Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Global Public Media

I apologize for not blogging recently. All my time is going into preparing Peak Oil presentations.

I did want to add a website to my resouces list that I have seen mentioned many times in the last year but never checked out until now. Hopefully you already know about it, but just in case you haven't seen it let me tell you about it.

Global Public Media, "Public Service Broadcasting for a Post Carbon World,"

...has been formed to help existing public service information organizations, which include broadcasting, print and online media, give a broader, deeper and more interactive public information service. During Phase One we are developing and presenting in-depth interviews, & pilot radio and television sites and programmes in response to a wide range of topics and issues in the world.
I found them because of a link to a lecture by Colin Cambell on Peak Oil. It was well worth the hour I invested in listening to it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


The Energy Bulletin highlighted emagazine's Peak Oil issue and so I checked it out. I had never seen it before. It looks interesting. The lead article presents "both sides" of the issue but it does so in some detail. Jim Motavalli, editor of E, calls peakers "chicken littles" (and I somehow get this is an affectionate term) but he ends the article talking about Jared Diamond's book, Collapse.

Jared Diamond discusses one of the critical stops on the road map to societal failure in his book Collapse: It turns out that societies often fail even to attempt to solve a problem once it has been perceived. What happens, he writes, it that some people may reason correctly that they can advance their own interests by behavior harmful to other people. The perpetrators know they will often get away with their bad behavior, especially if there is no law against it or the law isnt effectively enforced. They feel safe because the perpetrators are typically concentrated (few in number) and highly motivated by the prospect of reaping big, certain and immediate profits, while the losses are spread over large numbers of individuals.

Diamond isn't specifically talking about oil companies and their mega-profits, but his scenario offers a precise explanation for the West's failure to act in the face of clear and present energy danger. With the oil companies and their supporters in Congress and the White House not only controlling the debate but assuring the public that a steady hand is at the tiller, we may very well drift toward the kind of abrupt collapse Diamond documents as having taken down the Vikings, the Mayans and the mysterious tribe that inhabited Easter Island. Instead of cryptic stone statues, we may leave behind rusting oil derricks and highways that lead nowhere.

This issue includes several Sidebars:

"We're Being Manipulated"
Biodiesel: The Burning Question
Nigeria of the North: Oil Sands Frenzy Threatens Alberta Environment
Compassionate Conservation: A Real Answer to High Oil Prices
Consider the Alternatives

Monday, January 23, 2006

Peak Oil Presentations

I am in the process of putting together some peak oil presentations and so I am looking around at what has been done so far. There is a lot of good stuff out there, so I think I'll start a new category of links and start collecting them up.

Today I revisited one that put me off the first time I read it, because of the conclusions that the author draws. Robert Beriault is Canadian and he thinks Canada should close its borders, withdraw from NAFTA and become a depository for the last vestiges of civilization. But he does a very good job of leading the reader through the issues of peak oil and overshoot. It is well researched and well argued. His Powerpoint book is called Peak Oil and the Fate of Humanity.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

City vs. Country Post Peak

Energy Bulletin published Toby Hemenway's follow up to an often-cited article he wrote after giving up on country living and returning to the city last December, but it just came to my attention today. As I have been collecting points of view about this topic, I wanted to be sure to cite it.

The bottom line? "Given two present-day urban and rural populations of equal size, the urban one has a much smaller ecological footprint."

Hemenway does not believe in the apocalyptic versions of life post-peak, but the only reason he gives for this is the fact that all of the previous doomsdayers were wrong. (That's not enough for me.) So he is not so concerned with social unrest. Therefor he believes: "The places with the best chance of surviving an oil peak will be cities of less than a million people, ranging down to well-placed smaller cities and towns."

He argues that heading for the hills is not what it's cracked up to be.

One of the most common responses to the Peak Oil panic is, 'We're planning on moving to the country with our friends and producing everything we need.' Let me burst that bubble: Back-to-the-landers have been pursuing this dream for 40 years now, and I don't know of a single homesteader or community that has achieved it. Even the Amish shop in town. When I moved to the country, I became rapidly disabused of the idea of growing even half my own food. I like doing one or two other things during my day. During my life.
He talks about what it takes to make a community: living near each other in a relatively homogeneous neighborhood. And finally he addresses the question of depression and concludes that "[b]readlines mean a community is pooling its resources. That can't easily happen where people are dispersed and don't have cars to connect them."

Food for thought.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Simpler Way

I swiped this from the Energy Bulletin, and I'm adding Ted Trainer's site to the "resources" section. Ted's essay offers extensive solutions. Bookmark it for a glum day.

The Simpler Way
Ted Trainer, personal website

...Problems of ecological destruction, Third World poverty, resource depletion, conflict and social breakdown are caused by consumer-capitalist society and cannot be solved unless we move to simpler lifestyles, more self-sufficient and cooperative ways, and a very different economy, i.e., The Simpler Way, discussed in section two.

There is now a Global Alternative Society Movement in which many small groups are building settlements of the required kind. The final section argues that the top priority for people concerned about the fate of the planet should be building these new lifestyles and systems within existing towns and suburbs.

...Living more simply does not mean deprivation or hardship. It means focusing on what is sufficient for comfort, hygiene, efficiency etc. Most of our basic needs can be met by quite simple and resource-cheap devices and ways, compared with those taken for granted and idolised in consumer society.Living in materially simple ways can cut enormous amounts off the money a person needs to earn.

...Living in ways that minimise resource use should not be seen as an irksome effort that must be made in order to save the planet. These ways can and must become important sources of life satisfaction. We have to come to see as enjoyable many activities such as living frugally, recycling, growing food, "husbanding" resources, making rather than buying, composting, repairing, bottling fruit, giving old things to others, making things last, and running a relatively self-sufficient household economy. The Buddhist goal is a life "simple in means but rich in ends."(January 2006)

One of most difficult challenges in sustainability is to break free of the prevailing worldview and imagine an alternative. Longtime sustainability visionary, Ted Trainer (Faculty of Arts, University of N.S.W., Australia), has been working out
his ideas for many years. Recently he reformulated his ideas into a new format. Each of the three sections can be viewed individually:

Part 1: The Situation
Part 2: The Alternative, Simpler, Way.
Part 3: The Transition Process (and notes.)

Parts 2 and 3 I find to be the more interesting, since they deal with specific solutions. Those who find Trainer's ideas outlandish might be surprised by the success of the Amish who have lived the Simpler Way for hundreds of years. (See Amish FAQs and Plain Technology (MIT Technology Review).)Many more of Trainer's works re available at his website. (I wish he would date his articles -- it's hard to tell what's new in his long list of publications!). -BA

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Engineer-Poet Analyzes US Regions

Most of the Engineer-Poet's posts are far above my head. But I check in daily because I am interested in his conclusions. This post is actually about the irregularity of renewable energy sources (cloudy days, calm skies, etc). But he includes an analysis of how the various regions of the US would fair if they needed to get all of their energy from renewable sources.

South and Southwest (air conditioning is used when the sun is shining)
  • solar: 50%
  • carbonized biomass ("charcoal"): 38%
  • nuclear: the balance

Midwest ("the total amount of wind power potentially available is enormous")

  • wind: 40%
  • charcoal: 38%
  • nuclear: the balance

California and the Pacific Northwest ("California, Oregon and Washington are problems")

  • hydro with nuclear: 12%
  • charcoal: 38%
  • imported wind: 30%
  • nuclear: 20%
  • wave energy: to be developed

East ("The East is in somewhat of a pickle")

  • nuclear, solar, wind, charcoal: 70%
  • imported charcoal: 30%

This is another thing to consider if you are thinking about relocating.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Ice Cores Suggest Cause of Climate Change

A report in Science magazine (subscription required, but abstract available) explains that new ice core samples taken from polar ice sheet "allow researchers to place modern changes in the context of natural variations over hundreds of thousands of years." Scientists now have data that shows that the current climate change is happening faster than any in the last 650,000 years. This reinforces "the view that greenhouse gases and climate are intimately related."

Lets hope this new report can put the debate to rest.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Ruppert v. Corsi

Last night Michael Ruppert debated Jerry Corsi on Coast to Coast. The topic was whether oil was formed through biological processes, which means that it is finite; or abiotically, which means it is a renewable resource. At the end of the debate the poll showed that 62% of the listeners bought the abiotic argument, leaving 32% potentially concerned about peak oil. I was not surprised by the numbers.

It was not, as folks on the Oil Drum open thread surmised, because Ruppert brought his conspiracy theory doom and gloom perspective and Corsi promised Americans a brighter future. It was the quality of the debate itself, and it boiled down to science. Corsi came across authoritatively, and offered logical scientific-sounding explanations for how oil is created deep within the earth and seeps up to be drilled. Ruppert could not explain how oil is made from biological processes.

After 2 hours of debate, the first caller's question summed up the problem in a nutshell. He asked how did the dinosaurs turn into oil? And how many of them did there have to be to make all the oil? He explained he was a hunter, and saw decomposing bodies, and they weren't turning into oil.

Ruppert got a bit defensive and said nobody ever said oil came from dinosaurs. (Well the oil companies did. I remember the advertisement well. "Some dinosaur gave his or her all to give you gas" with a cartoon of a dinosaur peeking out of the tank). The caller admitted he had missed 20 mins of the show. Ruppert said that it was plankton covered over with sediment. He did not talk about pressure or temperature of chemical reactions.

Then it was Corsi's turn. He said that the dinosaur belief was part of the cultural imagination and agreed with the man that bodies do not decompose into oil, the decompose into constituent chemicals. (Earlier he made the point that you can't create higher energy carbons from carbons except abiotically.) He basically validated the caller while Ruppert seemed to be impatient with him.

Corsi kept repeating his message clearly and forcefully. His claims are that all oil is abiotic, we will never run out of oil, and peak oil is a hoax supported by the oil companies who just want to jack up the prices. He added that none of predictions ever made about the end of oil were true, and could never be true.

Ruppert clearly was expecting to debate different issues. He was prepared to prove that the rate of abiotic oil, if it existed, would have to be keeping up with demand, which it wasn't. He was waiting to talk about the three oil fields that are used as evidence by other abiotic proponents and show that they were abject failures.

He did not expect to be told that we have abundant oil, that there were billions in reserves that the oil companies were just sitting on, that they weren't exploring or building refineries on purpose--just to keep the price high. In other words, all they had to do was look a little deeper (8 to 10 miles down instead of 6) and we would find all the oil we needed. Technology would save the day by making this possible.

And Corsi had the very compelling evidence of corporate greed with the record breaking profits garnered by the oil companies last year.

Ruppert tried to counter this by saying (and I am paraphrasing loosely here) "the would never let the economy go to hell in a handbasket--it would ultimately hurt them." But the listeners were not persuaded. One caller pointed to the CEO of Enron milking every last dime while he could.

The argued over depletion (North Sea, Indonesia, Cantarell) vs. increasing reserves (Iran, Khazakistan) and Corsi made the point that Simmons was wrong when he predicted that the Saudis could not produce over 10 million barrels a day--he says they are at 11-point-something with plans for 15.

Corsi blindsided Ruppert by claiming that the Tiger fields in Vietnam are not on sedimentary rock. He said the Russians and Petrol Vietnam are drilling to 8 miles and producing 100 million barrels a day. Ruppert countered that the crust could be folded there but Corsi was adamant that it was on bedrock.

The one scientific appeal that Ruppert made was that if oil was abiotic it would have to "crack" at 275 degrees into natural gas as it was rising through the mantel where pressure would be decreased. He said it would all be natural gas. (I don't understand how biotic oil wouldn't have the same problem.)

In short, he failed to make his case. And with their audience, it showed. (Gawd what if Corsi wants to run for President someday. Ick!)

So this is what we have to deal with. We need to be able to counter Corsi's argument. I have my homework set out for me. Any suggestions?

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Simultaneous Policy

Hello again and Happy New Year! Thanks for your patience while I took a much needed break. But I'm back and look forward to sharing more adventures with you. I have some requests to give Peak Oil presentations so I will be polishing up my act and taking it on the road over the next couple of weeks.

Today I'd like to highlight a protocol for global cooperation called the Simultaneous Policy (SP).

There is no shortage of sensible solutions to our global problems, such as those in the column at the left. What the world lacks is an effective means to cooperatively implement them everywhere, simultaneously. Individual nations cannot tackle the challenge of global problems alone or even in limited alliances or unions. Other nations, alliances or unions would still be free to ignore or exploit problems like global warming, cheap labour, and corporate tax shelters to gain a competitive advantage in the global marketplace.

Enter the Simultaneous Policy (SP) – a peaceful, yet revolutionary political tool that empowers voters everywhere to compel our politicians – at the point of a ballot box! – to commit our nations to implement global solutions simultaneously. With SP, no nation, alliance, or corporation need go it alone; no one loses out, and everyone wins. Global warming, the chronic threat of weapons of mass destruction, socially and environmentally irresponsible corporate and economic globalization, unfair trade – SP is the lever that we the people of Planet Earth can use to make our elected representatives tackle these problems as we, in our collective wisdom and goodwill, see fit.
It is an answer to the problem that:

Though legislators know that serious world problems such as global warming, monopolistic corporate power, poverty and environmental destruction all demand decisive action, they are loath to implement the policies needed to solve them - policies such as higher corporate taxes and tougher environmental protection laws. They legitimately fear that in today's liberalized global economy, investors, corporations and jobs would simply pick up and leave for more congenial destinations. However good their intentions, governments feel bound to conform to a straitjacket of market- and business-friendly policies.
SP focuses on economic justice and global warming. I think it could be a good platform from which to implement The Oil Depletion Protocol (see Heinberg's introduction here).