Steroids for Cows: How to Gag a Hyena

Far from the fields of grass they once roamed, and on which they evolved, cows such as these -- sick, crowded, dirty, stressed, being force fed unnatural food and shot up with chemicals -- are the source of today’s T-bone steak. (Photo by Randy Heinitz/Flickr)

Far from the fields of grass they once roamed, and on which they evolved, cows such as these — sick, crowded, dirty, stressed, being force fed unnatural food and shot up with chemicals — are the source of today’s T-bone steak. (Photo by Randy Heinitz/Flickr)

It is possible to gag a hyena; the food industry has actually choked on its own latest solution to an economy-of-scale problem. The problem was created when the corn industry mandated (through its wholly owned subsidiary, the United States Congress) the use of corn ethanol in automobile fuel. Among the unintended consequences were an immediate tripling of the cost of corn, leading to  1) widespread famine in countries whose staple food is the tortilla, and 2) more importantly, decreased profits for cattle feedlots. The feedlots demanded, and got, a quick fix: a chemical that would reduce the amount of corn needed to fatten cattle by making them swell up. Oddly, not everything worked out well. Continue reading

Egypt: Apocalypse Now

What do the Egyptian people want? Islam? Democracy? Or is it just bread, and a way to survive? (Photo by Jerry Jackson, globaltechfirm/Flickr)

What do the Egyptian people want? Islam? Democracy? Or is it just bread, and a way to survive? (Photo by Jerry Jackson, globaltechfirm/Flickr)

Disregard anything the poets and pundits are saying about current events in Egypt as long as they are rhapsodizing about such irrelevancies as democracy vs. tyranny, secularism vs. radical Islam, or when a coup is not a coup. Listen only to those who recognize that Egypt is being sledge-hammered by a perfect storm of peak oil, peak food and peak water, exacerbated by a strong dose of climate change. Egypt is a failing state, whose failure not only will destabilize an entire region, but foreshadows the similar failure of every state whose existence depends on cheap and plentiful oil, food and water. Continue reading

Let Them Drink Oil

With thirsty oil rigs spearing the sky behind it, a water truck makes its run in Barnhart Texas,

With thirsty oil rigs spearing the sky behind it, a water truck makes its run in Barnhart Texas,

Barnhart, Texas, a crossroads village 250 miles southwest of Dallas, is living the dream. It was barely hanging on to a sleepy, sunbaked existence when fracking came to the area two years ago. As drill rigs sprouted like Jack’s beanstalks in every direction and oilfield workers swarmed in RV suburbs, the town boomed, and some property owners in the area landed rich leases. “Boom Times for a Tiny Texas Town,” exulted the Wall Street Journal. Last month, the entire town ran out of water. Bust.

Barnhart, Texas, is now living the nightmare. Continue reading

Agriculture Running Amok

Indiscriminate use of neonicotinoids threatens to bring back the Silent Spring. (Photo by Mrs Gemstone/Flickr)

Indiscriminate use of neonicotinoids threatens to bring back the Silent Spring. (Photo by Mrs Gemstone/Flickr)

For many industries, rampant destruction of the world’s topsoil (in the US, at least three tons lost for every ton of crop, multiples of that in many other countries) and water (the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico from agricultural runoff is the size of New Jersey) might be accomplishments enough, but not Big Agriculture. It is now busily poisoning a wide range of the world’s living things. The culprit — a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids. Brought to market just 20 years ago, they are the world’s most widely used pesticides. And only now are we finding out how deadly they are. Continue reading

9/5/2000: Apocalypse Rehearsed

Hurricane Sandy brought New Yorkers a brief taste of Apocalypse Then, bit it wasn't close to 9/5/2000.

Hurricane Sandy brought New Yorkers a brief taste of Apocalypse Then, but it wasn’t close to 9/5/2000.

A fascinating retrospective by Kathy McMahon, a clinical psychologist who blogs as “Dr. K., the Peak [oil] Shrink,” details the little known (in this country) and little remembered (anywhere) story of what happened when the oil supply of some industrial European countries was briefly interrupted by their own citizens. The breathtaking speed with which the grocery stores emptied, the gas stations closed and the economy flatlined are instructive, and predictive. Too bad nobody knows the story. Continue reading

A New American Error in Oil and Gas: 3 Charts

US_crude_oil_production_1900_2035

In this, the mother of all oil charts, we can see that things were fine until 1970. It’s been downhill ever since, and will be from here on in.


Apparently there are still a few Americans who believe the hogwash being put out by the oil and gas industry to the effect that America is awash with gas and oil, is headed for energy security, and will soon be the world’s number one oil and gas producer. The people still clinging to this fantasy seem to include President Obama and the Wall Street Journal. We have refuted the case here more than once, using arithmetic and logic, but perhaps those languages are a bit arcane these days. Let’s try charts. I have three to show you. Continue reading

Energy Department Says: Brace for Impact

A new DOE report says everything in the energy sector, from power lines to refineries, is under attack from global climate change. (Photo by MNSC/Flickr

A new DOE report says everything in the energy sector, from power lines to refineries, is under attack from global climate change. (Photo by MNSC/Flickr

If you want a good scare this weekend, forget about seeing Pacific Rim: curl up with the latest report from the US Department of Energy.  It is truly terrifying. All the more so because it comes from a government department long regarded as a cheerleader for Big Oil, Big Coal and Big Power. Now, however, this report on the vulnerabilities of the entire US energy sector to climate change  puts them all — and us —  on notice: the energy infrastructure of the United States and the world is now under relentless attack for which it is not prepared; the attacks not only are going to continue, but are going to increase in frequency and severity, for the foreseeable future. The enemy is climate change. Continue reading

The Arab Winter Stalks Egypt. Who’s Next?

A fuel shortage in June clogs the streets of Cairo with gas lines. Egypt's oil production has peaked, and now so has the patience of its people.

A fuel shortage in June clogs the streets of Cairo with gas lines. Egypt’s oil production has peaked, and now so has the patience of its people.

Listen to the prattling of the punditocracy and you would think that millions of people are in the streets of Egypt fighting and dying over how religious their leaders are, or how much democracy they have. (Similarly, you would think that the most vital problem in America today is abortion, with lack of homosexual privileges a close second.) In the real world, where actions have consequences, people do not risk their lives unless their lives are already at risk. People who have bread do not riot. The longer we go without understanding why countries come apart, the closer comes the day when our country falls apart. And we will be so surprised! Continue reading

Phoenix Falling

By the time you get to Phoenix, it might not be there. (Photo by Jack Leeder/Flickr)

By the time you get to Phoenix, it might not be there. (Photo by Jack Leeder/Flickr)

“It’s true,” says the perky physical therapist with a giggle, “my boyfriend and I are moving to Phoenix. We’re really looking forward to it.” Really, responds a crotchety elder in for an attitude adjustment, you’re looking forward to living in a city besieged by a years-long drought, obscured by dust storms not seen since the 1930s, surrounded by wildfires, setting record high temperatures, running out of water, a strong candidate (with Las Vegas and Miami) to be the first US city abandoned because of climate change. [from the Los Angeles Times: “Heat, drought, violent winds turning Phoenix into hell.”] Which part are you looking forward to the most? When did you decide to opt out of the Age of Information? Continue reading

The American Natural-Gas “Revolution” is Over

Occupy Wall Street protesters take on fracking in 2011. Both revolutions have pretty much sputtered out. (Photo by Tony Fischer/Flickr)

Occupy Wall Street protesters take on fracking in 2011. Both revolutions have pretty much sputtered out. (Photo by Tony Fischer/Flickr)

Rational observers have told us from the beginning, on this and many other venues, that the so-called revolution of American energy based on fracking was bogus. If you chose instead to believe the fevered pitches of the corporate con men — we have a hundred years supply of gas, no two hundred, we’re moving “toward” energy independence, we’re going to surpass Saudi Arabia, all that crap — then consider the developments reported in the past ten days or so: Continue reading