Rats Start to Leave the Fracking Ship

What top oil people are starting to do about the fracking revolution. Abandoning ship.

What top oil people are starting to do about the fracking revolution. Abandoning ship.

The first sign of a doomed ship is said to be the urgent departure of its rats; the first sign of fire in a crowded theater is not the guy who shouts it out, but the several people with good noses who start to sidle quietly but purposefully toward the exits. In the world of America’s bogus oil and gas fracking revolution, the nostrils of the rats and the smoke-sensitive alike are beginning to twitch. Let us watch those noses.

Must we review the industry’s propaganda again here? How hydraulic fracking has changed everything, America now has abundant gas and oil, we’re surpassing Russia and Saudi Arabia, we’re number one in the world again, we’re headed for energy independence? (No one has yet had the chutzpah to predict we’re going to get to energy independence, since it’s mathematically impossible, but it shouldn’t be long now, they’re getting desperate.) The latest iteration of the industry line is an essay that appeared in the New York Times  titled “America’s Oil Bonanza,” a song of oil without end, amen. Continue reading

The Scariest Picture in the World

Just a garden-variety protest in some Middle Eastern county, you say, nothing to be afraid of here? Wait till you find out where these people are. (BBC Photo by Safa Al-Ahmad)

Just a garden-variety protest in some Middle Eastern county, you say, nothing to be afraid of here? Wait till you find out where these people are. (BBC Photo by Safa Al-Ahmad)

What, this picture? It’s almost a cliche, right, more Arab Spring stuff? Yes, except for one thing. This uprising, inspired by the so-called Arab Spring three years ago, and unquenched since then, is happening in Saudi Arabia. The protesters are minority Shia Muslims in Saudi’s Eastern Province, the center of gravity of the country’s oil industry. This picture represents the worst nightmare of the Saudi royal family, and of all industrialized nations. If Saudi Arabia comes unglued, so do we all. Continue reading

Oil Storm Flags Up: Take More Cover

Coming soon to an economy near you: a two-train wreck.

Coming soon to an economy near you: a two-train wreck.

The second train wreck about to sledgehammer the world’s economies is the implosion of the oil-and-gas renaissance scam. This implosion, most likely to occur in 2015, may occur before Train Wreck Number One (the financial “correction,” see the previous post, Financial Storm Flags Up: Take Cover) and bring it on, or it could kick in just afterward as the panicked Masters of the Universe run for the lifeboats. The cumulative effect of the two events will be devastating and lasting. They are not likely to bring on, quite yet, the ultimate crash of the industrial age — there is a lot of momentum left in the old battleship yet. But they will come close. Because while the financial implosion may not be quite as bad as that of 2008, the end of the oil scam, in itself, will be devastating to the world. Continue reading

Peaked Oil: Waiting for the Swords to Drop

Damocles learned that when you know about the sword up there, it's hard to enjoy a life of luxury. Bingo.

Damocles learned that when you know about the sword up there, it’s hard to enjoy a life of luxury. Bingo.

In the fable that bears his name, Damocles was unnerved in the midst of luxury and power by the threat of a single sword (representing the ever present possibility of failure) hanging precariously over his head. We, who because of cheap oil enjoy luxury and power in our ordinary lives beyond the imagination of the kings of old, live beneath a veritable forest of deadly blades, all of which are just about to fall. Unlike Damocles, we refuse to look up, let alone move out of the zone of impact. When they tell our fable, nobody’s going to believe it. Continue reading

Indian Summer: Apocalypse Rehearsed

Australian heatwave causes wildfiresThis is a shape of things to come: intolerable heat persisting for unprecedented lengths of time; failure of the electric grid when it’s needed most; hundreds of deaths from the searing heat; unreasoning violence spreading across the county like fire. India had it all last week, and the relief brought by the (late) onset of monsoon rains may be scant and temporary. This is the specter of climate change made real, made explicit, in the present tense. And still the world acts as if it’s the other guy’s end of the boat that’s burning, no worries here. Continue reading

Natural Gas: Flaming Out?

Seen from above, natural gas being flared at night bears a remarkable resemblance to the ill-fated Hindenburg. (Photo by Phudpucker.com)

Seen from above, natural gas being flared at night bears a remarkable resemblance to the ill-fated Hindenburg. (Photo by Phudpucker.com)

A little known crisis is approaching in the world of natural gas, one that threatens the most successful part of the largely imaginary New American Bonanza (NAB) in oil and gas brought on by hydraulic fracking. The gas frackers did manage to increase domestic supplies, so much so that two things happened: every electric generator that could switch from coal to gas, did so; while the glut drove the price down so far that the gas producers started losing money. Their output, which had grown by seven percent in 2011 and five percent in 2012, managed to inch up one percentage point last year. Now the entire industry has an iceberg just off the starboard bow. Continue reading

Don’t Like Global Warming? How About Global Rioting?

You thought the unrest in Ukraine was all about Russia? Or the West? Try food. (Photo by Yaruslov Kharandiuk/Flickr)

You thought the unrest in Ukraine was all about Russia? Or the West? Try food. (Photo by Yaruslov Kharandiuk/Flickr)

The boiling point of a country is 210; not degrees on a thermometer, but points on a scale of food prices devised by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. Reach that mark, and your population, on the brink of starving, will be in the streets kicking ass and taking heads. Pundits natter on about masses yearning to be free, loving democracy, spurning Islam, suddenly intolerant of dictators they were fine with for decades. In reality, the flame that lit the Arab Spring and the Syrian Civil War and the Crisis in Ukraine was a food price index of 210; and the same torch is spreading the flames around the world. The outbreak, according to Dr. Nafeez Ahmed (a security expert and writer for the Guardian of London), is a tsunami of civil unrest  “on a scale that has never been seen before in human history. This month alone [February] has seen riots kick-off in Venezuela, Bosnia, Ukraine, Iceland, and Thailand.” Continue reading

US Officials Blow Up Oil-Boom Myth

Go ahead and drill some more. The oil, says the IEA, is simply not there.

Go ahead and drill some more. The oil, says the IEA, is simply not there.

The story broke last night. 9 pm. By now every mass media website should have it as the lede and every cable channel should be wall-to-wall with it. Why? Because it is a mortal blow to the five-year myth that America is in the midst of an oil-and-gas revolution that will return us to world supremacy, make us an exporter again, and bring us closer to energy independence.

Of course, some of us knew that these were all lies, all the time. But gullible people, especially gullible investors (who were the targets of the hype) bought the bogus claims. Chief among these — the biggest, most persuasive lie — was that the Monterey Shale in central California held a vast treasure in oil reserves, Continue reading

Too Big to Pay: WV Coal Industry Flouts Law, Miners Die

Modern coal miners go to work knowing that their employers have afforded them the best equipment (note flaming lamps, otherwise known as methane detectors), the safest materials (note shattered beam) and all the medical care they can get from their fellow miners. (Photo by Janet Lindemuth/Flickr)

Modern coal miners go to work knowing that their employers have afforded them the best equipment (note flaming lamps, otherwise known as methane detectors), the safest materials (note shattered beam) and all the medical care they can get from their fellow miners. The photo is circa 1914. Close enough. (Photo by Janet Lindemuth/Flickr)

You have to hand it to West Virginia. [Irony alert] Some states might well lie down for an industry as big as Big Coal, might refuse to regulate them in order to keep that lush stream of money coming (no, silly, not the trickle of severance taxes to the state, the fire-hose of campaign contributions to the candidates).  And that might have been the case in West Virginia prior to 2010, the year 29 men died in an explosion in a mine that was being operated, the subsequent investigation found, in a “profoundly reckless manner.” Well, West Virginia had had enough, and to make sure such sacrifice to unmitigated greed would never happen again, it [end-of-irony alert] did absolutely nothing.

President Obama, however, had had enough. He ordered a sweeping review of mine safety regulations and a crackdown on those who regularly flouted them. Continue reading

States Moving to Penalize Home Solar Installations

Freeloaders live here. According to ALEC, they must be punished. (Photo by John Hritz/Flickr)

Freeloaders live here. According to ALEC, they must be punished. (Photo by John Hritz/Flickr)

Oklahoma’s legislature has now followed Arizona’s  in authorizing a penalty to be charged people who install small solar arrays or wind turbines and connect them to the grid. This is happening as a result of a campaign by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an industry-financed group (backed heavily by the Koch Brothers, among others) that writes and distributes “model” legislation for state governments. This is the equivalent of the crew of the Titanic systematically smashing holes in lifeboats to make sure everybody does their best to save the ship. It is utterly wrong-headed, but its unintended consequences could be quite good. Continue reading