« Home | Ending The Oil Era » | The Death Of Nuclear Power » | The truth about recycling » | The Shockwave Rider » | The Carbon Rush Of The 21st Century » | Fear, Freakshows and Human Interest Stories » | God Is Light » | Carbon Trading And The Bored Whore Of Kyoto » | The Last Pit Pony » | Silicon Solar Valley »

Who Needs Petroleum When You Can Have Vivoleum

Boing Boing points to a "Yes Men" prank at the Gas and Oil Exposition in Calgary, proposing a Soylent Green style solution to the energy problem - "Yes Men crash oil expo, propose turning corpses into fuel".
Master pranksters The Yes Men crashed the Gas and Oil Exposition 2007 in Calgary this week, impersonating a rep from the National Petroleum Council at a keynote in which they proposed to convert people who died from climate change disasters into fuel.
After noting that current energy policies will likely lead to "huge global calamities" and disrupt oil supplies, Wolff told the audience "that in the worst case scenario, the oil industry could "keep fuel flowing" by transforming the billions of people who die into oil," said a Yes Men press release.

Yes Man Mike Bonnano, posing as an Exxon representative named Florian Osenberg, added that "With more fossil fuels comes a greater chance of disaster, but that means more feedstock for Vivoleum. Fuel will continue to flow for those of us left."

The impostors led growingly suspicious attendees in lighting Vivoleum candles made, they said, from a former Exxon janitor who died from cleaning a toxic spill. When shown a mock video of the janitor professing his desire to be turned in death into candles, a conference organizer pulled Bonanno and Bichlbaum from the stage.

As security guards led Bonanno from the room, Bichlbaum told reporters that "Without oil we could no longer produce or transport food, and most of humanity would starve. That would be a tragedy, but at least all those bodies could be turned into fuel for the rest of us."

Alan Greenspan is out and about echoing Jeff Vail's prediction that Mexico may collapse this year as revenues from oil exports disappear. The intersection with some other political issues makes my cynical bones quiver a little when I read this one.
Declining oil output in Mexico could spark a major fiscal crisis there, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said on Wednesday, while also railing against US immigration policy.

"There is no doubt that Mexican overall (oil) production is down and if it continues down, and prices don't continue up to offset that, then there is a huge fiscal crisis pending," the former US central banker said via a video link to a business conference in Mexico City.

Mexico, the world's No. 9 exporter of crude oil and a key supplier to the United States, has seen its oil output taper off from historic peaks in 2004 due to declining yields at its huge but ageing Cantarell offshore field.

State oil monopoly Pemex, which provides more than a third of the country's fiscal revenues, is now aiming to keep oil production at 3.1 million barrels per day for the next few years, down 8 per cent from a 2004 peak of 3.38 million bpd.

Greenspan said Mexico needs to increase investment in its energy sector, though an amendment to lift a ban on private investment in oil production is "a political issue."

The New Statesman has an article on the scramble for Africa's oil.
Within a decade, the US will be heavily dependent on African oil. Little wonder the Pentagon is preparing a strategy for the region.

The Pentagon is to reorganise its military command structure in response to growing fears that the United States is seriously ill-equipped to fight the war against terrorism in Africa. It is a dramatic move, and an admission that the US must reshape its whole military policy if it is to maintain control of Africa for the duration of what Donald Rumsfeld has called "the long war". Suddenly the world's most neglected con tinent is assuming an increasing global importance as the international oil industry begins to exploit more and more of the west coast of Africa's abundant reserves.

...But it is the west's increasing dependency on African oil that gives particular urgency to these new directions in the fight against terrorism. Africa's enormous, and largely untapped, reserves are already more important to the west than most Americans recognise.

In March 2006, speaking before the Senate armed services committee, General James Jones, the then head of Eucom, said: "Africa currently provides over 15 per cent of US oil imports, and recent explorations in the Gulf of Guinea region indicate potential reserves that could account for 25-35 per cent of US imports within the next decade."

These high-quality reserves - West African oil is typically low in sulphur and thus ideal for refining - are easily accessible by sea to western Europe and the US. In 2005, the US imported more oil from the Gulf of Guinea than it did from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait combined. Within the next ten years it will import more oil from Africa than from the entire Middle East. Western oil giants such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, France's Total and Britain's BP and Shell plan to invest tens of billions of dollars in sub-Saharan Africa (far in excess of "aid" inflows to the region).

But though the Gulf of Guinea is one of the few parts of the world where oil production is poised to increase exponentially in the near future, it is also one of the most unstable.

A group of Iraqis are touring California to explain what Bush's oil grab means.
The threat of violence is of course a major concern for Iraqis, but so too is how to handle the country's oil resources. The Bush administration claims its plan to privatize production is the best way to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure. But representatives from Iraq's oil industry say the plan gives too much control to foreign interests. They're touring California right now to convey that message.

Most of the Iraqi oil wells which were destroyed during the first Gulf War and in the past four years may soon be under foreign control. A law backed by the Bush administration and now in Iraq's parliament would give control of the majority of these fields to foreign oil companies for about 30 years.

Severin Borenstein, U.C. Energy Institute: "There's a lot of expertise in the United States and in some other oil companies that simply doesn't exist in Iraq -- that they're going to need to make efficient use of these oil fields."

The plan is to privatize two thirds of the oil production with Iraq maintaining the other third. Two Iraqi labor leaders spoke in San Jose Sunday. They agree that Iraq needs help. But not so much that it has to give away It is one great natural resource for 30 years.

Faleh Abood Umara, Iraq Federation of Oil Trade Unions: "Improve the oil wells helping in the maintenance then leaving afterwards after getting their money."

Hashmeya Muhsinhussein is with the Electrical Utility Workers Union. Faleh Abood Umara is with the Federation of Oil Workers . They say the more than 60,000 Iraq electrical and oil workers they represent could strike -- paralyzing the country and stopping all oil production if parliament agrees with the Bush administration. Because of their stand they have faced death threats.

Bart Anderson at Energy Bulletin has a review of the peak oil movie "A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash".
A Crude Awakening is a high quality documentary that does a good job of telling the peak oil story, including the geo-political implications. The DVD has about an hour of bonus interviews for the hard-core peak oil junkie. The emphasis is on the U.S.

George Palathingal at the Sydney Morning Herald gave it a glowing review:
If you like a good documentary you will have noticed, in recent times, that an alarming number have some disturbing things to say about the state of the Earth. Worse still, they all seem to come backed up with thorough research and convincing data amounting to the same message: the human race is in trouble, and life will soon never be the same.

So, as we still reel from Al Gore hammering home the inconvenient truth about global warming, here come two European filmmakers enlightening us about our planet's dwindling oil reserves and just about every repercussion of this you may think of - from the many ways we depend on the black stuff and its by-products to its connections with politics and war.

A Crude Awakening is a bitter pill of a documentary that Basil Gelpke and Ray McCormack gamely pretend to sugar-coat (as Gore did his). There are cute retro TV ads and bits of animation, plus lots of eye-catching glimpses of the iconic imagery associated with oil, its producers and its consumption: those giant steel "dinosaurs" across the American landscape, sand dunes in the Middle East, seemingly endless shots of busy motorways and fuel-guzzling planes taking off ... you get the idea. But the filmmakers aren't kidding anyone, and they know it. They've an abundance of information to get across.

...This isn't just a film for tree-hugging greenies; it's one everyone should see. ...

A 90-minutes documentary is too short to do more than scratch the surface of the subject. Wisely, the film does not attempt to be authoritative, but instead suggests the complexities of the issues by quoting differing viewpoints.

Unfortunately, the documentary misses two critical subjects: global warming and "What we can do". Global warming is intimately connected with peak oil, and yet it receives only a few brief mentions from the talking heads. The lack of attention may be understandable considering that the connection between the two has only been emphasized in the past few months.

Secondly, the documentary does not put forward any strategy for dealing with the problem. The speakers rightfully dash any hopes of magic solutions from fusion, hydrogen and biomass. However, renewables are cavalierly dismissed as being unable to make more than a minor contribution. Conservation and efficiency are barely mentioned at all. David Goodstein of Cal Tech talks up the future of photovoltaics, but all-in-all the picture looks glum. The logo for the film does not help much either - it's a gas hose tied in a hangman's noose.

I was disappointed that the film omitted reasonable responses to peak oil, but nonetheless found time to broach the subject of die-off. We're left with a binary view of the future: business-as-usual or massive depopulation.

Historically this is nonsense. During wartime, many countries have reduced their energy usage. After the fall of the Soviet Union, both Cuba and North Korea cut oil use drastically. So, as peak oil develops, energy usage can and will be cut.

The question is how we will do it - wisely (conservation, efficiency, the Oil Depletion Protocol) or foolishly (wars or pursuing will-o-the-wisp energy sources prompted by special interests).

A multitude of efforts are underway. Amory Lovins and others have been preaching energy efficiency for decades. Cutting waste will not be difficult considering the bloated energy usage of industrialized countries. Deeper, more structural approaches are represented by relocalization, New Urbanism and sustainable food. Mr. Gloom 'n' Doom himself, James Howard Kunstler, wrote "a set of reasonable responses to a new set of circumstances". There are things people can do at the individual, community and national levels. It just takes looking around and seeing things afresh.

I'd still recommend the film, but if I were organizing a program, I'd pair it with presentations that balanced out its grimness. Otherwise viewers are apt to be left feeling helpless and despairing.

Perhaps the team that brought us Crude Awakening will complete the picture they started with a sequel, Part Two: The Sleepers Awake.

When Bart commented on my recent review of "The Shockwave Rider", he mentioned a number of similar science fiction books, including Stanislaw Lem's "The Futurological Congress" - I quite liked this review, so I'll throw it in here, nestled uncomfortably amongst the energy news.
In 1971, the author Stanlislaw Lem published a short novel titled The Futurological Congress in which he offered an intriguing diagnosis for what has gone wrong with contemporary society. In the novel, the main character, Ijon Tichy, wakes up from suspended animation in the future and finds that people now routinely partake of "psycho-chemical" drugs that can induce realistic hallucinations or waking dreams. Instead of merely watching television, they live out the fantasies of television as if it is happening to them.

Not surprisingly, Tichy discovers that this world of artificial experience has generated more than its share of problems. Many people, for example, have become permanently lost to reality, preferring to spend their lives in a realm of alluring fictions. And it seems that everyone indulges fantasies of profound and unmitigated evil, popping pills so they can hallucinate the act of torture, sexual assault and murder.

The novel follows Tichy's experiences as he slowly acclimates himself to this strange new existence. We see his bewilderment, his doubts, and his growing panic as he comes to the realization that he is trapped in a world in which the worst in humanity has been brought out by the power to simulate the look and feel of reality.

At the end, in a vision worthy of Swift, Tichy learns that nothing in this society is what it appears to be. It turns out that a pharmacological dictatorship has been secretly subjecting the population to another set of psycho-chemical drugs to induce a collective hallucination. As a result, everyone sees a utopia of luxury, well-tended nature and advanced technology when the economy, the environment and the physical integrity of the people themselves are actually in a state of collapse. ...

Anyone over the age of 40, give or take a few years, will recognize that Stanislaw Lem based The Futurological Congress on what was already taking place in the world's more affluent society's in the decade of the 1960s. As noted, his "psycho-chemical" drugs are a futuristic version of television, which has escaped its confinement on the screen and is portrayed as being able to simulate the experience of life itself.

But what is particularly interesting about Lem's novel is how far we have moved in the direction he described since the book was written. Today, we have the ability to interact with -- and place ourselves inside -- our own simulations of reality. We live in a culture of video and computer games; virtual realities and simulator rides; 3D movies and themed attractions, which can make it seem as if the world of imagination has come to life. In addition, television and movies have advanced considerably in their ability to invent believable scenes and situations, with the aid of new techniques and technologies, especially computers.

The result is a society with pathologies that bear more than a passing resemblance to those portrayed by Lem. We too now have a great many people who are addicted to simulation-based forms of entertainment, including simulations of violence and evil. And we have a growing sense that television is something more than a form of entertainment; it also has the capacity to trick us into believing that some of its fictions are real, allowing those who control the images to falsify our view of the world. ...

Bruce Schneier has a great article out on the bogus "War On Terror", wondering why every much-ballyhoed terrorism suspect that is arrested is a borderline mental defective - "Portrait of the Modern Terrorist as an Idiot" - have all our freedoms been stripped away just to "protect" us from morons ? Kudos to New York Mayor Bloomberg for being one of the few modern day politicians not to use the opportunity to exploit "The Power Of Nightmares" (unlike his awful predecessor) and instead tell people not to worry about minute threats.
The recently publicized terrorist plot to blow up John F. Kennedy International Airport, like so many of the terrorist plots over the past few years, is a study in alarmism and incompetence: on the part of the terrorists, our government and the press.

Terrorism is a real threat, and one that needs to be addressed by appropriate means. But allowing ourselves to be terrorized by wannabe terrorists and unrealistic plots -- and worse, allowing our essential freedoms to be lost by using them as an excuse -- is wrong.

The alleged plan, to blow up JFK's fuel tanks and a small segment of the 40-mile petroleum pipeline that supplies the airport, was ridiculous. The fuel tanks are thick-walled, making them hard to damage. The airport tanks are separated from the pipelines by cutoff valves, so even if a fire broke out at the tanks, it would not back up into the pipelines. And the pipeline couldn't blow up in any case, since there's no oxygen to aid combustion. Not that the terrorists ever got to the stage -- or demonstrated that they could get there -- where they actually obtained explosives. Or even a current map of the airport's infrastructure.

But read what Russell Defreitas, the lead terrorist, had to say: "Anytime you hit Kennedy, it is the most hurtful thing to the United States. To hit John F. Kennedy, wow.... They love JFK -- he's like the man. If you hit that, the whole country will be in mourning. It's like you can kill the man twice."

If these are the terrorists we're fighting, we've got a pretty incompetent enemy.

You couldn't tell that from the press reports, though. "The devastation that would be caused had this plot succeeded is just unthinkable," U.S. Attorney Roslynn R. Mauskopf said at a news conference, calling it "one of the most chilling plots imaginable." Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania) added, "It had the potential to be another 9/11."

These people are just as deluded as Defreitas.

The only voice of reason out there seemed to be New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who said: "There are lots of threats to you in the world. There's the threat of a heart attack for genetic reasons. You can't sit there and worry about everything. Get a life.... You have a much greater danger of being hit by lightning than being struck by a terrorist."

And he was widely excoriated for it.

This isn't the first time a bunch of incompetent terrorists with an infeasible plot have been painted by the media as poised to do all sorts of damage to America. In May we learned about a six-man plan to stage an attack on Fort Dix by getting in disguised as pizza deliverymen and shooting as many soldiers and Humvees as they could, then retreating without losses to fight again another day. Their plan, such as it was, went awry when they took a videotape of themselves at weapons practice to a store for duplication and transfer to DVD. The store clerk contacted the police, who in turn contacted the FBI. (Thank you to the video store clerk for not overreacting, and to the FBI agent for infiltrating the group.)

The "Miami 7," caught last year for plotting -- among other things -- to blow up the Sears Tower, were another incompetent group: no weapons, no bombs, no expertise, no money and no operational skill. And don't forget Iyman Faris, the Ohio trucker who was convicted in 2003 for the laughable plot to take out the Brooklyn Bridge with a blowtorch. At least he eventually decided that the plan was unlikely to succeed.

I don't think these nut jobs, with their movie-plot threats, even deserve the moniker "terrorist." But in this country, while you have to be competent to pull off a terrorist attack, you don't have to be competent to cause terror. All you need to do is start plotting an attack and -- regardless of whether or not you have a viable plan, weapons or even the faintest clue -- the media will aid you in terrorizing the entire population.

The most ridiculous JFK Airport-related story goes to the New York Daily News, with its interview with a waitress who served Defreitas salmon; the front-page headline blared, "Evil Ate at Table Eight."

Following one of these abortive terror misadventures, the administration invariably jumps on the news to trumpet whatever ineffective "security" measure they're trying to push, whether it be national ID cards, wholesale National Security Agency eavesdropping or massive data mining. Never mind that in all these cases, what caught the bad guys was old-fashioned police work -- the kind of thing you'd see in decades-old spy movies.

The administration repeatedly credited the apprehension of Faris to the NSA's warrantless eavesdropping programs, even though it's just not true. The 9/11 terrorists were no different; they succeeded partly because the FBI and CIA didn't follow the leads before the attacks.

Even the London liquid bombers were caught through traditional investigation and intelligence, but this doesn't stop Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff from using them to justify (.pdf) access to airline passenger data.

Of course, even incompetent terrorists can cause damage. This has been repeatedly proven in Israel, and if shoe-bomber Richard Reid had been just a little less stupid and ignited his shoes in the lavatory, he might have taken out an airplane.

So these people should be locked up ... assuming they are actually guilty, that is. Despite the initial press frenzies, the actual details of the cases frequently turn out to be far less damning. Too often it's unclear whether the defendants are actually guilty, or if the police created a crime where none existed before.

The JFK Airport plotters seem to have been egged on by an informant, a twice-convicted drug dealer. An FBI informant almost certainly pushed the Fort Dix plotters to do things they wouldn't have ordinarily done. The Miami gang's Sears Tower plot was suggested by an FBI undercover agent who infiltrated the group. And in 2003, it took an elaborate sting operation involving three countries to arrest an arms dealer for selling a surface-to-air missile to an ostensible Muslim extremist. Entrapment is a very real possibility in all of these cases.

The rest of them stink of exaggeration. ...

I linked to an article in The Economist on recycling earlier in the week, but I think I'll quote some of it just to encourage a few more people to read it:
Although all recycling facilities still employ people, investment is increasing in optical sorting technologies that can separate different types of paper and plastic. Development of the first near-infra-red-based waste-sorting systems began in the early 1990s. At the time Elopak, a Norwegian producer of drink cartons made of plastic-laminated cardboard, worried that it would have to pay a considerable fee to meet its producer responsibilities in Germany and other European countries. To reduce the overall life-cycle costs associated with its products, Elopak set out to find a way to automate the sorting of its cartons. The company teamed up with SINTEF, a Norwegian research centre, and in 1996 sold its first unit in Germany. The technology was later spun off into a company now called TiTech.

TiTech's systems—more than 1,000 of which are now installed worldwide—rely on spectroscopy to identify different materials. Paper and plastic items are spread out on a conveyor belt in a single layer. When illuminated by a halogen lamp, each type of material reflects a unique combination of wavelengths in the infra-red spectrum that can be identified, much like a fingerprint. By analysing data from a sensor that detects light in both the visible and the near-infra-red spectrum, a computer is able to determine the colour, type, shape and position of each item. Air jets are then activated to push particular items from one conveyor belt to another, or into a bin. Numerous types of paper, plastic or combinations thereof can thus be sorted with up to 98% accuracy.

For many materials the process of turning them back into useful raw materials is straightforward: metals are shredded into pieces, paper is reduced to pulp and glass is crushed into cullet. Metals and glass can be remelted almost indefinitely without any loss in quality, while paper can be recycled up to six times. (As it goes through the process, its fibres get shorter and the quality deteriorates.)

Plastics, which are made from fossil fuels, are somewhat different. Although they have many useful properties—they are flexible, lightweight and can be shaped into any form—there are many different types, most of which need to be processed separately. In 2005 less than 6% of the plastic from America's municipal waste stream was recovered. And of that small fraction, the only two types recycled in significant quantities were PET and HDPE. For PET, food-grade bottle-to-bottle recycling exists. But plastic is often “down-cycled” into other products such as plastic lumber (used in place of wood), drain pipes and carpet fibres, which tend to end up in landfills or incinerators at the end of their useful lives.

Even so, plastics are being used more and more, not just for packaging, but also in consumer goods such as cars, televisions and personal computers. Because such products are made of a variety of materials and can contain multiple types of plastic, metals (some of them toxic), and glass, they are especially difficult and expensive to dismantle and recycle. ...

Far less controversial is the recycling of glass—except, that is, in places where there is no market for it. Britain, for example, is struggling with a mountain of green glass. It is the largest importer of wine in the world, bringing in more than 1 billion litres every year, much of it in green glass bottles. But with only a tiny wine industry of its own, there is little demand for the resulting glass. Instead what is needed is clear glass, which is turned into bottles for spirits, and often exported to other countries. As a result, says Andy Dawe, WRAP's glass-technology manager, Britain is in the “peculiar situation” of having more green glass than it has production capacity for.

Britain's bottle-makers already use as much recycled green glass as they can in their furnaces to produce new bottles. So some of the surplus glass is down-cycled into construction aggregates or sand for filtration systems. But WRAP's own analysis reveals that the energy savings for both appear to be “marginal or even disadvantageous”. Working with industry, WRAP has started a new programme called GlassRite Wine, in an effort to right the imbalance. Instead of being bottled at source, some wine is now imported in 24,000-litre containers and then bottled in Britain. This may dismay some wine connoisseurs, but it solves two problems, says Mr Dawe: it reduces the amount of green glass that is imported and puts what is imported to good use. It can also cut shipping costs by up to 40%.

The future of recycling

This is an unusual case, however. More generally, one of the biggest barriers to more efficient recycling is that most products were not designed with recycling in mind. Remedying this problem may require a complete rethinking of industrial processes, says William McDonough, an architect and the co-author of a book published in 2002 called “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things”. Along with Michael Braungart, his fellow author and a chemist, he lays out a vision for establishing “closed-loop” cycles where there is no waste. Recycling should be taken into account at the design stage, they argue, and all materials should either be able to return to the soil safely or be recycled indefinitely. This may sound like wishful thinking, but Mr McDonough has a good pedigree. Over the years he has worked with companies including Ford and Google.

An outgrowth of “Cradle to Cradle” is the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, a non-profit working group that has developed guidelines that look beyond the traditional benchmarks of packaging design to emphasise the use of renewable, recycled and non-toxic source materials, among other things. Founded in 2003 with just nine members, the group now boasts nearly 100 members, including Target, Starbucks and Estée Lauder, some of which have already begun to change the design of their packaging.

Sustainable packaging not only benefits the environment but can also cut costs. Last year Wal-Mart, the world's biggest retailer, announced that it wanted to reduce the amount of packaging it uses by 5% by 2013, which could save the company as much as $3.4 billion and reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by 667,000 tonnes. As well as trying to reduce the amount of packaging, Wal-Mart also wants to recycle more of it. Two years ago the company began to use an unusual process, called the “sandwich bale”, to collect waste material at its stores and distribution centres for recycling. It involves putting a layer of cardboard at the bottom of a rubbish compactor before filling it with waste material, and then putting another layer of cardboard on top. The compactor then produces a “sandwich” which is easier to handle and transport, says Jeff Ashby of Rocky Mountain Recycling, who invented the process for Wal-Mart. As well as avoiding disposal costs for materials it previously sent to landfill, the company now makes money by selling waste at market prices. ...

If done right, there is no doubt that recycling saves energy and raw materials, and reduces pollution. But as well as trying to recycle more, it is also important to try to recycle better. As technologies and materials evolve, there is room for improvement and cause for optimism. In the end, says Ms Krebs, “waste is really a design flaw.”

TomDispatch has an article from Michael Klare on "The Pentagon as Global Gas-Guzzler".
Today, Michael Klare, expert on war and energy, and author of the indispensable book, Blood and Oil, gives us an unprecedented sense of what it means when the Pentagon fills its own tank (as well as its tanks). It is, after all, the Hummer of Defense Departments, the planet's gas-guzzler par excellence.

On the other hand, in the occupation of Iraq, the Bush administration turns out to be unable to find a local gas station still in operation. As you all undoubtedly remember, before its invasion in March 2003, the administration was quite convinced that Iraqi oil would quickly pay for any future occupation, reconstruction, and -- though this was never said -- permanent American presence. Then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz classically pointed out back in 2003 that Iraq "floats on a sea of oil" and told a Congressional panel, "The oil revenue of [Iraq] could bring between 50 and 100 billion dollars over the course of the next two or three years. We're dealing with a country that could really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon."

Over four years later, however, Iraq, under threat of an oil workers' strike, seems to be pumping only 1.6 million barrels of oil a day -- almost a million barrels below the worst days of the sanctions-strapped regime of Saddam Hussein. In addition, an oil law, essentially prepared in Washington and aimed at opening Iraqi oil to multinational (read: American) oil companies, that has been declared by Washington's Democrats and Republicans as the crucial "benchmark" of Iraqi progress, seems dead in the water -- or is it a pool of oil?

Given the "daily petroleum tab" in the Middle Eastern war zone that Klare cites for the Pentagon, you could, in a sense, say that the Bush administration is "running on empty" and that the Bush Doctrine, as Klare makes clear, gives the term "oil wars" new meaning. We may, someday, be fighting our "oil wars" just to preserve that very American right -- to run our war machines on petroleum products. Tom

The Pentagon v. Peak Oil - How Wars of the Future May Be Fought Just to Run the Machines That Fight Them, By Michael T. Klare

Sixteen gallons of oil. That's how much the average American soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan consumes on a daily basis -- either directly, through the use of Humvees, tanks, trucks, and helicopters, or indirectly, by calling in air strikes. Multiply this figure by 162,000 soldiers in Iraq, 24,000 in Afghanistan, and 30,000 in the surrounding region (including sailors aboard U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf) and you arrive at approximately 3.5 million gallons of oil: the daily petroleum tab for U.S. combat operations in the Middle East war zone.

Multiply that daily tab by 365 and you get 1.3 billion gallons: the estimated annual oil expenditure for U.S. combat operations in Southwest Asia. That's greater than the total annual oil usage of Bangladesh, population 150 million -- and yet it's a gross underestimate of the Pentagon's wartime consumption. ...

The SMH reports on rapidly rising electricity prices and the threat the drought (well - the inland is still in drought - here on the coast we're having quite an impressive deluge this week). poses to power supplies (my favourite feedback loop from an "I told you so" point of view, though I may not appreciate it if I find myself freezing in the darkness).
ELECTRICITY bills in NSW will rise by at least $30 a year for the next three years, but consumers have been warned the cost may go up further with the wholesale price facing "astronomical" increases. NSW's independent pricing regulator yesterday approved a 3-4 per cent a year increase in prices for residential bills, but indicated it would review sections of its ruling annually. "These reviews are intended to explicitly address the risk of significant changes in the wholesale price of electricity," the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal report said.

Roman Domanski, executive director of the Energy Users Group, said the reviews indicated an acceptance that there would be "enormous" price increases in the wholesale market. "There will be a significant price shock over and above this unless wholesale prices moderate, and by all indications they are only going to get worse," he said.

Electricity demand came close to a record in NSW last night, with 12,968 megawatts used at 7.30pm as people sheltered from the winter chill. A National Electricity Market Management Company spokesman, Paul Bird, said he expected the record to be broken in the next few weeks if the cold weather continued. Wholesale electricity prices have almost doubled in the past months, and the prices of new contracts for big electricity retail buyers are increasing between 30 and 120 per cent. The drought was a major factor in increasing costs, Mr Domanski said.

A report released last month by NEMCO warned that if the drought continued, three large NSW power generators could be forced to shut because of insufficient water.

The Age has an interesting article on the amount of water left for each major Australian city, assuming it never rains again. Sydney is relatively well off.
MELBOURNE has just 63 weeks' of water left in its dams, based on zero rainfall during that time, according to forecasts by a leading water expert.

Professor Peter Cullen, a commissioner with the National Water Commission, calculated that while Melbourne's dams contained 63 weeks' supply, Sydney's had 101 weeks and Adelaide's had just 32 weeks. Brisbane's and Canberra's dams contained 68 weeks' supply, and Perth's 65 weeks.

Professor Cullen made the forecasts at a corporate water forum in Melbourne yesterday. The figures were based on the present levels of water restrictions in each state and assumed no rainfall over that period. Melbourne's water stores yesterday remained at 28.5 per cent, holding nearly 505,000 million litres. This time last year, the city's dams were 48.6 per cent full, holding 862,000 million litres.

Melbourne Water chief executive Rob Skinner said yesterday that while reservoir storages had stabilised with recent rains, the level of rain over the next two to three weeks was critical to whether the city would move to stage 4 water restrictions from August 1.

Technology Review has a look at the promise of ultra efficient photovoltaic solar power.
A solar cell more than twice as efficient as typical rooftop solar panels has been developed by Spectrolab, a Boeing subsidiary based in Sylmar, CA. It makes use of a highly customizable and virtually unexplored class of materials that could lead to further jumps in efficiency over the next decade, making solar power less expensive than grid electricity in much of the country.

The cell, which employs new "metamorphic" materials, is designed for photovoltaic systems that use lenses and mirrors to concentrate the sun's rays onto small, high-efficiency solar cells, thereby requiring far less semiconductor material than conventional solar panels. Last month Spectrolab published in the journal Applied Physics Letters the first details on its record-setting cell, initially disclosed in December, which converts 40.7 percent of incoming light into electricity at 240-fold solar concentration--a healthy 1.4 percent increase over the company's previous world-record cell. Other groups are developing promising cells based on the new type of materials, including researchers at the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), in Golden, CO. The NREL researchers will soon publish results in the same journal showing that their NREL's designs are tracking Spectrolab's, improving from 37.9 percent efficiency in early 2005 to 38.9 percent efficiency today.

Metamorphic semiconductors resemble the high-efficiency cells used in space. Like the cells that grace satellites and planetary landers, they employ three layers of semiconductors, each tuned to capture a slice of the solar spectrum (solar panels have only one active layer). These semiconductor layers are assembled, one upon the next, by altering elements fed to a crystal growing in a vacuum. To avoid growing crystals filled with energy-trapping defects, device designers have until recently employed only a limited repertoire of semiconductors, such as germanium and gallium arsenide, which form similar crystal structures.

Metamorphic materials provide flexibility by throwing off this structural constraint, employing a wide range of materials, including those with mismatched structures. "The parameter space you can explore using mismatch opens up a whole world of possibilities," says NREL principal scientist Sarah Kurtz.

What makes this possible is the addition of buffer layers between the semiconductor layers. This technique was employed in the early 1990s to make high-speed transistors combining silicon and germanium, and then introduced to photovoltaics later in the decade by Cleveland-based semiconductor developer Essential Research. Spectrolab has, however, seen the best results. Its 40.7 percent metamorphic cell improves on Spectrolab's best conventional cells by incorporating new semiconductors in the top and middle layers that excel at capturing infrared light that was all but missed by the cell's predecessors.

Such high output may be just the beginning. Raed Sherif, director of concentrator products at Spectrolab, says there is every reason to believe that these metamorphic solar cells will top 45 percent and perhaps even 50 percent efficiency. Sherif says those efficiencies, combined with the vast reduction in materials made possible by 1,000-fold concentrators, could rapidly reduce the cost of producing solar power. "Concentrated photovoltaics are a relatively late entry in the field, but it will catch up very quickly in terms of cost," he predicts. (See "Solar Power at Half the Cost.") ...

More links:

SMH - Woodside and BG to merge ?
SMH - Heavy snow falls in southern NSW. Maybe we will get some power from Snowy Hydro next year after all.
Crikey - ALP spooked by climate change ?
SMH - Waterspouts off Bondi Beach. Who says the weather is getting weirder ? Global warming is just a conspiracy by scientists and environmentalists...

Political Affairs - Maize of Deception: How Corn-Based Ethanol Can Lead To Starvation and Environmental Disaster
WorldChanging - World Economic Forum: Towards an Electranet?. Power generation in Africa.
WorldChanging - The Future of Carbon-Free Transport: Groningen, Netherlands
Alternet - Blackwater Heavies Sue Families of Slain Employees for $10 Million in Brutal Attempt to Suppress Their Story
Wired (Danger Room) - G.I.s' Guide to Iraq (1943)



Peak Oil Primers
Energy Bulletin Primer
Wikipedia Peak Oil
On Ravenous Fat Men

Essential Reading
Energy Bulletin
The Oil Drum
Technology Review - Energy
The Energy Blog
World Changing
Tree Hugger
Open The Future
Groovy Green
Grist / Mill
Past Peak
Bruce Schneier
Jeff Vail
John Robb
Real Climate
Green Car Congress
Free Energy News

Peak Energy Highlights
Smart Grids
Silicon Valley's War On Big Oil
The Future Of Venture Capital
The Cathedral And The Bazaar
A Theory Of Market Power
The Shockwave Rider
Bright Green Buildings and Dark Green Buildings
From Rainforest To Biodiesel
Black Earth
The Turning Of The Worm
The Silence Of The Bees
The Control Of Oil
How Much Oil Does Iraq Have ?
The Greatest Prize of All
Blood And Oil
Twilight In The Desert ?
A Question Of Shale
Don't Get Stuck In The Tar, Baby
Spot The Bulldozer
War. Famine. Pestilence. Death.
Plan B From Outer Space
Planet Of Slums
Stand On Zanzibar
Carbon Dioxide Is Good For You ?
Carbon Taxes Are Good For You
The Thirty Year Wars
The Truth Is Out There
Cities Are The Future
Email From The Future
The Expert Mind
The Elf Queen, the Sun and the Tower of Tomorrow
Perception Is Reality
Voyage Of The Beagle
The Philosophers Stone
The Day Of The Doombats
Farewell Jay

Viridian / Clean Tech
Viridian Design / BTB
Joel Makower
Clean Break
After Gutenberg
EE / RE Investing
Meta Efficient
Triple Pundit
Massive Change
Smart Growth
Near Near Future
Inside Green Tech
Green Business
Green Savvy

Vocal Locals
ASPO Australia
Sydney Peak Oil
Sustainable Transport Coalition WA
Carbon Sink
Steven Gloor
Reduce CO2 Emissions
Australian Energy News
Clean Tech Forum
John Quiggin
Energy Futura
Multiwhat ?
Natural Innovation
Melbourne Peak Oil
Queensland After Oil
ACT Peak Oil
Running On Empty Oz Solar Home
Climate Change Coalition
Daily Reckoning


More Links

Chris Mooney
Weather Underground
Climate Change Action
De Smog Blog
A Few Things Ill Considered
Climate Ark

Oil and Gas
Petroleum Economist
Oil and Gas Journal
Gas and Oil
World Oil
Eye For Energy

Peak Oil
Peak Oil (.com)
Oil Scenarios
Post Carbon
Richard Heinberg
Oil Crisis
Oil Analytics
Hubberts Peak
Technorati - Peak Oil
Furl - Peak Oil
Michael Runge
Oil Cast
Peak Oil News
Peak Oil Crisis
Oil Change

Head For The Hills
Clusterfuck Chronicle
Life After The Oil Crash
Dry Dipstick
Wolf At The Door
The Busby Report
Surviving Peak Oil
In The Wake
Eclipse Now

Peak Energy (US)
Transition Culture
Entropy Production
The Real Deal
The Ergosphere
R Squared
Resource Insights
Peak Oil Design
Deep Green Crystals
Jerome a Paris
About My Planet
A Crack In the Asphalt
The Stinkin Desert Post
SW's Energy Gap
Belly Of The Beast
Bill Totten
Energy Exigency
Vital Trivia
Peak Oil Blog
Land Of Black Gold
Energy Outlook
Energy Stock Blog
New Era Investor
Investor's Diary
Where We're Bound
Betray The Age
Oil Age
Emerald City
Neon Tetra
Red Dan
Plutonium Page
Meteor Blades
Dark Syde
Gone To Croatoan
In Oil We Trust
Lemmings On The Edge
Energy & Randomness
Gunther Portfolio
Environmental Economics
Oil and Gas Blogs

Peak Oil Discussion Groups
Energy Resources
Energy Round Table
Running On Empty 2
Running On Empty 3
Alas Babylon
Peak Oil Community
Democratic Underground

Renewable Energy
Prometheus Institute
Alternate Energy
Green Trust
Rebel Wolf
PV Resources
Renewable Energy
Alt Eng

EV World
Green Car Congress
Yahoo Green Cars
Tesla Motors
Journey To Forever
Hybrid Cars

Matter Magazine
Plenty Magazine
Orion Magazine
Sustainability Science
Sustainability Network
Sustainability Zone
Community Solutions
Bitter Greens
The Ecologist
Optimist Magazine

Free Thinkers
George Monbiot
Billmon / MOA
Scrutiny Hooligans
Middle Earth Journal
Stirling Newberry
Lew Rockwell
Common Dreams
Noam Chomsky
Bernard Rooney
Alert and Alarmed
Joe Bageant
Richard Neville
The Blue Voice
Informed Dissent

Parahistory / Tinfoil
Rigorous Intuition
Pop Occulture
Real History Lisa
Wayne Madsen
FW Engdahl
IC Link Compendium

Everything Else
Tim Of Suburbia
Chris Fiz
Mike Capone
Ian McPherson
Leonardo Di Caprio
No Roots
Yamauchis Paradox
The Vintermann
Guam Bat Stew
Down And Out In Saigon
Ron Schuler's Parlour Tricks
Finnish Viceroy
View From The Harbour

Peak Oil Quotes
"No civilization can survive the physical destruction of its resource base" - Bruce Sterling

"The second law of thermodynamics trumps the laws of economics" - unknown

"If the world was made of oil there would still be a finite supply of it" - unknown

"Deal with reality before it deals with you" - Matt Savinar

"If kindness and comfort are, as I suspect, the results of an energy surplus, then, as the supply contracts, we could be expected to start fighting once again like cats in a sack." - George Monbiot

"The infrastructure of suburbia can be described as the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world" - James Howard Kunstler

"How could it be otherwise ?" - Jay Hanson

"One of our central tasks is the creation of the post-oil megacity" - Alex Steffen

"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro" - Hunter S Thompson

Site Meter

eXTReMe Tracker

Babel Fish Translation

Alexa Certified Traffic Ranking for peakenergy.blogspot.com

Web Pages referring to this page
Expand this list »

referer referrer referers referrers http_referer

Locations of visitors to this page

About Me

I'm Big Gav
From AU
View my complete profile

Self-Sufficiency Headlines
-What a Way to Go
-The Sorcerer's Apprentice
-Standing Up to Conservative Bullying
-The Shape of Collapse, #4: Latin America
-Archdruid Watch: Adam's Morbid Fantasy
Provided by Karavans
Add your feed to this box

Add this box to your site

More Ads