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Sunday, October 31, 2004

Pick Your Poison

Atrazine works as a pesticide to ultimately increase crop yield with a concomitant reduction in petroleum usage. Apparently, farmers have used the stuff for several decades. However, the Minnesota state legislature has toyed with the idea of reconsidering its use due to health considerations. The makings of your typical health vs productivity decision, with implications for energy depletion thrown in.

I happened across the Atrazine issue while watching Tyrone Hayes of UC-Berkeley testifying before a Minnesota state legislative hearing recently (here). Hayes talked up a very convincing argument, but with curiously no rebuttal from the other side. Pharyngula blogged Hayes' findings last summer.

Elsewhere, not everyone agrees with Hayes' conclusions. This article points out that frog mutations occur quite commonly, historically long before atrazine came into existence. I can almost side with this reasoning, as I have previously read that the tadpole/frog's hypersensitive skin picks up poisons (and mutagens) much more readily than reptiles and mammals. This recollection of mine probably coincides with the original frog mutation reporting of several years ago, initially hyped up when schoolchildren collected some weird three-legged specimens.

Another odd aspect of these studies is the statistical slant that they assume. Granted, it takes a lot of time to collect samples, but it seems some ultimate resolution will come out of it. I hate it when the studies don't quite achieve the slam-dunk level of control necessary to avoid controversy.

To add some spice to the outcome, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has been showing cold feet on addressing the issue. They essentially uninvited Hayes as keynote speaker before getting hammered by the usual suspects.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Scorched Hot Potato

Who knows what outcomes that Kerry has in mind as he deals with the political hot-potato of oil. Jeffrey St.Clair argues that the wheeling-dealing shows duplicity on Kerry's behalf, as well as on the legacy Clintonian Democrats. However, if Kerry understands the realistic oil depletion issues to any degree (something that St.Clair does not acknowledge at all -- see below), then he should know that any hand-shake deals made have virtually no value under a looming dragged out crisis.

And a quote that shows the absurdity:
St.Clair quoting Clinton's Hayes:“Estimates of recoverable gas reserves on public lands from this basin alone are as high as 9 trillion cubic feet. If maximum operating capacity of the current pipelines in the Powder River Basin is achieved, production could be as much as 1 billion cubic feet per day. That will produce enough fuel to heat nearly fifty thousand homes in the United States for twenty years. Industry is producing the gas and submitting applications for permits to drill at an unprecedented rate and, presently, there are more than 4,000 coal bed methane wells in the basin. Upon completion of further environmental analysis, we expect to nearly double that amount.” from One for Oil and Oil for One, The Bi-Partisan Politics of Oil

50,000 homes for twenty years; make that 1 million homes for one year. Big deal.

If Kerry believes any of this stuff, other than for short-term political capital, it won't last for long if he gets elected. No doubt he will start to rethink the handshake agreements, if has not already premeditatively voided them. Watch Robert Kennedy, Jr. and other enviros for direction.

Otherwise, the article makes interesting reading. The parts on Hazel O'Leary, a former Minnesota Northern States Power executive stirred the braincells on how an ego-stroked, pure bureaucratic empty suit thinks:
The French, to me, are different. They are odd. They probably think we are odd. The French, I believe, benefited from what most students of this industry would quickly come to--the standardized standard design of a nuclear reactor.

Directly from the Department of Redundancy Department.

The Oil Factor

Excerpts (audio and transcript) from a new documentary called The Oil Factor available at Democracy Now.

Narrated by Ed Asner in a most serious and grave voice, the documentary covers lots of ground on the Iraq situation in addition to the obvious connection to oil interests. A couple of things caught my attention: the fact that any lifting of sanctions against Iraq would have played havoc on the war seems kind of obvious in retrospect. The theory that Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski advances predicates that a heavy influx on foreign interest after the sanction lifting would preclude a US bombing or other incursion. No way that the US would risk alienating the rest of the world. Instead, the US bombed away on a captive country, free of foreign influence due to the sanctioning-induced isolation.

The other factoid interesting in a Ripley-esque way-
ED ASNER: In June 2004, just one day's worth of oil consumption would represent a line of barrels long enough to encircle the earth. With almost half used for fuel and the other half used for plastics and chemicals, oil is indispensable in every single aspect of our modern, everyday lives. The world population has been able to increase in the course of one century from about 1.5 billion to 6.5 billion, only because oil has allowed for more food to be grown and distributed than ever before.

And the other :
The bottom line is this we eat ten calories of hydrocarbon energy for every calorie of food consumed on the planet.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

A Beautiful Check List

I spotted this on the otherwise vapid Yahoo! RunningOnEmpty2 group. Arlo, from Ontario, critiqued the Tom Bearden MEG site with his own special criteria:
  1. Claim of free-energy device? Check!
  2. Claims that terrorists/soviet-kgb/yakuza/etc have had the technology for years? Check!
  3. Terrorists using weather control by these "scalar electromagnetic waves? Check!
  4. Conspiracies everywhere? Check!
  5. Suppression of inventions/discoveries by Governments/Companies? Check!
  6. Standard vague "Chemtrails" reference? Check!
  7. References to "scalar waves" with no explanations? Check!
  8. Conspiracies and suppression? Double-check!
  9. Using these devices to cure nearly all known diseases and afflictions? Check!
  10. Using these devices as weapons to GIVE people diseases (ie: flesh eating disease and the Gulf War dieases)? Check!
  11. Mind control paranoia? Check!
  12. Solutions to all energy problems? Check!
  13. No references to claims of new discoveries? Check!
  14. The Apocolypse will be the result of suppression of his ideas? Check!
  15. Reference to Revelations and how it's coming because of SEM? Check!
  16. 'MEG will be sold in 2003', but missed deadline? Check!
  17. References to a NWO (New World Order)? Check!
  18. The Shuttle explosions and TWA 800 were caused by scalar EM weapons? Check!
  19. Makes possible faster than light travel and "transporters"? Check!
  20. Explains all of the particulars about UFO's? Check!
  21. Explains crop circles? Check!
  22. Vague pictures of lights in the sky, satellite photos and endless pictures of clouds as proof of all of the above? heck!

As a bonus he observes the same web site "quality" which I find pernicious in wacko sites:
PS: I'm getting awfully tired of wading through sites like these..
either one huge-ass rambling page, unsorted or barely sorted random
rambling pages, or worst... a combination of both. How about some
organization guys?

Organization? From a lucid mine? Not unless he's impersonating John Nash.

Bikes: Path Taken

Minneapolis has plans in place to provide more bike paths.
The expansion and addition of bike paths is an effort to get people to use alternative modes of transportation, said Donald Pflaum, transportation engineer for Minneapolis Public Works.

“What we are trying to do in the city is create a network of bicycling facilities that will get people where they need to go more easily,” he said. “We are trying to build these facilities across the entire city so no one is left out.”

Approximately 10,000 people bike on Minneapolis streets every day, Pflaum said. Approximately half of those bikers are University students, staff and faculty members, he said.

Looking good so far. But then we have this cretinous statement:
David Strom, president of The Taxpayers League of Minnesota, said he is a fan of physical fitness and making the city accessible to bikers, but the city is spending too much money.

Strom said most people bike for a recreation, rather than a mode of transportation.

I know why Mr. Strom has a vendetta against bicycles for personal transport. Due to his oblong shape packaged in a rather short frame, he has difficult reaching the pedals. Fortunately, the rest of the urban population falls within a reasonable human factors percentile for navigating on a bike.
w i d e

Friday, October 22, 2004

Monbiot on Entropy

The future of journalism as the Age of Growth gives way to the Age of Entropy :
Speech to the Enviromedia conference, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Abstract versus the Concrete

Dry Dipstick has made an intriguing though ultimately unimportant comparative analysis between "failed" Y2K doomsayers and oil depletion gurus. Although he does admit to being burned out from getting sucked into the pre-2000 hysteria, any rhetorical argument placing an abstraction problem (Y2K) against a concrete problem (oil) on the same playing field has serious flaws.
But many of the now-retired Y2K people do know about Peak Oil. They do know what's going on. And they do see the dangers inherent in Peak Oil. But are they going to come out of retirement, dig their soapboxes out of the attic or garage, stand tall in the public square and once again warn that their communities are imperiled? After what happened last time? How much credibility do you think they have left as apocalyptic prophets? Could they preach to the multitudes and proclaim the Second Coming of Potential Disaster? Maybe even proclaim that the Bush Administration, while it might have made the wrong choice, at least had somewhat—God help us—noble intentions. (Or at least quasi-noble.)

Not bloody likely.

I claim that the whole Y2K situation had in its origins a lack of abstraction skill level and lots of premature optimization (due to perceived savings in storage costs) from a limited suite of 60's and 70's era software suites. The big flaw in the argument is that many industries had been using software development languages with the right abstraction level for at least a dozen years previous to the year 2000.

For example, recent military software has used Ada, which had standardized on a built-in Calendar abstraction to its base library system since its inception. Not only was there a suitable year range designed into its opaque Time type, but the whole backend implementation could be changed without an impact to the user's software. Many refer to this as the power of encapsulation.

Unlike oil, there are no shortage of abstractions in the software world. Doing an abstraction right, a software engineer can slip in a replacement behind the scenes, with no one the wiser.

That ain't going to happen after the peak. The whole concrete infrastructure will have to change.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

In Fusion

The curse of entropy works away relentlessly. To pick an example, salt water infusion into various materials can cause significant entropy increases, requiring large amounts of energy to reverse the effects. Those aware of energy depletion issues probably have some familiarity with salt water infusion techniques used to increase oil pressure in Saudi Arabian oil fields. Although useful in the short term, the mix of salt water into the remaining oil effectively ruins the remainder of the suply.
... geologists report that the Saudis must inject 7 million barrels a day of salt water to keep up oil well pressure

Less well known is that the entire Los Angeles basin acts as a sponge for salt water coming in from the Pacific. This has had the historical effect of tainting ground water supplies. The more the citizens suck out fresh water via wells, the more the salt comes in to replace it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Conservation Issues

Along with oil, the humor reserve has crept dangerously low.

This "satirical" piece on Peak Oil does not rate highly on the Fafnir scale. Dead serious, yes, but fabricating fictional interviews really does not work. The only thing less amusing than this tactic is to compose a word-poem, and then ask the reader to sing to the melody of "____". Remember that there are a limited number of laughs in the universe, and this is not the time to waste words wantonly.

Speaking of shortages of non-renewable resources, the ConservaBabes consortium highlights the paucity of babealiciousness. According to the shrillsters on the forum, Michael Moore has been luring the prime babes to the other side, and the fellow must simply be stopped before the gauge reads empty! After all, the fashion transformation to wearing baseball caps, oversize glasses, and not shaving is irreversible.

Monday, October 18, 2004

The Price of LOilalty

Reality-based discussions have become the rage after Ron Suskind's article on Bush in Sunday's NYT.

Tony Danza/Joe Piscopo-lookalike editor of
World Oil Magazine bases his reality of "political solutions" to oil issues against Peak Oil doomsters' predictions by bringing up situations where two famous popular prognosticators have misjudged in the past.
says:"Jeanne Dixon was an astrologer and a pretty prophesier who wrote books, co-starred in a few B-grade movies, and made many wonderfully vague predictions, mostly in pulp newspapers.
Nostradamus was the master of vagueness and lack of timing, and the most prolific, having written 942 prophetic poems, which is why his legacy will undoubtedly outlast all of us."

This type of argument doesn't stick. It truly is amazing what shills for the industry will dredge up to support their bosses.

Update: The editorial quoted above predated the reality-based era by several months. But then again he may have accidentally predicted it. As Danza would say, Fonkin-A.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Another Tipping Point

President Bush acknowledges Peak Oil in a Ron Suskind NYT article. Suskind was the co-author of the Paul O'Neill book exposing Bush's economic thinking.
(During a Republican donor luncheon) After his remarks, Bush opened it up for questions, and someone asked what he's going to do about energy policy with worldwide oil reserves predicted to peak.

Bush said: ''I'm going to push nuclear energy, drilling in Alaska and clean coal. Some nuclear-fusion technologies are interesting.'' He mentions energy from ''processing corn.''

''I'm going to bring all this up in the debate, and I'm going to push it,'' he said, and then tried out a line. ''Do you realize that ANWR [the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge] is the size of South Carolina, and where we want to drill is the size of the Columbia airport?''

So maybe it wasn't a real acknowledgement, but at least Bush didn't act haughty toward the donor asking the question and claim that he was exaggerating the problem.

Frozen Over

From CNN's Financial Sense Online

This Week's Theme
$70 A Barrel Oil?

  • Signals are growing that oil's price surge could push all the way to $70 a barrel, according to the technical analysts who forecast market trends by interpreting chart patterns.
  • Waves and storm surges that were more massive than previously thought may explain why Hurricane Ivan did such severe damage to the platforms and pipelines in its path.
  • Damage to oil and natural gas pipelines in the Gulf of Mexico from Hurricane Ivan could take up to six months to repair fully and restore production to levels before the storm.
  • Hurricane Ivan's impact on oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico has been worse than initially anticipated because of damage to pipelines.
  • Greenspan: The extraordinary uncertainties about oil prices of late are reminiscent of the early years of oil development. Over the past few decades, crude oil prices have been determined largely by international market participants, especially OPEC. But that was not always the case.
  • Trouble in Nigeria: Why the OPEC Member May Soon Have Trouble Meeting Its Quota.
  • Fearing that Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups could attack Mexican oil installations the navy has purchased two frigates armed with surface-to-air missiles and three radar planes from Israel.
  • "It's going to be very difficult for any of the legacy airlines to escape Chapter 11 restructurings," said Levine. "If that were to happen at Northwest, clearly his skill set would be highly relevant."
  • Jet fuel, a by-product of crude oil, accounts for 15% of the industry's costs, the second-largest expense after labor. And now that oil is approaching a record high of $54 a barrel, the entire industry is suffering.
  • Seventeen months into a shadowy uprising that has killed more than 100 people, numerous Saudis say they are angry not at the insurgents but at the United States for the invasion of Iraq.
  • Investors know jet-fuel prices are killing airlines' profits, but they will soon get an up-close view of the damage when major carriers begin reporting third-quarter earnings.
  • The main way in which emerging countries are in effect lending to rich countries--or rather one rich country, America--is by amassing foreign reserves, which are then invested mainly in Treasuries. The IIF expects emerging countries, led by China, to increase their foreign-exchange reserves by $246 billion this year, and by a further $225 billion next year.
  • As the odds of a full-blown oil shock rise, Morgan Stanley has little choice other than to cut their global growth forecast.
  • Rising crude oil prices will keep airline industry earnings grounded, according to an analyst's report. The industry could lose about $6.5 billion in 2005, up from earlier estimates of a $2.2 billion loss, and that number could grow if "the high price of oil begins to act like a `brake' on the global economy," warned Merrill Lynch's Michael Linenberg. Previously, he had forecast a $5 billion loss for 2004.
  • Whereas we can say that the 1970s oil shock was 'event driven', today's oil price increase is structural in nature. Specifically the current demand driven oil bull market is fueled by the incremental demand coming from the industrialization of China and the rising standards of living around Asia, which increase the population of energy using consumer durables such as motorcycles, air-conditioners, and cars very rapidly.
  • Venezuela has drastically raised taxes paid by foreign oil companies operating in the Orinoco heavy oil belt. International oil firms must now pay 16.6% in royalties on their output instead of the previous rate of 0 to 1%.
  • It's official: President George W. Bush will be the first U.S. president since Herbert Hoover in 1932 to head into an election with fewer people working than when he started in office. job creation over the past year has barely kept up with current population growth, much less making up for lost ground.
  • The SEC is looking at assumptions made in connection with pension accounting to determine whether those assumptions were reached to drive earnings results.
  • For seven consecutive quarters now, General Motors has made more from lending than manufacturing. Ford has become dependent on its credit business too.
  • America's long and successful ride to prosperity is threatened by a transportation infrastructure incapable of meeting future requirements.

Insane level of energy-related activity. Each one of these points is linked to an online report. Go to the FSO page to view the linked contents before they disappear.

The Poor Excuse Drudge claims that energy prices may be "the biggest story of the year" on his radio show. He berates Woodward for not predicting correctly the Saudi's promise to lower gas prices before the election. But then he reveals that the oil situation won't have any effect until after the election. You really can't ascertain what Drudge does or doesn't know about the real situation. What a whorific pimpsqueak.

Snow Mobile

A judge has effectively lifted the snowmobile ban in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. Originally instituted during the Clinton administration, the judge turned back the previous "rushed through" decisions, which included the limited use of larger snowcoaches to allow people to see the park in a more controlled fashion. Notice that the judge included this flimsy bit of rationale:
"Nowhere was there a study of the small windows of snowcoaches usually fogged by passengers' exhalation, the cramped, uncomfortable seating and the slowness of the coaches, all of which are to the detriment of park visitors' enjoyment of the trip," Brimmer wrote.

This line of reasoning leads to the most convenient approach: visitors should ideally be enclosed in transparent tanning booths and lowered down to Old Faithful via personal helicopters.

And implied in this ruling, of course, is the dismissive attitude toward those who would venture out in an even more "unenjoyable" way, namely through the use of snowshoes and skis. Anybody that has been out X-C skiing in remote areas for any length of time has experienced the most unpleasant of all sensations -- smelling the oil-laden fumes of an oncoming 2-stroke snowmobile in the distance, before you hear it. Hard to believe this can occur, considering how loud snowmobiles can get, but like the vomiting before the diarrhea in the case of contracting food poisoning, the fumes and noise will predominate as long as the beasts are free to roam out there. (As an aside, olfactory memories have an uncanny persistence; I can vividly recall the sharp crispness of cold fresh air colliding with petroleum byproducts. And memories are exactly the reason for anyone to venture to remote regions in the first place!)

I have been getting newsletters from the Snowlands Network for several years now. Marcus Libkind does yeoman's work in making self-propelled winter outdoor enthusiasts aware of the political machinations, way ahead of the curve.

In the context of Peak Oil considerations, snowmobiles have amazingly bad mileage: 20 MPG

What's the deal with plastic checkout bags

Hey Kids!

The plastic bags used to pack groceries consume a deceptive amount of energy. From PlanetArk, this claim:
The amount of petroleum used to make one plastic bag would drive
a car about 115 metres. The 6.9 billion plastic check-out bags
we use every year is enough to drive a car 800 million kilometres
or nearly 20,000 times around the world. ((PDF file))

Obviously, the world does not need to consume all these bags yearly; shoppers should reuse these bags whenever possible. Barring that, reusing the bags as trash can liners also helps.


Friday, October 15, 2004

Action A Foot

I have detected a tipping point in awareness. First there was this AlterNet article describing how the govm'nt has started down a certain path:
As reporter Andrew Zaitchik summed up the Pentagon's response, "The Department of Defense and Energy have recently installed photovoltaic panels atop the enormous building's five-sided roof. And if a solar-powered Death Star isn't the perfect symbol of humanity's two possible futures, then I don't know what is."

This actually happened earlier this year.

And now I am hearing commercials on AirAmerica for a corp/collective called NativeEnergy.
You can help fight global warming. Take a few minutes to join WindBuilders today. Help “plant” a new wind turbine and its clean, renewable energy will reduce the use of fossil fuels to create electricity, reducing global warming pollution for you. You can have the same impact on global warming as powering and heating your home entirely with wind for a whole year!

Clever borrow of the WWII-era WindTalkers motif in a new context. This is something to keep an eye on.

Update: Another tipping point indicator (from the Post-Carbon Institute): CNN breaks rank with other Television News Outlets linking High Oil Prices to Geology.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Wack Enviro Course

On a sliding scale, this college class on People and the Environment has to max out the right-wing annoyance level.

From the looks of the course description, the field of ecology remains healthy. Part of the syllabus includes:
  • Natural Systems
  • Food Webs & Human Population
  • Species & Extinction
  • Water: Lakes & Aquatic Ecosystems
  • Water: the ultimate resource conflict?
  • Soil & Food Toxins in Food: Mercury Pollution
  • The Secret History of Lead
  • Mercury & Energy
  • Energy & Climate Change [Wackos, Idiots, and Ozone]
  • Superfund & Waste Issues

I once took a course on limnology, higher on the tech content, but brutal and dry. I don't particularly recall the use of the terms Wackos and Idiots, though.

The course description links to The Real Price Of Gas.

Kudos to Bemidji State University.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

No Enron, Energy/Oil, Enviro

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usDuring the last of the presidential debates, ostensibly centered around domestic issues, moderator Bob Schieffer asked no questions concerning energy depletion, Enron-style corporate antics, or environmental issues.

But then again Texan Schieffer probably did not want to alienate Bush's Brain nor his homies.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

"Oil Dream" Mission Accomplished

Must read article on where Bush will next try to pull a "Mission Accomplished" stunt.

And the clowns have the gall to claim a new 35,000 acre wildlife refuge as their own handiwork. Not. Better thank Nature Conservancy.


The 'Peak Oil' cult lays out a very silly argument against misguided fools who think they understand the reality of oil depletion. Although the title of the article clearly contains the Koresh/Jim Jones frightword, the financial writer masterfully frames codewords signifying cultish tendencies without ever making the kool-aid drinking accusation.
  • cataclysmic
  • near-mystical ritual
  • looming global catastrophe
  • gurus
  • high priest
  • cataclysm
  • cataclysm

And this is how the article ends:
So long as human ingenuity is allowed to flourish, there will be no peak.

Translation: If I can write creatively enough, my readers will be convinced to not pay attention to all warnings to the contrary.

That my friends is an example of projection (wondering aloud about your own inadequacies in the guise of a perceived adversary), innoculution (accusing others first of what they may accuse you of), and the sure signs of a real reactionary cult.

New interesting "cult-like" Peak Oil website at Dry Disptick.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Life as a dog

I spent the last year plus without a valid driver's license. Not that I tried to go without, it simply lapsed and I only realized my situation when I tried to rent a car in France. I wouldn't consider any significant epiphany to come out of this miscue, but in retrospect it does serve to point out how useless a license is for someone that spends a lot of time on pedal or foot power alone.

In real terms, a driver's license grants an adult the right to stoopidity. Case in point: I took an excursion for some light mountain bike riding over the weekend. On the way out, I was hit on the back of the elbow by a hurled pizza. The culprits squeeled away in a Silver pickup truck, with the pizza tail-gunner hanging out the passenger side window.

A Fred is a bike rider who doesn't pay attention to style. If the conventional wisdom follows that bicyclists that pay attention to current fashions are somehow immune to insult, think again. A substantial minority of motorists hate every bicyclist on the road.

The incident surrounding 40-year old triathlete Maria Pia Sass sounds mildly suspicious as reported in the September issue of Twin Cities Sports.
Sass, however, did practice safety. She was hit at 2:30 in the afternoon while riding a bright yellow bike with a reflective vest and helmet. Newbury, who lives in Madison, Wis. (where Ironman Wisconsin takes place), says motorists are often frustrated by cyclists on the road.

It really gets pathetic if you read the Wisconsin state sheriff's police report on the "accident":
An investigation revealed that Ms. Sass, who was visiting relatives, who have a cabin on Vincent Lake, about two miles from the location where she was found, had gone for a bicycle ride at about 1 p.m., stating to relatives that she would return between 2 and 2:30 p.m. It appears that Ms. Sass’s bicycle was struck from the rear, around 2 to 2:30 p.m., by a vehicle, as she was riding her bicycle northbound, on the east side of County Road I, throwing her and her bicycle into the east ditch. The vehicle that struck Sass did not stop at the scene. Two fishermen from Hammond, WI, noticed plastic lens debris and a tennis shoe in the roadway and on the shoulder and stopped to investigate, at which time they discovered Ms. Sass and her bicycle in the ditch. The fishermen did not have a cell phone, so they flagged down a third citizen, who had a cell phone and called 911. Ms. Sass was wearing a bicycle helmet and was wearing bright colored clothing and riding a yellow bicycle when she was struck.

As far as I know, she's still in a coma.


Sunday, October 10, 2004

Solar Powered Kerry

Listening to the AirAmerica radio program, Ring of Fire, host Robert Kennedy Jr. related the story of how John Kerry convinced Robert's brother Max to accompany him on a windsurfing trip from Woods Hole to Nantucket, a stretch of 40 miles.
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
Kennedy also mentioned that no cameras or media recorded the event; apparently when they got there, they simply turned around and went back¹.

BTW, this was in the context of an entertaining segment on which candidate Sports Illustrated considered the best athlete, Kerry or Bush. According to the editor, Kerry bested Bush on athletic prowess, contrary to what the reader's poll said. To be fair to Bush, they forgot to mention the president currently prefers mountain biking to running (which he doesn't do as much anymore due to chronic knee problems) and that he once played Rugby.

¹Kerry went back? He must have Flip-Flopped!

What's the deal with disposable razors

Hey Kids!

Americans use 2.6 billion disposable razors every year. The waste from the total volume amounts to filling up a football field about 50 yards deep.

Considering that most of these razors are plastic, if a couple of ounces of petroleum went into the manufacturing and transport of each razor, upwards of 250,000 barrels of oil get consumed every year due to their use.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us


Friday, October 08, 2004

PeakOil.com down

The PeakOil.com website is down. Aaron, the webmaster, indicated that the service provider got "fed up" (paraphrasing) with the resources that the site used up. I also got the impression that many of the archival material disappeared. Too bad; Aaron and the volunteer moderators put a lot of hard work into the site.

Goto Peak Oil Community for an alternative message board.

Update: For another Peak Oil fix, Matt Savinar has temporarily (i.e. the stretch political drive) made available a downloable copy of his book in PDF form.

Or excerpts from the book Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America's Growing Petroleum Dependency by Michael T. Klare.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

The Price of Oil

Lyrics to Billy Bragg's song "The Price of Oil" and a biographical sketch of the musician.
(played on DemocracyNow and AirAmerica radio occasionally)

Energy Boon, Doggle

Believe it or not, a co-worker of mine was actually sent to witness a demonstration served up by pitchmen who emulate Ronco Popeil: Companies Eye New Klein Gas As Unique, Efficient Energy Source for Vehicles
A month after the newly created klein gas was introduced to western Kentucky, it returned Thursday, this time luring a much richer clientele, some of whom had dollar signs in their eyes and thoughts of expanding their business to the area.

Boondoggle. More here.


The slumbering news media slowly evolves to reporting the real reason for going to war in Iraq. As the president runs out of defensible positions, he begins to slide:
Bush said: "The Duelfer report showed that Saddam was systematically gaming the system, using the U.N. oil-for-food program to try to influence countries and companies in an effort to undermine sanctions."

It's a war of attrition; the early rationales for the war -- WMD, 9-11 terrorism, liberation from a despot -- have gone by the wayside. Soon the administration and press will simultaneously arrive at the last and only predicate for conquest: control of oil.

Note last semester's scorecard (from Atrios)

If Bush is looking for a redo, today's quote will only get him half-credit on question #3.

Update: Is there any doubt within the deluded administration that the USA could have done a much better job controlling oil? From Znet, true effectiveness lies in the eyes of the beholder:
Iraq used to produce close to 3.5 million barrels of oil per day under the rule of Saddam Hussein. It exported about 2.5 million barrels daily within the now-defunct, United Nations-guided oil-for-food program. It produced another half a million barrels for its own internal consumption to feed its now-looted and destroyed refineries. And it managed to "smuggle" about 300,000-500,000 barrels a day to Iran, Jordan, Syria and Turkey, with the money going into Saddam's treasury.

The reason oil prices have been hovering around $50 a barrel now is that most of these Iraqi exports disappeared just as oil consumption began to skyrocket around the world.

To consider it "skyrocketing" may be exagerrating, as a slow inexorable rise coupled with continual depletion has the same effect, and in any case has caused us to enter an enormous briny pickle of a predicament.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Anti-matter does not matter

This story only discusses a potential matter/anti-matter energy source as a future military tool. To me, this is code for it takes more net energy to create the source than you get from triggering the reaction.

Move along folks, nothing to see here, at least from a practical point of view.

... Of course I could be wrong:
Besides, Lynn is enthusiastic about antimatter because he believes it could propel futuristic space rockets.

"I think," he said, "we need to get off this planet, because I'm afraid we're going to destroy it."

Trick Box

Why some would consider a 4-year presidential term a trick box. Belly of the Beast puts it succinctly:
My biggest worry is that the Democrats win the election, and then will be on seat when the crash occurs in this game of oil price chicken. The President will have very little effect on this situation when it occurs. And the American public will punish the current office holder severely when they can no longer afford to put gas in their SUV's.

Given how Californian voters were able to recall a governor, based on circumstances partly out of his control (Enron, dot-com bust, etc), anything may happen to a sitting duck POTUS during a future, inevitable, oil crash.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Learn sumtin' new every day

I had no idea that we had something called the Minerals Management Service (MMS) working out of the USA Department of the Interior.

Always interesting are the kid's pages. There you can find these topics for learnin'
  1. Exploring Oil Seeps
  2. Drilling for Oil in the Ocean
  3. The Ocean's Sand, A Natural Resource
  4. Find out what sea water is made of. (hints: sea salt, H20)
  5. Historic Shipwrecks in the Gulf of Mexico

Extra credit on the last activity will be given to kids who study up on the latest wrecks: Ivan whipped up 50-foot waves that destroyed platforms, damaged pipelines and set drilling rigs adrift.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Global rePositioning System

Atrios analyzes a potential way to tax gas consumption. Based on a separate analysis by Charles Kuffner here, the idea basically suggests using GPS to measure mileage driven instead of gas consumption. This would enable a finer control over where to put digital tollbooths, allowing municipalities to adjust rates according to time and location (which GPS does very easily).

But overall the argument rests on a false premise: that as we add more energy efficient vehicles in the future, we will quickly reduce the expected tax revenue that a mileage-based system would keep relatively intact.
As more hybrid and alternative-power vehicles are built, Forkenbrock said, gas-tax collections will suffer.

Hah-hah! So that's the ticket. Well, I am waiting for a bureaucrat to go nuts with this; how about placing GPS on these forms of transportation:
  1. Bicycles
  2. Baby Buggies
  3. Horses
  4. Pogo Sticks

Which counteract damage and productivity reduction due to:
  1. Redneck Anger
  2. Rubberneck Slowdowns
  3. Poop
  4. Circular Tar Indentations

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Sumtin' fer Nutin's

A couple of dubious suggestions for tapping energy out of atmospheric space have made the rounds recently. Shockingly, they show signs of an enduring capability to perpetually recirculate as pseudo-scientific urban legends. Which is as close to perpetual motion as they will ever come.

1. The first claim is the most recent. Anthony Mamo promotes a patent for recovering energy stored up from barometric pressure differentials in spatially separated regions (typically in mountainous regions) by using pipelines connecting to energy extracting turbines. Popular Mechanics excitedly wrote this up as a potential breakthrough and it was further advertised by Paul "Bunny" Harvey on his syndicated October 2nd radio show.

To logically deconstruct the claim, realize that barometric pressure differences drive the complicated natural phenomenon known as "wind". So Mr. Mamo basically wants to harness a type of wind energy by driving it through a lossy pipeline. No dice. Some home power DIY'ers have vigorously deconstructed this claim here.

2. The second idea is more curious still. Labelled as a Motionless Electromagnetic Generator (MEG), this should get classified into the "free energy" bucket of claims. First off, I should admit to a bias; over the years, I have noticed that any web site that features the following textured background underneath a rambling HTML organization of information portends tin-foil hat ideas.

The debunking by Shawn Bishop of Simon Fraser U. is here, while the ridiculous counter-debunking by Cyril Smith is here.
Mr.Smith says: Bishop is obviously of the opinion, held by many in the scientific fraternity, that perpetual motion machines are impossible. Stone-age man would hold this opinion with regard to windmills, but today we fully accept that, in a perpetual wind, a windmill will provide useful perpetual motion.

I suggest that Mr.Cyril Smith should consider investing in Mr. Anthony Mamo's perpetual wind machine. As a principal investor, I am sure he will get to at least view some nice mountain scenery and get a dose of fresh air.

Saturday, October 02, 2004


Ideas for the future.


The ultimate house is a design-by-committee venture. No idea is absurd enough not to save for future consideration.


The 900 MPG vehicle becomes reality. Is the future now?

Friday, October 01, 2004

Signif I Cant

One has to read between the lines to gauge the importance of an oil "find" in Malaysia:
Shell makes major oil discovery
A “significant” find means an oil field as big as Kikeh, operated by Murphy Oil, said an analyst with a local brokerage. Kikeh is estimated to hold some 20% of the country's current oil reserves.

Murphy Oil said recently Kikeh had a recoverable reserves base of over 400 million barrels and was expected to produce 120,000 gross barrels of oil per day in the first two years, and to continue at that level for six years. It planned to start production in Kikeh in 2007.

If the find is indeed 400 million barrels, to place it into geo-political terms, that is good enough for 5 days of equivalent world-wide consumption. Thus, we arrive at a working definition of "significant" in oil-industry parlance: 5 days of oil.

Note that the total reserves, based on extrapolating the 20% number, is 2 billion barrels. However, we find a creative bookkeeping miscue occurs here:
As at Jan 1, Malaysia's oil reserves and condensate ranked 27th in the world with a total volume of 4.84 billion barrels. Under the current production rate of 600,000 barrels per day, the reserves are expected to last 18 years.

The 4.84 billion contradicts the 2 billion from the other quoted paragraph. But then again, you have to rationally compare 60 days against 25 days of equivalent world-wide consumption, and realize it's more useful to argue how many angels can fit on the head of a pin.

Update: Say you were told that you had a terminal disease, but a doctor announced a "significant" discovery that would extend your life. How would you feel if the extension amounted to 5 days?

Buried at the bottom of CNN/Money: A G7 official said ahead of Friday's meeting of finance ministers in Washington that there was now "a recognition that oil resources were scarcer than was thought a few years ago."