Archive for the category “Peak Oil”

News update

Fossil fuels subsidised by $10m a minute, says IMF
The Guardian UK
Fossil fuel companies are benefitting from global subsidies of $5.3tn (£3.4tn) a year, equivalent to $10m a minute every day, according to a startling new estimate by the International Monetary Fund. The IMF calls the revelation “shocking” and says the figure is an “extremely robust” estimate of the true cost of fossil fuels. The $5.3tn subsidy estimated for 2015 is greater than the total health spending of all the world’s governments. The vast sum is largely due to polluters not paying the costs imposed on governments by the burning of coal, oil and gas.

The IMF Tells a Half-Truth
Richard Heinberg
It’s certainly helpful to have an accounting of the externalities of our collective fossil fuel consumption. But the choice of the word “subsidies” over the more precise “externalities” makes a difference: governments can cancel subsidies in the forms of tax breaks and gifts, but they can’t so easily cancel fossil fuel externalities without curtailing fossil fuel consumption—and that’s a big job, if they’re to do it in a way that doesn’t entail the rapid, uncontrolled collapse of society.

Can the world economy survive without fossil fuels?
Larry Elliott, The Guardian UK
In terms of reducing global poverty capitalism has been a success, but this growth has put pressure on the planet. The question, therefore, is whether it is possible to marry two seemingly contradictory objectives. Can we imagine a future that is cleaner, greener and sustainable – one that avoids climate armageddon – without abandoning the idea of growth and, thus, forcing living standards into decline? The answer is that it will be hellishly difficult, but it is just about feasible if we make the right choices – and start making them now.

Seven Surprising Realities Behind The Great Transition to Renewable Energy
Earth Policy Institute
The global transition to clean, renewable energy and away from nuclear and fossils is well under way, with remarkable developments happening every day. The Great Transition by Lester Brown, Janet Larsen, Matt Roney, and Emily Adams lays out a tremendous range of these developments – here are seven that may surprise you.

How Sustainable is PV Solar Power?
Low Tech Magazine
Its generally assumed that it only takes a few years before solar panels have generated as much energy as it took to make them, resulting in very low greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional grid electricity. A more critical analysis shows that the cumulative energy and CO2 balance of the industry is negative, meaning that solar PV has actually increased energy use and greenhouse gas emissions instead of lowering them.

The Counterfeit Shale Revolution (pdf)
Arthur Berman
The shale revolution is counterfeit. Tight oil and shale gas are imitations of something valuable and shale promoters intentionally deceive the public about their true value. It is counterfeit because the cost of produc4on is more than the global economy can bear. Producers and analysts deceive the public with misleading and incorrect break-even prices that exclude important costs or are based on exaggerated reserves. There is no shale revolution: it is a final, desperate effort to squeeze the last remaining petroleum from the worst possible rock.

Are we approaching peak population growth?
Max Roser
Since the 18th century, the world population has seen a rapid increase; between 1900 and 2000 the increase in world population was three times as great as the increase during the entire previous history of humankind – in just 100 years the world population increased from 1.5 to 6.1 billion. But this development is now coming to an end, and we will not experience a similarly rapid increase in population growth over the course of this century.

Book Review of Overshoot by William R. Catton Jr.
Craig Straub, The Social Contract
Catton concludes that the human community is condemned to bet on an uncertain future. Misperception of the human situation will motivate efforts to pursue solutions which make matters worse. An ecological understanding of the human predicament will help avoid constructing the road to hell paved with good intentions.

Peak Oil: A Graphic Story

Peak Oil comic by Stuart McMillen. Title page. Rollercoaster by Red House Painters. Black and white drawing of roller coaster car at abandoned amusement park.

Australian artist Stuart McMillan has spent over 700 hours creating this amazing cartoon of the life and work of M.King Hubbert. McMillan writes on his blog about what he aimed to do with this cartoon:

I knew that I couldn’t produce the definitive account of Peak Oil, through the medium ofcomics. I could simply never include every fact, figure and nuance of the topic.

Instead, I decided to write the definitive Peak Oil primer which would give readers a 20 minute crash-course into the topic.

I aimed for my comic to take a person from zero knowledge of Peak Oil, to a reasonable understanding within the duration of 20 minutes.

View the graphic story: Peak Oil
Read McMillens blog entry: The Making of Peak Oil

News update

Its Official: Global Carbon Levels Surpassed 400 ppm for Entire Month
Common Dreams
Marking yet another grim milestone for an ever-warming planet, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration revealed that, for the first time in recorded history, global levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere averaged over 400 parts per million (ppm) for an entire month—in March 2015. This marks the fact that humans burning fossil fuels have caused global carbon dioxide concentrations to rise more than 120 parts per million since pre-industrial times, said Pieter Tans, lead scientist of NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network, in a press statement. Half of that rise has occurred since 1980.

Climate Change – Too Late To Halt?
Sanjeev Ghotge, Countercurrents.org
Since the CO2 concentration reached 400 ppm last year (2014), this means that the earths atmosphere will eventually heat up by 2 deg C, since we have no proven and tested technologies for decarbonizing the atmosphere. The time is now well and truly past for holding the line at 2 deg C. Roughly speaking, we are on course to reach 2 deg C by 2050, 4 deg C by 2100 and 6 deg C by 2150. A few years this way or that will hardly matter or disprove the basic science.

Beyond petroleum frackings collapse heralds the arrival of peak oil
Paul Mobbs, The Ecologist
The death of peak oil has been much exaggerated. Take out high-cost unconventional oil and production peaked ten years ago, and even North Americas fracking and tar sands boom has failed to open up new resources both big enough to make good the shortfall, and cheap enough to reward investors. We really do need to be thinking beyond petroleum.

Peak Russia + Peak USA means Peak World
Ron Patterson
World oil production jumped in 2011, hardly moved at all in 2013 but it was up by more than 1.5 million barrels per day in 2014. And after such a huge gain everyone and their brother were singing “peak oil is dead’. But if you scroll down through the 37 major world oil producers it becomes obvious that a majority of nations have peaked and most of them are in steep decline.

Why the World’s Appetite for Oil Will Peak Soon
Amy Myers Jaffe, The Wall Street Journal
The world’s economy is experiencing transformational changes that, I believe, will dramatically alter patterns of energy use over the next 20 years. Exponential gains in industrial productivity, software-assisted logistics, rapid urbanization, increased political turmoil in key regions of the developing world, and large bets on renewable energy are among the many factors that will combine to slow the previous breakneck growth for oil. The result, in my opinion, is as startling as it is world-changing: Global oil demand will peak within the next two decades.

How Much Longer Can The Oil Age Last?
Gaurav Agnihotri, Oilprice.com
Are the dynamics of global energy changing with current improvements in renewable energy sources and affordable new storage technologies? Can the oil age end in the near future? Will we ever stop feverishly analyzing the rise and fall of oil prices? Or, will oil remain irreplaceable in our life time?

Solving Soil Loss is Simple, But Requires a Mindset Change
Patrick M. Lydon, FinalStraw.org
By accounts of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, we have less than 60 years of farming left if we continue our modern chemical-industrial based farming processes. Natural farming, permaculture, regenerative agriculture, agroecology – there are many versions of sustainable agriculture, but the common thread they all tackle is the need to take better care of our soil and the environments in which we grow food. Why is this the least bit important to most people?

Food Security: The Urban Food Hubs Solution
Sabine OHara, Solutions Journal
Food security demands a diversified food system that includes urban communities as locations for food production, food preparation, food distribution, and waste reduction/reuse. The Urban Food Hubs concept of the College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences (CAUSES) of the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) tests the feasibility of small-scale urban food systems that include these four key components.

A Community Resilience Take on The Great Transition
Richard Heinberg
We can learn from crisis; cultural anthropology shows that. But, in this instance, we need to learn fast, and perhaps some organized effort to aid that process would be well spent. Planetary boundaries discourse could help explain to frightened masses why the world seems to be falling apart around them, while community resilience-building could help them adapt to changed conditions.

Destroying vs altering nature, the fragile vs the resilient Earth
Kurt Cobb
When we put nature in one category and humans in another, we make humans an outside and preeminent force over nature. We (falsely) imbue ourselves with god-like power to control nature. In this case, control means we get what we want without self-annihilating effects. For who could say that they are in control of a plummeting airliner headed for a crash just because they still have the ability to move the throttle.

News update

Alice In Shale Gas Wonderland
Julian Darley
It is hard to know where to begin regarding Ambrose Evans-Pritchards article entitled Energy crisis is postponed as new gas rescues the world. But since the speculative world he invokes has more to do with Alice In Wonderland than the hard reality of engineering and science, let us begin at the end.

Peak Oil, Ten or So Years On
Brian Kaller
This blog began seven years and almost a thousand posts ago, and I thought it a good time to take stock. Since the blog itself was inspired by the “peak oil” movement, and since it’s been ten years, by some measures, since the peak, I wanted to assess the state of that community as well.

Is the Age of Renewable Energy Already Upon Us?
Michael Klare
Future historians may look back on 2015 as the year that the renewable energy ascendancy began, the moment when the world started to move decisively away from its reliance on fossil fuels. Those fuels oil, natural gas, and coal will, of course, continue to dominate the energy landscape for years to come, adding billions of tons of heat-trapping carbon to the atmosphere. For the first time, however, it appears that a shift to renewable energy sources is gaining momentum. If sustained, it will have momentous implications for the world economy as profound as the shift from wood to coal or coal to oil in previous centuries.

Coal is dying all by itself
Grist.org
Coal, the No. 1 cause of climate change, is dying. Last year saw a record number of coal plant retirements in the United States, and a study last week from Duke University found that Even China, which produces and consumes more coal than the rest of the world put together, is expected to hit peak coal use within a decade, in order to meet its promise to President Barack Obama to reduce its carbon emissions starting in 2030.

One Of The Most Worrying Trends In Energy
Kurt Cobb
It should seem obvious that it takes energy to get energy. And, when it takes more energy to get the energy we want, this usually spells higher prices since the energy inputs used cost more. It shouldnt be surprising then, that as fossil fuels, which provide more than 80 percent of the power modern society uses, become more energy intensive to extract and refine, there is a growing drag on economic activity as more and more of the economys resources are devoted simply to getting the energy we want.

Putting the Real Story of Energy and the Economy Together
Gail Tverberg
What is the real story of energy and the economy? We hear two predominant energy stories. One is the story economists tell: The economy can grow forever; energy shortages will have no impact on the economy. Another version of the energy and the economy story is the view of many who believe in the “Peak Oil” theory. In my view, the real story of energy and the economy is much less favorable than either of these views. It is a story of oil limits that will make themselves known as financial limits, quite possibly in the near term—perhaps in as little time as a few months or years.

Chinese energy figures suggest much slower growth than advertised
Kurt Cobb
Last year China reported the slowest economic growth in 24 years, about 7.4 percent. But the true figure may actually be much lower, and the evidence is buried in electricity figures which show just 3.8 percent growth in electricity consumption.

Climate change: can the Seneca effect save us?
Ugo Bardi
The Seneca Cliff (or Seneca Collapse). The ancient Roman philosopher said The path of increase is slow, but the road to ruin is rapid. A Seneca Collapse of the worlds economy would surely reduce the chances of a climate disaster, but it would be a major disaster in itself and it might not even be enough.

Subsidies to industries that cause deforestation worth 100 times more than aid to prevent it
The Guardian UK
Brazil and Indonesia spent over 100 times more in subsidies to industries that cause deforestation than they received in international conservation aid to prevent it, according to a report by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI). The two countries handed out over $40bn (£27bn) in subsidies to the palm oil, timber, soy, beef and biofuels sectors between 2009 and 2012 – 126 times more than the $346m they received to preserve their rainforests from the United Nations’ (UN) REDD+ scheme, mostly from Norway and Germany.

Event: Badanavalu Satyagraha National Convention for Sustainable Living

scene from the play Yantra Rakshasa Mardini (Slaying of the Machine ...
Scene from Yantra Rakshasa Mardini (Slaying of the Machine), a play recently held in Bangalore in support of  Badanavalu Satyagraha. Pic courtesy: The New Indian Express

Over the last year and a half, a Handloom Satyagraha has been underway in and around the state of Karnataka. It was conducted by the All India Federation of Handloom Organizations. In December 2013, thousands of handloom weavers from across Karnataka marched several hundred kilometers in a campaign entitled ‘Banashankari Yatre’. In January 2014, an indefinite fast was observed demanding strict implementation of the Handloom Reservation Act. In December 2014, a fast until death campaign was undertaken in order to protest against the manufacture of imitation handloom products through powerlooms.

The federation has now decided to broad base the Satyagraha and include all organizations working towards sustainability into this campaign. Sustainability in agriculture, environment, labour, gender, language, folklore, culture and education, along with Khadhi and handlooms, is our motto. Badanavalu Satyagraha has now become a joint campaign of all consumers and producers of a sustainable production range. It is a joint campaign of the city people and the village poor. Read more…

Event: Badanavalu Satyagraha & National Convention for Sustainable Living

scene from the play Yantra Rakshasa Mardini (Slaying of the Machine ...
Scene from Yantra Rakshasa Mardini (Slaying of the Machine), a play recently held in Bangalore in support of  Badanavalu Satyagraha. Pic courtesy: The New Indian Express

Over the last year and a half, a Handloom Satyagraha has been underway in and around the state of Karnataka. It was conducted by the All India Federation of Handloom Organizations. In December 2013, thousands of handloom weavers from across Karnataka marched several hundred kilometers in a campaign entitled ‘Banashankari Yatre’. In January 2014, an indefinite fast was observed demanding strict implementation of the Handloom Reservation Act. In December 2014, a fast until death campaign was undertaken in order to protest against the manufacture of imitation handloom products through powerlooms.

The federation has now decided to broad base the Satyagraha and include all organizations working towards sustainability into this campaign. Sustainability in agriculture, environment, labour, gender, language, folklore, culture and education, along with Khadhi and handlooms, is our motto. Badanavalu Satyagraha has now become a joint campaign of all consumers and producers of a sustainable production range. It is a joint campaign of the city people and the village poor. Read more…

News update

Goldilocks Is Dead
Richard Heinberg
Five years ago I wrote an article for Reuters titled “Goldilocks and the Three Fuels.” In it, I discussed what I call the Goldilocks price zone for oil, natural gas, and coal, a zone in which prices are “just right”—high enough to reward producers but low enough to entice consumers. Ever since the start of the fossil fuel era, such a zone has existed, but not any more. This will have staggering consequences throughout the economy for the foreseeable future.

Cheap oil, complexity and counterintuitive conclusions
Kurt Cobb
It is a staple of oil industry apologists to say that the recent swift decline in the price of oil is indicative of long-term abundance. Cheerleaders for cheap oil only seem to consider the salutary effects of low-priced oil on the broader economy and skip mentioning the deleterious effects of high-priced oil. They seem to ignore the possibility that the previously high price of oil actually caused the economy to slow and thereby dampened demandwhich then led to a huge price decline.

The oil glut and low prices reflect an affordability problem
Gail Tverberg
For a long time, there has been a belief that the decline in oil supply will come by way of high oil prices. Demand will exceed supply. It seems to me that this view is backward–the decline in supply will come through low oil prices. The oil glut we are experiencing now reflects a worldwide affordability crisis. Because of a lack of affordability, demand is depressed.  This lack of demand keeps prices low–below the cost of production for many producers.

Costa Rica uses 100% renewable energy for past 75 days.
How are they doing it?

Christian Science Monitor
The entire country of Costa Rica is currently running on completely renewable energy and has been for 75 days now. Relying mainly on hydropower, Costa Rica has not used any fossil fuels to generate electricity since the beginning of 2015. The heavy rainfall over the past year has kept hydroplants busy enough to power nearly the whole country, with geothermal, wind, biomass, and solar energy making up the deficit, according to a press release from the Costa Rican Electricity Institute.

Pollinating species declining, reveals first global assessment
International Union for Conservation of Nature
According to a new study by IUCN and partners, the conservation status of pollinating bird and mammal species is deteriorating, with more species moving towards extinction than away from it. On average, 2.4 bird and mammal pollinator species per year have moved one IUCN Red List category towards extinction in recent decades, representing a substantial increase in extinction risk across this set of species.

As Himalayan Glaciers Melt, Two Towns Face the Fallout
Daniel Grossman, Yale Environment 360
For two towns in northern India, melting glaciers have had very different impacts — one town has benefited from flowing streams and bountiful harvests; but the other has seen its water supplies dry up and now is being forced to relocate.

The Politics of Extinction 
William deBuys, Tomdispatch.com
To grasp the breadth of the carnage now going on, it’s essential to realize that the war against nature is being waged on an almost infinite number of planetary fronts, affecting hundreds of species, and that the toll is already devastating. Among the battlefields, none may be bloodier than the forests of Southeast Asia, for they lie closest to China, the world’s most ravenous (and lucrative) market for wildlife and wildlife parts.

How do Empires hunt bears? The control of natural resources from ancient Rome to our times
Ugo Bardi, Resource Crisis
How did the Romans manage to keep their Empire together so well and for such a long time? It was, obviously a question of control. The entities we call states (and their more aggressive version known as empires) exist because the center can control the periphery. This control takes various forms, but, basically, it is the result of the financial system: money.

News update

Arctic sea ice extent hits record low for winter maximum
The Guardian, UK
Arctic sea ice has hit a record low for its maximum extent in winter, which scientists said was a result of climate change and abnormal weather patterns. The US National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) said on Thursday that at its peak the ice covered just over 14.5m sq km of the northern seas. This was 130,000 sq km smaller than the previous lowest maximum in 2011.

India: Machines drive 90% of power in farming, humans’ share drops to 5%
The Times of India
Silently, agriculture in India has gone through a far-reaching change in the past few decades. The share of human power available for carrying out the myriad operations in farming has shrunk to a mere 5% as has that of draught animals, the iconic oxen pulling the plough. More than 90% of the power is now drawn from mechanical sources: tractors and power tillers provide the bulk, 47%; electric motors 27% and diesel engines 16%.

Cheap Oil, Climate Change Mitigation and India
Shoibal Chakravarty, EPW
In this article, our objectives are twofold. We analyse the causes of the 2014 oil crash and its short-term impact
on the global economy. And we will complement this by considering the role that the oil crash might play in the long-term transition of the energy system that will be required to limit climate change. Finally, we discuss the outlook for India.

The Global Coal Boom Is Going Bust: Report
Mike Gaworecki, DeSmog Blog
A new report by CoalSwarm and the Sierra Club provides compelling evidence that the death knell for the global coal boom might very well have rung some time between 2010 and 2012. Based on data CoalSwarm compiled of every coal plant proposed worldwide for the past five years as part of its Global Coal Plant Tracker initiative, the report finds that for every coal plant that came online, plans for two other plants were put on hold or scrapped altogether.

Only Less Will Do
Richard Heinberg, Post Carbon Institute
Almost nobody likes to hear about the role of scale in our global environmental crisis. That’s because if growth is our problem, then the only real solution is to shrink the economy and reduce population. Population has grown from 4.4 billion in 1980 to 7.1 billion in 2013. Per capita consumption of energy has grown from less than 70 gigajoules to nearly 80 GJ per year. And we see the results: the world’s oceans are dying; species are going extinct at a thousand times the natural rate; and the global climate is careening toward chaos as multiple self-reinforcing feedback processes (including polar melting and methane release) kick into gear.

The Global Economy’s “Impeccable Logic”
Steven Gorelick, Local Futures ISEC Blog
To suggest that conventional economic thinking lacks a moral foundation is not to say that corporate CEOs and IMF economists have no moral or ethical values: most of them probably contribute to charity, feel tender thoughts towards their children and parents, and may even be angered at certain forms of injustice. The question here is whether there’s a moral dimension to the way conventional economics regards wealth inequality.

The Science of Peak Oil
Andrew McKay, Southern Limits
Peak oilers are accused of changing the definition of what peak oil actually means, therefore the entire concept of oil production peaking is rubbish. Far from a valid criticism however, this is actually a scientific virtue. If any scientist dogmatically stuck with a rigid theory as the data repeatedly proved that theory to be incorrect then that would be cause for great concern.

Photo-feature: Climate change in the Marshall Islands and Kiribati, before and after
Rémi Chauvin, Guardian UK
In the low-lying Pacific atolls of the Marshall Islands and Kiribati rising sea levels have made every high tide a dangerous event. Regular floods wash through villages causing damage to houses, killing crops and poisoning drinking water. In December 2014, photographer Rémi Chauvin recreated a set of historical images depicting the first impacts of climate change in these countries where no one lives more than a few metres above the sea.

Workshop: Conservation, Environmental Protection and Equity (Vizag, 28-29 March)

Andhra University, Visakhapatnam, 28-29 March 2015

A one and a half day workshop titled Ecological Resources Conservation, Environmental Protection and Equity Movements will be held on 2829 March as part of the XXXVIII Indian Social Science Congress to be held in Andhra University, Visakhapatnam between 29 March and 2 April 2015. The focal theme of the congress is Knowledge systems, scientific temper and the Indian people.

Objectives
The object of this workshop is to explore the possibility of finding common ground for the three types of people’s movements to dialogue and work together and to understand the practical linkages between local issues on which movements take place and their global causes.

Participants
The workshop is largely for activists from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana and will be conducted in Telugu. The activists should have participated in struggles against inequality or destructive development projects, or participated in conservation movements. Interested activists from other states may attend. The organizers will assist them to have whisper translation done. Read more…

Max Weber on energy and industrial civilisation

Max Weber Biography - Profile, Childhood, Personal Life, Major ...
The German sociologist, philosopher, and political economist Max Weber (1864-1920) is often cited, with Émile Durkheim and Karl Marx, as among the three founders of sociology. Weber is best known for his contention that ascetic Protestantism was the driving force behind market-driven capitalism and the rational-legal nation-state in the West. Against Marxs historical materialism, Weber emphasised the importance of cultural influences embedded in religion as a means for understanding the genesis of capitalism. This view was summed up in his magnum opus, The Protestant Ethic and The Spirit of Capitalism, one of the founding texts of Sociology.

But what interests us here is this intriguing passage, which comes towards the end of Webers classic book:
[The tremendous cosmos of the modern economic order] is now bound to the technical and economic conditions of machine production which to-day determine the lives of all the individuals who are born into this mechanism, not only those directly concerned with economic acquisition, with irresistible force. Perhaps it will so determine them until the last ton of fossilized coal is burnt.

According to John Bradford of the U.S. Mississippi State University, Not only does this passage eloquently articulate the binding imperatives engendered by the “modern economic order”, it also unambiguously contravenes the view that the classical theorists were unaware of the essential role that energy played in the creation and maintenance of that order.

Reviewing a work on Weber in the Times Literary Supplement, Prof Duncan Kelly of Cambridge University says, In The Protestant Ethic, [Weber] wrote that perhaps the mechanization of life would continue unchallenged until the last ounces of fossil fuel had been used up, and the danger was that we might simply fail to notice. In later work, such environmental imagery had turned into a worry about the future as a polar night of icy darkness.

Its interesting is that Weber aired this view nearly 110 years ago (The Protestant Ethic was completed in 1905). As Kelly says,  In our own age, where borderlands between environmental crisis, near-pathological boredom and disaffection with mainstream politics, and tensions driven by religion have if anything become more rigidly crippling than ever, Max Weber looks a more profound guide than we might care to think. And an overlooked one, we might add.


Download the e-book version of Webers classic:
The Protestant Ethic and The Spirit of Capitalism
Read John Bradfords essay: Energy and Limits to Growth

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