Monday, May 30, 2005
Saturday, May 28, 2005
Experts: Petroleum May Be Nearing a Peak
By MATT CRENSON, AP National Writer
Could the petroleum joyride — cheap, abundant oil that has sent the global economy whizzing along with the pedal to the metal and the AC blasting for decades — be coming to an end? Some observers of the oil industry think so. They predict that this year, maybe next — almost certainly by the end of the decade — the world's oil production, having grown exuberantly for more than a century, will peak and begin to decline.
And then it really will be all downhill. The price of oil will increase drastically. Major oil-consuming countries will experience crippling inflation, unemployment and economic instability. Princeton University geologist Kenneth S. Deffeyes predicts "a permanent state of oil shortage."
According to these experts, it will take a decade or more before conservation measures and new technologies can bridge the gap between supply and demand, and even then the situation will be touch and go.
None of this will affect vacation plans this summer — Americans can expect another season of beach weekends and road trips to Graceland relatively unimpeded by the cost of getting there. Though gas prices are up, they are expected to remain below $2.50 a gallon. Accounting for inflation, that's pretty comparable to what motorists paid for most of the 20th century; it only feels expensive because gasoline was unusually cheap between 1986 and 2003.
And there are many who doubt the doomsday scenario will ever come true. Most oil industry analysts think production will continue growing for at least another 30 years. By then, substitute energy sources will be available to ease the transition into a post-petroleum age.
"This is just silly," said Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy and Economic Research in Winchester, Mass. "It's not like industrial civilization is going to come crashing down."
Where you stand on "peak oil," as parties to the debate call it, depends on which forces you consider dominant in controlling the oil markets. People who consider economic forces most important believe that prices are high right now mostly because of increased demand from China and other rapidly growing economies. But eventually, high prices should encourage consumers to use less and producers to pump more.
But Deffeyes and many other geologists counter that when it comes to oil, Mother Nature trumps Adam Smith. The way they see it, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Norway and other major producers are already pumping as fast as they can. The only way to increase production capacity is to discover more oil. Yet with a few exceptions, there just isn't much left out there to be discovered.
"The economists all think that if you show up at the cashier's cage with enough currency, God will put more oil in ground," Deffeyes said.
There will be warning signs before global oil production peaks, the bearers of bad news contend. Prices will rise dramatically and become increasingly volatile. With little or no excess production capacity, minor supply disruptions — political instability in Venezuela, hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico or labor unrest in Nigeria, for example — will send the oil markets into a tizzy. So will periodic admissions by oil companies and petroleum-rich nations that they have been overestimating their reserves.
Oil producers will grow flush with cash. And because the price of oil ultimately affects the cost of just about everything else in the economy, inflation will rear its ugly head.
Anybody who has been paying close attention to the news lately may feel a bit queasy at this stage. Could $5-a-gallon gas be right around the corner?
"The world has never seen anything like this before and so we just really don't know," said Robert L. Hirsch, an energy analyst at Science Applications International Corp., a Santa Monica, Calif., consulting firm. Still, he added, "there's a number of really competent professionals that are very pessimistic."
The pessimism stems from a legendary episode in the history of petroleum geology. Back in 1956, a geologist named M. King Hubbert predicted that U.S. oil production would peak in 1970.
His superiors at Shell Oil were aghast. They even tried to persuade Hubbert not to speak publicly about his work. His peers, accustomed to decades of making impressive oil discoveries, were skeptical.
But Hubbert was right. U.S. oil production did peak in 1970, and it has declined steadily ever since. Even impressive discoveries such as Alaska's Prudhoe Bay, with 13 billion barrels in recoverable reserves, haven't been able to reverse that trend.
Hubbert started his analysis by gathering statistics on how much oil had been discovered and produced in the Lower 48 states, both onshore and off, between 1901 and 1956 (Alaska was still terra incognita to petroleum geologists 50 years ago). His data showed that the country's oil reserves had increased rapidly from 1901 until the 1930s, then more slowly after that.
When Hubbert graphed that pattern it looked very much like America's oil supply was about to peak. Soon, it appeared, America's petroleum reserves would reach an all-time maximum. And then they would begin to shrink as the oil companies extracted crude from the ground faster than geologists could find it.
That made sense. Hubbert knew some oil fields, especially the big ones, were easier to find than others. Those big finds would come first, and then the pace of discovery would decline as the remaining pool of oil resided in progressively smaller and more elusive deposits.
The production figures followed a similar pattern, but it looked like they would peak a few years later than reserves.
That made sense too. After all, oil can't be pumped out of the ground the instant it is discovered. Lease agreements have to be negotiated, wells drilled, pipelines built; the development process can take years.
When Hubbert extended the production curve into the future it looked like it would peak around 1970. Every year after that, America would pump less oil than it had the year before.
If that prognostication wasn't daring enough, Hubbert had yet another mathematical trick up his sleeve. Assuming that the reserves decline was going to be a mirror image of the rise, geologists would have found exactly half of the oil in the Lower 48 when the curve peaked. Doubling that number gave Hubbert the grand total of all recoverable oil under the continental United States: 170 billion barrels.
At first, critics objected to Hubbert's analysis, arguing that technological improvements in exploration and recovery would increase the amount of available oil.
They did, but not enough to extend production beyond the limits Hubbert had projected. Even if you throw in the unexpected discovery of oil in Alaska, America's petroleum production history has proceeded almost exactly as Hubbert predicted it would.
Critics claim that Hubbert simply got lucky.
"When it pretty much worked," Lynch said, "he decided, aha, it has to be a bell curve."
But many experts see no reason global oil production has to peak at all. It could plateau and then gradually fall as the economy converts to other forms of energy.
"Even in 30 to 40 years there's still going to be huge amounts of oil in the Middle East," said Daniel Sperling, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis.
A few years ago, geologists began applying Hubbert's methods to the entire world's oil production. Their analyses indicated that global oil production would peak some time during the first decade of the 21st century.
Deffeyes thinks the peak will be in late 2005 or early 2006. Houston investment banker Matthew Simmons puts it at 2007 to 2009. California Institute of Technology physicist David Goodstein, whose book "The End of Oil" was published last year, predicts it will arrive before 2010.
The exact date doesn't really matter, said Hirsch, because he believes it's already too late. In an analysis he did for the U.S. Department of Energy in February, Hirsch concluded that it will take more than a decade for the U.S. economy to adapt to declining oil production.
"You've got to do really big things in order to dent the problem. And if you're on the backside of the supply curve you're chasing the train after it's already left the station," he said.
For example, the median lifetime of an American automobile is 17 years. That means even if the government immediately mandated a drastic increase in fuel efficiency standards, the conservation benefits wouldn't fully take effect for almost two decades.
And though conservation would certainly be necessary in a crisis, it wouldn't be enough. Fully mitigating the sting of decreasing oil supplies would require developing alternate sources of energy — and not the kind that politicians and environmentalists wax rhapsodic about when they promise pollution-free hydrogen cars and too-cheap-to-meter solar power.
If oil supplies really do decline in the next few decades, America's energy survival will hinge on the last century's technology, not the next one's. Hirsch's report concludes that compensating for a long-term oil shortfall would require building a massive infrastructure to convert coal, natural gas and other fossil fuels into combustible liquids.
Proponents of coal liquefaction, which creates synthetic oil by heating coal in the presence of hydrogen gas, refer to the process as "clean coal" technology. It is clean, but only to the extent that the synthetic oil it produces burns cleaner than raw coal. Synthetic oil still produces carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse warming gas, during both production and combustion (though in some scenarios some of that pollution could be kept out of the atmosphere). And the coal that goes into the liquefaction process still has to be mined, which means tailing piles, acid runoff and other toxic ills.
And then there's the fact that nobody wants a "clean coal" plant in the backyard. Shifting to new forms of energy will require building new refineries, pipelines, transportation terminals and other infrastructure at a time when virtually every new project faces intense local opposition.
Energy analysts say coal liquefaction can produce synthetic oil at a cost of $32 a barrel, well below the $50 range where oil has been trading for the past year or so. But before they invest billions of dollars in coal liquefaction, investors want to be sure that oil prices will remain high.
Investors are similarly wary about tar sands and heavy oil deposits in Canada and Venezuela. Though they are too gooey to be pumped from the ground like conventional oil, engineers have developed ways of liquefying the deposits with injections of hot water and other means. Already, about 8 percent of Canada's oil production comes from tar sands.
Unfortunately, it costs energy to recover energy from tar sands. Most Canadian operations use natural gas to heat water for oil recovery; and like oil, natural gas has gotten dramatically more expensive in the past few years.
"The reality is, this thing is extremely complicated," Hirsch said. "My honest view is that anybody who tells you that they have a clear picture probably doesn't understand the problem."
- Go to Skype.com and download the free program to match your operating system, e.g. Windows.
- Install and test as directed.
- Call me at geraldtrumbule.
Millions have signed up and you should too.
"But during the last half century -- when, for days or months or many years, U.S. troops and planes assaulted the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Grenada, Panama, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq again -- the rationales from the White House were always based on major falsehoods, avidly promoted by the U.S. mass media. In the light of real history, the U.S. soldiers who are honored each Memorial Day were pawns of methodical deception. Media spin and the edicts of authorities induced them to kill "enemy" combatants and civilians, for whom Pentagon buglers have never played a single mournful note."
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
"This is news. This is deadly serious and has extremely dire implications for each and every American citizen – no – how about each and every person in the industrialized Western World? Remember, folks, the American Dollar currently still enjoys global reserve currency status. This is a privilege – not a god given right. As such, the dollar’s fate is of grave and utmost concern to many beyond US borders.
I do not understand how a “press” that claims to be the freest in the world can remain stone silent on this issue. Don’t you think we all deserve better? Does anyone really believe that ignoring this issue and failing to report it altogether will alter the stark, dark and disturbing reality outlined in the Treasury’s own published numbers?
Better put your mitts on folks – and get in the game. In absence of an explanation to the contrary, it sure looks like somebody’s monetizing debt and printing money – and lots of it. The silence on the part of officialdom on this issue is truly deafening. Remember folks, the shenanigans outlined above are all brought to us by the same swashbuckling clowns who claim the economy is doing fine, there are lots of jobs, are adamant that the gold market is not rigged and oh, yes, they perpetually remind us that inflation is a non issue too. What a mess."
(Click on title for complete article.)
Monday, May 16, 2005
and from Molly Ivins, by way of www.TomDispatch.com
Published on Wednesday, May 11, 2005 by Working for Change
They Lied to Us
Memo proves leadership knew Saddam was not a threat
by Molly Ivins
Meanwhile, back in Iraq. I was going to leave out of this column everything about how we got into Iraq, or whether it was wise, and or whether the infamous "they" knowingly lied to us. (Although I did plan to point out I would be nobly refraining from poking at that pus-riddled question.)
Since I believe one of our greatest strengths as Americans is shrewd practicality, I thought it was time we moved past the now unhelpful, "How did we get into his mess?" to the more utilitarian, "What the hell do we do now?"
However, I cannot let this astounding Downing Street memo go unmentioned.
(Click title to continue)
By Hugh O'Shaughnessy
15 May 2005
"Washington's "war on drugs" in Colombia is collapsing in chaos and corruption, and the drug producers are winning. The so-called Plan Colombia, which has cost the US more than $3bn (£1.6bn) in the past five years, is being abandoned, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has announced.
Last year, the hugely expensive effort to poison coca bushes - whose leaves are the source of cocaine - by aerial spraying ended in failure. More bushes were flourishing in January this year than in January 2004."
"Buried down in today’s New York Times report on President Bush reaffirming his unqualified support for John Bolton as U.N. Ambassador is the reason why almost all of you are ready to vote for his confirmation.
“Republicans are hoping to shame Democrats into a quick vote on Mr. Bolton. They argue that he needs to be in place by June so that the United States will have the latitude it needs to press its concerns about Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program before the Security Council.”
Why the big rush? My reliable sources tell me it is because there is a timetable that makes it urgent for Bolton to be ready for action in June in order to cripple the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as part of the plan to bomb the Iranian nuclear-power plant at Bushehr. That’s because Bushehr, under construction with Russian supervision, will soon be ready to receive the Russian fissionable material enabling it to produce power. In 1981, remember Republican Senators, Israel bombed the Osiraq nuclear power plant near Baghdad just before it was to be fueled by its French contractors. Once fueled, bombing is out of the question because of the radiation that would be emitted, with clouds traveling who knows where."
Sunday, May 15, 2005
City Hedge Funds Head for Domino Collapse
Peter Koenig and Louise Armitstead
The Times, LondonSunday, May 15, 2005
Bad investments by some of the biggest hedge funds in London have triggered unprecedented losses, record demands for money back, and talk of a death spiral weighing heavily on stocks and bonds. GLG, a hedge fund started in 1995 by a group of former Goldman Sachs bankers, has in recent weeks had demands for more than $500m(£270m) from investors wanting to pull out of its $4 billionmarket-neutral fund.
The predicament of GLG, the biggest group in Europe, with $13 billion under management, highlights the stress being felt at many hedge funds in Europe and America after four months of deteriorating results. Prime brokers and the credit departments in investment banks have been calling clients to check their capital strengths as rumours of a big hedge-fund blow-out grip the industry.
London-based Cheyne is thought to be down by at least 10% in its credit fund after the downgrading of debt at General Motors and Ford. Ferox, another of London's most successful funds, isthought to be down nearly 20%. Bailey Coates, Polygon, Rubicon, Vega, Moore Capital, and Brevan Howard are all nursing heavy losses of about 5% each in April.
Bailey Coates, whose losses reported in The Sunday Times three weeks ago first alerted the wider market to the industry crisis, has had yet more redemption calls. "What you're seeing is like a run on the bank," said Narayan Naik,director of hedge-fund studies at the London Business School. "Selling forces more selling and there's a cascade effect."
Saturday, May 14, 2005
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
Today’s batch brought a resource so devastating I just had to pass it on to you. Here I present excerpts from 3 of the reports. Dick Chaney is, apparently, the most evil person ever, and he and his have unleashed enough Depleted Uranium (DU) to kill off all life on the planet. By 2020 the cancer rate will be 50%.
Various quotes from Iconoclast-Texas.com:
"Yeah, the concentration of the depleted uranium particles in the atmosphere all around the globe is increasing. There are indications that the U.S. will go in June and bomb the heck out of Iran. We’re monitoring the U.S. Army ammunition factories. They have very large orders for those huge bunker buster bombs that have 5,000 lbs. of DU in the warhead."
"The soldiers from Gulf War I in a group of 67 soldiers who came back, they had DU in their equipment, in their clothes, in their bodies, in their semen, and they had normal babies before they went over there to war. They came back, and the VA did a study. Of 251 Gulf War I veterans in Mississippi, in 67 percent of them, their babies born after the war were deemed to have severe birth defects. They had brains missing, arms and legs missing, organs missing. They were born without eyes. They had horrible blood diseases. It’s horrific."
"If they were in Bradley Fighting Vehicles, they’re coming home with rectal cancer from sitting on ammunition boxes. The young women are reporting terrible problems with endometriosis. That’s the lining of the uterus malfunctioning, and they just bleed and bleed and bleed. Some of them have uterine cancer — 18 and 19 and 20 year olds. The Army will not even diagnose it. They send them back to the battlefields. They won’t treat them or diagnose them. A group of 20 soldiers pushed from Kuwait to Baghdad in 2003 in all the fighting. Eight of those 20 soldiers have malignancies."
"The simple thing is, you take tons and tons of solid radioactive waste, and you spread it all over the world, both here in the states and overseas, in combat situations and non-combat situations, do it into the ocean, then refuse to clean it up and provide the medical care. It’s that easy."
"What we have is deliberate use of solid radioactive materials all over the place and the deliberate refusal to provide the medical care that’s mandated by Army orders and regulations, Department of Defense directives, and a simple refusal to clean up all the environmental contamination that must be done by the direct Army regulation. It’s that easy. There’s no accountability. Anybody that speaks up becomes persona non grata and the attacks just come flying your way beyond comprehension."
Sunday, May 08, 2005
Saturday, May 07, 2005
Received this today from our friend Bob Gibbs in Cleveland. Bob has his own company and sells transformers and switch gear to power companies and others who operate their own power plants. I think he knows what he's talking about.
Nuclear Power is having a rebirth. The newer design does away with these cooling tower types of installation. It is called a PBMR (pebble bed modular reactor) which is smaller and cheaper, takes about 24 months to build and lasts about 40 years. They are much safer. Inside a PBMR, there is a bed of high temperature silicon graphite balls each about the size of a billiard ball. About 70 % of the balls have flecks of uranium. When they interact, the bed of graphite balls gets hot. The gas carries the heat to a turbine. If the core hits peak temperature of about 1600 deg. C, it starts to cool itself down automatically. There is no uncontained chain reaction to cause a meltdown as in the existing type of plants. Also they are built to store their own waste in the basement with storage space for forty years of operation. Of course, the Sierra Club and others will still find fault with this.
In the next 15 years, China will need to generate at least six times what it already generates or at least two of these nuclear reactors per year. India has the same expected growth. You hear a lot about the wind power being so clean, etc., but it is small potatoes. Four of these nuclear reactors could generate more than all of the existing wind power turbines in California and use very little real estate to do so.
Surprisingly enough, this rebirth of nuclear does not mean the demise of coal because there also is new coal technology. The world has about a 300-year coal supply. China now generates about 70% of their power with coal. Coal presents two problems: Transportation and dirty burning. Both of these are being solved by liquefying coal for cleaner burning and it will be a lot easier for the Chinese to get coal via a pipeline from the north of China to where the factories are in southern China. This technology is like turning coal into oil.
Uranium has been rising in costs because of the rebirth of nuclear. It is now about $20/lb. At that price, relative present fuel costs are:
Coal - $1.25 per million BTU
Natural Gas - $3.5 per million BTU
Oil - $6.00 per million BTU
Uranium - $0.055 per million BTU
Let's assume that Uranium increases to 50 times the current price as demand picks up again. The new PBMR nuclear plants would provide energy at the equivalent to buying gasoline at 1/2 cent per gallon.
Most of the world's untapped coal reserves are in the U.S., northern China, Australia and Canada.
The U.S., Canada and Australia have the greatest part of the world's uranium.
The best news of all is that there is one place in the world that does not have much of these reserves and that is the Middle East. Wouldn't it be nice to be around when we don't need them anymore and they have to fend for themselves.
Friday, May 06, 2005
Entomologists Quentin Wheeler and Kelly B. Miller, who recently had the task of naming 65 newly discovered species of slime-mold beetles, named three species after the president, vice president and defense secretary.
Wednesday, May 04, 2005
February 1, 2005
Will Vote for Food?
by Dahr Jamail
BAGHDAD - Voting in Baghdad was linked with receipt of food rations, several voters said after the Sunday poll.
Many Iraqis said Monday that their names were marked on a list provided by the government agency that provides monthly food rations before they were allowed to vote.
"I went to the voting center and gave my name and district where I live to a man," said Wassif Hamsa, a 32-year-old journalist who lives in the predominantly Shia area Janila in Baghdad.
"This man then sent me to the person who distributed my monthly food ration."
Mohammed Ra'ad, an engineering student who lives in the Baya'a district of the capital city, reported a similar experience.
Ra'ad, 23, said he saw the man who distributed monthly food rations in his district at his polling station. "The food dealer, who I know personally of course, took my name and those of my family who were voting," he said. "Only then did I get my ballot and was allowed to vote."
"Two of the food dealers I know told me personally that our food rations would be withheld if we did not vote," said Saeed Jodhet, a 21-year-old engineering student who voted in the Hay al-Jihad district of Baghdad.
There has been no official indication that Iraqis who did not vote would not receive their monthly food rations.
Many Iraqis had expressed fears before the election that their monthly food rations would be cut if they did not vote. They said they had to sign voter registration forms in order to pick up their food supplies.