Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Monday, November 29, 2010

Wikileaks Latest

I spent the early morning hours catching up on the fascinating revelations resulting from the latest efforts of Wikileaks, which involved publishing a quarter of a million US diplomatic cables.  (See NYT coverage here, and Guardian here).  Obviously, the fallout from this incident will be going on for quite some time.  A few quick reactions:

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Best wishes to all readers and commenters!

Posting will probably be light at best for the next few days.

A couple of anniversaries of interest.  It's five years since Ken Deffeyes' famous claim that Peak Oil would be Thanksgiving Day 2005 (I think the degree of precision was somewhat tongue-in-cheek).  Whether he was kinda-sorta-qualitatively right, or totally wrong is still unclear.

Also, this blog turned one year old on Tuesday.

Best of Me on The Oil Drum

From mid 2005 to early 2008, I posted at the The Oil Drum, a peak oil analysis site.  Recently, Nate Hagens, an editor there, asked me to select my favorite ten of my own pieces there, as part of a big post on the site's historical best posts.  Here are my selections:

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010

New York Times still Parotting CERA

Heavens - the New York Times is an awfully slow learner.  There is a piece in there by Clifford Krauss (who has occasionally done better than this), which is a completely one-sided puff piece that reads as though it was written by a PR agency for a major oil company, backed up by the usual quotes from CERA.  It's full of stuff like this:
THREE summers ago, the world’s supertankers were racing across the oceans as fast as they could to deliver oil to markets growing increasingly thirsty for energy. Americans were grumbling about paying as much as $4 a gallon for gasoline, as the price of crude oil leapt to $147 a barrel. Natural gas prices were vaulting too, sending home electricity bills soaring.

A book making the rounds at the time, “Twilight in the Desert,” by Matthew R. Simmons, seemed to sum up the conventional wisdom: the age of cheap, plentiful oil and gas was over. “Sooner or later, the worldwide use of oil must peak,” the book concluded, “because oil, like the other two fossil fuels, coal and natural gas, is nonrenewable.”

But no sooner did the demand-and-supply equation shift out of kilter than it swung back into something more palatable and familiar. Just as it seemed that the world was running on fumes, giant oil fields were discovered off the coasts of Brazil and Africa, and Canadian oil sands projects expanded so fast, they now provide North America with more oil than Saudi Arabia. In addition, the United States has increased domestic oil production for the first time in a generation.

EPA Fuel Economy Report

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Monday, November 15, 2010

No Tropical Drought in the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum

There is a paper that just came out (subscription required) in the current issue of Science that is encouraging with respect to the possibility of widespread drought under global warming.  The paper concerns the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum.  This is an episode about 55 million years ago when, for reasons that aren't altogether clear, there was a large release of carbon into the atmosphere.  The leading theory is that it might have been caused by volcanic intrusion into carbon rich sediments in the North Atlantic.  At any rate, over the course of about 20,000 years, global temperatures rose about 6oC (11oF) from a base already warmer than today.  There was a global extinction event, with large amounts of ocean flora disappearing.  There was also a large number of new species created, including many new types of mammals.

The episode is of obvious interest as a prototype for what is presently happening with human-caused CO2 emissions, though it clearly isn't a perfect analogy.  It happened a long time ago in a world that was quite different in important respects, and the rate of emissions was significantly slower than modern anthropogenic emissions.

In any case, the new paper concerns what happened in the South American tropical forests during the PETM, and comes from analyzing pollen from sediments at three sites in Columbia and Venezuela.  The good news is twofold:

Friday, November 12, 2010

Iraqi Political Maneuverings

Iraq Oil Report has a very interesting piece on the latest struggles to get a new Iraqi government functioning.  From the global perspective, I think a key question is what happens to the oil ministry:
Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the leadership of the Oil Ministry, Foreign Ministry and Finance Ministry positions would be split among the biggest blocks, while the other two so-called “sovereign ministries” – Defense and Interior – would be led by independent, non-political people.

Among the sovereign ministries, Oil appears to be the biggest prize, with all three blocks angling for it. The current oil minister, Hussain al-Shahristani, is part of the State of Law coalition.

“Of course we are thinking of the Oil Ministry,” said Kamal Saidi, MP and top ally of Maliki, “But will the political agreement allow this?”

When asked if the Kurdistan Alliance will get the spot, Kurdish President Massoud Barzani said, “It’s not sure yet.”
My sense is that Hussain al-Shahristani has done a remarkably good job as oil minister on behalf of his people in getting all the international oil companies involved in developing Iraq's oil, but in striking some very tough bargains with them, rather than giving away the store.  While nobody is perfect, my impression from thousands of miles away is that he is an unusually competent and honest public servant by Iraqi standards.  I think the odds of a large Iraqi oil production increase will be lower if someone else takes over the position.

So the future direction of global oil production may be hanging in the balance here.

Global Oil Production Increased in October

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thursday, November 4, 2010

IEA Sceptical of Iraq Oil Increases

According to the Financial Times, which apparently obtained a draft of the next World Energy Outlook:
Iraq will miss its target of producing 12m barrels of oil a day by 2017 and could take another 20 years to achieve even half that level of output, says the International Energy Agency.

In a draft of its annual World Energy Outlook report, the IEA gives a downbeat assessment of Iraq’s ambitions. However, it predicts its crude oil production will overtake that of neighbouring Iran “by soon after 2015”.
Certainly some scepticism as to the schedule and plateau level is in order. Whether this much, I'm not sure - a lot is uncertain.  A number of big oil companies are going to lose a lot of money if things go as the IEA predicts.  It will be interesting to see the detailed reasoning when the report is published.

Past coverage of Iraqi oil issues is here.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Few Election Thoughts

For the most part, I don't find it particularly comfortable or natural to comment on partisan political issues, but I find my thoughts this morning drawn overwhelmingly to the election. So let me share a few of those thoughts.

What I see happening is this: the public is aware, rather inchoately, that things are going badly wrong and that the life they are accustomed to is under threat, but they have no idea what to do. The parties, by and large, have failed to diagnose the roots of the problem, and instead are reflexively proposing to relive their greatest hits of the past. Since the problems of the past are not the problems of the present, these approaches are not working. This is leading both parties into a cycle of over-promising what they can deliver, thus leading to bitter disappointment.

The country faces massive threats to its comfortable lifestyle:
  • competition with a rapidly rising middle class in China and to a lesser extent with India, now getting the benefits of modern infrastructure but still willing to work for cents on the dollar
  • built-in dependence on huge amounts of foreign oil, having depleted most of the domestic supply, thus requiring a huge military to project power all over the globe as needed to maintain the supply, as well as handsome payments to the oil producers.
  • The resulting trade deficit, and the implied increasing debt, both federal and private.
  • The aftermath of a huge financial crisis
  • The beginning rumbles of climate change starting to move from an issue in the distant future to a threat to society in coming decades.