Peak Oil News: 03/01/2008 - 04/01/2008

Monday, March 31, 2008

Peak Oil? Bring it on!


Solving the climate problem will solve the peak oil problem, too

By Joseph Romm

I have a new article in Salon on perhaps the most misunderstood subject in energy: peak oil.

Here is the short version:

1. We are at or near the peak of cheap conventional oil production.
2. There is no realistic prospect that the conventional oil supply can keep up with current projected demand for much longer, if the industrialized countries don't take strong action to sharply reduce consumption, and if China and India don't take strong action to sharply reduce consumption growth.
3. Many people are expecting unconventional oil -- such as the tar sands and liquid coal -- to make up the supply shortage. That would be a climate catastrophe, and I (optimistically) believe humanity is wise enough not to let that happen. More supply is not the answer to either our oil or climate problem.
4. Nonetheless, contrary to popular belief, the peak oil problem will not "destroy suburbia" or the American way of life. Only unrestrained emissions of greenhouse gases can do that.
5. We have the two primary solutions to peak oil at hand: fuel efficiency and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles run on zero-carbon electricity. The only question is whether conservatives will let progressives accelerate those solutions into the marketplace before it is too late to prevent a devastating oil shock or, for that matter, devastating climate change.

That last sentence has been a major focus of my posts. I discuss it briefly in the article, but let me elaborate on it here. For more than two decades, conservatives have put up almost every conceivable roadblock to a sane energy policy. They have essentially said to peak oil -- and catastrophic global warming, for that matter -- "Bring it on!"

No one should be surprised that we are now mired in a tar pit of growing dependence on oil imported from unstable or undemocratic regions, that oil prices are over $100 a barrel, that we have a trade deficit in oil alone approaching $500 billion a year, and, of course, that we're faced with the very serious threat of catastrophic climate change from burning an ever-increasing amount of fossil fuels.

Many of us have predicted for a very long time that a quarter century of ignoring or underfunding the key solutions to our addiction to oil would have consequences. For instance, an April 1996 article I coauthored warned about what the Gingrich Congress was trying to do:

Congressional budget-cutters threaten to end America's leadership in new energy technologies that could generate hundreds of thousands of high-wage jobs, reduce damage to the environment, and limit our costly, dangerous dependency on oil from the unstable Persian Gulf region.

Now, absent an aggressive set of government-led policies, the oil situation will only get worse, with oil and gasoline prices doubling (or worse) in the next quarter century. Crucially, we must solve our oil addiction and carbon addiction together, and soon. Fatih Birol, chief economist of the International Energy Agency, said in November:

These two things put together, the short term security, medium term security of our oil markets, plus the climate change, consequences of this energy use, my message is that, if we don't do anything very quickly and in a bold manner, the wheels may fall off. Our energy system's wheels may fall off. This is the message that we want to give.

The problem is urgent. And the solutions are known.

Clearly we now have only two realistic strategies -- indeed, we have had only two realistic strategies for decades. We must greatly increase the fuel economy of our vehicles, and we must find one or more alternative fuel sources that are abundant, low-carbon, and affordable. Both of these are strategies that conservatives have strongly fought for a long time.

Just to be clear, let's just say we adopted the favorite strategy of conservatives (more supply) and we opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, and we found enough to provide one million barrels a day for 30 years. That would delay the peak in oil one whole year! Catastrophe not averted. And, of course, it would only make global warming harder to fight. More domestic supply is not the solution.

Significantly, both Senators Clinton and Obama have announced plans to sharply increase fuel economy standards. As for McCain, one of his top economic advisors recently said that if his cap and trade system worked well enough, he might take the new standards off the books. That shows the McCain campaign does not understand what it will take to solve either the global warming or the peak oil problem.

Let's optimistically assume we can get fuel economy standards for cars and SUVs of 60 miles per gallon by 2030. We would still need half their fuel to be zero carbon. And that's just the time-line for dealing with global warming. If you want a motor fuel to deal with peak oil, then you need something that can provide a substantial and rapidly growing resource starting by 2020 at the latest (optimistically assuming we have a decade before peak).

Only one alternative fuel is even remotely plausible: carbon-free electricity.

Hydrogen is a "multi-miracle" nonstarter that became stake-through-the-heart dead this month when GM and Toyota told everyone the obvious -- we won't have "hydrogen fuel cells for mass-market production in the near term" but "electric cars will prove to be a better way to reduce fuel consumption and cut tailpipe emissions on a large scale." [Note to GM and Toyota: Duh!]

Corn ethanol is, as we've seen over and over again, a total loser from an energy and climate -- and every other conceivable -- perspective.

Biomass-based cellulosic biofuels hold a lot of promise, maybe even more promise than they held more than a decade ago when my office at DOE was pushing hard to develop them in the face of opposition from the Gingrich Congress. But we still don't have a single commercial cellulosic biofuels plant in operation in this country. So it will require massive government support for biofuels to be a major player by 2030, let alone 2020. Moreover, electricity is not a fuel that can be used for air travel and probably not for long-distance travel, especially by big trucks. So, again optimistically, we should probably assume every last drop of cellulosic biofuels will be set aside to cut non-automotive transportation fuel sharply in the coming decades.

I have previously explained why I believe plug in hybrids and electric cars are the cars of the future, especially as a climate solution. The Salon article "Peak oil? Consider it solved" talks about how they are the ideal solutions to peak oil, too.

The bottom line is that if we solve the climate problem, we will solve the peak oil problem. If we don't solve the climate problem, peak oil will be a somewhat painful but relatively short blip on the history of humanity compared to the extremely painful, multi-century tragedy our children and the 50 generations after them will face.

This post was created for, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Peak oil's slippery slope

If you think high gas prices this summer are gonna be a bummer, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet

By R.V. Scheide

Both President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, when questioned about their subterranean public-approval ratings, have repeatedly asserted their administration will be vindicated by history. After you’re done guffawing, consider this: They just might be right.

Why? In a phrase, peak oil.

For those unfamiliar with peak oil—and here I include Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, most of the state Legislature and even the California Energy Commission—it is derived from the geological phenomenon of oil-field depletion, first elaborated on in 1956 by M. King Hubbert, then a geophysicist for Shell Oil. Simply put, peak-oil theory asserts that for any given oil field, there is a finite amount of recoverable oil. When half of that oil is used up, the field has reached its peak. Thereafter, production begins declining to near-zero. This principle, Hubbert claimed, applies to all oil fields, individually and in the aggregate.

Petroleum-industry scientists initially pooh-poohed peak oil, but Hubbert was later validated when, in the 1960s, he successfully predicted the U.S. domestic-oil supply would peak in 1970. It didn’t take long for the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC, comprised of oil-rich nations such as Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran and Venezuela, to figure out the United States was vulnerable, thanks to its ever-increasing demand for imported oil. Angered by the U.S. military aid provided to Israel in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, OPEC ceased shipping oil to the United States, creating the 1973 energy crisis.

Some of us are old enough to remember waiting in mile-long lines to pay ever-increasing prices for gasoline in the 1970s. In 2008 dollars, the price peaked at $3.29 per gallon in 1981. But as suddenly as it began, the energy crisis dissipated. For the next two decades, prices declined, thanks primarily to the financial needs of the Middle East’s pampered princes, who prefer the casinos of Monaco, luxury yachts and lavish palaces to the welfare of their own citizens.

However, peak oil never went away. Its proponents kept watch as growing world demand for petroleum, particularly from developing nations such as China and India, steadily drained the available known reserves. Canada and Mexico have crossed their peaks, and could soon cease exporting oil to the United States in order to meet domestic demand. New discoveries of large, so-called elephant oil fields have disappeared entirely.

As a growing number of scientists jumped on the peak-oil bandwagon, petroleum prices began rising in 2000. In 2006, the price per gallon for gasoline in California eclipsed the record set in 1981. Earlier this year, petroleum crossed the $100 per barrel threshold; some Californians are now paying as much as $4 per gallon for gasoline. Heading into the summer driving season, it’s only going to get worse—and if we truly have crossed the peak, it’s never going to get better. The era of “cheap oil” will be over; both countries and individual consumers will pay an increasing share of their incomes on energy—all forms of energy, since they’re pegged to oil.

Politicians and the petroleum industry have tended to blame rising prices on a lack of refining capacity. Consumer advocates blame oil-company profit-gouging for the increases. Both explanations are partially correct, but do little to explain the volatility that has recently characterized the market. The larger reality is contained in recent projections by Exxon, which announced earlier this month that it expects petroleum production to remain flat through 2012, because oil from the Middle East hasn’t been able to make up for a 37-percent drop in petroleum supplied from the United States and Europe since 2000.

Translation: If the Saudis can’t keep up the flow, peak oil may already be here, now.

Forget about rising sea levels. The advent of peak oil will make global warming seem like a day at the beach. Petroleum doesn’t just fuel our automobiles, it’s in everything, from fertilizer to pharmaceuticals to food products. Since the beginning of the oil age in the mid-19th century, the world’s population has grown from slightly less than 1 billion to more than 6 billion today. This simply couldn’t have happened without oil, and in petroleum’s absence, the world, including the United States, is facing a dramatic decrease in the number of its human inhabitants.

With such dire potential consequences, you’d think our elected officials would at least acknowledge the risk. But at the federal level, the Government Accountability Office reports remain woefully unprepared for peak oil, which it describes as “inevitable.” Schwarzenegger pays occasional lip service to increasing the fuel efficiency of automobiles, even as he balances the budget by cutting mass-transit funds. Peak oil is not mentioned once in the California Energy Commission’s 250-page Integrated Energy Report released last year.


Fortunately, future American heroes George Bush and Dick Cheney have their eyes on the prize: the oil fields of Iraq and Iran, which together have about the same amount as Saudi Arabia, whom we’ve already bought off. Together, the three countries have half of the world’s remaining petroleum supply. They’re also believed to be at or near their own peaks. Nevertheless, taking control of their reserves will keep those Hummers rolling until the realities of peak oil sink in. Who cares about a little genocide when there are pockets to line and gas tanks to fill?

Monday, March 24, 2008

A Biofuel Reality Check; A Sane Voice from Iowa Farm Country

By Michael Richards

Most of what is being marketed as “Green Fuel” is not green and sustainable at all. We must study the context of agriculture and processing from a whole systems perspective. True green energy can only be produced within a well-designed sustainable ecology. This type of analysis, policy and action is not taking place through any official channels. Without such whole systems science, the mad rush to biofuels will be as damaging to the environment and global climate as the present global petro-chemical economy. All sides of this important discussion need to seek a factual and scientific basis for policy decisions and new energy enterprise.

We need an intelligent biofuel reality check. The first fact to face is that it is biologically, physically and mathematically impossible to replace fossil fuel with biofuel. U of Mass. Biologist Jeffrey Dukes calculated that the fossil fuels we presently burn in one year were produced from stores of organic matter "containing 4410 to the 18 grams of carbon, which is more than 400 times the net primary productivity of the planet's current biota." In plain and simple English, this means that every year we use four centuries' worth of planetary plant and animal matter that were converted into fossil fuel over many millions of years. Every single barrel of oil replaces 25,000 man hours of human labor energy. The idea that we can simply replace fossil fuel and the extraordinary power density it provides with a fast market shift to “green” energy is the stuff of wild science fiction. There is simply no rational substitute for cutting back on energy consumption. The most important step toward a sustainable Post Petrol Paradigm is to initiate resource conservation on a heroic global scale. A truly sustainable society requires a very radical departure from the present energy consumption paradigm. To just change fuels, without changing the underlying social and economic paradigm is an absurd folly.

Fossil fuel substitutes such as ethanol and biodiesel are being sought frantically all over the planet. Most decision makers in government and industry are not ready to face the hard decisions that climate change and effective, scientific, long term environmental management demands. In many cases biofuel conversion amounts to a cure that is a bigger problem than the petroleum problem. Many biofuel evangelists are as strident in their denial of scientific reality and hard facts as many petroleum executives are in their denial of peak oil.

The biodiesel industry developed the world's most carbon-intensive fuel in the form of palm oil biodiesel. In the promotion of biodiesel in the European Union, the British and US governments and by thousands of environmental campaigners, we are given the false impression that we are just creating a benign market for waste cooking oil, soybean oil, canola oil, or oil from algae grown in desert ponds. It’s very important to study the entire context and ecological impact of biofuel production and alternative energy. A global rush to “green fuel” is actually leading to a major environmental disaster. Get the facts. Get the whole story.

The fact is, the human race can design effective life support systems without high energy consumption. In my book, Sustainable Operating Systems/The Post Petrol Paradigm, I refer to this new socio-economic system as a “techno-agrarian” society. We must discern which human endeavors are constructive and which are destructive technology. We presently only measure economic value in the amount of cash produced, without a scientific analysis of the total system. A new ecological/economic metric is essential for human survival.

Fifty percent of all gasoline consumption takes place within three miles of our homes as we madly race about to work, school, shop and recreate within a very inefficient-car centered urban matrix. We need to design a dense; human centered, energy efficient pedestrian friendly urban matrix where we walk or bike to most daily activity, and then reserve fuel for inter-urban mass transit and efficient rail travel. Fifty percent of all energy use can be eliminated with such efficient design in the human built environment. Conservation is intelligent technology. We get much more “bang for the buck” with energy efficiency than any available techno-fix.

Some of the finest architecture, music, science, literature and art were produced before the mass consumption-petroleum age. Our most enlightened human future can exist beyond the mass consumption petroleum age. We can choose a human civilization beyond violence, injustice and ignorance. We need a new post petrol paradigm. We can actually thrive as a species without oil. We cannot even survive without adequate water. Water is one crucial resource that we are squandering in the mad rush for a biofuel fix for our oil addiction. Most recent controversy over biofuels has focused on poor energy return; in growing corn and turning it into ethanol, you have to burn four calories to get three. We only have a biofuel boom because of huge government subsidies. Without subsidies, this new industry does not work economically. We are rewarding the depletion of vital resources such as water to prop up the inefficient, car and fuel-centered infrastructure. A flood of cash is now flowing through the nation's corn-growing regions, but the biggest price will be paid in the depletion of our vital water supply. Agribusiness boosters and politicians tout corn-based ethanol and soy biodiesel as a miraculous solution to the nation's unquenchable thirst for liquid fuels. This “miracle” is a devil’s bargain as we trade peak oil for peak soil and water. We need to evaluate the entire ecological impact of this “miracle”.

In the arid areas of the Great High Plains, irrigation is crucial to corn production. Biofuel agriculture is dependent on the one-time consumption of groundwater reserves that have been stored up over the last 11,000 years of geological process. The vast Ogallala aquifer, stretching all the way from Texas up into South Dakota, is now being mined at a rapid rate that will drain some regions in the relatively near future, at least before the oil wells of the Middle East run dry. Short term economic thinking leads to disaster. We must think before we act.

The Ogallala aquifer was trapped under the American High Plains during the last ice age. Before the onset of industrial/irrigated agriculture, this massive geological formation held enough ancient water to fill Lake Huron, the second-greatest of the Great Lakes. We are now depleting this massive water resource in just one generation. In the High Plains, raising one single bushel of irrigated corn sucks up 2,000 to 3,000 gallons of valuable water. The largest corn crops in history are being raised in this arid region to fuel the biofuel boom. National corn acreage increased 15 percent from 2006 to 2007. As a result, the pressure on this vital continental water resource is increasing dramatically. The U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that the land area sown to corn will remain at historically high levels of 90 million acres or more through at least 2017 to meet the huge demand. As a result, the price of a bushel of corn has jumped from $2.00 to more than $5.00 per bushel. USDA forecasters now see such high corn prices as near-permanent with our present national fuel and food policy.

Most of the region's industrial corn currently goes to cattle feedlots that feed the fast food feeding frenzy. Prices are also now kept high by the biofuel boom. In western Kansas, ethanol production plants have a total capacity of 143 million gallons per day, but new plants already planned or under construction will add more than 700 million gallons per day, most of that will come from irrigated corn or sorghum. In the eastern part of the state, where the Kansas River is already considered a toxic hazard because of massive fertilizer contamination, corn ethanol capacity will grow from 101 to 667 gallons per day in the near future.

The Energy Independence and Security Act, passed by Congress at the end of 2007, requires that the nation produce 15 billion gallons of corn ethanol per year by 2015. While meeting only 10 percent of Americans' gasoline consumption needs, such a level of production would require massive, permanent increases in the amount of land sown to corn, as well as devastating water consumption and damaging pollution. This new energy law will also drive a fatal nail in the coffin of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Since the mid-80s CRP has been paying farmers to reseed millions of acres of erosion vulnerable cropland to a diverse mixture of native perennial grasses and other plants. CRP has done more to conserve soil and protect water in agricultural regions than any other federal initiative. The USDA estimates that farmers will plow up 5 million acres of CRP land in the next four years alone to plant corn and other biofuel crops. Our national policy trades sane water and soil preservation to jump start the insane expansion of the fast food, fast car economy. Our “leaders” are asleep at the wheel and on the wrong road! This boom will eventually go bust. Boom/bust economics create short term gain in trade for long term disaster. Observe the bust of the housing boom.

According to the Washington-based group Environmental Defense, increasing irrigated corn acreage by 10 percent to 20 percent in the High Plains will have an effect on water resources similar to that of dropping a city the size of metropolitan Denver in this arid region. This is equivalent to doubling the human population of the entire region. This is not only unsustainable; it is suicidal as a society.

After World War II, new irrigation technology brought about faster exploitation of the Ogallala aquifer. The U.S. Geological Survey has reported that by 2005, the most heavily exploited areas, accounting for almost a tenth of the entire region, had seen the water table drop between 50 and 270 feet farther beneath the land surface. Farmers in some of the prime agricultural areas with the deepest water deposits in western Kansas, eastern Colorado, and the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles are spending more and more money and fuel to bring water from greater and greater depths. Gross income goes up, while net income decreases.

Flowing through the natural short-grass prairie vegetation of Kansas, formerly-great rivers like the Arkansas are fed not only by surface streams but also by water tables that reach up and away from their natural streambed. Across much of the region, irrigation has drawn aquifers down so far that the flow of water has reversed; now moving down and out of rivers into the surrounding dry ground. Rivers are actually dropping under the surface, leaving only dry, dusty beds visible for much of the year. In Kansas, a significant portion of the Ogallala's area has already shrunk below a threshold (30 to 50 feet thick), that can support large-scale irrigation.
Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska, are engaged in bitter water battles. Border regions where water disputes have been most fierce are precisely the regions where new ethanol plants and bigger plantings of water thirsty corn are being planned. Farther south, the situation is even more of a disaster. The USDA has recorded water-table drops of 100 feet in the Texas Panhandle. By 2025, several counties at the southern edge of the Ogallala aquifer in west Texas will have lost 50 percent to 60 percent of all water that's available for pumping. Agricultural economists at Texas Tech University predict that unless restrictions are put in place, farmers will most likely respond to water shortages (and high corn prices) by drilling deeper wells and depleting the water even faster.

The Corn Belt of Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois and surrounding states receive adequate annual rainfall to naturally replenish most groundwater used to irrigate crops. The bigger issue in the Heartland states is quality, not quantity of water. Maps of nitrate pollution in streams and groundwater correlate to maps of nitrogen fertilizer use across the country, especially in the Midwest Corn Belt. The National Academy of Sciences documented that recent increases in corn production have led to much greater pollution of surface and groundwater.

The risk is "considerable," says the academy, that expansion of corn ethanol production will add to the devastating nitrate load of the Mississippi River and expand the oxygen-depleted "Dead Zone" in the Gulf of Mexico a thousand miles downstream. We are trading in long term sustainable life support systems of soil and water for the fast cash grab of the fast car and mass consumption economy. A dog will not dump in its own den, but that is exactly what the mass consumer human society is doing. It is morally reprehensible to trade the health and welfare of our children and grandchildren to fuel the profit of a few voracious big dogs that dominate our current political and economic power structure.

A study carried out in 2007 at the request of Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., documented that the conversion to biofuels is even more aggressive than what's currently mandated by the Energy Independence and Security Act: 20 billion gallons of corn ethanol and 1 billion gallons of soy biodiesel annually by 2016. Even that Herculean effort would not achieve "energy independence," displacing only 13 percent of our current gasoline consumption and less than 2 percent of diesel. This would be achieved with the long-term cultivation of almost 100 million acres of corn, with 47 percent of the nation's crop going straight to ethanol plants. Under that scenario, fertilizer and pesticide use would increase substantially across the Corn Belt and in the High Plains as well. Toxic nitrates in groundwater would rise accordingly, by 11 percent in the states around the Great Lakes and 8 percent in the southern plains; areas where a critical need to lower, not raise, nitrate levels already exists. As we seek “energy independence”, we are depleting our sustainable life support systems.

A recent study found nitrate pollution to be worst in those aquifer-dependent regions of Texas where irrigated sorghum and corn are now grown. This acreage use will expand as ethanol plants demand increasing supplies of grain. University of Kansas scientists found that pollutants have been concentrated in that state's portion of the Ogallala by "evapotranspiration, oil brine disposal, agricultural practices, brine intrusion and waste disposal," as well as nitrates, chlorides and sulfates. We’re creating ecological insecurity in a false quest for energy security.
Riding this roller-coaster of boom/bust agricultural economics, farmers learn to “get whenever the getting is good”. The common refrain is “Make hay while the sun shines”. Biofuel mania is the latest trend in a long history of short term schemes designed to squeeze quick cash out of a rural ecology that's only suited to slow, steady sustainable use. To make money in this boom/bust structure, you must use more water. We are wasting irreplaceable water in the name of "energy independence," The real result is increasing dependence of agribusiness on federal and state governments by subsidies granted on every gallon of biofuel produced. The consumers pay both at the pump and through an increase in everyone’s tax burden. There is no free lunch.

An exhaustive report on the complex web of past and current biofuel subsidies, prepared for the International Institute for Sustainable Development, concluded that "government subsidies for liquid biofuels started out as a way to increase the demand for surplus crops. Now such subsidies are promoted as a way to reduce oil imports, improve the quality of urban air-quality, reduce carbon dioxide emissions, raise farmers' incomes and promote rural development. The unstated goal is to ensure a huge return on investment for agribusiness. ADM, Cargill and other giants invest huge sums to lobby policy makers to keep this cash cow alive and growing.

The biofuel boom may make it possible for a farmer to produce more, but it does not necessarily increase net farm income. "With a cost of $800 per acre for anhydrous ammonia fertilizer and $4 diesel fuel for the tractor, farmers still will not get ahead. The rural treadmill just moves faster, as no real progress is made.

Donald Worster, professor of history at the University of Kansas and author of Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s (1979, Oxford University Press), sees only a very limited time for agriculture in the High Plains to survive. He states; "It is basically a mining economy wherever groundwater is the resource to be extracted, and the ultimate result of such an economy is always a ghost town. We should reserve the remaining groundwater supply for human and animal consumption during the desiccated future that seems likely to develop with climate change."

As the Plains region dries out, it would require a large government program to deprivatize a lot of farm acreage and put it into the best vegetation cover to avoid massive soil erosion. It will be very difficult to farm much of the southern plains within another 50 years, unless global climate change is arrested very soon. Deprivatized, former agricultural land will have little economic value, except for national parks and light grazing.

If the process of burning food for fuel as biofuel is an unmitigated disaster, then what will happen as we start chopping up our last natural forest habitats for cellulosic ethanol biofuel? The biofuel missionaries tout the bright future of “second generation biofuels”. To achieve any significant volume, such fuels would be based largely upon woody biomass. This would be an even larger ecological disaster than cropland-based biofuel. It is a myth that enough unused forest and agricultural waste, and a surplus of land to grow various grasses and wood, exists to base a viable alternative energy industry. As noted above, our present petroleum consumption is equal to 400 years of all biological matter produced on the entire surface of the earth. Humanity must stop seeking easy answers to perceived energy shortages and build a post-petrol, energy efficient new paradigm.

Biofuels are heavily promoted for climate benefits and pursued at much expense, yet have been catastrophic to the world's food security, habitat, water and climate. We are already trading the quest for “energy security” for global food insecurity. This is insane, and can only lead to massive social unrest all over the world. We are already trading blood for fuel, now we trade food for fuel. The same will be true of ethanol production from trees. Cellulosic ethanol will be the ultimate deforestation biofuel. Such action is equivalent to dismantling and burning your home to keep warm. Cellulosic biofuel from trees is a pending disaster. The promise being made is that wood can produce fuels to run our cars. We are presently told that corn, rapeseed, sugar, oil palm, soy and various other crops can be grown for biofuels while providing energy security and reducing greenhouse emissions. The reality is far different; with surging global food prices, loss of rainforests and other important habitats, further depletion and poisoning of aquifers, and rampant human rights abuses, all this for little or no greenhouse gas emission reduction.

No real economic security has been derived from the biofuel boom. So called "second generation biofuels", including the use of woody biomass, is now being sold with the same illusory, ecologically bereft hype. This deception must end. Creating cellusosic ethanol is more difficult than our present biofuels. Cellulose is much more difficult to break down, so it will be even more costly than our present petroleum and biofuel sources. In addition to the direct cost of production, the huge social and ecological costs are ignored, deferred to future generations. Second generation biofuels produced from woody biomass will bring increasing ecological disaster. As with agricultural biofuels, a cellulosic ethanol industry will indirectly destroy forests and lead to more costly food by increasing land pressures upon natural forests and agricultural crop lands.

Again, we are sold the idea of an “energy miracle’. Fuel from waste! Forest waste is a euphemism for the materials left over when industrial forestry decimates a native forest. The branches, bark, saw dust, etc. represent nutrients that are best returned to virtually mined soils to make new forests. There is certainly not enough such "waste" to power even a tiny fraction of an industrial society. The use of wood biomass from natural forests is already occurring on a limited scale and will be ramped up as long as the global demand for transportation fuel keeps growing. The “miracle” of ellulosic ethanol is an empty promise. It’s only purpose is to prop of the inefficient car-centered culture a few more years. Natural forests and other habitats provide a very thin layer of biological life that shields life and acts in concert with other aspects of the Earth Life Support System to make advanced life possible.

Given the global scale of human energy demands, impending climate chaos and the present dismal state of global ecosystems, this final step in the mad quest for more fuel may prove fatal to the human experiment. It’s time to use our large brains for actual intelligent action. The planetary biosphere is perilously close to systemic collapse. The biosphere cannot stand more intensive human resource consumption. The global economy is seeking an energy panacea that allows endless economic growth. None are available. There is a finite amount of energy that can be taken out of the system and a limit to the pollution that we put into the global biosphere before it becomes uninhabitable. We are fast approaching a tipping point in this planetary disaster.

It is imperative that the global human community embrace a sustainable, ecological economic paradigm based upon what is actually needed for a low consumption, high value life. Growth for the sake of growth is not intelligent in our current global historical cycle. We need a massive global movement to maintain and restore the ecological systems upon which all life depends. It is already far too late to put our efforts into anything less than a total paradigm shift. We need a new way of thinking and acting that will bring about societal and personal change necessary to maintain human life on earth. This will take place with a global, grassroots groundswell. Our present leaders are totally enmeshed in the status quo. This change is up to you.

The above essay was written as a guest article by Michael Richards author of; Sustainable Operating Systems/The Post Petrol Paradigm (available at author founded a not for profit educational and research organization; Sustainable Ecological Economic Development (S.E.E.D.) Contact can be made at or by calling 319-213-2051.

Michael Richards is a life long innovator, entrepreneur and author. His most recent book is; Sustainable Operating Systems/The Post Petrol Paradigm (available on line at; Mr. Richards has presented as an author, speaker and conference leader at universities and conferences in USA,Asia and Europe this year. Contact at 319-213-2051 USA. Michael Richards is the inventor of soybean oil wax replacements for petroleum wax. He serves as President of Soyawax International, a US firm that ships product to 25 nations. Michael Richards is the founder of a not for profit research and educational organization; SUSTAINABLE ECOLOGICAL ECONONIC DEVELOPMENT (S.E.E.D.) SEED orgainizes conferences for city, state and governmental organizations to work on conversion to sustainable economic alternatives.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

'The Long Emergency' predicts dire future

Times Argus Online

By Daniel Hecht

James Kunstler's "The Long Emergency" is something like required reading among peak oil activists, and it's a great primer for those not yet familiar with peak oil's full ramifications. But I know of no other book so deeply, consistently pessimistic; it's a vision of a future that resembles Hieronymus Bosch's nightmarish depictions of the apocalypse. Or maybe the movie Road Warrior.

But the scope of Kunstler's inquiry and his scholarship make it uncomfortably plausible.

The book begins with an excellent history of our discovery, use of, and eventual over-reliance on fossil fuels, primarily oil. The sheer quantity of energy that humankind was suddenly able to access, and the changes it wrought, cannot be adequately conceived by those of us who have lived our lifetimes amidst its benefits.

The first well was drilled into a surface seep in Pennsylvania in 1859. With the coal, water and horse-powered industrial revolution already ramping up, the new energy source was quickly exploited to power new machines of all kinds. The U.S.-led world production for over a century, an era Kunstler describes as the "cheap oil fiesta." The party's about to end in "a tremendous trauma for the human race."

Oil's pervasive influence on every aspect of our way of life proceeded in chains of causality that Kunstler deftly portrays. With automobile mass production starting in 1918, Americans gained a great way to travel and transport goods. Cars required better roads, so extensive highway building commenced. Shorter travel times resulted in a mass migration of city dwellers into nearby rural areas where they could enjoy a simulacrum of "country living." Enormous housing tracts arose around urban centers, and a sprawling retailing infrastructure grew up to supply them. Above all else, the suburban way of life was born of, and demanded, oil.

Peak oil was first proposed in 1956 by M. King Hubbert, a geologist and chief researcher for Shell Oil. He inventoried all known U.S. oil deposits, plotted consumption rates, and came up with "Hubbert's Curve" — a graph that predicted the highest possible rate of extraction, arriving about when our total in-ground oil supply was half used up.

His projections proved correct. U.S. production peaked in 1970 and has been falling ever since.

But just then Middle Eastern production capacity came into its most robust phase. The U.S. bought whatever was needed to fuel our ever more oil-thirsty lifestyles.

Then another generation of oil scientists used Hubbert's methods to look at global production, predicting a peak between 2000 and 2010. Most now say global oil peaked in 2007: We've used half the world's oil; we're already on the "bumpy plateau" at the top, the down slope just ahead.

Kunstler posits the fate of nations in an era of competition for oil and the collapse of oil-dependent social and economic systems. It will be especially hard in the U.S. Those suburbs are too spread out, while our skyscrapered urban centers are too dense, viable only thanks to oil-guzzling infrastructure. Our economy is based on cheaply transporting huge quantities of goods from around the globe.

Oil shortages will profoundly affect the availability of food and water. The "food bubble" of the last 50 years resulted only from having lots of oil to run agricultural equipment, make fertilizers, pump water from underground for huge irrigation systems, and power the trucks and refrigeration systems that deliver edibles to our tables. The past century of food abundance resulted in huge population increases, leaving us with too many people to survive on the carrying capacity of a world short on oil.

Kunstler's cascade of effects continues on through famines, epidemics, social unrest and wars — all exacerbated by global warming.

One casualty will be what Kunstler calls our "hallucinatory" economy, epitomized by the stock market. The hugely complex financial instruments and trading schemes that now govern our economy have divorced real value from perceived or potential value. The financial sector, now an "industry" in its own right, runs money shell games and pyramid schemes that work only if we maintain faith in perpetual economic growth. A psychological product of the oil fiesta, that faith won't survive, and the markets it supports won't either.

Kunstler doesn't offer much in the way of solutions. Renewable energy won't save us; he methodically explains the limitations of each energy technology and source, rejecting the idea that they can replace any significant part of the lost oil bonanza.

Instead, we'll need to ratchet down our material expectations and live in austerity. We will need to produce essential goods locally, close to where we'll use them. We'll live in smaller, walkable cities surrounded not by malls but by farms. We'll all do more manual labor.

It would be easier to dismiss Kunstler's darker speculations if he hadn't proven surprisingly prescient. For example, in expounding on the "hallucinatory economy" and the downfall of suburbia, he wrote about the housing boom and described sub-prime lending practices in detail, warning of economic disaster.

Kunstler wrote the book in 2004-05, three years before the sub-prime and housing bubble burst, with ramifications still unfolding. One has to wonder just how much more he's gotten right.

Daniel Hecht is a novelist and executive director of Vermont Environmental Consortium. For more information on any Green Grapevine topic, contact

End of oil: End of another human era

International Analyst Network

By Ioannis Michaletos

The oil era seems to end in several decades from today, whilst the world markets are experiencing an upward trend in the energy price index. Moreover the consumption of fossil fuel is accelerating due to the growth of the Asian economies and in Eurasia the Russian corporations are eager in controlling most of the energy flow to Europe.

The worldwide oil consumption has increased some 25% over the past decade more than 85 million barrels of oil are needed to meet the daily needs of the globe. With the present consumption rates the oil era will end in less than 40 years. This can be calculated by the fact that the total known reserves amount around 1, 2 trillion barrels. Further, the reserves are distributed unequally in the different geographical zones of the earth, and that means that some countries will experience a shortage much sooner than others.

The oil price has already reached $111.5 and it remains to be seen if it is going to stabilize at even higher price. By taking into account that 40% of energy consumption derives from oil; Western governments already predict a slower growth with and as much as 0.5% of GDP lost in the coming year. Moreover the combination of increased consumption (By India-China), the upward pressure by the options & derivatives market, the weakening of the Dollar and the diminishing reserves, create an explosive situation that can erupt in the future and lay the basis of a world economic crisis.

The greater Middle East region still reigns with the largest oil fields and some other countries like Venezuela, Russia, and Nigeria can be said to form the foundation of the production markets. On the other hand the five largest petroleum corporations (Exxon-Mobil, Shell, BP, Chevron, and Total) made more than $120 billion of profits in total last year, of which 39.5 billion were Exxon-Mobil’s alone. Due to their immense cash-flow the oil industry is still considered as one of the pillars of the modern economic system, apart from their influence in major geostrategic decisions.

The depletion of reserves

It is more than certain that the last drop of oil produced will derive from an oil well in the Middle East. The region according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 07 produces 31.5% of the world’s total and holds 61.5% of the known reserves.

China’s dynamic entrance in the market assists greatly in the projection that in 20 years from now consumption will have increased some 40% and at that period the peak oil will not just be a term but a distressful reality. Of course the 39 years estimation is calculated for the world total and not for every individual country. Thus the rich in oil states will further upgrade their importance since they will be the ones dictating the rules of the game during the last annum of the oil period. For instance Iraq holds around 115 billion barrels and produces 2 million per day. That’s sufficient for another 100 years or so, whilst Saudi Arabia with 264 billion barrels and 11 million barrels production can hold on for not more of 67 years. Iran another key country will have sufficient amounts for around another 87 years. As it can be shown the interest of the world is rightly centered in the Middle East, because apart from other political developments, those countries will play a very significant role for the global economy from 2040 and beyond.

The OPEC states in general produce 45% of the global production and have 76% of the total reserves. Their cartel is challenged only periodically by the hedge funds that profit from legal gambling on the energy prices. Should the trend continue OPEC will further empower itself, when other non-member oil producing countries such as Norway, Brazil, and Russia deplete their resources (9, 18.5 & 22.5 years respectively).

The main quest for all the main energy players is to discover new oil fields or to take advantage of the new technologies in order to proceed in alternative modes of extracting oil. The oil sands in Canada could prove to be a promising opportunity, worth some 165 billion barrels of oil, even though that won’t stop the peak oil reality, rather it will delay a bit the overall path.

Furthermore over the past generation there has been little investment in the refinery sector of the oil energy industry. Both USA and Russia have neglected to invest in their refinery industries, thus contributed in the overall scenery. There are also serious considerations around Russia’s ability to manage its energy know-how in order to invest in new oil fields as well, thus future plans relating to oil transfer and new pipelines might end up to be just pipedreams, whilst future seams bleak for the market that cannot wait for long-term investments.

Since the first industrial extraction of oil int he modern era, more than 1.1 trillion barrels have been consumed. The interesting part is the acceleration of consumption during the past generation. In 1984 China required 1.7 million barrels per day; nowadays the figure has stepped to 7.5 million. India consumed 0.8 million barrels and today it needs 2.6 million. Both countries are still behind the living status of the post-industrialized Western markets and that is not reassuring that consumption rates will lower their growth. As it can be easily understood the oil era cannot have any future judging the nature of our social system which is based in over-consumption and the eagerness of the Eastern Asian states to imitate the Western way of living.

The underlying strategic landscape

The pessimist projections will lead to an overturn of the standing political balances across the world. Every state in need of oil will have to move fast in order to acquire new sources and be able to withstand the passage from the oil era to a new one, which is not yet well defined. It is not by coincidence that two of the most critical areas in the planet are Iraq, and Iran –As they have been for many decades now-.Even the former Director of the American Federal Bank (Greenspan) has implied that the war in Iraq had mainly motives that include the control of the commodity beneath its surface. The American economy which is responsible for 25% of the world’s consumption is still very much dependent on oil, despite recent moves to initiate renewable resources investments of a grand scale. The interest on the global warming and the environmental destruction was highly elevated since 2001, due to purely political and economic reasons that relate to the demise of the oil era and the turbulent situation in the Muslim world that controls much of this source. The issues here is the high costs of using sources as the solar and wind one and the low returns on investments that they provide. Actually oil is still much cheaper than any renewable commodity, thus the main challenge will be for the USA to retain its primal position in the world energy system for several decades and in parallel introduce new cost-effective technologies. To that one can add that the growth of renewable energy might alter the established world order by changing the importance of certain geographical regions in favor for other ones; and that constitutes another strategic quest for the policy planners and futurologists alike.

China and India are due to their rising needs two other power units that alter the established strategic notions. They will have to secure new energy sources; therefore they will try to re-engineer the global power blocs to their advantage. The deals signed between Iran-China, Russia-China, African countries & China, since 2001 are just a preparatory phase of what may follow next. Venezuela under Chavez leadership constitutes an emblem of energy nationalism which seems to becoming a trend in Latin America. His policies have global repercussions and an alignment of his state with the emerging giants of the East is a probable outcome in the near future.

Iraq by itself is a major issue, since the production of the country is not sufficient enough to assure a steady flow to the markets, as it was the case before the 2003 war. For the moment there are not signs of any positive development in that field and it should be noted that Iraq was at time the second largest oil producer in OPEC and its severe decrease means significant rise in oil prices. Terrorism also –And not just in Iraq- is an X factor for oil prices. For instance the attack on the oil industry complex in Saudi Arabia by Al Qaeda in May 2004 witnessed a sudden spike on prices, despite the failure of the terrorist act. One should wonder of the consequences of a successful terrorist attack in an oil-producing country, a hypothesis regularly discussed by security analysts across the globe.

Lastly Russia is a state that uses its natural resources wealth for geopolitical expansion and its main tool to re-establish most of the space lost due to the break-up of the USSR and the dissolution of the Soviet Empire. Actually when mentioning Russian diplomacy nowadays one means energy politics. Moscow is steadily becoming the major source for the European markets and gains footholds in East Asia. Simultaneously it retains a grip in the production of Central Asian countries by signing a multitude of agreements that require the trespassing of their exporting pipelines from its territory in order to influence directly the production of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and others.

The short-term projection in relation to the strategic landscape is actually more difficult to define than the long-term. OPEC seems to loose its influence it has since 1973 due to the Russia initiatives, the USA control of Iraq, the Venezuelan directions and the all-pervading reach of the international capital markets in the form of the hedge funds. Note however that the peak oil will elevate once again OPEC that holds most of the resources and certainly the Middle East can be said to represent the Middle of every energy related strategy in the future.

The quest for alternative production

The presentation of the aforementioned challenges & events already sweeping across the world, have activated a quest for making use of any type of material possible in order to both ease dependency on oil & gas along with the political implications that this implies. The Shell Research & Development sector has transmitted in the media that there is a great chance of making use of Kerogen a mixture of organic chemical compounds found in sedimentary rocks. A region in the USA that contains large amounts is a 17,000 Sq. mile one between Utah and Colorado. It is guessed that approximately 800 billion barrels of retrievable oil can be extracted an amount three times the one of the Saudi Arabia’s reserve. The area mentioned is named Green River and can produce up to 5 million barrels of oil per day, which is 17% of the present daily consumption. Shell expects to receive the appropriate license to begin using a new method to extract oil from there, and this revolutionary development might alter the future of oil politics. It has to be noted that there are not any clear projections on the financial viability of this investment, something that will be ascertained in the future.

Notable Kerogen amounts can be found also in Brazil, China, Jordan, Israel, Thailand, Russia and Korea. In total at least 3 trillion barrels of oil can be retrieved which is almost 3 times the currently assessed petroleum reserves. A drawback of the extraction process by Kerogene is the use of excessive amounts of water, something that might hinder the ability to use this technology in desert regions lacking water. Shell has invested 855 million USD on Kerogen research in 2006 and according to Fortune magazine the corporation has dedicated over 200 million Dollars per annum over the past 28 years in this project. Certainly this might be a future solution that will have its ramifications in the energy security politics.

The International Energy Agency predicts that up to 2030 the world energy needs will increase at least 60% due to the growth of China, India and the other booming developing economies. That means that in the next generation or so, the countries in OECD alone should develop new energy resources as much as 2,000 GW. That means renewable energy production should be introduced in any case regardless of the discovery of new modes of producing hydrocarbon.

Photovoltaic energy is being viewed as a promising renewable energy resource that has a plentiful of advantages. It is a clean mode of producing electricity without emissions; it doesn’t involve substantial operational costs and can provide a durable and trustworthy production. Germany for example which produces for 2006, 3,063 MWp and holds around 50% of the global market.

Wind energy is another resource that has gained popularity and promises clean energy and energy security at the same time. According to the World Wind Energy Association globally, the wind power generation more than quadrupled between 2000 and 2006.
At the end of 2006, worldwide capacity of wind-powered generators was 73.9 gigawatts, and the main producers are: Denmark (19% of its electricity production), Spain & Portugal (9%), Germany & Ireland (6%).

Lastly the Coal Storage techniques that have been introduced by BP, Total, Duke Energy, RWE, Vattenfal and others, might revive coal as clean energy resource, although the whole process is under scientific review and the commercial results are about to be seen in a decade from now.

What lies ahead?

The synthesis between the energy security quest by the Western countries and the demise of the oil era, leave no other option but for the use and deployment of new technologies and techniques in the field of alternative energy. Despite the fact that they are less cost effective presently, they have the crucial advantage of relieving the world from the perils of environmental destruction, although the current projections by concerned citizens and NGO’s portray a much worse depiction of what the reality is actually, a hotly debated subjected suitable for another discourse.

In the meantime before the demise of oil and the introduction of renewable energy new methods have to be used in order to ease the transformation, especially in the countries affected mostly. Furthermore the ongoing research on the use of hydrogen power is bearing fruits, even though it has to be noted that for the mid-term and possibly until the end of the first centenary of the 21st century, hydrogen will rely to the use of natural gas as a cost effective and reliable way to produce hydrogen. A latest development on that is the effort by the Abu Dhabi Emirate to invest 15 billion Dollars in order to construct the largest hydrogen production facility in the world. That will constitute the first phase of this gigantic project that will use natural gas as a production commodity, a material in abundance in that country.

Albeit that will not solve the issue of energy dependency of Western states by the gas producers notable Russia and the Middle East. Thus it is probable that for political reasons solar, wind, wave and other forms of renewable energy will enter the market with a greater role, until technological advancements can solve the complex issue of hydrogen production.

Technology & energy security considerations go hand by hand in the peak oil era that has to be managed skillfully by the political establishments across the globe in order not to experience a looming crisis that will certainly erupt to a military one and will visualize the Armageddon perhaps as envisaged in the Apocalypse. Energy is the blood of the global system since the period man became dependent in machinery for his own needs. That will continue into the future and this century seems to be a pivotal age for the human race to enter a new stage shedding the hydrocarbon one. The decisions made by the politicians in the near future will dictate more at stake than it can be assumed at a first glance presently.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Secret's out of the Bag in the Oil

By Kevin Roeten

It seems the rumors that the world has reached “peak-oil” may not necessarily be right. And it’s a moot point ‘gouging’ does not really exist.

Recent excursions of crude going over $110 per barrel can be directly related to OPEC. Per Alan Caruba (, OPEC is composed primarily of Arab and African oil producers, and control ~77% of the world’s crude. The US owns ~2% of the reserves, but uses 24% of the gas.

America actually imports >12% of its refined oil. It’s almost as if someone has purposely limited America’s access. Regulatory costs have made the construction of any new refinery unfeasible since the 1970’s. The vast majority of ANWR, as well as the US’s continental shelf (estimates of >87 billion barrels oil and >86 BBO respectively/DOE; US Minerals Management Services) cannot be accessed because of congressional fiat.

Add to that, gasoline must be refined into 17 different formulations--or >40 for all grades--to comply with pollution regulations. Introduction of ethanol into blends, additional environmental regulations, worldwide falling value of the dollar, an average $0.30/gallon state tax, and Katrina and Rita, all contribute to increased costs of gasoline. With so many options to buy gasoline, and additional costs involved, gouging simply can’t exist.

The actual cost results in a 7-9% margin for gasoline producers. For comparison, Microsoft has a 24% margin. Total profit is always quoted by sensationalizing media outlets, but gasoline volume is higher than other products.

It’s interesting more and more resources are saying some oil is “abiotic”. This oil is a renewable resource, and is replenished from the mantle of the earth. Peter Huber and Mark Mills (Wall Street Journal) state that the world’s supplies aren’t diminishing, but it’s just more profitable to tap Middle East supplies. From the 12/06 issue of the Oil and Gas Journal, the top oil producers (Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Yemen) from 1980-2005 all increased their stated oil reserves. The table suggests that OPEC’s discovery of new fields replaces almost exactly the quantities produced. Even Angola discovered 38 new fields of more than 100 million barrels each.

Per the US Geological Survey, the Middle East has only between half and a third of the recoverable oil reserves in the world. The fact easily forgotten is the Russians drilling Kola SG-3 in 1970. The deep well reached a record depth of 40,230 feet (Free Energy News; Joe Vialls/ 8/25/04) and hit oil. Since then more than 310 successful super-deep oil wells have gone into production.

In 2003 Russia overtook Saudi Arabia as the world’s biggest single oil producer.

Another 20 wells were drilled in the same way in the White Tiger Field in Vietnam. The theory as to how oil is formed at such enormous depths is found in existing archives with over two hundred Russian papers on the subject. A good starting point is “The Role of Methane in the Formation of Mineral Fuels” (A.D. Bondar/1967).

If one takes Eugene Island, an oil field 80 miles off the coast of Louisiana, one can see oil replenishment here in the states. Discovered in 1973 producing 15,000 barrels of oil per day, it slowed to 4,000 barrels in 1989. The last estimates of probable reserves spiked from 60 million barrels to 400 million barrels.

Researchers found (using 3-D seismic imaging) oil gushing in from a deep source migrating up through the rock. But an oil analysis shows that its age is geologically different, and both scientists and geologists admit that the oil field is refilling itself.

Alex Jones and Paul Watson have described in detail Russia’s boom after discovering “abiotic” oil. In general terms, they describe “peak oil” as a scam to create artificial scarcity and drive prices up.

If true, the existence of self-renewing oil fields shatters the “peak-oil” myth. They claim when gasoline prices escalate beyond $5.00/gal, the populace will believe an inevitable quick decline in world oil production.

It’s not hard understanding that OPEC is an illegal “cartel” that can’t be taken to court. If more refineries are built and different resources tapped, oil prices would recede and OPEC would see profits diminish. It’s obvious why the argument for “peak-oil” is so appealing to OPEC. Ever notice how every time there seems to be an energy crisis, OPEC increases production?

We need to remember several important facts. During the 104th Congress, budget bill HR-2491 (included opening up ANWR to drilling) was vetoed by then-President Clinton. The EIA (Energy
Information administration) says that today there are at least 1.4 trillion existing barrels of oil world wide from proven reserves.

It is obvious one political party in America is playing into OPEC’s hands, restricting additional refinery construction, restricting additional drilling on American holdings, enforcing additional foreign dependence on oil, and wants your dependence.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Global oil production likely to peak in 2011


By Jade Davenport

The point at which the world’s oil output would peak and production would enter a terminal decline might become a global reality as soon as 2011, an expert predicted on Tuesday.

Peak oil, which referred to the point when no further production expansion would be possible, had become a contentious issue of debate in recent years with analysts predicting various dates and scenarios at when peak oil would be a reality.

Speaking at the Oil Africa conference in Cape Town Energy Institute researcher Chris Skrebowski said that while a debate on the issue continued to rage globally, the reality was that the world would soon begin to run out of oil reserves.

In fact, he said that some oil-producing countries had already begun to experience peak oil.

“Approximately 28 of the world’s significant - as well as 40 minor - oil producers are experiencing a decline in production.”

To this extent, Skrebowski explained that the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) oil-production peaked in 1997 and had now experienced a decline of over 10% of 2,2-million barrels a day a day (bbl/d).

Similarly, the North Sea oil field had peaked in 2000 and production had declined by 1,6-million bbl/d, and non-Opec production peaked in 2002 and had declined by 771 000 bb/d.

The sum total of this fall in production amounted to a 35% decline in global production. However, Skrebowski insisted that it was only once the world experienced a 51% decline in production that the state of peak oil would be reached.

According to Skrebowski, there were eight key pieces of evidence that insisted that the world was looming ever-closer to peak oil. These included the falling rate of discoveries of new oil-fields; sustained high oil prices; the age of the largest fields; the lack of real growth potential in oil-producing countries; the current lack of incremental flows; the sustained depletion of oil reserves; nongeologic threats to future oil-supplies; and the struggle to hold production by many of the major oil producers.

He explained that peak oil was predicted to become a reality in 2011 on the basis that the world’s major oil fields were being depleted at a rate of 4,5% a year.

In other words, if the rate of depletion of the world’s major oil fields continued at a rate of between 4,5% and 5% a year, oil production could peak, and subsequently decline, as early as 2011. However, if the rate of depletion should exceed 5% a year, peak oil could become a reality as early as 2010, said Skrewboski.

Once the state of peak oil was reached, which was represented as 93-million bb/d, Skrebowski explained that global supply would rapidly fall short of demand and would further drive up the oil price.

To this extent, Skrebowski predicted that the oil price could reach as high as $140/bl by 2011 and would continue to rise as supply became increasingly constrained.

In terms of growth in demand, International Energy Agency (IEA) Senior Analyst Eduardo Lopez said that the demand for oil would be a third higher than it was in 1996. This equated to a projected demand of 94,3-million bb/d, or 50 000 gallons every second, by 2012.

However, chairperson of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil in South Africa Simon Ratcliffe warned that if demand for oil continued to increase unabated, the world’s oil reserves would be deplete by 2030.

As a result, the world was teetering on the edge of a major oil-crisis and Ratcliffe believed that there was an urgent need to reduce dependency on the liquid commodity to avoid an impending disaster.

Ratcliffe thus concluded that the real opportunities in the energy sector lay in renewables and that more effort needed to be invested into developing alternative fuel sources.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Peak Oil Crisis: The Last Spiral?

Falls Church News-Press

By Tom Whipple

Events are moving faster and faster. Equity markets and the dollar are dropping. Oil, gas, diesel and commodities are surging as the investment of last resort.

Margin calls are endangering the financial system. Real estate values and markets are falling. Exotic debt obligations are turning worthless by the billions. Central bankers have started the printing presses and are injecting unprecedented billions of “liquidity” into their banking systems in what so far seems to be a futile effort.

One by one, however, talking heads appear on the business channels to assure us that all will be well by the “third quarter” and that this is a lifetime opportunity to buy equities which will never again be a better bargain. In recent days however, some of the tone of optimistic confidence that has obtained for the last eight months has started to darken a bit and some will even confess it might be a little longer before the good times return.

Missing from all this talk is a realistic appreciation of the role of oil in the world’s economy and the role increasing oil prices will play in the coming economic “recovery.” Although oil prices are discussed dozens of times each day, increases are nearly always attributed to a temporary flight of capital from equities into the safety of commodities. Discussions are formulated around the premise that high oil prices may be unpleasant, but are, as yet, a long way from doing real harm to the country. Eight or nine dollar gasoline in Europe is cited as proof that prices can go much higher without disastrous consequences.

For many months now, the U.S. government and allies in Europe have announced plan after plan to head off further economic declines. Some of these have been quite innovative but few observers have been able to discern any appreciable benefits other than a one or two day jump in the equity markets, a short-lived jump in the dollar and an occasional drop in oil prices. This week’s plan called a "Term Securities Lending Facility" will permit the U.S. Federal Reserve to loan banks and other financial institutions up to $200 billion worth of U.S. Treasury Bills using a range of mortgaged-backed securities, some of dubious value, as collateral.

As several major financial institutions appeared to be on the edge of insolvency earlier this week due to margin calls, the new plan is clearly an act of desperation. The hope is that with the government standing ready to accept securities everyone is pretending still have some value, banks will stop hounding financial institutions with margin calls because there is a rich institution ready to take their dubious paper.

For many months, the Federal Reserve has been relying largely on interest rate cuts to prop up the equities markets. With each cut however, the dollar sank, oil prices rose and the prospects for run-away inflation loomed larger. While this week’s plan sent the Dow Jones soaring up 400 points in the hours after it was announced, nothing has really changed. Oil prices ended the day settled at $108 a barrel, a new all-time high. The government’s new-found willingness to accept over-rated paper that some say may be worth as little as 25 cents on the dollar as collateral changes nothing.

So where does oil fit into all this? The most recent reporting shows that world oil production remains flat and Asian consumption continues to increase. The Chinese just announced that their imports during February were up by 18 percent over February 2007. It is not difficult to fathom why we are seeing record gas and diesel prices in mid-March and why they will be still higher by summer.

Unless the Federal Reserve reverses policy and stops making interest rate cuts in an effort to prop up the equity markets, an event which is widely considered to be highly unlikely, the dollar will continue to fall and oil prices will continue to rise. The downward spiral will continue.

What is largely ignored in all the discussion of economic recovery is that world oil production is likely to start its final decline somewhere in the next 36 to 48 months. Once this becomes evident, prices will start moving much, much higher and shortages will develop. In an environment such as this, recovery from a recession will be far more difficult and is likely to be measured in decades rather than months.

The final spiral will not be difficult to recognize when it comes. Equity markets will drop precipitously. Nearly all economic indicators will turn negative. Oil and other commodities will continue to climb. While this phenomenon will start, or has already started, from the U.S. housing situation, it will spread to other OECD countries, and Asia. For a while, perhaps decades, the oil producing and exporting states will fare much better than those dependent on large imports.

There is much heated debate over whether and how soon there will be a “techno-fix” for the decline of oil – wind, wave, and solar power, electric transport and much lower energy consumption. The factors bearing on how the various techno-fixes will play out are so numerous and interdependent that it is impossible to make much of a judgment about when or whether they will come in sufficient quantities to continue with anything resembling current civilization.

The decline in the availability of affordable oil is likely to come in a relatively quick spiral while widely implemented replacements for oil are likely to be measured in decades.

Supply Chain and $200 Oil

Supply Chain and $200 Oil

By Dan Gilmore

It hardly seems that long ago, but in 2005 I wrote a column called “Supply Chain and $100 Oil.” At the time, I believe oil prices had increased to more than $60 per barrel, Goldman Sachs analysts had just predicted we might see $100 per barrel oil soon.

Well that prediction turned out to be somewhat premature, but here we are. Those views were certainly more accurate than the predictions of many others who said in 2005 that oil would drop back to the $45 per barrel range. As oil went to $70 and then $80 per barrel in 2006 and 2007, many more said that wouldn’t last.

This week, of course, the price is $107 per barrel or so. That’s up something like 65% from the start of 2007. It’s already causing havoc in our supply chains. Transportation costs are rising despite significant overcapacity in most truckload and less than truckload markets, as we’re stung by the fuel surcharges that have enabled the carriers to push all of the fuel risk on to shippers.

How long will it last, and where is it headed from here? If I knew that for sure, I’d be trading oil futures on a beach somewhere, but all of us in the supply chain need to start thinking through what the impact will be on our costs and operations if we go further north from here.

Legendary investor and oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens, who has made billions understanding the energy markets, said a couple of weeks ago he thought oil prices would drop back to $85 or so for awhile, due to economic slowdown, but had a real chance of getting to $150 per barrel by the end of the year.

Last week, the same Goldman Sachs analyst team now says prices could be headed as high as $200 if the world economy gets revved up again and/or any monkey wrench is thrown into the world oil supply.

Think about that for a second. It’s possible we could get a doubling from today’s level of staggeringly high fuel costs. The impact to supply chain strategy would be substantial.

I think it’s good to understand how we got here.

* World oil production is basically flat, at something like 86 million barrels per day for a few years now. This is consistent with the “Peak Oil” theorists, who believe that oil production globally has or will soon hit a maximum and then begin to decline. Though there are some fringe elements sometimes involved in Peak Oil topics, there are also many knowledgeable people who agree, and we’re seeing whole industry conferences on the topic.
* We are adding very little in the way of new oil reserves world wide.
* The buffer between capacity and demand that used to exist is gone – just a million barrels per day slack or something, as India, China and other developing countries consume more and more oil and reserves and production don’t budge.
* The reduction of this capacity slack naturally leads to general upward price pressures, and means the slightest supply disruption (let alone a major) sends prices soaring.
* The price of oil is fundamentally unhinged now from core supply and demand, and is controlled basically by what are called futures traders. One expert recently said there was a $10-15 premium in oil prices from the futures trading versus core supply and demand factors.

So, let’s look at a number of factors. I am going to use $200 per barrel as a potential point, in part because as mentioned, that has now become the new upper target, and because it makes for some easy math in terms of doubling from the $100 level of late. I am also not considering the impact on the economy, which could/would be substantial.

Obviously, the first and probably largest impact is on transportation costs. In order, rising fuel costs impact air carriers the hardest, followed by trucking and then rail. I am not quite sure, but would think ocean would be similar to rail.

Transportation analysts at Bear Stearns believe rising trucking fuel surcharges are the key factor in the increased recent diversion they are seeing of trucking freight going to rail despite the favorable environment overall for companies in the TL market (See Quarterly Bear Stearns Shippers Survey Suggests Trucking Capacity Glut may be Reaching Bottom.)

I have recently spoken with both a high tech company and a consumer soft goods company that both moved most product by air, but which are looking at how they can make ocean shipping work in the face of rapidly rising air cargo costs.

On the trucking side, Tiffany Wlazlowski, press secretary for The American Trucking Associations, told me this week “that for the first time, carriers in some cases are telling us that fuel costs are exceeding labor [driver] costs.” She says that for truckload carriers, fuel costs can now be 25% or more of total operating costs.

Also consider that by my estimate, based on available data, oil costs represent about two-thirds of the price of a gallon of diesel fuel.

So, this means that if oil goes to $150 (a 50% increase), truckload shipping costs, however they get there (base rates or fuel surcharges), would rise about 8.5%. If it goes all the way to $100 (a 100% increase), TL costs would rise about 17% - an incredible number. Think of the impact on the bottom line of most shippers. For those interested, here’s how I got there for scenario 1: .25 (fuel as percent of TL carrier cost) x 50 (percent increase if oil goes to $150) x .67 (percent of oil in current diesel cost).

I am almost out of space, so we can’t take a much deeper dive than this here. But we will soon – Dr. David Simchi-Levi of MIT and software company ILOG, one of the most respected supply chain industry thought leaders, is working on some analytics models for SCDigest readers on what this might mean for supply chain network design and trade-offs among transportation, inventory and distribution costs.

I haven’t seen it yet, but he told me just today some of the results are not what you might expect. I’m looking forward to it, and hope you are too.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Hydrogen Economy - Savior of Humanity or an Economic Black Hole?

By Alice Friedman

Skeptics scoff at perpetual motion, free energy, and cold fusion, but what about energy from hydrogen? Before we invest trillions of dollars in a hydrogen economy, we should examine the science and pseudoscience behind the hydrogen hype. Let’s begin by taking a hydrogen car out for a spin.

Although the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) in your car can burn hydrogen, the hope is that someday fuel cells, which are based on electrochemical processes rather than combustion (which converts heat to mechanical work), will become more efficient and less polluting than ICEs.1 Fuel cells were invented before combustion engines in 1839 by William Grove. But the ICE won the race by using abundant and inexpensive gasoline, which is easy to transport and pour, and very high in energy content.2


Unlike gasoline, hydrogen isn’t an energy source — it’s an energy carrier, like a battery. You have to make hydrogen and put energy into it, both of which take energy. Hydrogen has been used commercially for decades, so we already know how to do this. There are two main ways to make hydrogen: using natural gas as both the source and the energy to split hydrogen from the carbon in natural gas (CH4), or using water as the source and renewable energy to split the hydrogen from the oxygen in water (H2O).

1) Making Hydrogen from Fossil Fuels. Currently, 96 percent of hydrogen is made from fossil fuels, mainly for oil refining and partially hydrogenated oil.3 In the United States, 90 percent is made from natural gas, with an efficiency of 72 percent,4 which means you lose 28 percent of the energy contained in the natural gas to make it (and that doesn’t count the energy it took to extract and deliver the natural gas to the hydrogen plant).

One of the main arguments made for switching to a “hydrogen economy” is to prevent global warming that has been attributed to the burning of fossil fuels. When hydrogen is made from natural gas, however, nitrogen oxides are released, which are 58 times more effective in trapping heat than carbon dioxide.5 Coal releases large amounts of CO2 and mercury. Oil is too powerful and useful to waste on hydrogen — it is concentrated sunshine brewed over hundreds of millions of years. A gallon of gas represents about 196,000 pounds of fossil plants, the amount in 40 acres of wheat.6

Natural gas as a source for hydrogen is too valuable. It is used to create fertilizer (as both feedstock and energy source). This has led to a many-fold increase in crop production, allowing billions more people to be fed who otherwise wouldn’t be.7,8 We also don’t have enough natural gas left to make a hydrogen economy happen from this source. Extraction of natural gas is declining in North America.9 It will take at least a decade to even begin replacing natural gas with imported liquid natural gas (LNG). Making LNG is so energy intensive that it would be economically and environmentally insane to use it as a source of hydrogen.10

2) Making Hydrogen from Water. Only four percent of hydrogen is made from water via electrolysis. It is done when the hydrogen must be extremely pure. Since most electricity comes from fossil fuels in plants that are 30 percent efficient, and electrolysis is 70 percent efficient, you end up using four units of energy to create one unit of hydrogen energy: 70% * 30% = 21% efficiency.11

Producing hydrogen by using fossil fuels as a feedstock or an energy source defeats the purpose, since the whole point is to get away from fossil fuels. The goal is to use renewable energy to make hydrogen from water via electrolysis. When the wind is blowing, current wind turbines can perform at 30–40 percent efficiency, producing hydrogen at an overall rate of 25 percent efficiency — 3 units of wind energy to get 1 unit of hydrogen energy. The best solar cells available on a large scale have an efficiency of ten percent, or 9 units of energy to get 1 hydrogen unit of energy. If you use algae making hydrogen as a byproduct, the efficiency is about .1 percent.12 No matter how you look at it, producing hydrogen from water is an energy sink. If you want a more dramatic demonstration, please mail me ten dollars and I’ll send you back a dollar.

Hydrogen can be made from biomass, but there are numerous problems:

  1. it’s very seasonal;

  2. it contains a lot of moisture, requiring energy to store and dry it before gasification;

  3. there are limited supplies;

  4. the quantities are not large or consistent enough for large-scale hydrogen production;

  5. a huge amount of land is required because even cultivated biomass in good soil has a low yield — 10 tons per 2.4 acres;

  6. the soil will be degraded from erosion and loss of fertility if stripped of biomass;

  7. any energy put into the land to grow the biomass, such as fertilizer and planting and harvesting, will add to the energy costs;

  8. the delivery costs to the central power plant must be added; and

  9. it is not suitable for pure hydrogen production.13

Putting Energy into Hydrogen

No matter how it’s been made, hydrogen has no energy in it. It is the lowest energy dense fuel on earth.14 At room temperature and pressure, hydrogen takes up three thousand times more space than gasoline containing an equivalent amount of energy.15 To put energy into hydrogen, it must be compressed or liquefied. To compress hydrogen to the necessary 10,000 psi is a multi-stage process that costs an additional 15 percent of the energy contained in the hydrogen.

If you liquefy it, you will be able to get more hydrogen energy into a smaller container, but you will lose 30–40 percent of the energy in the process. Handling it requires extreme precautions because it is so cold — minus 423 F. Fueling is typically done mechanically with a robot arm.16


For the storage and transportation of liquid hydrogen, you need a heavy cryogenic support system. The tank is cold enough to cause plugged valves and other problems. If you add insulation to prevent this, you will increase the weight of an already very heavy storage tank, adding additional costs to the system.17

Let’s assume that a hydrogen car can go 55 miles per kg.18 A tank that can hold 3 kg of compressed gas will go 165 miles and weigh 400 kg (882 lbs).19 Compare that with a Honda Accord fuel tank that weighs 11 kg (25 lbs), costs $100, and holds 17 gallons of gas. The overall weight is 73 kg (161 lbs, or 8 lbs per gallon). The driving range is 493 miles at 29 mpg. Here is how a hydrogen tank stacks up against a gas tank in a Honda Accord:

Amount of fuel Tank weight with fuel Driving range Tank cost
Hydrogen 55 kg @3000 psi 400 kg 165 miles13 $200021
Gasoline 17 gallons 73 kg 493 miles $100

According to the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA), “Vehicle weight reduction is probably the most powerful technique for improving fuel economy. Each 10 percent reduction in weight improves the fuel economy of a new vehicle design by approximately eight percent.”

The more you compress hydrogen, the smaller the tank can be. But as you increase the pressure, you also have to increase the thickness of the steel wall, and hence the weight of the tank. Cost increases with pressure. At 2000 psi, it is $400 per kg. At 8000 psi, it is $2100 per kg.20 And the tank will be huge — at 5000 psi, the tank could take up ten times the volume of a gasoline tank containing the same energy content.

Fuel cells are heavy. According to Rosa Young, a physicist and vice president of advanced materials development at Energy Conversion Devices in Troy, Michigan: “A metal hydride storage system that can hold 5 kg of hydrogen, including the alloy, container, and heat exchangers, would weigh approximately 300 kg (661 lbs), which would lower the fuel efficiency of the vehicle.”21

Fuel cells are also expensive. In 2003, they cost $1 million or more. At this stage, they have low reliability, need a much less expensive catalyst than platinum, can clog and lose power if there are impurities in the hydrogen, don’t last more than 1000 hours, have yet to achieve a driving range of more than 100 miles, and can’t compete with electric hybrids like the Toyota Prius, which is already more energy efficient and low in CO2 generation than projected fuel cells.22

Hydrogen is the Houdini of elements. As soon as you’ve gotten it into a container, it wants to get out, and since it is the lightest of all gases, it takes a lot of effort to keep it from escaping. Storage devices need a complex set of seals, gaskets, and valves. Liquid hydrogen tanks for vehicles boil off at 3–4 percent per day.23

Hydrogen also tends to make metal brittle.24 Embrittled metal can create leaks. In a pipeline, it can cause cracking or fissuring, which can result in potentially catastrophic failure.25 Making metal strong enough to withstand hydrogen adds weight and cost. Leaks also become more likely as the pressure grows higher. It can leak from un-welded connections, fuel lines, and non-metal seals such as gaskets, O-rings, pipe thread compounds, and packings. A heavy-duty fuel cell engine may have thousands of seals.26 Hydrogen has the lowest ignition point of any fuel, 20 times less than gasoline. So if there’s a leak, it can be ignited by any number of sources.27 Worse, leaks are invisible — sometimes the only way to know there’s a leak is poor performance.


Canister trucks ($250,000 each) can carry enough fuel for 60 cars.28 These trucks weigh 40,000 kg, but deliver only 400 kg of hydrogen. For a delivery distance of 150 miles, the delivery energy used is nearly 20 percent of the usable energy in the hydrogen delivered. At 300 miles, that is 40 percent. The same size truck carrying gasoline delivers 10,000 gallons of fuel, enough to fill about 800 cars.29

Another alternative is pipelines. The average cost of a natural gas pipeline is one million dollars per mile, and we have 200,000 miles of natural gas pipeline, which we can’t re-use because they are composed of metal that would become brittle and leak, as well as the incorrect diameter to maximize hydrogen throughput. If we were to build a similar infrastructure to deliver hydrogen it would cost $200 trillion. The major operating cost of hydrogen pipelines is compressor power and maintenance.30 Compressors in the pipeline keep the gas moving, using hydrogen energy to push the gas forward. After 620 miles, 8 percent of the hydrogen has been used to move it through the pipeline.31


At some point along the chain of making, putting energy in, storing, and delivering the hydrogen, we will have used more energy than we can get back, and this doesn’t count the energy used to make fuel cells, storage tanks, delivery systems, and vehicles.32 When fusion can make cheap hydrogen, when reliable long-lasting nanotube fuel cells exist, and when light-weight leak-proof carbon-fiber polymer-lined storage tanks and pipelines can be made inexpensively, then we can consider building the hydrogen economy infrastructure. Until then, it’s vaporware. All of these technical obstacles must be overcome for any of this to happen.33 Meanwhile, the United States government should stop funding the Freedom CAR program, which gives millions of tax dollars to the big three automakers to work on hydrogen fuel cells. Instead, automakers ought to be required to raise the average overall mileage their vehicles get — the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard.34

At some time in the future the price of oil and natural gas will increase significantly due to geological depletion and political crises in extracting countries. Since the hydrogen infrastructure will be built using the existing oil-based infrastructure (i.e. internal combustion engine vehicles, power plants and factories, plastics, etc.), the price of hydrogen will go up as well — it will never be cheaper than fossil fuels. As depletion continues, factories will be driven out of business by high fuel costs35,36,37 and the parts necessary to build the extremely complex storage tanks and fuel cells might become unavailable.

The laws of physics mean the hydrogen economy will always be an energy sink. Hydrogen’s properties require you to spend more energy than you can earn, because in order to do so you must overcome waters’ hydrogen-oxygen bond, move heavy cars, prevent leaks and brittle metals, and transport hydrogen to the destination. It doesn’t matter if all of these problems are solved, or how much money is spent. You will use more energy to create, store, and transport hydrogen than you will ever get out of it.

Any diversion of declining fossil fuels to a hydrogen economy subtracts that energy from other possible uses, such as planting, harvesting, delivering, and cooking food, heating homes, and other essential activities. According to Joseph Romm, a Department of Energy official who oversaw research on hydrogen and transportation fuel cell research during the Clinton Administration: “The energy and environmental problems facing the nation and the world, especially global warming, are far too serious to risk making major policy mistakes that misallocate scarce resources.38


  1. Thomas, S. and Zalbowitz, M. 1999. Fuel cells — Green power. Department of Energy, Los Alamos National Laboratory, 5.

  2. Pinkerton, F. E. and Wicke, B.G. 2004. “Bottling the Hydrogen Genie,” The Industry Physicist, Feb/Mar: 20–23.

  3. Jacobson, M. F. September 8, 2004. “Waiter, Please Hold the Hydrogen.” San Francisco Chronicle, 9(B).

  4. Hoffert, M. I., et al. November 1, 2002. “Advanced Technology Paths to Global Climate Stability: Energy for a Greenhouse Planet.” Science, 298, 981–987.

  5. Union of Concerned Scientists. How Natural Gas Works.

  6. Kruglinski, S. 2004. “What’s in a Gallon of Gas?” Discover, April, 11.

  7. Fisher, D. E. and Fisher, M. J. 2001. “The Nitrogen Bomb.” Discover, April, 52–57.

  8. Smil, V. 1997. “Global Population and the Nitrogen Cycle.” Scientific American, July, 76–81.

  9. Darley, J. 2004. High Noon for Natural Gas: The New Energy Crisis. Chelsea Green Publishing.

  10. Romm, J. J. 2004. The Hype About Hydrogen: Fact and Fiction in the Race to Save the Climate. Island Press, 154.

  11. Ibid., 75.

  12. Hayden, H. C. 2001. The Solar Fraud: Why Solar Energy Won’t Run the World. Vales Lake Publishing.

  13. Simbeck, D. R., and Chang, E. 2002. Hydrogen Supply: Cost Estimate for Hydrogen Pathways — Scoping Analysis. Golden, Colorado: NREL/SR-540-32525, Prepared by SFA Pacific, Inc. for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), DOE, and the International Hydrogen Infrastructure Group (IHIG), July, 13.

  14. Ibid., 14.

  15. Romm, 2004, 20.

  16. Ibid., 94–95.

  17. Phillips, T. and Price, S. 2003. “Rocks in your Gas Tank.” April 17. Science at NASA.

  18. Simbeck and Chang, 2002, 41.

  19. Amos, W. A. 1998. Costs of Storing and Transporting Hydrogen. National Renewable Energy Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy, 20.

  20. Simbeck and Chang, 2002, 14.

  21. Valenti, M. 2002. “Fill’er up — With Hydrogen.” Mechanical Engineering Magazine, Feb 2.

  22. Romm, 2004, 7, 20, 122.

  23. Ibid., 95, 122.

  24. El kebir, O. A. and Szummer, A. 2002. “Comparison of Hydrogen Embrittlement of Stainless Steels and Nickel-base Alloys.” International Journal of Hydrogen Energy #27, July/August 7–8, 793–800.

  25. Romm, 2004, 107.

  26. Fuel Cell Engine Safety. December 2001. College of the Desert

  27. Romm, J. J. 2004. Testimony for the Hearing Reviewing the Hydrogen Fuel and FreedomCAR Initiatives Submitted to the House Science Committee. March 3.

  28. Romm, 2004. The Hype About Hydrogen, 103.

  29. Ibid., 104.

  30. Ibid., 101–102.

  31. Bossel, U. and Eliasson, B. 2003. “Energy and the Hydrogen Economy.” Jan 8.

  32. Ibid.

  33. National Hydrogen Energy Roadmap Production, Delivery, Storage, Conversion, Applications, Public Education and Outreach. November 2002. U.S. Department of Energy.

  34. Neil, D. 2003. “Rumble Seat: Toyota’s Spark of Genius.” Los Angeles Times. October 15.,0,7911314.story

  35. Associated Press, 2004. “Oil Prices Raising Costs of Offshoots.” July 2.

  36. Abbott, C. 2004. “Soaring Energy Prices Dog Rosy U.S. Farm Economy.” Forbes, Reuters News Service. May 24.

  37. Schneider, G. 2004. “Chemical Industry in Crisis: Natural Gas Prices Are Up, Factories Are Closing, And Jobs Are Vanishing.” Washington Post, 1(E). March 17.

  38. Romm, 2004. The Hype About Hydrogen, 8.