Archive for energy independence

The Seven Greatest Myths About the Gulf Oil Spill

Posted in The End of OIl with tags , , on May 28, 2010 by talewis

It’s a Spill. The word spill means that a portion of a finite amount of stuff in a container is inadvertently transferred to another surface. But in the Gulf, toxic oil from a deposit so large its volume cannot even be estimated is erupting into the water column a mile below the surface at a rate so large it has not yet been authoritatively estimated. If this is a spill, then the eruption of ┬áMt. St. Helens was a burp. Continue reading


Hope Springs: Can a Fuel Cell Save Us?

Posted in Grid Lock with tags , on February 24, 2010 by talewis

It was the morning of the third day of the Civil War Battle of Gettysburg. As his army maneuvered into place for what history would remember as Pickett’s Charge, General Robert E. Lee turned to his most trusted subordinate, General James Longstreet, and said, “This could be the day.” He could see victory for the besieged Confederacy, just a few hundred yards away, up the deceptively gentle rise of Seminary Ridge, just beyond the bristling blue line of Federal muskets, bayonets and cannon that waited there.

Today, in the 11th hour of the American Republic as it confronts the absolute limits of its supplies of energy from fossil fuels, with no preparations made for the inevitable and catastrophic encounter with those limits, I will say to you that today could be the day. Today, we just might set a new course toward a better future. For someone who has spent several years writing about the inevitability of an impending crash of the industrial age, this stirring of hope is quite unfamiliar. I had better explain. Continue reading

Oil: Looking a Little Peaked

Posted in The End of OIl with tags , on January 13, 2010 by talewis

When our car’s odometer shows us two or three zeros in a row, we tend for a short time to think about its welfare over the long term, not just how much gas is left in the tank. How well have we been maintaining it, what is its life expectancy now, what are the probabilities of major problems? Then, usually, we go back to sticking the key in the ignition and filling the tank.

When changing the calendar shows us a zero in the year’s designation, something similar happens, or should. We tend to review, briefly, the longer-term trends in the country, in our health, in our prospects. Such a review in 2010 brings us face to face with the imminence of a catastrophic global event: peak oil. Continue reading

A Frack Job for Marcellus

Posted in 3. Energy with tags , , , on December 25, 2009 by talewis

It’s not quite the infinite-energy-from-tap-water-via-cold-fusion miracle that industrialists have been assuring us is just around the corner — the sudden scientific panacea that would painlessly and profitably avert our rush toward energy catastrophe. But hydraulic fracturing, invented by Halliburton and beloved of Exxon, is close. Continue reading

Drill, Baby, WAIT!

Posted in 3. Energy with tags , , on December 12, 2009 by talewis

The company calls itself AltaRock, which translates roughly from the Nordish as “getting high on rocks.” With a $6 million grant from the U.S. Energy Department and $30 million in venture capital (translation: “lottery ticket”), the firm set out to show the world how to turn true geothermal energy — that is, the heat in deep rock — into a major source of alternative, renewable energy. On Friday, it showed the world how to abandon a project and make itself virtually invisible. Continue reading

Circuits Breaking

Posted in Grid Lock with tags , on November 12, 2009 by talewis

Among the industrial systems being strained to and beyond their limits by the tensions between growing demand and limited supplies is the electrical network of every industrialized country. Brazil is just the latest to experience the consequences of breaking circuit breakers. Continue reading

Forget Everything, I Said

Posted in The Failed State with tags , , , on September 24, 2009 by talewis
The mantra of the industrial age rises in intensity, all around us, louder and more insistent as it becomes less defensible: we have to change everything, is the way it goes, but we can’t change any single thing.
On health care: yes, it’s terrible, the system is broken. The industry (imagine: in this country, health care is an industry), as President Obama likes to remind us, is on board this time, and agrees we must reform the system. It’s just that they are against changing any single thing about the system. Reduce their profits? That would be un-American. Offer Medicare to the people they have rejected as too poor or sick to help? Socialism! Sure, they’re willing to stop refusing or cancelling coverage of people who are, or get, sick. But that’s a no-brainer when, in return, 45 million Americans, now without insurance, are going to be required by law to pay them premiums. Now that’s a reform even an insurance coimpany could like.
The journalism industry — yes, it’s an industry now, too, I’m afraid — is complicit in all this. To cite just one example: two of the country’s most successful and respected columnists, Gail Collins and David Brooks, discuss the health care reform battle as if it were a contest of ideas between Republicans and Democrats, or the House and the Senate, or the Administration and Congress.
Compromising on Health Care
It is no such thing. It’s a contest between the 70% of Americans who want access to decent health care at a reasonable cost — and the industries that are making their profits by either denying the care or bankrupting the patient. Of course the industries are winning, at least partly because the journalists who should be shining light on what the companies are doing are instead flapping their right wings against their left wings.
Similarly. the oil industry agrees that we are going to run short of oil, and soon. Their most optimistic scenarios put peak oil — the begining of the perpetual and irreversible decline of the world’s oil supply in the face of steadily increasing demand — at 20 years away. Most reputable observers believe it’s happening now. But Big Oil says yes! we have to change everything! They even allowed their wholly-owned President, George W. Bush, say it explicity: we are addicted to foreign oil.
Just don’t try to change any single thing. Higher gas-mileage requirements for cars? No way. Tax gasoline to reduce consumption and stimulate atlternative, renewable fuels? Are you kidding? Limit carbon emissions as a late and lame admission that we are changing the climate of the planet, to our own peril? No, no, no. Instead, British Petroleum will rebrand itself as “Beyond Petroleum,” and run TV ads about how we have to change everything.
What I argue, here and in Brace for Impact, is that survival requires that we flip this brain-dead mantra on its head, admit that we cannot change everything, and then change something.

The mantra of the industrial age rises in intensity, all around us, louder and more insistent as it becomes less defensible: we have to change everything, is the way it goes, but we can’t change any single thing. Continue reading