Drumbeat: July 19, 2010
Posted by Leanan on July 19, 2010 - 10:25am
Although the peak for coal is not expected for some time, the energy required to mine and transport coal is increasing. Over time high quality black coal will run short and dirtier brown coal will be substituted. This will carry an energy penalty as brown coal is less energy-dense and takes more energy to avoid sulphur dioxide emissions. Peak gas is expected before peak coal. The energy inputs to North Sea oil and gas have been increasing over the years as more advanced oil extraction techniques have been applied. Another major future source of gas in the UK in liquefied natural gas which is chilled, compressed and imported by tanker with a high energy cost.
On the other hand, wind energy is becoming more efficient. With wind energy, bigger is better for energy return. Energy return increases with the square of rotor diameter. If the rotor is twice as big, it produces four times the power. Turbine size has been increasing for many years, which is the key reason for the steep rise in EROEI.
One blade of grass is vulnerable to all sorts of shocks: drought, flood, infestation, and various human interventions including plowing and herbicides (if it's not the kind of grass a groundskeeper wants). But the whole family of grasses would be hard to eliminate. They are so various, so well adapted to their habitats, so ubiquitous in their reach. In short, they are excellent examples of organisms conditioned by millions of years of natural selection, nature's form of trial and error.
That's the long view of adaptation. Then, there is the human view. We are a species with a short history--perhaps at most 500,000 years. Our natural way of living--hunting and gathering--has been superseded by agriculture only in the past 10,000 years. And, our industrial way of life might be said to have begun a little over 200 years ago. And, yet we imagine that the least tested of our human systems of adaptation is somehow the most robust.
Jeff Rubin: What the Economy Will Look Like When We Can't Produce More Oil
The French have a much better word for it: 'decroissance'. Using ugly and frightening terms like 'degrowth' won't help pave the way for a new and exciting economics.
If you're reading this blog, you used more than your share of last year's global resource production. The only reason you got away with it is that somebody else, actually a lot of somebody elses, used less than their share. That, by definition, is an unsustainable long-term dynamic.
Economists have traditionally considered nature to be infinite relative to the economy, and therefore not scarce, and therefore properly priced at zero. But the biosphere is now scarce, and becoming more so every day as a result of growth of its large and dependent subsystem, the macro-economy. As the macro-economy expands into the ecosystem it displaces what was there before, namely habitat of other species (and of indigenous and poor members of our own species). Consequently, biodiversity decline is a salient index of the increasing scarcity of nature, as is involuntary resettlement of people to make way for dams, mines, soybeans, and cattle; and of course increasing depletion and pollution. Sacrifice of nature’s scarce services constitutes an increasing opportunity cost of growth, and that in turn means that nature must be priced, either explicitly or implicitly. But to whom should this price be paid?
Britain could face years of blackouts and high electricity bills because of the focus on renewable energy sources, an energy expert has warned.
Derek Birkett, a former Grid Control Engineer, has warned that the cost of the energy crisis could rival that of the banking collapse.
And he claims renewable energy targets were 'dangerous illusions' which could see consumers forced to pay out more for their power.
Russia may raise its mineral extraction tax on gas by between 10% and 15% from 1 January next year, the first increase since 2005, according to reports.
A shortage of petroleum products is imminent in Nigeria as many importers have failed to deliver second quarter quota and the NNPC has also imposed new rules for third quarter imports.
KHOBAR Saudi Arabia (Reuters) - Saudi Aramco [SDABO.UL] and U.S. group Dow Chemical Co (DOW.N: Quote) extended to Monday a deadline for companies to qualify for bidding to build a giant petrochemical project, industry sources said.
The plant, which would be one of the largest in the world, is part of the Saudi state firm's ambition to develop its petrochemical industry as the kingdom seeks to move away from over-reliance on oil revenues.
ISLAMABAD: US secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday announced more than $500 million worth of development projects for Pakistan that focus on improving water storage, the energy sector, food exports and medical facilities.
The aid, which is the part of a $7.5-billion five-year development package passed by the US Congress last year, aims at improving the US image in Pakistan, a key ally in the fight against terrorism.
ISLAMABAD (Xinhua) -- Pakistan on Monday defended its civilian nuclear cooperation with China to build two nuclear reactors and said the plants will be open to the inspection of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Clearly, China is building up stockpiles for its long list of new reactors. According to the China Nuclear Energy Association, China plans to build at least 60 new reactors by 2020. The average 1,000- megawatt reactor costs about $3 billion. Loading a new reactor requires about 400 tonnes of uranium to start. Take 60 reactors, times 400 tonnes each. That's 24,000 tonnes of uranium (over 52 million pounds) - about all of the world's current output for one year.
(AP) Using a law originally enacted to combat the Mafia, attorneys are filing lawsuits accusing BP PLC and Transocean Ltd. of committing a longterm series of crimes by concealing flaws in deepwater drilling plans and lacking safeguards to contain a catastrophic Gulf of Mexico spill.
With the latest "solution" to the runaway oil well continuing to work, we may be seeing the beginning of the end of this environmental nightmare. If not now, then by the end of the summer, the media will focus principally on the clean-up from this nation's worst environmental catastrophe since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Both the oil leak and its clean-up are major events that will have significant political impact.
WASHINGTON -- BP now faces a Herculean task of cleaning up the region's oily mess.
While BP has hired thousands of people to boom, skim and burn large amounts of crude, the bulk of an estimated 200 million gallons of oil that spewed into the water is actually beyond human reach. As a result, the ultimate cleanup will be left to nature and to colonies of oil-chomping microbes.
If you live on the Gulf Coast, welcome to the real world of oil -- and just know that you’re not alone. In the Niger Delta and the Ecuadorian Amazon, among other places, your emerging hell has been the living hell of local populations for decades.
Following is a factbox on other significant oil spills around the world. Information has been compiled from Reuters and industry databases and, where possible, figures have been converted into barrels per day from tons, gallons or cubic meters.
Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) has completing the running of the new 260-megwatt production unit at the Eshkol Power Plant in Ashdod. The new plant will greatly boost IEC's production capacity, which has been struggling to meet peak demand in recent weeks. Just three weeks ago, IEC was forced to activate hundreds of small generators to meeting the record demand of 10,700 megawatts.
However, a check by "Globes" found that the new production unit, which cost an estimated hundreds of millions of dollars, cannot begin full production until March 2011, because work on the hook-up to the national natural gas pipeline has not even begun. IEC says that, for now, the new power plant will operate only during peak hours, using diesel. Diesel is a more expensive and polluting fuel than natural gas.
Rob Hopkins originally recommended this paper on his blog, as a piece of "high quality research." I concur. The paper does an excellent job of characterizing Transition and putting it into context. In this post, I've selected some of the highlights of the paper.
The federal government’s position on ethanol fuel is that it must contribute less to global warming than gasoline does, or why bother promoting it. Yet by some calculations, ethanol is worse because it encourages the destruction of forests to make way for new farmland, many assert. Burning trees releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere; what is more, the trees are no longer there to absorb carbon dioxide.
Now, two professors at the University of Nebraska counter that gasoline is an even bigger source of heat-trapping gases than previously believed. While most attention focuses on the obvious sources of gasoline-related emissions — drilling wells, transporting oil, refining it into gasoline and finally burning it in a car engine — they argue that the military activity that goes into protecting and acquiring oil imports from the Middle East takes an emissions toll that doesn’t get factored into comparisons of gasoline and ethanol.
Crude oil snapped three days of losses as gains in U.S. index futures pointed to an equity market rebound that may restore confidence in the outlook for fuel demand.
Oil fell earlier as China said export growth may slow during the rest of the year to less than half the pace of the first six months, while concerns persisted about Europe’s sovereign debt crisis. U.S. index futures rose, indicating the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index may rebound from its biggest sell- off this month.
“The fear of a double-dip in the U.S. and a slowdown in China in the second half will remain the driving factors,” said Eugen Weinberg, head of commodity research at Commerzbank AG in Frankfurt. “Much will depend on the technical picture and whether $75 holds.”
China’s eastern province of Shandong faces an oversupply of oil products, news portal dzwww.com reported, citing the local petroleum and chemical association.
Hedge funds and other large speculators raised bets that oil would gain by the most in more than three years just as it began to slide, the second straight week money managers lined up on the wrong side of the market.
So-called net long positions on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose 67 percent the week ended July 13, the most since February 2007, according to the weekly Commitments of Traders report from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Oil fell on four out of five days on the Nymex last week, ending down 0.1 percent at $76.01 a barrel as of July 16, and extended that decline today. It rose 5.4 percent the previous five days, the biggest weekly gain since May.
DUBAI (Reuters) - Decades of sanctions against Iran have stunted its economic development and the growth of its all-important oil sector.
NEW DELHI -(Dow Jones)- India's petroleum secretary said the latest round of U.S. sanctions against Iran could complicate the activities of Indian state-controlled companies that are looking to invest in Iran's oil and gas sector.
The official, S. Sundareshan, said in an interview that Indian public sector firms, including Oil & Natural Gas Corp., are exploring opportunities in Iran, a huge potential market as India hunts for energy resources abroad. India also recently renewed talks with Iran over a proposed $7.4 billion pipeline that would deliver natural gas to Pakistan and India.
New Delhi (PTI) Petroleum Minister Murli Deora today ruled out any rollback in the increased prices of petroleum products, saying the hike has been reasonable and minimum.
Oman will build a huge power plant south-east of the capital to keep up with galloping growth in consumption, the state utility announced yesterday.
The multibillion-dollar, gas-fired plant at Sur – set to be the country’s largest by far – indicates the government has shelved plans to build the GCC’s first coal-fired power plant, analysts say.
LONDON (AP) -- BP PLC says it has signed a new agreement with Egyptian authorities to develop a deep water natural gas field.
BP said Monday that the first phase of the agreement covers development of an estimated 5 trillion cubic feet of gas and condensate in the North Alexandria and West Mediterranean concessions.
China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., the nation’s second-largest oil producer, said crude output at its largest field reached 13.54 million metric tons in the first half, without giving year earlier figures.
Daily production at Shengli field in Shandong province dropped to more than 1,400 tons below the planned volume at the beginning of this year because of cold weather, according to a statement on the state-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission website today. It didn’t elaborate.
U.S. government officials demanded to see BP Plc’s plans for opening its sealed Gulf of Mexico well after tests found a suspected leak seeping from the seabed.
In a letter addressed to Bob Dudley, BP managing director, National Incident Commander Thad Allen said tests had detected a “seep a distance from the well and undetermined anomalies at the well head.” The letter was posted yesterday on the website of the joint information center for the spill.
(CNN) -- Testing on a capped oil well in the Gulf of Mexico will continue for another day, officials said Monday, as the federal government says it has received satisfactory answers from BP regarding a seep near the well.
Thad Allen, the federal government's oil spill response director, said Monday that a federal science team and BP representatives had discussed several issues during a Sunday night conference call, including the "possible observation of methane over the well."
Federal authorities investigating BP PLC's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico are zeroing in on bad decisions, missed warnings and worker disagreements in the hours before the April 20 inferno aboard the Deepwater Horizon that spawned one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history.
In particular, the panel is examining why rig workers missed telltale signs that the well was close to an uncontrolled blowout, according to an internal document assembled by the investigators and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The document lists more than 20 "anomalies" in the well's behavior and the crew's response that particularly interest the investigators.
BP Plc’s chief decision maker on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig is scheduled this week to give his version of the events that killed 11 workers and triggered the worst U.S. oil spill.
(CBS/AP) Oil company BP says that the cost of dealing with the Gulf of Mexico spill has now reached nearly $4 billion.
The company, which last week managed to place a temporary cap on the leak, said Monday it has made payments totaling $207 million to settle individual claims for damages from the spill along the southern coast of the United States.
BP Plc’s talks to sell half its stake in Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay oil field to Apache Corp. stalled twice over the weekend, raising doubts about whether the deal will be completed, said a person with knowledge of the matter.
Halliburton Co., the biggest provider of land-based oilfield services in the U.S., said second-quarter profit rose as gains in onshore drilling made up for a halt to new wells in the Gulf of Mexico.
BEIJING (Reuters) - One of China's biggest ports, Dalian, shut on Monday after an offshore pipeline explosion triggered a major oil spill, forcing a refinery to cut processing and importers to divert cargoes elsewhere.
The aftermath of the weekend fire could disrupt shipments of oil, iron ore and soy and add to pressure for stricter environmental standards in China, already reeling from a toxic copper mine leak in the south of the country which burst into headlines last week amid accusations of a cover up.
Dalian Port (PDA) Co., operator of China’s largest crude-oil terminal, fell the most in two months after explosions at pipelines operated by a PetroChina Co. unit caused what may be the biggest oil spill in the country’s seas.
DALIAN (Xinhua) -- Over 500 fishing boats Monday joined a massive oil spill clean-up operation underway off the coast of northeastern China's Dalian City, three days after pipelines exploded near the city's oil reserve base, one of China's largest.
A dark-brown oil slick has stretched over at least 183 square kilometers of ocean near blast-hit Xingang port, with 50 square kilometers severely polluted.
An oil spill caused by pipeline blasts at China’s Dalian port may be cleaned up this week, allowing country’s largest crude-oil terminal to resume receiving supplies for two PetroChina Co. refineries.
And among experts there seems little doubt that it is big oil that will triumph, particularly in the more difficult terrain where much of the biggest reserves lie. The huge size of potential liabilities will mean that smaller oil firms (such as BP's partner Anadarko) will struggle to justify investing in riskier projects, despite the high potential rewards, argues Mr Christopher Skrebowski, founding director of London-based Peak Oil Consulting.
“It's only the biggest companies that effectively will be able to conduct such projects. Other boards will be intensely reluctant to expose themselves – there is no point saying the risk is 1 to 10,000 if it could lead to total wipeout.”
Most people have enough trouble dealing with the reality of peak oil. It’s like being married to someone who says, “I’m not an alcoholic, I just sometimes drink too much.” But perhaps to soften the blow, or maybe just to simplify the numbers, what is generally left out is the fact that it’s not really peak oil that matters, anyway, but peak oil per capita, the date of which was 1979. In that year there were 5.5 barrels of oil available for each person on Earth; by 2009 it had gone down to 4.3.
Now, I’m used to having Malthusian nonsense preached at me by confused environmentalists or college kids with new beards. But I was now being instructed by a woman with a dulcet NPR voice (in my head, anyway) to share these ideas with my own child. At that moment I realized the discredited thought of Thomas Malthus had been thoroughly recycled.
And this kind of stuff just keeps coming and coming and coming.
The corporate media usually presents the financial crisis as if it were due to bad apples, sloppy accounting practices or other localised phenomena, whereas in fact it is systemic. Ponzi schemes such as the modern fiat currency systems must expand or die. Our main talk this week is by Nicole Foss from The Automatic Earth. Speaking to a Transition Towns conference in June 2010 at the Seale Hayne Agricultural College, Devon, UK, she takes peak oil/resource depletion as a given and explores the implications for a world money system based on unpayable debt, concluding that the years ahead hold increasing repression from centralised power increasingly desperate in enforcing untenable debt. People currently uninterested in what is really going on will be forced to pay attention as resource shortages bite and the 'business as usual' mirage never arrives. Our second hour concludes with a reading of Michael Hudson's 2009 article "The Language Of Looting" which explains how economic history has been censored to allow the term "free markets" to be used to mean the opposite of its historical use.
The success of Toyota Motor Corp.’s Prius, the best-selling hybrid car in the U.S., may stall if Alex Severinsky doesn’t get paid.
The Soviet emigrant, who began his career developing antitank-warfare instrumentation, is getting his day in court over his claims that the idea he patented in 1994 for a high- voltage system to power gas-electric hybrid cars was used by Toyota without permission. Severinsky, 65, has spent years trying to get the automaker to pay royalties, and a hearing that starts today may lead to the U.S. blocking imports of the Prius.
The Midwest could be crisscrossed with a new network of high voltage power lines to move wind-generated power from the windiest spots in the Dakotas, Iowa and Minnesota.
A group of utilities in 11 states, including Pewaukee-based American Transmission Co., is studying three alternatives, each of which would cost at least $23 billion over the next 20 years.
BP and Verenium have signed an agreement for BP Biofuels North America to acquire Verenium's cellulosic biofuels business, including the company's facilities in Jennings, Louisiana, and San Diego, California, for $98.3m.
So last week the city’s parks commissioner urged people to water the trees on the streets. The parks department issued a press release that said trees needed 15 to 20 gallons of water once a week. “That’s three to four large buckets,” it said, offering how-to advice: “Poke small holes at the bottom of a large trash can. Fill it with 15 to 20 gallons of water and leave the trash can next to the tree overnight.”
Beyond the five boroughs, some towns have imposed water restrictions. The result is brownish lawn next to brownish lawn, as David Reardon of Glen Ridge, N.J., knows only too well. “If mine was the only brown lawn, I would be concerned,” he said. “But now you don’t want to be the only green guy on the street.”
(Reuters) - Controversial measures to force Britons to use less energy and cleaner forms of transport could be necessary to aid Britain's fight against climate change, a senior Conservative member of parliament said on Monday.
This is a phenomenon that should worry not only environmentalists, but also conservatives themselves: The conviction that global warming is some sort of giant intellectual fraud now has become a leading bullet point within mainstream North American conservatism; and so has come to bathe the whole movement in its increasingly crankish, conspiratorial glow.
Stanford University physicist Robert Laughlin says governments – and people generally – should proceed with more humility in dealing with climate change. The Earth, he says, is very old and has suffered grievously: volcanic explosions, floods, meteor impacts, mountain formation “and all manner of other abuses greater than anything people could inflict.” Yet, the Earth is still here. “It’s a survivor.”
Writing in the summer issue of the magazine The American Scholar, Prof. Laughlin offers a profoundly different perspective on climate change. “Common sense tells us that damaging a thing as old as [Earth] is somewhat easier to imagine than it is to accomplish – like invading Russia.” For planet Earth, he says, the crisis of climate change, if crisis it be, will be a walk in the park.
Some United Nations-overseen regulators of the world’s second-biggest carbon market need to resolve conflicts of interest as they debate on the supply of emission credits from industrial-gas projects next week.
WASHINGTON (AFP) - Energy ministers or senior officials from 21 nations are gathering in Washington, DC Monday for a two-day meeting aimed at finding ways to work together on clean energy amid an impasse in drafting a new climate change treaty.
The US Energy Department said the meeting will feature announcements of joint initiatives among the major economies, who together account for 80 percent of the world's gross domestic product.
The EU's Eastern European newcomers, who still need to catch up with the rest of the Union in terms of economic and social development, face an uphill battle to attain the 'climate targets' laid out in the bloc's 'Europe 2020' strategy, a round-up of articles from the EurActiv media network reveals.
Six countries seen as most threatened by rising sea levels have vowed to cut their carbon emissions as a gesture of their commitment to fight global warming, the Maldivian government says.
The countries, mostly low-lying nations, met at the weekend in the Maldives and pledged to drastically cut their emissions while pressing others to follow suit.
European industries are subsidising direct competitors in China and India by buying international credits to offset their carbon dioxide emissions, an NGO said in a new report.
Five investigations into the "Climategate" scandal have now cleared a group of scientists accused of twisting data in an effort to prove the world is getting warmer.
But many environmentalists and climate researchers fear the damage has already been done.
The Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP) launched its latest annual report card on 15 July 2010 providing the very latest updates on how climate change is affecting our seas.
Almost 100 scientists from 40 leading UK science organisations, including Natural England, contributed to this peer-reviewed report, which covers 30 marine and coastal topics. The report includes a new regional seas climate change impacts map, which highlight important differences in climate change impacts across UK regional seas. These maps show that whilst many impacts are being seen in southern UK waters, future climate change will lead to impacts across all UK regional seas.