The Ergosphere
Thursday, September 29, 2011

It's not looking good for Europe - North Sea gas falls 25%

From The Grauniad:

North Sea gas production has slumped by 25% in the second quarter of the year, an alarming increase in the rate of decline that will cut tax revenues and could put more pressure on government to agree controversial shale gas developments.

Figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) also show a 36% rise in coal imports, but a leap from 6.3% to 9.6% for the amount of electricity generated by wind and other renewables.

The department records that the output of oil and associated gas liquids fell by 16% in the three months to the end of June, compared with a year earlier – the biggest decline since records began 16 years ago.

This left Britain importing 3.6m tonnes of oil in the second quarter, compared with 2.8m tonnes in the same period of 2010, even though total oil demand fell by 1.7%.

But the largest fall was in the amount of gas produced from the southern North Sea, where operators have been arguing that projects may have to be shut down because of a rise in government taxes in the last budget.

A drop like that is serious bad news.  Britain in particular is in a precarious position fuel-wise, with little storage for gas and dependency rising as old nuclear power stations are closed and not replaced.  The alternatives are Russia and LNG, and Japan's shutdown of even undamaged nuclear power stations has driven up demand for both LNG and fuel oil.

Wind generation rose... by a whole 3.3% of demand.  This is not good, this is not good at all.

Monday, September 19, 2011

We did NOT almost lose Detroit

I highly recommend this rebuttal (from 1976!) to the book "We Almost Lost Detroit" which addresses the claims about the Fermi I fast-breeder reactor and the accident which took it out of service. In short, nothing much happened, and the design basis accident for the plant was so overwhelmingly large compared to the actual event that it's hard to see how something could have. 
Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11, ten years later

On this day ten years ago I was fighting my way through morning rush-hour traffic, going to an out-of-town plant to work on some production issues.  After getting through the worst of it, I stopped for refreshment and another motorist told me that a small plane had flown into the World Trade Center.  I switched from the CD player to the radio, and listened the rest of the way as the horror unfolded.  By the time I got live TV coverage, the towers had collapsed.  The TVs at rest stops showed the smoking rubble all day.

At my destination, people were desperately filling up every gasoline container they could find.  I saw two men with a trailer full of brand-new 5-gallon cans, filling them all.  I filled my car with enough fuel to get me through the week and home again.  I had hoped to get a New York Times the following morning.  I don't think I saw one that whole week.

The lack of contrails in the sky was eerie.

The agents behind the first (failed) WTC attack, and the suicide nature of the successful one, suggested strongly that it came from Islamists, specifically Al Qaeda.  This was later proven; the attackers were from the Middle East, all Muslim, 15 of the 19 from Saudi Arabia.  Our so-called "friends" there killed roughly 3000 people that day, mostly Americans, on American soil.  Yet there was zero political response to this in Washington; while illegal Pakistani immigrants received a lot of attention and many returned home abruptly, the Saudi royal family was treated with kid gloves.

Nothing has changed in that respect.  The US government has, against all reason, expanded allowances for Saudi immigration.  Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad was admitted to the US in 1999 (after the first WTC attack) and granted US citizenship in 2009!

US immigration and citizenship policy is somewhere between reckless and suicidal.  The question everyone should be asking is "Why?", followed immediately by "How do we fix it?"

It's easy to see why.  The answer is "oil money".  We have done precious little to wean ourselves off oil since 9/11 (Congress and the Bush administration continued policies of guzzler promotion for years after the attacks), and all those dollars flowing to Riyadh and Caracas and Kuwait flow back as political influence.  We're not buying oil with dollars or grain, we're handing over control of our government.

It's imperative to cut US dependency on oil.  The price of oil wouldn't matter to the economy if there wasn't an effective "petro-state tax" on most people just to get to work.  I did what I could in 2004, when I cut my fuel needs by about 1/3.  But today I'd find it hard to do that again.  I'd need to get up to 60 MPG or so, and there are precious few vehicles sold in the USA which can do that.  The Volt (sold out for months) is good for a couple iterations of this game and the latest Prius is in the ballpark, but the Fusion hybrid barely ekes out the mileage I often get today.

We've done practically nothing.  We've continued to hand money and power to the people who've proven they will use it to do us harm.  If it were only our elites I'd say it was treason, but sentiment among ordinary Americans is the same.  See no evil, and drain the retirement account to fill up the pickup to take the toy-hauler and the 4-wheelers out for a weekend on the trails.

Fixing this requires a complete 180 in attitude.  Oil must be treated as a necessary evil, but an evil.  Guzzling vehicles and wasteful driving must be subject to both fines and social opprobrium.  We need the PNGV or something like it back pronto, expanded production of all supply-chain components for hybrids and PHEVs (preferably all sited in the USA), feebates, higher gas taxes, the works.  We can't manage a full war footing yet, but we need urgent action NOW.  That attitude shift would help fix the flow of dangerous immigrants as well.  We should have no Faisal Shahzads or Umar Abdulmutallabs or even Richard Reids coming into the USA.

I don't see this happening.  Anyone who advocates any of the necessary changes is immediately stigmatized as "anti-American" (like R. James Woolsey?) or "islamophobic" (which is only half a step from "racist").  There's a stone wall, maintained by both major political parties, against making the changes we urgently needed to make starting on that clear sunny day ten years ago.

If this country doesn't wake up and get a clue, we're doomed.

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