Archive for the tag “peak oil”

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.

News update

Can Solar be the Backbone of Indias Energy System by 2035?
Tobias Engelmeier, The Energy Collective
Around 70% of India’s power comes from coal, less than 1% from solar. Will that change in the next 20 years? Can solar become the new backbone of the Indian energy system? I think there is a good possibility that it will. Here is a thought experiment.

Is Big Oil Finally Entering a Climate Change World?
Michael Klare, TomDispatch
Many reasons have been provided for the dramatic plunge in the price of oil to about $60 per barrel (nearly half of what it was a year ago): slowing demand due to global economic stagnation; overproduction at shale fields in the United States; the decision of the Saudis and other Middle Eastern OPEC producers to maintain output at current levels; and the increased value of the dollar. There is, however, one reason that’s not being discussed, and yet it could be the most important of all: the complete collapse of Big Oil’s production-maximizing business model.

Keep fossil fuels in the ground to stop climate change
George Monbiot
You cannot solve a problem without naming it. The absence of official recognition of the role of fossil fuel production in causing climate change – blitheringly obvious as it is – permits governments to pursue directly contradictory policies. There is nothing random about the pattern of silence that surrounds our lives. Silences occur where powerful interests are at risk of exposure. They protect these interests from democratic scrutiny.

Climate Justice and Degrowth: a tale of two movements
Tadzio Müller, Degrowth blog
While degrowth is a story that is largely articulated in the global North, a story that speaks from and to sensibilities that exist largely in the North, climate justice is a movement and a story that it articulated and led by folks in the global South.

Find a new way to tell the story how the Guardian launched its climate change campaign
The Guardian UK
Climate change is the biggest story journalism has never successfully told. The Guardian’s editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger, has decided to change that. This podcast series follows Rusbridger and his team as they set out to find a new narrative on the greatest threat to humanity

Peak meaninglessness
John Michael Greer
Secular stagnation? That’s the concept, unmentionable until recently, that the global economy could stumble into a rut of slow, no, or negative growth, and stay there for years. And the most important cause of secular stagnation is the increasing impact of externalities on the economy, hidden by dishonest macroeconomic bookkeeping that leads economists to think that externalized costs go away because they’re not entered into anyone’s ledger books.

Can the world get richer forever?
Theo Leggett, BBC News
We live on a finite planet, but growth is exponential. So an annual increase in gross domestic product (GDP) of 3% might not sound like much but it means an economy will double in size every 23 years. So does this matter? According to Tom Murphy, professor of physics at the University of California San Diego, it definitely does, as economic growth goes hand in hand with increasing energy consumption.

We need regenerative farming, not geoengineering
Charles Eisenstein
Geoengineering has been back in the news recently after the US National Research Council endorsed a proposal to envelop the planet in a layer of sulphate aerosols to reduce solar radiation and cool the atmosphere. The mindset behind geoengineering stands in sharp contrast to an emerging ecological, systems approach taking shape in the form of regenerative agriculture. More than a mere alternative strategy, regenerative agriculture represents a fundamental shift in our culture’s relationship to nature.

News update

Can Solar be the Backbone of Indias Energy System by 2035?
Tobias Engelmeier, The Energy Collective
Around 70% of India’s power comes from coal, less than 1% from solar. Will that change in the next 20 years? Can solar become the new backbone of the Indian energy system? I think there is a good possibility that it will. Here is a thought experiment.

Is Big Oil Finally Entering a Climate Change World?
Michael Klare, TomDispatch
Many reasons have been provided for the dramatic plunge in the price of oil to about $60 per barrel (nearly half of what it was a year ago): slowing demand due to global economic stagnation; overproduction at shale fields in the United States; the decision of the Saudis and other Middle Eastern OPEC producers to maintain output at current levels; and the increased value of the dollar. There is, however, one reason that’s not being discussed, and yet it could be the most important of all: the complete collapse of Big Oil’s production-maximizing business model.

Keep fossil fuels in the ground to stop climate change
George Monbiot
You cannot solve a problem without naming it. The absence of official recognition of the role of fossil fuel production in causing climate change – blitheringly obvious as it is – permits governments to pursue directly contradictory policies. There is nothing random about the pattern of silence that surrounds our lives. Silences occur where powerful interests are at risk of exposure. They protect these interests from democratic scrutiny.

Climate Justice and Degrowth: a tale of two movements
Tadzio Müller, Degrowth blog
While degrowth is a story that is largely articulated in the global North, a story that speaks from and to sensibilities that exist largely in the North, climate justice is a movement and a story that it articulated and led by folks in the global South.

Find a new way to tell the story how the Guardian launched its climate change campaign
The Guardian UK
Climate change is the biggest story journalism has never successfully told. The Guardian’s editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger, has decided to change that. This podcast series follows Rusbridger and his team as they set out to find a new narrative on the greatest threat to humanity

Peak meaninglessness
John Michael Greer
Secular stagnation? That’s the concept, unmentionable until recently, that the global economy could stumble into a rut of slow, no, or negative growth, and stay there for years. And the most important cause of secular stagnation is the increasing impact of externalities on the economy, hidden by dishonest macroeconomic bookkeeping that leads economists to think that externalized costs go away because they’re not entered into anyone’s ledger books.

Can the world get richer forever?
Theo Leggett, BBC News
We live on a finite planet, but growth is exponential. So an annual increase in gross domestic product (GDP) of 3% might not sound like much but it means an economy will double in size every 23 years. So does this matter? According to Tom Murphy, professor of physics at the University of California San Diego, it definitely does, as economic growth goes hand in hand with increasing energy consumption.

We need regenerative farming, not geoengineering
Charles Eisenstein
Geoengineering has been back in the news recently after the US National Research Council endorsed a proposal to envelop the planet in a layer of sulphate aerosols to reduce solar radiation and cool the atmosphere. The mindset behind geoengineering stands in sharp contrast to an emerging ecological, systems approach taking shape in the form of regenerative agriculture. More than a mere alternative strategy, regenerative agriculture represents a fundamental shift in our culture’s relationship to nature.

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

News update

Lester Brown: Vast dust bowls threaten tens of millions with hunger
The Guardian, UK
Vast tracts of Africa and of China are turning into dust bowls on a scale that dwarfs the one that devastated the US in the 1930s, one of the world’s pre-eminent environmental thinkers has warned. Over 50 years, the writer Lester Brown has gained a reputation for anticipating global trends. Now as Brown, 80, enters retirement, he fears the world may be on the verge of a greater hunger than he has ever seen in his professional lifetime

As Antarctica Melts Away, Seas Could Rise Ten Feet Within 100 Years
Common Dreams
Rapid melting of Antarctic ice could push sea levels up 10 feet worldwide within two centuries, recurving heavily populated coastlines and essentially reshaping the world, the Associated Press has reported. The Antarctic Peninsula, including the vulnerable West Antarctic ice sheet, is the region of the continent warming fastest because the land juts out in the warmer ocean. According to NASA, it is losing 49 billion tons of ice each year.

Researchers Link Syrian Conflict to a Drought Made Worse by Climate Change
The New York Times
Drawing one of the strongest links yet between global warming and human conflict, researchers have said that an extreme drought in Syria between 2006 and 2009 was most likely due to climate change, and that the drought was a factor in the violent uprising that began there in 2011. The drought was the worst in the country in modern times, and the scientists laid the blame for it on a century-long trend toward warmer and drier conditions in the Eastern Mediterranean, rather than on natural climate variability.

Seeing is believing as scientists trace greenhouse effect
Climate News Network
Government scientists in the US say they have directly observed for the first time the greenhouse effect in action. Their measurements, taken over a period of 11 years in Alaska and Oklahoma, confirm predictions made more than 100 years ago, and repeatedly examined: there is a greenhouse effect, and the greenhouse gas that most helps the world warm is carbon dioxide.

The Paradox of Oil: The Cheaper it is, the More it Costs
Samuel Alexander, Simplicity Institute
The only reason oil can be considered ‘cheap’ is because the environmental costs of oil consumption are ‘externalised’. If the costs of climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution, and resource depletion were built into the price of oil, there is no way it would be ‘cheap’. And what of the social and economic costs that will be borne by future generations? This is the paradox of oil: the cheaper it is, the more it costs.

Peak fossil fuel won’t stop climate change – but it could help
Gary Ellem, The Conversation
Fossil fuels are ultimately a finite resource – the definition of non-renewable energy. Burning of these fuels – coal, oil and gas – is the main driver of climate change. So could the peak of fossil fuels help mitigate warming? The short answer is maybe … but perhaps not how you might think. In a paper published this month in the journal Fuel, my colleagues and I suggest that limits to fossil fuel availability might take climate Armageddon off the table, although we will still need to keep some fossil fuels in the ground for the best chance of keeping warming below 2C.

Big Oil Drop Project
BBC news
The BBC has launched its Big Oil Drop project, a series of interconnected online articles and data packages, alongside broadcast pieces. The idea is a pretty simple one. Every now and again amid all the swirling reports and breaking news it is worth taking a pause and bringing together what we know about the most important resource in the world. Read sample article: Oil: Shocking how vital it still is

Who controls our food?
Nick Dearden, New Internationalist blog
‘It’s a nice idea, when you can afford it’ sums up the approach of many people to organic farming. But extending these principles of production to the whole food system? It just doesn’t seem practical. But a new report from Global Justice Now, From The Roots Up, shows that not only can small-scale organically produced food feed the world, but it can do so better than intensive, corporate-controlled agriculture.

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