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Thursday, November 30, 2006


The latest entry to the David Byrne Journal:
Do You Really Believe It'’s About Oil?
The War Of The Imagination

I also like to peruse on occasion Steve (The Church) Kilbey's blog The Time Being even though I usually can't follow his stream of consciousness.

Jon Wurster, erstwhile from Superchunk, puts together the funniest and unflappably driest radio comedy bits with cohort Tom Scharpling as straight man on Tom's WFMU radio show.

I went to see the legendary English Beat a few weeks ago. Dave Wakeling played of course (no Beat without him) but I did not realize the guy worked a dayjob for Greenpeace after his early career peaked. Interesting that he actually produced a solar-powered recording studio in 1994:
Unfortunately, alternative energy has a bad rap with a failed, '70s Carter administrative connotation to it, when in fact solar and wind power provide electricity for millions of homes in the U.S. now.

I have a penchant for "turning over the rocks" of musicians and bands that I enjoy, and constantly get surprised by the humanity behind the tunes.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

No cigar

This falls under the "nice try" department. Khebab resurrected a derivation of a single reservoir oil depletion calculation and posted it in a TOD comment section here. I distinctly remember seeing this months ago, kind of dismissed it at the time, but now I have the benefit of a gestation period, so I took Khebab's bait and gave it a serious reconsideration.

As I understand it, the original analyst, Abrams, clearly wanted to see if he could get a Logistic style curve from the solution of the quasi-static fluid dynamics from a depleting reservoir. He tried his darndest, enlisting the aid of the Maple symbolic equation solver, but I think he mainly accomplished a further muddying of the waters. First off, I do buy the mathematical premises he set up, but he made a serious mistake in trying to create a good fit by varying the diameter of the bore hole, A(t), as a function of time. Eventually, it ended up looking like the middle green curve below:

What do you know, but the green curve itself looks like a Logistic, which basically subverts the whole analysis. For instance, I could have also created a Logistic peak if I assumed a constant flow of oil out of the reservoir and modulated the aperture with a diameter that follows a Logistic curve.

In retrospect Abrams should have taken this fundamental differential equation,

and looked for an inflection point due to a change in sign of the second derivative. If he did try, he wouldn't have found one because none exists, and in fact, the rate of change of volume monotonically changes, showing no signs of a Hubbert-like peak. Unless of course, he generated a contrived A(t) curve that does show a Hubbert peak!

Everyone makes mistakes, but this kind of stuff really irks me because of the sleight-of-hand that goes on. Granted, I like the original foundational premise, but somehow the agenda got hijacked to the temple of Hubbert.

As an interesting side-note, the fluid dynamics and hydrostatics described by Abrams' equations provides an interesting alternative to the diffusion model I set up previously (which arises from a statistical mechanics view of things). That derivation shows that reserve growth follows a square root law (contrarily called parabolic growth), and I have a suspicion that the actual Abrams curve lies closer to this one than a Logistic curve. In certain regimes, it looks like it goes like approximately t2/3 instead of t1/2. Worth another with the aid of a numerical solver.

Update: Luis de Sousa at TOD/Europe talked about the Gompertz curve as a possible Logistic replacement and one that shows asymmetry in peak shape. But once again, no cigar, as the long tail at minus infinity violate all rules of causality. Like the Logistic curve, it doesn't reflect any physical model and only serves as a potential empirical fit.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


TOD Europe directed me to a slashdot thread on Peak Oil, and some amazing (and sad) comments, IMO. First this bit of cornucopianism from someone nicknamed Rei
Why do you suppose that is?

Global warming. I'm not talking about political things like ANWR. The whole arctic is becoming much easier to drill in, and thus it lowers the cost of arctic oil.
Where did I hear that before? Oh yeah:
.. new areas opening up to exploration as, say, the Arctic seapack melts and makes more areas available ..
And it gets better; in a strange twist, Rei reveals his background here:
My father is a pres. of Shell USA and a VP of Shell Intl. Early last year, I was talking to him, and he mentioned that they were working on 4xing their tar sands production. It's becoming very profitable. It was a gamble when they started putting money into it, but it's looking to be a good investment.
Drill deep enough and we find that all oil company employees get the same talking points. And as someone pointed out in the comments, Shell has sadly resorted to astro-turfing nerd boards using their kids as trolls. How far they have fallen.

Trial Balloon

Strange, but if you google the terms "peak" "helium", you will arrive at yours truly blog as the first hit. But now we see the reality has come to bear, thanks to some cartoon characters and a bunch of Puritans.

Disaster averted for the moment, but parade planners should still worry. Helium gas suppliers claim that the old "inadequate refinery capacity" as the cause of the shortage (where have we heard that before? oh yeah).

Face it folks, as natural gas peaks, so will our helium supply and these shortages will become more prevalent until we start realizing that helium remains too valuable a resource to waste on parade balloons. Not one to completely dwell on the negative, and potentially disappoint all the children of the future, I suggest that we can always resort to alternatives.

So how about this idea? Let's hold Thanksgiving Day's parades at night and project hologram-like apparitions into the sky, and possibly use smog particulates to disperse the light.

Or, better yet, fill the balloons up with hydrogen and then we can combine Thanksgiving and 4th of July into one spectacular holiday.

Update: Tough times for the fish as well.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Oil production models

Khebab did a great job aggregating various oil depletion models to compare against November production numbers at TOD. He split them up according to "bottom-up" models and "curve-fitting" models, which seems like a smart and fresh way of doing things. My analysis falls in the curve fitting camp, so I have to thank him personally for allowing us amateurs to play with the big boys. FWIW, the Oil Shock model seems to follow most closely the ASPO-45 model for the next ten years.

P.S. The best unintentional Peak Oil cartoon ever.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Head too big, enlarge door

Since I attended the school, I can tell you that the ChemEng and MatSci departments at the University of Minnesota have a bit of an ego problem. Just because they get rated near the top doesn't excuse laughable comments like this one concerning new hydrolysis techniques:
"What Lanny does is sorcery," says Frank Bates, head of the chemical engineering and materials science department. "This is classic Minnesota chemical engineering in the tradition of understanding how to steer chemical reactions to get more of the products you want and less of those you don't."
Still, I would like to find out more about the techniques that Prof. Schmidt has dreamed up, as the problem he has claimed to have solved does sound intriguing.
What makes vegetable oil, sugars and starches so hard to turn into fuels is the fact that they don't evaporate when heated. As a drop of oil sits on a hot surface, its bottom layer is exposed to heat but not oxygen. In the absence of oxygen, the heat will break down the molecules of oil into water vapor and carbon "gunk" rather than into synthesis gas. A similar situation applies to crystals of sugar.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Morning Remembrance

A titan of the global pyramid scheme, economist Milton Friedman, collapsed and expired today. As a legacy he left behind the quite effective witholding tax, something that his wife chided him to no end.
Rest in peace Milton Friedman, big government's best friend.
No one should miss the person that Greg Palast called a "malevolent, dwarfish gnome".

Update: Some TCS dude complimented on Friedman on his competitive tennis game, of all things. Why that has relevance to economic theories -- save for his drive to win -- I can't say. Much like Don Rumsfeld, who has gotten accolades for his squash game, people can't say much about their good deeds and so play up the sports angle. Figures.

Up-Update-date: And this post goes way over the top.
Milton Friedman dignified a simplistic vision of economics, a vision so simplistic it could not but appeal to the likes of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Thus began the popularization of the terms of extreme capitalism and the private ownership fetish.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Scaling ideas

An intriguing article on the origin of capacitance scaling limitations showed up in EE Times recently. In what seems almost an obvious and definitely late-arriving finding, a research team at UCSB claim that capacitance dielectric scaling fails at small thicknesses due to depolarizing of the interface layers. This happens at a scaling where it becomes a significant fraction of the dielectric layer itself. Although ostensibly applicable to microelectronics, the significance may find its way into the manufacture of compact energy storage caps. The caveat: we need lots of expensive gold and platinum electrode material whose high electron mobility counteracts the depolarizing effects.

(standard disclaimer: don't trust too much of the stuff written in trade journals like EE Times, especially in regards to explaining the fundamental physics)

Monday, November 13, 2006

A first?

I heard congressman-elect Jerry McNerney on Air America radio the other day, and host David Bender stated that the US has elected its first Mathematics PhD congressman. (Boehlert and Ehlers have physics degrees). McNerney has used his math education to good effect, running a wind energy company recently. Out of curiosity, I looked up his Phd Thesis at University of New Mexico, A (1,1) tensor generalization of the Laplace-Beltrami operator. A somewhat obscure topic, but it appears to have at least some applicability to 3D medical imaging.

But above all, we have begun to rid ourselves of the dread Pombo affliction. Mathematically eliminated but still squirming, he can still do some damage evidently.
Maybe he (Pombo) will also try to get Arctic drilling and some of his other bills through, in a last-minute, "Hail Mary" assault on the environment.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

UK Oil Production

TOD/UK posted that UK Oil Production Lowest For 28 Years

Take a look at the following graph and you can see the trend:

The UK double humped peak has officially ended.

On the plus side, Air America Radio did a great job reporting on the election tonight. Opposition party reporter/loyalist Lawton Smalls finally broke down over the airwaves. And most of the remaining pond scum on this side of the puddle has dried up. I feel happy for all the bloggers and radio hosts who have pushed for progressive candidates the past few years. We should finally see some progressive energy bills coming out of congress the next few years.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Odd lie

Today, one of the local radio shows (Captain Ed and Mitch) asked congressional candidate Michele Bachmann (R) how she has learned to handle attack ads so well. She responded by saying that she learned to fight back because she had 3 brothers and no sisters growing up. But then I recalled reading that her Brady Bunch-style family had 9 children among them, including at least one step-sister, while she attended high school. It took me a nanosecond to put 2 and 2 together to figure out why she lied on this statement. She then ended the interview with a thought that filled me with pride:
"You have the smartest listeners."
Considering that Bachmann positions herself as a morality/family-first candidate, her lying on such a basic personal fact ranks as one of the most hypocritical statements I have heard. This only further confirms what Chris Hedges documents as a severely twisted view of inclusiveness in 'minionists due to an extreme fundamentalist belief system.

According to the article, Bachmann apparently also has only a narrow grasp on issues outside of the so-called "moral" ones she supports. On the other hand, the radio hosts comically attacked the Lt. Governor candidate of Minnesota, Judi Dutcher (D), for not knowing the term "E85". I find this funny because these bloggers cum radio hosts rarely if ever discuss issues related to energy alternatives, whereas the Democrats go to lunch on this subject matter. I classify this tactic as a case of projection and inoculation to prevent voters from understanding their own vacuousness on these issues.

If you vote against hypocrisy, can detect psychological framing tactics, and strive to find a level accountability, you can't go wrong in choosing the right candidate.

Update: The station replayed the radio program so I snagged the audio to YouTube:

Thursday, November 02, 2006


I used to routinely listen to Limbaugh years ago during lunch breaks (for the hatebuzz) and then one day I went cold turkey. Kevin Drum indicates that he may have snapped out of a stupor than has gone on longer than my ongoing dittohead detoxification.
Bush: Give me a second here, Rush, because I want to share something with you. I am deeply concerned about a country, the United States, leaving the Middle East. I am worried that rival forms of extremists will battle for power, obviously creating incredible damage if they do so; that they will topple modern governments, that they will be in a position to use oil as a tool to blackmail the West. People say, "What do you mean by that?" I say, "If they control oil resources, then they pull oil off the market in order to run the price up, and they will do so unless we abandon Israel, for example, or unless we abandon allies.

Rush called this "extremely visionary." It's certainly a bracing call to arms for our troops overseas, isn't it?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Critical Ass

I saw this stunt in a wilderness survival movie once.
Once a month, cyclists gather at Balboa Park and ride around San Diego to promote bicycle-powered transportation. Critical Mass is held in dozens of cities around the country, and when it’s large enough—when it reaches a critical mass—the group often blocks the road and ignores traffic rules in order to assert bicycle independence.

Last Friday, someone decided to express his displeasure with the two-wheeler slowdown. The rage occurred on Broadway near the Gaslamp Quarter.

"These two guys in a black Mercedes were talking shit out the window, wouldn’t turn off the road," said one rider, Jody Polk. "They got surrounded by bicycles, making threats out the window. There was some egging on on both sides."

The banter apparently got serious, because, according to witnesses, the two guys jumped out of the car, possibly ready for a fight. But Polk suspects the pair changed their strategy when they turned and saw 100 or so riders coming down Broadway toward them. That was when one of them pulled "a large pistol" and fired it into the air before getting back into the car and speeding off.