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 A simple way to understand what’s happening … and what to do

The world seems to be coming apart at the seams. It’s critical to understand why, so that we can avoid the worst and find the best responses so as to move toward the environmentally and socially healthy future we want. It turns out that there’s a relatively simple frame for gaining such understanding.

This straightforward explanation proposes that the main force driving societal change is available energy—an assertion that’s backed by a substantial amount of scientific research. Those with the patience and curiosity to investigate further can find other contributing factors to societal evolution—technology, investment, laws regarding property rights, histories of injustice, and more, many of which entail complex systemic interactions that take time to tease apart and comprehend mentally. These are important. But not as important as energy.

Energy is necessary in order for any organism to do anything whatsoever. For humans, food is energy that powers labor. But, in addition, people long ago learned how to harness energy from fire, water, and wind. Using firewood, paddlewheels, and sails, we built agrarian societies with irrigation systems, cities, cathedrals, mills, and seagoing ships, and created some pretty great art, music, and literature along the way. People also used energy from various sources to engage in wars and conquests, and to enslave millions of others in order to steal the fruits of their forced labor. In addition, humans deforested enormous regions to harvest firewood, and ruined millions of acres of soil with unsustainable farming methods.

When humans started using fossil fuels, a couple of centuries ago, they gained access to millions of years’ worth of solar energy that nature had gathered, stored, and transformed into energy sources that were far superior, at least over the short term, to firewood. It was a game-changing moment.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Has oil peaked?

Last month, the world’s 4th largest oil company—BP—predicted that the world will never again consume as much petroleum as it did last year. So, have we finally hit peak oil? And if so, what does that mean for our economy and our world?

There was fierce controversy in the first decade of this century over claims by petroleum geologists and energy commentators that peak oil was imminent (I was a figure in that debate, writing several books on the topic). Most of those early claims were based on analysis of oil depletion and consequent supply constraints. BP, however, is talking about a peak in oil demand—which, according to its forecast, could fall by more than 10 percent this decade and as much as 50 percent over the next 20 years if the world takes strong action to limit climate change.

Source: PeakOilBarrel.com; production in thousands of barrels per day.

Numbers from the US Energy Information Administration’s Monthly Review tell us that world oil production (not counting biofuels and natural gas liquids) actually hit its zenith, so far at least, in November 2018, nearly reaching 84.5 million barrels per day. After that, production rates stalled, then plummeted in response to collapsing demand during the coronavirus pandemic. The current production level stands at about 76 mb/d.

Many early peak oil analysts predicted that the maximum rate of oil production would be achieved in the 2005-to-2010 timeframe, after which supplies would decline minimally at first, then more rapidly, causing prices to skyrocket and the economy to crash.

Those forecasters were partly right and partly wrong. Conventional oil production did plateau starting in 2005, and oil prices soared in 2007, helping trigger the Great Recession.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Natural gas

Natural gas

In the eastern Mediterranean it smells of powder. Fighter jets from various countries fly over the Levantine Basin and frigates are on a collision course. These are not exercises. It is a crisis reminiscent of the conflict between Ankara and Athens in the 1970s or even the beginning of the First World War. This time it is not just about the ambitions of Greece or Turkey, small islands or a dead prince, but about the struggle for energy. In the Levantine Basin, ever larger deposits of natural gas are being discovered and there are many who would like a piece of the cake.

Back in 2010, the American company Noble Energy and its Israeli exploration partner Derrick Drilling discovered the largest gas field only 130 km from Haifa. A year later, French Total confirmed another deposit with a volume of 127 billion m3. The researchers suspect a total of 3.5 trillion cubic metres of natural gas and 1.7 billion barrels of crude oil deep in the rock beneath the seabed. How much is that actually? Certainly enough to fill the coffers of the states bordering the Mediterranean and make a solid contribution to Western Europe’s energy supply. By way of comparison, the total natural gas consumption in the European Union in 2019 was around 470 billion cubic metres. No wonder, then, that the areas between Cyprus, Turkey, the Greek islands, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt and Libya became the scene of a conflict that could well turn into a war. It would not be a local war because the conflict and possible gains also involve other actors whose interests could be disrupted by the gas from the eastern Mediterranean, even though their geopolitical interests appear to lie elsewhere.


The natural gas alliances in the Eastern Mediterranean or who with whom against whom?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

THE INSANITY CONTINUES: Massive Diesel Engines Used To Balance Australia’s Renewable Energy Fiasco

THE INSANITY CONTINUES: Massive Diesel Engines Used To Balance Australia’s Renewable Energy Fiasco

Thus, if we have stupid solutions then we must use stupid bandaids.  Again, the insanity continues.

The credit for the information in this brief article goes to StopTheseThings.com, which focuses on the problems associated with wind and solar power generation.  The article, Ships Ahoy! Giant Diesel-Fuelled Ship Engines ‘Solution’ For Australia’s Renewable Energy Crisis, provided me a few good laughs and the desire to share it on the SRSroccoReport.com.

Here is a picture of the Wartsila 50DF Diesel Ship Engine:

Notice the two workers next to the engine?  That should give you an idea of the size of this beast.  According to the article linked above, AGL Energy Limited has installed 12 of these engines at the Barker Inlet Power Station in Torres Island, Australia.  The total output from these dozen ship engines is rated at 210 MW (MegaWatts).

Here’s another picture of Wartsila’s 50DF Diesel Ship Engine at the factory plant.

These Wartsila engines can run on diesel, natural gas, and bunker oil.  Can you imagine how much fuel a dozen of these engines consume to balance the power lost from wind and solar generation??  If you read the article linked above, which I highly recommend, wind power generated in Southern Australia can see drops of 3,000 MWs!!

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

If Trudeau Suddenly Looks Green, Here’s Why

If Trudeau Suddenly Looks Green, Here’s Why

Fossil fuels flagging, the economy demands reinvention. Expect a bold gamble of a throne speech.

Justin Trudeau’s imminent green gamble, casting the dice with long odds against rolling lucky eleven, is a risky move.

On Sept. 23, Trudeau will put his government, and his legacy, on the line with a throne speech. It faces a confidence vote. If the Liberals should lose that vote, the government would fall.

Then Canadians would be plunged into their first national campaign held during a pandemic, left to scratch their heads over myriad questions.

Who would the citizenry blame for sending them to the polls with COVID-19 still very much on the prowl?

How would newly minted CPC leader Erin O’Toole, a Harper retread, have a chance of winning? It doesn’t help that the convention that crowned him on national television looked like it was run by Curly, Larry, and Moe. Then there was that disingenuous victory handshake with Peter MacKay, the leadership rival O’Toole asked the RCMP to investigate as a thief. Worst of all, O’Toole is the invisible man of politics. Most voters wouldn’t recognize the new CPC leader if he were standing beside them at the bus-stop wearing an Erin O’Toole t-shirt.

Despite denials from party stalwarts, the NDP don’t have enough chips to even sit at the high-stakes poker table of a national election. How could Jagmeet Singh be competitive if the party can’t afford to lease a plane for their national leader, as was the case in 2019?

In that election, the NDP plunged from 44 seats in 2015 to a mere 24 in 2019, making them the fourth party in parliament behind the Liberals, Conservatives, and Bloc Québécois.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Coal Curse – A Review

The Coal Curse – A Review

Governments are abrogating their first responsibility, which is to safeguard the people and their future well-being.

The first part of historian Judith Brett’s Quarterly Essay, The Coal Curse – Resources, Climate and Australia’s Future, is a masterly dissection of Australian economic history since WW2.

Credit – Unsplash

It brings into sharp focus the divide between the protectionist – primary producer and manufacturing – forces of the immediate post-war period and the gradual shift to a neoliberal globalist model which favoured the mining sector.  The transition was marked by the Hawke/Keating 1983 decision to float the dollar, and Paul Keating’s “Banana Republic” outburst three years later as commodity prices and the exchange rate fell, illustrating the dangers of an overly rigid economic system being left too late to reinvent itself in a rapidly globalising world.

Luckily, economic expansion in Asia in the 1970s, 80s and 90s provided relief as demand for primary products soared – agriculture as before, but increasingly minerals and fossil fuels, notably coal and most recently gas.

The essay documents how the mining industry – minerals and fossil fuels – came together in the 1970s to convince a sceptical polity and community of its value to the nation. Initially through: “—the Australian New Right, a loose network of conservative men – and a few women – in high places, who combined a zeal for free-market economics with opposition to the progressive causes of the 1970s, including land rights and environmentalism.” – working through think tanks such as the Institute of Public Affairs and the Centre for Independent Studies.

The network honed their teeth in opposing indigenous land rights and native title, and gradually accrued political influence as the economic importance of mining exports increased. Then, when the need to address climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels became obvious in the 1990s, the network swung into action to oppose anything which would constrain growth in fossil fuel use – namely reducing carbon emissions.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

I’m Sian, and I’m a fossil fuel addict: on paradox, disavowal and (im)possibility in changing climate change

I’m Sian, and I’m a fossil fuel addict: on paradox, disavowal and (im)possibility in changing climate change

Once upon a time in the wild west

Sometimes life brings experiences that give pause for thought.

In recent years I have returned to west Namibia to work with elders of families I’ve known for over almost 30 years – a legacy of a childhood split between Britain and southern Africa. We have been documenting histories of land connections prior to a series of clearances of people from large areas of the west Namibian landscape, that occurred some decades ago.1 Often now perceived as an untouched and pristine wilderness, our work instead draws into focus a landscape intimately known, named and remembered by people who once lived there. Oral histories recorded as we find and revisit places my companions knew as home, have increasingly struck a chord as a record of lives lived more-or-less untouched by fossil fuels.

In the contemporary terms defined by modernity, industrialisation and capital, theirs was an economically impoverished existence. But this is not how they define and describe their experience.

Beyond the nostalgia that people tend to have for times past, their prior existence is valued in some of the following ways:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

What Kenney Had to Kill to Embrace Coal

What Kenney Had to Kill to Embrace Coal

Alberta’s 1976 Coal Policy protected vital drinking water supplies for much of the province. That’s gone now.

kenney-main-coal.jpg
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. His government, after being heavily lobbied by coal interests, opted to open a huge swath of sensitive Rocky Mountains land to open pit mining, rendering longstanding protections ‘obsolete.’ Photo by Jason Franson, the Canadian Press.

Under the cover of a pandemic, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney quietly wiped away a near half-century of safeguards against open pit coal mining in most of the province’s Rocky Mountains and foothills.

The result could be the stripping away of mountain tops across more than a million and half hectares of terrain — about half the size of Vancouver Island.

Gone, as of last May, is the province’s 1976 Coal Policy, which protected the headwaters of rivers that secure drinking water for Canadians across the prairies.

The Coal Policy was established by the Progressive Conservative government then led by Peter Lougheed, based on nearly six years of active public consultations. It was quietly axed this spring without input by First Nations or the wider public.

In fact, Kenney’s government only talked to one group, the Coal Association of Canada. (See this related story published today on The Tyee.)The Tyee is supported by readers like you Join us and grow independent media in Canada

That lobbying group is directed by Robin Campbell, a former Tory provincial environmental minister.

Now a handful of largely Australian-owned corporations intent on serving metallurgical coal markets in India and China are poised to begin transforming Alberta’s eastern slopes into an industrial mining zone.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

What a milk carton can tell us

What a milk carton can tell us

On the package of organic milk from Coop (Sweden) I can read the plastic cap is made out of oil. For some reason they can’t use biodegradeable plastic made from renewable sources. Instead they “support the production of the same quantity of renewable plastic somewhere else”. In addition they claim that they through this can reduce the use of fossil raw materials. This is supposed to make me feel good.  

In this way, the package of milk illuminates two common phenomena in how modern businesses handle, or not, environmental challenges. The first is the notion of “compensation”, i.e. that we can compensate an ill by doing something good somewhere else. The prime example is of course climate compensation or carbon offset, which it often is called. But there are other examples such as habitat banking whereby you pay someone to provide ecosystems or species which you have destroyed. And now plastic compensation. There are many things to say about the notion that you can compensate for destruction. It leads to financialization and privatization of nature (read this excellent article by Sian Sullivan) and it often means that poor peoples’ environment will be used to compensate rich peoples lifestyle (e.g.. when you compensate your flight with tree planting in developing countries).

Instead, let me instead probe the other message of the milk package: That you can “save” or “reduce use” of fossil fuels using renewable plastics. In the case of my organic milk this is greenwashing in its purest shape. Before Coop introduced the plastic cap, the package had no cap, but the carton could easily be opened and closed. By introducing a cap of made out of oil Coop clearly increases the use of fossil fuels.  But they look at the situation differently.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Turkey Rejects US & EU Calls To Cease East-Med Gas Drilling As Greece Threatens Military Action

Turkey Rejects US & EU Calls To Cease East-Med Gas Drilling As Greece Threatens Military Action

Days after the US State Department warned Turkey over its gas reserves exploration and drilling plans in waters between Cyprus and Greece, which Athens has declared ‘illegal’ given it cuts into Greece’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), the European Union has also put Turkey on notice, warning it could move forward with sanctions.

French President Emmanuel Macron said late this week that it’s “not acceptable for the maritime space of a European Union member state to be violated or threatened” and called for sanctions if it moves forward. On Tuesday a US State Department statement demanded that Turkey back down from its drilling plans which have put the Greek Navy on “high alert” – given Turkish exploration ships are already in or near Greek waters.

Greek media sources are now reporting that Turkey through its embassy in Washington DC has informed the Americans that it plans to proceed unimpeded with its drilling research with the Oruc Reis vessel in the disputed eastern Mediterranean watersTurkey’s seismic exploration ship Oruc Reise in the Eastern Mediterranean this week, via Anadolu Agency.

“We urge Turkish authorities to halt any plans for operations and to avoid steps that raise tensions in the region,” the statement said. And Greece’s foreign ministry said it clearly violates the country’s sovereignty and that it stands ready to defend its territory.

Turkey has so far rejected all demands from the US, EU, Greece and Cyprus that it back down. Turkey’s Daily Sabah newspaper cited President Erdogan’s office as follows:Turkey rejects Greece’s “maximalist” objectives in the Eastern Mediterranean, which lack a legal basis and disregards logic, Presidential Spokesperson Ibrahim Kalın said Thursday.

Kalın highlighted that Turkey opposes the rhetoric of threats and favors an equal distribution of resources.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

‘Overt Bastardization of the Truth’: Valve Turner Listed as ‘Extremist’ by U.S. Government Faces Upcoming Trial

‘Overt Bastardization of the Truth’: Valve Turner Listed as ‘Extremist’ by U.S. Government Faces Upcoming Trial

The valve turners recently listed by Homeland Security as “extremists” believe their action of shutting down 15 percent of the daily U.S. oil supply on Oct. 11, 2016 was their only option of fighting the climate crisis.

Valve turner Ken Ward of Climate Direct Action is going to trial this spring for the third time. He is charged with burglary and sabotage. EcoWatch teamed up with Ward and his attorney Lauren Regan, the executive director and co-founder of Civil Liberties Defense Center, on EcoWatch Live to share what this trial means for climate activists and why the U.S. government is listing some of these peaceful activists alongside mass murderers and white supremacists.

Watch the interview here:

“In a fairly short period of time, after making some phone calls to pipeline companies, we broke in to enclosures, cut some chains, closed what are called safety block valves and closed down all five pipelines that carry tar sands oil from Canada into the U.S.,” Ward said of the October 2016 direct action. It “might count as the most significant thing I’ve ever done on climate.”

Ward, who has been working in energy policy since 1978, including a variety of strategic approaches to climate change says “what sociologists and political scientists are demonstrating is that faced with this kind of situation, faced with an intractable political environment, where powerful industries have billions to spend … the single most effective thing that you can do is do engage in nonviolent direct action.”

Five members of Climate Direct Action are seen before a coordinated effort to turn off valves on a pipeline in four states. Climate Direct Action

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Trump’s Golden Era of Energy Is Turning to Lead

Trump’s Golden Era of Energy Is Turning to Lead

 A drilling rig on a former ranch outside of Barstow, Texas, in the Permian Basin

It was just over a year ago that President Trump announced, “The golden era of American energy is now underway,” saying that his policies focused on exploiting oil, gas, and coal were “unleashing energy dominance.” 

What a difference a year makes. On July 10, the Financial Times ran an article with a headline that asked, “Is the party finally over for U.S. oil and gas?” And there is no doubt that it has been quite a party for the last decade. At least, for the fracking executives who have enriched themselves while losing hundreds of billions of dollars investors gave them to produce oil and gas. Meanwhile, profits never materialized.

Lately, prospects for the broader fossil fuel industry look more like lead than gold.

For starters, the oil and gas industry in America is facing an era of losses, bankruptcies, canceled projects, and declining demand. It is highly likely that history will show that this point in time was the beginning of the golden era of renewable energy and the decline of the fossil fuel industry. 

Fracked Shale Oil and Gas Industry Failing

President Trump’s 2016 campaign was backed heavily by the oil and gas industry, with strong support from fracking CEOs like Continental Resources’ Harold Hamm. The story of record American oil production due to fracking was even being touted by President Obama, who rightfully took credit for the fracking boom that occurred on his watch. That’s despite President Trump recently taking credit for it as well. 

But as we have documented over the last two years at DeSmog, the fracked oil industry has been a financial failure for more than the past decade. The industry produced record amounts of oil and gas but lost huge sums of money in the process. And now even industry leaders are admitting the U.S. oil industry has already peaked, a little more than a year after President Trump declared the beginning of the “golden era.” 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

THE GREEN ELECTRIC CAR MYTH: 772 Pounds Of Petro-Chemical Plastics In Each Vehicle

THE GREEN ELECTRIC CAR MYTH: 772 Pounds Of Petro-Chemical Plastics In Each Vehicle

How can an electric car be called “Green” when it contains more than 700 pounds of plastic??  Electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers are using more plastic to lower the weight of the car due to the massive battery used, weighing more than 1,000 pounds.  Unfortunately, plastic is still made from petrochemicals, the so-called “Dirty Fossil-fuel Industry.”

So, without petrochemicals, the manufacture of electric cars would be extremely difficult without plastic.  And the primary feedstock for plastic is natural gas liquids (NGLs).  Due to the rapid rise in NGLs production, especially in the United States, plastic production has surged.  We can see in the chart below, that the United States accounted for nearly 90% of global NGLs production growth since 2007.

So, with all this extra NGLs production, the United States has a monopoly on the Global NGLs Feedstock for going GREEN.  Of the 3.8 million barrels per day (mbd) of NGLs global production growth since 2007, the United States added 3.4 mbd of that total.

In tearing apart the “Green Electric Vehicle Myth,” I will focus this article only on the plastic component.

There seems to be this notion that cars manufactured 50 years ago were much heavier than vehicles today due to a higher percentage of metals used.  This turns out to be false when we look at the data.  According to an Autoweek article by Murliee Martin titled, 50 years of car weight gain: from the Chevelle to the Sonic, the Fairlane to the Focus, a 1967 mid-sized Chevy Chevelle weighed in at 2,915 pounds versus a 2,955 pounds for a 2017 Chevy Sonic subcompact car:

(image courtesy of Autoweek.com, General Motors & Pinterest)

Looks are deceiving… eh?  If you read the article linked above, the 1967 Chevy Chevelle with all that metal and very little plastic actually weighed 40 pounds less than the subcompact 2017 Chevy Sonic.  Go figure…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

On the Edge of the Cliff: We need a new way of seeing the world

On the Edge of the Cliff: We need a new way of seeing the world

A new blog by Ugo Bardi, “The Proud Holobionts”
Long-term predictive models don’t have a very good record, but some turned out to be prophetic. One case is that of Hubbert’s 1956 prediction of a peak in the production of fossil energy shortly after the start of the 21st century. He was optimistic about the possibility of replacing fossil fuels with nuclear energy, but, apart from that, he was right on target. Now we are on the edge of the cliff and we have to take a different attitude toward the ecosystem that supports our existence. The concept of “Holobiont” may help us a lot in this task. We are holobionts, the ecosystem is a larger holobiont, we must find a way to live together. 

The American geologist Marion King Hubbert deserves the credit of having been the first to see the main trends of the 21st century, nearly 50 years before it were to start. In his 1956 paper, Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels, he presented the figure above: a bold attempt to place the human experience with energy on a 10,000 years scale.

Of course, Hubbert was overly optimistic about nuclear energy which, in reality, started declining before fossil fuels did. But, with this graphic, Hubbert had laid down the human predicament, several years in advance with respect to “The Limits to Growth” (1972). Catton’s “overshoot” (1980), and many others. Without a miracle that could replace fossils well before they would start declining, the human world as it was in the 20th center was doomed. Nuclear energy was not, and could not have been, that miracle.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Can Geothermal power make up for declining fossil fuels?

Can Geothermal power make up for declining fossil fuels?

Preface. Geothermal power plants are cost justified only in places where volcanic or tectonic activity brings heat close to the surface, mainly in “ring of fire” nations and volcanic hot spots like Hawaii.   Even then drilling can only be done where the rocks below are fractured in certain ways with particular chemistries.  A great deal of heat needs to be fairly close to the surface as well, since drilling deeply is quite expensive.

The reasons drilling is so difficult and expensive are:

  1. You have to remove all the rock you’ve cut from the hole which gets harder and harder as the hole gets deeper
  2. Drilling erodes the drill bit and pipe so you have to keep replacing them
  3. Drilling heats the rock up, so it has to be cooled down to keep the equipment from getting damaged
  4. The deeper you go, the hotter it gets, and the more expensive the drilling equipment gets using special metallurgy
  5. the fluids wreak havoc on boreholes by destroying their liners and concrete plugs, and are very corrosive,  it’s scary stuff (Oberhaus 2020)
  6. Pipes have to be thick and heavy to survive pumping pressures, about 40-50 pounds per foot. A deep well might have a million pounds of piping.  Just its own weight can break it if not well made, and at some point it’s hard to find hoisting equipment with enough power to lift it
  7. If the rocks aren’t stable, the hole may collapse
  8. There are often pressurized fluids that want to flow up the hole that can cause a dangerous blowout
  9. Some deep rock leaches toxic or radioactive materials, which increases costs to dispose of them and can make the drilling equipment hazards to touch

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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