Saturday, August 06, 2005

E=Mc2

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By Elaine Meinel Supkis

Today is the 60th anniversary of the greatest demonstration of power ever: a nuclear bomb was dropped on a city. From that day forwards, we knew we had the power of the Gods and unfortunately, as the Bible likes to show, Gods have a tic for annihilation.

Wipe outs.

On that gloomy note, I must address a rather gloomy problem: the Hubbert Oil Peak. From the New York Times:
President Bush might not have turned up personally in Riyadh yesterday but he certainly sent a high-powered delegation to pay his respects to the new leader of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah.
I guess old Abdullah's kissing and hand holding cooing session with Bush at Crawford was suffient.
The American turnout, led by Vice President Dick Cheney, former President George H. W. Bush, and former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, was the latest signal that relations between the two countries have thawed since the strains of 9/11. But it was also an acknowledgment of a simple fact: like it or not, the United States is more dependent than ever on Saudi Arabia.

"The Saudis are in a great position today," said Jean-François Seznec, a professor at Columbia University's Middle East Institute. "We cannot be enemies with everybody. We need their oil desperately."
The usual lies. Right after the WTC collapsed, Bush and Cheney moved swiftly...to protect the Saudis, even those directly involved in funding and covering up the hijacker's activities. The Saudi information the 9/11 white wash commission wrote was redacted and so was another 9/11 government report. At no point did we punish the Saudis in any fashion at all. Throughout the "War on Terror" we have literally kissed and bowed and scraped in front of the Saudis.

Just one month before 9/11, I wrote about a news article that described a visit to one of the Saudi princes by Bush Sr. In it, the reporter described how the Saudi ignored Bush Sr and watched TV while he made the former President sit on a cushion while he reclined on a couch. He was nonchalant while Bush Sr leaned forward and betrayed his anxiety to please.

Sort of like how the Bush team meets with the top Chinese communists.
"As the world's largest producer and as the world's largest consumer, our two countries have a special relationship," Samuel W. Bodman, the secretary of energy, said earlier this year after meeting in Washington with his Saudi counterpart, Ali al-Naimi. "We are, at least in certain respects, partners."
This is why curbing our consumption is so important and the failure to do this is going to haunt us later if not sooner. At no point have the Bush/oil rulers team tried to avert the coming crisis. Indeed, they encourage it such as the bill that Congress passed giving huge tax cuts for people buying Hummers.
Then came the Iraq war. Among the fringe benefits of removing Saddam Hussein from power, went the thinking in the United States at the time, would be a rapid recovery of that country's oil production. In some hawkish circles in Washington, it was thought that a free Iraq would eventually undercut OPEC's power and marginalize Saudi Arabia.
This paragraph is pure propaganda. It is all lies.

Texas and the other former Confederate states that pump oil and gas are all part of OPEC. They love OPEC. They do everything in their power to extend OPEC's power and to enhance OPEC. When Russia suddenly joined the energy market with the fall of communism there, fuel prices collapsed. This was terrible for the American branch of OPEC but now everything is coming up roses for them. They are reaming out their fellow Americans and laughing all the way to the bank. They know, if the natives get restive, they can point to Venezuela and demand we invade.

The Iraq war was a conspiracy between OPEC members to take down someone who was troubling them. It wasn't to make oil cheap, either. It was to extend the powers of the Saudi/Texas ruling alliance. The support of the Israeli/American Jewish community was a bonus for them, they know they can crush the Jewish alliance in an eyeblink whenever it suits them, right now, keeping Israel locked in the futile battle over nearly useless land keeps them in power.

Back on the homefront, all sorts of schemes keep popping up in a vain struggle to try to keep the oil based culture running. From Yahoo:
A University of Idaho graduate student believes the answer to the world's crude oil crisis grows on trees. Juan Andres Soria says he has developed a process that turns wood into bio-oil, a substance similar to crude oil.

The process — in which sawdust and methanol are heated to 900 degrees Fahrenheit to create the bio-oil — is already drawing some interest from energy and wood product companies, Soria said.

"But because it's quite novel, there's a bit of reserve," he said.

Soria is testing his theory with the help of Armando McDonald, associate professor of wood chemistry and composites in the University of Idaho's College of Natural Resources.

Though the idea may sound far-fetched, Soria and McDonald say the theory has precedent in nature — coal is the result of trees being subjected to high amounts of heat and pressure.

"We're trying to speed up the process," McDonald said. "Rather than doing it in millions of years, can we do it in minutes?"

So far, Soria's research has focused on sawdust from Ponderosa pine trees, although he said any variety of tree could be used, including fast-growing varieties like those being cultivated for wood pulp. Only about 2 percent of the mass is lost in the heating process, he said. After the bio-oil is produced, he separates it by boiling points, or grades. So far, he said, he's identified oil grades that could someday replace gasoline, tar, glues and resins that make things like lawn furniture.

Ponderosa pine sawdust is only the beginning, Soria and McDonald claim. Next, they will begin testing to see if they can get bio-oil from pine needles and bark.

The two are doing the research without grant money. Soria plans to use the research in his dissertation for his doctorate. If the private sector likes the idea enough to back it financially, Soria said he could put together an industrial-size bio refinery in five years.

Still, he said, the bio-oil isn't likely to be an immediate competitor to crude oil. Crude oil currently costs about $60 a barrel, and bio-oil will only be competitive when the cost of crude oil reaches $80 a barrel, Soria said.
The reason why oil changed civilization and rapidly became the basis of modern life is that it is the compressed energy of the sun, millions of years of energy, trapped in rock that is relatively, until recently, easy to extract. Just put in a well and a pump and let her rip! Transporting it raises the overhead, processing it into gasoline takes energy, too, but the stored value of all these years of capturing sun power, due to geological compression from the very weight of the rocks overlaying the organic matter, the positive energy flow is tremendous.

Nothing comes near it.

I heat my house with wood. The trees in my forest collect solar energy over the years, hundreds of years in the case of some of my oak trees. To use this energy my husband and I have to expend energy. We have to use either the tractor, the horse or drag the wood on the ground by hand or by sled in winter. We have to saw it up and then chop it, a lot of energy expended there! Then carry the chopped wood and stack it. Then unstack it and take it inside. And then throw it in the fire, all this requires a lot of calories expended.

To harvest wood takes lots of energy. If, say, we take up all the pine needles, for example, over 100 years, the forest will be a desert because the trees will take energy out of the soil as they grow and not replentish it by dropping leaves and needles. All forests are rich environments only because of trees rotting or dropping organic matter. This is why, when jungles are clear cut, the soil degrades nearly immediately. Indeed, the history of agriculture is the history of desertifcation.

The nexus of the agrarian revolution was in the Nile valley and the Tigris/Euphretes valley. Other great centers were in similar valleys all of which had one thing in common: they flooded a lot.

The floods regenerate the soil.

Turning wood in gasoline is a tremendous waste of energy and it will destroy the enviroment even more hideously than the present rate of destruction.

Others are just as alarmed as I am about this frekless disregard of all the levels of interaction. From the San Diego Union Tribune:
It sounds like a perfect, win-win solution for both the nation's farm economy and its energy needs. According to the National Corn Growers Association, ethanol production could make 1.4 billion bushels of corn "disappear" in 2004 ... enough to replace more than 2 billion gallons of gasoline and provide a much-needed market for farmers stricken with chronically low corn prices.

There's just one catch: According to scientists in New York and California, it takes more energy to make ethanol than you get back in fuel savings. More precisely, says David Pimentel of Cornell University, it takes the equivalent of 1.29 gallons of gasoline to produce enough ethanol to replace one gallon of gasoline at the pump. Instead of making the nation more energy self-sufficient, ethanol production actually increases our need for oil and gas imports, Pimentel says.
Like when the Norse were dying in Greenland, they refused to change their culture and adapt to deteriorating conditions and ended up eating their sheep and milk cows and then starved to death, we, too, don't want to change anything and would rather starve part of humanity so we can burn corn rather than change even slightly.

The cheap price of corn is due only to the cheap price of fuel. Farmers can grow and harvest corn easily and thanks to fertilizers, they can do this without regard to the balance of nature, but this is a temporary situation. The fields have to be ploughed, then sown, then maintained, all requiring fuel expenditures, then harvested, processed, transported and then in order to turn it into fuel, energy has to be applied yet again!

This is why the economy of horses and oxen made sense for eons. My ox team produced tons of manure which they then hauled around the farm for me and I used it to enrich the soil. The sheep pen in winter was the vegetable garden. Their piss enriched the soil which is why, in medieval times, people fought in courts over who gets to pen the sheep in winter.

From Xinhuanet:
Big oil companies are driving advertising campaigns warning that the world is running out of oil and calling on the public to help the industry.

ExxonMobil, the world's largest energy group, said in a recent advertisement: "The world faces enormous energy challenges. There are no easy answers," according to a story of Financial Times published on Friday.

And ExxonMobil's statistics back up the sentiment. In The Outlook for Energy: A 2030 View, the Irving, Texas-based company forecasts that oil production outside the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, the cartel that controls three-quarters of the world's oil reserves, will reach its peak injust five years.

Chevron, the second-largest energy group in the United States, sends a similar message, but goes two steps further. "One thing isclear: The era of easy oil is over. We call upon scientists and educators, politicians and policy-makers, environmentalists, leaders of industry and each one of you to be part of reshaping the next era of energy. Inaction is not an option," was the message in a recent advertising campaign.
This is infuriating, to say the least. When we campaigned about the Hubbert Oil Peak, they were lobbying Congress and corrupting our political system via campaign money funneled to the GOP to get them into power so they could make our situation much worse, now they are warning us?

Insane.
Meanwhile, a recent simulation exercise showed that terrorists struck oil facilities in the US and Saudi Arabia, pushing oil prices to a record 120 dollars. It goes further to "project" that oil price might rocket to 160 dollars a barrel, after a "simulated" violence in Saudi Arabia which causes evacuation of foreign nationals with oil expertise, ending the country's ability to increase oil production.

However, a senior executive at an oil company not involved in the advertising campaigns speculated that his counterparts were attempting to buy themselves some slack to go after the messier, more expensive, dirty oil. Another executive said it may buy some sympathy for the difficulty many companies are having in increasing their production and reserves.
The pessimist in me often says, in the bitter end, in an attempt to cling to the dying Oil Era Civilization, humans will start WWIII and will rush to kill off each other so the survivors can consume oil to their heart's content because all the competitors for it will be dead.

Saving the environment makes sense but as Jarrad notes in his best seller book about failed cultures: people would rather turn cannibal than stop doing destructive things that are driving them into annihilation.

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