Monthly Archives: December 2005

Peak energy and the lessons of 2005

Jim Kunstler offers his Season’s Greetings over at Clusterfuck Nation. He posts a new entry each week and it is inevitably followed by very lively comments. One of my favorite weekly reads. Always informative and his gloomy outlook parallels my own.

Observers are already writing off 2005 as if it had shown us everything it has to show. I think the holiday frenzy will be as instructive as the hurricanes of late summer.

A mild late-autumn combined with extra imports of European oil and refined fuels, and withdrawals from our own strategic reserve, have held the gasoline prices down here in the US. But the northeast got a four-day cold blast over Thanksgiving, along with a substantial snowfall, and the furnaces are now cranking away, even as the WalMart shoppers commenced their first mad tramplings of the season.

Natural gas, methane, which powers half the home furnaces in America, is a separate story from oil, of course. We can’t import it like oil because it requires special pressurized tanker ships and dedicated port facilities — of which there are currently only two in America — and getting it here by those means even if the facilities were in place would be very un-cheap. We are way past all-time peak natural gas production in the US, meanwhile, and desperately making up for it by importing all we can from Canada, which is compelled to sell us as much as we demand under the NAFTA rules, despite the fact that they are way past their own all-time gas production peak and desperately need the stuff to process the tar sands of Alberta into oil (which China has contracted to buy a great deal of). You may have noticed, too, that Canada is a northerly nation with significant home heating needs of its own.

2005 was a wake up call not only regarding energy resources but also climate change… a wake up call we’ve missed. As obvious as the signs are the mass of people still seem to not get it.

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Climate Change: Atlantic Circulation slowing, increased hurricane season, less snow in Arctic Tundra

Stuart Staniford over at The Oil Drum has posted an excellent discussion regarding the recently released studies about the Atlantic Circulation Changes:

Nature today reports a new study by Bryden et al. suggesting a significant slowdown in the North Atlantic circulation (tip of hat to Westexas). The emphasis in coverage has been on the implications of cooling for Europe. For example, The New Scientist says

The ocean current that gives western Europe its relatively balmy climate is stuttering, raising fears that it might fail entirely and plunge the continent into a mini ice age. The dramatic finding comes from a study of ocean circulation in the North Atlantic, which found a 30% reduction in the warm currents that carry water north from the Gulf Stream. The slow-down, which has long been predicted as a possible consequence of global warming, will give renewed urgency to intergovernmental talks in Montreal, Canada, this week on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol.

The New Scientist is a UK publication, and this is scary stuff for a country that’s running out of natural gas, oil, and coal. But let’s just have a quick think about the implications for hurricanes and oil supply.

Hurricane Seasons

It’s worth your time as are the comments following the post. Of course I’d also suggest the articles referenced though the Nature article requires a purchase or subscription.

Climate Change: could it be more obvious? You know, perhaps it will stop snowing in the Arctic tundra? Would that be obvious enough? Bush and the U.S. congress will likely continue in the wrong direction and the people of the world will continue to protest in support of Kyoto.

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Oil and Energy Peak in the media

Greg Gordon, writing for the News Observer notes the attention being paid to our energy situation:

Move past era of oil, experts say
Former CIA Director James Woolsey paints a dire scenario: A terrorist attack causes a months-long, 6 million-barrel reduction in Saudi Arabia’s daily petroleum output, sending the price of oil skyrocketing past $100 a barrel.

Industry banker and author Matthew Simmons says the kingdom’s oil fields are deteriorating anyway. And a recent New York Times story cited an intelligence report suggesting the Saudis lack the capacity to pump as much oil as they boast they can.

Even if nothing disrupts the projected flow of Middle East petroleum, Energy Department consultants warned earlier this year that “the world is fast approaching the inevitable peaking” of global oil production — a problem “unlike any faced by modern industrial society.”

They wrote that the United States and other nations are in a race with the clock to find alternative sources for oil, “the lifeblood of modern civilization,” and avoid potential economic disaster.

The folks over at Participate.net have put up a good page to go along with their movie Syriana: Oil Change. Read through the blog and you’ll see various mentions of peak oil:

A campaign to reduce our dependence on oil Inspired by the film Syriana Oil addiction. It saps America’s economic strength, pollutes our environment, and jeopardizes national security. Breaking that addiction begins with the choices we make as individuals. Instead of oil dependence, let’s choose Oil Change!

Writing for the Arizona Daily Star Matthew Simmons and Stewart Udall Time to discard fifty years of energy myths

This summer’s hurricanes have triggered the most serious energy emergency in the nation’s history. With gasoline, natural gas and heating oil at near-record highs, many families face the chilly prospect of much higher energy bills in the future. The entire economy is at risk, but airlines, tourism, farmers, small business, seniors and the poor are particularly threatened.

Katrina and Rita ravaged the Gulf of Mexico’s petroleum infrastructure, but a larger, more daunting crisis was already on the horizon.

To craft an intelligent response, we must begin by discarding 50 years of energy myths. Because our continent had huge reserves of oil, coal and natural gas, Americans have nurtured a set of energy illusions that have now come home, in biblical fashion, to haunt us.

The most dangerous myth is that cheap energy is our birthright, that the well would never run dry.
This illusion was born in the early 1950s, when U.S. oil fields provided two-thirds of the planet’s petroleum. Oil was so abundant that domestic producers were required to curtail production to prevent a price collapse. For lack of a market, large plumes of natural gas, now our most precious heating fuel, were flared into the sky.

And atomic energy, the new kid on the block, promised an infinite supply of almost-free electricity. In this euphoric moment, our nation began to fashion a new way of living unlike anything ever seen on the planet.

For a half century, we designed skyscrapers, autos, cities and houses on the assumption that energy would remain inexpensive. In the ’50s, we invented the suburb, the shopping center and the Interstate Highway System. In the ’60s we bought Mustangs. In the ’70s we visited the moon, and in the ’80s we built the world’s most powerful military. Between 1950 and 2005, the country’s population doubled and the economy grew sixfold.

Then there’s this by Patrice Hill over at the Washington Times: Speculation surrounds oil peak. It’s short and overly optimistic but it is coverage of the issue.

Thanksgiving marked the day that some analysts thought global oil production would have reached its peak, ushering in a new era of fuel shortages.

These petro-pessimists were using the same formula as the one that accurately predicted the apex of U.S. oil production in 1970.

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