Math Unmasks Oil and Gas Boom as Bubble

a natural gas well using hydraulic fracturing

In the midst of a natural gas “boom,” fracking rigs like this are fast becoming an endangered species. The reason? Mathematics.

There are three kinds of people in this world: the kind who understand mathematics, and the kind who don’t (Irony alert). You can find the latter buying lottery tickets, leaning over casino tables and conducting news conferences about the new American oil boom.  It has become conventional wisdom (oxymoron alert), an assertion not even worthy of discussion by Serious People, that the United States is, as an NPR program host said offhandedly the other day,  “on its way to energy independence.” Here’s what mathematics has to say about this titanic (metaphor alert) scam. Continue reading

Rooftop Solar Revered in India and Australia, Still Reviled in US

solar on roofIndia and Australia are embracing distributed — which is to say personal, rooftop — solar power as a major source of electricity that is both renewable and much closer to sustainable than wind or solar “farms.” [See Solar “Farms” Keep us in the Dark] The United States, meanwhile, continues to focus on massive projects stitched onto the aging grid, causing massive problems for the environment and for grid management. Continue reading

Expert: Shale Gas Boom a Bubble About to Pop

oil jacks

In the old days, when you poked holes in the ground and pumped out oil with jacks like these, it was a boom. Now, it’s just a fracking bubble.

One of the top geologists in the oil exploration and production business says: 1) shale gas production by hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) is a commercial failure. Is. Present tense. 2) shale gas will be the next financial “bubble” to collapse. 3) holding out the possibility of energy independence for the United States is “absurd.” To suggest it could be done in five years is “garbage.”

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Fossil Fools Ignore Arithmetic

These oil wells were thick as fleas along the Texas coast in 1978, when America was awash in oil. But production has been declining since 1970, and simple-minded hype will not change that. (Photo by Roger Wollstad (Roger4336)/Flickr)

If you don’t believe in arithmetic — if your political or religious tenets require you to deny that 2 + 2 always equals 4 — then by all means stop right here and go read something by Glenn Beck. For the remaining minority, then, of people clinging to outmoded faiths in things like gravity and mathematical truth, here’s the headline: we are running short of oil. There is no renaissance, no triumph of technology, no sudden reversal of the rules of the universe. And it is still true that running short is almost as bad as running out. Continue reading

Romney’s Energy Plan: I Have a Dream

Oil pump jacks drawing oil from the Lost Hills Oil Field in the San Joaquin Valley in Central California. Romney’s prescription: get more of them, and make them go faster. (Photo by Richard Masoner/Flickr)

From the folks who brought us Newt Gingrich’s promise to deliver $2-a-gallon gas if we just let him play president for a while — never mind how, just trust him — comes now from the grownup in the room, the actual candidate for president, an energy policy for the country that is equally grounded in realism. If we let him be president for a while, says Mitt Romney, he will deliver energy independence for America in seven years. Never mind how. All we have to do is trust him and the oil companies.
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In a Village in India, It’s Power to the People

A Mumbai vendor uses a lamp, charged during the day by the solar panel he is holding, to bring business to his stall. Such affordable solar solutions are helping people all over the country deal with an unreliable (and seemingly unfixable) grid. (Photo by Nokero/Flickr)

A tiny village in India offers a lesson to the world: in a country reeling from failures of its grid, shortages of fuel for power generation, daily blackouts and brownouts, the village has power for lights, water pumps, fans, battery-chargers and the like all the time, from an inexhaustible source.  Note to anyone interested in surviving the coming crash of the industrial age: listen up. Continue reading

India Blackout Foreshadows US Event

It’s not easy to get a picture of a blackout. This one is from Brazil. (Photo by Alexandre Brevegliere/Flickr)

The United States is edging ever closer to the kind of power-grid failure that put 600 million Indians — ten per cent of the population of the planet — in the dark for two days this week. The reasons for the threat are the same here as they are there: one, no one is taking care of the grid — the network of transmission lines, interconnectors and transformers that is essential to life as we know it; two, supply cannot keep up with demand; and three, rate-setting is a political rather than an economic process. It should not come as a shock, so to speak, that neglect, failure to prepare and playing politics with essentials  should lead to disaster.  Continue reading

Bogus Oil Boom Bogs Down

a natural gas well using hydraulic fracturing

It’s not just a drilling rig, it’s a fracking rig, and it has to be watered with millions of gallons if it is going to flourish.

Here’s a lovely circle of life: global warming caused in large part by burning oil has contributed to a drought that is making it impossible for the oil bidness to sustain its over-hyped oil boom in the Bakken oil shale formation under Montana and North Dakota. And that’s just one reason the boom will soon be busted.

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Newt Gingrich Says Brace for Impact. Believe it Now??

A solar flare erupting from the sun yesterday, along with a CME that will miss earth. Watch that space.

Newt Gingrich is like the sun in this respect: if an entity belches heat and light and energy on all frequencies in all directions all the time, every once in a while it’s going to hit something.  At 1:00 am tomorrow, Saturday July 14, a coronal mass ejection from the sun capable of shutting down life on earth as we know it will miss our home planet, not by much. Coincidentally, the Washington Post this morning contains an essay by Mr. Gingrich on the danger of such an event, a rare direct hit by a man who has frequent cerebral mass ejections. Continue reading

NPR: The Lost Best Hope

(Photo by timsamoff/flickr)

The last bastion of intelligent and balanced journalism in this country is apparently now the lost bastion: on Morning Edition last Wednesday, NPR ran a piece on the oil bidness that was a travesty of journalism. The piece by John Ydstie “reported” on the “huge boom” in US oil and natural gas production and claimed — not by quoting an idiot, but by making the idiotic statement with no attribution or qualification — that it “could help the nation reach the elusive goal of energy independence.” That was the lede sentence, and things went downhill from there.
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