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Oil, be Seeing You



Peak oil should no longer be a matter for debate. still many vested interests feel obliged to debunk it, governments are still loathe to talk about the looming energy supply crisis. When will the truth be allowed to be seen, and what will the reaction b



Updated: 2017-10-31T13:14:36.387-04:00

 



If I Have reached you.......

2012-11-04T04:45:22.091-05:00

This will be my absolute last message to the blog, I am sorry to say. I am in paliative care in the hospital from which I will not be escaping. Not enough energy and, frankly, any energy I do have left will be lavished on far more important personal things. But, to be quite honest, It is very difficult to know, when writing a blog, whether anyone is receiving or not. If you were, if I reached you, if, perchance, I touched you, I sure would like to know. Richard Embleton, Over and Out



Relieving urban traffic congestion and reducing fossil fuel dependence

2011-11-10T09:50:59.709-05:00

Every major city and large urban center shares a common problem, traffic congestion, particularly during rush hours. And in virtually every instance a major, if not the dominant, contributor to that congestion is commercial delivery traffic. Primary traffic corridors and the primary concentration of retail and commercial businesses to which deliveries are being made are on the same routes, the same streets.In an era of dwindling fossil fuel reserves, resulting in punishing increases in fuel costs, and stressed budgets at all levels of government resulting in curtailment of funds for infrastructure development and maintenance, some serious thinking outside the box is needed to deal with this combined problem.I believe there is a simple, efficient, and cost effective solution available in most large cities.The other thing large cities share in common is that they have a major investment in a public transit infrastructure. In most large cities this includes subways, streetcars and trolleys. These are all powered by electricity, not fossil fuels, though the electricity they use may, today, be generated using fossil fuels. But that is a situation that will undergo dramatic changes over the next couple of decades as existing power generation plants age and are pulled offline.That electricity driven public transit system and infrastructure can serve as the foundation for solving both urban fossil fuel dependence and urban traffic congestion. All three system infrastructures (subway, streetcar and trolley) can double as effective and efficient urban freight distribution networks. The chassis on which these three vehicles are built can be used as the chassis for freight vehicles that will run on the same infrastructure as the current passenger vehicles.Subway cars are ideally suited as urban freight carriers. They have four sets of extra-wide, double entry/loading doors, car to car connection, driver compartment built in, and the ability to be run individually or linked together as a train. Use the same chassis, strip out the seating and hand-holds, eliminate the climate control system, eliminate the windows, build in the necessary racks/shelves and partitions and you have an ideal urban freight carrier. They use an existing track infrastructure that also carries people. They can be run 24-hours a day, in any weather because the infrastructure is underground. With retail and commercial concentrated along the same corridors served by the subways it is the most efficient system for delivery to those businesses or strategically located depots. Freight sidings could be relatively easily added where needed so as not to impede passenger traffic while loading/unloading. And it could be undertaken now to great advantage for the city in easing the traffic congestion of delivery trucks on city streets.A simple, effective dispatch control system could easily be developed, probably using some form of bar-code system. The whole freight system could be privatized, bringing revenue to the city and eliminating the bureaucracy needed from city payroll and expense.In the same way, streetcar infrastructure could be used for surface freight cars, freight vehicles built on a streetcar chassis. Sidings could be easily added where needed, running down alleys for example. These could serve secondary commercial concentrations not on the subway lines.Freight trolleys, likewise, could be built on the same chassis as passenger trolleys, use the same power line infrastructure and routes, have additional sidings built so as not to impede passenger traffic on the same lines. These would service those secondary commercial concentrations similar to but not served by streetcars.All of this is akin to the way in which freight planes have become so ubiquitous at our airports. Freight has piggybacked on an infrastructure that was already in place for passenger traffic, with the addition of extra terminals at airports to divert freight away from passenger terminals. The air traffic control, runways, route management and[...]



Peak Oil: Is There Any Longer a Valid Debate?

2011-09-04T14:27:22.141-04:00

It has been some time since I sat down to analyze what is happening with peak oil. It has been difficult to see that there is any meaningful response from government, business and the media. They are still very busy characterizing minor new discoveries of oil as the saviors of society, as though there is a pervasive fear of admitting the truth to the public. The pieces of the puzzle that one has to fit together are very fragmented and misrepresented in the media. * There is a renewed effort in the US to paint the tar sands as an ethical source of oil. I still believe Chris Skrebowski is right in his projection that the tar sands will peak in 2015. I covered this in the article, Will the tar sands peak in 2015?, on my blog. The essential limiting factors on tar sands are flow rate (the amount that can be extracted at one time from all mines) and the density of hydrocarbons in the formation which tends to decrease toward the periphery of the formation. The latter is the basis for Skrebowski's 2015 peak projection. * The US was putting a great deal of stock in shale gas as the future of energy for the US. With all of the environmental problems from fracking, the public is, even now, split on the validity of that as an energy source. In addition the IEA and USGS(EIA) have now downgraded the estimates for the Murcheson Shale formation in eastern US from over 400 trillion cubic feet to something less than 50 trillion cubic feet. There is also serious doubts about the validity of the estimates for the Bakken shale formation in north central US and southern prairie provinces of Canada. This is a tremendous blow to US energy plans. It is also very likely that estimates on recoverable energy from other shale formations, both in the US and abroad, have been dramatically overstated. At the same time the true cost of extraction and site restoration have probably been dramatically understated. * It is strongly believed, in the peak oil community, and recently being tacitly admitted in the mainstream press and political circles, that the OPEC reserve estimates for Saudi Arabia, and potentially other OPEC members, are vastly overstated and that even Saudi Arabia has reached or surpassed its production peak. The Saudis are only managing to keep up their production with the injection of tremendous volumes of sea water to keep up the wellhead pressure. But they are now experiencing water cut up to as high as 90% on some wells. In the process they are also destroying their critical fresh water aquifers by contaminating them with salt water. In addition OPEC nations are increasingly consuming their own oil resources meaning as their standard of living rises and the disparity between production and exports is growing each year. From a global perspective it is not production that matters but rather exports. * Emerging nations such as China and India are still experiencing exponential growth in their energy consumption every year. Both use a tremendous amount of coal as well (China has vast coal reserves but they are also a net coal importer), but coal reserves are significantly declining, with production rates now also on the decline. Energy consumption tends to follow economic growth and decline and there is still a tremendous amount of economic growth possible in these two large population giants. As is always the case, the more the economy grows the greater are the population's expectations for standard of living and consumption. This is certainly proving to be the case in these two nations. * Deep water oil is not the panacea that western nations had painted it to be. The recovery of deep water oil is very technically challenging, expensive and risky, both in terms of safety and environmental well being. BP's Deepwater Horizon loss was the first major deepwater oil disaster, but it definitely will not be the last. There will always be a high risk of methane explosions and the resulting leak is extremely damaging to the environment. It is also very likely[...]



How I Shed 45 pounds in 21 days

2011-06-22T08:38:28.097-04:00

This isn't a pitch for some new dieting product, a promise of tighter, sexier abs, a miracle pill. No come-ons. No promises. No fancy new exercise equipment.
This is a personal story of heart disease. I was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy about three years ago after experienced mild congestive heart failure. Since that time I have had a consistent problem, due to my weakened heart condition, of retaining excess fluid in my body, particularly in my abdominal cavity and my lower extremities.

Over a four-five week period this spring my body simply slowed down the elimination of these excess fluids. Over that period of time I put on nearly forty pounds in weight, all unexpelled fluid. My abdomen swelled up to the point that I looked like I was eight and a half months pregnant, with twins. After a couple of weeks of testing - ultra sounds, X-rays, CT-scans - it was confirmed that it was all a result of fluid retention.

At that point my family doctor checked me into the hospital and referred me to my cardiologist, my gastro-enterologist, my nephrologist and to a respirologist because of a mass spotted on my right lung.

The first order of business was a paracentesis, a draining of excess fluid from the abdominal cavity. In that procedure they drained nearly seven liters of fluid representing about 16 pounds of that additional body weight. That, of course, is included in the forty-five pounds total that I managed to shed. The rest was achieved through a massive increase in my diuretic (Furosemide, a lasix product) from 20 to 120mg per day, and adding an additional high potency diuretic, metolazone, of 2.5mg per day (the latter added when the lasix proved unable to do the job on its own).

After eight days in the hospital I was released. At home I continued on the diuretic regimen and, over the next two weeks, shed another 29 pounds of excess fluid at an average rate of over 2 pounds a day, for a total weight loss in 21 days of 45 pounds, nearly one quarter of my bloated body weight.

The combination of that and several other adjustments to my medication and significant changes to my diet, most to do with restricted fluid intake, has left me feeling better and stronger than I have felt in several years. And after 29 days my total body weight has dropped by 55 pounds and leveled off.

Of course, this tale ends with a caveat. Don't try this at home.



The Death of Osama bin Laden

2011-05-02T14:05:15.751-04:00

Monday, May 02, 2011.Osama bin Laden has reportedly been killed by a select unit of U.S. navy seals in a raid yesterday on his "luxury" compound in Abbottabad, a city deep inside Pakistan less than an hour's drive, 60 kilometers, from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. The compound was only about a mile away from a major Pakistani military academy and garrison. Coupled with the suggestion that the compound was the largest building in the community with barbed-wire-topped eighteen-foot walls, brings into serious question Pakistani claims of lack of knowledge of his whereabouts and their lack of cooperation and efforts in finding him, and their repeated claims that bin Laden was still in Afghanistan.The fact that bin Laden's body was seized by U.S. forces after initial identification (which reportedly included DNA analysis?) and removed and buried at sea over 800 miles away (to supposedly prevent the establishment of a martyr's grave site) will, of course, have the conspiracy theorists working overtime. There are already claims by the "birthers" (Donald Trump among them) that the timing of this whole "fictitious" event was staged to draw attention away from what they describe as the "obviously forged" long-form certificate of Barrack Obama's birth in Hawaii that has been posted on the "official" White House web site.Regardless of the "true" story, this event has been portrayed in such a way that it is obviously going to have serious geopolitical ramifications over the coming weeks and months.It would seem very likely that there is now going to be a serious redrawing of the diplomatic relationship between the U.S. and the Pakistani government. Their blatant lack of cooperation in the U.S. war on terrorism had only been tolerated because the White House still considered that the hunt for bin Laden and al Qaida still needed Pakistan's help. The announcement that U.S. special forces raided bin Laden's compound deep inside Pakistan (the Pakistan government apparently declined a request for their forces to be involved), seized the body and disposed of it at sea themselves, is a clear signal that Pakistan's cooperation is no longer needed and the price of whatever cooperation they were giving was not worth it. They were clearly more a hindrance than a help.It will, undoubtedly, also spell an end, or at least a serious curtailment, of U.S. financial and military aid to Pakistan, a serious blow to a regime locked in a perpetual confrontation with neighboring India, both countries with nuclear arsenals, and reeling under tremendous financial pressure after a series of devastating natural disasters.The other obvious and very expected outcome of this event is that leaders of every western nation immediately issued a warning that this was likely to lead to a short term outbreak of new terrorist activity from al Qaida cells as well as other terrorist organizations. In other words, the fear level has been ramped up amid the euphoria surrounding bin Laden's death. Fear is good for the economy. This expectation of terrorist activity takes the focus off the still faltering global economic recovery, at least for now.At the same time, however, this is very likely to bring on renewed and stronger calls, both in the U.S. and in other involved western nations, to withdraw troops and military support from Afghanistan. After all, those troops were only there because of al Qaida and because of the hunt for bin Laden. Now that it is clear he was not there but in Pakistan, and now that he has been "brought to justice", the supposed need for a military presence there has been eliminated. It will be argued that it is time to withdraw and focus on protecting the homeland.To offset those calls, however, it is very likely that a new threat will be "created" to replace the current al Qaida as justification for the continued use of the military in the global war on terrorism. War is good for business and the fear engendered by war and [...]



Can we survive our successes?

2011-04-30T07:50:08.235-04:00

As advanced technological societies like ours fall apart with the accelerating decline in resource availability, I believe survivability is going to have to be accomplished at the community level, not as a scattering of rugged individualists living on their backwoods homesteads. We are still going to need some separation and specialization of skills and responsibilities and the optimum economies of scale that are afforded by the community that cannot be achieved by one individual. And, of course, from a natural selection point of view, we are going to need a broad, varied and healthy gene pool to avoid the problems of long term interbreeding.Most importantly, however, if any significant portion of the current level of human population is to survive into the future, we are going to have to rely on agriculture. There simply are not enough resources, or wilderness left for those resources, to support any more than a very small human population well below one billion, probably closer to 100-200 million globally. Without the massive fossil fuel inputs on which modern agriculture critically relies, however, the new labor-intensive agriculture of the future is going to have to be community dependent and community supporting. It is going to have to become a key, even dominant part of the community's way of life.I believe the appropriate size of community in a post-carbon world will be relatively small, with more than a few hundred but no more than perhaps ten thousand in total. That size allows for a diverse collection of specialized skills, helping to ensure the community's self-sufficiency and self-reliance. But I still see trade between neighboring communities for specialized goods and services (e.g. high education) that there is no justification or benefit in replicating in every community. That size is also still small enough to have and maintain a truly homogeneous sense of community and community spirit, a pulling together for the benefit of all. And yet large enough to allow, even encourage, friendly competition both within and between communities.The first key to the community's self-sufficiency must be agriculture. The community has to be able to produce all of the food needed to sustain its whole population. This is one of the areas where the efficiencies of scale and specialization must come strongly into play.Everybody needs potatoes, but not everyone is good at growing potatoes, and not everyone's soil is good for growing potatoes. But somewhere in the broader community is a patch of the ideal soil for growing potatoes and someone who grows potatoes better than anyone else. True community efficiency is achieved by bringing those two elements together, not just for the benefit of the best potato grower but for the benefit of the whole community. Each crop, be it potatoes, corn, pole beans, tomatoes or whatever, has its own specialists who produce enough for the whole community.The same thing applies to animal husbandry. Someone in the community is probably best at raising chickens and getting optimum egg production and growing the best eating birds. Someone else is good at managing a dairy herd. Someone else is exceptional at raising rabbits, someone else sheep or goats. And someone is best at breeding and raising the all important horses, or even oxen, on which, over time, the community will become so dependent. With specialization optimum community efficiency will result.That specialization would, of course, carry over into trades. Someone is excellent at making and repairing furniture. Another is an excellent potter. Someone else is a good sheet-metal worker, another a blacksmith, yet another is the best house-builder, or chimney builder, or barn builder or saddle and harness maker. Someone is best at making pants, or shirts, or sweaters, or mitts, or hats, or toques, or shoes, or underwear, or coats.The key to all of this, however, is how to value the eff[...]



I Haven't Abandoned Peak Oil!

2011-04-14T14:50:59.218-04:00

Several readers have recently asked me why I stopped writing about peak oil? I could simply say that I turned my writing energy loose on novel writing; already having finished one and now half way through another. But I am accustomed to balancing multiple different writing projects, especially when they are in totally different genres. What really happened is that I got tired of banging my head against the wall. Nobody is listening, and certainly not the people who need to; politicians and industry leaders, business executives and media pundits. The primary objective of all of them is perpetuation of business as usual. And that business as usual is the problem, not the solution. I doubted whether my voice was needed any longer. There are, after all, many other voices out there still talking peak oil, most much stronger voices than myself. They seem content to carry on the fight even in the face of endless losses, all in the belief that no matter how many battles they lose they will eventually win the war. I can't do that. I'm much too pragmatic. I see no redeeming value in continuing to fight a battle which I know I will lose in the end. It is better, in my mind, to walk away and live to fight another day. I have not abandoned peak oil. I can't. It is, in fact, the primary backdrop to the first novel I mentioned above. It is also the defining issue of our time for humanity, even if humanity thus far refuses to see that. But when you are faced with overwhelming opposition, the only way to carry on the fight is to go underground. And that is what I have done. I have done a lot of thinking about why people refuse to face the reality of peak oil, all in an attempt to figure out how to force them to face it and deal with it. On the surface it appears that the answer is simple. People are afraid of what peak oil will do to their lives and, therefore, hope that it is not true and hope that by not accepting it, it will simply go away so they don't have to deal with it. It's an odd form of denial. On the other hand, however, it is possible that the majority of people simply do not know about peak oil, are not aware that there is a very serious crisis ahead, do not yet understand that their lives are going to be turned upside down and they will be faced with a battle just to survive. That would be understandable. Government, business, industry, and the mainstream media are all declaring that there is no problem, that we have more than enough oil and other energy to keep the lights on for millennia to come. Every new oil discovery, no matter how small and inconsequential, is touted as undeniable proof that there is an endless supply of oil and that all we have to do is find it and extract it. Who cares if we destroy ANWR as well as the Gulf and virtually all of Northern Alberta and wherever else we pursue a major oil play. From time to time they still trot out that old, totally discredited chestnut of the Russian abiotic oil theory that claims oil is being constantly generated in the earth's mantle from inorganic material and will never run out. It leaves one to wonder, therefore, not why people are in denial or ignorant of the issue but, rather, why is so much effort being made by government and industry to keep people in denial, to keep them ignorant of the looming disaster? It's like not going public with the news that a one-hundred-mile-wide asteroid is headed directly for the earth. Better to let the masses enjoy their final days in ignorance. But as long as that much effort is being lavished on denial, a critical mass of people who understand and accept peak oil will never be achieved. And that is the real tragedy here, that that ignorance robs people of the option to prepare for what is coming. Why, you may ask, should it matter? So people are kept ignorant of the looming crisis. So what? One very simple reason.... Peak oil is surviv[...]



Regarding spam messages

2010-11-21T05:54:53.702-05:00

I don't know what other blogs are experiencing but this blog, over the past six months, has become a target for spam messages trying to sell anything from movie downloads to sex toys and even some unmentionables. That torrent if spam has made me very disheartened to the point I am considering (but only considering) closing this blog. These messages are not the reason for the dearth of new material on my part, however. I have been very busy on a new novel involving methane hydrates in deepwater drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico. I am happy to report that the first draft of that novel, entitled "Block 743" is complete and will be in the hands of my first readers early in the new year. I'll post further messages in this blog as I proceed, hopefully all the way to publication.

Now.... For those who keep posting those spam messages to this blog, and you know who you are, you are completely wasting your time. I moderate all messages to the blog and, no matter how often you try, I am not going to approve those messages and let them through on the blog. So get stuffed.

Richard



Methane Hydrate Risk in our Pursuit of Energy

2010-08-02T10:59:23.717-04:00

Everyone knows business men are trustworthy. Hell, survey after survey shows that they are more trusted than the family doctor or your local banker or pharmacist or those bleeding-heart scientists writing global warming reports for the IPCC or, God forbid, that wacko environmentalist living down the street who keeps showing up at all those Greenpeace demonstrations. So, of course we can count on business men, these pillars of society, to protect the environment and do the right thing and make decisions in the best interest of "the little people", as Tony Hayward, CEO of BP, so eloquently put it.And we can trust corporations, like BP, Exxon, Halliburton, Enron and Lehman Brothers, to monitor and police their own operations. If they find something wrong they will make sure it gets fixed, and quickly. So there is no need for us or our governments to hold them accountable. They will hold themselves accountable. After all, isn't BP voluntarily setting aside $20-billion to cover costs and claims resulting from the Gulf oil spill? And don't they have thousands of people on the beaches and on shrimp boats cleaning up the oil spill? Oh wait, they were strong-armed into all of that by President Obama. Well they would have done it anyway, right?The reality is, in my opinion, that the inordinate faith and trust afforded business and industry leaders and executives is both misplaced and highly irrational in face of the evidence of the collateral damage of their profit-centred decisions and actions over the last several decades. The reality is that, despite the fact that in the beginning people were prone to exclaim, "what a terrible accident", this was no accident. Far from it. The disaster that befell The Deepwater Horizon was the result of very high-risk human decisions in the face of overwhelming evidence that should have caused them to turn back. But don't take my word for it.The following is from an article in sciencemag.org entitled Gulf Spill: Did Pesky Hydrates Trigger the Blowout? "Drillers have long been wary of methane hydrates because they can pack a powerful punch. One liter of water ice that has trapped individual methane molecules in the "cages" of its crystal structure can release 168 liters of methane gas when the ice decomposes. Bea [professor Robert Bea, of University of California, Berkeley], who has 55 years of experience assessing risks in and around offshore operations, says "there was concern at this location for gas hydrates. We're out to the [water depth] where it ought to be there." The deeper the water, the greater the pressure, which when high enough can keep hydrates stable well below the sea floor. .... And there were signs that drillers did encounter hydrates. About a month before the blowout, a "kick" of gas pressure hit the well hard enough that the platform was shut down. "Something under high pressure was being encountered," says Bea—apparently both hydrates and gas on different occasions."[3]This is from a piece on the History channel titled, Methane Hydrate Explosion – Wars for Oil – BP Oil Spill Doomsday Scenario from History Channel. "The Horizon rig’s mechanic stated the well had problems for months, the drill repeatedly kicked due to methane gas pressure, the levels of gas were twice as high as he’d ever seen in his career. According to interviews with platform workers conducted during BP’s internal investigation, a bubble of methane gas escaped from the well and shot up the drill column, expanding quickly as it burst through several seals and barriers before exploding. .......the upper mile of seafloor is cemented by methane hydrate which is much like permafrost and is stratified in layers. It melts and changes phases instantly back into gas at about 60F or 17C degrees. We have every reason to believe the hot pressurized oil and gas is eroding layers of formations [...]



A Balanced (hopefully) look at Methane Hydrates

2010-04-02T10:43:11.759-04:00

When it comes to the issue of exploiting permafrost/undersea Methane Hydrates I definitely have a strong bias. I am against it. Nonetheless there are strong and, from some perspectives, valid opinions to the contrary. In this article I will attempt to present a balance of both sides of the argument, while taking certain editorial license consistent with my bias.If you study the methane hydrate literature, as I have for the past several years - the newspaper and magazine articles, the web sites and blogs, the scientific papers - the one thing that is clear is that there are a lot of different and conflicting opinions in play. That is understandable. It is only in these past thirty years that the role of methane as an important carbon sink and a serious greenhouse gas, and the potential of methane hydrates as a fossil-fuel-replacing energy source have come to the forefront. Significant study of methane hydrates is really only in its infancy, and it is being driven, sponsored and financed by two different, opposing objectives. In fairness, however, I must point out that at this stage there are nearly as many concerns expressed and warnings issued from the energy industry as there are from the scientific community. The difference is that one side downplays the concerns and warnings and the other side pushes them to the forefront.It is, nonetheless, those two different aspects of methane hydrates - as a source of the serious greenhouse gas more than 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide and as a potential energy source - that are at the heart of the divergence of opinion. Those, like myself, focused on methane as a greenhouse gas see the potentially serious environmental risks and dangers involved in attempting to exploit methane hydrates, especially in view of our energy exploitation track record. Those focused on methane hydrates as a major potential energy source tend to downplay the risks and dangers in the name of "need", progress and national energy security.But haven't we been here before? The orchestrated debate over cigarettes and tobacco? The debate constantly swirling around the burning of fossil fuels? The debate over biofuels contributing to escalating global hunger? The furious global warming debate? Even the rancorous terminology hurled from either side of the debate is the same.I have listed nearly thirty online sources at the end of this article that show, as clearly and in as balanced a manner as I can manage, the clear divergence of literature fostered by the two different camps. If you are uncertain how you feel about the exploitation of methane hydrates, or if you are looking to build your knowledge about them I urge you to visit as many of these sites as possible. Alternatively, google searches will give you literally hundreds of thousands of references and sites to investigate. If you are looking for an overview, with a bias toward a concern for the risks and dangers, I invite you to read the several other articles I have written in my blog on the subject.Unintended consequencesVarious sites listed deal with unintended consequences. We can destabilize a reserve of methane hydrates accidentally when we aren't even attempting to exploit it. Methane Hydrate: A surprising compound, has this, ".....ocean-based oil-drilling operations sometimes encounter methane hydrate deposits. As a drill spins through the hydrate, the process can cause it to dissociate. The freed gas may explode, causing the drilling crew to lose control of the well. Another concern is that unstable hydrate layers could give way beneath oil platforms or, on a larger scale, even cause tsunamis."[2] Gas Hydrates: Natural gas hydrate studies in Canada, adds, "Shallow gas in the Mackenzie Delta, that may be attributable to hydrate, resulted in the loss of life of two drillers during early exploratio[...]



Methane Hydrates: The Planet's Largest Single Carbon Sink?

2010-03-26T08:20:07.680-04:00

Methane hydrates are perhaps the largest and most important carbon sink on the planet. Some scientific estimates place the amount of carbon stored in methane hydrates as greater than all the carbon stored in oil, natural gas and coal combined.[1] They are critical in maintaining the stability of earth's atmosphere and temperature.What is a carbon sink? According to www.fern.org, as an example, "A carbon sink is anything that absorbs more carbon that it releases, whilst a carbon source is anything that releases more carbon than is absorbed. Forests, soils, oceans and the atmosphere all store carbon and this carbon moves between them in a continuous cycle. This constant movement of carbon means that forests act as sources or sinks at different times."[5]Two primary carbon sinks, however, were not involved in that continuous cycling of carbon. Fossil fuel reserves (oil, natural gas and coal) and methane hydrate reserves (methane hydrates should properly be included in the categorization of fossil fuels), like the carbon locked in rocks, locked up carbon in stable reserves and took it out of the cycle. Until man started exploiting and burning fossil fuels those reserves were sinks only. We have, unfortunately, turned fossil fuels into one of the largest carbon sources on the planet. Now we are threatening to do the same with methane.As recently as 1971, in fact, methane was not even on the radar as an important greenhouse gas. According to the report, Methane: A Scientific Journey from Obscurity to Climate Super-Stardom, "The first survey in 1971 on the possibility of inadvertent human modification of climate stated that "Methane has no direct effects on the climate or the biosphere [and] it is considered to be of no importance". The gas did not even appear in the index of the major climatology book of the time (Lamb's Climate Past, Present and Future)."[3]As a result the study of methane hydrates is still very much in its infancy. Most of the research to date, in fact, has focused on the potential of using the methane in those hydrates as an energy source in light of the approaching peak and decline in oil and other fossil fuels. There has been little attention and little funding available for studying methane as a greenhouse gas and as a potential contributor to global warming, even its potential as a catalyst in a runaway greenhouse effect.Why is all of that important? How serious a greenhouse gas is methane? Methane, when first released into the atmosphere is 62 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. However, it has a much shorter lifespan in the atmosphere. It quickly diminishes in potency to about 20 times that of carbon dioxide and will completely oxidize after about twenty years. But that's not the end of it's importance as a greenhouse gas. Methane in the upper atmosphere oxidizes into carbon dioxide and water vapour (also an important greenhouse gas) and will remain in the upper atmosphere as carbon dioxide for another hundred years. So it has a very potent early life as a greenhouse gas but also a long term life cycle as both reduced potency methane gas and then carbon dioxide.One of the troubling aspects of methane hydrates (much more on this later) is that the methane in the hydrate is in gaseous form and under pressure. Where compressed natural gas (CNG) is artificially compressed and stored in steel cylinders or other containment vessels at pressures of 200-248 atmospheres,[6] the methane gas in methane hydrates is naturally present at a pressure of 162 atmospheres in a cage of ice.[4] Anyone who has ever seen a gas cylinder explode knows how explosive gases under pressure can be with a sudden release of that pressure.Keith Bennett, a reader of my blog from the UK, recently sent me an e-mail in which he reminded me, "ever[...]



Unrefined

2010-03-24T07:34:49.608-04:00

If and when the average person thinks about peak oil, their attention and concern are focused on the gasoline and diesel fuels that run the family car, the heating oil that warms the family home, and the jet fuel that runs the plane that takes the family on vacation. And that is reasonable. By far the biggest single use of crude oil is for the production of those various fuels. Our society literally runs on oil. But remember that there are over 300,000 other products, other than those fuels, in every day use around the world that are derived from oil.The road between the undiscovered crude oil in the ground and the gasoline in your car's fuel tank - or any other usage - is a very long and expensive one. It must be discovered, analysed, wells drilled and extracted. From there it has to be gotten to a refinery for processing to produce gasoline, diesel, heating oil, jet fuel, lubricating oil and other lubricants. That resulting gasoline has to be distributed to a service station near you so you can drive your car in and fill up your tank.In case you hadn't noticed, there is a shortage of oil refining capacity in the United States. From 324 oil refineries in operation in 1980-81 (when the U.S. was still a major exporter of refined products) closures over the past thirty years have reduced that number to less than 140.[13] In that same thirty years no new oil refineries have been built in the United States [16], and more refineries close each year. And increasingly tough and demanding environmental legislation, coupled with a general, overall reduction in the quality of available crude oil that is more difficult, expensive, and polluting to refine, lessens the probability that any will be constructed in the foreseeable future.Despite the fact that more than 20 million barrels of oil are consumed in America every day, the total remaining refining capacity in the country is down to 17,734,900. And 1.6 million barrels or more of refined product are still exported to other countries every day, up 33% since 2007[15]. That is 9% of a total refinery output that is already insufficient to meet demand. This means that the capacity for refined product for American consumption of more than 20 million barrels a day is 16.225 million barrels a day, and dropping.There is no spare capacity in the system, no refining buffer. Any refinery closure, whether temporary due to storms, strikes or other problems, or whether permanent, the shortfall cannot be made up from spare capacity. The favorite mantra of economists, of course, is that supply will always rise to meet demand. An average of 2-3 million barrels of refined product is being imported every day, largely from Europe, to make up for the current shortfall. And still there are no new refineries under construction to meet the unfulfilled demand. With an average capacity of 125,000 barrels a day, the equivalent of the output from over 15 unbuilt refineries is being imported every day. That could hardly be interpreted as supply rising to fill demand.Margins in the refining industry are quite low, with costs continuously rising. In the early days of the oil industry when the majors could sell their oil for 20 times or more what it cost to produce it, the oil companies largely ran their own refineries and were prepared to live with the low margins in the refining end of the business which were more than offset from the huge profits in the oil production end of the business. But independently owned refineries are the order of the day with major after major selling off their refinery operations to independent refiners. And today, rather than new refining capacity coming online to satisfy the increasing demand for finished product as economic theory suggests, the refining industry is, in fact, looking[...]



Problem with creating new blog entries

2010-03-23T13:08:36.181-04:00

I am sorry to report that there is some sort of problem with creating new blog entries. Until the problem is fixed I am unable to post new material I have written for which I apologize



Infrastructure

2010-03-14T14:45:08.246-04:00

What is infrastructure? Infrastructure is the essential, physical organizing framework meant to facilitate the smooth, day-to-day operation of society. It includes transit, waterworks, sewers and waste disposal, communications, the physical layout of the community and more. It is both a facilitator in helping the society function but also, often unintentionally, serves to limit and misdirect the manner of that operation and, most importantly, development and growth. The defensive walls constructed around the cities of Europe proved very valuable in protecting those cities from attack by enemies wielding swords and spears but they have also imposed frustrating limitations on the growth and development of those cities in modern times.The American automobile industry, in order to improve its sales and profitability, bought up and shut down long-established and efficient public transit systems across the nation. They succeeded in having the interstate highway systems implemented, setting the nation on the road to being dominated by suburbs, of course devoid of public transit. They killed the city centre and left it to rot as retail rushed out to the suburbs where the customers now lived.Many communities, trying to overcome the domination of the automobile, are finding that the needed added investment in effective public transit, and the infrastructure to support it, is generally greater than the public coffers can handle, definitely greater than the car-culture taxpayers are willing to support, that they are stuck with the private automobile being the driving force behind infrastructure choices. In my youth a saw the implementation of public water and sewer systems in my hometown, an expensive proposition that required years of special tax levies to pay and disrupted traffic and commerce in the town for years. The benefits were great enough - did you ever have to use an outhouse during a cold snap in the middle of February? - that the taxpayers were willing to absorb the special tax levies.Man is not the only species that builds communal infrastructure. Among the others which do are; ants, termites, bees, beavers, groundhogs, prairie dogs, rabbits, and corral. Other species, however, do so instinctively. Man does so by intellectual choice. If anything, our instincts which were formed as early primates would mitigate against our creation of infrastructure. In fact, man is the only primate that does create infrastructure. This suggests that our tendency to create infrastructure was not a slow, evolutionary development but grew out of our developed methods of seeking security in numbers, of banding together and forming tribes.Infrastructure and organized society have gone hand in hand from the beginning. It is critical in both modern and less developed societies. The infrastructure involved may be very, very different but equally critical. Infrastructure was critical to Greek society, the Romans (the Romans had a consistent town plan that they used in the development of most of their communities), the Aztecs and Mayans, and all other organized societies through history.The one very important factor they all have in common is without constant maintenance the infrastructure soon begins to break down. And the society begins to break down with it. As it deteriorates the infrastructure that was critical in building the society becomes a dangerous liability. The critical dependence of society on its infrastructure was strongly highlighted in a report "Cumbria flooding exposes UK’s vulnerability to infrastructure failure". The report claims, "We are often only hours away from social collapse if our critical infrastructure were to fail totally.... The failure of a single piece of infra[...]



What will Peak Oil Really Mean?

2010-01-26T10:10:10.186-05:00

Ultimately peak oil will not be a geological crisis, not an economic crisis, not a political crisis. Inevitably peak oil will be a global philosophical and psychological crisis.Peak oil will represent the traumatic end of hope, of optimism, of promise, of faith, to all of which we have become addicted and upon which our overly-complex global economy is built.It will signal the end of the insanely counter-intuitive belief that the worse things are the better they will become. Any member of any other species learns from the reality of life experience. If it encounters danger, hurt, pain, injury, it quickly learns to avoid the source of that negative. It doesn't assume their survival is a sign that things are about to get better. That appears to be a peculiarly human interpretation.We are suckers for optimistic promises.No politician in this country can ever get elected without promising growth and prosperity. They count on the public's short attention span and the low probability that anyone will ever hold them accountable and check whether the promises are delivered on. Anyone seeking leadership of any organization, be it a church, a bank, or a boy scout troop, must promise growth, prosperity, improvement and change or they will never attain the leadership position they seek.Not only can one not seek leadership by talking about negative growth, austerity, belt-tightening, reduced living standards and the like, they can not even gain leadership by talking about holding the line, by promoting non-growth, sustainability, getting by. Sustainability must be oxymoronically packaged as sustainable development or sustainable growth to be politically acceptable.The reality, despite the mainstream denial and obfuscation, is that we have already passed global peak oil. I believe production statistics show we reached that milestone in May, 2005.The peak oil theory originally referred to a peak in conventional, on-shore crude-oil production. At the time that was the only oil we could turn into the fuels and the plethora of products oil was transformed into. The perceived importance of peak oil was not that it would signal the end of oil but rather the end of cheap, easy to access, easy to process oil. The impact would be a clear impediment to economic growth, no small event in a debt-based global economy critically dependent on perpetual growth. But how do you finance growth when the total US debt now exceeds the combined GDP of all the other nations on earth?Just as important, the theory suggested, was that this event would signal the near term peak in all liquids production. This was based on the belief that no ramp-up in secondary sources of oil such as deep water and tar sands, or the expansion of ethanol and other biofuels, could possibly offset the declines in conventional oil production.US on-shore, conventional oil production, for example, peaked in 1970-71, just as M. King Hubbert had projected in 1956. Despite increases from large discoveries in Alaska, persistent development of off-shore oil in the gulf of Mexico, improved extraction and processing technology, a manic growth in stripper wells, production levels from all sources have never been able to offset the declines following the peak of conventional production in the lower 48. Each year sees the US become more dependent on oil imports from increasingly hostile sources. The US economy is now irreversibly tied to the volatile and ever-increasing global price of oil.The pattern of optimistic promises has, unfortunately, also become entrenched in the energy sector, particularly in the oil industry. Minor discoveries of new fields are vigorously and blatantly heralded as promises of a bright energ[...]



Legacy

2009-12-10T16:19:11.705-05:00

How do we phase out our economics-driven over-consumption of the world's precious and rapidly disappearing resources? There is no question that we must. The remaining supplies of major resources like oil, natural gas, coal, gold, silver, copper, lithium, uranium, fresh water, top soil and more is insufficient to support our wasteful usage, or even our needs, through the lifetime of our children. We could, of course, just keep using them all up until they are are gone. 7-8-9 billion people then standing around asking, "Now what the hell do we do?"Major transitions in society consume a tremendous amount of energy and resources. Countries rebuilding after the devastation of war, transitioning through a new industrial, technical or cultural revolution, recovering from a spate of devastating natural disasters, all consume resources at a tremendous pace. Though quite different in the detail, a society transitioning from an industrial base to an agrarian focus, from a high tech base to a low tech base, also require extensive resources to build out the infrastructure suited to the new societal structure. We can continue to use up the dwindling resources and energy supporting our current, unsustainable lifestyle and society and then just accept whatever comes when the resources are gone. Or we can - please pardon me for such a blasphemous suggestion - plan ahead and use what resources we have left during the powerdown building the society as it is going to have to be in a low/no-energy world. That need to marshall our remaining resources to prepare for the future should not be that difficult to understand.It is interesting to watch children of any age in a class discussing resource usage and the environment. They get it. Why don't their parents? They know that they are discussing their own futures. They seem to instinctively understand that everything they can do now makes their own future better and more sustainable, that they are going to need to have left some of what we now have if they are going to have any sort of quality of life in their future. When and how do we educate that understanding out of them? When and how do we force them into the tunnel vision of consumerism, quarterly reports and economic forecasts?We have, in fact, reached the point where our profligate resource consumption and wastage is no longer just a concern for future generations. It has become a critical issue for ourselves, for all those generations alive today. Demand for most important and critical resources is now growing faster than the availability of those resources. Availability of many of those resources is, in fact, in decline while demand continues to increase.We are early enough in the decline of most of those critical resources that the impact is, unfortunately, largely unnoticed by most people. It manifests itself in other ways, such as higher prices, reduction of services, reduced product quality and durability. As long as demand continues to grow while resource availability declines, however, we move closer to perpetual shortages, rapidly escalating prices, conflicts and wars over those remaining resources and more.How do we break the cycle of resource over-consumption and environmental degradation in the pursuit of Madison Avenue concocted wishes and dreams? All life, all living species, use from their environment what they need to survive. That, of course, is a lie. Were that true we would not be facing the global crises we have before us. But only one species, out of hundreds of thousands, does not adhere to that principal. Man. And only one species has the ability and potential to undo the damage already done and plan and prepare [...]



What the Recent IEA Revelations Portend

2009-11-12T09:50:05.883-05:00

Will the recent revelations, by a whistleblowing, high-ranking IEA insider, of oil reserve statistics falsified because of political pressure, result in a new wave of political and media honesty regarding peak oil? The official and public pattern of denial and obfuscation hiding the real decline in global oil production figures and the consistently overstated global oil reserves, coupled with a serious lack of transparency regarding true oil field recovery rates (realistically only 30-50 percent) that are a fraction of the oil reserves themselves, have been clearly designed to maintain an atmosphere of complacency about the security of the world's energy potential. The reasons are quite simple, the primary one being the prevention of panic both on Wall Street and Main Street.

The willingness of the IEA to bow to political pressure to sugar coat global oil statistics has ultimately set the IEA up as the fall guy to take the hit when honesty finally permeates the halls of government. They are, after all, the statistics published by the IEA, not those produced by government agencies such as the US EIA. Governments can, and probably will, simply claim that the IEA misinterpreted their wishes and that they were unaware that the IEA were systematically overstating the numbers. And the media will probably be willing partners - based, of course, on information supplied to them by trusted inside government sources - in laying the blame at the IEA's feet.

It is possible, of course, that the same government pressure that has caused the IEA to pump up oil statistics over recent years has now been brought to bear on the IEA to now let it leak that they have been fudging the numbers and to prepare to take the fall on behalf of those governments. The leaks may now start to be echoed by official IEA spokespersons who will likely accompany those admissions with copious Mea Culpas as they claim that they were not aware that their underlings were fudging the numbers. That will, of course, be coupled with strong promises and commitments to weed out the bad apples responsible and bring a new veneer of transparency in their reporting.

This whole thing looks too much like setting up the populace for official recognition of peak oil and preparing that same populace for a new round of stringent measures designed to allow for a claimed smooth and painless transition into a lower energy future. Groundwork for this, of course, will necessitate a new and invigorated climate of fear akin to that following 9/11 as the government and their media partners stress to the unwary populace the serious implications of peak oil and the pain that will result on Main Street if the people do not follow the dictates of government as they address the issue.



Understanding Peak Oil

2009-11-10T09:42:53.300-05:00

Peak oil is not about running out of oil. It is not about how much oil is left in the world. It is not about how much of what oil there is can be extracted. And it certainly is not about whether oil is biotic (produced from organic matter) and, therefore, finite, or abiotic (not produced from organic matter) and, therefore, infinite and replenishable.Most people do not understand the nature and manner in which oil is stored underground. They mistakenly think it exists in a large pool, like an underground lake or like certain, but very few, water aquifers. It does not.I am not a geologist but I have, through extensive reading and research, come to understand reasonably what the physical characteristics of an oil reserve are. In most cases oil exists in and is dispersed through porous layers of underground rock, ideally sandstone, and is held in place in that source rock by a heavier, denser cap of rock above it, up through which the oil in the reserve cannot flow. In some cases, most notably in tar sands, oil is held in a subsurface layer of sand but must be secured there by some form of heavy overburden of rock or clay.But oil in a reservoir generally, but not always, is under pressure. This is generally because of the natural gas volatiles that occur hand in hand with the oil. Oil is extracted or recoverable by releasing that pressure and allowing the oil to be pushed by that pressure to the surface through a well. But that oil will only continue to flow upward as long as the pressure in the reservoir continues. The more oil that is extracted from the reservoir the more the pressure drops, the lower the flow rate becomes until, eventually, the pressure is completely dissipated and the flow stops.Advanced drilling and extraction techniques used in the oil industry today are attempts to compensate for this natural drop in reserve pressure. Natural gas, carbon dioxide, water and seawater injection are all used in various reserves in order to maintain the pressure needed to drive the oil to the surface. The catch-22 in the use of such techniques, unfortunately, is that the more such techniques are used the more the geological integrity of the reserve is damaged and, ultimately, the less oil that is eventually recoverable. This is being proven out in oil field after oil field, such as in the North Sea, where flow rates, once the peak extraction has been reached, falls off 2-5 times or more quickly than using conventional techniques. So, although you can get the oil out of the ground faster using these techniques the amount of oil the field will ultimately yield is reduced, sometimes by as much as half or even more.With the possible exception of tar sands, and even there it is questionable, no oil field will ever yield up all of the oil it contains. Eventually the field pressure drops to a point where whatever amount remains simply is not recoverable. Long before that, however, continued recovery and extraction surpasses the point where it is economically viable or reaches the point where the energy invested in recovery exceeds the energy recovered. To put that on an apples-to-apples basis, at that point more oil (energy) is used to get the oil out than the amount of oil you get out.This is what peak oil is about. Peak oil is the point at which the collective flow rate from all the world's oil fields reaches and surpasses its maximum level and begins an increasingly progressive decline in production. From that point on, unless society's dependence on oil somehow diminishes, demand for oil will increasingly exceed the amount of oil available to fill that demand. Logicall[...]



Can we ever again accept life in a no-energy world?

2009-09-25T10:56:50.331-04:00

Hi. Can we talk?I'm not sure if you've ever given it much thought but..... we are heading for a measurable and persistent decline in available global energy resources that will eventually leave us in a no-energy world. Seriously!I assume you have heard about peak oil. Well, it's not just oil. It's natural gas, coal, hydro electricity, nuclear power, virtually all forms of energy. Oh, and of course global warming is happening at the same time. Have you ever considered what all that is going to mean to you? To your lifestyle? To the lives of your children and their children?No? Well think about it. Please!I don't want to rain on your parade, put a damper on your party. But things are going to change. Hell, they already are. And not for the better. Maybe you just haven't noticed.I don't mean for you to become a (pick one; peakster, peaknik, peak-oiler, nut job), although that is certainly an option. But it takes years of study to be able to read between the lines of the utter crap politicians and the mainstream media throws at us as they struggle to avoid talking about reality. But won't you at least look at both sides of the debate? And there is a debate, and will continue to be a debate as long as so much effort is being put into keeping you from seeing the reality of the situation.Just as denial is no way to deal with grief, it is no way to deal with energy decline and climate change. Sooner or later you have to stop trying to avoid reality and face up to it, however painful that may be.I'm not going to go into a long song and dance here of trying to overwhelm you with the statistics. I'm not even going to try to convince you that peak oil is real. I have written over a hundred articles on this blog already aimed at doing that. And there are so many other sites doing the same. But a thousand articles aren't going to do the job unless you can be convinced to read them, unless you can be convinced to open your mind. And that is what I am trying to do here.I know peak oil and the thought of terminal energy decline is scary. Very! I remember years ago when I first understood the implications of peak oil. I was paralyzed with fear. It took me well over a year to accept it as reality and to start looking beyond peak oil to what life is going to be like on the other side. I realized that denying it was not going to stop it from happening. There was going to be a peak and there was going to be a life on the other side of it. If I didn't think about it, allow for it, plan for it, prepare for it, then it was going to just happen to me and I would be caught up in a huge flood of unprepared people struggling trying to adjust to the massive changes it will bring. I didn't want to be part of that flood. And I don't think you do either.Where do we look for an example of what life will be like in a post-carbon, post-oil, post-energy world? We can look to history, study what life was like before the industrial revolution. We can look to the third world, the poor countries where people live without energy and survive on $2.00 a day. We can look to various TV reality programs that place people intentionally in a non-industrial, agrarian lifestyle for a season, a year, several years. We can look to heritage villages like Toronto's Black Creek Pioneer Village, or Eastern Ontario's Upper Canada Village, or Australia's Olde Sydney Towne. In so many ways the post-carbon world will very likely look and function very much like the pre-carbon, pre-industrial world.I am, in a sense, luckier than most around me. I can look to my own past, my own upbringing and childh[...]



How Much is that Energy Really Worth?

2009-09-22T14:42:49.163-04:00

We have long-passed the point where we can continue to value energy in terms of dollars or any other currency. We lost that luxury when the total global production of energy peaked and began to decline, more specifically when the net energy per person went into decline globally.As in the case of any commodity, when the availability of supply can no longer keep pace with demand then the availability, from that point onward, dictates the price of the commodity. It is no longer a buyer's market.Global energy consumption per capita peaked sometime during the 1990s. Since that point the global population increase has been greater than the total global increase in energy production and energy consumption.Although the rate of growth of per capita energy consumption in the US - which today uses roughly 25% of all energy used globally - has decreased from 2.5% in the early 1990s to less than 1.5% in 2008, it is still on the increase. Obviously, with a total global energy supply on the decline and U.S. per capita consumption still on the rise, the percent of total global energy use by the U.S. is on the increase while much of the rest of the world, particularly the third world, are being priced out of the energy market and are already having to cope with ever-decreasing energy availability.Energy, unlike almost every other commodity, requires the consumption of some of itself - energy - in the production of itself. The more energy we produce the more energy consume in producing it. That is called EROEI (Energy Returned On Energy Invested). It can be difficult to equate one form of energy to another, especially since the pricing of different forms of energy is not consistent when it comes to the value of the energy produced. You will often see the acronym BOE used in regards to energy. This stands for Barrels of Oil Equivalent. And that is very important when trying to understand EROEI.Let us take that to the extreme for simplicity's sake. Let us suppose the only form of energy available on this planet is oil, rather than the more complex Barrels of Oil Equivalent. The EROEI, therefore, shows how much energy, in the form of oil, is used in order to produce that oil. Obviously you want to use as little oil as possible to produce that oil because it is only the oil produced in excess of the oil used that is available for other uses than producing the oil in the first place.At the beginning of the oil age it is estimated that the amount of energy used to produce the readily available, high quality oil with which the oil industry began was about one barrel used for every 100 barrels produced. Ninety-nine out of every 100 barrels of oil produced was available to be used for other than producing oil.In the time since then, of course, the energy cost per barrel of oil produced has steadily risen. On average, when considering all forms of oil like tar sands and deep water, we get a little more than ten barrels of oil for every barrel of oil invested. In fact, when it gets to tar sands and ultra-deep-water oil and bio-fuels produced from corn ethanol, the EROEI ratio gets very close to 1:1. It takes almost the energy equivalent of a barrel of oil to produce a barrel of oil. If we ever pursue producing oil from the various shale deposits like Bakken it could take more energy to produce every barrel than what we get out of it.The peak oil theory, contrary to what certain denialists continue to claim, does not suggest we are running out of oil. In fact most knowledgeable peak oil pundits will quickly point out that we will probably ne[...]



Defining the Continuum from here to Post-Carbon Sustainability

2009-08-25T14:01:25.077-04:00

To define a continuum or path of transition from today to life in the post-carbon world it is necessary to start with a reasonably clear vision of that post carbon world. Largely this vision has to be local, or at least regional, centered on the area in which you live or will live at that time.It is always awkward forecasting the future. There are so many variables. But it is easier, in my mind, to predict what life will be like in that post-carbon world than at any point during the transition. If you can start with a clear vision of the destination you are in a better position to define your own transition path.What will the post-carbon world look like? Here are just fifteen examples of the changes you will see in society as we slide down the energy-decline slope.* The focus of life will be very much local, not the global focus of today. Sustainability will mean local self-sufficiency and self-reliance, either individually or as a community.* Consumerism will be dead, dead, dead. The keyword will have become need, not want. Gone with consumerism will be the vast advertising industry that fuels consumerism today.* Society will clearly not be dominated by the automobile. Electric cars may hang on for a while, as might cars running on locally-produced bio-diesel. The ultimate demise of the automobile will be, however, not a lack of fuel to run them but the inability to maintain the automobile manufacturing industry, an industry today based on planned obsolescence. Yes, it would be possible to make durable, rugged cars that would last decades, perhaps a century or more. But that would entail a complete overhaul of the industry mindset.* Globalization will have died well before we enter the post-carbon world. In fact it is very much in the process of unwinding now. The massive fuel demands of large-scale trans-oceanic transport and the tremendous raw material demands of the ship-building industry simply are not going to be feasible in a world of net declining resources.* Communities will produce all, or almost all, of their own food. If they trade it will likely be with other nearby communities but this will likely be limited to crisis times such as after crop failures.* Travel will not be what it is today. Airlines will be a thing of the past, unless they convert to blimps and hot air balloons. Before that the industry will likely survive for a while as a luxury for the monied elite. Trans-oceanic shipping will be extremely limited, unless it reverts to sail but even then would be limited. Possibly, and hopefully, the once expansive railway system and services will be rebuilt in time but that is going to require a government commitment which, at the moment, seems very unlikely. The concept of travelling for vacation will probably disappear over time. The current highway systems will initially fall into disrepair and ultimately be abandoned to be reclaimed by nature. Some of the routes they followed may still be used, on horseback and on foot, since many of the early highways followed routes that were already well in use before that. People in cold climates will not travel south to escape winter but will, in fact, be very travel restricted by that winter weather.* The manufacturing industry, if it survives, will be seriously downsized and refocused on society's needs, not the competitive and advertising-stimulated wants of today.* Manufacturing processes will likely be reverse engineered so that production can be dispersed to regional areas where they will serve a discrete regional market[...]



Finding the Continuum From Here to Sustainability

2009-08-25T14:01:58.440-04:00

Social evolution is, in itself, a continuum. But just as species evolution is. according to many prominent biologists, marked by punctuated equilibrium (sudden mutational blips in the midst of long periods of evolutionary stasis), so too has been the development or evolution of human society. The smooth, steady continuum is a myth, just as the smooth bell-curve that depicts peak oil is a myth. The path of any evolutionary process is as uneven as an untended cobblestone road.In the case of both species evolution and human social evolution, the punctuated equilibrium has been generally a function of available energy. When a species overshoots the energy carrying capacity of its environment (which for most means exceeding the food supply) sudden bursts in evolutionary change happen as certain existing mutations in the gene pool are suddenly favoured by the changes in environment. Mutations are common but it takes certain conditions for them to become favoured.In the case of other species that energy is derived from food alone. Only in the case of man does external energy, in the form primarily of fossil fuels, enter the picture. Our use of external energy has for millenia interrupted the cyclical nature of evolutionary punctuated equilibrium, smoothing out the large peaks and valleys of natural evolution because we have in that time had access to and used more energy than what we are limited to in the natural food supply.There has been little change in our man-made environment, little opportunity for mutations to achieve dominance in human species. But as our hospitals and medical journals will reveal, mutations happen all the time. That creates the potential for an uncomfortable relationship; the longer the period of stasis the more abrupt and dramatic the period of punctuated equilibrium will be when it comes.Human society (as opposed to the human species) has, however, gone through a process of evolutionary punctuated equilibrium each time there has been a major change in our energy supply, as with the discovery of a new energy source (See my articles in this blog; Energy as the Catalyst in the Punctuated Equilibrium of Human Population Growth and Alternative Energy, Add-ons and Replacements ). This was the case with the taming of wind power, the discovery of peat, coal, oil, electricity, natural gas, the taming of water to produce hydro-electricity, uranium to produce nuclear power and even the advent of agriculture.As with any other species taking a new food item into its diet, each of those energy sources has been exploited as an add-on to our ever-increasing energy mix. With each new energy source discovered, the proportion of total energy use satisfied by the old sources decreases (though the absolute usage may stay as high as it was) in favour of the new, usually more efficient energy source. An energy source is rarely abandoned by choice once it has been incorporated into the energy mix.Only depletion that forces the abandonment of an energy source seems to be able to accomplish that. This could be seen, for example, in Cuba with the withdrawal of the Soviet Union and the virtual, and sudden, elimination of oil as an energy source for that country. They were suddenly forced into finding a way to live without what had been their dominant energy source. (It is interesting to note now that oil has been discovered in Cuba's territorial waters the U.S. and the oil majors want to challenge Cuba's claim to those waters so they can have access to the oil.) Si[...]



Keys to Sustainability

2009-08-25T14:02:27.049-04:00

Sustainability has recently become an issue that more and more people are taking seriously. It should have always been a no-brainer but wasn't; but better late than never. Sustainability means, by clear implication, self-sufficiency and self-reliance over the long term.The current increase in awareness and interest is, of course, partly due to the most serious global economic crisis since the great depression, through which even the uninitiated are finally seeing that our global, perpetual-growth-oriented economic system is no longer sustainable, if it ever was.Yet, however, when most people think at all about sustainability they are still thinking in terms of economic sustainability, about sustainability of the materialistic lifestyle to which we have become accustomed this past half century, sustainability of sprawling suburbia and the family car, about sustainable development and growth, some way to sustain business as usual. But it's the thought that counts. Right?The ability to get a significant number of people to think about real sustainability, long-term societal, environmental and species sustainability, is going to require a deep and fundamental change in mindset. The core of sustainability planning can not be that which is itself unsustainable. A problem cannot be its own solution.I see it all the time, even in the peak oil groups in which I participate. People assume that a certain aspect of civilization or technology which they are particularly dependant upon will survive. So many people assume, for example, that if/when society collapses the internet will survive. It is so useful, after all. But most people are surprised to learn that it takes a tremendous amount of energy and technology to run the internet, especially in its global incarnation with which we have become so accustomed. I have friends in England, Germany, Brazil, South Africa, the U.S., Australia and New Zealand with whom I communicate all the time. It may be by e-mail. It may be live chat, either by text or even, frequently, by video and audio using our webcams. Sure, it's great. But I definitely do not assume that facility will still exist if society and the global economy seriously and terminally collapse.The basic problem is that people think about changes relative to what currently is. They get fixated on what they are going to lose. They view the whole journey into the future negatively, as a journey away from the present with which they are knowledgeable and comfortable, like somebody moving out of their well-loved old house after the bank forecloses, rather than an exciting journey toward the future, like someone happily choosing to move into a new or different house.The simple reality that seems to elude most people in the discussion about peak oil is that peak oil means peak food! There are far more people (6.6 billion) on this planet than the planet can sustain naturally, without the use of fossil fuels (many serious and credible researchers estimate the natural carrying capacity to be between 500 million and 1.5 billion). When those fossil fuels go into serious and irreversible decline, which they will, we are going to have to try to feed our massive population without them. Sustainability means, simply, the ability to feed the population, whether that consideration be local or global.So, forget about the present! Our current society as it is can not survive peak oil. It is the business as usual of our human society that has turned peak oil [...]



Massive Marine Methane Hydrate Destabilization/Release a Potential Major Positive Feedback Mechanism in Accelerating Global Warming

2009-04-20T08:34:47.032-04:00

First, a few words about the denial industryPerhaps the favorite argument of those anxious to take society down a dangerous path - such as that of exploiting a new energy resource like methane hydrates - when there is opposition to that intent out of concern of the risk and danger involved, is to demand that those opposed to their actions prove the alleged danger.It is an argument that has been increasingly supported by politicians hoping to keep the wheels on the growth-dependent global economy and others who stand to gain from the actions being debated. The growth on which their power depends derives from energy, lots of it.It seems that invariably the approach favoured by those in power is to let the debated actions continue until that proof of danger is produced, hoping that such proof will not materialize. But almost invariably the satisfactory proof demanded is extremely illusive and in the time it takes to produce that proof an extraordinary amount of damage has already been achieved. All too often the society is already far too advanced down the path to dependence on that resource that the ultimate decision is to carry on, that the risk is deemed manageable, minor and acceptable relative to the perceived benefits being achieved.While that proof is being developed, and even after it has been presented and supported by countless experts, the tactics of denial, misinformation and disinformation not only continue but accelerate. Whenever any minor point of contention can be created, when any minute error of detail in the proof can be found, it is vigorously put forward as proof that the entire proof is invalid. For every thousand experts endorsing the proof a small number of often highly-paid industry shills are put forward to claim that the debate is not over, that the research is not conclusive, that the proof is incomplete and full of holes, and that the proof should not be allowed to stand in the way of progress.The concept of using risk, doubt and uncertainty as a need for caution seems to be lost in favor of recklessly proceeding. The logic of demanding proof of safety rather than proof of danger is ignored.This is the tactic that has been used in industry opposition to the climate change argument. The amount of time and money having to be expended/wasted on the inevitable proof because of this industry opposition and campaign of disinformation is almost enough, and is intended, to dissuade those working on that proof from even bothering. Fortunately, for society, they are not dissuaded.Any potential crisis that could possibly block or slow economic progress is deemed less a problem than the economic crisis that a more cautious approach could bring about. There is no long term view and no environmental or societal conscience when it comes to economics. There is only the short term profit motive which trumps all other considerations.Now back to our scheduled programmingThere is growing debate today, as the reality of diminishing global oil reserves sinks in, about methane hydrates as a potential energy source and the potential global risks and dangers in their exploitation. The optimism is rapidly waning that economical carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology will be developed to allow the use of coal to be cleaned up to a level that will alleviate global warming. Governments and energy industries throughout the world are increasingly looking at methane as the next great energy source.[...]



Methane Hydrates Turning Into Alternative Energy Solution of Choice

2009-04-07T08:50:20.837-04:00

The news on intended methane hydrate exploitation continues to get increasingly scary. Here is just a recent survey of article and news headlines and titles.Methane Timebomb Ticking - Boilingspot.blogspot.comThe USGS assessment of abrupt climate change - Energy and Environment ViewpointBush urges US to stake claim to Arctic territory in last-gasp energy grab - C-Questor group newsletterScientific deep ocean drilling: Revealing the Earth's secrets - DoxtopJapan digs ocean deep to find natural resources - Methane Hydrates - GreenpacksUSGS: Alaskan gas could heat millions of homes - Top Gold NewsStudy: Lots of recoverable frozen gas in Alaska - blog RubensMethane hydrate extraction - Mercury Rising"Ice That Burns" May Yield Clean, Sustainable Bridge to Global Energy Future - NewswiseJapan to drill offshore for methane hydrate - EnergyCurrentJapan aiming to commercialize new ocean resources in 10 years - iStock AnalystGovt to Study: Exploit ocean resources - Asian news feedIce That Burns Could Be a Green Fossil Fuel - Newscientist.comFlammable ice is the future of the human idea alternative energy - AnrosoftFlammable ice could be carbon-neutral fuel - pound360Scientists have found ecological way to burn methane. - The ScienceBoosting energy production from 'ice that burns' - Science centricThe volume of material being released on the subject of exploiting methane hydrates as an energy source is dwarfed by the plethora of articles detailing the activity in the area of Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS). The combination of these two bode very badly for global warming. The potential for accidental release of large volumes of methane from hydrates and the inability to develop an economically viable technology and methodology for CCS very much weakens the potential for decreasing anthropogenic greenhouse gasses to a level that global warming can be arrested.Our hunger and lust for new energy sources, as oil and natural gas resources begin to decline after peak oil, continues to put pressure on governments everywhere to weaken the regulations for carbon emissions. CCS is, through carbon trading, showing all the hallmarks of turning into another taxpayer-subsidized ponzi scheme with every other corporation, whether or not they are involved in the energy industry, lining up at the taxpayer trough looking for their share of the research money and stockpiling carbon credits waiting for legislation that will drive up the price as carbon emitters are forced by implemented legislation into buying credits.As you will see in the archives of this blog, I have written several articles on both CCS and methane hydrates. With the lack of material in mainstream media, however, the potential for any public pressure in these areas continues to be weak. If it stays weak and public pressure never develops the desire of those in power to keep the train speeding toward the precipice rather than putting on the brakes will rule the day. Sooner or later some sanity must seep into the circles of power or we are going to pay a tremendous price to support their lust for power.[...]