Brazil: From Happy Days to Apocalypse Pretty Soon

A Petrobras deep water drilling rig off Brazil. After you get five miles down, you still might not hit oil.

A Petrobras deep water drilling rig off Brazil. After you get five miles down, you still might not hit oil.

Here’s what they were saying about Brazil six years ago: it was entering a new oil bonanza, it was going to be bigger than Saudi Arabia, it was going to enjoy energy independence, all the graphs of oil production were going straight up, through the roof, to the moon, Alice. It’s oil reserves were 50 billion…no, 100 billion…wait, 240 billion barrels. (How do you sing “Happy Days are Here Again” in Portuguese?)

Sound familiar? Sound like what the same folks are saying about the United States today? Funny how they’re not singing about feliz dias in Brazil any more. How did things work out for them down there? Continue reading

China Disintegrating: Stunning New Evidence

In Chongqing, China, in 2011, they were saying “If we don’t do something about this real soon, it’s going to get real bad. They didn’t. It did. And on it goes. (Photo by Leo Fung/Flickr)

It’s not just the air in China that is becoming toxic to human life, now it’s the earth itself. (Photo by Leo Fung/Flickr)

Just as China became the envy of the industrial world by achieving growth (of its gross national product) of ten percent and more per year for two decades, so its consequent collapse is about to demonstrate clearly to the rest of the world what happens when you turn your country over to unfettered greed. Stunning new evidence of the imminence of that collapse became public last week. Unfortunately, it is not just their end of the Titanic that is sinking, and it is too late to avoid catastrophe. But understanding what is happening there might help some of us survive catastrophe. Continue reading

Top UK Scientists: Peak Oil is Here

Oil times are changing, and not in a good way.

Oil times are changing, and not in a good way. (Photo by AZRainman/Flickr)

Britain’s leading oil scientists — including the man who for years prepared BP’s in-house estimate of future world oil supplies — have concluded that peak oil is here. In a special issue of the journal of the Royal Society, they argue that the era of cheap oil is over, and that an era of rising prices, recessions, famines and resource conflicts is beginning. In this global context, they dismiss the so-called shale oil “revolution” in the United States as insignificant and short-lived. The story, whose implications for our immediate future cannot be overstated, was reported by London’s Guardian newspaper and virtually nowhere else in the general media. Continue reading

Oil, Coal and the Law: Are You Kidding Me?

Ask not what your government can protect you from; ask rather who can protect you from your government.

Ask not what your government can protect you from; ask rather who can protect you from your government.

This is an update of the December 1 Daily Impact story “Oil and Coal: Above the Law, and Below It.” Read  the story of Mike Roselle’s arrest in West Virginia for having the temerity to petition his government for the redress of a grievance, and of Allenco Energy Company’s immunity from consequences for poisoning the air of a Los Angeles neighborhood. Try to imagine how both of those situations could get worse. Then read this. Continue reading

Apocalypse When, Again?

Never mind the iceberg. Should we steer mostly to the left, or to the right?

Latest from RMS Titanic:  Nothing bad has happened yet.

Do prophets of doom grow tired of warning against a doom that never seems to happen? Of course we do. But what really saps our spirit is not the jeering from the Business-as-Usual advocates, but the inadequacy of their thinking. It’s not the heat, you see, it’s the stupidity. To reason that because a thing has not happened yet, therefore the prospects of its happening are diminished, is not supported by any accepted rules of logic, and is a staggeringly dumb idea to cling to along the San Andreas Fault. (Of course, delay does not make a thing more likely to happen either, except in earthquake country.)

Other evidence must be consulted, and a review of the things that have not happened in 2013 may help us to decide whether they are more or less likely to happen in 2014. Continue reading

Oil and Coal: Above the Law, and Below It

This view of a former mountaintop in Pike County, Kentucky, which is now lying in nearby valleys, shows what's left when the coal is gone. (Photo by iLoveMountains.org/Flickr)

This view of a former mountaintop in Pike County, Kentucky, which is now residing, in the form of dust, in the people who live nearby. Who is breaking the law, the people who did this or the people who protest it? (Photo by iLoveMountains.org/Flickr)

Here is what we have come to in America, nicely encapsulated in two events, one in California, the other in West Virginia. In California, another brazen demonstration that Big Oil is above the law, not merely when its toxic emissions sicken hundreds of people, but when it poisons the law enforcement officers sent to control them. In West Virginia, a clear reminder that should you think to petition your government for the redress of grievances, you may well find yourself below the law, left to ponder the true meaning of the First Amendment to the Constitution (freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, right to petition your government and so forth) in your jail cell. Continue reading

Fracking, etc: “An Investment in Death and Destruction”

Graphic by the Dallas Observer

Graphic by the Dallas Observer

The news from Planet Oil continues to be relentlessly upbeat. The United States has surpassed Saudi Arabia in oil production (except it hasn’t, unless you use a very specialized definition of petroleum liquids), now produces more oil than it imports (which means that it still has to import nearly half; during the oil shocks of the 1970s and 80s, we were only importing about a third) and is, in the words of USA Today, “tiptoeing toward energy independence” (which is a very long way to go on tiptoes).

The news from Planet Earth, on the other hand, continues to describe an unfolding catastrophe whose end state is not “Number One,” nor “energy independence.” Continue reading

Muscling the Meat Industry: Fuhgedaboudit

meat marketLong ago, in a certain state, I called a certain agency (I am blowing smoke here to protect the obviously guilty) to enquire whether I could legally move a “farm use” (i.e. unlicensed, unregistered, uninsured) trailer from one state into another on public roads. The rather hard bitten sergeant (did I say sergeant? I meant person.) responded by asking, “Are you familiar with (name if state redacted)’s motto?” I said I thought it was sic semper tyrannis. “Do you know what it means?” he asked. Something to do with tyrants, I responded. “No, you’re wrong. It means ‘Don’t F#@k With Farmers.’ You can take that “farm use” trailer anywhere you want and nobody is going to bother you.”

I missed the memo, but apparently the United States has adopted my former state’s motto, now understood as sic semper agricolas. With the implied addition of the adjective “industrial.” Recent evidence abounds. Continue reading

AP Trashes Ethanol Mandate: “Raping the Land.”

The (Corn) Wasteland: Unprotected fields like this, the soil laced with leftover fertilizer and pesticide, will wash away with their toxic contents come spring. Yet we must have more corn! (Photo by Perry McKenna/Flickr)

The (Corn) Wasteland: Unprotected fields like this, the soil laced with leftover fertilizer and pesticide, will wash away with their toxic contents come spring. Yet we must have more corn! (Photo by Perry McKenna/Flickr)

A major, meticulous study by the Associated Press published today concludes that the government mandate for corn ethanol to be mixed with gasoline has brought none of the promised benefits and a raft of unintended consequences. When President George W. Bush signed the law he said it would make America “stronger, cleaner and more secure.” Instead it made industrial agriculture stronger, dirtier, and more secure while accelerating the destruction of the natural systems from which all food comes. Continue reading

Climate Hawks: Deniers of Another Kind?

In Chongqing, China, in 2011, they were saying “If we don’t do something about this real soon, it’s going to get real bad. They didn’t. It did. And on it goes. (Photo by Leo Fung/Flickr)

In Chongqing, China, in 2011, they were saying “If we don’t do something about this real soon, it’s going to get real bad. They didn’t. It did. And on it goes. (Photo by Leo Fung/Flickr)

The best thinkers and writers about the rampant destruction of natural systems that is the hallmark of our times profess, almost unanimously, that mankind faces catastrophe unless something is done, something effective, right away. Political action is a necessity, they say, nationally and internationally. We must find the will to act. A respected, frequent commenter on this site suggested the other day that to do anything else is a distraction from the vital effort to transform politics. But is that “unless,” that ever-present qualification — the notion that something might be done, tomorrow or maybe the day after, to save us from the worst consequences of our actions — itself a form of denialism?

I think so, and I submit into evidence three headlines from this week’s news. Continue reading