Biodiesel: Not Sustainable if it’s Industrial

Converting a Hummer to bio-diesel, as this one has been, is like having a diet drink after gorging at McPiggy’s. As it turns out, converting an industry to bio-diesel makes about as much sense. (Photo by Paul Keller/Flickr)

In 2003, the European Union threw all its weight behind bio-diesel — a fuel manufactured mostly from plant seeds — as the sustainable replacement for fossil fuel. The members created the world’s largest bio-diesel industry, and now to their sorrow are discovering the truth in what has been a mantra of the Daily Impact: renewables aren’t sustainable if they’re industrial. The realization may destroy the $13 billion industry. Continue reading

New York Times Explodes Natural-Gas Bubble

The thing about a gas bubble is, it's flammable. (Photo by Andrew Kuznetsov/Flickr)

Once in a great while a newspaper (“The few. The frail. The fading.”) reminds us why we need newspapers, and why we are going to miss them. There are no other institutions left whose purpose (speaking here of the practitioners, not the investors) is to seek the facts and tell the truth. On Friday, the New York Times published the results of an exhaustive review of America’s natural-gas industry, which has been energized by the discovery of a new way to unlock gas from shale, and has pronounced it to be — to paraphrase — a fraud. Continue reading

OPEC Insists Oil’s Well, Despite Evidence

Mohammed "Don't-worry-be-happy" Aliabadi, Iran's acting oil minister and former Olympics Committee chair, says there is plenty of cheap oil for everybody, forever.

To hear its members tell it, the issue before the meeting of the Organization of Oil Exporting Countries beginning today in Vienna is whether or not it will choose to increase oil supplies for an increasingly needy world. What concerns the 12 member countries, they say, is merely fine-tuning a system that is working wonderfully, to make sure everyone remains as content as they are now. The current price of oil, around $100 a barrel, is about right, they say, and in the words of the current OPEC president, Iran’s caretaker oil minister Mohammad Aliabadi, “very much due to OPEC’s efforts, the world remains well supplied with oil, with ample spare capacity and adequate stock levels.” Wow. How much better could things get? Continue reading

Fracking Natural Gas: Unreality TV

Marchers in Pittsburg protest fracking in November, 2010. (Photo by Marcellus Protest/Flickr)

The thing about pathological liars is that they also lie to themselves. Their lies get them into ever deeper trouble, which they attempt to handle by mumbling lies to themselves, which don’t help, which causes them to double down on lies until gravity reasserts itself and the world falls on them. Keep this in mind as we watch the end state of the oil and gas industry. Continue reading

Natural Gas, or Drinkable Water? Choose One

In a scene from the Academy-Award nominated documentary GasLand, a Pennsylvania resident ignites the water flowing from his kitchen tap, a trick he could not perform before natural-gas fracking came to a field near his.

A new study published by the National Academy of Sciences belies industry assurances that they can retrieve natural gas by hydraulic fracturing without affecting adjacent water supplies. The report provides more evidence that what industry ads portray as a safe source of abundant energy via new technology may in fact be an unacceptable tradeoff between the fossil fuel we want and the water we need. Continue reading

Are You Fracking (and) Kidding Me?

That's a natural gas fracking well. You'd be well advised not to drink the water. (Photo by Daniel Foster/Flickr)

Pennsylvania’s largest practitioner of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, Chesapeake Energy, has suspended operations in the state — not because of any government action, but voluntarily, after a string of violations, accidents and blowouts. In the most recent and one of the most serious, Chesapeake lost control of a well for more than 12 hours after a blowout on April 20. Thousands of gallons of toxic drilling fluids spilled onto farm fields and into streams, and seven families were subjected to sudden, middle-of-the-night evacuations. Continue reading

Saudi Oil Dreaming: “We Have a Lot of Capacity”

With prices spiking and riots erupting, the Saudis say: Don't worry, be happy.

The three biggest lies current in the world today: 1) “The check is in the mail” (still a favorite, after all these years). 2) “Lower taxes for the rich means more jobs for the poor” (well into its fourth decade as a popular inversion of reality). And 3), the newest and in some ways the biggest; “Don’t worry, Saudi Arabia will increase oil production to keep prices from going too high, OR to compensate for the loss of Libya’s/Iraq’s/Egypt’s production, OR to reassure the re-election of American politicians if their name is Bush, OR whatever.” Continue reading

Nuclear and Oil: Too Big Not to Fail

This is now a nuclear reactor (Fukushima #2) looks after an event that "no one could have predicted." (Photo by daveeza/Flickr)

Our national subservience to large companies and rich people — our touching (in the sense of pathetic) faith that might makes right — persists in the face of accumulating, dramatic evidence to the contrary, especially with regard to the two worst industrial accidents of the past year, which are among the worst in history. We are like a wife who catches her husband in flagrante delecto and thinks he has a good point when he denies being unfaithful and says, “Who you gonna believe? Me or your lying eyes?” Continue reading

The Japan Syndrome: All Radiation, No Light

Entrance to the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, now entombed in concrete. Today's Fukushima disaster is not another Chernobyl, but could they together point us to a better way? (Photo by Timm Suess/Flickr)

A plume of radioactive blather has spread around the world from the Japanese nuclear meltdowns, stripped of information and logic (presumably by pre-radiation), seriously affecting the thought processes of millions. The reporting and punditry stimulated by the chaotic failure of the Fukushima Daichi nuclear power complex is far more notable for what it does not include that for what it does. And the most astonishing absence of all is the lack of a mention of any rational remedy for the awful risks we have to take to satisfy our insatiable appetite for cheap electricity. I’ll suggest a remedy momentarily, but first a couple of observations about the verbal emissions. And omissions. Continue reading

Fuel Cell Offers to Save World: World Says No Thanks

Each Bloom box shown provides 100 kw cheap, clean energy for CalTech. Other clients include eBay, Google and Coke.

One year ago, the venerable televison news program 60 Minutes broke a blockbuster story that (as The Daily Impact observed at the time — Hope Springs: Can a Fuel Cell Save Us?) made even energy pessimists feel a pang of hope. (Okay, 60 Minutes didn’t exactly break the story, but they did introduce it for the first time to a mass audience.) Bloom Energy of Sunnyvale, California had brought to market a reliable, efficient, clean and relatively cheap fuel cell that was scalable from a coffee-can-sized power source for a home to a greyhound-bus-sized industrial plant. Continue reading