The Icebergs Ahead

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Petroleum and Natural Gas Watch
by Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin
January 31, 2007, Vol. 6, Number 2

The State of the Union address presented President George W. Bush with the only scheduled opportunity he’ll have in 2007 to articulate a new energy agenda for this nation. Word dribbled out in advance of his speech that the President would unveil several ambitious energy proposals, including at least one specifically to lower the volume of greenhouse gases discharged by U.S. sources. As a result of this build-up, there were many viewers--I among them--who expected Bush to seize the moment and outline an energy initiative that would move this nation toward a more secure and environmentally responsible direction.

But like the protagonist in “Casey at the Bat,” George W. Bush struck out when it counted. Instead of announcing a bold plan to shrink America’s supersized energy appetite and shift to low-carbon sources of fuel and power, Bush offered up a potpourri of uninspiring platitudes along with an alternative fuels proposal that is richly deserving of the term “crackpot.” In so doing, he screwed up a room-service opportunity to rescue his energy legacy from winding up in the same dumpster that contains all his other policy failures.

Continue reading.

Madison Peak Oil Group meeting, Feb. 1

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Meeting Date and Time: February 1, 2007, 12:00 – 1:00 pm
Location: RENEW Wisconsin Conference Room, 222 S. Hamilton Street

DRAFT Agenda

1. Introductions

2. Announcements/miscellaneous

3. Activities
a. Presentation on Russia
b. Participation in West Waubesa Preservation Coalition event
c. Tour of Jeff Riggert’s home
d. Other

4. Review of governor’s state-of-the-state speech

5. Next meeting: March 1

Madison station covers peak oil

Monday, January 29, 2007

Madison television station WKOW (Channel 27) ran a story on peak oil, including an interview with Ed Blume.

The following text is posted on WKOW's Web site along with a link to the video:

Preparing for Peak Oil

A Madison resident recently dropped off a report to the mayor and county executive's offices, warning of a looming energy crisis.

Recent publicity about the document is helping spark a conversation among environmentalists here.

Jan Sweet put the report together. He calls himself part of the Downtown Isthmus Group.

Sweet wants either mayor Dave Cieslewicz or county executive Kathleen Falk to form a peak oil task force. His suggestions include everything from having the city stock up on gasoline and penalizing people who drive cars on the isthmus, to planting fruit trees all over the city in case of possible food shortages.

"I would be foolish if I expected every recommendation to be included in the final report, but we're hoping this will begin the dialog," said Sweet.

In that spirit of dialog, we contacted a spokesperson for the energy awareness group RENEW Wisconsin. Ed Blume told us that while Sweet is bringing awareness to a predicted shortage in oil supplies, RENEW Wisconsin believes the focus should be on developing more renewable energy.

Blume also said Sweet is one of the people who attends a monthly meeting in Madison in which concerned citizens and groups discuss environmental issues.

So far, there's been no movement from officials on Sweet's recommendations. A spokesperson for Cieslewicz said the mayor hasn't looked hard at the document, though ideas like capping building heights at five stories would contradict the mayor's push for dense development. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Falk said the county executive initially thought the recommendations were tongue in cheek.

State Journal misses peak oil reality

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Wisconsin State Journal carried an editorial which dismissed peak oil as "twaddle."

RENEW Wisconsin and the Madison Peak Oil Group submitted this response:

Dear Editor,

You based your editorial (Put the brakes on anti-car drive, January 24) on your assumption that the peaking of world oil and natural gas production amounts to “twaddle.”

Twaddle it isn’t. In every country that was blessed with oil and natural gas, production has historically followed a bell shaped curve, as first theorized by Shell Oil geologist M. King Hubbert in 1956. Since 1970, U.S. oil output has been in terminal decline. Other nations in similar circumstances include the United Kingdom, Norway, and Mexico. We are very close to reaching a global peak if we haven’t already.

The Madison Peak Oil Group, a different animal entirely from the Downtown Isthmus Group, includes some of the state’s most respected energy professionals. We are a clearinghouse for information on peak oil and natural gas, and we communicate the information individually and collectively in presentations and briefings to policymakers, business leaders, and public at large.

On the national stage, Representative Roscoe Bartlett, a Maryland Republican and former high school science teacher, founded the Peak Oil Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives. Rep. Bartlett is no one’s idea of a leftist.

In a presentation to Congress, Bartlett stated that peak oil “is not the wacky proclamation of a doomsday cult, apocalypse Bible sect or conspiracy theory society. Rather, it is a scientific conclusion of the best-paid, most widely respected geologists, physicists and investment bankers in the world. These are rational, professional, conservative individuals who are absolutely terrified by the phenomenon known as global peak oil.”

Bartlett offers advice on what needs to be done: “We need to change the culture. We have had a culture which says ‘the more energy you use, the more successful you are’. We need to have a culture that says ‘the less energy you can use to be comfortable, the better off you are and the better you should feel about yourself.’ We need to have a culture which has entirely new goals.”

No doubt the ideas of the Madison Isthmus Group will strike many as a bit off the wall. But that doesn’t relieve citizens and communities from the obligation to think about and plan for the end of cheap and plentiful oil and natural gas.

State gets first cellulosic ethanol plant

From a joint press release from Flambeau River Biorefinery and American Process:

Flambeau River Biorefinery, LLC of Wisconsin has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with American Process Inc. of Atlanta, Georgia to provide project management and engineering services for its cellulosic ethanol project at Park Falls, Wisconsin. The new biorefinery will be constructed adjacent to the Flambeau River Papers facility in Park Falls, Wisconsin.

Flambeau River Papers, LLC makes 400 tons per day of book printing and copy grades on three paper machines. The mill recently announced plans to replace its natural gas boilers with a biomass boiler or gasifier. This will make Flambeau River Papers the first energy independent integrated mill in North America.

The Flambeau River Biorefinery project will be the first modern U.S. based pulp mill biorefinery to produce cellulosic ethanol.

Read the full release.

Energy presentations at the UW-Madison

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Energy Institute at the UW-Madison offers a long list of energy-related presentations in the next few months. Topics range from peak oil to a history of nuclear energy to a look beyond ethanol.

See a schedule for all of the presentations on the Energy Institute's event calendar.

U.S. petroleum demand dipped in 2006

Monday, January 22, 2007

From an AP article by Dan Caterinicchia:

WASHINGTON - While oil companies reaped gargantuan profits in 2006 amid high prices, U.S. demand for petroleum dipped for the second year in a row, a trade group said Friday.

Total U.S. petroleum deliveries, a measure of demand, fell by roughly 1 percent to 20.6 million barrels per day, down from 20.8 million in 2005, which was below the 2004 level, according to a report by the American Petroleum Institute.

The analysis was released one day after the Paris-based International Energy Agency estimated that oil demand in the world's industrialized countries declined by 0.6 percent in 2006. Global demand rose in 2006 due to the strength of consumption in China and the Middle East, but the world's appetite has grown at a slower pace for two straight years.

Peak Oil Presentation, noon, January 22, State Capitol

Friday, January 19, 2007

Brown-bag Lunch Series on Energy
Noon to 1:00 p.m.
Room 400 SE, State Capitol

RENEW Wisconsin and the Madison Peak Oil Group invite legislators, aides, Capitol staff, lobbyists, agency staff, and the general public to a series brown-bag lunches on energy-related issues.

Without a doubt, this legislative session will see several bills and administrative rules on energy issues, and the brown-bag lunches will provide the background and context to help with a better understanding of the underlying issues. The briefings will be non-partisan and will not offer positions on any proposals pending at the time.

Each short briefing will allow ample time for questions and discussions.

January 22 - Overview of Peak Oil, presented by Mark Daugherty.

Simply put, peak oil is the point in time when, on a worldwide basis, we will be extracting the most oil per day from the ground that we ever will. Before peak oil we were not extracting as much, and after peak oil we will not be extracting as much. Peak oil is the point in time of maximum extraction.

In the past few decades, there has been enough oil to meet demand because the supply has been growing at the same time demand has been growing. This will no longer be true after Peak Oil. Demand will not be met as supplies dwindle and oil prices will rise. Other energy sources will not be able to do for us what oil did.
Peak oil holds profound social and economic implications.

Madison eastside solar home

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Jeff Riggert, president of the Madison chapter of the Association of Energy Service Professionals and an active participant in the Madiosn Peak Oil Group, provided a photo and explanation of his home's new solar installations:

Check out the evacuated solar thermal tubes and photovoltaic panels.

This 1.6 KW PV array produces 2,100 kWhs/Yr, and meets 110% of electric usage.

The 6x9 ft. array of 30 6-foot evacuated tubes produces about 180 Therms/Yr. and meets 90% of my hot water demand and 10 percent of space heating load. The remaining space heat is met with a 71% efficient convective wood-burning stove.

The plan is to add more panels and/or tubes, if the 30% federal tax credit can be applied to future capacity additions. Wisconsin Focus On Energy provided a 25% incentive on both systems. The DC-AC phase inverter can go up to 3.9 KW.

Please note the "hot-box" beneath the bay window for winter gardening, biomass logs juxtaposed, and Duke the Devil Hound sitting in front of his dog house. Duke has never paid rent, but always sleeps on a futon in front of the stove (the warmest spot in the house).

Put renewable energy into your life

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

You can learn to install and live with renewable energy by taking one of the many excellent workshops offered by the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, which just released the on-line schedule for its 2007 workshops.

Pub Service will fund efficient technology programs

Monday, January 15, 2007

A story by Nathan Phelps in the Oshkosh Northwestern reports on requirements on the Green Bay utility in settling a lawsuit:

Four programs aimed at showcasing energy efficient technologies in homes and businesses will receive $500,000 in funding from Wisconsin Public Service Corp. in the wake of a settlement with two environmental organizations late last year.

Programs are expected to be focused in Brown County, but could flow to other areas covered by WPS if a saturation point is reached, according to a press release from the company.

Bruce Nilles, director of the Sierra Club's Midwest Clean Energy Program in Madison, said the programs are intended to showcase new technologies that can increase efficiencies in electricity use, which is expected to reduce the amount of energy usage — and money sent out of the state and country to purchase energy — while protecting the environment.

"When people start seeing things around their community more often they'll become much more acceptable," he said. "When people see those squiggly compact fluorescent light bulbs at Home Depot, they're not going to say, 'What are those?' but they'll have seen them used at their daycare center or a neighbors home."

Programs include:

- Designating 300 low-income households with young children to receive 10 compact fluorescent light bulbs.

- Providing rebates to schools and daycares for purchases of energy efficient appliances

- Construction of four "super-efficient" homes — two by Habitat for Humanity and two by Energy Star Builders

- Additionally, 5,000 LED exit lighting kits will be provided to small- and medium-sized businesses, schools and government facilities.

Is Good Weather Bad for Sustainable Energy?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Petroleum and Natural Gas Watch
by Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin
January 13, 2007, Vol. 6, Number 1

This winter’s weather has been the stuff of front-page stories, though not for the usual reasons. Where I live, in that part of the country formerly known as the Snow Belt, we haven’t seen the white stuff in 40 days. As we enter the coldest seven-day stretch in the calendar year, Madison’s largest lakes remain more than 99% ice-free. Even along shallow Monona Bay, where the ice-fishing season typically lasts three months, guys in snowmobile suits have given way to joggers in shorts and sweatshirts. Except for a slushy snowfall on December 1st, it has been clear sailing for commuter bicyclists like myself. On some days I didn’t even wear gloves!

A few days ago, the National Climate Data Center reported that the United States recorded its warmest year in 2006. The unusually balmy conditions that have prevailed this past month—it was the fourth warmest December on record--lifted 2006’s temperatures into record territory. Thus far, Ol’ Man Winter has confined his cantankerous self to just a few memorable visits to Colorado and neighboring states; elsewhere, he has been MIA since Thanksgiving.

Can this extraordinary mild weather—31 straight days with high temperatures in Madison above the freezing mark--be simply an outgrowth of the current El Niño phenomenon? Or is it yet another indication that Mother Nature is running a fever, brought about by our addiction to fossil fuels. Is Ol’ Man Winter’s long absence from these parts simply a one-time-only event or does it mean the Snow Belt is migrating northward?

Continue reading.

Biodiesel could power capital heating plant

Friday, January 12, 2007

In the wake of the State of Wisconsin announcement to study new fuels for the Capital Heat and Power Plant ("The reddish brick structure and tall yellow smokestack have been fixtures at 624 E. Main St. for nearly a century," according to The Capital Times), Brett Hulsey suggests that the State should consider biodiesel:

One cost-effective solution to coal that the Governor could put into the state budget is to switch these facilities to Bioheat, which is 20% biodiesel and 80% ULS Diesel. Capitol , Walnut and Charter Street Plants can burn either fuel oil or coal.

This would help drive biodiesel demand in Wisconsin.

Bioheat reduces pollutants C02, PM, NOx 20% and SO2 80%, according to Hulsey, president of Better Environmental Solutions.

For more information he suggests a press release, report, and FAQs from the National Biodiesel Board

New ideas for electricity and ethanol

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Country Today carries two stories of interest:

Company proposes whey-to-ethanol plan
By Jim Massey, Editor

MADISON - Officials at a California-based company believe a whey byproduct could be made into ethanol at as many as eight manufacturing facilities in Wisconsin.

Jeff Lee, manager of project development for Earthanol, based in Newport Beach, Calif., made a sales pitch Jan. 5 to members of the Wisconsin Specialty Cheese Institute. He said Earthanol officials are developing a process to convert whey permeate - often discarded by Wisconsin cheese plants - into ethanol.

Farmer helps design small-scale digester
By Megan Parker, Regional Editor

Digester designers didn't consider small farms, but Duane Chapman of Chapman Brothers Farms in Tomah wants digester technology to be a tool for smaller farms in managing their manure.

Mr. Chapman and Universal Sanitary Equipment Manufacturing Company in Tomah, which builds
city sewage systems, are designing an anaerobic digester for smaller dairy farms.

Interesting peak oil & energy events coming up

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

All events are open to the public. Contact Ed Blume for information on any of these events.

January 18 - Implementing Wisconsin's Climate Action Plan. A brown bag lunch presentation (noon to 1:00 p.m.) in RENEW's conference room (222 S. Hamilton) by Brett Hulsey of Better Environmental Solutions on the status of the implementation of Wisconsin’s plans to address climate change.

January 22 - Overview of Peak Oil, presented by Mark Daugherty. Brown-bag lunch briefing and discussion from noon to 1:00 p.m. in Room 400 Southeast of the State Capitol.

January 23 - Mexico’s Coming Oil Crisis. Hosted by Community Action on Latin America, funded in part by Community Shares of Wisconsin. Presentation in the UW-Madison Memorial Union. Check Today in the Union (TITU) for room location.

January 29 – Renewables in Wisconsin’s Energy Mix, presented by Ed Blume. Brown-bag lunch briefing and discussion from noon to 1:00 p.m. in Room 400 Southeast of the State Capitol.

February 1 - Madison Peak Oil Group brown bag lunch meetings from noon to 1:00 p.m. in RENEW's conference room (222 S. Hamilton). 1st Thursday of each month.

February 5 – Wisconsin’s new Energy Efficiency and Renewables Law (Act 141), presented by Michael Vickerman. Brown-bag lunch briefing and discussion from noon to 1:00 p.m. in Room 400 Southeast of the State Capitol.

February 12 – Focus on Energy, presented by a representative from Focus on Energy. Brown-bag lunch briefing and discussion from noon to 1:00 p.m. in Room 400 Southeast of the State Capitol.

Brown-bag Geothermal Workshop, January 10

Monday, January 08, 2007

Learn the fundamentals of geothermal heat pump systems, how they work and what makes them perform so well in Wisconsin and the upper Midwest. We will also discuss what geothermal can do for you, your customers, Wisconsin ENERGY STAR Homes, LEED, green home and light commercial projects.

Time, Date, and Location:
11:30 - 1:30 p.m.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Chula Vista Resort
4031 River Road, Wisconsin Dells, WI 53965

Sponsored by:
Alliant Energy

Mexico's Coming Oil Crisis

Friday, January 05, 2007

January 23
A presentation by Larry Walker
Madison, WI - Exact location will be posted here as soon as it's determined.
7:00 p.m.

Mexico's Cantarell oil field is about to play out a classic peak-and-rapid-decline scenario over the next 3 years. This will pose special challenges for Mexico's government, its national oil company Pemex, the U.S., and the world oil market.

Sponsored by Community Action on Latin America.
In English with Spanish translation.
More information from Carol Bracewell.

Personal responses to peak oil

Thursday, January 04, 2007

While we can understand and express concern about peak oil, we also need to confront the crisis globally as well as personally.

Fortunately, Sustain Dane offer several sustainability discussion courses all around Dane County. Consider this an opportunity to start the year by gaining fresh insights and meeting fascinating people that, like you, envision and are dedicated to creating a vibrant community and a healthy planet.

The course on voluntary simplicity helps "participants clarify how they spend their time, how to simplify to make room for meaningful activities, and how all this is related to living more lightly on the Earth."

The course on deep ecology helps "participants clarify earth-related values, discover how personal values affect the way we view and treat the earth and understand what it means to take personal responsibility for the earth."

Visit the Sustain Dane Web site for more information or contact Ann Scheerer by e-mail or phone (608.819.0689).

Help lobby the legislature, February 21

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Once again, RENEW Wisconsin will join with other concerned citizens to make certain legislators address the top conservation priorities, including renewable energy.

Join RENEW and dozens of other conservation organizations on Conservation Lobby Day, Wednesday, February 21st.

Conservation Lobby Day is your day to tell your state Assembly Representative and your state Senator why you care about clean energy, the Great Lakes, and special places.

Registration begins at 9:00 at the Inn on the Park in Madison. The program begins at 10:00. The day will end with refreshments and a Wild Game Feed at 5:00 pm at the Inn on the Park.

Register at the WLCV.

Peak oil meetings, January 4

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Madison Peak Oil Group will meet for a brown bag lunch from noon to 1:00 p.m. in the lower level conference room of RENEW Wisconsin, 222 S. Hamilton Street (where S. Hamilton, W. Wilson, and Henry Streets meet). We will be planning a presentation at noon on January 22 for legislators, legislative staff, lobbyists, agency staff, and the general public in the state Capitol, as well as a presentation in March on Russia's emerging strength in the world market for natural gas and oil.

In the evening of January 4, a second peak oil group will meet at 6:30 p.m. at Escape Coffee, 916 Williamson Street.

Both meetings are open to the public. Anyone and everyone should feel free to attend one or both of the meetings.