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Thursday, June 30, 2005

Do they know what they support?

Although I realize that the biggest conglomerate on Wall Street can't always control its rank and file, I find it interesting that Exxon/Mobil has advertised products such as Mobil-1 motor oil quite heavily on pseudo-adversary Air America Radio in recent weeks. This despite the frequency of hosts such as Mike Malloy railing against the revolving door of corporate/political paybacks as well as bone-headed energy and global warming policies supported by Exxon. But who really knows what the Exxon marketeers have in mind? The writing on the wall might well convey to Exxon that progressives may prove a dependable audience for new energy products and ideas. Otherwise, I will just assume that AAR has a very good ad sales staff.

Conversely, the conservative talk aisle continues to have minimal discussion involving energy issues. About the only energy topic to gain a rise concerned the potential Unocal buyout by a nationalized Chinese oil company. Talk of "ChiComms" have gotten hosts such as Spew Spewitt flaming at the mouth over the red menace, but not delving into the deeper issue of energy independence. Patriotism fills the day at the wasteland of right-eous talk. Because Majority Report consists of reruns this week, I caught this revealing quote from a Mil-blogger concerning misplaced bumper sticker patriotism at the Spew show:
"For the cost of that (bumper sticker) magnet, you can send one of the (fallen soldier's) children through college"
(yes, you read that right -- home schooling college is that inexpensive!)

Check this flyer out from Orcinus

Luckily for me, bumber stickers and bicycles don't mix. If they did, I likely would have wound up as road-kill long ago at the hands of the uber-patriots. How long could anyone last without getting "doored" displaying this kind of slogan:
Anti-war Spokes Man

Bikers: Crazy but not Stupid.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Joe Barton

Congreaseman Joe Barton (R-BushCo) goes straight to the top of the list of human-sized impediments for a couple of issues he has gotten himself embroiled in recently.

He lorded over the House energy bill, of which The Oil Drum noted lacked commitment in a few key areas compared to the Senate bill -- namely in the areas of fuel savings, tax breaks, and ethanol.

But more seriously, Chris Mooney notes how Barton put undo pressure on climate researcher Michael Mann (of RealClimate.org).

By way of a belligerent memo, Barton essentially played the role of a Dilbertian boss to someone he has absolutely no supervision over. I realize that all of us taxpayers support climate research, but poor Joe does not understand the first thing about academic freedom. I would give it a whoop-ass response if someone layed down these threats to me:
  1. Your curriculum vitae, including, but not limited to, a list of all studies relating to...
  2. List all financial support you have received related to your research, including, but not limited to, all private ...
  3. Regarding all such work involving federal grants or funding support under which you were a recipient of funding or...
  4. Provide the location of all data archives relating to each published study for which you were an author or...
  5. According to The Wall Street Journal , you have declined to release the exact computer code you used to generate your results. ...
  6. Regarding study data and related information that is not publicly archived, what requests have you or your co-authors received for data relating to the climate change studies, what was your response, and why?
  7. The authors McIntyre and McKitrick... [ed: BWAH Ha Ha!]
  8. Explain in detail your work for and on behalf of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, including, but not limited to...

Read Mooney's post and the comments section to see how upset scientists have become over the threatening tone of this "academic subpoena".

And what's the deal with Barton's picture from joebarton.house.gov? (see above) It appears as if he proudly flies the flag of (1) Kenya or (2) Iraq based on his color scheme. Why does Joe hate American scientific freedom?

Update: Joe Barton Fink! Looking at the color scheme on a different browser, Barton now shows red, white, and blue. I guess I won't trust my lying eyes again.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Bush acknowledges Peak

Peak Recruitment that is.
-- Bush prime-time speech at Fort Bragg
"And to those watching tonight who are considering a military career, there is no higher calling than service in our Armed Forces."
We have long since gone past peak as far as the total number of soldiers recruited by the military goes. Still, I thought the blatant advertising for more soldiers kind of jarring.

More importantly, why oh why, does not Bush acknowledge the silently effective war we can wage by becoming more energy efficient and conservation minded. He just continues to refuse to suggest that the American public do their share of sacrifice, other than by praying and waving the flag. The NotCarter presidency continues.

Taliburton: Corporation as a Cult

Long rumored doing nasty deeds rather expensively, comes via TBogg, word that the U.S. congress has started to investigate Cheney's pals:
Under that contract, Waxman said, Halliburton was charging about $1.30 a gallon to truck in fuel from Kuwait. Executives from Lloyd-Owen International, which has been trucking in fuel for the last year, said they have been charging about 18 cents a gallon.
Halliburton also came under fire Monday from Rory Mayberry, a former food production manager for the company at Camp Anaconda in Iraq.
Mayberry also accused Halliburton of shipping workers who dared speak to military auditors off to more dangerous locations.

Every time I read something about Cheney's Taliburton, I think of the French movie Wages of Fear and its 1977 American remake Sorcerer.
Wages of Fear is constructed upon a seemingly simple premise. Four men are stranded in the dead-end, poverty-riddled town of Las Piedras in a nameless Latin American country. When an oil company, the only business in the area, offers big money for a dangerous job, the men jump at the opportunity as a way out. The task: drive two rickety trucks loaded with nitroglycerine across 300 miles of treacherous mountain country. If they survive - an uncertain proposition at best - each gets a check for $2000.
Stories of Taliburton drivers told to run empty loads across Iraq to create reams of extra billings reinforce this notion.
When Wages of Fear was initially released in the '50s, certain "anti-American" scenes were cut from U.S. versions of the print. The movie portrays an American oil company (modeled after Standard Oil) as being ruthless, amoral, and money-grubbing. The corporation hires four down-on-their-luck individuals to transport the nitroglycerine because, if the men don't make it, no one will miss them and there will be no messy union problems. It's important to note that Clouzot does not openly criticize Americans or the American lifestyle (something that would have been risky less than a decade after the end of World War II), but American big business practices. Watching a restored version of the film nearly 50 years later, this aspect seems neither offensive nor hard-hitting; in fact, if anything, it adds to Wages of Fear's believability.
Over fifty years later and we start to see the fiction played out.

I don't see a lot of movies anymore but The Deal, despite some alleged bad acting, looks intriguing. Even if it didn't have anything to do with the global oil industry (which it does), I would see it because some have compared it favorably to the classic plot-lines and counter-cultural sensibility of movies from the 1970's -- a decade that arguably contained the apex of cinema creativity. (I won't get my hopes up too high though.)

World Changing has more info and The Oil Drum has a review. I don't mind hearing the spoiler to the movie, because if I never get around to seeing it, I would like to know how the ending turns out.

Monday, June 27, 2005

The Naked Gun

Via The Oil Drum, Ezra Klein references this nutty analogy to the increasingly difficult process of extracting oil:
Imagine it's your 10th birthday, and you really like pistachio nuts. For a present, your folks give you an entire room full of pistachios--a 4-foot-deep sea of tasty, salted treats.

Sounds delicious. At first, they're easy to eat. Pick one up, eat it, and throw back the shells. But over time, pistachios get harder to find. As you eat, there are fewer nuts, and more shells. Eventually you get frusterated, spending more and more time sifting through shells looking for a single pistachio.

This continues until, finally, you give up altogether. It's just too costly to find those last pistachios. You decide it's cheaper to go to the kitchen for a different snack, and abandon the pistachio room forever--even though you haven't "run out" of pistachios in any absolute sense.

When referring to pistachio shells, you must choose the right analogy. The U.S. eats lots of pistachios, so much so in fact that we don't know when to stop. You put them in front of us and we will gluttonously consume every last one -- while in the meantime creating a mound of refuse. Who knew we could combine consumption with the element of time so efficiently?

Expertly played out by Lt. Frank Drebin in the legendary "Police Squad!" pistachio-pile stakeout scene.

Who knew ... that Peak Oilers could set the price of oil?
"The market is riding a wave of sentiment," said Tim Evans, senior energy analysts at IFR Markets. "Actual production is rising, inventories are higher, even the build in distillates is 800,000 higher than last year, so where is the shortage?"

According to Evans, some of the oil price hike is based on chatter about "peak oil," a theory that world oil reserves have reached their peak and will gradually decline until the world eventually runs out of it completely.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Natural Gas Cliff

Big Gav points to a Reuters article quoting the biggest "put the best face forward" big oil spokesman, CEO Lee Raymond of Exxon/Mobil, who realistically admits "Gas production has peaked in North America".

The USA has gone over a peak once before, specifically pertaining to oil production in the early 70's. However, because of the long tails of oil depletion, e.g. stripper wells producing for years beyond their prime, we can't necessarily depend on the smooth glide path of the last 30 years. (smooth glide path? yes, see the following quote)
North American natural gas production is about to go over a cliff, decades before the world peak of natural gas production. Since gas flows through porosities in rock much more easily than oil, gas fields can be drained much faster than oil fields. For this reason, and since most known gas fields in North America are connected to a common network of pipelines, the exhaustion of individual gas fields is masked until the totality of fields cannot meet demand. Since most of the gas fields in North America were discovered and came under exploitation decades ago, the whole North American gas supply will be only a few years from complete exhaustion when the first shortages are encountered. The cliff is very close, as you can see from the following graph of time-shifted discoveries (source: Forecasting future production from past discovery). The red curve is not in itself a prediction. It is the graph of past discoveries shifted to the right by 20 years--a shift chosen to give a good fit with production history. Gas must be discovered before it can be produced. Applying this basic truth allows us to conclude that North America approaches a gas production cliff.

We should ask a New Zealander how falling off a cliff felt.

Friday, June 24, 2005

The Bicycling Century?

Al Franken of Air America Radio has lately boasted about his bicycle commuting exploits. (which amounts to stating rather nonchalantly that he biked in to work at the AAR Manhattan studios; whether he does it regularly or not, I didn't hear)

The Oil Drum has included in its quoteroll:
"A third of humanity doesn't want to ride bikes anymore; that has profound geopolitical implications."
-- Anne Korin, the co-director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security (May 1, 2005)
For context, H.G. Wells, one hundred years earlier, apparently said this:
Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.

Al Franken mischievously pronounced the 1980's, "The Al Franken Decade". HG Wells forecast 20th century society so accurately that he has been dubbed 'the man who invented tomorrow'. Was the Wells' quote just an observation or a Nostradamus-like prediction for a 21st century lifestyle? If Franken runs for Senator of Minnesota in two years, I predict we will see him campaigning on his bicycle quite a bit (a gimmick certainly on a par with late senator Wellstone's green bus and Minneapolis mayor RT Rybak's X-C skiing exploits). No joke, Al learned from the excesses of "The Al Franken Decade", knows how to promote himself, and may ride that lifestyle to the bank.


Image Hosted by ImageShack.usFrom the senate on Thursday:
The Senate rejected 67-28 a plan by Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois to boost the fuel economy of passenger cars to 40 miles per gallon by 2016, and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) to 27.5 miles per gallon.
Too bad that everyone on the right got their panties in a bunch over Durbin's statements from last week concerning inhumane conditions at Gitmo. I wonder if Durbin's thoughtful fuel economy bill became untouchable based on his "poisonous" remarks, and the majority thus disassociated themselves from the "traitor". You can call me treacherous by association, but I thought Durbin's speech sounded almost quaint. He essentially asked whether anyone could have identified, by description alone, where an incident of torture had taken place and, by implication, whether it possibly could have originated from the U.S. As a rhetorical device, Durbin offered alternate choices of Nazi, Stalinist, and Khmer Rouge torture.
On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold. . . . On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees.
Well, by the process of elimination, the description pointed directly at U.S. origin; historical evidence points to a lack of air conditioning technology in despotic regimes circa 20th century. Therefore, strike Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot from the possibilities. In this day and age, restricting air conditioning becomes a death sentence only in western cultures.

Does anybody remember the Chicago heat wave of 1995?

Adding insult to injury, Durbin declared the U.S. a breeding ground for other monsters in pushing his energy bill:
Durbin said U.S. automakers fought previous requirements to install seat belts and air bags and said they can make cars more fuel-friendly with existing hybrid technology.

"Detroit is so wedded to the concept of selling these monster SUVs that they won't use the technology that is already there," Durbin said.
Jeez, I hope this doesn't get taken the wrong way.

Update: Past Peak demonstrates how the senate make sausage. They apparently think we can sue other countries over high oil prices to get us out of this mess. Durbin's bill looks absolutely brilliant compared to this nonsense (which got an OK from the senate!).

No substitute for Oil

Atrios on oil disruptions.
The problem with an oil supply disruption isn't simply that it'll increase the price of energy. The problem is that for large chunks of our economy (commuting/freight transportation/etc...) there simply is no substitute for oil. No oil, car no go, truck no go, plane no go.
The left-side of the blogistan gets it.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

You speaking to me?

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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Watch Your Back

"Republicans prefer eating the seed corn."

Also watch James Wolcott's blog. Mr. Wolcott ends his critique of Kunstler's latest entry with:
Turns out that someone else was visiting the old quarry this morning to gaze into the Abyss, and when the Abyss gazed back he came away with his own vision of disaster forming black shape as the eyes of America dawdle elsewhere. More later.
If not a stunning revelation, it will make for good reading.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Another Pulitzer?

Daniel Yergin won a Pulitzer for his book "The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power" in 1991. The Oil Drum gang has a discussion going on Yergin's energy consultancy CERA, which provided background information for a Yahoo AP story on Peak Oil. Now, this would not normally raise any eyebrows but for the fact that CERA predicts a later peak and significant excess global oil supply for the near term. And because of the "fair and balanced" media, we see this point of view getting press.

I conjecture that the particular framing of excess supply may become more prevalent as a kind of neocon strategy of the oiligarchy. From a 2002 BuzzFlash article Yergin said:
"Some people say the Iraq crisis has been manufactured to cloak an 'oil grab' by the United States and the American oil industry. Others believe that a liberated Iraq will flood the world market with cheap oil and provide a quick fix for concerns about our energy security."

The author points out that few besides Yergin at the time strenuously denied linkages between Iraq and oil.
However, he continues, "it requires several leaps of logic . . . to conclude that the current Iraq crisis is all about oil. No U.S. administration would launch so momentous a campaign just to facilitate a handful of oil development contracts and a moderate increase in supply -- half a decade from now."

Interesting, many predict that the Iraq conflict will last a few more years, making it a half-decade in the unraveling. Just in the nick of time, Mr. Yergin; quite an accurate prediction you made there.

Monday, June 20, 2005

dKos dBest

Stealth blogger [DarkSyde|DarkSyd|~DS~] writes a prediction in the form of whup-ass on an unsuspecting war apologist. Then read this absolute classic post by DarkSyde for an adrenaline jolt disguised as humor.

I have a hard time filtering the diaries on DailyKos for what interests me, but the following list gives a sample of dKos diarists that absolutely have interesting things to say on energy issues. The especially active threaded comments provide some unique perspectives to boot.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Endless Oil : Views Differ

Big Gav linked to an Australian gov't report called "Is the world running out of oil? A review of the debate". This overly balanced reporting reminds me of Paul Krugman's example of the logical extreme for a headline after BushCo declares the world flat: "The Shape of the Earth: Views Differ."

I get irked as well when anyone brings up the Simon-Ehrlich bet in an irrelevant context. I call this "Simonizing" an issue. Like coating an old junker with a shiny new coat of wax, it misdirects the gullible into believing that your argument actually contains meat underneath the surface. Why anyone would think Erhlich's prediction of diminishing returns on precious metals would have anything to do with oil depletion puzzles me. You can at least recycle metals. (but then again I wonder why Ehrlich didn't pick oil or at least helium for the sucker's bet)

At this point, I would classify using the Simon-Ehrlich bet in an oil depletion context to saying the Boston Red Sox would not win another World Series after early last century, all the while knowing they finally one last year, but framing it as the "losing streak continues!"

I know this is hopeless, as the Simonizers will eventually switch to pointing out the plight of the Chicago Cubs, and then to the White Sox. and then the ...

Friday, June 17, 2005


Before I make some snarky comments:
   Donate to Camp Air America
   Donate to Imus Ranch

Ever seen a media guy get really ticked off? Check out Don Imus when he gets motivated after Tucker Carlson starts spreading manure (via Crooks&Liars).

And for the real punchline, we have the Integrated Manure Utilization System or IMUS.

Seriously, "Bioenergy Plant Begins Operations in Alberta" with or without the I-man's B.S. quotient as input.

Slippery Problem

I did not realize that global warming affects melting of the glacial masses in this way:
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution scientist Ruth Curry: ... Curry points out that uncertainties remain in assessing the possibility of circulation disruptions, including future rates of greenhouse warming and glacial melting. Most computer simulations of greenhouse warming show increased precipitation and river runoff at high latitudes that leads to a slowing of the Atlantic conveyor. Only one available model study, however, contains an interactive Greenland Ice Sheet. Pooling and release of glacial meltwater, collapse of an ice shelf followed by a surge in glacier movement, or lubrication of the glacier'’s base by increased melting are all mechanisms that could inject large amounts of freshwater into the critical upper layers of the Nordic Seas.
This curiously reminds me of the offhand remark by investigative comedian Harry Shearer who puzzled over the fact that no snow seemed to accumulate on Dupont's headquarters.

But more than anything, I found the accompanying photo a bit racy (or randy or risque or weird or whatever). In my scientific 'yute', I always held out a fantasy of working at Woods Hole. Something about the name evoked thoughts of working inside a bathysphere or in a tree fort at water's edge. Having aged and grown jaded about such things, I realize that politics and bureaucrats will shatter any such illusions (sigh) .... But, whatever Dr. Curry is trying to accomplish with her hand(i)work, please count me in.

Link via RealClimate

good greasers

The intrepid scavengers at several biodiesel sites such as GoodGrease manage to collect every last piece of knowledge from the internet's databanks (check out their extensive list of feeds). I suppose one would naturally develop a disposition for this behavior, as collecting waste vegetable oil has to rank as a most obsessive type of compulsion. Not that I see anything wrong with that; the country only needs a small fraction of the population to effectively collect most of the waste. I say: to the most committed should go the spoils.

The New Patriot would like to develop a wind-power logo along these lines:

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Poppy and the Seed

Bush did a decent job in his speech at the 16th Annual Energy Efficiency Forum on Wednesday. It helps that he read from a script. (He even said good things about France!) I find it interesting that Bush always orthogonalizes his ideas, compartmentalizing his thoughts according to a black&white dogma.

CornWe've got to be aggressive about finding alternative sources of fuel. And one such source is ethanol. Ethanol comes from corn -- and we're pretty good about growing corn here in America, we've got a lot of good corn growers.
Soybeans?By the way, we can get the same type of alternative fuel from soybeans. It's called biodiesel. And that's a promising source of energy.1

And the following call to arms strikes me as either damning or revealing, depending on your Freudian interpretation:
Bush: Now is the time to act. Now is the time to put a strategy -- we should have done this 10 to 15 years ago.
Who was president 15 years ago? Dang-nabbit, Poppy, why'd you go and get us into this mess for?

1 A few days ago this: "Bush: I'll tell you an interesting opportunity for not only here, but for the rest of the world, is biodiesel. That is a fuel developed from soybeans."

New Departments

From Catch.com, comes evidence that governmental agencies will likely change their focus to only support energy interests:
But comments Monday from new EPA chief Stephen Johnson made the agency sound like a lapdog, not a watchdog.

Speaking to the Western Governors' Association's conference in Breckenridge, Johnson said the EPA should encourage energy development and ease the environmental permit process. He said he wants the EPA to be a "catalyst for energy development." - Denver Post
With that, I foresee a bunch of new slogans for other BushCo agencies:
  • FDA -- "distillation of health foods for ethanol content"

  • FCC -- "use of radio towers to transmit high density microwave energy"

  • PTO -- "let's rethink perpetual motion"

  • GAO -- "now a Halliburton subsidiary"

  • NOAA -- "global warming as an energy source"

  • USGS -- "caves as a housing bubble hedge"

  • FAA -- "retrofitting Piper cubs for Mars oil exploration missions"

  • DOT -- "more studies on teleportation"

  • VOA -- "Voice of Arabia"

Wednesday, June 15, 2005


I don't know how these thoughts advance our transition to a future mobility paradigm, but a few of the ideas put forward by John Adams at a Camden Cycling Campaign talk (courtesy of velorution) make a lot of intuitive sense to me. The first idea, which I originally heard about during a trip to England, suggests that anarchic traffic rules (no signs, no traffic lights, no line markings, etc.) actually can make the roads safer for everyone concerned. Adams, an authority on risk, claims that odd erratic or absent-minded behavior makes everyone more wary as they travel around urban areas. Making frequent eye contact in this kind of environment apparently helps quite a bit.
John showed us figures to support the idea of " safety in numbers " for cyclists - countries with large numbers of cyclists have a lower per km cycled accident rate. He then returned to the " balancing behaviour " diagram and talked of interactions between road users, in particular between cyclists and lorry drivers1. The other user affects our behaviour and we affect theirs. But unfortunately lawyers and insurers get involved and the fear of litigation is stifling - risks that we might have been willing to take in the past may not be so acceptable in the future.
The corollary of this: making people feel safer doesn't really help either, largely because they compensate with risky behavior in other areas. As a case in point consider bicycle helmets. Apparently, studies cited by Adams showed no increase in fatalities when local government lifted mandatory motorcycle helmet laws. The rationale being riders feel more invincible and travel faster when wearing helmets, which makes the chances for injury greater, helmet or no helmet.

When I look back and consider the rare situations where I wear a helmet, such as during competitions with mandatory rules, I've begun to realize more and more that these rules serve more as liability disclaimers than anything else. I had a few more comments on this from a post from last year.

1The band's spokesman, Mick Houghton, said the accident happened last Monday (year 2002) as Mary (Hanson of Stereolab) was cycling through central London. "We believe a vehicle, possibly a truck, backed into her, but I really don't know much more than that at the moment..."

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Phil Her Up, Soon To Come

Aparently the human gasbag Philip A. Cooney took a job with ExxonMobil sometime between resigning on Friday and at the latest earlier today. And that transpired after word came out only last Wednesday that he enjoys adding fiction to scientific reports.

That revolving door spun so fast it nearly took off his backside.

I am glad that my red letter of recommendation helped him out so much in getting in good graces with his future employer.

Who will inherit Cooney's job in BushCo? I predict the scientifically evil Willie "10 Miles High" Soon will soon take his place.

The evidence:

It ain't going to get any better. There's a queue lining up for that post.

VO2 Max

I received the following comments recently in response to an old post concerning the potential of ethanol as an energy source:
The American Lung Association of Minnesota makes no claims that ethanol is a 'miracle fuel.' We DO say, however, that the largely renewable ethanol-based gasoline alternative E85 burns cleaner than gas and reduces tailpipe emissions -- Minnesota's single largest source of outdoor air pollution. We now have 150 E85 outlets across the state, with prices 20-50 cents cheaper than regular unleaded. See www.CleanAirChoice.org for more details.

Bob Moffitt
Communications Director
American Lung Association of MN

I like the idea that we go after the causes rather than treat the symptoms of lung disease. However, I would prefer that we go all the way and push for pedal power; we get the lower emissions and the cardio-vascular exercise that promotes health and fitness.

It sounds like a good until we get this pounded into our skulls: High Ozone May Raise Asthma Risk in Athletic Kids.

I'll get back to you as soon as I start coughing up blood.

Monday, June 13, 2005

George Wonka Bush

WONKA: My dear friends, you are now about to enter the nerve center of the entire Wonka Factory. Inside this room, all of my dreams become realities. And some of my realities become dreams. And almost everything you will see is eatible. Edible. I mean, you can eat almost everything.

AUGUSTUS: Let me in, I'm starving!

I do believe we can eradicate poverty. And, by the way, Bono has come to see me. I admire him. He is a man of depth and a great heart who cares deeply about the impoverished folks on the continent of Africa, and I admire his leadership on the issue. And so I do believe -- I don't view -- I can't remember how you characterized the rock stars, but I don't characterize them that way, having met the man.

And it's beginning to happen here. We'll have more fuel cells -- cars driven by fuel cells on the road next year than we had the past year, and more after that. We're beginning to change. Technology is changing how we can approach energy, and the technology -- mating technology and energy independence from hydrocarbon also will produce a cleaner environment.

See, there's a lot of things we're doing in America, and I believe that not only can we solve greenhouse gas, I believe we will. And I appreciate the Prime Minister bringing this issue up. I look forward to sharing that which we know here in America with not only the G8 members, but equally importantly, with developing countries. And not only that, I'm convinced that we can use technology to help keep the air cleaner and the water purer, and develop economies around the world at the same time. That's going to be one of the great advances in technology in the coming years.

BIO degradeable

For most of the non-petroleum-based alternatives proposed for our fossil fuel free future we will somehow have to get over a bunch of "humps". What the "hump" means in every case I can't really say, but I have tended to obsession over a few of the "mini-humps" I see in our immediate path.

At the top on my list, I place the issue of (for a lack of a better term) built-in obsolescence. BIO occurs for just about every modern gizmo, but it varies widely depending on how much the consumer tolerates it. In my opinion, BIO consists of two marketing strategies:
  1. Newer technologies obsoleting older technologies
  2. Fast wear and tear leading to frequent repurchases
The two strategies happen to occupy orthogonal niches in corporate policy. Companies typically want at least one policy to hold for their products, otherwise they won't have the steady income stream caused by repeat customers. Other companies that try to compete on these factors -- for example, by providing better reliability on ordinary clothes-pins, usually have to sacrifice profit.

Hard-disk drives, for all intents and purposes, occupy the first BIO niche. These devices truly demonstrate high dependability and would last indefinitely if technology advances suddenly stopped. Makers of disk drives realize that the human reaction to disk crashes -- :( -- forces them to invest more intellectual and monetary capital on reliable systems, on which they will hopefully recap on more advanced models and those same customers making new purchases. In other words, disk drives can never occupy the second niche, without a groundswell of objection accompanying it.

A bunch of crap occupies the second BIO niche. I may sound a bit tin-hatty here, but I believe we can make ordinary shoes last a lot longer than they do in practice, but won't any time soon due to the forces of capitalism and a bit of collusion within the industry. Companies simply don't have the incentive to sell only one pair over a person's adult lifetime. (On a trivial note, ever notice how headphones and ear-buds happen to last on average less than a year? Usually the cord hardens and breaks or the padding hardens and cracks. Even the stuff you pay a premium for? Because acoustics has no technology glide path like computer hardware does.)

I really believe that we have to get over the BIO attitude for many of our alternative energy strategies. We really should get in a good habit of making and demanding quality products that occupy neither of the BIO niches. In other words, we need to enter the paradigm of quality superseding profitability; a likely dismal prospect unless consumers drive this.

The reason I mention this at all arises from my constant battles with the bicycle. Lucky that I have the patience of a saint, because the BIO of today's bicycle parts will predictably drive the run-of-the-mill consumer nuts if we ever enter a human-power-friendly transportation environment. Case in point, I have had two inner tubes break at the valve stem on my road bike within the span of a week. Now, I can handle changing tires or applying a patch without getting exasperated, but I fear that most people would never get over the hump if they learned of the day-to-day tribulations and long-term prospects of bicycle commuting. Having commuted by bicycle for over 25 years, I can say that the median priced bicycle can frequently act like a shoe that spontaneously starts on fire. And it doesn't necessarily get any better if you pay more. The quality is only as good as the weakest link in the chain; and when your bike chain goes through the rain/snow cycle a few times, you begin to realize that bicycles occupy the second BIO niche.

So what can we do to get bicycles into the first niche of BIO? I don't really know and I fear that history shows some resistance to change. After all, the design of the conventional road bike has not changed much over the last century.

I just have a sense that something will force the bicycle into the dependability regime of the disk drive. And I say: Profits for inner tube manufacturers be damned.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Phil the Pill

Philip Cooney has resigned from his job as chief of staff at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, within a few days of being outed as the personification of Dilbert's boss.

I notice that he may pull the traditional, but what I consider unethical, tactic of draining his paid-vacation time as he leaves office:
"[Mr Cooney] had accumulated many weeks on leave, and so he decided to resign and take the summer off to spend some time with his family," presidential spokeswoman Erin Healy told AFP news agency.
Please go someplace nice and hot, you might as well start getting use to it.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Dim Chimp Diesel

Bush's continued criminal use of the English language requires frequent translation. His press conference of June 9 requires special transcription. In particular, he has transitioned from simply mangling the language to leaving huge chunks of thought out of what he intends to say. Witness:
Bush: I'll tell you an interesting opportunity for not only here, but for the rest of the world, is biodiesel. That is a fuel [...] developed from soybeans. I kind of, in jest, like to travel our country, saying, wouldn't it be wonderful if someday the President sat down and looked at the crop report, and said, man, we've got a lot of soybeans; it means [...] we're less dependent on foreign sources of energy. We're spending money to figure out how best to refine soy [...] into diesel.
Notice the special placeholders " [...] " that I put in the text to signify what I believe contain some crucial missing thoughts. Nothing makes sense because Bush remains an imbecile and will never bother to fully flesh out what he wants to say. He suffers from shorthand diarrhea combined with articulation constipation. So I tried to fill in the blanks with the missing chunks of stool:
I'll tell you an interesting opportunity for not only here, but for the rest of the world, is biodiesel. That is a fuel [typically combined with petroleum diesel that distillers derive from various grain or vegetable oils, and which can, for example, be partly] developed from soybeans. I kind of, in jest, like to travel our country, saying, wouldn't it be wonderful if someday the President sat down and looked at the crop report, and said, man, we've got a lot of soybeans; it means [if we don't subsidize soybean growers with said petroleum and we can get the energy returned on energy invested ratio up above a value of one] we're less dependent on foreign sources of energy. We're spending money to figure out how best to refine soy into [a bio-fuel that can easily compete from an EROEI perspective with] diesel.

Bush, in his role as student, must listen to his technical advisors, but probably doesn't retain any details. I have noticed that this occasionally occurs when a techie tries to deal with an incompetent (usually a manager), gets frustrated, and reduces the concepts to chewable soundbites that the would-be student can nod in agreement with. And this process invariably results in something similar to Bush's mushed pea comments when the dim-bulb student tries to explain the concept to somebody else.

Oh well, at least he talked about it.

How to awaken the media

It turns out that the world-wide clothing optional bicycle ride has worked its magic to temporarily wake-up the local and national television media to our dependence on oil and addiction to the car culture. Unfortunately, without the prurient aspect necessary to attract the average viewer, no one outside of a passing motorist would have any clue that this event even took place (and the driver would likely just get miffed without the aid of a TV announcer explaining the biicyclists' rationale).

I suppose some similarly uninhibited group of people could use the same tactic to raise awareness of global warming.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Derek Smalls

When I pry myself from listening to Air America Radio, I tune into Harry Shearer's weekly LeShow. Having listened to the hour-long show for now more than a decade, I wanted to state for the record how entertaining and prescient LeShow has remained over the years. Strange, but probably more than anyone else syndicated by the staid and annoying NPR, Shearer has done the yeoman's job of original journalism and media criticism in what appears as a one-man operation (by a comedian no less) to the casual listener.

As things get wierder in the world, LeShow has kept pace. Lately, Shearer has discussed energy topics more frequently than in the past, but still with the same engagingly snarky slant -- other than AAR and Democracy Now!, the only broadcast venue where I hear about the revolving corporate door for Bush oil cronies/political appointees. (One of the recent ongoing topics revolved around the extreme and escalating price of the typical airport banana. Shades of things to come?) And for media wonks, Shearer's occasional broadcasting of snooped satellite feeds serve as an informative service as well as works of art on their own terms.

Now that Shearer has a regular blog at The Huffington Post, I can get a more frequent dose of understanding the way of the media. Dang it, that's why I like blogs so much -- Shearer's been doing it for more than 20 years! It just took everyone else this amount of time to find a more accessible (for the ordinary person) communication medium to work with.

Also, check out James Kunstler on Air America's Ring of Fire show from last Saturday June 4 at the America Place audio archives.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

What I'd Say

Via Riggsveda at Corrente, comes a Busheaucrat tinkering with a govn't-sponsored scientific study on global warning. Speaking for myself, upon receiving an edited manuscript of my work from somebody like Philip A. Cooney, I would immediately tell him to stick it where the sun don't shine.

Original markup here at NYT

Update: Mike Malloy of Air America Radio laid into this topic on tonight's program, with Scott McClellan in his cross-hairs. Check out Air America Place for audio archives in a day or too. Listening to McClellan's spew juxtaposed with Malloy's comments puts it in a context that the written word can't match. A reporter challenged Scottie that Cooney wasn't a scientist. Scottoe responded : "I respect it, but that's your opinion"

It gets even better, Malloy calls Bush the stupidest half-wit ever for saying this recently:
G.W.Bush: "Do you realize we have 250 million years of coal?"

Energy Returned on Energy Invested

A website dedicated to Energy Returned on Energy Invested. I noticed that it contains a placeholder for Zero-Point Energy news -- without any contents. I'd hope that this stays empty or serves to debunk any extravagant claims; as it stands, zero-point energy remains a fool's errand for any garage-startup or energy entrepreneur to pursue. Leave it to the Art Bell crowd to pontificate over the merits of any theories and gossip over the preposterous claims.

Found via odograph

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Oil For Spew

I have noticed that the frequency of energy depletion posts has monotonically increased over the past year at political blogs such as Political Animal, BOP News, Daily Kos, and Corrente. That these blogs lean left of center should surprise no one, as a right-wing perspective would only highlight the BushCo administration's lack of action concerning our current plight.

I thought I would demonstrate how little a typical right-wing group blog pays even the slightest lip service to energy depletion issues. I picked PowerLineBlog because of their supposed relevance in the wider media sphere (elected Time Magazine's Blog of the Year!) and, more personally, that they provide local wingnut color for me to scoff at.

So I went to PowerLine's main search engine form and punched in various search strings. Of course I could't just input "oil" without flooding the results, so instead I put in the usual short-hand phrases and euphemisms for energy depletion. For comparison purposes, I also put in phrases corresponding to PowerLine's "hot button" (and sometimes personally obsessive) issues. As the PowerLine pundits bottom-line function as political operatives, we see the overwhelming number of "Kerry" hits completely dominate the secondary issues. Energy depletion really does not even appear on their radar screen.
Key# Hits
"oil crisis"0
"oil depletion" 0
"peak oil" 0
"Hubbert" 0
"hybrid car" 0
"bio-diesel" 0
"energy independence" 1 (within a quoted Bush speech)
ethanol 3 (links related to Tom Daschle)
"ANWR" 3
"OPEC" 3
"barrels of oil" 3 (related to Iraq and Hussein's oil-for-food)
"oil for food" 26
"global warming" 34
kyoto 24
Arsenal soccer 11
"beauty pageant" 14
"ward churchill" 19
"george soros" 24
"al franken" 37
"eason jordan" 48
"bob dylan" 51
schiavo 52
"dan rather" 110
"michael moore" 115
kerry 1500+

But what does this really prove? One could argue that most bloggers write about what interests them. This clearly does not hold for the propagandizing blogger contingent. If they have nothing to gain politically, right-wing bloggers such as PowerLine (featuring AssMissile and his dingleberry kin) will not mention a potentially important issue.

And notice that the technical wonkiness of "Peak Oil" as an issue does not look like it plays a part in excluding it as a discussion topic. After all, the lap-bloggers do talk about global warming (an arguably more technical subject than oil depletion) with regularity. Unfortunately, oil depletion as an issue does not carry the baggage that global warming has with its asscociated Kyoto protocol. Kyoto in fact gives the wingers political leverage to dismiss the whole notion of global warming without losing any political capital.

Until the United States hits the knee of the energy curve or starts discussing global conservation initiatives (whichever comes first), I doubt that the right-wing blogosphers will raise their voice. Shameful cowards.

This is typical of what the Dartmouth grads at PowerLine obsess over:
Last night we noted that Dartmouth College has hired its first "sustainability director," Jim Merkel. The Dartmouth Daily story on Merkel's hiring reported that Merkel -- "who is currently bicycing through Spain to promote his book 'Radical Simplicity'" -- has lived "on only $5,000 a year -- close to the global average income -- for the past 14 years." The article also notes the students instrumental in Merkel's hiring, including Jessie Doyle '05, co-chair of the Environmental Studies Division of the Dartmouth Outing Club.

Reader Michael Dudley has a few related questions:
Has Jessie Doyle volunteered to live on $5K per year, following in the footsteps of his hero?

If it is true (read on) that Professor Director Merkel lives on $5K/year, does he accept the Earned Income Credit when he files his tax return? (Would it not be a fascinating thing to actually look at his return?)

If he biked through several states, as he is now “bicycling through Spain”, and earned more than $300 in each state, was he required to file state returns?

Is it really possible to live on $5K/year without taking advantage of the “commons” of others? As the IRS considers “trading” of valuable things to be a production of income, was Merkel’s income, at $13.00 per day, underreported?

Where did Merkel live, or, more properly, how did Merkel put a roof over his head, purchase food and clothing, and pay for all those expensive bicycle tires on $13.00 a day? After all, the mere fact that a motel has a sign out front that says “Motel 6” does not mean you can get a room for $6. In fact, it now means you can get a room for $41.99 per day if you wish to stay in Senatobia, Mississippi (per Motel 6’s website).

How did he not starve? Even if you eat at one of my favorites, Waffle House, three times a day, it is just plain ‘ol gonna’ cost ya’ more than 13 bucks a day to eat, it you count tippin’ the waitress (sorry, “wait-person”).

Obviously, Mr. Merkel is one of the oft-lamented “uninsured” who visits the emergency room when he falls off his bike, as there is no possible way in Hades he has health insurance on the 20 cents he has left over each day after paying for food and lodging. Therefore, I pay for Merkel’s health care when he busts his “sustainable” head.

Further, I am very pleased that Mr. Merkel, after his retirement, will certainly receive more dollars from the Social Security system that he has paid in. It is only fitting, after all, that we “sustain” him in his dotage, as he is such a role-model for us all.

Shorter PowerLine translation: "You're not normal, so we project our insecurities on to you"

Compare the pathetic PowerLine post against the brilliant retelling of the "Possum Living" classic from the 70's courtesy of Big Gav down-under at Peak Energy. I took a look at the online manuscript and it has a peculiar timeless quality to it.

Dolly Freed's translation: "Normal? Go ahead and laugh at me, I could care less"

Monday, June 06, 2005

Al Gore invents Peak Oil

I am trying to start a new urban legend based on this hearsay.

Part 2: A Micro Peak Oil Model

I want to hammer a few points home on the Micro Peak Oil Model. The characteristic asymmetry of the consumption curves (i.e. steeper rise than fall-off) arises due to the first-order assumption that humans extract petroleum at a rate proportional to the amount left in the ground. I can't say that this follows precisely the real world, but as a fan of Occam, I normally try to use the simplest explanation for phenomenon that I can get away with. For a good example of the proportionality principle, consider the rise and decay of U.S. wildcat operations. At one time, each gusher generated a large flow, but over time the reservoir contents became depleted enough that the contents reduces to the much smaller stripper well flow. The latencies involved in collecting and delivering the oil extracted from stripper wells contribute to the extended tails we see in the post-Hubbert-peak of U.S. oil production.

A commenter pointed me to this extended abstract from the ASPO 2005 conference. The researchers do a good job in empirically fitting various distributions to the global production profile (something that I didn't even attempt to try my hand at) but do raise the same point I made:
Contrary to popular belief, Gaussians are not good models for time series. The Central Limit Theorem applies to random walks through controllable dimensions. To apply to oil production, the theory would have to be that God dropped 2 trillion barrels directly above the year 2008, and the barrels scattered forwards and backwards through time from there. That’s obviously silly.
I wish the authors would have tried fitting to the regional oil production numbers (i.e. U.S., Europe, etc.). With the laws of self-similarity applying, they might have gotten some more insight into the asymmetry. However, as they wanted to concentrate on the global scene, the tails have not yet emerged for them to easily fit any of the standard distributions to.

But do you know what gets me spooked? Natural gas depletion. I have seen many references in various forums that depletion in natural gas reservoirs does not follow the "rate-proportional-to-contents" empiricism. Like the nitrous oxide left in the whipping cream container, it maintains a steady flow of output while the can continues to hold pressure. After that, nada. The analogy: No stripper wells, No tails to the curve -- the production of natural gas drops off the table much more quickly than petroleum1. Gulp.

Thanks to MonkeyGrinder and ProfGoose for taking an interest in this math-intensive topic and recommending it to the EnergyBulletin memory hole.

1Except for oil production drop-off aided by water injection recovery techniques. This not only maintains a high rate, it apparently spoils much of the contents as well. Double Gulp.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Part I: A Micro Peak Oil Model

I recently got involved in a discussion about Hubbert Curve denier Michael Lynch and his latest article at the PeakOil.com message board. In the past, Lynch's disputes with depletion experts such as Colin Campbell had to do with a seemingly trivial feature of the oil production profile -- in particular that the curves showed too much symmetry. I would argue that much of the rationale for the argument arises (in the first place) from assorted media people who refer to the curves as describing a Bell shape or having a symmetric Normal or Gaussian distribution. From 2003, John Attarian pointed out Lynch's attack angle:
Michael Lynch's July 14 article is a peevish exercise in intellectual dishonesty. To begin with, he makes an utterly misleading fuss because "oil production rarely follows a bell curve." Much ado about nothing! Hubbert's main point was that a fossil fuel's endowment is fixed; therefore its production curve "will rise, pass through one or several maxima, and then decline asymptotically to zero." "Energy from Fossil Fuels" also stated explicitly that such a curve may have "an infinity of different shapes." How can Lynch not know this? The bell-shaped curve is simply a stylized, idealized representation of the phenomenon of rise, peak, and decline of output, amenable to mathematical expression and analysis, useful as a pedagogical and forecasting device--in fact, the sort of thing economists do all the time. As Lynch should know, real-world data don't necessarily conform to idealized shapes generated by mathematics--and aren't expected to. The shape does handily illustrate the general phenomenon. So real-world data aren't a smooth bell curve. Big deal. What matters is the general pattern of rise, peak, and decline.
I agree that Lynch latches on to this description and takes the symmetry shorthand too literally, and in the grand tradition of an anal retentive techy nerd, parades around with his arguably correct interpretation like a propeller stuck on top of his beanie hat. For certain, real curves can't show this degree of symmetry -- for the simple fact that time-based processes have a non-negative starting point while symmetric curves contain tails that eventually go negative. Good statisticians will never misuse the Normal distribution in this way; instead they use it in situations where the law of large numbers applies. In that case, the long tails quickly dissipate to zero away from the mean; something that does not occur for the Hubbert curves. And of course, Lynch does not talk about that fact, demonstrating intellectually dishonesty to his right wing core.

Further, I do not mean to imply that depletion experts (those not named "Lynch") actually use the symmetric Bell curves for their analysis. In fact, the Hubbert curve gets expressed as the derivative of a logistics curve dP/dt = rP(K-P), an unquestionably non-symmetric profile:

Wikipedia has good reviews on the various distributions: Like a few analysts, I have problems with the derivation of the logistics curve as it applies to depletion. In a hand-wavy fashion, I can understand how the differential equation can empirically match a physical process; unfortunately it contains the non-linear factors that typically do not follow from any theory. I also don't like it because it corresponds more to a population growth scenario than a depletion scenario.
  1. the rate of reproduction is proportional to the existing population, all else being equal
  2. the rate of reproduction is proportional to the amount of available resources, all else being equal. Thus the second term models the competition for available resources, which tends to limit the population growth
You can find slightly more complicated variations of overshoot and collapse here.

The Model

Given that (1) I don't much like that Lynch uses depletion analysts as romper room punching bags, and (2) that we can do better on an understandability level than the logistics curve, I propose my own model which uses a minimal set of assumptions.

I use as an implicit assumption that any rate of extraction or flow is proportional to the amount available and nothing more; past and future history do not apply. This describes a first-order linear Markov approximation that allows one to either calculate analytically (in the simple cases) and computationally for more elaborate scenarios, the stochastic trend of resource depletion over time.

The simple case reduces to the exponential model. Here, we assume two states: an undepleted state #1 that transforms into a depleted state #2 according to a Markovian rate term.

For the right-brained people out there, we can visually depict this as a state-transition diagram -->

And given a value for the rate parameter assuming a particular time-scale, we can easily automatically solve these differential equations through straightforwardly-derived numerical integration routines:

We provide detail to the model by adding rate terms that describe the other state transitions that occur during the oil production life-cycle.

Each transition follows a Markov rate, with the strength of the transition proportional to how quick we can "turnover" the amount in the previous state. In general, approximating the strength of extraction on the proportion left allows us to intuitively model such effects as the small amount taken from stripper wells and the infrequency of shipping small volumes of oil.

The initial conditions place all states at 0.0 except the InGround state which we normalize to 1.0 representing the full capacity of the reservoir.

For the rate parameters chosen above, we can calculate the profile after 4 years of extraction (each state gets scaled by the rate going out of that state to capture the "in-the-pipeline" effect, something the consumer can most closely identify with):

The snap-shot for the state diagram at 4 years shows the maximum available at the pump. Note that a maximum in the extracted state had already occurred.

After 20 years, the depletion at the pump becomes clearly visible:

I will further interpret this analysis in Part II, but a few things to note from what we have modeled and simulated so far:
  1. Asymmetric peak from single reservoir depletion.
  2. Depending on how we define the peak, it may depend on where we look in the state transition "pipeline"
  3. Imagine sets of these curves laying on top of each other, representing independent reservoir depletion profiles.
  4. Any reduction in the rates at any stage will push the peak to the right along the timeline
  5. High relative rates in any of the transitions affect the peak location very little as these act as efficiently pass fluid flow quickly to the next state
Anybody with symbolic math available can easily duplicate these curves by using the convolution operator on a set of exponentially distributed functions with appropriate coefficients. If the rates are all identical, each curve can be simply plotted as a Gamma curve (see list of distributions above). I find it a mystery as to why no one has approached oil depletion fundamentals in this manner. I do understand that we can better describe the global peak oil (the macro-economics) simply by distributing oil discoveries along an empirical Bayesian timeline, but the shorter time frame (i.e. micro-economics) of the Markov process better describes affects due to local perturbations, including:
  1. pipeline sabotage
  2. refinery explosions
  3. transportation bottlenecks

To be continued in Part II...

Friday, June 03, 2005

Stinking to To High Heaven

Ethanol distillers sell the byproducts of the fermenting process as a livestock food mash. Since the distillation process removes much of the starch and sugars (which get converted to energy), the so-called distiller's dried grains with solubles can never take the place of a natural livestock diet.

The mash apparently does contain a large fraction of protein.
Because of the near complete fermentation of starch, the remaining amino acids, fat, minerals and vitamins increase approximately three-fold in concentration compared to levels found in corn. Despite the significant increase in crude protein, the poor amino acid balance of DDGS must be addressed when formulating swine and poultry diets.
Putting two and two together, I can imagine how the decomposing protein mash contributes to excess and particularly odorific flatulence production emanating from the livestock. A little-know trade-off for people that live next to turkey and swine farmers that do the mash.

And as we switch to higher ethanol production in the years to come, things will perhaps just get a general bit smellier.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

"But that doesn't mean we will go through there with a bulldozer"

Via Cursor.org, more proof that the guvmint would try to squeeze blood from a turnip, if they discovered that turnip blood held promise as a gasoline replacement: LA Times -- "Wilderness Site May See Oil Drilling"
Jack Moody, a geologist with the Mississippi Development Authority, which is responsible for energy leasing, said the authorization shouldn't be cause for alarm. The law pertains only to Mississippi's mineral claims. "We want the right to develop the minerals that the state owns," he said. "But that doesn't mean we will go through there with a bulldozer."
What magical method does Mr. Moody suggest? Something that would teleport gas over the ether -- absolutely free of the laying down of pipelines? No? Oh, I see, the plan involves not bulldozers, but dredges and platforms. You see, these are coastal waters.

Other famous non-denial denials:
  1. "It's not like we are killing the prisoners"
  2. "It's not like we are just handing over social security to Wall Street"
  3. "It's not like we are in Iraq just for the oil"
  4. "Those trees would burn down from natural causes, if we didn't cut them first"

Low energy hobbies

From the EnergyBulletin originating from the Independent :

* Flying 1kg of asparagus from California to the UK uses 900 times more energy than the home-grown equivalent.

At this time of year, I enjoy going to my local "Pick-your-own" asparagus patch. Depending on the crop, it takes a bit of concentration and walking to isolate the stalks among the other weeds. After an hour or so of this, you can get a big enough supply to last several months (they freeze well).

The downside of the hobby: for a brief period afterwards, everything starts looking like an asparagus stalk, including roadside telephone poles.