Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Peak Oil Crisis: 2012 – Apocalypse Now?

A case can be made that some very bad things might be coming in the next year or so

This would not be a biblical apocalypse or even a Mayan one, but rather an event of our own making. The world has made so many problems for itself in recent decades that the whole edifice of civilization is showing signs of coming unglued.

This sort of thing has happened within living memory - remember 1914 and 1939 - so a year in which much comes undone should not come as a great surprise. If you are looking for a general theory of what is about to happen to us, you might start with Joseph Tainter's The Collapse of Complex Societies in which the author identifies 17 examples of rapid societal collapse. In a nutshell, if anybody thinks the Roman Empire collapsed from too much complexity, one should look at the U.S. tax code or the efforts to refinance the EU's sovereign debt. Compared to the machinations of the 7 billion people currently running around the world, the Romans were running a kindergarten.

Whether the global civilization, or significant parts thereof, comes unstuck sooner or later is obviously a judgment call, but a case can be made that some very bad things might be coming in the next year or so. There would seem to be two fundamental problems behind the coming upheavals. One is that we are running into constraints on resources and the other is that the OECD nations have simply accumulated so much debt that it is unlikely to ever be repaid. No one ever thinks of the atmosphere's ability to absorb and carry off carbon emissions as a resource, but as the world's climate changes for the worse, that is exactly what it is. It could easily turn out over the course of the next 10 decades, that the atmosphere's ability to absorb greenhouse gases turns out to be far more important than reserves of fossil fuels. More

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Harnessing the Sun's Energy for Water and Space Heating

The pace of solar energy development is accelerating as the installation of rooftop solar water heaters takes off. Unlike solar photovoltaic (PV) panels that convert solar radiation into electricity, these "solar thermal collectors" use the sun's energy to heat water, space, or both.

China had an estimated 168 million square meters (1.8 billion square feet) of rooftop solar thermal collectors installed by the end of 2010—nearly two thirds of the world total.  This is equivalent to 118,000 thermal megawatts of capacity, enough to supply 112 million Chinese households with hot water.  With some 5,000 Chinese companies manufacturing these devices, this relatively simple low-cost technology has leapfrogged into villages that do not yet have electricity. For as little as $200, villagers can install a rooftop solar collector and take their first hot shower. This technology is sweeping China like wildfire, already approaching market saturation in some communities. Beijing’s goal is to reach 300 million square meters of rooftop solar water heating capacity across the country by 2020, a goal it is likely to exceed. 
Other developing countries such as India and Brazil may also soon see millions of households turning to this inexpensive water heating technology. Once the initial installment cost of rooftop solar water heaters is paid back, the hot water is essentially free.

In Europe, where energy costs are relatively high, rooftop solar water heaters are also spreading fast. In Austria, 15 percent of all households now rely on them for hot water. Germany is also forging ahead. Some 2 million Germans are now living in homes with rooftop solar systems. Roughly 30 percent of the installed solar thermal capacity in these two countries consists of “solar combi-systems” that are engineered to heat both water and space.

The U.S. rooftop solar water heating industry has historically concentrated on a niche market—selling and marketing more than 9 million square meters of solar water heaters for swimming pools between 1995 and 2005. Given this base, the industry was poised to mass-market residential solar water and space heating systems when federal tax credits were introduced in 2006. Led by Hawaii, California, and Florida, annual U.S. installations of these systems have more than tripled since 2005. More

Thursday, December 8, 2011

What Peak Oil Looks Like


There are times when the unraveling of a civilization stands out in sharp relief, but more often that process makes itself seen only in the sort of scattered facts and figures that take a sharp eye to notice and assemble into a meaningful picture. How often, I wonder, did the prefects of imperial Rome look up from the daily business of mustering legions and collecting tribute to notice the crumbling of the foundations on which their whole society rested?
Nowadays, certainly, that broader vision is hard to find. It’s symptomatic that in the last few weeks I’ve  fielded a fair number of emails insisting that the peak oil theory—of course it’s not a theory at all; it’s a hard fact that the extraction of a finite oil supply in the ground will sooner or later reach a peak and begin to decline—has been rendered obsolete by the latest flurry of enthusiastic claims about shale oil and the like. Enthusiastic claims about the latest hot new oil prospect are hardly new, and indeed they’ve been central to cornucopian rhetoric since M. King Hubbert’s time. A decade ago, it was the Caspian Sea oilfields that were being invoked as supposedly conclusive evidence that a peak in global conventional petroleum production wouldn’t arrive in our lifetimes. Compare the grand claims made for the Caspian fields back then, and the trickle of production that actually resulted from those fields, and you get a useful reality check on the equally sweeping claims now being made for the Bakken shale, but that’s not a comparison many people want to make just now.
On the other side of the energy spectrum, those who insist that we can power some equivalent of our present industrial system on sun, wind, and other diffuse renewable sources have been equally vocal, and those of us who raise reasonable doubts about that insistence can count on being castigated as “dormers.” More

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

IEA Leaders Speak Out on Our Current Energy Situation and Peak Oil at Oil Price

Every November following the publication of the IEA's World Energy Outlook, the leadership of the Agency travels to major capitols in an effort to explain to the world's leaders the conclusions of the new publication. Parts of this year's briefings contain not-so-subtle hints as to what sort of energy policies the world's leaders might like to follow if they want to avoid killing off all life on earth a century or so from now. Earlier this week the travellers stopped in Washington, where sandwiched between visits to various dignitaries they briefed an assemblage of some 200 journalists.

Although I had already ploughed through the 600-page report and extracted some wisdom for these columns, I thought it might be interesting to hear about how the IEA's leaders, who oversaw the scope and approved the findings of the new report, saw the global energy situation.

The Agency's new Executive Director and former Economic Affairs Minister for the Netherlands, Maria van der Hoeven, went first, making the point that the global energy situation has become far more challenging during the past year due to the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns, the Arab Spring uprisings, and the financial upheavals in the EU. She emphasized that the world must invest some $38 trillion over the next 25 years to maintain the flow of energy that we have become accustomed to having.

IEA's Chief Economist Fatih Birol gave the heart of the presentation. Birol began with his three principal worries: Despite global lip service to slowing global warming, CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere continued to grow last year; All governments claim to want more efficient use of energy resources, yet efficiency continues to drop; and finally high energy prices with oil prices on track to top $150 a barrel within a few years will kill any economic recovery. As an example, Birol pointed out that coal had been selling for $60 a ton as long as the Chinese were exporting it. This year when China switched from being a coal exporter to becoming even a rather small importer, prices rose to $120 a ton. More

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Iran's Growing Isolation a Dubious Win for the West

WASHINGTON, Nov 30, 2011 (IPS) - Scenes from Tehran Tuesday of bearded Iranian youth swarming over the walls of the British embassy evoked memories of the 1979-81 hostage crisis that created the image of Iran as a pariah state.

But the incidents vary in ways that are more worrisome for international peace than the seizure of the U.S. embassy by radical students some 32 years ago. 
The latest events come in the context of an escalating intelligence and economic war between Iran and the West over its nuclear programme that could spiral out of control at a time that the world economy and an already unstable Middle East can ill afford. 

The hostage crisis took place while Iran was still in the throes of revolution and solidifying its form of government. Then leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini embraced the action after it became clear that it was both popular and a means of disposing of moderate rivals within the new regime. 
In contrast, Tuesday's event - despite an expression of regret by Iran's foreign ministry - appears to have been orchestrated by the regime's security forces. 

It followed two mysterious explosions, one of which destroyed an Iranian missile facility, and new U.S. and European economic sanctions, including a British cutoff of dealings with Iran's Central Bank, a move that hawkish U.S. lawmakers are hoping to replicate by the end of this year. Even before Tuesday's attack, the European Union was scheduled to consider additional sanctions at a meeting in Brussels Thursday. 

Police reportedly stood by while members of the Basij - a volunteer force of thuggish young men considered more loyal to the office of the current leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, than to the government headed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - broke into the British compound in downtown Tehran, destroyed property and burned documents. More

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Peak Oil Crisis: A Report to Remember

Last week the International Energy Agency released its annual report (600 pages) on just where energy production and consumption in the world is going over the next 25 years.

Four or five years back, producing the annual World Energy Outlook was a rather straightforward task. All the IEA had to do was to take the world's current rate of economic growth, calculate how much oil, coal and natural gas it would take to support that growth and publish the results. There was never much consideration of whether resources would start to run out or become too expensive to exploit, or what, if anything, the massive amount of carbon dioxide that was being dumped into the atmosphere was doing to the climate.

In the last few years the IEA's annual report has come to recognize that the next 25 years are unlikely to be anything like the last 25 and the report has become much more nuanced. Gone are the extreme predictions that the world will be consuming 50 percent more oil 25 years from now. In their place are forecasts that global oil production will depend heavily on what alternative policy paths are taken by major governments and how much ($38 trillion is necessary) will be spent to find and exploit fossil fuel resources in the coming years.

As global energy policies and the realities and costs of production are very much in flux these days the EIA has decided to look at the future from three differing perspectives and forecast how the future might evolve if one of these three paths is followed. The first of course, is business as usual with no major changes to the energy policies of the major countries. The second is termed "new policies" which looks at what might happen if the major energy consumers do what they say they will do with regards to carbon emissions. The third, the "450 Scenario," examines what might happen if the world takes seriously the warning that we must keep atmospheric carbon below 450 parts per million which is believed will keep global warming down to a 2oC increase in average global temperature. More

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Peak Oil Crisis: Transitioning to Cold Fusion

Events move quickly these days. Two weeks ago we were watching Bologna, Italy where an entrepreneur and a retired physics professor claimed to have discovered the Holy Grail of energy - cold fusion or as it is now known: Low Energy Nuclear Reactions. At the time, there was (and still is) widespread concern that the various demonstrations of an energy-producing devices were a scam as the developers, for commercial reasons, refused to give outsiders access to their inner workings.

If you are coming late to this story, the Italians' "energy catalyzer" is a table-top-sized device containing powdered nickel known as the "reactor." When hydrogen is introduced into the container and heat is applied, the device gets hotter and hotter so that the output of heat exceeds the input by so much that no known chemical reaction can be responsible for generating the heart. This leads to the conclusion that the hydrogen is fusing with the nickel producing energy similar to that coming from the sun or from the detonation of a hydrogen bomb.
Now so much energy coming from such a small and inexpensive device, in violation of what are thought to be the principles of physics, seems too good to be true. As this phenomenon had not been independently repeated and verified by other laboratories, many pronounced it a fraud, a few the greatest breakthrough of the age, and the rest of us remained agnostic while awaiting further developments.
They were not long in coming. Last week it was learned that George Miley, a Professor Emeritus of nuclear engineering at the University of Illinois who has been conducting experiments similar to those in Italy for many years, has been observing anomalous amounts of heat emanating from test equipment similar to that being used in Bologna. Miley has been experimenting with palladium-zirconium alloys, but says his experiments are producing so much heat that could only be coming from fusion of atomic nuclei. Unlike the Italian experiments which are aimed at developing a proprietary commercial product, the Illinois experiments are being conducting under the auspices of a state university with details of the experiments being made known as soon as possible. At a university the aim of scientific research is to win a Nobel Prize, or at least academic prestige, not to make money. More

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Civilian nuclear power is viable long-term solution

Abu Dhabi: The civil nuclear energy programme now being developed in the UAE is an effective solution to the country's energy needs, Dr Hans Blix, Director General Emeritus of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said in the capital yesterday.
"The UAE has taken a lead role in adopting an advanced programme of civil nuclear power. Nuclear weapons proliferation does not automatically follow from civil nuclear programmes," Blix told delegates at an energy conference organised by the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR).
"Around the world, nuclear energy is increasingly seen as a long-term solution to the energy dilemmas of the future. While the recent nuclear accident at Fukushima caused concern, we can describe this incident as a bump in the road," said Blix.
He said in response to the Fukushima incident in Japan, European countries have subjected their nuclear plants to "stress tests" and found that safety standards are adequate.
However, Blix said there are sharp divisions over the viability of civil nuclear power in the future.
"Ultimately, the long-term case for nuclear energy is subject to economic and environmental considerations.
"For instance, nuclear power is becoming less important to the overall energy needs of the US due to the important breakthroughs in the exploitation of shale gas," he added.
Blix said the safe use of nuclear energy is a compelling option for meeting future energy needs. More

Monday, October 31, 2011

Experts Say Rosy Oil Forecasts Obscure Impending Crisis

WASHINGTON, Oct. 31, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Leading energy and economic experts will gather on Capitol Hill this week for a conference to examine how the United States will adapt to an impending oil supply crisis. Most Americans are unaware of this emerging threat in part due to overly optimistic forecasts by the U.S Energy Information Administration (EIA) within the Department of Energy (DOE).

ASPO-USA’s conference on Peak Oil, Energy & the Economy will examine the prospect that world oil supply is at or near an upper limit and will decline in the near future. Meanwhile, EIA projections indicate that world oil supply will increase by more than 20 million barrels per day by 2035, with prices rising only moderately.

“Truth in Energy” is the conference theme, calling for EIA to be more transparent and to address the possibility of severe oil constraints openly and directly. ASPO-USA is also calling for the Department of Energy to lead the development of a National Oil Emergency Response Plan to assess the consequences of oil scarcity and extreme price increases on different parts of the economy.

“America is wholly unprepared for a near-term oil supply crisis, let alone persistent oil shortages,” said ASPO-USA Executive Director Jan Mueller. “ASPO-USA delivered a letter to Secretary Chu last week urging his response to important questions that we believe DOE and EIA have failed to address.” More

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The peak oil brigade is leading us into bad policymaking on energy

It is almost always a mistake to assume you know where energy bills are going. This is especially true for secretaries of state, and energy policy should never be based upon assuming you know what the future will bring.
Unfortunately, it is the new conventional wisdom and an assumption prevalent across much of Europe.
Yet Chris Huhne, the British secretary of state for energy and climate change, is pretty sure that oil and gas prices are going ever upwards, that they will be volatile and that a core function of energy policy is to protect British industry and consumers from the consequences. It is a convenient assumption for renewables and nuclear: if the price of fossil fuel is going to get more expensive, then renewables and nuclear will be relatively cheap. Add in energy efficiency, and then it can be predicted that energy bills will fall if these technologies are supported.

The last time policymakers were this sure was the last time oil prices peaked – back in 1979. Oil peaked at $39 a barrel (around $150 in today's prices). It was assumed then that oil prices would go ever up, and the incoming Conservative government launched a plan to build one nuclear reactor per annum for 10 years. Instead, prices collapsed in the mid 1980s, and didn't return to the 1979 prices for more than a quarter of a century (even with two Gulf wars). More

US Military to Invest $10 Billion a Year in Renewable Energy

Congress may be dithering over green energy, but the US military has no qualms about its value.

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) - one of the largest energy consumers in the world at 300,000 barrels of oil a day - is quickly moving toward energy efficiency and renewables to reduce risks to soldiers, enhance national energy security, and save money.

DOD is committed to getting 25% of its energy from renewables by 2025, the Air Force plans to use biofuels for 50% of domestic aviation by 2016 and the Navy will reduce fuel consumption on ships 15% by 2020.

11.3% of DOD's energy now comes from renewables, saving US taxpayers billions of dollars.

Military spending on renewable energy spiked over 300% between 2006-2009, to $1.2 billion, and is expected to exceed $10 billion a year by 2030, according to "From Barracks to the Battlefield: Clean Energy Innovation and America's Armed Forces," by the Pew Project on National Security, Energy and Climate.

DOD currently spends about $20 billion a year on energy - 75% for fuel and 25% for facilities and infrastructure, according to Pike Research.

DOD is focusing on vehicle efficiency, advanced biofuels, and energy efficiency and renewable energy at bases.

It's expected to spend $2.25 billion a year by 2015 for efficient vehicles used in the air, land, and sea, while improving the energy efficiency of its buildings around the world - more than 500,000 of them.

That level of spending will have a considerable impact on the growth of the renewable industry. It has the potential to bridge the 'valley of death' that lies between research & development and full commercialization of these technologies," says Pike Research in another report, "Renewable Energy for Military Applications." More

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Peak Oil Crisis: The Energy Trap

While waiting to see how far the Europeans can kick their can of financial Armageddon down the road, let's revisit the damage being caused by high oil prices to life here in America.

Although the price of gasoline so far this year has not reached the rarified levels that we saw three years ago, neither has it plunged as far as in did in the fall of 2008. The price of a barrel of oil on the London futures exchange, which more accurately reflects what refiners must pay for oil, rose above $100 a barrel last January, and has essentially remained there ever since -- averaging about $25 a barrel higher than last year.
The Energy Trap is a project of the New America foundation, a non-partisan think tank funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, which recently conducted a survey on just how the American public is holding up under the high cost of energy. The idea of the trap is that an increasing number of Americans are caught between the cost of gasoline and a systemic inability to stop driving their cars. In the last 60 years America has become a "motorized society" in which most of our citizens have become totally dependent on daily travel by car for their existence. Take away our cars and most of us would be hard pressed to reorganize our lives to provide for the essentials of life - earn an income, and provide food, shelter, and education for ourselves and our families.
The current recession has compounded the troubles, forcing many to travel further afield to find employment - often in more than one underpaying job. More

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Eco-Economy Indicators - Solar PV Breaks Records in 2010

Solar photovoltaic (PV) companies manufactured a record 24,000 megawatts of PV cells worldwide in 2010, more than doubling their 2009 output. 

Annual PV production has grown nearly 100-fold since 2000, when just 277 megawatts of cells were made. Newly installed PV also set a record in 2010, as 16,600 megawatts were installed in more than 100  countries. This brought the total worldwide capacity of solar PV to nearly 40,000 megawatts—enough to power 14 million European homes. Made of semiconductor materials, PV cells convert solar radiation directly into electricity. Rectangular panels consisting of numerous PV cells can be linked into arrays of various sizes and power output capabilities—from rooftop systems measured in kilowatts to ground-mounted arrays of hundreds or even thousands of megawatts. (One megawatt equals 1,000 kilowatts.) More >>>

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Wind Energy Driving Down Consumer Electric Rates


WASHINGTON, D.C.—Wind energy is more affordable than ever, and new installations across the country are saving consumers money on their electric bills, as utilities rush to lock in long-term favorable rates.
“This is what a successful business looks like with stable tax policy. Utilities are locking in a great deal for their electric customers while it’s available. We’re keeping rates down all across the U.S., even in the  heart of the South,” said Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), pointing to recent wind power purchases by the Southern Company in Alabama, Austin Energy in Texas, and Xcel in Colorado as examples.
The U.S. wind industry installed just over 1,200 megawatts (MW) in the third quarter, and about 3,360 MW on the year so far – but has more than 8,400 MW under construction. That is more than in any quarter since 2008, as the federal Production Tax Credit has driven as much as $20 billion a year in private investment.
“This shows what we’re capable of: adding new, affordable electric generation,” said Bode. “Traditional tax incentives are working. There’s a lot of business right now, people are employed, and manufacturers are looking to expand here in the U.S.”

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

IAEA Sets Up Team to Drive Nuclear Safety Action Plan

26 September 2011 | The International Atomic Energy Agency is setting up a Nuclear Safety Action Team to oversee prompt implementation of the


IAEA Action Plan on Nuclear Safety and ensure proper coordination among all stakeholders.


The 12-point Action Plan, drawn up in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi accident, was approved by the Agency's Board of Governors on 13 September and endorsed by all 151 Member States at its General Conference last week.

The team will work within the Agency's Department of Nuclear Safety and Security, headed by Deputy Director General Denis Flory, and will coordinate closely with the Director General's Office for Policy.

"The Action Plan requires immediate follow-up," Director General Yukiya Amano said. "This compact, dedicated team will assist Deputy Director General Flory in implementing the measures agreed in the Action Plan."

Gustavo Caruso, Head of the Regulatory Activities Section in the IAEA's Division of Installation Safety, has been designated as the team's Special Coordinator for the implementation of the Action Plan.

The IAEA has already started implementing its responsibilities under the Action Plan, including development of an IAEA methodology for stress tests for nuclear power plants. The methodology will be ready in October.
More >>>

Location:Islamabad

World Food Day, 16 October 2011

Food prices - from crisis to stability

Price swings, upswings in particular, represent a major threat to food security in developing countries. Hardest-hit are the poor. According to the


World Bank, in 2010-2011 rising food costs pushed nearly 70 million people into extreme poverty.

“FOOD PRICES – FROM CRISIS TO STABILITY” has been chosen as this year’s World Food Day theme to shed some light on this trend and what can be done to mitigate its impact on the most vulnerable.

On World Food Day 2011, let us look seriously at what causes swings in food prices, and do what needs to be done to reduce their impact on the weakest members of global society. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Film on Climate Refugees Strikes a Chord

During the shooting of his 2010 documentary “Climate Refugees,” the Irish-American filmmaker Michael Nash visited nearly 50 countries in about


18 months, interviewing politicians, scientists, health workers and victims of floods, cyclones, hurricanes and droughts.


Click here for film trailer

His conclusion was that short- and longer-term changes in climate are causing vast numbers of people to abandon their jobs, homes and countries to seek better lives elsewhere, or to simply survive. (Jeffrey Gettleman’s recent coverage of the Somali refugee crisis in The Times has offered some vivid and disturbing examples, although Somalia’s troubles are also inextricably linked to political turmoil.)

Mr. Nash poses a basic question: what will become of the millions of people whose lack of access to food and clean water leads them to take increasingly desperate measures? What type of strains will huge migration put on resources in more developed countries?

Will this dislocation eventually, as the retired Navy vice admiral Lee Gunn told Mr. Nash, pose a threat to Americans’ national security, too?

By focusing on the consequences of climate change rather than its scientific causes, some experts suggest that Mr. Nash succeeded in circumventing a divisive political debate over global warming and the extent to which human activity contributes to it. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Peak Oil Crisis: Adaptive Technology

Significant technological advances rarely make eye-catching headlines as they come from many small advances involving numerous scientific disciplines. However, every now and again it becomes clear that progress is being made.


When President Obama recently proposed raising the mileage for cars to an average of 54.5 miles per gallon, the automobile manufacturers-- much to the surprise of many -- said we can do it. An increase of this size is not a trivial task that can be accomplished overnight as it primarily involves numerous small improvements that together lead to significant change.
Improvements in transportation and other energy related technologies are being reported every day. Most of the developments, however, are down in the technological weeds and involve technical concepts nearly incomprehensible to laymen; however, some of the reports do give insights into the directions in which our civilization may be evolving.

Despite the reservations of many veteran auto industry observers, it is clear that plug-in electric cars are coming soon. Nearly every major automobile manufacturer in the world appears ready to market some flavor of plug-in vehicle with in the next few years. A recent study concluded that together these manufacturers have committed to producing some 840,000 electric vehicles by 2013. The demand for lithium-ion automobile batteries is projected to increase from 2.4 gigawatt hours (GWh) this year to 18 GWh by 2013 - a seven fold increase. The rapid increase in lithium-ion battery production -- 20 new plants are under construction -- is expected to drive the cost of these batteries down from $800-1000/kWh today to the vicinity of $350 by the end of the decade. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

IDB, GDF Suez to Support Sustainable Energy Access to Isolated Regions


21 September 2011: The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and GDF Suez signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to support social entrepreneurial projects aimed at providing sustainable energy access to disadvantaged populations.


During the annual Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) meeting, IDB and GDF Suez agreed to collaborate in a programme aimed at promoting economic and social development of isolated regions, and at reducing energy insecurity worldwide. GDF SUEZ hopes, through its corporate social responsibility programme, “GDF SUEZ Rassembleurs d’Energies,” to sponsor up to eight significant projects with high social impact by 2013. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Economy, Peak Oil and Permaculture

Richard Heinberg- Senior Fellow at the Post Carbon Institute is a Permaculturist.


His latest book describes The End of Growth- isn't looking for when the recession will end and we'll get back to "normal". He believes our decades-long era of growth was based on aberrant set of conditions- namely cheap oil, but also cheap minerals, cheap food, etc- and that looking ahead, we need to prepare for a "new normal". The problem, according to Heinberg, is our natural resources just aren't so cheap and plentiful anymore, and he's not just talking about Peak Oil, Heinberg believes in Peak Everything (also the title of one of his books). Heinberg thinks for many, adjusting to a life where everything costs a bit more, could be very hard, but he also thinks the transition to a new normal might actually make life better. "Particularly in the Western industrialized countries we've gotten used to levels of consumption that are not only environmentally unsustainable, they also don't make us happy. They've in fact hollowed out our lives. We've given up things that actually do give us satisfaction and pleasure so that we can work more and more hours to get more and more money with which to buy more and more stuff- more flatscreen tvs, bigger SUVs, bigger houses and it's not making us happier. Well, guess what, it's possible to downsize, it's possible to use less, become more self sufficient, grow more of your own food, have chickens in your backyard and be a happier person." This is not all theoretical. In the backyard of the home Heinberg shares with his wife, Janet Barocco, the couple grow most of their food during the summer months (i.e. 25 fruit & nut trees, veggies, potatoes.. they're just lack grains), raise chickens for eggs, capture rainwater, bake with solar cookers and a solar food drier and secure energy with photovoltaic and solar hot water panels. Their backyard reflects Heinberg's vision for our "new normal" and it's full of experiments, like the slightly less than 120-square-foot cottage that was inspired by the Small Home Movement. It was built with the help of some of Heinberg's college students (in one of the nation's first sustainability classes) using recycled and natural materials (like lime plaster). Heinberg admits it's not a real tiny house experiment since they don't actually live in it- his wife uses it as a massage studio, he meditates there and sometimes it's used as a guest house (though that's hush hush due to permitting issues). But their tiny cottage points to the bigger point behind why a transition to a less resource intensive future could equal greater happiness. "Simplify. Pay less attention to all of the stuff in your life and pay more attention to what's really important. Maybe for you it's gardening, maybe for you it's painting or music. You know we all have stuff that gives us real pleasure and most of us find we have less and less time for that because we have to devote so much time to shopping, paying bills and driving from here to there and so on. Well, how about if we cut out some of that stuff and spend more time doing what really feeds us emotionally and spiritually and in some cases even nutritionally." http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=cl8ZHDQQY7I

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Remote Island Paradise to Be Powered By Coconuts and Sunshine

In the Malay language, the coconut palm is called “pokok seribu guna,” meaning “the tree of a thousand uses.”



Make that one thousand and one. In just over a year’s time, the entire chain of the Tokelau islands plans to get 100 percent of their energy from a heavenly mix of coconuts and sunshine, according to United Press International.

It is perhaps incontestably appropriate that an island paradise should power itself with its two most plentiful resources. The new energy policy should also help to make these tiny, vulnerable tropical atolls more self-sufficient, as well as send the world a message about the feasibility of locally sourced renewable energy.

Tokelau, a territory of New Zealand, consists of three small atolls located roughly halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand. About 1,500 people call Tokelau home. Since the highest point on the islands is only 16 feet, they are particularly vulnerable to the threat of rising sea levels.

Under the new energy plan, most of the islands’ power — 93 percent — is slated to come from solar energy. The coconut power will supply the remaining 7 percent, and will come into play when skies are overcast or when electricity demand exceeds solar supply.
More >>>

Location: Amman, Jordan

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Peak Oil Crisis: Efficiency is the Solution

If there is a way to get through the loss of fossil fuels, it lies in developing new and more efficient ways to generate renewable energy and more efficient ways of utilizing the fossil fuels we have left.


Renewable sources currently provide only 16 percent of our energy in the U.S. and 11 percent of our electric power. Unless the production of these renewables can be increased substantially in the next 50 years and the efficiency with which we use energy increased many fold, then the world is going to become a very dark and stagnant place.
There is running debate going on between people who believe all is lost without copious supplies of fossil fuels to power the global civilization and those who believe that the conservation and efficiency that will come with very high fossil fuel prices will provide a recognizable future for civilization. The great unknowns in all this is whether there will be sufficient financial and other resources available to effect the transition and whether or not the damage wrought by a changing climate will be so serious that a global transition to renewable energy will be difficult if not impossible.

For the immediate future, however, much of what life in the future will be like will depend on the technologies that will enable civilization to continue while using only a fraction of the energy that is consumed today and to develop the technology to produce large quantities of cheaper renewable fuels. The manner in which our fossil fuels are being used is so wasteful of the energy contained in fossil fuels that major reductions can be made with little real impact on the activities that consume energy. The prime examples of this waste is the internal combustion engine which uses only 14 percent of its fuel to turn the wheels while wasting most of the rest. Huge central power plants waste most of the energy that devours coal and natural gas, and produce much waste heat that is dumped into the air or local water bodies or in line losses. Without the massive waste, the fossil fuel age could last a lot longer. More >>>

Location:Amman, Jordan

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Solar May Produce Most of World’s Power by 2060, IEA Says

Solar generators may produce the majority of the world’s power within 50 years, slashing the emissions of greenhouse gases that harm the environment, according to a projection by the International Energy Agency.


Photovoltaic and solar-thermal plants may meet most of the world’s demand for electricity by 2060 — and half of all energy needs — with wind, hydropower and biomass plants supplying much of the remaining generation, Cedric Philibert, senior analyst in the renewable energy division at the Paris-based agency, said in an Aug. 26 phone interview.

“Photovoltaic and concentrated solar power together can become the major source of electricity,” Philibert said. “You’ll have a lot more electricity than today but most of it will be produced by solar-electric technologies.”

The solar findings, set to be published in a report later this year, go beyond the IEA’s previous forecast, which envisaged the two technologies meeting about 21 percent of the world’s power needs in 2050. The scenario suggests investors able to pick the industry’s winners may reap significant returns as the global economy shifts away from fossil fuels. More >>>

Location:Cayman Islands

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Kingdom of Magical Thinking

In 1935, an oilman visiting the Middle East reported back to his headquarters, "The future leaves them cold. They want money now."


Although the temptation of overspending has repeatedly undermined oil-rich governments from Caracas to Tehran, Saudi Arabia avoided this trap over the last decade through fiscal discipline that has kept its expenditures below its swelling oil receipts.

But in a recent report striking for the candor of its unpalatable conclusions, Saudi investment bank Jadwa laid out the kingdom's inexorable fiscal challenge: how to balance soaring government spending, rapidly rising domestic oil demand, and a world oil market that gives little room for further revenue increases. And that was before the recent economic turmoil knocked $20 per barrel off oil prices.

Saudi Arabia's government spending, flat since the last oil boom in the 1970s, is now rising at 10 percent or more annually. And it will rise faster still: The House of Saud's survival instinct in the wake of the initial Arab revolutions led King Abdullah to announce $130 billion of largesse in February and March. The resulting increases in government employment and salaries can be cut only at the cost of more discontent.

And that's only what the kingdom is spending on its "counterrevolution" at home. Saudi Arabia will pay the lion's share of the pledged $25 billion of Gulf Cooperation Council aid to Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, and Oman. With Iraq, Syria, and Yemen likely flashpoints yet to come, the bill will only increase. Already, nearly a third of the Saudi budget goes toward defense, a proportion that could rise in the face of a perceived Iranian threat. More >>>

Location:Cayman Islands

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Time to refine energy security

What are we to make of the energy debate? If good public policy is the art of distilling the signal from the noise, the challenge has never been greater.


How to balance the risks of climate change against the costs of doing anything about it? And what, in turn, might these decisions mean for energy security?

For the past six months our national attention has, understandably, been focused on the carbon tax issue. The policy agenda now needs to move in a related, but different direction. The reason is a three-letter word – oil.
While oil producers will be affected by the carbon tax, politics ensures that there will be no tax on petrol.

Yet oil is, arguably, one of Australia’s key energy problems. As a nation, we passed ‘‘peak oil’’ some time ago. Domestic production plateaued more than 20 years ago, and since 2005, has been in decline. The oil that is left is a long way offshore, and a long way down. Extracting it will be costly and risky.

Australian refining capacity is more constrained now than it was a decade ago. South Australia lost its one oil refinery in 2003. A number of the refineries in Queensland, Victoria and NSW are small in scale, and subject to stiff competition from imported, refined products. Further rationalisation of refining capacity seems likely as imports continue to increase, particularly from large-scale refineries in Asia. More >>>

Location:Cayman Islands

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Brazil Builds $127 Billion "Offshore City" to Harvest Oil in the Deep Sea

Want to get a feel for how crazy the post-peak oil fossil fuels industry is getting? Here's as good an example as any: Brazil's state-owned oil company Petrobras is about to embark on an  unprecedented oil-gathering mission. 

It's about to attempt to extract 30 billion barrels of oil from reserves that are locked in deepwater sub-salt fields at least 60 miles off the coast and up to five miles underwater. In order to get at the incredibly hard-to-get oily good stuff, Brazil is spending an estimated $226 billion -- and $127 billion will be spent on exploration and production alone.

The product of that venture is already taking shape: a veritable floating "offshore city" has sprung up over 100 kilometers (62 miles) off the coast of Brazil, and it will lead the effort to drill into the deep sea sub-salt.

One oil worker told GE's Txchnologist all about these 'floating frontier towns': ""It is really impressive what is out here, 100km off the shore," said Willem Van Beek, a Dutch "mud engineer" who drills the wells, from an oil platform at Espiríto Santos Basin recently. "It's like a complete offshore city. You see thousands and thousands of lights." More >>>

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Clean energy is path for security, not the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline

The August 13 Washington Post editorial (Oil pipeline politics) diagnoses the problems with tar sands and then gets the solution wrong.


The proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will take us in the wrong direction, making global warming worse and bringing additional dangers of oil spills to America’s heartland. The United States is the main market for the bitumen that is strip-mined and drilled from under Canada’s Boreal forest. Despite Canadian claims that they’ll sell tar sands to China if we don’t take it, not only are there no major pipelines to the Canadian coasts, but opposition to these pipeline proposals is fierce. Instead of providing energy security, the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will give oil companies a Gulf Coast deepwater port for export and raise gas prices in the Midwest. After a summer of droughts and heat waves, we need to be working harder than ever to reduce our demand for oil. With fuel efficiency standards and cleaner ways to move people around, America can be a leader in clean energy rather than giving into our oil addiction. That is the path of true energy security. More >>>

Location:Cayman Islands

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Energy Security: U.S. Must Make Hard Choices

The current U.S. energy mix is geopolitically, environmentally and economically unsustainable, requiring the nation to make tough choices regarding its future use of fossil fuels, nuclear energy and renewable power, says a report from the American Security Project, a bipartisan policy and research organization chaired by former Sen. Gary Hart.


“American’s Energy Choices” is a more subtle reading than what often passes for energy-security analysis in the mainstream political discussion, and unlike similar reports from liberal and conservative think tanks, it doesn’t outline a precise course on the thorny energy-security question. Instead, it attempts to analyze the full spectrum of security impacts that flow from use and reliance on different types of energy.

Importantly, it acknowledges that “energy security does not depend on the percentage of supply that is imported,” pointing out that “in a world of globally traded commodities, it is no longer possible to be truly energy independent: even domestically produced energy sources are subject to fluctuations in global commodity markets.” So while acknowledging that reliance on foreign oil has negative consequences – driving down the value of the dollar and hurting American competitiveness – the report doesn’t fixate on increasing domestic fossil fuel production. Energy security, it says, “comes from flexibility, competition, and redundancy.” More >>> Download the report here

Location: Cayman Islands

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Peak Oil Crisis: Technology



Let's face it! The whole fossil fuel thing - widespread use of coal, oil, and natural gas could not have happened without technological advances. 

Without the steam engine, the coal age would have been limited to a handful of people living near surface coal seams and burning coal for heat and cooking, and perhaps a little metal smelting. All the rest of the industrial age - the internal combustion engine and nearly everything else grew out of some technological development coupled and the abundant energy from fossil fuels.

So entranced are we with the constant advances in technology many among us simply can't believe that we will not find a technical fix for depleting reserves of fossil fuels. Some like hydrogen powered cars, others believe that nuclear fusion will soon be viable - there are many possibilities out there. The real question, however, is whether there are developments in the offing that can be brought into general use in time to prevent the obvious catastrophe that will result from the rapidly declining availability of fossil fuels.

There are of course many thousands of scientists and engineers around the world who are working on many aspects of how we can more efficiently utilize the remaining store of fossil fuels or replace them with renewable sources. One of the best sources of information on advancing technology as it relates to our energy future is an organization called Green Car Congress (http://www.greencarcongress.com) that for the last seven years has been accumulating posting to the web announcements, studies, reports, etc. that hopefully will move us beyond the automobile-as-we-know-it to a more sustainable age. What is of interest, of course, is that many if not most of the new technological advances being announced have a range of applications that go beyond the automobile. For example, a better battery for cars could be used in many different ways to store electrical energy for later use - think solar panels and wind generators. More >>>

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

SIDS DOCK Launched to Catalyze Renewable Energy

3 August 2011: The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) has announced the launch of SIDS DOCK, an international organization intended to catalyze sustainable energy projects in small island developing States (SIDS).


With US$14.5 million in funding from Denmark's parliament, SIDS DOCK will operate as a "docking station," connecting small islands with US and EU technologies, capital and carbon markets. SIDS DOCK is expected to be operational by September 2011.

According to Vince Henderson, Dominica's Ambassador to the UN, and Chair of the SIDS DOCK Steering Committee, the majority of small islands currently rely on fossil fuel imports and face growing debt as a result. In order to "radically transform" their economies, SIDS DOCK was developed jointly by AOSIS, the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP). SIDS DOCK will be led by an Executive Director and overseen by a Board of Directors, including AOSIS members, development partner organizations and technical experts. The organization also will partner with the World Bank and UN Development Programme (UNDP).

National Coordinators of SIDS DOCK will be responsible for coordinating the development of national, regional and inter-regional priorities in renewable energy, energy efficiency and conservation projects, and for ensuring successful project coordination and outcomes. The first meeting of the SIDS DOCK National Coordinators, held from 27-28 July 2011, served as the launch.

According to AOSIS, SIDS DOCK aims to facilitate the development of a sustainable energy sector in small islands, providing the foundation for low carbon economic growth and adaptation to climate change, with the result of assisting small islands to generate at least 50 percent of their electric power from renewable sources, decrease petroleum use by 20 to 30 percent, and increase energy efficiency by 25 percent (using a 2005 baseline) by 2033.
More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Managing Contraction, Redefining Progress

Only a crisis—actual or perceived—produces real change. When the crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend upon the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to
existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.
—Milton Friedman (economist)



Many analysts who focus on the problems of population growth, resource depletion, and climate change foresee gradually tightening constraints on world economic activity. In most cases the prognosis they offer is for worsening environmental problems, more expensive energy and materials, and slowing economic growth.

However, their analyses often fail to factor in the impacts to and from a financial system built on the expectation of further growth—a system that could come unhinged in a non-linear, catastrophic fashion as growth ends. Financial and monetary systems can crash suddenly and completely. This almost happened in September 2008 as the result of a combination of a decline in the housing market, reliance on overly complex and in many cases fraudulent financial instruments, and skyrocketing energy prices. Another sovereign debt crisis in Europe could bring the world to a similar precipice. Indeed, there is a line-up of actors waiting to take center stage in the years ahead, each capable of bringing the curtain down on the global banking system or one of the world’s major currencies. Each derives its destructive potency from its ability to strangle growth, thus setting off chain reactions of default, bankruptcy, and currency failure. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The World Needs a New Language

We know it is dangerous to cross a red light, so we wait until it turns green.


We do not go out sailing when the weather forecast promises a great storm. We accept it when a doctor tells us to take medicine to prevent hypertension.

We do not drink the water if there is sign saying that it is contaminated. We are constantly accepting different potential risks and manoeuvring to limit them.

But when it comes to climate change, our willingness to accept it as a potential great risk is missing - and so is our motivation to respond to it with our normal risk-behaviour.

97 percent of the climate scientists believe global warming is happening, that humans are largely responsible and that we need to take action now. From their perspective there is a mountain of evidence on the reality of climate change; the nearest thing to an open-and-shut case that scientist can produce. They are constantly trying to convince us -- the public -- of this fact.

But still the concern shared by almost every scientist is not concurrent with the general public opinion. 44 percent of Americans still believe that global warming is primarily caused by planetary trends, according to a poll from Rasmussen Reports conducted in April. And 36 percent do not believe climate change is a serious problem.

Thus we are currently witnessing an enormous reality gap between science and the public -- with very different perceptions of the risks posed by climate change.

If scientists could solve climate change on their own, the lacking public support wouldn't be a problem. But they can't. Without the endorsement from the general public, the fight against climate change does not stand much of a chance. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

UNGA Debate on Right to Water Highlights Impact of Climate Change

27 July 2011: The UN General Assembly (UNGA) held a debate on the human right to water and sanitation, during which a number of speakers highlighted that climate change constitutes an obstacle to the enjoyment of this right, stressing the particular situations of small island low-lying States.


The debate took place on 27 July 2011, at UN Headquarters in New York, US. In his opening address, Joseph Deiss, UNGA President, recalled that, in July 2010, the General Assembly adopted a resolution on the human right to water and sanitation, which he said was an important first step towards the explicit acknowledgment of that resource as a human right.

Egypt said States must take all necessary measures to extend human rights, including the right to clean water and sanitation. He added that Egypt’s efforts were challenged by funding, climate change, population growth and other factors, and indicated that his Government had adopted an integrated national plan to address these challenges. Senegal stressed the need to address climate change and drought in order to achieve the right to water, calling for increased assistance.

Cuba called for enhanced cooperation in the face of climate change, calling for the creation of mechanisms that are not dependant on the international financial institutions.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines expressed support for the UNGA resolution by which the Assembly had recognized the right to water and sanitation as a human right. He underlined that his country's achievements in terms of ensuring the realization of that right, considering its limited resources, illustrate the importance of political will. He emphasized the urgency of “looming threats” to achieving the right to water, namely climate change and desertification. He added that his country often resorts to transporting water by ship and said sea-level rise would have a disastrous effect. He concluded by calling for mainstreaming the issue in the global agenda.

Maldives explained that her country's main source of water is shallow groundwater, underscoring its extreme vulnerability to water scarcity. She called for considering the legally binding right to water in the context of sea-level rise, climate change, and other critical phenomena. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Iran - Pakistan Gas Pipeline: China likely tone awarded construction contract

As Russia and China vie with each other to win the construction contract for the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project, Pakistan is expected to finalise an engineering and procurement deal with Beijing, which may also provide financing in line with the growing energy cooperation between the two sides.



Domestic gas utilities – Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) and Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) – are also lobbying to grab the engineering, procurement and construction contract for the pipeline, which will bring in much-needed gas from Iran’s South Pars gas field.

Germany-based consultancy firm ILF is conducting a route survey for the $1.25 billion Pakistani portion of the pipeline and will soon be completing its work, after which the engineering contract will be awarded. SSGC and SNGPL had also wanted a share in the consultancy contract with ILF, which resulted in a delay in completing the survey, sources said.
ILF, which got the contract for $55 million, is working in collaboration with National Engineering Services of Pakistan (Nespak).

“A major part of the survey for laying the pipeline from Iranian border to Nawabshah has been completed and the remaining part will be finished by August 2,” an official said. More >>>

Location: Islamabad

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Scholarships and Bursaries Call for Caribbean Nationals in Graduate Studies in Climate Change




Scholarships and Bursaries Call for Caribbean Nationals in Graduate Studies in Climate Change

Study areas related to Climate Change that can be considered for these Scholarships and Bursaries are:
Climatology; Environmental Sciences; Coastal Management; Water Resources; Sustainable Tourism; Gender Studies


The CARIBSAVE Partnership, the University of the West Indies (UWI) and the University of Waterloo (UW), Canada, announce a joint research project entitled:


Partnership for Canada-Caribbean Community Climate Change Adaptation (ParCA)*

Students’ scholarships and bursaries will focus on ParCA; a project that will conduct comparative case study research in Tobago, Jamaica and two Atlantic Canadian provinces. The project will use a community-based vulnerability assessment (CBVA) framework in collaboration with coastal communities and local partners to identify vulnerabilities and exposures, and develop strategies for adaptation to climate change. Under this program, funding is available for Caribbean Nationals to study at the University of the West Indies or the University of Waterloo at Masters and PhD levels.

ELIGIBILITY for Scholarships and Bursaries

Must be a Caribbean National
Must have successfully completed an undergraduate or graduate degree at a high level in an area relevant to Climate Change including Climatology, Environmental Sciences, Coastal Management, Water Resources, Sustainable Tourism, Gender Studies.
Must have been accepted and registered in a Masters or PhD Programme at UWI or UW.
Evidence of professional experience in any of the fields indicated above will be an asset.
Applicants for Scholarships and Bursaries will be assessed by a Selection Committee established by the University of the West Indies, the University of Waterloo and The CARIBSAVE Partnership.

HOW TO APPLY:
Applications should be sent via email to The Office of Research, The University of the West Indies: pvcresearch@admin.uwi.tt and must be copied to The CARIBSAVE Partnership: hr@caribsave.org When applying please include ‘ParCA’ as Subject in the email.

The following should be included in your Application: an up to date Curriculum Vitae; a covering letter indicating qualifications; professional experience; preferred study location (UWI Campus or Waterloo); your area of interest for graduate studies and full contact details for three Referees. Closing date for this round of applications is 31 August 2011.

* Funding for this project and its student scholarships and bursaries is kindly provided by the Canadian IDRC and the Tri Council and disseminated through The CARIBSAVE Partnership, The University of Waterloo and The Unversity of the West Indies. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Thursday, July 28, 2011

An effective response to climate change

Foreign Secretary William Hague has delivered a speech titled 'The Diplomacy of Climate Change' to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

Thank you Governor Whitman. I am most grateful for your generous introduction.

I am delighted to be here at the Council on Foreign Relations. In the modern networked world, diplomacy is no longer the sole preserve of diplomats. Instead, we all have a stake in global affairs. That is why the work of renowned bodies such as this is more valuable than ever.

Today I want to talk about why I believe we, as foreign policy practitioners, need to up our game in building a credible and effective response to climate change. Climate change is perhaps the twenty-first century’s biggest foreign policy challenge along with such challenges as preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. A world which is failing to respond to climate change is one in which the values embodied in the UN will not be met. It is a world in which competition and conflict will win over collaboration.

We are at a crucial point in the global debate on climate change. Many are questioning, in the wake of Copenhagen, whether we should continue to seek a response to climate change through the UN and whether we can ever hope to deal with this enormous challenge.

I will first argue that an effective response to climate change underpins our security and prosperity. Second, our response should be to strive for a binding global deal, whatever the setbacks. And third, I will set out why effective deployment of foreign policy assets is crucial to mobilising the political will needed if we are to shape an effective response. More >>>



Location: Cayman Islands

Monday, July 25, 2011

The scourge of 'peak oil'

Energy derived from oil reaches, quite literally, every aspect of our lives.


From the clothes we wear, to the food we eat, to how we move ourselves around, without oil, our lives would look very differently.

Yet oil is a finite resource. While there is no argument that it won't last forever, there is debate about how much oil is left and how long it might last.

Tom Whipple, an energy scholar, was a CIA analyst for 30 years - and believes we are likely at, or very near, a point in history when the maximum production capacity for oil is reached, a phenomenon often referred to as "peak oil".

"Peak oil is the time when the world's production reaches the highest point, then starts back down again," Whipple told Al Jazeera. "Oil is a finite resource, and [it] someday will go down, and that is what the peak oil discussion is all about."

There are signs that peak oil may have already arrived.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) recently increased its forecast for average global oil consumption in 2011 to 89.5 million barrels per day (bpd), an increase of 1.2 million bpd over last year.

For 2012, the IEA is expecting another increase of 1.5 million bpd for a total global oil consumption of 91million bpd, leaving analysts such as Whipple to question how production will be able to keep up with increasing consumption. Whipple's analysis matches IEA data which shows world oil production levels have been relatively flat for six years.

"This is getting very close to the figure that some observers believe is the highest the world will ever produce," Whipple wrote of the IEA estimate in the July 14 issue of Peak Oil Review. He told Al Jazeera that peak oil could be reached at some point in the next month, or at the latest, within "a few years". More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A world in hunger: east Africa and beyond

The severe drought across much of east Africa is a human emergency that requires urgent attention. It also signals a global crisis: the convergence of inequality, food insecurity and climate change.


A drought across much of east Africa in mid-2011 is causing intense distress among vulnerable populations, many of them already pressed by poverty and insecurity. The range of the affected areas is extensive: the two districts in Somalia that are now designated as famine-zones are but the most extreme parts of a much wider disaster that stretches from Somalia across Ethiopia into northern Kenya, and as far west as Sudan and even the Karamoja district in northeast Uganda.

The numbers put at risk in this, the worst drought in the region since the 1950s, are enormous. At least 11 million people are touched by the disaster. In the Turkana district of northern Kenya, 385,000 children (among a total population of about 850,000) are suffering from acute malnutrition (see Miriam Gathigah, “East Africa: Millions Stare Death in the Face Amidst Ravaging Drought”, TerraViva / IPS, 18 July 2011). In Somalia, the conflict between the Islamist Shabaab movement and the nominal government makes conditions even more perilous for those affected.

The world's largest refugee camp, at Dadaab in northern Kenya, offers a stark illustration of the consequences of the drought. The population of Dadaab, which was designed to cope with 90,000 people, has increased in recent months to 380,000 - and 1,300 more are arriving daily (see Denis Foynes, “Eleven Million at Risk in Horn of Africa”, TerraViva / IPS, 19 July 2011).

The lessons of crisis

But just as striking is that this is part of a recurring phenomenon. Major warning-signs of malnutrition and famine were already visible in April 2008; among them were climatic factors, steep oil-price increases, increased demand for meat diets by richer communities, and the diversion of land to grow biofuel crops (see “The world’s food insecurity”, 24 April 2008).
More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Peak Oil Crisis: Reality On Hold

As much of America bakes in some of the highest temperatures ever recorded and while Washington argues interminably over taxes, budget cuts and debt caps, one is struck by the unreality of it all.  
When the House of Representatives votes to preserve the incandescent light bulb for a while as a symbol of personal freedom, it is as if we have entered a wonderland where black is white, up is down and as a nation we have lost touch with reality.

Our media, the cornerstone of our democracy, clearly has failed to communicate something of great import to us. Perhaps it is the information overload of the electronic age. There is so much news that the big picture is lost in mountains of trivia - there are only so many minutes in day. Another possibility is that there is so much bad news out there, that nobody really wants to hear or think about it. Denial is overwhelming us.

At last count there were at least a dozen mega dangers looming on the horizon all of which have the potential to change the nature of global civilization in profound ways. Yet the body politic seems to take little or no notice and concerns itself largely with issues that will soon be swept away by change. These dangers range from the depletion of our fossil fuel and mineral resources, to shrinking food and water supplies, to rising oceans, to political upheavals. More >>>

Monday, July 18, 2011

Dan Nocera - Personalized Energy

Dan Nocera: Personalized Energy from PopTech on Vimeo.

Enhancing Pakistan’s Energy Security Enhancing Pakistan’s Energy Security News Articles (4) Publications (43)

With an economy highly dependent on energy imports, Pakistan’s energy security challenges are a liability that is exacerbating the country’s already poor governance record. However, mounting domestic pressures and the global economic rebalancing led by China and India could provide the impetus for Pakistan to emerge as a more responsible energy stakeholder


Pakistan has historically faced repeated energy crises, suffering from a fragmented planning system, wasteful consumption, and weak production capacity. As of 2005, only half of the population actually had access to electricity, while those that do experience frequent blackouts and shortages.
Pakistan’s growing urbanization (3.1 percent) and industrial production (4.9 percent) – both key motors of economic growth – demand more energy every day, but production capacity remains weak and distribution systems inflexible. As the country’s population (already the sixth largest in the world) continues to grow, the deficiencies in Pakistan’s energy infrastructure are set to challenge the incumbent regime and the long-standing influence of the military – raising speculation about its internal stability and long-term economic future.

Pakistan depends heavily on energy imports and is projected to see a seven-fold increase in its energy demand by 2030. Much of this increase would have to come from expanded gas imports and domestic production. Pakistan’s economy is one of the world’s most gas-dependent, drawing on reserves in the restive Baluchistan province. In 2006, this province, home to 68 percent of the country's estimated 28 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of gas reserves, accounted for 36-45 percent of domestic production. Balochi insurgents, however, often target the country’s energy infrastructure, undermining Pakistan’s energy security and any prospect of regional energy schemes. More >>>

Location:Islamabad

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Solar is ready to launch

This fall SunPower will break ground on the first central station solar power plant in the United States, a 250 megawatt utility-scale facility in San Luis Obispo, California.


The plant will cost the local grid operator, Pacific Gas & Electric, less to build than a natural gas plant of the same capacity – grid parity anyone?

In January the company signed a deal with Southern California Edison to build two utility-scale solar power plants in Southern California with a combined generating capacity of 711 megawatts. “We’ve come an enormous way in the past five years”, says Blunden, “something on the order of 2,000 megawatts to almost 20,000 megawatts installed globally across the industry. 20,000 megawatts is equivalent to 20 nuclear reactors in scale.” More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Florida Power & Light Saves $22 Million with Nation's Largest Photovoltaic System

In the "Sunshine State," the choice to go solar seems virtually pre-ordained – and SunPower is helping Florida Power & Light fulfill that destiny.


The utility completed construction on what was America’s largest solar photovoltaic power plant in DeSoto County, and a second at NASA’s Kennedy Center. SunPower designed and built both facilities, which will produce a total of 35 megawatts of solar energy. With an estimated 360 days of sunlight in Florida annually, FPL's future as a leading producer of clean, renewable energy will be sunny indeed.

20 BY 2020
Aiming to trim Florida's greenhouse gas emissions, in 2007 Florida Governor Charlie Crist announced a mandate for all of his state’s utilities to generate at least 20 percent of their power from renewable energy sources by 2020. Fortunately, for nearly three decades the FPL Group – one of the nation’s largest providers of electricity-related services – had been exploring innovative energy technologies such as wind and solar power. "We're a national leader in renewables," notes Kathy Salvador, manger of project development at Florida Power & Light (FPL), one of the FPL Group’s main subsidiaries. "So going to solar powered-electricity for our 4.4 million customers complements that strategy."

SUNPOWER IS THE OBVIOUS CHOICE
As a state-regulated utility, FPL was required to have appropriate legislation in place to produce solar power. Explains Salvador, “We needed a specific policy that would allow us to recover the costs from our customers.” By 2008 Florida lawmakers approved such legislation, authorizing the production of 110 megawatts of solar power statewide. In anticipation of the bill’s passage FPL began evaluating solar providers, sending out a Request for Information to approximately 50 vendors, and then asking for bids from a short list of finalists. “Given the efficiency and cost of SunPower® solar panels, their experience with utility-scale projects, and the fact that they could commit to delivering within our timeframe, SunPower was the obvious choice,” Salvador says. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Dramatic Climate Swings Likely as World Warms: Ancient El Niño Clue to Future Floods

ScienceDaily (July 15, 2011) — Dramatic climate swings behind both last year's Pakistan flooding and this year's Queensland floods in Australia are likely to continue as the world gets warmer, scientists predict.


Researchers at the Universities of Oxford and Leeds have discovered that the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the sloshing of the warmest waters on the planet from the West Pacific towards the East Pacific every 2-7 years, continued during Earth's last great warm period, the Pliocene.

Their results suggest that swings between the two climatic extremes, known as El Niño and La Niña, may even have occurred more frequently in the warmer past and may increase in frequency in the future. Extreme ENSO events cause droughts, forest fires and floods across much of the world as well as affecting fishery production.

Reporting in the journal Paleoceanography, the team of geochemists and climate modellers use the Pliocene as a past analogue and predictor of the workings of Earth's future climate. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands