US Oil Boom Busted

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)

The latest version of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” being sung by the Big-Oil Tabernacle Choir is a variant of the old favorite,  “Drill, Baby, drill.” The new lyric is that we have drilled, baby, drilled (or more accurately, fracked) and that now there is plenty of oil and gas in America, and there will continue to be plenty as long as you don’t dare tax or regulate Big Oil. You can even hear the backup singers muttering, “Energy independence! Energy independence!” Alas, the song is wrong.

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Damn Right, NIMBY!

“Not in my back yard” campaigns directed against industrial projects are thought to be fundamentally different (progressive) from those against renewable-energy projects (regressive). It’s not so. (Photo by blakophoto/Flickr)

The NIMBY (“Not in my back yard!”) movement bears the contemptuous brand assigned by the industrial media to people who oppose things such as power plants, refineries, power lines and urban sprawl. NIMBYans contradict the relentless logic of industry — “You gotta have electricity, right? Gotta have a place to live.” — with demonstrations and signs that complain about aesthetics, pollution, the danger of increased cancer rates, the ruination of quality of life or, to use the industry’s term, trivia. Now, to the bemusement of the uninformed who see a conflict here, NIMBYans are turning their wrath on so-called renewable-energy projects. [See The New Look of NIMBYism” — The Daily Climate] And so they should. Continue reading

Oil and Troubled Waters

Monster machines scrape tarry sand from the surface of Alberta, Canada. By applying enormous quantities of water and natural gas, they make a low quality, corrosive crude oil and proclaim a “new Saudi Arabia.” (Photo by HowlMontreal/Flickr)

Like some crazed fan-dancer, the oil industry (along with its wholly owned subsidiaries such as the US Congress) is doing its best to conceal and distract us from the naked truth. It has waved in our faces during the past year such ostrich feathers as “Canadian tar sands; another Saudi Arabia!” and “shale gas; another Saudi Arabia!!” and “hyper-deep ocean drilling; another Saudi Arabia.” But when we step back from the year, and look at the unhyped numbers, it doesn’t matter any more whether the dancer has any clothes on or not.

World’s Top Energy Economist: Brace for Impact

According to the chief economist of the IEA, this is where we’re headed. (Photo by Cherryllynx/Flickr)

Fatih Birol is the chief economist for the International Energy Agency. Throughout most of its history, the Agency (like its American counterpart, the U.S. Energy Information Administration) gave short shrift to alarms about peak oil and global climate change. But now its top analyst says (in a recent talk to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)  that “the world is perfectly on track to six degrees Celsius [warming due to global climate change]…which is very bad news. And everybody, even school children, know[s] this will have catastrophic implications for all of us.” In other words, Brace for Impact.

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Texas Wind-Power Miracle or Hot-Air Debacle?

A Texas-sized wind turbine under construction. This is what happens when industry embraces renewable energy. Whatever it is, it’s not sustainable. (Photo by vaxomatic/Flickr)

One of the core ideas of the book Brace for Impact and this website is expressed in the mantra: renewable is not sustainable if it’s industrial (actually, nothing is sustainable if it’s industrial, but for the moment let us focus on energy). If you want to follow the crash and burn of a large-scale demonstration of the principle, you need look no further than the Texas wind power miracle. Or debacle. Continue reading

Oil: More Peaked Than Ever

Coming soon to a gas station near you: higher prices, fewer gallons. (Photo by Jason Langheine/Flickr)

Masked by speculation, eased by the great economic contraction in the United States and Europe, the terminal industrial disease known as Peak Oil continues to ravage the industrial world, which has not yet noticed that it is infected, and is just now beginning to feel a little woozy. Peak oil is a little like the Ebola virus — by the time you feel the symptoms, you’re dead.

If you look, you will find the symptoms. Continue reading

Saudis Try Drinking Oil, Burning Water, Eating Money

An oil-and-water cocktail is hard to burn and nasty to drink, but the Saudis, running out of both, are drinking hard and burning bright. (Photo by Yortw/Flickr)

While the industrialized world approaches the brink of peak oil — the point at which supply can no longer, ever, meet demand — the supplier of much of that oil, Saudi Arabia, is teetering on the brink of peak water. With increasing desperation, the kingdom is juggling the rising, competing demands for its limited water supplies, and trying to repeal the iron laws of supply and demand.

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Energy Industries Rush to Sell Out Their Country

1252 people were arrested for demonstrating against a proposed tar-sands pipeline from Canada. Meanwhile, the real crimes wre being committed elsewhere. (Photo by tarsandsaction/flickr)

The most real and present danger to the security — indeed, the survival — of the United States is the advent of peak oil (the time when the oil-producing nations’ declining output can no longer meet the rising demand of the oil-consuming nations). The condition is imminent (even Forbes Magazine admits the possibility: “Has Peak Oil Come To The Non-Opec World? Maybe.”) and its effects will be catastrophic. The sudden absence, or extreme cost, of a substance whose abundance and cheapness provide the foundation of our entire economy can hardly be imagined. So the American energy industry, aided and abetted by its wholly-owned politicians, is doing everything possible to make it worse. Continue reading

The Mother of All Fracking Lies

Water from one of the wells never harmed by fracking explodes, in a scene from the documentary "Gasland."

The claim that not one single water well has been harmed by hydraulic fracturing for natural gas is the anthem of the oil and gas industry as it presses its case to perforate the shale formations of the world without regard for the vital water resources also to be found there. The current administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Lisa Jackson, sings from the same sheet music. But even in a world where public statements have little relationship to reality, this is a remarkable Big Lie. Continue reading

Texas Teeters on Blackout’s Edge

The sun and the power grid -- enemies in Texas today, but they could be the best sustainable friends. (Photo by pranav/flickr)

The electric power grid in Texas is at the crisis point, its managers on the verge of having to impose rolling blackouts on a sweltering population, and is providing a leading indicator for the rest of the country. It is not only the heat that is placing unprecedented demands on the grid (after February cold and storms led to rolling blackouts), it’s the attitude of the people in charge that pretty much guarantees catastrophic failure ahead. Continue reading