Renewable Energy Set to Explode, with Government Backing

December 21, 2006 at 3:11 am
Contributed by: Chris


Building on the previous post about the CFR report, here’s a new article I wrote for Energy and Capital, about some radical developments at the government and policymaking levels that bode great things for the renewable energy sector.



We Don’t Know Jack

December 20, 2006 at 11:20 am
Contributed by: Chris

Here’s my latest, going out to the newsletters & other peak oil sites today. It’s my investigation into the “elephant”-sized oil find in the Gulf of Mexico that was announced in September. As you might expect, I found that the reality didn’t quite measure up to the hype.


Go Solar for Less than Forty Cents on the Dollar

December 20, 2006 at 11:00 am
Contributed by: Chris


I’m catching up the blog today with some of the articles I have written for the free Angel Publishing newsletters. (If you want to read the ones I’ve written for the premium subscriptions, I’m afraid you’ll have to pony up!)

Here’s the first, about the recent extension of the federal tax credits for solar.
Originally published at

The Great Awakening (or, Slouching Toward Sustainability)

December 18, 2006 at 10:22 pm
Contributed by: Chris


I am pleased to announce that I have a new gig, writing for a family of investing newsletters. Their support will enable me to continue my efforts, beyond this blog, and with a much wider readership. They’re totally hip to peak oil (in fact, they’ve built several of the newsletters around it), they’re young and smart and insightful, and I’m honored to join their crack team of investors and pundits.

The company, Angel Publishing, publishes seven free “e-letters” on investing in various niches, and eight premium subscription letters, packed with stock tips and valuable insights. See their whole list of newsletters and prices here.

I am currently writing for two of the free e-letters, Wealth Daily and Energy and Capital, as well as a premium e-letter, Green Chip Stocks. I am writing two or three pieces a week, and I will repost some of that material to the blog, as time and permission allows.

Here is the first piece I wrote for them. It’s a high-level view of everything that this blog is about, and much of what I’m about, and will probably serve as a guide to topics I will be exploring in depth for the newsletters. It’s long, but hopefully, worth your while. Print it out, check it out, pass around to your friends, and most importantly, send me your feedback.

Stay tuned to this space, and to the abovementioned sites, for much, much more!


Unintended Consequences

December 11, 2006 at 8:16 pm
Contributed by:


This recent WSJ article expressed something that has long bothered me about the way that the press usually handles energy and climate change–as if they were separate issues. They are as intimately connected as my left hand and my right, but hardly anybody writes about that. Either the article is about the benefits of biofuels, or it’s about the climate effects of burning away forests to plant croplands. It’s about economic improvement programs in remote and impoverished parts of the world, or it’s about the effects of those programs on the native ecosystems. But almost never both, at once.

Well, just as there is no free lunch, there is no way to increase production of alternative fuels without also incurring some “externalized” costs somewhere else. And it’s about time that we understand that. Maybe we need to start telling newspaper editors that we can handle the truth, that we do have an attention span longer than your average TV commercial, and we want more well-rounded coverage of this stuff.

This article presented a balanced view of some new “sustainable” programs to grow biofuel feedstocks in Indonesia. Good stuff. Kudos to the WSJ.

Crude Awakening
As Alternative Energy
Heats Up,
Environmental Concerns Grow

of Renewable ‘Biofuels’
Could Have Drawbacks;
Fires Across

Boom Ignites Debate

December 5, 2006; Page A1

PONTIANAK, Indonesia — Investors are pouring billions of
dollars into “renewable” energy sources such as ethanol, biodiesel and
solar power that promise to reduce the world’s reliance on petroleum. But
exploiting these alternatives may produce unintended environmental and
economic consequences that offset the expected benefits.

Here on the island of Borneo, a thick haze often encloses
this city of 500,000 people. The cause: forest fires that have blazed
across the island. Many of them were set to clear land to produce palm oil
— a key ingredient in biodiesel, a clean-burning diesel fuel

[See a slideshow]1
Patrick Barta
At a new oil-palm plantation, the hillsides have
been cleared and terraced.

The bluish smoke is at times so dense that it leaves the
city dark and gloomy even at midday. The haze has sometimes closed
Pontianak’s airport and prompted local volunteers to distribute face-masks
on city streets. From July through mid-October, Indonesian health
officials reported 28,762 smog-related cases of respiratory illness across
the country.

“I feel it in my breath when I breathe,” said Imanuel
Patasik, a 26-year-old delivery man, as he sat in one of Pontianak’s many
open-air coffee shops on a recent evening. When the smoke is really bad,
he wears a mask to work, but still wakes up the next morning feeling sick.
“It’s part of life here,” he sighed.

Seasonal rains have helped quell the fires over the past
few weeks. But the miasma of smoke from Borneo and the island of Sumatra
— an annual phenomenon that blankets large parts of Southeast Asia in
smog — underscores a troubling dark side of the world’s
alternative-energy boom. Among other problems, the fires in Indonesia spew
millions of tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the
atmosphere, experts say. In doing so, they exacerbate the very
global-warming concerns biofuels are meant to

Such side effects are not an isolated problem. In
Indonesia, Malaysia, Canada and elsewhere, forests are being slashed for
new energy-yielding crops or other unconventional fuels. In India,
environmental activists say, water tables are dropping as farmers try to
boost production of ethanol-yielding sugar.

“Let’s be brutally frank: [The push for alternative fuels]
is going to cause significant changes for the environment,” says Sean
Darby, an equities analyst and expert on alternative energy companies at
Nomura International in Hong Kong. He is most worried about the strain on
water resources caused by accelerated crop production. Water, he says, is
“just as precious” as oil.

Some experts are also concerned that crops for biofuels
will compete with other farmland, possibly driving up global costs of
basic food production.


It’s not clear how serious these problems will become — or
whether they eventually will be resolved through new technologies and
stricter environmental measures. Proponents of alternative energy,
including some palm oil industry executives, say the dangers are
exaggerated and are outweighed by the benefits new fuels promise.

“We’re unfairly targeted,” says M.R. Chandran, former chief
executive of the Malaysian Palm Oil Association. He contends that the
timber industry and local farmers are much to blame for destroying
Indonesia’s forests.

The alternative energy field “is almost like the Internet
in terms of the pace of how fast all this is changing,” says Chris Flavin,
president of Worldwatch Institute, an environmental organization. He
believes that new technologies could help resolve some concerns over
collateral damage. One of the hottest, for example, is called cellulosic
ethanol, which uses different kinds of waste — including municipal
garbage — to create fuel.

In the U.S., questions about corn-based ethanol are
swirling in academic and agricultural circles, in part because of the work
of a Cornell University professor. David Pimentel, who teaches
environmental policy, has long held doubts about the fuel’s value. He
argues that expanding corn production for biofuels would deplete water
resources and pollute soils with added fertilizer and chemicals. It would
also require huge volumes of traditional energy for farming equipment and
ethanol-conversion facilities — a toll that could nullify gains from the
less-polluting fuel produced.

Other studies, including reports by researchers at the U.S.
Department of Agriculture, have reached much more optimistic conclusions
and have criticized Mr. Pimentel’s methodology.

Big Implications for Business

Critiques of alternative energy — even if they prove to be
exaggerated — could have big implications for business. Last year,
investors globally poured a record $49 billion into energies such as solar
power, ethanol and biodiesel, according to New Energy Finance, a
London-based firm that specializes in analyzing renewable energies. That
was a 60% increase from the previous year.

But commercializing many alternative fuels relies on
political support in the form of government subsidies or tax incentives.
So the rise of local resistance could jeopardize the new fuels’ economic


This is particularly true for palm oil, a once-mundane
commodity whose price has climbed about 31% so far this year. The spike is
partly attributable to demand for biofuels.

In October, a European Parliament committee recommended a
ban on all biofuel made from palm oil, citing fears that the crop
encourages deforestation in tropical countries. In Indonesia, activists
helped block an $8 billion Chinese-backed project that would have created
one of the world’s largest palm-oil plantations.

And last month, one of Britain’s largest power companies,
RWE npower, a subsidiary of the German power giant RWE AG, said it
would abandon a project that was to use several hundred thousand tons of
palm oil a year to generate power. An environmental group, Friends of the
Earth, had complained that the project would contribute to unsustainable
global demand for palm oil, contributing to rain-forest destruction in
South East Asia. RWE npower said it dropped the project because it
couldn’t secure an adequate supply of sustainably grown palm oil.

Most consumers still think of palm oil mainly as a source
of cooking oil. The oil is squeezed from bunches of red fruit that grow on
oil palms, primarily in Malaysia and Indonesia. But the oil can also be
processed to make fuel. Then it’s mixed with conventional diesel to form a
hybrid energy source — for instance, 80% regular diesel and 20% biofuel
— that can be pumped directly into fuel tanks.

Biodiesel offers lots of upsides. Renewable crops such as
palm oil reduce the need for fossil fuels such as petroleum whose supplies
are finite. It also burns more cleanly than carbon-based liquid fuel,
releasing fewer of the gases thought to cause global warming.

As oil prices have surged, a number of companies, including
Chevron Corp., have announced plans to build or invest in biodiesel
plants. In a recent report, Credit Suisse analysts said there’s enough
refining capacity under development to produce as much as 20 million
metric tons of fuel annually by late 2008. That capacity, more than twice
that of today’s levels, would “easily soak up” all the world’s available
palm oil — creating even more demand for plantations.

Indonesian authorities hope to capitalize on such demand to
bring economic growth to impoverished regions. The government is offering
low-interest loans for plantation companies, with a goal of adding 3.7
million acres of new plantations over the next five years, an area more
than half the size of New Hampshire. Officials maintain this can be done
on designated land areas without causing widespread environmental

Different Outcome

But what’s happening on the ground in Borneo suggests a
different outcome. Among the world’s most fabled islands, Borneo — which
is divided between Indonesia and Malaysia — is considered by
environmentalists to be one of the last great tropical wildernesses. It’s
home to rare and unusual species, including the wild orangutan, the
clouded leopard and the Sumatran rhinoceros.

It’s also home to some of the world’s last headhunters. The
indigenous Dayaks resurrected the grisly practice as recently as the late
1990s in interethnic clashes. Some Dayaks still live in villages that can
only be reached by river, and sleep in wooden “longhouse” buildings on

[Forest Fires Photo]
A fire at this oil-palm plantation near
Pontianak, Indonesia, made some local villagers

In the 1800s, Dutch and British traders began carving up
parts of the island to produce rubber and other commodities. Later,
Malaysian and Indonesian timber barons devastated millions of acres of
forest logging tropical hardwoods. Today, only a little more than half of
Borneo’s once-ubiquitous forest cover remains, according to WWF, the
global conservation organization.

Now, the palm-oil boom threatens what’s left. In West
Kalimantan, a province along the western coast, the palms cover about
988,000 acres or more, up from less than 37,000 acres in 1984. Fleets of
orange and mustard-colored trucks ply the province’s few paved roads,
ferrying the oil to river ports.

The plantations have meant jobs and opportunities for many
Dayak families. Some have even taken ownership stakes in the

As residents are discovering, though, the spreading
plantations have deleterious effects. They can alter water-catchment
areas, destroy animal habitats and contribute to the months-long bouts of
haze that spreads hundreds of kilometers across Southeast Asia.

As fires burn deep into the dry peat soil beneath
Indonesia’s forests, centuries of carbon trapped in the biomass are
released into the atmosphere. A study presented last month at a U.N.
Climate Change Conference in Nairobi showed that Indonesia is the world’s
third-biggest carbon emitter behind the U.S. and China, when emissions
from fires and other factors are considered.

“Stopping these fires could be one way of getting rid of
some significant carbon emissions to the atmosphere,” says Susan Page, a
senior lecturer at Britain’s University of Leicester who studies carbon
emissions in Southeast Asia.

[Smoke Photo]
A ship on the Kapuas River, in the Indonesian
section of the island of Borneo, is shrouded by smoke from forest

To be sure, palm-oil plantations aren’t the only cause of
deforestation and smoke on Borneo. Loggers have degraded huge swathes of
forest. And indigenous residents have long practiced their own form of
slash-and-burn agriculture that involves setting fires to clear fields for

But Indonesian environmental officials say plantation
companies are exacerbating the problem, and some palm-oil executives
concede their industry is partly to blame. Often, companies hack down the
trees, leaving behind a mass of debris that must be removed before they
can plant oil palms. The cheapest and easiest way is simply to torch

One new oil-palm plantation, four hours by dirt road from
Pontianak, offers a glimpse of the fallout from the flames.

The plantation stretches across some 2,740 acres and
features a series of blackened and largely bare hills. Charred stumps
stick up from the soil and blistered tree trunks litter the ground. In the
distance, a wall of misty jungle marks the border of the property.

Villagers nearby say smoke and flames from fires at the
site destroyed fruit and rubber trees on which they relied. They also made
many people in the area sick. One villager began acting like he was
possessed and was placed in a cage where he remained for weeks, the
village chief says.

Nearby, on a ridge overlooking the property, a man in a
floppy sun hat who identifies himself as the plantation manager says he
didn’t know who started the fires. “We are one of the victims,” says the
man, Kong Tamcheng.

Mr. Kong says his employer, an Indonesian company called
Incasi Raya Group, has a strict no-burning policy. He suggests the fire
might have been started by a careless worker flicking cigarette butts, or
by “interested parties” out to “smear” the company’s reputation.

But Untad Dharmawan, director of environmental impact
assessment for West Kalimantan, says Indonesian authorities are
investigating nine palm-oil companies for illegal burning, including
Incasi Raya Group and its manager, Mr. Kong. He displays a dossier of
photos of the Incasi Raya site, adding that his department has witnesses
with evidence the company started the fires.

Phone calls to Incasi Raya’s office in Padang, Indonesia
went unanswered.

Indonesian officials say they’re doing the best they can to
fight the fires and prevent illegal forest-clearing. Among other tactics,
they hired two giant Russian planes to drop “water bombs” and launched
projects to hand out water pumps to local villagers.

But they’re hamstrung by tight budgets and the logistical
difficulties of policing such a vast area with few roads. At best, “we can
just minimize the spread” of fires, laments Mr. Dharmawan, the provincial
environmental official.

Palm-oil companies, meanwhile, have joined with environment
organizations, energy companies and others to set up a group known as the
Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil that plans to certify plantation
companies that follow guidelines to minimize ecological damage.

Back in Borneo, Tony Hartono, head of a local plantation
association in West Kalimantan, says he still believes biodiesel derived
from palm oil will play a big role in solving the world’s energy problems.
After all, “it’s a renewable energy,” he says. “It’s our future.”

Puspa Madani in Jakarta and Celine Fernandez in Kuala Lumpur contributed
to this article.

Write to Patrick Barta at patrick.barta@wsj.com2
and Jane Spencer at jane.spencer@wsj.com3

URL for this article:

Hyperlinks in this Article:


2006 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

CFR Report: National Security Consequences of Oil Dependency

November 27, 2006 at 8:16 pm
Contributed by:


The Council on Foreign Relations has issued a new report entitled “National Security Consequences of Oil Dependency.” I think this is a hugely important development, despite having heard nothing about it in the news. The CFR is one of the most powerful and serious bodies in the world, and has a huge influence on the world’s leaders. The CFR task force who wrote the report was chaired by two former CIA directors, James Schlesinger and John Deutch. (You may have come across similar efforts by another former CIA Director, James Woolsey, who has made national energy security his personal ambition.)

To my pleasant surprise, the task force has come to the correct conclusion: that we have only one choice, which is to power down.

Here’s an excerpt from the foreword (emphasis mine):

The Council on Foreign Relations established an Independent Task
Force to examine the consequences of dependence on imported energy
for U.S. foreign policy. Since the United States both consumes and
imports more oil than any other country, the Task Force has concentrated
its deliberations on matters of petroleum. In so doing, it reaches
a sobering but inescapable judgment: the lack of sustained attention to
energy issues is undercutting U.S. foreign policy and national security.

The Task Force goes on to argue that U.S. energy policy has
been plagued by myths, such as the feasibility of achieving ‘‘energy
independence’’ through increased drilling or anything else
. For the
next few decades, the challenge facing the United States is to become
better equipped to manage its dependencies rather than pursue the
chimera of independence.

The issues at stake intimately affect U.S. foreign policy, as well as
the strength of the American economy and the state of the global
environment. But most of the leverage potentially available to the
United States is through domestic policy
. Thus, the Independent Task
Force devotes considerable attention to how oil consumption (or at
least the growth in consumption) can be reduced and why and how
energy issues must become better integrated with other aspects of U.S.
foreign policy.

Fortunately, they have made the entire 90-page report available for download, for free, along with their charts in a PowerPoint file:

National Security Consequences of Oil Dependency

The Council on Foreign Relations Independent Task Force

John Deutch and James R. Schlesinger, Chairs

October 2006

Serious reading. If any of you actually read the whole thing, please write me to discuss.


Oil Safari – A Travelogue of Addiction

November 27, 2006 at 1:42 pm
Contributed by:


Paul Salopek’s outstanding Chicago Tribune article about oil from earlier this summer (“A Tank Of Gas, A World Of Trouble”) has been developed into a video documentary. This is great stuff, check it out and forward it to your friends & family, esp. those who aren’t yet up to speed.

Follow this link and then click on “Watch Documentary”: Oil Safari – A Travelogue of Addiction

Bravo, again, to the Chicago Trib for its standout coverage on energy!


Debunking the Debunkers

November 21, 2006 at 12:00 am
Contributed by: Chris


Last week, we were treated to another dose of don’t-worry medicine by our favorite “purveyors of petro-prozac,” Daniel Yergin and Peter Jackson of CERA.

Fresh Corpses, or Why Cellulosic Ethanol Will Not Save Us

November 9, 2006 at 11:49 am
Contributed by: Chris


Today, like many of you no doubt, I am breathing a sigh of relief, rubbing my eyes and feeling like I’m waking up from a long national nightmare. Just as I was about to lose faith entirely in the American people, they went to the polls and threw the bums out. The hatemongers like Santorum, the corrupt friends of Jack Abramoff, the unscrupulous figures who would sooner protect a fellow Congressman than an underage teen…all got their comeuppance. And we even got the resignation of Rummy to boot. The do-nothing 109th Congress has been roundly chastised, and maybe now we can get back to the serious business at hand…like obsessing over the divorce of Brit and K-Fed.

Although there was much about the midterm election to be happy about, California’s Prop 87 was defeated. So we now must begin again to try to shape public policy to develop alternative liquid fuels and reduce our consumption of petroleum.

Or should we? Dr. Tadeusz “Tad” Patzek, Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering at UC Berkeley, says the expectations around cellulosic ethanol are greatly overblown and, indeed, influenced by politics. At the invitation of Venture Beat, an online blog/journal of Silicon Valley venture capitalists, Dr. Patzek responded to some of the claims about ethanol made by Vinod Khosla in arguing for Prop 87. His response is worth studying, and his questions at the end deserve to be asked and considered. Clearly, he does not believe there is any sort of techno-fix in the offing, and instead asks us to reconsider how and why we use energy, and how we can reduce our consumption. Check it out.



CA Prop 87: One Step in the Right Direction

November 2, 2006 at 1:29 pm
Contributed by:



Last night I
attended a Prop 87 rally at the San Francisco Civic Center plaza, featuring
President Bill Clinton, among others. His speech was typical Bill: clear,
direct, confident, articulate, yet plain-spoken. After six years of listening to
Bush mumble and stumble and mangle the English language while saying nothing, it
was like a cool drink of water to a man
dying of thirst. I didn’t realize how much I had missed him.


An excerpt of the speech (looks like it was recorded on a cellphone)
can be seen on You Tube:


It was a short
speech, but I think it got to the heart of what Prop 87 is about, and why we
need to support it. He exposed the tactics of Prop 87 opponents as “trying to
make the perfect the enemy of the good” and pointed out that “It’s the oldest
trick in the book.” He quoted Machiavelli from 600 years

There is
nothing so difficult in human affairs than to change the established order of
things, because those who will be hurt by the change are quite certain of
their loss, while those who will benefit are uncertain of their

[Ed. Note: I believe this is actually a paraphrasing of the following quote, from a bit less than 500 years ago:

There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.

– Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, 1532 ]

“We’re not going to
fall for a 600-year-old trick,” he said. The important thing is to make some
progress on our oil addiction problem, even imperfectly. I couldn’t agree more.
He pointed to the example of Brazil, and how they have displaced 40% of their
oil consumption with domestically grown biofuels, and attacked the Bush
adminstration’s withdrawl from the Kyoto accords on global warming. Pointing out
that the benefits of the effort include more “green” jobs, clean air, reduced
health costs, etc., he said pointedly: “This is a good deal for you.” California
has a “golden opportunity” to lead the world, he said, and “I’m sick and tired
of America being the caboose” on the train to the future. “This is a
no-brainer…except for that 600 year old trick.”


Big Oil has spent
$100 million to fight Prop 87. Doesn’t that, alone, tell you something?


Bill is right. We
have no time left to dither and wait for the perfect solutions to our problems.
We must seize this moment, roll up our sleeves, and start making some tracks in
the right direction. Doing nothing, or maintaining the status quo, is not an
option. We’re already out of time, behind the 8 ball, and we desperately need a
serious effort on the ground right now to start weaning us off of


One more
observation I’ll make about Prop 87: its opponents claim that it is a recipe for
further government waste, or even a handout to the ethanol industry (Vinod
Khosla’s team, and Pacfic Ethanol in particular). To that I say, big deal.
That’s no different than pretty much every government incentive I can think
of. And yet, no opponent has even attempted to address the
possible benefits of Prop 87, including cleaning up our air and water for
ourselves and future generations, reduced health care costs ($20 billion
annually) for things like athsma, sending less money to unstable Islamic regimes
who wish to do us ill, and building true domestic security by providing for our
own fuel needs. In other words, ignore the
cake, and worry about the icing.


How can anyone
weigh the public good benefits
against possible mismanagement of funds,
and conclude that the risk is too
? This is our environment, our lives, and our prosperity that we’re talking about.


And as for the
argument that levying a new $4 billion tax, over ten years, on oil producers in
California will raise gas prices, believe me, that’s the least of factors to
worry about. The effect of this tax on a globally traded commodity that trades 85 million barrels per day will be negligible, and will ultimately be totally eclipsed by peak oil anyway. The worst thing that could happen would be for the California oil producers to decide to leave more of it in the ground, for now, and buy it from elsewhere more cheaply, which would actually be a good thing. And in the domestic oil industry, which in aggregate earns $78
billion in profits annually, where just one of the big oil
companies (ExxonMobil) clears a $10
billion profit every quarter, $4 billion over 10 years is nothing.
Nothing! But it could make all the difference in making California a leader for
our children, for the common good, and for the right.


If you live in
California, please support Prop 87.




Reports from the 2006 ASPO-USA Peak Oil Conference

October 31, 2006 at 8:06 pm
Contributed by: Chris


It’s Halloween night, and since I’m not in a neighborhood with any trick-or-treaters, I’m free to experience some real-life chills by catching up with reports from the Boston World Oil Conference last weekend, an event sponsored by ASPO-USA.

How about these items for scares, thrills, & chills? (Emphasis mine) (more…)

Dr. Ali Bakhtiari’s Four Phases of Transition

August 31, 2006 at 9:33 pm
Contributed by: Chris


You may recall the name of Dr. Ali Morteza Samsam Bakhtiari, a senior expert to the Iranian national oil company, National Iranian Oil Co. (NIOC), who was featured in the film The End of Suburbia. (And if you haven’t seen it, you must!)


A man with decades of experience, Dr. Bakhtiari has been one of the few top names in the oil business to acknowledge the urgency and seriousness of peak oil, and speak fairly candidly about it.

This article, from yesterday’s Daily Reckoning investment newsletter, has a nice roundup of his views and adds some fresh material from the author’s personal correspondence with Dr. Bakhtiari.

What prompted me to blog it was that Dr. Bakhtiari proposed a framework to describe the post-peak scenario between now and 2020, in four phases. Now, I have put the challenge, to various discussion groups about energy, for anyone to come up with a realistic 20-year scenario. So far, there have been some admirable attempts, but nothing I would consider too seriously. I even tried to get it submitted as a standard question to all speakers at the upcoming ASPO conference, but that get much response. Perhaps it’s too daunting. The problem is, there are just too many variables, and their interaction is too unpredictable.

While simple, I think Dr. Bakhtiari’s T1 – T4 framework could be a useful foundation. Food for thought, anyway. (more…)

Notes from the 2005 ASPO-USA Peak Oil Conference

August 31, 2006 at 7:02 pm
Contributed by: Chris


Here are my notes from the 2005 ASPO-USA First World Oil Conference in Denver, Colorado.

Post Oil Man

August 28, 2006 at 9:05 pm
Contributed by:


I’m catching up the blog with some of the better material I came across in the last year but didn’t blog about. (Apologies to those of you who were on the email distribution for the repeat!)

Here’s an animation of a character making his peak oil preparation. I thought it was really good. Kinda creepy, but good. Effective in the way that
only animation can be. That’s a lot of perspective for only 3:09.


Post Oil Man

Robert Newman’s History of Oil

August 28, 2006 at 4:33 pm
Contributed by:


is an outstanding piece of dramatic work, a one-man show, talking about the
“other” history of oil. I’m blown away. Funny, smart, insightful, clever, I
can’t say enough. It’s 45 mins, so curl up with a cuppa and enjoy. Send it


Newman’s History of Oil


Robert Newman gets to grips with the wars and politics
of the last hundred years – but rather than adhering to the history we were fed
at school, the places oil centre stage as the cause of all commotion. This
innovative history programme is based around Robert Newman’s stand-up act and
supported by resourceful archive sequences and stills with satirical
impersonations of historical figures from Mayan priests to Archduke Ferdinand.
Quirky details such as a bicycle powered street lamp on the stage brings home
the pertinent question of just how we are going to survive when the world’s oil
supplies are finally exhausted.

Pabulum to the People, or Purveyors of Petro-Prozac

August 21, 2006 at 11:18 pm
Contributed by: Chris


The ASPO is gearing up for a proper and complete rebuttal to the aforementioned CERA report. Here is a precursor commentary by Randy Udall and Matthew Simmons, “CERA’s Rosy Oil Forecast – Pabulum to the People”. Smart, concise and on-the-money. The bottom line? “Taking such Pollyannish scenarios at face value threatens economic prosperity and national security.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.


BP: Beyond Propaganda

August 18, 2006 at 8:51 pm
Contributed by: Chris


Here’s a fresh perspective, tales from an insider on British Petroleum’s “beyond petroleum” ad campaign. It’s a fun read.


Wishful Thinking: Yergin and the Worry-nots

August 15, 2006 at 10:03 pm
Contributed by: Chris


Whenever the corporate media want to present a “balanced” view of our oil and natural gas problem, there’s one guy they always call upon: Daniel Yergin of Cambridge Energy Research Associates, or CERA. He’s that benign face on the TV assuring you that we’ll have ample supplies for the foreseeable future, who projects that we’ll add another 40 million barrels per day (mbpd) of production capacity by 2015, magically matching our projected demand. He’s the one who’s opinion is supposed to be as valid as the host of petroleum geologists who make up the ASPO, who say that we’ll hit the peak around 90 mbpd in 2010, or 4 mbpd more than today, in four years.

A Tank Of Gas, A World Of Trouble

August 14, 2006 at 10:12 pm
Contributed by:

When I blasted the generally poor reportage about energy in my last blog, I was unaware of this outstanding piece published by the Chicago Tribune a week earlier. But it’s burning up the blog charts now. It’s long, so download the complete PDF and read it at your leisure, but do check it.

The author, Paul Salopek, has done what no one had ever done before–indeed what most said couldn’t be done–and that’s to trace a tankful of gas back to its oil fields of origin. But aside from that feat, he’s done his homework about the various perspectives on the future of oil, and has come up with a sensible, balanced, and mostly correct conclusion.

It also has some well-done and very pithy appendixes (listed as “Sidebars” in the Web version) that do a decent job of covering the peak oil debate, the nature of oil, and the debate over the Saudi peak.

A Tank Of Gas, A World Of Trouble

By Paul Salopek

Chicago Tribune

Published July 29, 2006,0,7163057.htmlstory

Seriously, read it. It’s great, and a compelling bit of journalism, not your usual dry stuff. I give it an A+. I hope he wins his third Pulitzer for this one.


Update Saturday August 26, 2006:

Paul Salopek imprisoned in Darfur and charged with spying

WASHINGTON, Aug. 26 /PRNewswire/ — Paul Salopek, who was traveling in Africa to report on the culture and history of the Sahel for National Geographic magazine, was detained by Sudanese authorities and on Aug. 26 charged with espionage in a North Darfur court in El Fashir, Sudan. National Geographic magazine vigorously protests this accusation and appeals to Sudan for his immediate release and the release of two Chadians assisting him.

Update September 9, 2006:

Salopek, his driver and his interpreter were released after Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir pardoned them on September 9.

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