Green car workshop, Milwaukee, April 7

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Are high gasoline prices unbalancing your budget? Would you like to learn more about the latest hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles?

Then save Friday, April 7, on your calendar for MATC’s Third Annual GREEN VEHICLES Workshop. This popular workshop will held in room S120 of the Student Services Building on MATC’s downtown Milwaukee campus.

Presentations by experts will acquaint participants with the latest hybrid and alternative-fuel models and technologies. Many of these exciting vehicles will be displayed on the plaza outside the Student Building for your inspection.

Coffee will be served at 8 a.m. in room S114, and presentations will begin at 8:30. MATC President, Dr. Darnell Cole, will welcome participants and introduce our kickoff speaker, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. Mayor Barrett will expound on the topic “Driving Toward a Greener Milwaukee.”

More information here.

Are we screwed on the whole oil thing?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A friend of mine sent an e-mail today with a touch of desperaton:

“I was just reading From the Wilderness, and I now know about peak
oil. Uh Oh! Do you think we're screwed on the whole oil thing? What do you think we should do about it? Are solar panels really expensive?”

Since my good buddy has two babies, I first recommended that he contact Citizens Energy Cooperative (CEC) to install solar water heating panels on his home. Can you imagine how much water those babies use now and how much they’ll use when puberty hits and they want to smell good to the opposite sex? (RENEW Executive Director Michael Vickerman recently installed solar water heating panels from CEC, as you can see from the photo, and his wife reports that he indeed smells good.)

My friend also owns two small businesses in buildings that he rents, so I recommended that he sign up for green power and brag about it to his customers, by saying something like, “I power my products and services with wind-generated electricity, so do business with me.” (Okay, I’m not an advertising wizard.)

On the cost of solar panels, “expensive” is all relative. Niels Wolter, a Focus on Energy consultant, installed a solar array for an out-of-pocket cost of around $7,600. (New federal tax credits would reduce this amount further.) He will get free electricity from it for the rest of his life. Free is pretty cheap.

Of course, energy efficiency would be less expensive than solar panels, and dozens of Web sites, like Focus on Energy, promote compact fluorescent bulbs, Energy Star appliances, and other efficiency measures for homes and businesses.

Yes, we're screwed on this whole oil thing. It's a finite resource, after all.

But, take hope, my friend, you have time to prepare for the end of oil as we know it.

State to study rising coal price

Monday, March 27, 2006

As the world continues to use the remaining petroleum, prices of other forms of fuel will rise in response to the scarcity, as can be seen from this story by Tom Content in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
State energy regulators will investigate the impact that the rising price of coal and disruptions to rail deliveries are having on Wisconsin utilities and electric rates.

The state Public Service Commission announced Thursday it will study the rising cost of transporting coal used to power Wisconsin power plants coming from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming.

The state's utilities saw higher costs of about $50 million last year because of disruptions caused by train derailments last spring in Wyoming. Those derailments caused fewer shipments of coal, leading utilities to conserve coal and rely more heavily on natural gas-fired power plants rather than coal plants.

The oil is going, the oil is going!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Today's Paul Reveres of "peak oil" aren't waiting for Washington to save us from apocalypse. They're already planting gardens and drafting city plans for the days when oil is gone.

March 22, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. -- Matt Savinar, 27, once aspired to own a Hummer. He studied poli sci at the University of California, Davis, before going on to get his law degree at U.C. Hastings in San Francisco. He was into bodybuilding. Today, Savinar doesn't own any car, much less a Hummer, and he doesn't practice law, although he's licensed to do so. Frankly, he doesn't think that driving or the legal profession, with the exception of maybe bankruptcy law, have much of a future. Instead of buying a car, Savinar walks, takes the bus and catches rides with friends, but not because he's trying to save the world, he assures me.

Savinar doesn't drive because he's saving the money he'd spend on a used car to buy land; he's not sure exactly where yet, but somewhere with a supply of fresh water, arable soil, low population density and that's far from military bases. He's starting to get back into bodybuilding again, too, all the better to be healthy and in shape to till the earth and grow food, when the time comes. "I happen to think that we're going straight to hell, and I'm trying to figure out how to be in the least hot place of hell," he told me recently on an incongruously balmy 72 degree February afternoon in sunny Santa Rosa, Calif., at a restaurant just a few blocks from the apartment where he lives.

For a young, quick-witted, able-bodied man with an advanced degree, living in the most prosperous country in the world, Savinar has a pretty dim view of his -- and all the rest of our -- prospects. He believes that many if not most of the trappings of modern American life are endangered species and he's trying to figure out how not to become one of them. So Savinar has become a full-time prophet of "peak oil," spreading the word about how the world's oil production will soon peak and global demand will outstrip supply.

GM steps up production of large SUVs at Janesville

Thursday, March 23, 2006

From a story by Jeff Green (Bloomberg News) that ran in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
General Motors Corp., seeking to capitalize on demand for its largest sport utility vehicles, is increasing production of the Chevrolet Tahoe and other redesigned SUVs at three plants.

GM will build as many as 12,000 more Tahoes, GMC Yukons and Cadillac Escalades than originally planned this year at factories in Janesville; Arlington, Texas; and Silao, Mexico, GM spokesman Dan Flores said. Flores wouldn't say how many of the SUVs GM, the world's largest automaker, plans to build in 2006.

"GM is kind of betting the ranch that they can sell SUVs in an environment of $2.50-a-gallon gasoline," said David Healy, a Burnham Securities Inc. analyst in Sierra Vista, Ariz. He estimates the company makes a pretax profit of about $15,000 on each of the trucks.
General Motors might be able to sell large SUVs while gas is $2.50 a gallon, but does anyone expect gasoline prices to stay so "low" in the coming years?

Engage local government on peak oil

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

David Room interviews Huntington Beach City Councilor Debbie Cook on Global Public Media about how people can engage their municipal governments on issues such as peak oil. She says, "It's urgent for cities to act."

Dirtier Side Betrays Promise of ‘Clean Coal’

Monday, March 20, 2006

The subheadline on a story by Kari Lydersen in The New Standard: "Between the coal-rich Appalachian Mountains and coal-hungry energy consumers like the state of Ohio, critics say the concept of an eco-friendly use for the fossil fuel is far more misnomer than reality."

Mar. 15 – On the West Virginia–Ohio border, the tread of the county’s coal-burning power industry is expanding, digging into the Appalachian Mountains and kicking up clouds of pollution. While small towns choked by power plants hear the promise of new "clean coal" technologies, mining communities know there is no technological remedy for the destruction the industry is wreaking in their communities.

Major wind project moves ahead

Friday, March 17, 2006

A story by Thomas Content in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel updates the progress of We Energies' Blue Sky Green Fields Wind Project:

High steel costs and a tight supply of wind turbines have driven up the cost to build a Fond du Lac County wind-power project by nearly $100 million, to $346 million, a We Energies executive said Thursday.

But the Milwaukee-based utility says the project still makes economic sense because the price of natural gas used to generate power has tripled in recent years. . . .

The state's largest utility will file an application with state regulators today to build a wind-power project in the Fond du Lac County towns of Marshfield and Calumet, on the southeastern corner of Lake Winnebago. The wind-power project would generate enough electricity to power 45,000 homes. A decision by the state Public Service Commission is expected by year's end.

Watch "We Were Warned: Tomorrow's Oil Crisis"

Thursday, March 16, 2006

CNN covers the decline of oil on CNN Presents, which airs on Saturdays and Sundays at 8 p.m. (eastern time, I presume). The description of the show begins:

It is September 2009. A Category 5 hurricane roars through Houston,
destroying oil refineries, drilling platforms and pipelines--the complex system that provides a quarter of our nation's daily fuel supply. Three days later, terrorists attack two key oil installations in Saudi Arabia, the world's largest supplier. In the days and weeks that follow, gasoline prices hit record highs, food prices soar as trucks cannot afford to make deliveries, and Americans begin to realize that their very way of life is in peril.

In We Were Warned: Tomorrow's Oil Crisis, CNN's Frank Sesno explores the potential ripple effects of this frightening scenario. The events depicted are hypothetical, but oil experts believe the scenario is entirely plausible. His interviews with energy experts reveal that we are nearing the point at which the world, led by the U.S. and China, will begin to consume more oil than can be pumped from the ground and the oceans. Tracking the global race to find new pools of oil, Sesno also considers the viability of alternative fuels, such as ethanol, which is used as fuel for 40% of cars in Brazil. Throughout his investigation, Sesno tries to find out whether any of these ventures can solve our looming energy crisis or whether we are already too late.

California city prepares for oil decline

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Steve Pomplun described one city's preparations for the decline of oil and Earthwatch Radio published an excellent interview with the mayor:
Like many cities, Sebastopol, California, is trying to become more sustainable. But Sebastopol has taken its efforts a step further. The north coast city of 8,000 is developing emergency plans in case of an energy crisis.

As mayor last year, Larry Robinson learned about the issue of "peak oil," the point at which world petroleum production will no longer be able to keep up with demand. Some experts say that day is only a few years away, and when it happens, prices could rise sharply. Robinson says the city is developing contingency plans.

"How will the city continue to be able to meet its responsibilities to its citizens to provide things like water and sewer services and public safety, etc., when gasoline hits five dollars a gallon, eight dollars a gallon, ten dollars a gallon? When electricity hits 25 cents a kilowatt/hour, when it hits 50 cents a kilowatt/hour?"

Sebastopol is converting fire trucks and other equipment to biodiesel. It's installing photovoltaic solar systems on city buildings and wells to keep things running in an emergency. Robinson says it's a pursuit of sustainability on a faster timeline.

"The issue of 'peak oil' puts the fundamental principles of sustainability into a much sharper focus. What has to be done are the same things that we would have to do in order to become a sustainable society. But the potential crisis that the peak oil event would bring about makes all of those issues much more urgent."

Sebastopol is the first American city to begin to plan for life after the oil peak.

Listen to an excellent interview of Sebastopol Mayor Larry Robinson on the city's peak oil preparations on Global Public Media.

50th Anniversary of Peak Oil Prediction

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Derided at the time, legendary geophysicist M. King Hubert correctly predicted U.S. oil production peak; new chart shows "Hubbert's Peak" for the world is arriving on schedule.
San Francisco, CA (PRWEB) March 9, 2006 -- SF Informatics joins geologists and citizens worldwide in celebrating the 50th anniversary Marion King Hubbert’s famous presentation -- delivered on March 8, 1956 at a regional conference of the American Petroleum Institute in San Antonio -- in which he accurately predicted the 1970 peak of oil production in the United States (lower 48).

Though experts ridiculed Hubbert at the time -- after all, the U.S. was the world’s leading oil producer in the 1950s and production was growing steadily -- his prediction was correct and his legacy has inspired generations of geologists and scientists who now see the world itself reaching “Hubbert’s Peak.”

Read the full press release from SF Informatics.

Oil independence is possible, but does U.S. really want it?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A story by Kevin Hall in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel weighs the prospects of ending U.S. oil dependence:

President Bush's State of the Union pledge to end America's "oil addiction" and his tour of emerging energy technology centers, including Milwaukee, have touched off a national debate on how to achieve energy independence.

"The answer is pretty simple. We will never get to energy independence while we are using oil as the major fuel," said Severin Borenstein, director of the University of California Energy Institute in Berkeley.

New ASPO newsletter

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Association for the Study of Peak Oil posted its latest newsletter, including the following commentary:
The Chairmen of some large oil companies evidently have some difficulty in explaining Peak Oil, most preferring the oblique inference to direct statement. The Chairman of Shell is no exception. He recently announced record profits of $22.9 billion dollars derived from refining margins and profiteering from shortages. According to the Financial Times, he responded to Press queries about peak oil with the words:

The theory of peak oil, that oil production has peaked, is correct if you look at easy oil close to markets, like west Texas and the North Sea,” he said. “But think about deep water drilling, think about the Arctic.”

If we take his advice and think about deep water and polar oil we might conclude that the former holds about 70 Gb and will peak around 2011 at 12.5 Mb/d while the polar regions are mainly gas-prone and out of reach.

He admitted that Shell replaced only 70-80% of its reserves but said that it planned to be in balance by 2008. He has too ways by which to achieve that goal : to find more or produce less. It sounds as if the latter will be the easier option. The financial community reacted by selling Shell shares.
Emphasis added.