All Busy on the Western Front

May 25, 2007 at 3:16 pm
Contributed by: Chris


In this week’s Energy and Capital article, I review some recent events in California’s quest for renewable energy and the fight against global warming.

In many ways, the rest of the country tends to follow California’s example, so this should be instructive to like-minded individuals everywhere.

R.I.P. Hummer 2

May 25, 2007 at 6:28 am
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Check out this article on the impending demise of the Hummer, by the ever-opinionated and unapologetic hardcore leftist, Mark Morford of the San Francisco Chronicle. It’s a fun read and might even signal a turning of the American sentiment toward their precious cars.

Rejoice, The Hummer Is Dead

The Future: Steam-Powered Cars

May 21, 2007 at 10:12 am
Contributed by: Chris


In this week’s article for Energy and Capital, I share some exciting findings from a geothermal conference I went to a few weeks ago. This is very cool technology and it’s as clean and green as it can be. Check it out.

There’s a Hole in the Bucket

May 18, 2007 at 10:25 am
Contributed by: Chris


In this week’s article for Energy and Capital, I try to explain, once and for all, that gas prices aren’t high because of gouging by Big Oil, and why boycotts don’t help bring prices down. If you’ve ever received one of those email chain letters that told you not to buy gas on a certain day or from a certain company (like the one that went around again this week), then please forward this article to whomever sent it to you. It’s high time people started to understand the way this system really works.


Visualize Consumption

May 15, 2007 at 1:36 pm
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Here’s a very cool art project I came across, which uses visual art to demonstrate the volumes of stuff that Americans consume every day. It’s pretty stunning!

In the author’s words:

This new series looks at contemporary American culture through the austere lens of statistics. Each image portrays a specific quantity of something: fifteen million sheets of office paper (five minutes of paper use); 106,000 aluminum cans (thirty seconds of can consumption) and so on. My hope is that images representing these quantities might have a different effect than the raw numbers alone, such as we find daily in articles and books. Statistics can feel abstract and anesthetizing, making it difficult to connect with and make meaning of 3.6 million SUV sales in one year, for example, or 2.3 million Americans in prison, or 426,000 cell phones retired every day. This project visually examines these vast and bizarre measures of our society, in large intricately detailed prints assembled from thousands of smaller photographs.

Check it out!

Running the Numbers

An American Self-Portrait

By Chris Jordan

Unpleasant Surprises for Natural Gas

May 11, 2007 at 3:13 am
Contributed by: Chris


This week I prepared a detailed report on the natural gas situation in the U.S. (and elsewhere), for Energy and Capital.
The full report (with lots of charts) is available as a PDF file here: Indigestion Over Gas. Or you can just read the short version below.

The implications are clear to me: We’re going to be seeing significantly higher prices for grid electricity and gas-fired heat.


The Next “Greatest Generation”

May 4, 2007 at 3:28 pm
Contributed by: Chris


Here is my latest for Energy and Capital, about the results of a new study for the Pentagon which says that it is “imperative” for the Department of Defense to “fundamentally transform” everything they do, immediately, to deal with our dependence on oil.

Since the DoD is the largest energy consumer in the nation, I think this is a very significant development.


Steve Forbes and T. Boone Pickens Debate Peak Oil

May 4, 2007 at 8:09 am
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Here’s something interesting: an hour-long debate between Steve Forbes and Boone Pickens about peak oil, from the April 24 Milken Institute Global Conference. (For more on this notable event, see “Observations on a Hotel Full of Billionaires”.)

Those are two of the richest guys in the world, so their opinions bear some weight. As longtime readers of GRL know, I’m squarely in Boone’s camp…although I think he has an overly optimistic view of the future of natural gas, given that North American production is past the peak, there is a lot of resistance to siting new LNG import facilities, and the global peak of gas should be right around 2011.

Watch the interview here or download the transcript here.


Humor: the "Minty Clean Air Act"

May 4, 2007 at 7:44 am
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Ahh, it’s about time I posted some humor here eh?

Minty Clean Air Act


Online Reality Game: A World Without Oil

May 3, 2007 at 11:46 am
Contributed by:

This is interesting – a new online reality game designed to simulate the impending oil crisis. See the article below and give it a whirl.


A world without oil, in a game

A San Jose designer is trying to solve a crisis
before it can happen.

By RANDY MYERS/MediaNews staff

Article Created: 04/22/2007 09:09:44 AM

In a matter of days, gas prices will skyrocket, a dwindling food supply will
rot, and the oil crisis will literally stop Americans in their tracks.

How can you and your loved ones survive a crippling breakdown?

Log in to “World Without Oil,” a free alternate reality game that taps our
collective ingenuity to stop a plausible crisis before it happens. Or at least
prepare a post-Katrina nation to deal better with a disaster.

Sprung from the imagination of San Jose gamemaker Ken Eklund, the 30-day
Internet game begins April 30 at

“Oil’s” creators herald the venture as a first – an alternate reality game
that wrestles with a significant social problem. Another topical game, the
obesity-themed “Fatworld,” is in production.

“This is the alternate reality game that will change reality,” Eklund said.

“People are realizing that (an alternate reality game) is not only a viable
way to teach and entertain people, in many ways it’s better than booklearning.”

Players enter the game by e-mail, phone calls and creating real or imagined
personas on MySpace. What they say will shape the game.

Organizers hope more tech-literate players will blog, make YouTube videos and
post audio clips and photos.

Most difficult for organizers will be harnessing the collective brainpower so
it doesn’t explode into chaos.

To provide cohesion, eight characters will be gamemasters for the virtual
crisis. Players drop in at any time to offer their thoughts about dealing with
issues they might encounter, from soaring prices to trying to commute.

“We’re asking people to come and write the story and that’s mainly because
the subject is too big for any small group of people,” Eklund said.

“The No. 1 challenge is that people’s imagination is so great,” Eklund said.
“We’re going to be running as fast we can to keep up with people. ”

When the game ends, its makers expect the postings will provide insight and
solutions to an oil crisis.

Expect growing demand for games like “Oil,” said Jane McGonigal, a Berkeley
futurist and game designer for the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto.

Beyond its social resonance, “Oil” illustrates what Web 2.0 is all about,
said McGonigal, an “Oil” collaborator. She appeared this week at a Web 2.0
conference in San Francisco. (Web 2.0 is the term used to describe the
internet’s much-debated next stage.)

“Web 2.0 is all about participatory culture,” she said. “Nobody’s just
receiving content, everything is collaborative including content and analysis.”
Web 2.0 draws it together, and so does “Oil.”

“Oil” players visit the website and plunge into a drama orchestrated by the
49-year-old Eklund.

“I was looking for an issue that affected everyone,” he said. Hurricane
Katrina and its devastating aftermath, which produced a surge in gasoline
prices, fueled “Oil.”

“Katrina definitely left me with the impression that in times of crisis you
need to have your own resources,” he said. “You can’t depend on a helicopter
swooping from the sky to save you. You better have a plan you can rely on . . .
Oil just fit the bill because it is the oxygen of our country.”

Focusing on game solutions, might equip Americans to deal with a real crisis,
he said. Eklund expects fresh insights to come from the large group of online

The resulting game community will likely return to the real world to evaluate
and possibly cut consumption, he said. Regardless of outcomes, the game
sidesteps political posturing and fingerpointing. “Oil” was funded through a
Corporation of Public Boardcasting grant.

Educators wanting to keep pace with internet-age students have expressed
interest in using “Oil” in class.

“I can’t tell you how many educators and nonprofit organizers I’ve talked to
see this as the next generation’s type of curriculum,” McGongial said.

The game’s topic and interactive nature sold Jeff Towey at Richmond’s Making
Waves. He plans to have his afterschool students patricpate. He is particularly
intrigued by how reality games can cover academic subjects, from science to

“It’s not straightforward like writing an essay,” he said.

“Oil” isn’t the first game to tackle social issues.

The nascent movement for serious-minded games includes MTV posting at a Darfur game created by college students and the
International Center on Nonviolent Conflict’s “A Force More Powerful,” an
activists’ how-to for non-aggression at

What distinguishes “Oil” is that it is an alternate reality game aimed at
benefitting the public, McGonigal said.

Can it achieve such a lofty goal? A UC-Berkeley professor of practical art
and new media hopes so.

“(Oil dependency) is an extremely serious matter, and I think it’s good to
engage with these questions,” said Greg Niemeyer.

“There’s an aspect to it that is a little hard to translate into a game. Some
of its seriousness might be obscured by the fact that we’re encountering it in a

“What we need to learn is what are our core social values and how to find a
balance without an abundance of resources? That’s a huge question. If this game
will bring us to that it could be very successful. If it doesn’t it’s too bad.”

Where to play

• To check out “World Without Oil,” visit
The game begins April 30.

• “World Without Oil” is a joint project of PBS’s Independent Lens and
its Electric Shadows Web-original programming. To see the company’s other
interactive ventures, go to

• To learn more about alternate reality gaming, visit the Alternate
Reality Gaming Network at

• To read what gamers think of the idea, go to

War Costs Update

May 3, 2007 at 10:02 am
Contributed by: Chris


I have been meaning to revisit the cost of the Iraq war for some time, but this snippet from yesterday’s Progress Report did a suitable job of it, so I’m just pasting it here.

Back in 2003-4, I had numerous email conversations that went on for days with some of my readers about the expected cost of the war. Somehow, they believed the Administration’s lowball estimates, claiming that the $200 billion figure cited by White House economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey was way over the top, that it was the result of “double counting” and a whole lot of other nonsense.

I, for one, never bought that. I thought $200 billion and several years was itself extremely lowball…and so far, I’ve been right.

Not that any of the aforementioned readers have had the decency to admit it.

This war isn’t going away any time soon. Not even if the Congress votes to de-fund it. The Saudis have said recently and publicly that our occupation of Iraq is illegal and unjustified, but I think that’s just a requisite CYA for domestic assuagement. They know better than anyone that if the U.S. military wasn’t in Iraq right now quelling the Shi’ites, that Saudi forces would have to step into the breach–which they no-how want to do. They need us there to fight a proxy war for them.

Especially now that a recent Woods-Mackenzie study has reviewed Iraq’s oil reserves and concluded that they were much larger than previously thought–second only to Saudi Arabia’s–there’s no way we can leave Iraq. Not now, and probably not ever.

So what does this do for the accounting on the War on Terror War for Energy?

I’m now raising my estimate: Half a trillion is still lowballing it. Big time.

The U.S. military has spent an average of $44 billion a year to protect oil operations in the Persian Gulf, and they’ve been doing that for years. Here’s a sneak preview from a new article I just finished, which will go out later this week:

We import about 800 million barrels per year of black gold from the Persian Gulf. Divided into $44 billion, that works out to slightly less than $55 a barrel. When oil is trading on the open market around $65!

If those protection costs weren’t externalized onto the U.S. military (your tax dollars at work!) but priced into the world market, I reckon that would put oil at around $120 a barrel.

Does anybody still think renewable energy is too expensive compared to oil?

This administration has lied pretty much every time it has opened its mouth about the Iraq war. From the missing WMDs to the purported connections between Saddam and al Qaeda; from the alleged attempt to purchase Nigerian yellowcake to the outing of Valerie Plame; from the assertion that Iraq could fund its own reconstruction to the firing of the guy who provided the (lowball) $200 billion estimate; from the promise that we would be greeted as liberators, to the denial that Iraq has descended into a civil war that we cannot win; from the completely fabricated stories about Pat Tillman and Jessica Lynch, to the persistent under-reporting of casualties, woundings and long-term illnesses suffered by soldiers; from the “they hate us because we’re free” pabulum to the secretive attempt to privatize Iraq’s oil wealth and put it into the hands of U.S. oil companies…it has been one, big, fat, cynical, outrageous, and unforgiveable lie.

And speaking of shamless liars, check out the latest bit of “revisionist history” visited upon us by none other than Mr. “Global Warming is a Hoax” himself:

“The whole idea of weapons of mass destruction was never the issue, yet they keep trying to bring this up.”

— Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), 4/27/07, criticizing Congress and the media for “mischaracterizing” the reasons for U.S. involvement in Iraq


“Our intelligence system has said that we know that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction — I believe including nuclear.”

— Inhofe, 8/18/02

Ugh. I mean…??? How dumb (or forgetful) do these guys think we are?

When I think about how that half a trillion plus has been and will be spent, with hardly any serious debate on the alternatives…and then think about how far half a trillion would take us in developing renewables and weaning ourselves off of foreign oil…I just shake my head. It just seems too brain-dead to be true. Is there nobody driving this bus?

But that discussion is for another time…

Until then,


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