated and costly process, and SRI could significantly lower that cost, he said.

If carbon-dioxide-capturing costs are included, SRI's technology could cost up to 50 percent less than current plants, he added. That could also assuage some environmentalist concerns, as no carbon dioxide emissions would be released into the atmosphere.
-- by JD

Sunday, December 04, 2005


One of the basic principles of sustainability guru Amory Lovins’ idea of Natural Capitalism is that almost everything in the modern world is so appallingly designed that getting dozens of times more productivity out of the same raw materials should not be very hard. A great demonstration of this is the refrigerator, or more specifically, this refrigerator:

Its creator, an off-the-grid experimenter from Australia named Tom Chalko, realised that since cold air is heavier than warm air, when you open the door of a traditional vertical fridge all the cold air simply falls out. On the other hand, the horizontal chest freezers you see in supermarkets can basically be left wide open because cold air does not travel upwards. He bought a chest freezer for a few hundred dollars and fitted it with a thermostat to make it run at the temperature of a fridge. It runs for about 2 minutes an hour and then turns off, thus using about 100 watt-hours per day, or less than one-tenth that of a standard fridge. Here’s what the inventor says about it:
“The biggest limitations are our habits and mediocre attitudes, not technology or cost … It is obvious that a truly energy efficient fridge does not cost any more money than a mediocre one. It actually costs less. It also has extra features, such as digital temperature display that gives you full control on the temperature settings inside. Nearly every household on Earth has a fridge that totally wastes at least 1 kWh of energy a day (365 kWh a year).” (Source: and
You can get instructions on how to make your own chest fridge here.
-- by Roland

Saturday, December 03, 2005


I've already discussed some of the extremist riff-raff who wrote Advanced Praise blurbs for Heinberg's peak oil bible The Party's Over: the white separatist Virginia Deane Abernethy (#106,#123), the racist collaborator David Pimentel (#106,#123) and the paranoid mental case Michael C. Ruppert (#115, #116, #132). Today, let's take a look at another one of Heinberg's buddies, Derrick Jensen:

He almost sounds like a sane person in the promo copy in Heinberg's book -- just another moderate in the peak oil debate:
As Richard Heinberg makes shockingly clear in this extraordinarily well-researched and -written book, our way of life will soon change dramatically, as oil production and reserves both begin to decline. He also makes clear that our actions now will strongly affect what is left of the world when this shift away from oil takes place. But before we can act we must understand, and before we can understand, we must be informed. In this compelling book, Richard Heinberg gives us the tools -- the information and understanding -- to act. The Party's Over is a wise and important work.

-- Derrick Jensen, author of A Language Older than Words and The Culture of Make Believe
This is just a front. Jensen is actually a drooling luddite, and an advocate of violence against energy infrastructure. He talks very differently when he lets his hair down among the true believers:
Jensen currently lives among the redwoods of Crescent City, California, where he devotes much of his time to wildlife habitat restoration. In his own words: "Are human beings destined to destroy this earth? Why do we act as we do? What will it take for us to stop the horrors that characterize our way of being? Every morning when I wake up, I ask myself if I should write or blow up a dam."Source
My main objective is to bring down civilization. Actually that's not quite true. My main objective is to live in a world with more wild salmon every year than the year before, more migratory songbirds, more natural forest communities, more fish in the ocean, less dioxin in every mother's breast milk. And I'll do what it takes to get there. And what it will take is for us to dismantle everything we see around us.Source
If someone would have brought down civilization whatever that means, 150 years ago, people living along the Columbia river would still have salmon to eat. If people would have brought down civilization 200 years ago, people who live in what is now the New England states would still have passenger pigeons.Source
The whole reform versus revolution question, which is not the question you asked, is just crap. If we just wait for the great glorious revolution there is not going to be anything left when we get there, and if on the other hand all we do is reform there won’t be anything left in the end anyways. We need it all. We need everything. We need people chaining themselves to trees, we need people taking out dams...Source
In so far as what we can do to get there, I’ve done benefits for earth liberation prisoners and fully support the actions of the ELF and the ALF. I have supported them publicly on a bunch of occasions, and in a bunch of different local and national venues. That said I do have a criticism, and my criticism is that I wish they would move up the infrastructure. I think what we need to do is start looking for bottlenecks and start looking for leverage points.Source
-- by JD

Thursday, December 01, 2005


Jevons Paradox states that conservation of fuel leads (paradoxically) to increased consumption of fuel. The idea is simple: if large numbers of people begin conserving fuel, this will lower the price of that fuel, and that will stimulate increased consumption.

Certainly Jevons Paradox is true in many cases. Here's an example noted by Jevons himself:
In his 1865 book The Coal Question Jevons observed that England's consumption of coal soared after James Watt introduced his coal-fired steam engine, which greatly improved the efficiency of Thomas Newcomen's earlier design. Watt's innovations made coal a more cost effective power source, leading to increased use of his steam engine in a wide range of industries. This in turn made total coal consumption rise, even as the amount of coal required for any particular application fell.Source
For the sake of argument, let's assume that Jevons Paradox is true of gasoline. How does this apply to peak oil?

Well... the doomers love Jevons Paradox. For them it is, above all, a reason not to conserve (or a reason why conservation "won't help"). After all, why should anybody conserve gasoline? If they do so, it will (by Jevons Paradox) just cause consumption of gasoline to increase.

Now, we may not be able to refute Jevons Paradox as an empirical fact, but we certainly can refute the way doomers are using it. We can do it with a single example:
In a vast parking lot ruled by cars and low-slung superstores, Stacey Harper delivers the unlikeliest of travel alternatives: mass transit.

The 41-year-old nurse wheels a white minivan into a rain-dappled parking spot to pick up a couple more co-workers. It is 6 a.m. on a Wednesday in South Hill, and Harper is driving a van pool to work at Western State Hospital.

A year ago, Harper thought nothing of driving 36 miles from home to work alone. That was before the price of a gallon of gasoline began its steady march upward, ultimately costing her $180 to $200 per month.

"It was going up not by pennies," Harper says, "but by dollars."


Harper, the South Hill resident, decided to leave her car for a van pool – much to her own surprise.

"I was really resistant to it," she says. "It was going to be a big hassle."

Prices at the pump changed her mind.

She got on a waiting list for a van pool offered by Pierce Transit. She took a driving course. Now she pays $22 a month to van-pool as opposed to the $180 to $200 a month she paid to commute alone.

Even if the price of gas drops below $2, she says, she's not going back.

Part of her reasoning is that she likes to shed the day's stress by talking with her co-workers during the ride home. Part of it is helping the environment by taking a few more cars off the road.

And there's another reason. A big one. "I have extra money," she says. Source
As you can see, Ms. Harper is making $160 to $180 a month by conserving gasoline, so let's see what happens after a doomer explains Jevons Paradox to her:

Doomer: Now... don't you see that your conservation will only increase consumption of gasoline?
Ms. Harper: Who cares? I'm making money. Why should I care about your stupid paradox? Will you pay me if I believe in it?
Doomer: ....

This also blows a hole in another bit of doomer hype -- i.e. that increasing gasoline prices will leave people with less disposable income, which will cause an economic slump because people will have to buy gas with money they would usually spend on other doodads. As you can see, Ms. Harper has reduced her commuting fuel costs by almost 90%, and thus has more disposable income with high gas prices than she did with low gas prices. She has more money than ever before to buy doodads.
-- by JD