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Tuesday, September 25, 2007


I like reading Steven Weber's posts at HuffPo : Oilfinger. Weber has a very dense, elliptical, and snarky style, which keeps me interested even though I can't always pin down his ultimate point.

And I like this Naomi Klein interview by John Cusack at HuffPo. Klein eviscerated the G-Span the other day on DemocracyNow!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


I bet that if you tasered an eel, the eel would probably like it.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Logistic Model for HL purely a Birth Model

TOD analyst Khebab reminds us that:
There are two contexts for the use of a Hubbert/Logistic curve:
1. logistic demographic modeling as initially proposed by Pierre François Verhulst.
2. curve fitting as Hubbert did.

WHT's arguments are dealing with the first context whereas you are putting yourself in the second context. The power of (1) is that you are trying to physically model the observed phenomenon using a differential equation. In the case of a logistic curve, the differential equation is modeling a birth-death process as explained by WHT
I responded to his comment:
Khebab nailed it by placing it in the 2 contexts. As I said before, you cannot ascribe any physical meaning to the parameters if it is simply a curve-fitting exercise. And in the other context, we just can't make any sense of the model in terms of oil production.

Let me present another perplexing situation. If we actually consider the full birth-death model:

dP/dt = (B0-B1*P-D0-D1*P)*P = (B0-D0)*P - (B1+D1)*P2

you notice that in terms of birth and death, this gives us asymptotic P as the current carrying capacity. The equivalence between carrying capacity and URR makes absolutely no sense if we keep the death terms in the equation. Remember that deaths essentially knock out entities from the current population and the number of entities that have actually existed over all time would be infinite! But we know that URR << infinity.

What this means for the oil analogy is that we would have to present the Birth/Death model as purely a Birth model. In other words, births don't give rise to deaths but they do add to the cumulative growth. Otherwise, we would significantly undercount the URR as deaths would invisibly remove "entities" from the cumulative count.

So the next time someone talks about oil fields dying and trying to relate that to Logistic/HL modeling, point them here.

As Khebab said, no problem if you use HL as simply a curve fitting exercise, but you cannot ascribe any further meaning to it.
So now we have a logical proof that the Logistic model has absolutely nothing to do with "deaths" of oil wells or oil regions. I know this won't prevent TOD commenters from continuing to use improper analogies to "explain" what the Logistic (and HL) means but we have to draw a line in the sand.

As an obvious alternative to the HL in its only legitimate curve-fitting role, I recommended the First-Derivative Linearization (FDL):
If we want to go with something simple, then go with something simple. For instance, why the heck don't we just plot the first derivative of yearly production with respect to time and then plot that? Around the peak, this will turn into a straight line with negative slope and you should be able to discern the peak by where it goes through zero (i.e. the slope flips sign around the peak).

This is based purely on calculus and the Taylor series approximation that every quasi-symmetrically peaked curve has major terms like A-B*(t-t0)2 around the peak. Take the derivative of that curve and you get 2B*(t0-t) which you and I and everyone else can easily understand as a negatively sloped straight line which crosses the axis at peak.

I know that this completely obscures the subject of URR, but URR is not even important here, based on the same assumption of a quasi-symmetric peak. As much of the production will appear on one side of the peak as the other for a more-or-less symmetric curve, so just ignore the URR.

So I see it that we have two routes to take:
1) Go for the trivial analysis as above (therefore undermining HL, which has proven to be a perfect example of a concocted and contrived analysis)
2) Go for a real model of oil discovery and depletion

I'm all for (2) but if we really want to do (1) then let's really agree to finding the faults with HL.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Meat Sticks

Since I really get into statistics and enjoy the outlier as much as the next guy, this bit of weirdness seems ... real weird. I heard that the right-wing harpy Laura Ingraham had the number 1 ranked book on Amazon, so I decided to check it out. Sure enough, it had dropped from #1 and currently sat at #5 (but it still ranked #1 in political books). But I don't consider that the weird part; a particular review of the book wigged me out. One guy, who Amazon ranked as a "Top 50" reviewer, gave it 5 stars. Fair enough. But then I looked at what a "Top 50" reviewer constituted. This guy has 1467 reviews on Amazon, placing him in the top 50 in number of reviews posted. From what I sampled, they consisted mainly of 5-star reviews of fundie and neotard and republipig books. But this one particular review caught my eye - a review of the mystery meat food product known as Slim Jim
Never quite sure what it actually is, but it is a unique taste., August 24, 2006
Reviewer: Craig Matteson

There is a reason that Slim Jim doesn't ever quite say what it is. It isn't a beef stick. It isn't jerky. It is what it is. I remember eating them when they first came out and wondering what they were. Now, tasting them again, I remember the question. There is some kind of meat in there, but it is treated in a lot of different ways. A Slim Jim is still as greasy as I remember, as well. The trick is to enjoy them without eating them to excess. For what they are, they are convenient, tasty, and can be fun.

Was this review helpful to you?
To answer the last question: it really did help me. Now I know how these empty-headed meat-sticks think. But with a level of intellect below dirt, somebody must give them marching orders to follow.

In a related bit of strangeness, I heard the weirdest thing on the radio this morning. We have perhaps 4 right-wing talk stations around here and one of them has a B-lister named Jim Quinn in the morning, who broadcasts out of Pittsburgh and also gets streamed to XM satellite. I have listened occasionally cause the guy has the mildly entertaining presence of a cardiac-prone road ragester; but I find it particularly peculiar that the local station doesn't even bother to replace his show's commercials, and so they essentially rebroadcast all the Pittsburgh commercials and traffic reports here in the Twin Cities -- over AM radio! That makes no sense to me as I note in comparison that XM actually has the business savvy to replace the commercials with national interest.

So I think this gives proof positive that these Freeper radio stations don't make ANY money at all and they likely get indoctrinated by the reactionary mystery meat cabal, who evidently also hypnotize Amazon reviewers.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


I find more interesting than the claim "Pennsylvania Man Claims He Made Fuel From Salt Water", that renowned MatSci researcher Rustum Roy stands by it:
"It's true, it works," Dr. Roy said. "Everyone told me, 'Rustum, don't be fooled. He put electrodes in there.' "

But there are no electrodes and no gimmicks, he said.
I remember happening across Roy's name many a time back in the day, and note here his prolific nature (almost 800 reviewed papers and patents).
RustumRoy.comRustum Roy cannot be described by any professional label. He has interwoven throughout his 60 year career both world-class science and active participation in reforming theology and the practice of religion. He is at once a distinguished research scientist and a social activist, a societal reformer and a champion of whole person healing (or CAM). He currently holds professorships at Penn State, Arizona State and the University of Arizona covering those fields.
hey Rusty, pull your underwear inside-out, stick it on your head, and people will clearly see how the Fruit-of-the-Loom label sticks.

When will people realize that you can't get something for nothing? Clearly in this case, the inventor put more EM energy into the water than energy taken out. This looks very similar to the 30,000 troop "surge" and then the 30,000 troop reduction that BushCo has proposed. And it also has similarities to special 30%-off sale items at the local department store that relatively recently had a 30% markup. Eventually, we will all catch on, hopefully en masse.

And finally a Rethug congressman openly admits that we have engaged in a war for oil. Nice to see at least a little bit of anti-marketing truth.

See Bob Park's take:
Anyway, he's not exactly a cancer researcher, he's a retired TV station engineer who discovered that retirement sucks - but that's been discovered before. He then decided to see if his RF generator would desalinate water, but when he tried the water caught on fire. He needed a scientist. Instead, he found Rustum Roy, an emeritus chemistry professor at Penn State, who called it "the most remarkable discovery in water science in 100 years." That would include "polywater," which Roy fell for 40 years ago. Roy said that RF weakens chemical bonds, releasing hydrogen which burns. It's the Bush "hydrogen initiative" fallacy again (WN 31 Jan 03) . Must I now lecture a chemistry professor on thermodynamics? More energy is needed to free hydrogen than you get by burning it. The story was shunned by major news outlets, except, of course, Fox News, which did point out that Rustum Roy is also "a specialist in holistic medicine and Christian sexuality."

Sunday, September 09, 2007


From the description at TOD, it sounded like this Google image of Crockett county, Texas showed a somewhat uniform 2-D array of wind turbines. But then Mr. WestTexas indicated that this same region overlapped the Yates oil field first discovered in 1926.

Quite a metaphor for our times, as we cosmetically apply pock-marks to cover older pock-marks.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

He Redux

From Physics Today, earlier this summer comes this update: "Helium shortage hampers research and industry"
The situation is likely to become even more dire in the near future. Kornbluth and Leslie Theiss, field office manager at the US Bureau of Land Management's helium operations in Amarillo, say the worldwide demand for helium is growing, fueled at least in part by the growth of high-tech manufacturing in China, Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea. Companies in those countries use helium in the production of semiconductors, flat-panel displays, and optical fibers.

Meanwhile, the tightened supply and higher costs are prompting efforts in both academia and industry to convert to dry cryostats, or closed-cycle refrigerant units, which eliminate the need to replenish helium. But the systems don't suit everyone. They're costly—up to $50 000 apiece, according to Allen Goldman, a physicist at the University of Minnesota. And some units' base temperatures are limited, able to bring helium down to only 2.7 K, not cold enough for all types of research.

Until other sources are developed, industry officials warn, the worldwide helium supply will continue to be squeezed. "We're producing everything we can here but it just isn't enough," says Theiss.
Bob Park said pretty much the same thing a few years ago. I would imagine that this peak and decline will play out in some quite unexpected ways. Professional clowns will feel the hurt first and the hardest.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Limnology vs Fossil Fuel Geology

TOD Europe posted a rebuttal from peak oil denier Duncan Clarke. In it Clarke decries the futility of model oil depletion (essentially saying, without proof mind you) that the non-linearity prevents anyone from doing a complete analysis. TOD commenter Dave Cohen chimed in:
I never use Hubbert models.

There is a large and growing cottage industry, usually predicated upon some ill-conceived notion of "peak oil theory", that ultimately depends on a complicated view of the world that is nowhere to be found in that literature.
You have to understand that Cohen has his own perfectly acceptable ways to gauge the future outlook for fossil fuels, no doubt informed from his years of experience. But something does not jibe with this attitude, especially considering that Clarke makes a strong indictment on any kind of mathematical analysis, knowing full well that smart men and women have solved many more difficult problems than straight oil depletion estimates. Rhetorically stating my case, I thought engineering schools with the rare exception took control of teaching petroleum engineering and geology classes. I also thought these same schools would teach engineers how to use analytical techniques. So why hasn't somebody filtered down any of the fundamental theories of oil depletion to the undergraduate level? Just because you can't find something in the literature does not mean that some underlying truth does not exist. Someone evidently made a calculated choice to not universally teach oil depletion in schools.

Let me give you an example based on my experience. I went to engineering school (electrical) but did take courses outside of my major. One of the classes I took out of the geology department, Limnology, essentially covered the study of lakes in geological terms. Remember that geology belonged to the engineering school that I went to. But get this -- a big part of the course study involved understanding of the life-cycle of lakes, essentially the whole eutrophication thing. So why did they deem this important for geology professors to teach, in particular the detailed theory behind how all lakes will eventually go kaput, but the geology or petroleum engineering professors in the remaining classes likely do not ostensibly teach anything about oil depletion? This absurdity, that on the one hand preaches the certainty that every lake will eventually fill-up and cease to exist, yet largely ignore the same fate for fossil fuels. And to top it all off, the math and models behind oil depletion likely provides much more intuitive explication than anything you would come across in a lake die-off analysis.

In the same thread, Glenn Morton posted a link to a peak oil article he wrote in 2000. This article in turn links to a college class from the same geology department that I took the limnology class from years ago.

Well, here sits the current syllabus for Geology 3005:
GEO 3005 Earth Resources

meets Lib Ed req of Citizenship/Publ Ethics Theme; meets Lib Ed req of International Perspect Theme
Instructor: Alexander,Scott C
Description: Geo 3005 examines the global constraints of earth resources and the international and ethical implications their development in our rapidly changing world. Factors including natural distribution, utilization and exploitation of our planet's resources will be explored with a focus on energy resources. The concepts of renewable and non-renewable resources will be introduced with quantitative estimates of the size and life cycles of known resources. We will focus on the international nature of resource production and trade along with the political and economic implications of this international interdependence. Political and ethical questions arising from the growing internationalization of resource production and usage will be examined. Text: Fueling our Future: An Introduction to Sustainable Energy, 2007, R.L. Evans, Cambridge, 208p., ISBN 978-0521684484, $25. Additional readings from current magazines, newspapers, etc. will be handed out in class and/or posted on the website. Geo 3005 is designed for students without an extensive background in science or math. The course will involve numbers and simple arithmetic homework problem solving. Two 4 page written ethics papers, at the start and end of the semester, will examine ethical implications of resource development and monitor student views and knowledge. These papers will be critiqued but not graded. The papers, combined with a local field trip, count towards participation.
Class Time: 67% lecture, 33% discussion
Work Load: 20-30 pages of reading per week, 8 pages of writing per semester, 2 exam(s), 2 paper(s)
Grade: 25% mid-semester exam(s), 35% final exam(s), 15% class participation, 25% problem solving
I have no knowledge how detailed the course is, but the fact that the instructor actually teaches simple arithmetic reassures me somewhat. But the fact that they obviously gear the class to students outside the geology department makes me wonder still whether the typical oil industry hire knows the basics of oil depletion.

I still contend that if someone taught oil depletion, that characters like Duncan Clarke, Michael Lynch1, and Peter Huber (a M.E. PhD no less!) would cease to exist. They could no longer sustain their individual variants of rhetorical anti-peak/pro-cornucopian arguments. Real analysis deflates their arguments too quickly and would neutralize their preferred practice of standard talking-point flourishes.

And why do we leave the limnologists alone to teach what the science tells us?
NeverLNG wrote: Because limnologists aren't paid as much as oil geologists and they don't own the Congress and the Media. So they can actually be left alone to be scientists and not Pharisees. Look at the rest of science in the current administration. It is either ignored, demonized or twisted to be useful to a political purpose -- depending on the field of study and its applicability to a political purpose.

1What Glenn Morton said about Michael Lynch in the TOD thread:
I have debated Lynch, reviewed a paper of his before it was published in the O&G journal and went to the 2004 SPE talk to meet him. I wanted to look the guy in the eye to see if he really believed it.

As I sat in the audience of the Peak oil debate, Lynch put up the UK production and said that there was no problem. But I spoke up loud enough that those around me heard me. He had only shown the UK production up until 1999. He had failed to show 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003 figures which were readily available IN 2004!!!. The guy pulled a sleight of hand of Biblical proportions.

I have little, no correct that, NO respect for the man.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Washington State Wedge

From a story on DKos, Emory Bundy tries his best to combat any forward progress on alternative modes of transportation. He foolishly tries to pooh-pooh light rail transport, saying that:
The leading forfeited opportunity is bicycling, the best possible transportation mode: cost-effective, energy-efficient, non-polluting, and healthy -- save for the danger from surrounding cars.
Bundy here produces the absolute definition of a canard. The repub freakazoids have absolutely no interest in supporting biking as an alternative. We see the same thing in the Twin Cities, although the stooges use another form of transportation as a canard, namely some idiotic form of personal rapid transport that tows around a few people at a time.

The purveyors of the wedge idea seek to further subdivide progressives into factions that will fight each other. You could see this building a few years ago.

Interesting that the Washington state anti light rail fight relates to the Discovery Institute (i.e. the Intelligent Design crowd), which includes Emory Bundy. I have no doubt that they have the same agenda as the fundamentalist movement, that god has deemed that humans have dominion over the earth and they will use every psychological and sociological trick to achieve their goals.