31 October 2011

Renewable Energy Fosters a Boom in Depressed German State

ROSTOCK, GERMANY — Renewable energy has created a gold rush atmosphere in northeastern Germany, the country’s poorhouse, giving the region good jobs and great promise.

The natural resources attracting investors and industry are of a simple variety: wind, sunshine, agricultural products and farm waste like liquid manure.

The rush to tap green resources in the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania is reminiscent of the frenzies that came with gold or oil discoveries in past centuries. The buzz can be felt in towns and sparkling new factories across the state, which is on the shores of the Baltic.

“Renewable energy has become extremely valuable for our state,” its premier, Erwin Sellering, said during an interview. “It’s just a great opportunity — producing renewable energy and creating manufacturing jobs.”

“From an industrial point of view, we’d been one of Germany’s weaker areas,” he continued. “But the country is abandoning nuclear power. That will work only if there’s a corresponding — and substantial — increase in renewables. It’ll be one of Germany’s most important sectors in the future. We want to be up there leading the way.”

The national government did an about-face on nuclear power after the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex in Japan, set off by the earthquake and tsunami on March 11. Germany shut eight nuclear plants and plans to close the remaining nine by 2022.

The country is a world leader in renewable energy and wants an even larger share of the $211 billion global market. A fifth of its electricity comes from renewables, up from 6 percent in 2000, and it aims to increase that to 35 percent in 2020.

There are some clouds on the horizon. State-mandated incentives, which fueled a private investment boom, have been cut, squeezing profit margins in sectors like solar energy.

There have also been delays in expanding and improving the national grid of high-voltage transmission lines from sparsely populated coastal regions like Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania to areas where the power is needed, in the west and south. The German government is working to remove infrastructure bottlenecks, but if the grid is not expanded soon, there could be problems later, when more power from offshore wind starts being produced.

Renewable energies, especially wind energy, are injecting new optimism into Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, reflected in a word that often comes up in conversations with business and political leaders: reindustrialization.

In a state with a seafaring heritage, there are now more jobs in renewable energy than in shipyards: 6,000 jobs at 704 companies, a number expected to reach 22,000 by 2020.

Companies are building, designing, maintaining and operating wind turbines and photovoltaic plants, as well as biomass plants, for which farmers are growing crops and collecting animal waste. There are more than 1,200 wind turbines on land, and a new push into offshore wind energy in the Baltic will further fuel that growth.

Many new jobs are at companies like Nordex, which employs 1,000 in Rostock making lightweight rotor blades — as long as 65 meters, or 215 feet — for wind turbines. Nordex has invested €100 million, or $139 million, in expanding its plant and exports 95 percent of its output.

These are sorely needed, highly skilled jobs in a sparsely populated state whose industrial base was devastated by the economic upheaval that accompanied reunification in 1990.

There were 32,800 jobs in the once bustling shipyards around the port city of Rostock when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. But most were wiped out when the shipbuilding industry in eastern Germany collapsed in the face of surging labor costs and fierce competition. There are only 3,300 shipyard jobs left, and the industry’s demise epitomized the east’s decline.

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania became one of the poorest regions in Germany. The jobless rate soared to 20 percent in 2004, double the national average, and the population fell 250,000 to 1.6 million, as many young, well-educated people moved to the more prosperous west in search of jobs. More than 8,000 left the state in 2008, but only 3,500 moved away in 2010.

The prospect that some areas could turn into ghost towns was an explosive issue, but the gloom is lifting, as unemployment has nearly been halved. Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, which had the worst jobless rate among Germany’s 16 states in 2007, now has a lower rate than the states of Berlin and Bremen.

“There’s a new sense of optimism, thanks to sectors such as renewable energy, and the migration westwards was slowed if not completely stopped,” said Edeltraud Günther, a professor of environmental management at the Technical University of Dresden.

Jürgen Trittin, a leader of the Greens in Berlin, said a renewables law drafted by his party in 2000 had proved unexpectedly successful in creating jobs across the east. “All of the east is benefiting from that,” he said. “The jobs growth is going to continue with the push into offshore.”

Germany’s first commercial offshore wind park, Baltic 1 — a €48 million project with 21 turbines made by Siemens and operated by EnBW Energie Baden-Württemberg — began pumping enough power for 53,000 households into the grid in May from 16 kilometers, or 10 miles, north of the coast. By 2013, EnBW aims to complete 80 more offshore wind turbines in the Baltic 2 development, 32 kilometers offshore.

Germany expects to have 25 megawatts of offshore wind energy capacity by 2030, produced by 4,000 wind turbines.

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania already gets half of its electricity from regenerative sources — nearly four gigawatt-hours, a fivefold increase since 2000. It aims to cover its entire electricity needs by 2017 and then export the surplus to other states. By 2020, it expects to have 12 gigawatt-hours of renewable energy, enough for three million households. The state will then produce enough power for itself and two neighboring states.

“The natural conditions for renewable energy here are good,” said Mr. Sellering, the state’s premier. “The first goal is to cover our own electricity requirements. Then we want to be an energy-exporting state.”

30 October 2011

Warren Buffett – How to Fix Congress

Warren Buffett, in a recent interview with CNBC, offers one of the best
quotes about the debt ceiling:

“I could end the deficit in 5 minutes,” he told CNBC. “You just pass a law
that says that anytime there is a deficit of more than 3% of GDP, all
sitting members of Congress are ineligible for re-election

The 26th amendment (granting the right to vote for 18 year-olds) took only
3 months &8 days to be ratified! Why? Simple! The people demanded it. That
was in 1971…before computers, e-mail, cell phones, etc.

Of the 27 amendments to the Constitution, seven (7) took 1 year or less
to become the law of the land…all because of public pressure.

Warren Buffet is asking each addressee to forward this email to a minimum
of twenty people on their address list; in turn ask each of those to do

In three days, most people in The United States of America will have the
message. This is one idea that really should be passed around.

Congressional Reform Act of 2011
1. No Tenure / No Pension.
A Congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when
they are out of office.

2. Congress (past, present &future) participates in Social Security.
All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security
system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system,
and Congress participates with the American people. It may not be used for
any other purpose.

3. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans

4. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay
will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

5. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the
same health care system as the American people.

6. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American

7. All contracts with past and present Congressmen are void effective
1/1/12. The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen.
Congressmen made all these contracts for themselves. Serving in Congress
is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen
legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to

If each person contacts a minimum of twenty people then it will only take
three days for most people (in the U.S.) to receive the message. Maybe it
is time.


If you agree with the above, pass it on. If not, just delete.

29 October 2011

Must Watch

28 October 2011

Watch This

27 October 2011

Time to Restart this!

26 October 2011


25 October 2011


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16 October 2011


15 October 2011

Socialism for the Corporations, Capitalism for the Rest of Us

“… calling the (Wall Street) protests “anti-capitalist” seems like it is mainly designed to discredit the protests by painting them as anti-free enterprise and anti-free markets. But if we actually had free markets, would we have felt the need to bail out banks and huge multi-national corporations? Or would CEO have received huge bonuses even though their companies lost money and laid off employees?”

14 October 2011

You must watch this!

13 October 2011

You say you want a revolution? Guess what. It's here. Get the fuck out of the way.

Me and my old partner in chaos and confusion, the legendary Don Hickok will be heading down to merrie olde Manhattan this week to take part in the historic occupation of Wall Street. If life is to gain any meaning through the living of it, generally it's a good rule of thumb to be where history is being made at any given moment. That being the case, where else would you expect to find us? Looking through the window at at Rockefeller Center while the Today Show is being broadcast? I've got better things to do and better places to be thank you very much. As Chris Hedges put it so eloquently in a column posted on truthdig this past Thursday:

"There are no excuses left. Either you join the revolt taking place on Wall Street and in the financial districts of other cities across the country or you stand on the wrong side of history. Either you obstruct, in the only form left to us, which is civil disobedience, the plundering by the criminal class on Wall Street and accelerated destruction of the ecosystem that sustains the human species, or become the passive enabler of a monstrous evil. Either you taste, feel and smell the intoxication of freedom and revolt or sink into the miasma of despair and apathy. Either you are a rebel or a slave."

Damn! Wish I'd said that!

It would seem that the white noise that has been spewing from the plutocracy's castle-in-the-sky lo these thirty years has finally awakened the sleeping giant of the American Left. If they think they can put a stop to this revolution - through violence or intimidation - they obviously don't know much about history. Revolutions are unstoppable. Just ask Tzar Nicholas the Second. Just ask King Louis XVI - 0r Momar Khadafi. Putting a halt to a revolution is about as easy as trying to stop the sun from setting in the west this evening. Best of luck to them.

If you haven't heard what is now happening in New York's financial district, you are completely absolved. Although today marks the beginning of the third week of this protest, the so-called "liberal media" has pretty much ignored it. Had this been a hundred-or-so Tea partiers picketing the offices of the ACLU it would have been a different story; the coverage would have been round the clock. But thousands of people have been descending on Wall Street since September 17 and - with the exception of the New York papers, MSNBC and a handful of other outlets - it's like this isn't even happening. But it is happening. The billion dollar shit-hammer has hit the trillion dollar fan.

This should have happened twenty-five years-ago, but better late than never I suppose. The fact that it's finally happening is good enough for me. What took us so long to get our act together?

Unlike the Tea party spectacle (which was created and financed by FOX Noise and the Koch brothers) this is a real, honest-to-goodness grass roots movement. It's only a matter of hours before the right-wing scream machine puts out a statement blaming the whole thing on a plot cooked up by Rachel Maddow, Barbara Streisand, Ed Asner and the Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Company. I can see Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh chartering several busloads of counter-demonstrators - "real Americans" - to come in and bust some commie/hippie heads. But in the long run, what is said or done to put this fire out will be akin to fighting an inferno with a bottle of Perrier water. This is for keeps, baby!

You say you wanna revolution? Well, you know, we all wanna change the world. Get ready for some serious change, friends. Get ready to face the dawn. I'll see you in Manhattan. This is gonna be REALLY cool!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

12 October 2011

Words so TRUE!

"But I'll tell you what they don't want. They don't want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don't want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking. They're not interested in that. That doesn't help them. That's against their interests. They don't want people who are smart enough to sit around the kitchen table and figure out how badly they're getting fucked by a system that threw them overboard thirty fucking years ago. You know what they want? Obedient workers - people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork - but dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shittier jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, reduced benefits, the end of overtime and the vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it.

"And now, they're coming for your Social Security. They want your fucking retirement money! They want it back so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street. And you know something? They'll get it! They'll get it all, sooner or later, because they own this fucking place. It's a big club and you ain't in it. You and I are not in the Big Club."

George Carlin

11 October 2011

Silicon strip developed at MIT might be key to inexpensive fuel cells

The thumb-size black strip looks like a thin magnet. But in reality, it is an artificial leaf, made of silicon and capable of using sunlight to split water into hydrogen and oxygen that can be fed into fuel cells to make power.

“You drop it in a glass of water and you walk outside and hold it in the sun, and you’ll start to see bubbles of hydrogen and oxygen,’’ explained Daniel Nocera, an MIT professor who led the team that invented the device.

The next step, he said, is to make the technology work on a large scale to produce enough hydrogen and oxygen for a fuel cell to power a car or home.

The leaf, which Nocera has worked on for about three years, has the potential to solve one of the most pressing challenges facing solar power: how to store energy produced by the sun so it can be used on cloudy day. Instead of a battery, that energy could be stored as oxygen and hydrogen gases, then recombined in fuel cells, which generate electricity from the chemical reaction.

10 October 2011

Wall Street: Where Profits = Layoffs

Reposted from Jobsanger

The Republicans in Congress have been preaching incessantly that the giant corporations would just love to hire new workers, but can't afford to do so because the the abnormally high income taxes they must pay. They say that all we need to do to open the floodgates to massive job creation is to lower taxes on these corporations (and on all of the rich). In fact, some of the congressional Republicans (probably most of them) don't think corporations should have to pay any taxes at all.

The truth is that the share of tax revenues paid by corporations is at the lowest level since the 1950s, and corporations have more cash on hand (trillions of dollars) than the U.S. government does. Even in the midst of this recession that is still hurting countless millions of Americans, corporations (and rich people) are doing very well. But let's put that aside and just look at one American corporation doing pretty well -- Goldman Sachs. Are they turning massive profits and lower taxes into new jobs?

During the second quarter of 2011, Goldman Sachs recorded a profit of $1.05 billion (a $1.85 payout of each of their millions of shares of stock). Understand, that is not sales or income -- that is pure profit, after all expenses have been accounted for. And it is for only one quarter of this year, meaning the yearly profits would fall in the range of $4 billion or more. When compared to their quarterly profit of this same period in 2010, this year's profit looks even better. The 2010 second quarter profit was a mere $453 million -- less than half of this year's quarterly profit.

And to reward their executives for this very nice profit, the company has set aside $8.44 billion which will be paid out in bonuses at the end of the year (and taken out of expenses, not profits). Now that sounds like a company in pretty good shape, doesn't it? That sounds like a company that could help the economy by hiring a few workers. Well, that's not the way corporate America works.

The company was disappointed in their $1.85 a share payout. They wanted the payout to be more in the range of $2.27 a share. Now this could have been easily accomplished. All they had to do was take a couple of billion out of the executive bonus fund and declare it as profit. After all, should the executive bonuses be more than double the company profits? That would have put the share payout above the desired range.

But that would have made sense, and common sense isn't nearly as important to a corporate executive as plain old-fashioned greed. So instead of dipping into the executive bonus fund they have come up with another way to increase profits. They are going to fire at least 1,000 workers (and make other "noncompensation" cuts like buying smaller drinking cups and getting rid of potted plants). Why cut executive bonuses when you can just send another 1,000 workers to the unemployment office?

Now this is just one anecdotal bit of evidence about one company, but it does highlight a very big flaw in the Republican argument (which says companies will hire more workers when they have more money). While the Republican "trickle down" theory may sound good in the abstract, it doesn't take into account one important factor -- GREED. Why would a corporation hire a worker (which they don't think they need) when they can just put that extra money in the bank, or pay out bigger executive bonuses?

That's the way corporate America works. They are not in business to help their community or their country, but only to maximize profits. Depending on corporate America to save this country by creating jobs through lower taxes will just further increase the country's deficit and debt while fattening the bank accounts of the corporations (and the rich).

There are ways to create new jobs in America, and President Obama listed some of those in his jobs bill. But giving rich people and corporations more money is not one of them.

09 October 2011

What does the Occupy Movement want

“What does the Occupy Movement want?” This question has been asked of me many times in the last few days. I understand it in a visceral way that speaks to my core not in a logical or political way. For me it is about taking back the power that “we the people” have ceded over the years. It is an expression of the belief that there is a better way to live in all aspects of my life. It is about restoring belief that the dreams of the past are not dead. So what can I do? In any movement there is an evolution of goals and ideas but here is a good start – by expressing ourselves in a way that the multi-national corporations that have put the screws to us for the past 40 years will understand – start with your money!

  • · Take any money that you have in a national or multi-national bank and move it to a local credit union. Make sure that you let the bank you are moving from and the credit union you are moving to know that you are doing this as a way to gain control and express your frustration with the status quo.
  • · Buy local. Always patronize businesses that are owned by local folks. If you want a nail, buy it at a local owned hardware store, if you want clothes buy at a local retailer not at a big box store.
  • · Buy American – always demand to buy American. It won’t be easy, but it is important. It is our ignorance of the fact that our not insisting on “American made” on the label we have hurt all Americans. In Germany, a country of 1/3 our size, they export more manufactured goods then the US. One big reason is that the German people understand that buying German is a good thing for their country as a whole, by supporting countries industries, they are sustained and grows as a society. We need to realize this.
  • · If you have to buy imported goods look for fair trade goods with the closest connection (shortest supply chain) to the producers of the goods you can find. Fair trade ensures a living wage for the workers in other countries.

If we all start doing these simple things today, we will begin to make the change. Our political leaders have forsaken us for multi-national corporations. We need to take the power back and restart our economy ourselves by taking responsibility for our decisions we make with our money. This is more important than you may think, the 99% has power, it just needs to wield it.

No Comment Necessary

08 October 2011

Mohamed Bouazizi, Hero

This is the person we owe the inspiration for Occupy Wall Street

Mohamed Bouazizi, the fruit vendor who died after setting himself on fire, has become a symbol of defiance in Tunisia.
The revolution in Tunisia was born through a slap in the face of Mohamed Bouazizi by a honest but arrogant lady municipal inspector, Faida Hamdy, 45, in Sidi Bouzid, a police officer’s daughter. This revolution was not triggered by a political speech or by some provocative act of repression by the dictator. It was set in motion by an altercation between a honest but cruel municipal inspector and a honest and poor vegetable vendor.
Let us read this great story. Mohamed Bouazizi, the poor fruit vendor, spent his whole life on a dusty, narrow street here, in a tiny, three-room house with a concrete patio where his mother hung the laundry and the red chilis to dry. By the time Mr. Bouazizi was 26, his work as a fruit vendor had earned him just enough money to feed his mother, uncle and five brothers and sisters at home. He dreamed about owning a van.
Faida, the honest Municipal Inspector during the course of her duties inspected buildings, investigated noise complaints and fined vendors like Mr. Bouazizi. It was not known whether his business was legal or not.
Other vendors said that on the morning of Dec. 17, Faida tried to confiscate Mr. Bouazizi’s fruit, and then slapped him in the face for trying to yank back his apples. This act of bravado by the lady inspector humiliated a man who eked out his living by hard work.
Bouazizi, who became embarrassed and angry, wrestled with Ms. Faida. In the meantime, two of her colleagues started beating Bouazizi and confiscated his electronic scale. Then, the disheartened vegetable vendor walked a few blocks to the municipal building and demanded his property. But he was again beaten. Then he marched to the governor’s office, demanding an audience but he was refused.
Unable to bear with this humiliation, the frustrated man, sometime around noon, in the two-lane street in front of the governor’s high gate, drenched himself in paint thinner and then lit himself on fire. He was immediately hospitalized and the doctors treated this as a case of 90 percent burns. Ultimately, he died on Jan. 4. This incident immediately triggered street protests that started over Mr. Bouazizi’s treatment in Sidi Bouzid and then spread to cities throughout the country.
The blood of this martyr brought about a revolution in Tunisia and drove the dictator away from the nation.

No Comment Necessary

07 October 2011

No Comment Necessary

06 October 2011

The Media Won't Report The Real Story

Reposted from Jobsanger
You've probably heard about the demonstrations being held in the financial district of New York City by now. The protests started as an attempt for ordinary citizens to occupy Wall Street, and that occupation is still going on days later. But I'll bet that all you've heard about this "occupation" is the ongoing interplay between the protesters and the police -- especially the mistreatment and arrests of the demonstrators. That seems to be the only part of the story that interests the mainstream media.

But that is an old story -- older even than this country. The powers that be have always used police/troops to try and suppress demonstrations against them -- and if those police/troops needed to use violence to quell the dissent, then so be it. Police violence was used against the demonstrators in Chicago during the 1968 Democratic Convention, and troops fired on demonstrators at Kent State killing four of them. Violence by police against the civil rights demonstrators was common throughout the South for many years. And it was the Army that broke up the "Hooverville" camps and demonstrations during the Great Depression.

And this is not just a Twentieth Century phenomenon. When workers were trying to unionize in the late 19th Century, it was the police and troops that helped company "goons" bust up strikes and club the union organizers. And in the 18th Century, before this country was even born, troops fired on a crowd of demonstrators in Boston (now commonly referred to as the "Boston Massacre"). Those are just a few examples -- there are hundreds, if not thousands more. It has always been commonplace for authorities to be misused by those in power to suppress dissent and prevent change. It's an old, old story.

I'm not saying it's not an important story, because it is. Police violence and the misuse of police to suppress dissent is wrong, and it should be exposed and stopped whenever it occurs. But covering only that, as the mainstream media seems to be doing, is missing the bigger story -- the much more important story. And that is the story of why those demonstrators are there in the first place -- the truth that they are trying to expose to the American public.

This used to be a country where the real power rested in the hands of the citizens. They elected officials to represent them and make the rules for all the entities in this society. It was a system that worked fairly well, and when one segment got a little too much power those officials made regulations to bring things back into balance. This has always been a country that worked best when no one organization had too much power -- whether that be corporations, unions, churches, special interest groups, political organizations, social organizations, etc..

But currently things have gotten seriously out of balance, and it is destroying our economy and hurting many millions of Americans. Starting about 1980, the Republicans began removing regulations and instituting other practices that favored one segment of American society above all others -- the giant corporations. It was called "trickle-down" economics, and the theory was that if the corporations (controlled by the richest 1% in America) were given enough money they would eventually share it with the rest of us. Since that time these corporations have fared very well, amassing vast quantities of both money and power -- at the expense of workers, the middle class, and small businesses. And nothing was shared -- and nothing trickled down.

When George Bush was elected in 2000, this process was greatly accelerated. They didn't just funnel more money and power to the corporations -- they actually let corporate executives write all of the laws relating to the economy and economic regulations (and to no one's surprise they removed many regulations, allowing Wall Street and the other giant corporations to go on a rampage of greed). This led to the greatest disparity of wealth and income between the richest Americans and the rest of America since before the Great Depression -- and just like it did back then, it led directly to the most serious economic disaster since the Great Depression (our current Great Recession).

In 2008, the people voted for change. They wanted to restore the balance that had been destroyed. But that didn't happen. First, the Republicans have blocked any change to the status quo. They like the plutocracy they have created. But the failure of the Democrats has been even sadder. Note that every economic advisor the president has appointed or asked advice from is from either Wall Street or a giant corporation. The same people that were running the economy in the last administration are still running it. The names may have changed, but they are still coming from the Wall Street/ corporate power base.

It seems like no one in Washington from either party thinks anyone outside of Wall Street or a giant corporation could possibly understand economics. That is wrong, and it is just resulting in a deepening of corporate power and an institutionalization of plutocratic government. We used to have a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. That is no longer true. We now have a government of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations. And it is killing this country.

That is the story the Wall Street demonstrators are trying to tell. And that is the story the mainstream media is ignoring. It is the biggest story going, and it is the biggest problem facing this country. But it is also a problem that the corporate-owned mainstream media is not going to cover. They won't cover it because they are owned and controlled by those same corporations, and they are part of the problem.

So enjoy the stories about police and demonstrator clashes, because that's all you're going to get. The real story is too hot to handle.

04 October 2011

Peak Oil: Is There Any Longer a Valid Debate?

Reposted from Oil be seeing you

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 that the optimistic estimates of how much undiscovered deep water oil exists have been dramatically overstated. Deep water wells also tend to peak much more rapidly than land-based wells - vis-a-vis the North Sea and Mexico's Cantarell - so their benefit is short-lived. Considering the cost of exploration and discovery, the long lead time needed to put safe extraction technology in place, and the limits on the number of recovery wells that can be sunk into a single reserve, deep water oil is very unlikely to keep up with the declines in land-based production. It is very possible that deep water oil may quickly become non viable economically and have to be abandoned.
* Methane hydrates (as well as coal bed methane and bio-mass methane) are seen as a strong potential as the next great energy source. Certainly with the decline in viability of shale gas this will renew the expectations for methane hydrates. I have covered this extensively in my blog. The estimates for recoverability of Methane Hydrates are all over the map, as are the reserves that have a potential for economic recovery if the technology can be sorted out. In general, however, the recoverability estimates, I believe, are badly overstated. In addition it would take a whole new energy infrastructure to take full advantage of these resources, an energy infrastructure that I believe we are already past the point of possibility of developing.
* There is an ever growing disparity between WTI crude prices and the other, more realistic prices of oil such as Brent. The WTI, NYMEX-traded, American price is being kept artificially low as the US, the world's largest oil importer, attempts to impose prices on the rest of the world in order to keep it's ever increasing energy costs in check, particularly as it tries to recover from the 2008 global economic recession, which it still has not managed to do. Increasingly global oil producers will not trade their oil contracts on NYMEX because they are able to get much better prices on other global oil commodity exchanges which more accurately reflect the state of global oil reserves. With the US credit rating having recently been downgraded by S&P there is an increasing possibility that the US dollar will be overthrown as the global reserve currency. This will make the US/NYMEX oil pricing increasingly irrelevant and drive the cost the US must pay for oil up to realistic levels equivalent to what the rest of the world pays.
* Over the past several years there is a clear, but unprovable pattern, of the US waging war after war against oil-rich countries in the hands of rulers, usually dictators, not friendly to the U.S. First there was Iraq and Afghanistan (the gateway to the Caspian Sea oil province), then the suspected involvement in the overthrow of Mubarak in Egypt, the invasion of Libya, the suspected involvement in the division of Sudan, the continued saber rattling at Iran and Venezuela, and the increasing rhetoric, now that Libya is more or less settled, over Syria. After the invasion of Afghanistan a former executive of Conoco Phillips, Ahmid Karzai, was installed as ruler and plans immediately began for a pipeline to bring Caspian oil to a Pacific port via Afghanistan. After the invasion of Irag western oil companies immediately began negotiating for their share of the Iraqi oil pie. The same is about to happen in Libya. And when Sudan was partitioned the US took aim at the oil reserves in the newly separated south Sudan. The saber rattling over Iran, Syria and others has as much to do with their oil reserves as politics. And in all, the US has more military presence in the Arabian Gulf than anywhere else in the world except the US itself.
* Despite several years of teeth gnashing and negative press in the US over Canada's tar sands oil being dirty oil (complete with bans against it in several states including California), the US government has a measure on the table for building a high volume pipeline, the Keystone Pipeline, from Alberta to the major US oil refineries in Texas and elsewhere along the Gulf coast. It is obvious they only consider tar sands oil dirty when they can get adequate supply from elsewhere in the world. With the reality of declining OPEC, Mexican and other sources of oil staring them in the face, they desperately want to tie up that Canadian tar sands oil, particularly since China is making increasing investment in the tar sands also in an attempt to ensure future oil availability. Venezuela has vast oil sands, in the Orinoco region, that probably equal those in Canada, but Venezuela is not friendly to US interests.
* The US is quietly but increasingly reducing its investment in automobile infrastructure (highways, tunnels, bridges, etc) including new construction and maintenance of existing infrastructure. This is obviously partly due to the long recession that has gripped the country but it is a clear indicator that when budgets are tight they are no longer prepared to give top priority to automobile infrastructure.
* Most developed nations such as the US and European nations are placing increased emphasis on electric cars as the centerpiece of the future of the automobile. That, however, ignores the simple and glaringly obvious reality that electrical generation and transmission infrastructure is rapidly deteriorating and will require massive billions of dollars of investment in order to support an electric car culture. In addition, any sort of serious government push to accelerate the conversion to electric cars will dramatically increase the drawdown of increasingly rare resources, particularly for the production of the batteries needed to run those electric cars. It is clearly doubtful if the hundreds of millions of cars in the US and Europe will ever be replaced wholesale by electric vehicles.
* Increasingly over the past decade, published oil production and reserve figures have been broadened to include more and more questionable commodities such as synthetic oil from tar sands, liquid fuels created from coal and natural gas condensates, liquid fuels produced from shale formations, ethanol, bio-fuels and more. The simple reality already is that traditional crude oil is no longer satisfying the demand but is increasingly reliant on these other non-traditional sources to make up the shortfall. But even the figures reported by the EIA, of crude plus condensates, are already on the decline.

Peak oil is not an event wherein all of a sudden one day governments, business and the media will announce that peak oil has arrived and we all need to adjust the way we live on this planet. It won't be sudden. It won't be clear. And in the initial stages of the decline following peak there is plenty of wiggle room to disguise the fact that we are in decline, and room to perpetuate the state of denial in which we have existed for the past couple of decades. As has often been said, peak oil ultimately will only be recognized in the rearview mirror.
I believe peak oil has already arrived. I believe, in fact, based on the data available, peak oil arrived in 2005. In the several years since then enormous effort has been put into disguising that reality and turning to other energy sources and classifying them as oil to allow that facade to be maintained. I do not believe we are adjusting to the reality of peak oil. I belief we are firmly entrenched in trying to deny that reality and scrambling ever harder to find some viable energy alternative that will allow us to carry on business as usual to keep us from ever having to deal with that reality. The chances are very slim, however, of finding any energy source that will allow us the massive amounts of cheap energy that we derive from crude oil. Peak oil will probably mean peak net energy and be followed by an accelerating decline in all forms of energy.
The news, however, is not all bad. Peak oil and peak net energy will also mean peak CO2 emissions. That will allow the planet a chance to begin recovering from the damage our high energy human lifestyle has inflicted on the planet. That at least improves the prospect of the long term survivability of our species and that of other species with whom we reluctantly share this planet.

03 October 2011

Could a Cuban Oil Disaster Spill Oil on Virginia's Coast?

With Cuba set to begin oil drilling, Anya Landau French blogs for the Christian Science Monitor that a Cuban oil spill could deliver disaster far beyond the Gulf of Mexico:
Now, after several delays, with a Chinese-built Italian oil rig, the Scarabeo 9, on its way to Cuba, drilling of the first of five exploratory wells in Cuban deep water is set to commence this December.

A spill from this first, easternmost exploratory well to be drilled by the Repsol consortium could be particularly damaging due to its location where the Gulf Stream exits the Gulf of Mexico for the Atlantic. Whereas the BP disaster was somewhat "contained" in the northern Gulf, Piñón tells me to "imagine a fan-shaped spill with the well as the axis." If something were to go wrong on Scarabeo 9, we could see and feel the effects of a major oil spill in Cuban deep water not just in Florida, but far up the Atlantic coast.
And as Fareed Zakaria writes, "the nearest and best experts on safety procedures and dealing with oil spills are all American, but we are forbidden by our laws from being involved in any way with Cuba." What could go wrong?

01 October 2011