GAO Report: Gov’t Needs Plan for Oil Peak

By ALAN ZIBEL, The Associated Press, March 29, 2007

WASHINGTON – The U.S. government is in need of a strategy to minimize potentially dire economic consequences after worldwide oil production peaks and begins to decline, the investigative arm of Congress said Thursday.

Though experts disagree about when daily oil output will reach its maximum level _ or whether they have done so already _ the Government Accountability Office said in a report that most studies have found oil production will reach a peak sometime between now and 2040.

The report warns that, as the world’s largest oil consumer, the U.S. is vulnerable to significant economic troubles, brought about by rising prices, if a peak arrives and no technology exists to replace petroleum-based transportation fuels.

Crude oil prices surged above $66 a barrel Thursday, driven to a new six-month high by concerns that strained relations between Iran and the West could put oil exports in jeopardy. Pump prices kept rising as well: the average U.S. retail price of unleaded regular gasoline was $2.62 a gallon Thursday, 12 cents higher than a year ago, according to AAA.

“The consequences of a peak and permanent decline in oil production could be even more prolonged and severe than those of past oil supply shocks,” the GAO report said.

While the federal government has numerous efforts to forecast oil production and promote alternatives to oil, those efforts are spread across multiple agencies and are not focused explicitly on the “peak oil” problem, the report said.

“There is no formal strategy for coordinating and prioritizing federal efforts dealing with peak oil issues,” the GAO said.

In letters to the GAO, the Energy Department and Interior Department agreed with most aspects of the report.

Worldwide consumption of oil reached 84 million barrels per day in 2005 and is projected to reach 118 million barrels per day by 2030, with more than 40 percent of that growth coming from developing countries such as China and India.

President Bush, who in his State of the Union address last year said the nation is “addicted to oil,” has set a goal of increasing the use of alternative fuels including ethanol to 35 billion gallons a year by 2017 and has held a series of events around the country to promote that effort.

The U.S. produced 4.9 billion gallons of ethanol last year, up 33 percent from 2005, according to the Renewable Fuels Association, an industry trade group. By comparison, the country consumes roughly 140 billion gallons of gasoline per year.

Production of ethanol from corn alone is expected to reach no more than 12 billion to 15 billion gallons a year, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said last month, because of the need to use corn to feed cows, chicken and other livestock. But production of ethanol from plant matter may be commercially viable within five years, the GAO report said.

Alan Zibel is an AP Business Writer

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Corn Can’t Solve Our Problem

The world has come full circle. A century ago our first transportation biofuels — the hay and oats fed to our horses — were replaced by gasoline. Today, ethanol from corn and biodiesel from soybeans have begun edging out gasoline and diesel.

This has been hailed as an overwhelmingly positive development that will help us reduce the threat of climate change and ease our dependence on foreign oil. In political circles, ethanol is the flavor of the day, and presidential candidates have been cycling through Iowa extolling its benefits. Lost in the ethanol-induced euphoria, however, is the fact that three of our most fundamental needs — food, energy, and a livable and sustainable environment — are now in direct conflict. Moreover, our recent analyses of the full costs and benefits of various biofuels, performed at the University of Minnesota, present a markedly different and more nuanced picture than has been heard on the campaign trail.

Some biofuels, if properly produced, do have the potential to provide climate-friendly energy, but where and how can we grow them? Our most fertile lands are already dedicated to food production. As demand for both food and energy increases, competition for fertile lands could raise food prices enough to drive the poorer third of the globe into malnourishment. The destruction of rainforests and other ecosystems to make new farmland would threaten the continued existence of countless animal and plant species and would increase the amount of climate-changing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Finding and implementing solutions to the food, fuel and environment conflict is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity. But solutions will be neither adopted nor sought until we understand the interlinked problems we face.

Fossil fuel use has pushed atmospheric carbon dioxide higher than at any time during the past half-million years. The global population has increased threefold in the past century and will increase by half again, to 9 billion people, by 2050. Global food and fossil energy consumption are on trajectories to double by 2050.

Biofuels, such as ethanol made from corn, have the potential to provide us with cleaner energy. But because of how corn ethanol currently is made, only about 20 percent of each gallon is “new” energy. That is because it takes a lot of “old” fossil energy to make it: diesel to run tractors, natural gas to make fertilizer and, of course, fuel to run the refineries that convert corn to ethanol.

If every one of the 70 million acres on which corn was grown in 2006 was used for ethanol, the amount produced would displace only 12 percent of the U.S. gasoline market. Moreover, the “new” (non-fossil) energy gained would be very small — just 2.4 percent of the market. Car tune-ups and proper tire air pressure would save more energy.

There is another problem with relying on a food-based biofuel, such as corn ethanol, as the poor of Mexico can attest. In recent months, soaring corn prices, sparked by demand from ethanol plants, have doubled the price of tortillas, a staple food. Tens of thousands of Mexico City’s poor recently protested this “ethanol tax” in the streets.

In the United States, the protests have also begun — in Congress. Representatives of the dairy, poultry and livestock industries, which rely on corn as a principal animal feed, are seeking an end to subsidies for corn ethanol in the hope of stabilizing corn prices. (It takes about three pounds of corn to produce a pound of chicken, and seven or eight pounds to grow a pound of beef.) Profit margins are being squeezed, and meat prices are rising.

U.S. soybeans, which are used to make biodiesel, may be about to follow corn’s trajectory, escalating the food vs. fuel conflict. The National Biodiesel Board recently reported that 77 biodiesel production plants are under construction and that eight established plants are expanding capacity.

In terms of environmental impact, all biofuels are not created equal. Ethanol is the same chemical product no matter what its source. But ethanol made from prairie grasses, from corn grown in Illinois and from sugar cane grown on newly cleared land in Brazil have radically different impacts on greenhouse gases.

Corn, like all plants, is a natural part of the global carbon cycle. The growing crop absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, so burning corn ethanol does not directly create any additional carbon. But that is only part of the story. All of the fossil fuels used to grow corn and change it into ethanol release new carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The net effect is that ethanol from corn grown in the Corn Belt does increase atmospheric greenhouse gases, and this increase is only about 15 percent less than the increase caused by an equivalent amount of gasoline. Soybean biodiesel does better, causing a greenhouse gas increase that is about 40 percent less than that from petroleum diesel.

In Brazil, ethanol made from sugar cane produces about twice as much ethanol per acre as corn. Brazilian ethanol refineries get much of their power from burning cane residue, in effect recycling carbon from the atmosphere. The environmental benefit is large. Sugar-cane ethanol grown on established soils releases 80 percent less greenhouse gases than gasoline.

But that isn’t the case for sugar-cane ethanol or soybean biodiesel from Brazil’s newly cleared lands, including tropical forests and savannas. Clearing land releases immense amounts of greenhouse gases into the air, because much of the material in the plants and soil is broken down into carbon dioxide.

Plants and soil contain three times more carbon than the atmosphere. The trees and soil of an acre of rainforest — which, once cleared, is suitable for growing soybeans — contain about 120 tons of organic carbon. An acre of tropical woodland or savanna, suitable for sugar cane, contains about half this amount. About a fourth of the carbon in an ecosystem is released to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide when trees are clear-cut, brush and branches are burned or rot, and roots decay. Even more is lost during the first 20 to 50 years of farming, as soil carbon decomposes into carbon dioxide and as wood products are burned or decay.

This means that when tropical woodland is cleared to produce sugar cane for ethanol, the greenhouse gas released is about 50 percent greater than what occurs from the production and use of the same amount of gasoline. And that statistic holds for at least two decades.

Simply being “renewable” does not automatically make a fuel better for the atmosphere than the fossil fuel it replaces, nor guarantee that society gains any new energy by its production. The European Union was recently shocked to learn that some of its imported biodiesel, derived from palm trees planted on rain-forest lands, was more than twice as bad for climate warming as petroleum diesel. So much for the “benefits” of that form of biodiesel.

Although current Brazilian ethanol is environmentally friendly, the long-term environmental implications of buying more ethanol and biodiesel from Brazil, a possibility raised recently during President Bush’s trip to that country, are cloudy. It could be harmful to both the climate and the preservation of tropical plant and animal species if it involved, directly or indirectly, additional clearing of native ecosystems.

Concerns about the environmental effects of ethanol production are starting to be felt in the United States as well. It appears that American farmers may add 10 million acres of corn this year to meet booming demand for ethanol. Some of this land could come from millions of acres now set aside nationwide for conservation under a government-subsidized program. Those uncultivated acres absorb atmospheric carbon, so farming them and converting the corn into ethanol could release more carbon dioxide into the air than would burning gasoline.

There are biofuel crops that can be grown with much less energy and chemicals than the food crops we currently use for biofuels. And they can be grown on our less fertile land, especially land that has been degraded by farming. This would decrease competition between food and biofuel. The United States has about 60 million acres of such land — in the Conservation Reserve Program, road edge rights-of-way and abandoned farmlands.

In a 10-year experiment reported in Science magazine in December, we explored how much bioenergy could be produced by 18 different native prairie plant species grown on highly degraded and infertile soil. We planted 172 plots in central Minnesota with various combinations of these species, randomly chosen. We found, on this highly degraded land, that the plots planted with mixtures of many native prairie perennial species yielded 238 percent more bioenergy than those planted with single species. High plant diversity led to high productivity, and little fertilizer or chemical weed or pest killers was required.

The prairie “hay” harvested from these plots can be used to create high-value energy sources. For instance, it can be mixed with coal and burned for electricity generation. It can be “gasified,” then chemically combined to make ethanol or synthetic gasoline. Or it can be burned in a turbine engine to make electricity. A technique that is undergoing rapid development involves bioengineering enzymes that digest parts of plants (the cellulose) into sugars that are then fermented into ethanol.

Whether converted into electricity, ethanol or synthetic gasoline, the high-diversity hay from infertile land produced as much or more new usable energy per acre as corn for ethanol on fertile land. And it could be harvested year after year.

Even more surprising were the greenhouse gas benefits. When high-diversity mixtures of native plants are grown on degraded soils, they remove carbon dioxide from the air. Much of this carbon ends up stored in the soil. In essence, mixtures of native plants gradually restore the carbon levels that degraded soils had before being cleared and farmed. This benefit lasts for about a century.

Across the full process of growing high-diversity prairie hay, converting it into an energy source and using that energy, we found a net removal and storage of about a ton and a half of atmospheric carbon dioxide per acre. The net effect is that ethanol or synthetic gasoline produced from this grass on degraded land can provide energy that actually reduces atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide.

When one of these carbon-negative biofuels is mixed with gasoline, the resulting blend releases less carbon dioxide than traditional gasoline.

Biofuels, if used properly, can help us balance our need for food, energy and a habitable and sustainable environment. To help this happen, though, we need a national biofuels policy that favors our best options. We must determine the carbon impacts of each method of making these fuels, then mandate fuel blending that achieves a prescribed greenhouse gas reduction. We have the knowledge and technology to start solving these problems.

By David Tilman and Jason Hill
March 25, 2007, Washington Post

David Tilman is an ecologist at the University of Minnesota and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.tilman@umn.edu

Jason Hill is a research associate in the Department of Applied Economics at the University of Minnesota.hill0408@umn.edu

The Climate Cycle is the Water Cycle

Today, March 22nd, is World Water Day, an international observance that grew out of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro. Worldwide, we see an abundance of water problems. We also see an abundance of solutions.

On this World Water Day, thousands of people, mostly children, will die from preventable water-related diseases. Thousands have died every day since World Water Day last year. This daily tragedy is the result of the world’s failure to provide adequate drinking water and sanitation to everyone. We know how to meet basic human needs for water, but we have failed to make this a priority. It is time to take the necessary steps to prevent this needless suffering.

In 2007, it is also clear that global climate change threatens our water resources. Extreme weather, sea level rise, and hotter and hotter temperatures threaten to alter water supplies everywhere. The climate cycle is the water cycle, and attacking and adapting to climate change requires the focus of all of our political and business leaders.

The good news is that a lot of involved, smart, people are today coming up with solutions to our water problems. Instead of fruitless searches for the single silver bullet, they are developing many solutions to our many problems. There are lots of things that work, and they work in different places in different combinations at different times. The challenge now is to understand what those solutions are and where to apply them.

A sustainable world, with clean water for all, is attainable. On World Water Day 2007, whether you’re a conservative, a liberal, or a fence-sitter, let’s agree to the goal of meeting basic water needs for all, and let’s commit the resources needed to reach this goal.

Sincerely,

Peter H. Gleick

Listen to a radio interview with Dr. Gleick now.

Dr. Gleick is president of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security and editor of “The World’s Water,” a biennial book series that celebrated its tenth anniversary in November. He is a MacArthur Fellow and member of the National Academy of Sciences.

In 2007, the Pacific Institute celebrates twenty years of providing research for people and the planet. Founded in 1987 and based in downtown Oakland, California, the Institute provides independent research and policy analysis on issues at the intersection of protecting the natural world, encouraging sustainable development, and improving global security. Learn more about the Pacific Institute and its research on the state of the world’s water at www.pacinst.org and www.worldwater.org.

Collaboration Tools

The Living Directory

The Living Directory is a “network of trust” that serves dozens of groups worldwide.

Sustainable Tucson is one of those groups, and everyone involved in the coalition is encouraged to register and post their information so that we might know about one another and collaborate more effectively.

Anyone may register, but to use the Living Directory one’s identity must be verified by someone who is already a Living Directory participant. This is done by means of a ”referral.” It is a way of protecting your information from spammers and anyone who might abuse the system. So introduce yourself to one of the core team and ask them to give you a referral.

Others may contact you through the Living Directory but your email address is not revealed unless you choose to make it public. You can learn more about the functions and capabilities of the Living Directory by reading the FAQ.

About Drupal (http://drupal.org)

Drupal is a free software package that allows an individual or a community of users to easily publish, manage and organize a wide variety of content on a website. Tens of thousands of people and organizations have used Drupal to power scores of different web sites, including:

  • Community web portals
  • Discussion sites
  • Corporate web sites
  • Intranet applications
  • Personal web sites or blogs
  • Aficionado sites
  • E-commerce applications
  • Resource directories
  • Social Networking sites

What is Plone?(http://plone.org)

by Joel Burton — last modified August 28, 2006 – 07:05

Plone is a ready-to-run content management system that is built on the powerful and free Zope application server. Plone is easy to set up, extremely flexible, and provides you with a system for managing web content that is ideal for project groups, communities, web sites, extranets and intranets.

eWeek

  • Plone is easy to install. You can install Plone with a a click and run installer, and have a content management system running on your computer in just a few minutes.
  • Plone is easy to use. The Plone Team includes usability experts who have made Plone easy and attractive for content managers to add, update, and mantain content.
  • Plone is international. The Plone interface has more than 35 translations, and tools exist for managing multilingual content.
  • Plone is standard. Plone carefully follows standards for usability and accessibility. Plone pages are compliant with US Section 508, and the W3C’s AAA rating for accessibility.

OSI

  • Plone is Open Source. Plone is licensed under the GNU General Public License, the same license used by Linux. This gives you the right to use Plone without a license fee, and to improve upon the product.
  • Plone is supported. There are close to a hundred developers in the Plone Development Team around the world, and a multitude of companies that specialize in Plone development and support.
  • Plone is extensible. There is a multitude of add-on products for Plone to add new features and content types. In addition, Plone can be scripted using web standard solutions and Open Source languages.
  • Plone is technology neutral. Plone can interoperate with most relational database systems, open source and commercial, and runs on a vast array of platforms, including Linux, Windows, Mac OS X, Solaris and BSD.

Skype (http://skype.com)

Skype is a free and powerful web-based communications tool. The free Skype software enables these functions:

  • Free voice over internet phone calls worldwide.
  • Low cost phone calls to virtually any phone in the world.
  • Instant message chat for groups as large as 50.
  • File transfers to or from your computer.

City of Portland: New Peak Oil Report

Last week Portland, Oregon became the first governmental body in the US to not only acknowledge that imminent peak oil is a reality, but also to publish a report as to what the city should be doing to cope. Breaking new ground has both its perils and its rewards. The peril is that you have no guidelines to the road ahead. The advantage is that there is no standard of comparison so your efforts instantly become the textbook to mitigating the effects of peak oil at the local level.

As someone who is familiar with the literature and follows the peak oil story on a daily basis, I can report that the folks on the Portland Peak Oil Task Force have produced a succinct, outstanding report that should be read by every local official everywhere. While there will naturally be many local variations, Portland’s approach to the problem contains much that seems universally applicable.

The tone of the Portland report is one of moderation. Although it deals with the most serious issue the world has had to face since the world wars and threats of nuclear holocaust a generation or two ago, the report’s 85 pages methodically makes the way through the peak oil story and what needs to be done. In a matter-of-fact way, the report deals with numerous issues likely to ensue from peak oil and offers many new insights as to what is likely to happen and what we as a civilization should be doing to transition away from fossil fuels and feedstocks.

Portland clearly benefited from the expertise of the many people who served on the task force and its four expanded subcommittees. This process allowed the task force to break down a large and unwieldy problem into more manageable topics (land use and transportation, food and agriculture, public and social services, and economic change) to come up with some new insights and good recommendations for each.

The report’s authors grasp the point that whether oil depletion impacts our civilization this year, in three years, ten years or 20 years makes little difference as the changes required will be so massive that we need to start working on the problem immediately. The authors give short shrift to those who claim we will be saved by alternatives and new technologies by making the point that there is nothing on the horizon that can cheaply, quickly and efficiently replace oil and natural gas. They warn against rapid drops in oil prices as we saw last year as nothing more than the volatility we can expect as we approach peak oil.

In assessing the impact of peak oil, the report starts with the most fundamental of issues: the human carrying capacity of the planet which has been dramatically increased in the last 100 years by the widespread use of fossil fuels.

Drawing on the historical experiences of the 1973 Arab oil embargo which cut world oil production by six or seven percent, the report notes the harm done to US economic growth, productivity and rate of inflation. This discussion leads into three possible scenarios for peak oil’s impact on the world.

In the best scenario, oil availability drains away slowly so that 20 years from the beginning of oil depletion, 50 percent of current consumption is still available. Under such a scenario prices would be volatile with demand dropping in response to spikes and increasing as prices recede.

A second scenario would be sudden disruptions in supplies which could last for months or years leaving the advanced economies in a state of emergency for long periods. Society could cope but with much more disruption.

The final scenario is social disintegration. The economic impact of peak oil simply becomes so great that multiple global systems, financial, currency or trade fail. Governments are forced to concentrate on basic human needs and are overwhelmed. The Portland study concentrates on the long-term transition scenario as a situation that if properly handled has the potential to deal with shocks and prevent social deterioration.

The specific impacts on various aspects of Portland’s economy and social fabric are too numerous to list much less discuss. The basic recommendation is nothing earthshaking— cut absolute use of oil and natural gas in half over the next 25 years. The faster this happens, the smaller Portland’s or anybody else’s vulnerability to shrinking supplies of oil and natural gas will be.

Fifty percent is a challenging number for population growth and is likely to continue, and some services – police, medical, fire, garbage, sewage, clean water – are so vital to modern civilization that more modest reductions in their energy consumption are likely to be feasible. Thus the impact of an absolute 50 percent reduction in oil and natural gas consumption is likely to be closer to two-thirds or more for the average citizen.

The recommendations as to how to achieve such a reduction, even over two decades, are pretty straight forward: mass transit, better land use, walkable communities, far more efficient vehicles, freight moving from planes and trucks to rail and water, building standards improve, and above all, education.

There are other features of the report, such as emphasis on joint planning and coordination with surrounding and other levels of government.

Again, for the first cut at describing what is likely to be one of the major paradigm shifts of the 21st century, the folks in Portland have done an excellent job. Much of what they say is applicable everywhere so their report might turn out to be an instant classic. Should you be interested in just how we might all get through the years ahead, a pdf of the report is available here.

By Tom Whipple, Falls Church VA News-Press

Original article here.


Big Global Warming Rally

12 to 5 PM on April 14, 2007 at Himmel Park, 1000 N. Tucson Blvd.

On April 14th a National Day of Climate Action, people across the nation will gather at the places they love, both iconic and everyday, to raise awareness about the effects of climate change. StepItUp2007 will join all these geographically disparate events through digital media and the internet to call on Congress to take decisive action on global warming: 80% cuts in carbon emissions by 2050.

Solar Rock is organizing this outdoor concert of local youth talent, along with educational displays by local schools, college students, community organizations, local businesses, and speakers. The rally goal is to educate the Tucson community about climate change and its potential effects—globally and especially in Southern Arizona—through grassroots mobilization and active participation.

Solar Rock will be purchasing green tags to ensure that our event is carbon neutral. You can find all this information on this web page.

You can participate by having an educational display or table. Join us, as we cultivate Tucson’s active grassroots community and sow the seeds of change in national and local policy!

Contact Lisa Dollinger via phone 520-322-9145 or e-mail ldolling@u.arizona.edu with any questions, or to discuss this event further. Solar Rock greatly appreciates your help!

Heinberg: Peak Oil Comments to the National Petroleum Council

On October 5, 2005, U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman requested that the National Petroleum Council conduct a study of global oil and natural gas supply. The motivating concern stated by the Secretary was an investigation into the timing of and responses to peak oil—the plateauing and subsequent decline of world oil production.Hundreds of organizations and individuals have contributed input to the process. During two multi-hour web-cast teleconference calls on February 23 and March 1, the NPC heard comments from Colin Campbell, Jean Laherrere, Robert L. Hirsch, Steve Andrews, Congressman Roscoe Bartlett, Matt Simmons, Randy Udall, Roger Bentley, Richard Heinberg, and several others. A draft of the study is due during April, with the final report due by late June, 2007. For further information, check periodic postings of informational powerpoint slides on the NPC’s website (www.npc.org).

The statement by Heinberg to the NPC is included below.

  1. The failure of official agencies Official agencies have consistently failed to accurately forecast national and regional oil production peaks. Three examples:
    • During the 1960s, the U.S. Geological Survey issued successive reports forecasting a peak in U.S. oil production around the year 2000; this followed M. King Hubbert’s controversial forecast of a peak around the year 1970. Confounding the official view, U.S. oil production did reach its maximum in 1970 and has been generally declining ever since, despite the subsequent discovery of the largest conventional oilfield ever found in North America—on the North Slope of Alaska—in 1968.
    • In their International Energy Outlook (IEO) 2001 report, the EIA stated that “The United Kingdom is expected to produce about 3.1 mb/d by the middle of this decade, followed by a decline to 2.7 mb/d by 2020,” implying a peak around 2005. Britain’s oil production from the North Sea actually peaked in 1999, two years before this forecast was issued, at 2.684 mb/d, declining to less than 1.7 mb/d by 2005.
    • In their IEO 2003 report, the EIA predicted that the country of Oman was “expected to increase output gradually over the first half of this decade” with “only a gradual production decline after 2005.” In fact, Oman’s production had already peaked in 2000, three years before the forecast was published.
  2. Reasons for failure Why were these agencies wrong? There are several possible reasons. One has to do with psychology. The oil industry is comprised of people whose job entails supplying the very lifeblood of modern industrial society. They do this job with some pride. They may therefore understandably perceive suggestions that oil production may soon peak as an affront to their competence.This notion seems supported by the irrationality of the way in which many in the industry (including representatives of CERA and ExxonMobil) typically mischaracterize the evidence and arguments of the depletionists, and ridicule the messengers rather than engaging in an honest discussion of issues and a dispassionate search for the truth. This same psychological motive may also partially explain repeated failures to foresee national peaks in oil or gas production.People in the industry are attempting an impossible task—to continuously increase the supply of a non-renewable resource. That they should eventually fail to do this is no reflection on their technical competence or the degree of their effort. Meanwhile, society desperately needs realistic assessments of this vital resource rather than macho assurances.Moreover, there is typically insufficient appreciation of the powerful influence of giant oilfields on the depletion curves of large regions. Giant oilfields tend to be found early in the exploration history of a region; and, when they go into decline, the entire region tends to peak, since smaller fields, even when found in great numbers, usually cannot make up for the decline of the giants—at least, not for long.

    It seems to me that these tendencies that have caused official agencies to miss national production peaks are also leading them to miss signs of the impending global peak. The facts that most of the world’s giant fields were discovered decades ago and that we are now seeing declines in the world’s largest oilfields—Cantarell, Burgan, Daqing, and possibly Ghawar—should certainly be setting off alarm bells.

    However, many analysts have lulled themselves into complacency by, for the purposes of calculation, treating low-grade hydrocarbon resources as if they were conventional oil, thereby arriving at inflated figures for world oil reserves. The likely production rates from the heavy oil in Venezuela, the Alberta tar sands, and the oil shales of Colorado will not be sufficient to offset declines from giant fields of conventional oil. The “peak oil” discussion is not about reserves, it is about flow rates.

  3. The state of the industry Further, the industry is ill equipped to make up for declines in the larger fields by heroic efforts at exploration. If new fields are to be tapped quickly enough and in sufficient quantity to avert a near-term peak (if that is even possible in principle), then extraordinary rates of drilling will be required. However, these efforts must overcome the following hurdles:
    • Equipment is aging: the average floating drilling rig is 22 years old, the average jackup rig is 24 years old, the average land rig is 25-30 years old. [biz.yahoo.com/e/061103/nov10-q.html]
    • There is currently a global shortage of rigs, and the cost of renting them is skyrocketing (E & P costs are up 53% in past 2 years, according to Rigzone). More rigs are being built, but that takes time. “That means companies are getting less and less bang for the bucks they put into exploration and production, despite high commodity prices. And with oil well below last year’s $76.70 record . . . companies may consider delaying, if not canceling, some projects.” (Houston Chronicle, Feb. 13)
    • There is also a shortage of trained personnel, since the industry has been shedding geologists and engineers for the past two decades. “As an aging generation of workers retires, industry experts say the resulting shortfall in skilled labor could lead to an increase in delays and problems on mega oil and gas projects…. Over the next decade, a wave of retirements will strip the industry of its most skilled project managers, just as some of the most complex operations ever attempted are supposed to come on stream. The combination, they said, could very well lead to an increase in delays.” [www.rigzone.com/news/article.asp?a_id=41306]
  4. Conclusion: It is reasonable to assume that the peak is here or very close Meanwhile, we observe that world production of crude + condensate has been static or declining since May 2005, when it achieved just over 74,000,000 barrels/day. This has happened in the context of very high prices—which should, under ordinary circumstances, have been incentive to expand production. This suggests that regular conventional oil has already peaked.The peak for all liquids cannot be far behind.Consequently, I see no plausible scenario in which a liquid fuels crisis arising within about 5 years can be averted on the supply side. This is too little time in which to compensate for declines by producing large quantities of liquids-from-coal or biofuels, if that is even possible. And that in turn means that demand-reduction strategies will be required in order to balance the available supply with requirements for transport fuels. The sooner such strategies are identified and implemented, the better the prognosis for societal adaptation.

Richard Heinberg is the author of three books on oil depletion, including The Party’s Over and The Oil Depletion Protocol. He travels internationally to speak on the subject and is a recipient of the M. King Hubbert Award for Excellence in Energy Education. He explains “Peak Oil” in several film documentaries, including Leonardo DiCaprio’s upcoming “11th Hour.”

Free Rainwater Harvesting Presentation by Brad Lancaster

Thursday, March 22, 2007
6:30pm Kirk-Bear Canyon branch of the Pima County Public Library
8959 E. Tanque Verde 85749, Tucson, Arizona
791-45021

Turn water scarcity into water abundance by welcoming rain into your life, landscape, and soil. This presentation shares techniques and strategies empowering you to create integrated water-sustainable landscape plans at home and in the community. Rainwater harvesting is the process of capturing rain and making the most of it as close as possible to where it falls. By harvesting rainwater on the land – within the soil and vegetation, or in cisterns that will later irrigate the land, we can control erosion, reduce flooding, and minimize water pollution. Living in a world with a finite supply of fresh water that is increasingly polluted this practice becomes especially valuable.

Living on an eighth of an acre in downtown Tucson, Arizona, where rainfall is less than 12 inches annually, Brad practices what he preaches by harvesting over 100,000 gallons of rainwater a year. Brad and his brother Rodd have created an oasis in the desert by directing this harvested rainwater not off their property and into storm drains, but instead incorporates it into living air conditioners of food-bearing shade trees, abundant gardens, and a thriving landscape that includes habitat for wildlife.

Brad Lancaster is a permaculture teacher, designer, consultant and co-founder of Desert Harvesters (DesertHarvesters.org). Brad has taught programs for the ECOSA Institute, Columbia University, University of Arizona, Prescott College, Audubon Expeditions, and many others. He has helped design integrated water harvesting and permaculture systems for homeowners and gardeners, including the Tucson Audubon Simpson Farm restoration site, the Milagro and Stone Curves co-housing projects.

Free Rainwater Harvesting Presentation by Brad Lancaster

Tuesday, March 27, 2007
6:00pm Himmel Park branch of the Pima County Public Library
1035 N. Treat Avenue, 85716, Tucson, Arizona
791-4397

Turn water scarcity into water abundance by welcoming rain into your life, landscape, and soil. This presentation shares techniques and strategies empowering you to create integrated water-sustainable landscape plans at home and in the community. Rainwater harvesting is the process of capturing rain and making the most of it as close as possible to where it falls. By harvesting rainwater on the land – within the soil and vegetation, or in cisterns that will later irrigate the land, we can control erosion, reduce flooding, and minimize water pollution. Living in a world with a finite supply of fresh water that is increasingly polluted this practice becomes especially valuable.

Living on an eighth of an acre in downtown Tucson, Arizona, where rainfall is less than 12 inches annually, Brad practices what he preaches by harvesting over 100,000 gallons of rainwater a year. Brad and his brother Rodd have created an oasis in the desert by directing this harvested rainwater not off their property and into storm drains, but instead incorporates it into living air conditioners of food-bearing shade trees, abundant gardens, and a thriving landscape that includes habitat for wildlife.

Brad Lancaster is a permaculture teacher, designer, consultant and co-founder of Desert Harvesters (DesertHarvesters.org). Brad has taught programs for the ECOSA Institute, Columbia University, University of Arizona, Prescott College, Audubon Expeditions, and many others. He has helped design integrated water harvesting and permaculture systems for homeowners and gardeners, including the Tucson Audubon Simpson Farm restoration site, the Milagro and Stone Curves co-housing projects.

Major Climate Change Report Released

The summary of the fourth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report was released on February 2nd. The IPCC is a group of hundreds of the world’s top climate scientists which issues updates every six years on the latest consensus of climate science findings. The final report summary says there is overwhelming evidence that human activity is causing the extreme symptoms of climate change. The consensus analysis shows that global warming will happen faster and be more devastating than previously thought. Read this summary.

Tucson City Manager Invites Public Voices;

Tucson City Manager Invites Public Voices;
Sustainability and Culture are Priorities

Dateline March 7, Tucson, AZ
by Lindianne Sarno

Mike Hein, City Manager of Tucson, spoke March 6 at a breakfast meeting of the Sun Belt World Trade Association. He has worked for several Southern Arizona local governments including South Tucson, Nogales, Marana, Pima County, and now the City of Tucson. Speaking candidly, he described his job as handling numbers. He reports to seven people, manages a budget of $1.1 billion, and is responsible for 6,500 employees, one-third of whom are due to retire soon.

Last year, Hein said, the City of Tucson started an Office of Conservation and Sustainable Development. This year the City initiates an office of Historical and Cultural Affairs. He said, “This city has a soul. My job is to connect people, artists, and resources.”

When Sustainable Tucson member Tom Greco asked about public particiation in Tucson’s budgeting process, Hein said, “Set me the goals, set me the vision. I’ll develop the process to get to it.”

To meet the challenges Tucson faces over the next 10 years, and to prepare Tucson for our children and grandchildren, Tucson needs citizen involvement, says Hein. A recent Gallup poll of Tucson/Pima citizens revealed only 32% satisfaction with local government, but even more revealing, 22% “don’t know and don’t care.” Hein advised, “Be at the table and be listened to.” At a typical Mayor and City Council meeting, he lamented, about five people respond to the call to the public. At stake are important issues, including how Tucson will grow, how Tucson will handle water, and how Rio Nuevo will develop. Input from the informed, caring sector of the public is urgently needed.

When a member of Sustaiable Tucson asked how the City of Tucson would finance the conversion of Tucson’s infrastructure to solar, Hein replied, “You have your coalition. Unify your coalition. Direct your voice. Find your champions.” He also mentioned the prospective planning going into new building in Tucson and the new role of LEEDS certification (green building standards).

The City of Tucson’s message to Sustainable Tucson is clear: Come talk to us, we need your input, your guidance, and your vision. Sustainability is mainstream. Sustainability is a priority.

Therefore, we plan to post the Mayor and City Council meeting schedule on Sustainable Tucson’s website, www.sustainabletucson.org. The two remaining meetings this month are March 20 and March 27. We urge you to attend these meetings, identify yourself as a member of the Sustainable Tucson coalition, and speak up for sustainable design, localization, water harvesting, neighborhood agriculture, food security, community centers, solar energy, and generally reducing Tucson’s global footprint.

Peak Oil Task Force recommends Portland cut fossil fuel use 50%

March 7, 2007

Peak Oil Task Force recommends Portland cut fossil fuel use 50% by 2032

The Report by a citizen committee stresses implications of fuel supply
fluctuations and price increases on social safety net and basic services

Portland, Ore. – The Portland Peak Oil Task Force, a twelve member
citizen committee appointed by Portland´s City Council in May 2006,
today delivered a strongly worded report advising that the City
accelerate efforts to curb the use of oil and natural gas.

The report´s key recommendation is that the City take action to
reduce fossil fuel use by half over the next 25 years. The report
finds the best path to this goal is in accelerating current
initiatives such as high-density planning and zoning, public
transportation and acquiring electricity from renewable resources.
Additional recommendations suggest specific actions elected officials
can take to move towards the goals.

“This is an achievable imperative,” said Task Force chairman Bill
Scott, General Manager for Flexcar Portland, a car sharing company.
“Rising energy prices are likely to force major change in any case.
Portland has an economic stake in getting ahead of those price
signals.”

The Task Force found that actions such as increasing housing density
and fortifying our mass transit system will be much less expensive to
achieve now than they will in ten, twenty or forty years, when
materials and transportation costs will be much higher.

“This report represents many months of work by a dedicated group of
citizens,” said City Commissioner Dan Saltzman. “It makes clear
that those most affected by increasing fuel costs and fluctuations in
supply will be our most vulnerable citizens. The Task Force has sent
us a clear signal about the growing costs of our energy dependency,
while also pointing out practical solutions.”

“However well Portland succeeds in its energy transition, it will
not be able to isolate itself from global energy crises or the
resulting economic implications,” the report states. “The Task
Force sees the potential for profound economic hardship and high
levels of unemployment, and it recommends having plans in place to
adapt social and economic support systems accordingly … contingency
plans are needed for fuel shortages that may last for several weeks,
well beyond the time considered in existing emergency plans.”

City Council adopts peak oil preparedness resolution

At the meeting today, Council also adopted a resolution establishing
the goal of reducing fossil fuel use by half, and directing city
bureaus to incorporate the goal into both internal operations and
programs and policies addressing planning guidelines, building energy
use and transportation systems.

“The Peak Oil Task Force report underscores the need to accelerate
our efforts,” said Susan Anderson, director of the Office of
Sustainable Development. “All of the recommended actions also help
the City meet other established community goals such as clean air and
water, livability, carbon dioxide reductions and economic growth.”

The Task Force found that Portland residents, businesses and
institutions spend more than $650 million for gasoline and natural
gas each year. Most of this sum leaves the community, while
investments in public transportation infrastructure, energy
efficiency and dense urban housing create jobs and keep dollars in
local circulation.

Portland has long been known for early action on related issues. The
City was the first in the U.S. to adopt a comprehensive Global
Warming Action Plan, in 1993, and is known for its dense, walkable
urban neighborhoods, high number of green buildings, efficient mass
transit and hundreds of miles of bike lanes and bike routes.

Recent City actions that will help Portland meet the goal laid out by
the Peak Oil Task Force include a pending agreement to purchase 100
percent of municipal electricity from wind power; participation in
transportation initiatives such as Plug In Partners, a national
effort to increase the purchase of hybrid electric fleet vehicles;
and Solar Now! a campaign to double the number of solar energy
systems installed on Portland homes and businesses.

“It is not enough for the City to commit to this goal,” said
Scott. “Citizens and business owners also will need to step up.
Weatherizing your home and finding ways to drive less or use a more
fuel efficient vehicle are the first steps.”

Interested citizens can learn more about peak oil and what they can
do through Portland Peak Oil,
a grassroots group dedicated to developing strategies for responding
to peak oil. Information is available at www.portlandpeakoil.org.
The group meets Wednesday evenings from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm in the
dining hall at St. Francis Church, 1182 SE Pine in southeast Portland.

For more information and to download a copy of the Executive Summary
and full report of the Peak Oil Task Force, please visit http://
www.portlandonline.com/osd/index.cfm?c=42894.

Contact: Amy Stork, Office of Sustainable Development

(503) 823-0229

Brendan Finn, Commissioner Saltzman´s Office

(503) 823-3110

About the Office of Sustainable Development

The Office of Sustainable Development (OSD) brings together community
partners to promote a healthy and prosperous future for Portland. OSD
advances improvements and innovation in reducing global warming
emissions and encourages public engagement in energy efficiency and
renewable energy, biofuels, waste reduction and recycling,
sustainable economic development, sustainable food systems and green
building practices.

Tucson City Manager Invites Public Voices

Tucson City Manager Invites Public Voices;
Sustainability and Culture are Priorities

Dateline March 7, Tucson, AZ
by Lindianne Sarno

Mike Hein, City Manager of Tucson, spoke March 6 at a breakfast meeting of the Sun Belt World Trade Association. He has worked for several Southern Arizona local governments including South Tucson, Nogales, Marana, Pima County, and now the City of Tucson. Speaking candidly, he described his job as handling numbers. He reports to seven people, manages a budget of $1.1 billion, and is responsible for 6,500 employees, one-third of whom are due to retire soon.

Last year, Hein said, the City of Tucson started an Office of Conservation and Sustainable Development. This year the City initiates an office of Historical and Cultural Affairs. He said, “This city has a soul. My job is to connect people, artists, and resources.”

When Sustainable Tucson member Tom Greco asked about public particiation in Tucson’s budgeting process, Hein said, “Set me the goals, set me the vision. I’ll develop the process to get to it.”

To meet the challenges Tucson faces over the next 10 years, and to prepare Tucson for our children and grandchildren, Tucson needs citizen involvement, says Hein. A recent Gallup poll of Tucson/Pima citizens revealed only 32% satisfaction with local government, but even more revealing, 22% “don’t know and don’t care.” Hein advised, “Be at the table and be listened to.” At a typical Mayor and City Council meeting, he lamented, about five people respond to the call to the public. At stake are important issues, including how Tucson will grow, how Tucson will handle water, and how Rio Nuevo will develop. Input from the informed, caring sector of the public is urgently needed.

When a member of Sustaiable Tucson asked how the City of Tucson would finance the conversion of Tucson’s infrastructure to solar, Hein replied, “You have your coalition. Unify your coalition. Direct your voice. Find your champions.” He also mentioned the prospective planning going into new building in Tucson and the new role of LEEDS certification (green building standards).

The City of Tucson’s message to Sustainable Tucson is clear: Come talk to us, we need your input, your guidance, and your vision. Sustainability is mainstream. Sustainability is a priority.

Therefore, we plan to post the Mayor and City Council meeting schedule on Sustainable Tucson’s website, www.sustainabletucson.org. The two remaining meetings this month are March 20 and March 27. We urge you to attend these meetings, identify yourself as a member of the Systainable Tucson coalition, and speak up for sustainable design, localization, water harvesting, neighborhood agriculture, food security, community centers, solar energy, and generally reducing Tucson’s global footprint.