End of Oil Gets Two Paragraphs

asteroid approaches earth

Hey Dinosaurs! Heads Up! (Image by andrewsrj/Flickr)

If the US Secretary of Homeland Security announced at a news conference that a large asteroid was bearing down on earth, bringing massive destruction to our world, would he get more than two paragraphs on the Reuters news service? That’s pretty much what happened last week.

Instead of the Homeland Security chief it was the energy chief for the European Union, Guenther Oettinger, who made the announcement. Not about an asteroid, of course, but about peak oil: “The amount of oil available globally, I think, has already peaked.” The imminent damage to the civilized world implicit in that statement is equivalent to the damage done to the dinosaurs by the last big asteroid, but he got exactly two brief paragraphs in Reuters. Continue reading

Breakdown Coming: More Signs and Portents

Photo by cjohnson7/Flickr

The stress on the global web of life applied by a century of industrialization continues to increase as systems within it begin to break down. Nearly buried in the industrial media, amid the relentless stream of industrial optimism — the “we can do it, technology will find a solution” school — that floods our receivers, these stories, this week, reveal glimpses of the dark underbelly of the American way of life to which the world aspires: Continue reading

Whistling Past the Oil Field

World energy demand is skyrocketing. Supplies are running out. Official response: not to worry.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) says the world is going to need one-third more energy, primarily from oil and coal, by 2035, as demand from China, India and the Middle East continues its dramatic growth. Most objective students of the world’s fossil fuels do not believe that the sources of that energy exist.

In its annual report titled World Energy Outlook, the IEA said “It is hard to overstate the growing importance of China in global energy markets.” Continue reading

Risky Business: Another Well Blows

Little noticed in the shadow of the catastrophic Gulf of Mexico oil eruption, the blowout of a natural-gas well in Pennsylvania last Thursday — after the failure of its blowout preventer — spewed gas and toxic chemicals for 16 hours before being brought under control. A single spark near the scene could have turned the event into a headline-grabbing conflagration that would have brought unwelcome attention to another unfamiliar new technology being used to get at previously inaccessible gas deposits. Continue reading

The Seven Greatest Myths About the Gulf Oil Spill

It’s a Spill. The word spill means that a portion of a finite amount of stuff in a container is inadvertently transferred to another surface. But in the Gulf, toxic oil from a deposit so large its volume cannot even be estimated is erupting into the water column a mile below the surface at a rate so large it has not yet been authoritatively estimated. If this is a spill, then the eruption of  Mt. St. Helens was a burp. Continue reading

Troubled Oil on Gulf Waters

The elegant blonde lady who appears in all the Exxon commercials on TV should now appear with scorched hair, blackened face and wet clothes. It’s the least she could do after years of assuring us that, among other things, to worry about the safety of offshore oil drilling is soooo 1990. With our technology and expertise, the industry murmurs daily, nothing can go wrongongongongong. Continue reading

Oil: Looking a Little Peaked

When our car’s odometer shows us two or three zeros in a row, we tend for a short time to think about its welfare over the long term, not just how much gas is left in the tank. How well have we been maintaining it, what is its life expectancy now, what are the probabilities of major problems? Then, usually, we go back to sticking the key in the ignition and filling the tank.

When changing the calendar shows us a zero in the year’s designation, something similar happens, or should. We tend to review, briefly, the longer-term trends in the country, in our health, in our prospects. Such a review in 2010 brings us face to face with the imminence of a catastrophic global event: peak oil. Continue reading

Forget Everything, I Said

The mantra of the industrial age rises in intensity, all around us, louder and more insistent as it becomes less defensible: we have to change everything, is the way it goes, but we can’t change any single thing.
On health care: yes, it’s terrible, the system is broken. The industry (imagine: in this country, health care is an industry), as President Obama likes to remind us, is on board this time, and agrees we must reform the system. It’s just that they are against changing any single thing about the system. Reduce their profits? That would be un-American. Offer Medicare to the people they have rejected as too poor or sick to help? Socialism! Sure, they’re willing to stop refusing or cancelling coverage of people who are, or get, sick. But that’s a no-brainer when, in return, 45 million Americans, now without insurance, are going to be required by law to pay them premiums. Now that’s a reform even an insurance coimpany could like.
The journalism industry — yes, it’s an industry now, too, I’m afraid — is complicit in all this. To cite just one example: two of the country’s most successful and respected columnists, Gail Collins and David Brooks, discuss the health care reform battle as if it were a contest of ideas between Republicans and Democrats, or the House and the Senate, or the Administration and Congress.
Compromising on Health Care
It is no such thing. It’s a contest between the 70% of Americans who want access to decent health care at a reasonable cost — and the industries that are making their profits by either denying the care or bankrupting the patient. Of course the industries are winning, at least partly because the journalists who should be shining light on what the companies are doing are instead flapping their right wings against their left wings.
Similarly. the oil industry agrees that we are going to run short of oil, and soon. Their most optimistic scenarios put peak oil — the begining of the perpetual and irreversible decline of the world’s oil supply in the face of steadily increasing demand — at 20 years away. Most reputable observers believe it’s happening now. But Big Oil says yes! we have to change everything! They even allowed their wholly-owned President, George W. Bush, say it explicity: we are addicted to foreign oil.
Just don’t try to change any single thing. Higher gas-mileage requirements for cars? No way. Tax gasoline to reduce consumption and stimulate atlternative, renewable fuels? Are you kidding? Limit carbon emissions as a late and lame admission that we are changing the climate of the planet, to our own peril? No, no, no. Instead, British Petroleum will rebrand itself as “Beyond Petroleum,” and run TV ads about how we have to change everything.
What I argue, here and in Brace for Impact, is that survival requires that we flip this brain-dead mantra on its head, admit that we cannot change everything, and then change something.

The mantra of the industrial age rises in intensity, all around us, louder and more insistent as it becomes less defensible: we have to change everything, is the way it goes, but we can’t change any single thing. Continue reading

What’s That Sucking Sound?

What’s That? A Sucking Sound?
Don’t take my word for it, or that of Brace for Impact: one of the foremost energy economists in the world says that “the world is heading for a catastrophic energy crunch that could cripple a global economic recovery because most of the major oil fields in the world have passed their peak production. [T]he public and many governments appeared to be oblivious to the fact that the oil on which modern civilisation depends is running out far faster than previously predicted and that global production is likely to peak in about 10 years – at least a decade earlier than most governments had estimated.”
That’s the bad news; there’s worse. But first the bona fides: Dr Fatih Birol is the chief economist at the  International Energy Agency (IEA) in Paris, which assesses energy markets for the 30 countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). His views appeared in the British newspaper The Independent [Warning: Oil supplies are running out fast] on August 3.
His views made headlines in Europe, Asia, even Canada. But US newspapers did not mention them until the New York Times ran a mocking op-ed piece by big-oil apologist Michael Lynch [Peak Oil is a Waste of Energy] ridiculing Dr. Firol and all of the world’s scientists who have come to the conclusion that there is not enough oil to satisfy preneially increasing demand, forever. Lynch and his ilk cannot, of course, claim that oil will never run out; the standards of public discourse will have to deteriorate a little more before that becomes acceptable. They rely on arguing that it won’t for a while yet.
But like their brethren the climate-change deniers, the peak-oil deniers have to ignore the avalanche of evidence from saner scientists. Such as those who, for the IEA, have just completed the first detailed assessment of more than 800 oil fields in the world, covering three quarters of global reserves, and have  found that most of the biggest fields have already peaked and that the rate of decline in oil production is now running at nearly twice the pace as calculated just two years ago.
Demand, meanwhile, continues to accelerate, especially as China emerges from recession.  According to Dr. Birol, even if demand remained steady, the world would have to find the oil equivalent of four Saudi Arabias to maintain production, and six Saudi Arabias if it is to keep up with the expected increase in demand between now and 2030.
But if you are not inclined to have confidence in a guy with a foreign-sounding name — he might be a Muslim! — speaking from France, of all places, then let me offer you this conclusion reached by the United States Joint Forces Command in its stretegic report “Joint Operating Environment 2008 published last November:
“By 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 MBD… The implications for future conflict are ominous..”
In other words the Department of Defense is telling its commanders, with respect to peak oil, to brace for impact.

Don’t take my word for it, or that of Brace for Impact: one of the foremost energy economists in the world says  “the world is heading for a catastrophic energy crunch that could cripple a global economic recovery because most of the major oil fields in the world have passed their peak production. Continue reading