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Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Same Circus, Different Clowns

Welcome to The Sideshow
I guess if people don't go to school they can be convinced that when we run out of oil, we'll have electric or alcohol-fueled cars and nothing else will change. They'll forget what the term "petroleum products" means, and they will forget what they look like, too.

Seemingly simultaneously, a couple of "institutes" have materialized to proclaim the wondrous state of the environment, climate change or not. One in England and the other in Australia:

No question that these groups have absolutely nothing to contribute to the advancement of knowledge. The telling statement comes from the mouth of the network's director Julian Morris:
He added that his $1 million budget is small compared to those of international groups, such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.

Clearly the budget won't go into any kind of research or even think-tanking. This becomes obvious when you consider that the monetary yardsticks used in comparison come from the activist side of the pond (FOE and Greenpeace aren't your typical research organizations). And what kind of science would they do anyway? I don't see any indication of computer simulations grinding away driven by the coinage. So that leaves us with marketing and propaganda production.

I guess if people stop being intellectually curious, they can be convinced that when the climate starts to turn on us, we'll adapt and nothing else will change.

I pulled the following suggested tools for understanding logical arguments from Carl Sagan's Baloney Detection Kit:

  • Wherever possible there must be independent confirmation of the facts
  • Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view.
  • Arguments from authority carry little weight (in science there are no "authorities").
  • Spin more than one hypothesis - don't simply run with the first idea that caught your fancy.
  • Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it's yours.
  • Quantify, wherever possible.
  • If there is a chain of argument every link in the chain must work.
  • "Occam's razor" - if there are two hypothesis that explain the data equally well choose the simpler.
  • Ask whether the hypothesis can, at least in principle, be falsified (shown to be false by some unambiguous test). In other words, it is testable? Can others duplicate the experiment and get the same result?

How many clowns are out there? Billions and billions. We need all the intellectual ammunition that we can lay our hands on.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Oil about to run out?

The surprising answer: No.

The world has plenty of oil.

Chris Bennett

Why? This is so "since recent deep oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico has identified a huge vat of oil." according to the The World Nut Daily.       [I've actually seen huge vats before, and yes indeed, some of them can get pretty big, much bigger than the usual run-of-the-mill big barrel of oil]

And other assorted nuts believe that because Saudis Triple Oil Reserves, the oil must be coming from mysterious places -- perhaps of abiotic origins?

So what's the truth?

No surprise here, the actual answer: Governments Lie ©

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Invent Shunned

Mathew Parris of The Times Online claims the greatest invention is not what polled readers had in mind. In fact, he says it has yet to be invented:
Such is the price of our failure to find a way to store or carry electrical power. I know what my Great British Invention would have to be.

His argument makes a lot of sense. I definitely see the disconnect between the wonders of oil as a carrier of energy versus the efficiency of electricity to convert energy to motion. Yet, converting oil to electricity efficiently and safely has not been perfected.

Moon gas won't cut it as The Invention.
To extract helium 3 gas the rocks have to be heated above 1,400 degs F (800 degs C). Some 200 million tonnes of lunar soil would produce one tonne of helium, Taylor said, noting that only 10 kilos of helium are available on Earth.

For now, that is the killer problem.

Built To Spill

30,000 gallons of oil spilled in the Delaware River between New Jersey and Pennsylvania. It will take a while to determine what ecological ramifications will result from this 20-mile long mess, but considering that the leaked oil represents a monetary value of about $35,000, its a potent application. In contrast, imagine, what little environmental damage that a "crash" of a similarly-priced SUV would cause. Point being that oil is still cheap and unless we treat it as carefully as toxins or some truly expensive liquid it will remain difficult to contain.

Judging from past history, drunk captain Joseph Hazelwood of the Exxon Valdez Alaska disaster received only a conviction for negligently discharging oil. He was fined $50,000 and required to perform 1,000 hours of community service, picking up litter along Alaska highways. Since that spill totalled about 11 million gallons, I anticipate the skipper of this boat getting fined $200 and asked to do a few hours picking up litter in Camden.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

That's the ticket

Well, my advisors tell me that Mexico has vast amounts of fossil fuel and, that, apparently so does Canada. So, we better start making noise about protecting the whole of North America -- the idea of protection makes perfect sense, because of the knowns that we do know, we know that the United States, Canada, and Mexico all belong to the "North American continent". Please understand that we do not want to go down the path towards a "North American incontinent". Incontinence, as you may well be aware of, can be caused by trapped gas and sludge-like buildup. Theoretically, from what our think-tanks tell us, we can relieve this condition by moving our strategic forces (including our Halliburton Igloo and Adobe divisions) to our appendages. From these vital locations, we should be able to provide "relief" by opening up the valves and bleeding the tarry extrusions and gaseous bloat. If you have any questions, the following captures my plan .
-- sincerely, Don Rumsfeld

P.S. This does not have to make any sense at all. As long as words keep coming out and the eyes keep squinting, no one will question it.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Horse Apples

From surviving peak oil, a whack idea on using horses to drive pedal-powered contraptions. As pedal-power is more efficient for humans than striding-power, the analogy should hold for horses. At least I think that's the implication.

Triumphant response: This idea is great ... for me to poop on.

Pill, Grim

Monbiot predicts, as others have pointed out, that increased biofuel production will take away from third-world food production and accelerate environmental destruction.

As he points out, a small cadre of biofuel enthusiasts will drive around their reconstituted diesels with reconstituted "chip oil", but the reconstituted idea courtesy of Rudolf Diesel himself is a non-starter.
We need a solution to the global warming caused by cars, but this isn’t it. If the production of biofuels is big enough to affect climate change, it will be big enough to cause global starvation.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Sticker Shock

A list of loopy science textbook advisory stickers.

This material may contain facts.
Facts are simple and facts are straight.
Facts are lazy and facts are late.
Facts all come with points of view.
Facts don't do what I want them to.

The students at Swarthmore, never too shy to antagonize other Ivy leaguers, put a hot link to GWB's Yale transcripts on the lower right sticker.

Monday, November 22, 2004


The fact that Rice University professor Richard Smalley has a nay-saying colleague on campus probably helps hone his arguments in the long-run. From Voice of America, this exchange:
But Amy Jaffe, who studies energy matters at Rice University's Baker Institute here in Houston, dismisses such talk.

"These people are acting irresponsibly, in my opinion, scaring people," she said. "They said a few years ago that Russia would peak, and now we know the amount of resources there is much greater than we previously imagined."

However, one of Ms. Jaffe's colleagues at Rice University, Richard Smalley, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1996, says he is worried that the peak oil scenario could be true.

"I find the arguments for an impending peak in worldwide oil production quite convincing," he said. "If it turns out that this is not true, then we will all be incredibly lucky."

Parsing her statement, I suppose responsibly scaring people involves such techniques as announcing color-coded terror warnings. I further gather that this viewpoint should not be surprising, as Ms. Jaffe works at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy -- named after the infamous spin-meister, Saudi apologist, and shadowy scaremonger. The projection of fear as originating from your opponents is standard practice among this cadre of oil-industry tools.

On a more interesting and less shrill note, another voice joining the peak oil and depletion is one Jan Lundberg, who formerly ran Lundberg Survey Incorporated which published the one-time "bible of the oil industry," the Lundberg Letter. He now publishes CultureChange.org, an interesting website dedicated to what one would call low-impact sustainable living. I don't have a clue as to Lundberg's earlier viewpoint, but his having been involved as an observer in the oil industry for that length of time, I, for one, admire someone that would stick their neck out there on a chopping block, presumably alienating any former oil-industry contacts.

Check out this for a recent Lundberg opinion piece and this for a brief synopsis of the rationale for his changed outlook. He's been at the opposite side of the fence for a few years now; frankly I don't know how I didn't notice his name attached to the CultureChange site until now, considering how often I had heard the "Lundberg Letter" mentioned in news reports over the years. I suppose he hasn't been getting any awareness-raising publicity from former "colleagues" like oilmen Bush and Baker :)

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Got Yacht ?

Congress passes spending bill and adds pork:
  • $2 million for the government to try buying back the former presidential yacht Sequoia, which was sold three decades ago. Its current owners say the yacht is assessed at $9.8 million.

I don't think anyone knows what they really intend to do with the yacht, but Atrios implies that it may become another presidential plaything, or something that will fulfill Bush's pledge:
"We need an energy bill that encourages consumption." - President Bush, Sept. 23, 2002, Trenton, New Jersey, speech

Compared to the yacht, Kerry's sail-board looks like a thrifty investment. Remember the "Windsurfing" attack ad by Bush against Kerry? Here it is, direct from www.georgewbush.com, with the infamous tag line $87 Billion For Our Troops:

Now if we take a look at the picture of the Sequoia and compare it to the yacht motoring behind Kerry, we see a definite resemblance.

In fact, pasting the Kerry "Windsurfing" ad into the picture (lower right), we finally get to see the full rethug world-view in action.
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  • $87,000,000,000 For Our Troops
  • $10,000,000 For Our Commander

That comes out to a bill of $87,010,000,000.

Saturday, November 20, 2004


No longer will I refer to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as ANWR (pronounced "anwar"). Listening to Carl Pope of Sierra Club, I heard a very persuasive argument against falling into a deliberate framing trap. Pope said that the administration never refers to "wildlife" or "refuge" when referring to the site of potential oil extraction. By using the contraction "ANWR", citizens do not get the repetition necessary to imprint in their minds the environmental sensitivity of the area. The administration (and corporate interests) do not want this association to happen in the public's collective consciousness.

Not only does this work to erase the rather noble goal of supporting the environment, but the framing technique can even work to add negative connotations to the discussion. How does this happen? The theory goes that "anwar" starts to sound mechanical and, further, meaningless to anyone new to the eco-political1 issue. Sad to say, but for anyone slightly up-to-date on history, it might even remind them of a certain historical Egyptian leader. And with anti-Arab sentiment nowadays, the contraction actually might project worse connotations ("anwar, where's that? the desert?").

I know this sounds like a fairly subtle argument, and perhaps a flimsy premise, but ideas have to get promulgated somehow.

Beyond the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge issue (just practicin'), I would also suggest to use the framing technique on other energy issues. For example, we should never use the term "Peak Oil" without adornment. Instead, if we regularly use "Peak Oil and Depletion", the significance would start to hit home harder. Without the extra verbiage, it only sounds like a glowing rejoinder ("by jove, we've reached the summit!"). Instead the full "Peak Oil and Depletion", begins to remind us that we have just hit the wall in the marathon, and bonked.

Remember the "Oil Crisis" of the 70's? I wonder if anybody in the administration would dare use that contextual framing again ...

1 The term "eco-political" is also subject to ambiguous framing. It could mean economic-political or ecological-political. Depending on the person's perspective, the impact changes significantly.

Friday, November 19, 2004


Bad Science. An article titled Discovery of real-time natural gas formation offers prospect for renewable energy resource may give the naive reader the wrong impression on what constitutes a scientific advancement. In particular, the distinction between an experiment that can measure an effect and something that capitalizes on the effect needs emphasizing. In this account, the company's claims hint at something big, but likely the result has importance in experimental measurement circles only. The fact that Luca Technologies has detected an anomaly and then attributed it to a biological cause, has little practical significance unless they attach some quantitative numbers to the results. My bet: pass on the miracle cure.

I remain suspicious of the website (PhysOrg) that published this article. They also recently posted an article called An Inexhaustible Source of Energy from Methane in Deep Earth. This does not constitute real science, perhaps closer to the intellectual level of Popular Science. My bet: double or nothing on the previous bet.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Book Nook

Two new books on the radar screen, blips via Majority Report radio.

This has been a war of western oil imperialism against Arab nationalism.
-- Edwin Black, "Banking on Baghdad"

Money loaned to Third World countries boomerangs back to serve US corporate interests. Your tax dollars at work.
-- John Perkins, "Confessions of an Economic Hitman"

Regarding the latter's web site, Perkins shows an apparent New-Age side in his previous writings, quite a clash to the cold-hearted business-like personna he portrayed in his on-air interviews. I venture to guess the vanity press spiritual route did not work to fully release his inner demons, so he spilled his guts in the new book. Either that, or as someone said on the Amazon reviews:
A part of me wants to hold John to a higher standard than I could stand myself. I wonder why, after many years of deep shamanic personal transformation, does it take him so long to speak up? The real question may be, how is it that he could now when most do not?

And why, after deciding shortly after 9/11 as he walked around ground zero "smelling the smoke and the burning flesh," deciding that he had to speak out, why does it take him three years and two months to come out with this story? Perhaps he has been speaking all along, but until now only a few were listening.

It's a shame that suspicions over ulterior motives always gets in the way of understanding the reality of insider culture.

The Onion Flashback

"Our Dumb Century"


partial debate transcription

Jimmy Carter: "We have an opportunity to use American technology and know-how to develop our own alternate, renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, freeing us from our reliance on foreign oil. This is sound policy, not just for America, but for the Planet Earth."

Ronald Reagan: "While much of what President Carter says is true, he is missing one very important point. That is, if America is to continue to prosper in the 1980s and beyond, we must join together and kill the bastards."

Jimmy Carter: "Next year, I will propose to Congress a sweeping revitalization program, with increased funding for the development of mass-transit systems, infrastructure rebuilding, and low-cost housing and job-training programs for disadvantaged minorities."

Ronald Reagan: "Kill the bastards, kill the bastards."

Excerpts from a talk promoting her book
Sonia Shah on Crude: The Story of Oil

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Creating Oil

Since the election, several stories on support for religious creationism have made the rounds (courtesy of ~DS~ this wacko). I don't know if this portends a cultural shift or not, but the rising awareness may have subtle, if not significant, effects on the way people perceive their environment.

For instance, although kind of obvious in hindsight, this thought really only hit me recently:
  • Abiotic oil as a means of generating a continual supply of fuel not only propagates the culture of consumption, but it meshes perfectly with the creationist's world view.

From the creationist's perspective, an abiotic argument allows their cherished belief of the relatively young age (~6000 years?) to be fully justified. Furthering the argument, they can thus easily dismiss any "fossil fuel" theory by claiming that all the oil we have found so far has an abiotic origin. I can see the new textbooks getting printed as we speak, right after the chapter on "The Myth of Dinosaurs".

Four more years of starry eyed bliss from the kool-aid crowd. What oil problems? These are times of opportunities!

Wind Mill

Rouille writes that the wind-power industry in Europe shows a progressive mindset in that it has historically been upfront about costs and other tradeoffs. European windmill investors have been successful in spite of revealing the negatives along with the positives. He compares that situation against the USA, where the monied have been able to steer the decisions (location, location, location) in their direction.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004


Where have we heard this particular word before? It appears in BusinessWeek via Peak Oil:
"It's a huge difference [of opinion] based on a very, very different world view. If you believe that the geological depletion of oil is imminent, then you are looking at $100," he says. "If you don't believe that geological depletion is imminent, you arrive at a different conclusion. And I certainly don't think it's imminent."

Yes, during the build-up to the latest Iraqi conflict, "imminent" use of WMD's by Iraq was bandied about to justify invasion. If we reword to reflect an anti-war outlook:
"It's a huge difference [of opinion] based on a very, very different world view. If you believe that the geological depletion of oil Iraq's use of WMD's is imminent, then you are looking at $100 a terrorism risk," he says. "If you don't believe that geological depletion use of WMD's is imminent, you arrive at a different conclusion. And I certainly don't think it's imminent."

What is so sad about this appropriated conclusion: reasonable if phrased in the context of Iraq, but totally misguided in terms of a global energy outlook. Instead of neo-cons we're now talking about neo-econs, who think market-forces will hold sway. Indeed, much like the curiously held views of PNAC members, many in the classical business environs have an entirely different outlook than geologists, scientists and other astute observers, with the battle royale over the outlook on oil just getting started.

The imminence of WMD use is being replaced by the imminence of oil depletion. To some, 20 years is imminent, while to others, 10 years is not imminent. While we argue over the number of angels on the head of a pin, nature's wells will keep depleting, market forces be damned.

Organic Cluelessness

Right wing bloggerland will never dare talk about energy depletion issues. Instead, they will occasionally veer towards substance but end up delving into pointless and naive ruminations about nothingness. Assmissile of Powerlineblog provides this iconic howler:
One of the under-reported stories of our time is the return of wildlife to civilized places in America. All around the country, you hear similar stories. Where I live, in a fourth-tier suburb of Minneapolis, you can't drive to the grocery story without seeing hawks, and if you go a few miles, eagles are plentiful. Coyotes and foxes abound in my neighborhood. Possums are now seen from time to time--I found the head of a possum on my deck, deposited there, I suppose, by an owl. There are rumors of mountain lions, but the only confirmed sightings are some miles away.

Nutjob, opossums have only recently been seen migrating into Minnesota.

The Minnesota Conservation Volunteer (donate!) contains an article on "climate change" and wildlife. Clearly they are a little gun-shy about the subject, choosing the euphemism for global warming, but they do point out how various wildlife have increased their territorial range due to warming. Virginia opossums are short-lived animals, who will invariably show evidence of frostbite on their ears and tails if they try to survive in Minnesota.

They are hanging around your suburban house because it is warm! You found a head of an opossum on your deck because they live an average of 1 to 2 years! The thing "died".

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And Powerline buddies at Fraters Libertas have a quote of mine in their masthead. For memory-hole completeness, see the image stage right. (click to enlarge)

Update from the memory banks: Westchester County in NY is loaded with opossum. When walking or jogging, I would see the dead ones all over the roads. It turns out that they are in fact often attracted to roadsides where they feed on road-killed animals, including other opossums. Basically a big positive feedback cycle. It has nothing to do with natural processes and everything to do with artifical (man-made) feasting and a fast reproduction cycle. Kind of depressing actually.


I haven't had the chance to attend a technical conference purely as an amateur, simply interested in observing the state-of-the-art in a particular subject area. This post by J. Jackson (and here) is a fascinating account of the recent Energy Institute Conference. Mr. Jackson makes no claim to be an expert, he says he adopted an “I know nothing, I’m only here to learn” persona

From Jackson's report, Peter Odell tries to swim against the tide:
Prof. Illum made another intervention, as Odell and the economists were getting tetchy: “Today we have heard specific concrete analyses. They are in conflict with the theoretical analyses of Arnott and Odell. A theory is refuted if it is in conflict with practical experience and historical data….we are at a singular point in history. We have built a world on oil and there is no substitute.”

(Whew, this guy may have No English Mothertongue, but he certainly puts his points across succinctly).

Odell, and perhaps this was because of his illness, made a rambling retort attacking Campbell, which ended with the statement that “there is no problem”; wide murmurs of disapproval.

Murmurs in an audience translate to a chorus of whispers, likely consisting of "What a knob", "He's flipped", "Time to retire", "I wonder who's signing his paycheck?", and "Get some rest, man".

Monday, November 15, 2004


As I punch this in, Mike Malloy of Air America refers to Spencer Abraham as a total jackass. Malloy then says to his audience, "Did you know we even had an Energy Secretary?". For the amount of good he did in raising energy depletion awareness, it seemingly didn't much matter whether he was there or not. In any case, Abraham's resignation early in the second term means that he can latch on to some lucrative positions.
The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Science Policy News
Number 147: November 15, 2004

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham Resigns


The Department of Energy is of great importance to the physics
community as it supports 40% of all basic research in the physical
sciences. DOE provides funding for 69% of physics research, 90% of
funding for high energy and nuclear physics, and 100% of the funding for plasma science. The department manages 17 national laboratories and funds research at 250 universities throughout the United States.

Secretary Abraham's letter follows:

November 14, 2004

The President
The White House
Washington, DC

Dear President Bush,

I write to once again congratulate you on your re-election. The voters have strongly endorsed your record and vision for this country and have delivered a highly deserved vote of confidence in you. Clearly, the strength, determination and unflinching leadership you have demonstrated has been fully recognized and appreciated by the nation.

I also write to thank you for having given me the privilege of serving in your administration. It has been an honor to be part of your team and to have worked with you and Vice President Cheney and I am extremely proud and grateful to have been able to contribute and help advance your agenda.

I believe that our successes in the Department of Energy during the past four years clearly reflect the commitment you have made to America's long term energy and national security.

Since 2001 we have developed the nation's first comprehensive energy plan in over a decade and implemented 90% of its recommendations. We have launched the most ambitious new energy technology initiatives in the world with our Hydrogen and Future Gen programs.

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What the heck is the Future Gen program? Was news to me, but apparently it is/could-be/was a big money effort to create a zero-emission coal-based energy system. My prediction: We will see Abraham as a consultant or lobbyist for Future Gen.

Update: JAMES WOLCOTT:"I have no interest in listening to a Chris Matthews panel speculate on who might replace this or that person in the cabinet, as if they were engaging in Rotisserie League baseball. I assume whomever Bush picks will have horns, cloven feet, and a connection to an oil company, so who cares what name the minion goes by?"

Update 2:
Read or listen
to Robert Kennedy on Democracy Now! concerning Abraham's legacy.
AMY GOODMAN: Robert Kennedy, Spencer Abraham as the one-term senator from Michigan received more money from the automotive lobby than any sitting senator, and you still have at least at this point, Andrew Card, Chief of Staff, who is a former General Motors lobbyist. How does that affect policy?

ROBERT KENNEDY, JR.: Well, again, you know, the keystone of national energy policy has to be fuel economy standards. But instead of trying to, you know, lower or trying to improve fuel efficiency, this administration cut the tax breaks for hybrid cars, and they implemented a $100,000 tax break for the largest S.U.V.s, for Hummers, essentially. So that you could get -- it can actually be for some people cheaper to buy a Hummer than it would be to buy, for example, a $22,000 Prius, simply because of the huge tax breaks that you can -- that encourages people to buy the least fuel efficient cars. That's not a national energy policy. This administration really was not trying to conserve oil, and to -- and our dependence on foreign oil. The major objective of its energy policy was to serve the interests of the -- you know, of Detroit and the big oil companies. The energy plan that was hatched by Spencer Abraham and Dick Cheney was really written by, literally written by the energy companies, and was by a dream team of energy lobbyists who got together to do the bidding of the president's corporate paymasters in the energy industry.

Helmet Head

Velorution brings up the old argument about the statistical unimportance of bicycle helmets. Long a discussion topic on rec.bicycles, the non-intuitive suggestion rests on the idea that bicyclists that do not choose to wear helmets (yet get good exercise) probably live actuarially much more healthy lives than those who would rather not bike because of the helmet fear factor.

The fear factor is basically divided into fear of looking like a dork and fear of potential dangers while riding a bike. If you have to wear a helmet, it must be dangerous, right?

To most, helmet-wearing bicyclists poking around at a few miles an hour is nothing out of the ordinary. But if you think about it for a second, wouldn't you think it odd to see a pedestrian wearing a helmet? In reality, the pedestrian holds his head higher above the ground than a biker does, so would suffer greater head injuries should he/she keel over. I still believe that to a large segment of the population, helmets and fashion do not mix, which influences these people to stay away from bicycles.

By the way, I do not wear a helmet, and would do so only if required for a race.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Sustainable Sources

George Monbiot brilliantly points out how the current politically dominant faction resembles the historical Puritans, with a mix of business and religious values. What's scary is that he believes the new Puritanism amounts to a sustainable ideology (maybe the only possible one).
So why has this ideology resurfaced in 2004? Because it has to. The enrichment of the elite and impoverishment of the lower classes requires a justifying ideology if it is to be sustained. In the United States this ideology has to be a religious one. Bush’s government is forced back to the doctrines of Puritanism as an historical necessity. If we are to understand what it’s up to, we must look not to the 1930s, but to the 1630s.

Here we are, looking left and right for sustainable energy sources, and all we get from our leadership are sustainable ideology sources.

Hmmm ... How many calories of energy does a burning witch generate?

And what color is that A on Bush's chest?

What's New

Here's the entirety of Bob Park's What's New brief from the American Physical Society. (No permanent links available)
They installed the nation’s first public hydrogen pump in the Shell station at 525 Benning Road in Washington, DC, just 5.2 miles from the U.S. Capitol Building. We thought you’d like to know just in case you’re in town driving your hydrogen powered car. Oh! I forgot -- you can’t buy one, can you? GM has six hydrogen prototype minivans in Washington, parked by the Capital for what a GM executive calls "educational outreach." Parked, because a round trip to the Shell station will use a third of a tank of hydrogen. No matter, GM isn’t trying to sell hydrogen cars. Here’s a WN (ed. What's New) educational outreach: the Bush administration points to the hydrogen car to show that while other countries sign treaties, we do something about the environment. Here’s more education: even if they solve all the problems with the hydrogen car, it won’t do squat for the environment. Pollution comes from making the hydrogen. GM will turn out a handful of hydrogen concept-cars with government subsidies while selling thousands of profitable SUVs, and Shell’s gasoline sales will climb filling up those SUVs, at the cost of putting up with a few little-used hydrogen pumps, paid for with government subsidies.


An excellent MP3 audio documentary from Pacifica KPFA radio on oil depletion was broadcast recently. I did not realize that Bosnia had a recent oil find. Not super big but interesting that the oil companies did have knowledge that some oil was there that predated the 1990's Yugoslavian conflicts.

Also, reporter Kellia Ramares makes the point that the manpower equivalency of oil amounts to $40,000 per barrel in labor costs.

On the visual side, the film documentary Oil on Ice was promoted on Air America's EcoTalk program.
At the present rate of usage, the total projected reserves beneath the potentially exploitable "1002 area" of the (ANWR) Refuge's coastal plain is estimated at a few billion barrels of oil--a reserve that would support the nation's oil habit for 200 days

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Piling On

Now it's getting personal.
The Elder at fraters libertas: To the sneering punks who called Bush a smirking chimp, the conspiracy nutjobs who couldn't say four words without Halliburton dribbling out of their mouth, the goons who tried to shut down GOP campaign offices, the morons who think Bush is an idiot, the defeatists who encourage our enemies while demanding that we don't dare question their patriotism, the thugs who painted swastikas on Bush campaign signs, the sophists spouting "regime change begins at home", the historically challenged fools who compare Bush to Hitler, the "It's all about oil" idiots, the Fahrenheit 911 watching simpletons, the delusional paranoids who claim that fascism is now upon us, the self-important nobodies who fancy that their dissent is even worth crushing, and the disaffected expatriates who trash our president and country overseas to curry favor with their Euro buddies, I have a simple message using the straightforward words of Dick Cheney:

Go *!@? yourselves.

The Elder is part of a strange coalition of bloggers and radio and print personalities, known as the Northern Alliance Radio Network (not to be confused with the Afghani Northern Alliance). I have not been able to understand why a such a coalition exists. The harmless explanation is that they are trying to recapture the feeling of an adolescent fraternalistic community. However since many of these people are corporate lawyers and belong to right-wing dink-tanks such as Claremont Institute, including Hugh Hewitt and the PowerLine bloggers (John Hinderaker and Scott Johnson), their Wurlitzer-formation seems more sinister in intent.

What else to do but boycott the companies that these guys work for. I am seriously considering pulling all my money out of Twin City Federal National Bank, where Scott Johnson, Esq. works as a Vice President, and explaining to TCF management exactly why I am doing that.

Original post via Orcinus

Eye of the Beholder

While in Orange County, CA, I happened to hear two radio yapsters (Conway & Stecler?) on KSLX during the evening discussing the possibility of American oil independence. They both seemed excited by the possibility that given the number of oil wells dotting the LA area landscape (including schoolyards, etc), that the USA should be able to break free from dependence on imported oil. Their guest, local TV newsreader Paul Magers, didn't pipe in to challenge the assertion.

True, lots of oil rigs can be seen bobbing away along the Pacific Coast Highway, and in peculiar spots, such as backyards of motels near the Huntington Beach pier.

However, many of these rigs are close to idle. In the image above of the Bolsa Chica wetlands area, 64 defunct oil wells and 98,000 feet of oil pipeline will be removed as part of an environmental restoration project. This area is right across the PCH from the beach. According to the Huntington Beach Municipal Code, the wells get declared idle anyways when they produce less than 90 barrels of oil a quarter, or a barrel per day. This is right in line with the average output of stripper wells of 2 barrels per day.

Appearances are deceiving. The local Pacifica-affiliated community radio station KPFK held a discussion of LA area wetlands restoration. No mention was made of oil wells; the guest primarily talked about keeping residential construction from creeping into the wildlife habitat. Blading along the beachfront, I was astounded by the amount of birdlife seen in the marshy areas. At least the Green part of the plan seems to be working out OK.

You have to wonder if the oil companies will keep at least a few of the pumps going, so as to keep the brainless yapsters (KSLX) clueless as to what is really happening.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Dust Up

I heard a story of how a company wanted to reduce the dust getting generated in their earthen parking lot. The suggested approach involved spraying oil over the lot. This apparently works if done correctly; unfortunately in this particular case, everything, including the cars, became a sticky contaminated mess.

Unintended consequences also occur when a non-media-approved thinker appears on commercial TV. From Bill Maher's RealTime:
MAHER: Why do you think we did Iraq? I mean, what is the bottom line reason? I assume that you don’t think that the reasons given were the real reasons.

CHOMSKY: I think that the polls taken in Baghdad explain it very well. They seem to understand. The United States invaded Iraq to gain control of one of the major sources of the world’s energy, right in the heart of the world’s energy producing regions, to create, if they can, a dependent client state, to have permanent military bases, and to gain what’s called “critical leverage” – I’m quoting Zbigniew Brzezinski – to gain critical leverage over rivals, the European and Asian economies. If you hold the – it’s been understood since the Second World War, that if you have your hand on that spigot, the source of the –world – main source of the world’s energy – you have what early planners called “veto power” over others.

Those are all very – Iraq is also the last part of the world where there are vast, untapped, easily accessible energy resources. And you can be sure that they want the profits from that to go primarily to U.S.-based multi-nationals and back to the U.S. Treasury, and so on. Not to rivals. There are plenty of reasons for invading Iraq. [applause]

As Michael Leon says in the epilogue to this transcript: "Pretty straight-forward stuff." Unfortunately, many in the blogosphere get wound up over the effects of Chomsky the person rather than the contents of the interview. For example, Alterman off-handedly remarks after witnessing a right wing panelist (Sullivan) exploding over Chomsky's responses: "Noam Chomsky, (with whom I strongly disagree on almost everything, for the record)". Neither does Atrios add anything to the content of the interview.

It looks like a clear-cut case of misdirection (by Sullivan) and then attacking the messenger and not the message (by everyone else). In this case, even a reference to oil transforms the proceedings into a sticky situation.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Charles Pierce's master plan


Notes: Good for the next four years. Works for dealing with idiots, charlatans, ignoramii, and kool-aid sippers.

Hersh's Fear Factors

Seymour Hersh answering questions on --

Oil and War:
Rockville, md: What about the oil?
Isn't it true that 2005 is the tipping year when demand from China, and India, coupled with our unquechable thirst edges past supply?
Aren't we headed for another gas shock that will be the start of another worldwide depression?
Isn't that what Bush was really all about by trying to secure our control of the second largest reserve-Iraq-and put feet on the ground in the center of the region?

Seymour Hersh: dunno re tipping point,but the chinese demand is taxing and will continue to be for another decade, as supply diminishes. we are headed a serious price shock. i widh (sic wish?) bush's main reasons for going into iraq was to keep its oil safe for our autos, but i'm afraid he acted on sheer ideology, perhaps driven by his religous beliefs.

Oil and the Economy:
Hyattsville, MD: I work in an international office in Washington, DC, and would guess that a landslide majority of all Americans who work in the international arena are EXTREMELY fearful of the road Bush is taking our country down.

Setting aside the mess of out middle east policy and the war in Iraq; even the economic and energy policies show this administration to be completely blind to world trends.

How do we sustain theis deficit spending while a rising Euros tempts investors in Europe and Asia to stop buying up dollars? How long can we continue to guzzle foreign oil like we are OPECs one and only customer as booming CHina and INdia are demanding more and more?

Seymour Hersh: this is going to be gut issue over the next year, if not in the press certainly in the corporate offices of america and the world. the economic picture, given the dwindling tax revenues (federal estate tax collection is down from 18 to 12 billion on its way down, given bush's legislation, to nada), is very bleak. if the asians and europeans cash in their dollars, we're in bigger trouble. and don 't expect the russians to bail us out with increased oil production when prices rise (the saudis may be at peak capability now, with limitied ability to go higher). dim future.
goodbye to all and sorry i could not answer more questions.

sy hersh

Going Underground

From the Peak Oil board, someone asked about building more sheltered transit ways.

Based on this idea, we could take a look at the Finnish underground cross-country skiing complex.

The general idea being that underground facilities maintain a uniform year-around temperature, and packed snow would not melt too quickly.

A similar thing was proposed for the Twin Cities. I found a link to it, but it points back to the Finnish site only. In any case, it was going to cost an estimated $14 million dollars. Kind of a lot when you consider that a 3 year skiing pass costs $25 and the biggest booster is a ski shop owner.
From Minnesota Public Radio: Minnesota's recent warm winters have left ski-enthusiasts pining for the days of predictably snowy trails. Well, if Ahvo Taipale has his way, good snow cover will never be far away. Taipale, who owns Finn-Seesu Ski Shop in St. Paul, wants to build the continent's first underground cross-country skiing facility. He doesn't have a site picked out for the so-called "ski-tunnel" but he estimates it will cost about $14 million to build. Taipale says he visited the world's first ski-tunnel in Finland and thought the Twin Cities could use one too.

Next to biking, X-C skiing is the most efficient human-powered transportation. It probably ties with roller-blading under ideal conditions. But the whole covered or underground personal transit idea is a no go.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

A 1/4 of a tank

Due to the 50% of the eligible population not voting, Dave Johnson points out that about 75% of the population either explicitly or implicitly supports Bush. That means that only 25% felt compelled enough about fundamental flaws to vote against the current administration. If oil depletion awareness ever reached 25%, the USA could start treating this issue seriously. That won't happen now for any time soooooon, as this cautionary note from Daily Kos concerning the new theocracy warns:
They will complete their overhaul of the Energy, Agriculture, Interior and EPA, which are already ridden with theocrats who reject the theory of evolution, and thus the concept of "fossil fuels", believing instead that their god has placed energy resources in the earth in just the right amounts for human domination of nature.

Which provokes me to search for a quote from ~DS~ on what the slippery slope of theocracy ultimately leads to
3) Another area of concern most of America and I share is the subject of Theocracy. Most Americans could care less about Evolution VS IDC, but they don’t want to see the nation turned into a Christian version of the Taliban. One only has to look to Saudi Arabia or Iran to get a chilliong glimpse into the future for America that some extremist Christians hope and pray comes to pass in this country. Do you advocate a Christian Theocratic government to replace the current secular government we live under?
(I heartily endorse free thought, open discussion and information. I prefer a two party system and democracy over one party theocracies)

And guess which theocracy currently holds the oil wild card?

Update: Swampdawg on Digby's Hullabaloo comments on the only solution (which equally applies to oil depletion awareness):
NO...No...No... It will take pain. There cannot be any other way. There has never been any other way. The "religious" will have to be shaken from the opium trance they're in. I've gotten enough people off needles to know this. It's common knowledge. The addict has to hit ROCK BOTTOM to figure out that it's time for a REAL healin'.
Theocratic totalitarianism ... Peak Oil decompression ... each a manifestation of the delirium tremors. Could be the only way to snap some sense into the American public.

Klein gas brouhaha

Received the following comment regarding my previous posts (here) on Ruggero Santilli, the theorist behind Klein gas.
Dear Mobjectivist:
Concerning your rude and offensive comments regarding Dr. Ruggero Santilli, a great mathematician and scientist, who has been nominated for the Nobel Prize on more than one occasion, and about whom you have written "Ruggero Santilli may be just a lunatic fringe scientist, in disguise" and that critics should not "waste their breath on this nutcase".
I think that you had better do some further reading of Ruggero Santilli's vast works, to increase your knowledge of his contributions to math, physics and quantum chemistry. When you said that Santilli was "a new name to the mix", you reveal the true depth of your ignorance. He has been working in the field, including research at Harvard, since the 1970's. You can see his CV on his website. http://www.i-b-r.org
By the way, where is your CV?

I have read some of Dr. Santilli's papers and the first several chapters of his text on Hadronic Mechanics, and would suggest you begin there. {His report on efficiencies of various processes is quite clear and to me seems quite correct, contrary to your comments.} However, to call this scientist a "nutcase" in your blog does not contribute to greater understanding, and is incredibly revealing, --but more about YOU and YOUR attitude, than anything about Dr. Santilli.
Sam Spade in Scandinavia

I apologize profusely. I probably should not participate in character assassination. Probably should let the body of evidence decide the theory's worth. With that in mind, the following email correspondence contains a more measured criticism of the contested theory. (Courtesy of a colleague from work)
FYI only!
Re: Review of US. Patent Application 2004/0149591 A1

I have spoken to a well-respected physicist who knows Ruggero Santilli for many years and he describes him in one word - unreliable.

I have read and reviewed the patent application and other papers
written by Ruggero Santilli. I doubt that the electrolyzer described in the patent application will produce the excited species that Santilli describes. Santilli's other papers discuss the excited states for atoms, radicals and molecules that are produced from an electric arc. An arc process has the high electric and magnetic fields that Santilli states are necessary to produce electromagnecules, or magnecules. The electrolyzer described in the patent application has no mechanism for employing a high electric and/or a high magnetic field that are claimed to be necessary in Santilli's other papers to produce the excited state of hydrogen and oxygen.

In other papers that describe the generation of combustible gas from an electric arc, the stability of reaction product gas is not described or mentioned, other than to state that coupling at the atomic, radical or molecular level stabilizes the species. I have doubts about the science that Santilli describes for coupling and the stability of gas products.

I have doubts about the capability of the simple electrolysis apparatus, casually described in the patent application and without any greater supporting details in other papers, to maintain the excited state of hydrogen or oxygen to achieve and realize the claimed high energy density released during combustion of these species. Santilli may be ahead of his time but what is disclosed in the patent application does not convince or prove to me that magnecule HHO is formed and has any stability. Some analytical results, similar in description to those from the electric arc experiments, are available in the patent. No detailed data is given for energy released from these magnecules with storage time. There is no discussion of the materials or required electric and magnetic fields for containing or transferring this highly energetic gas. (Think of the difference between data from other start high technology companies and the information available here.) At best, there is much applied science and development before the application of this technology to practical problems is realized.

Based on the technology and the technologist, I recommend that ____ commit no funds to The Center for Strategic Alliance or the Institute for Basic Research to support development of the equipment covered under U.S. Patent Application 2004/0149591 A1 to produce a combustible gas from water. This technology is at best in its infancy.

If you have questions or comments please feel free to contact me.

Regards, ____

Apparently, the western Kentucky company quoted above (The Center for Strategic Alliance and here ) promised interested parties samples of the Klein gas concoction, but the parties never received the goods. When the parties (i.e. marks) questioned the hillbillies, the moonshine schysters asked for some upfront investment money. ... Q.E.D.