The Tyee / Andrew Nikiforuk / 10 November 2016
The economist Raúl Ilargi Meijer wrote an interesting essay explaining why there is a Donald Trump in September. He credited Trump’s rise to “the most important global development in decades.”
That development, says Meijer, is “the end of global economic growth, which will lead inexorably to the end of centralization (including globalization). It will also mean the end of the existence of most, and especially the most powerful, international institutions.”
“In the same way it will be the end of — almost — all traditional political parties, which have ruled their countries for decades and are already today at or near record low support levels (if you’re not clear on what’s going on, look there, look at Europe!),” he wrote.
“This is not a matter of what anyone, or any group of people, might want or prefer, it’s a matter of ‘forces’ that are beyond our control, that are bigger and more far-reaching than our mere opinions, even though they may be man-made.”
The end of growth is tied inexorably to the deplorable quality of energy now being fracked and mined in North America. Bitumen and fracked oil just can’t support rich societies because these poor resources invite debt, environmental ruin and poor returns.
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Pacific Standard / Richard Heinberg / 10 August 2016
When oil was selling for $100 per barrel, many tight-oil projects in the U.S. were nevertheless only marginally profitable or were actually money losers; still, with interest rates at historic lows and plenty of investment capital sloshing around the financial industry, drillers had no trouble finding operating capital (David Hughes of Post Carbon Institute was one of the few analysts who questioned the durability of the “shale gale,” on the basis of meticulous well-by-well analysis). The result of cascading investment was a ferocious spate of drilling and fracking that drove levels of U.S. oil production sharply upward, overwhelming global markets. The amount of oil in storage ballooned. That’s the main reason prices collapsed in mid-2014 — along with Saudi Arabia’s insistence on continuing to pump crude at maximum rates in order to help drive the upstart American shale-oil producers out of business. The Saudi gambit mostly succeeded: Small- to medium-sized U.S. producers are now gasping for air, and, as their massive debts come due over the next few months, a wave of bankruptcies and buyouts seems fairly inevitable. Meanwhile, in the continental U.S., oil production has dropped by 800,000 barrels a day.
Indeed, the entire petroleum business is currently in deep trouble. Countries that rely on crude oil export revenues are facing enormous budget deficits, and in some cases are having trouble maintaining basic services to their people.
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LIFT Conference / Kris de Decker / 10 February 2016
The present-day approach towards a sustainable society is doomed to fail. The focus on sophisticated technology – electric and hybrid cars, energy-efficient devices, solar panels and wind turbines, for instance – has little or no effect because these green technologies require large amounts of energy and resources for their manufacture, which makes their development highly dependent on a continuous supply of fossil fuels. What we need to solve our problems is exactly the opposite: less sophisticated technology. There is a lot to learn from the past. While they often worked surprisingly good, most of low-tech solutions have been completely forgotten. In his speech, Kris de Decker explains that reverting to past technologies does not mean that we should go back to the Middle Ages. Rather, it means combining old tech with new knowledge and new materials, or applying old concepts and lost knowledge to modern technology.
resilience.org / Sharon Astyk / 17 December 2006
These suggestions go far beyond the usual stale sustainability tips for consumers, and into the kind of adaptations which can reduce our energy usage not by percentage points, but by orders of magnitude. At the same time they offer rich challenges, good food, and meaningful family and community experiences. -AF
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Peak Oil Barrel / Ron Patterson / 24 April 2016
According to Professor Michael Jefferson, who spent nearly 20 years at Shell in various senior roles from head of planning in Europe to director of oil supply and trading, “the five major Middle East oil exporters altered the basis of their definition of ‘proved’ conventional oil reserves from a 90 percent probability down to a 50 percent probability from 1984. The result has been an apparent (but not real) increase in their ‘proved’ conventional oil reserves of some 435 billion barrels.”
Global reserves have been further inflated, he wrote in his study, by adding reserve figures from Venezuelan heavy oil and Canadian tar sands – despite the fact that they are “more difficult and costly to extract” and generally of “poorer quality” than conventional oil. This has brought up global reserve estimates by a further 440 billion barrels.
Jefferson’s conclusion is stark: “Put bluntly, the standard claim that the world has proved conventional oil reserves of nearly 1.7 trillion barrels is overstated by about 875 billion barrels. Thus, despite the fall in crude oil prices from a new peak in June, 2014, after that of July, 2008, the ‘peak oil’ issue remains with us.”
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CREDO / Brian Davey / 23 March 2016
The aim of this article is to show that the shale industry, whether extracting oil or gas, has never been financially sustainable. All around the world it has consistently disappointed profit expectations. Even though it has produced considerable quantities of oil and gas, and enough to influence oil and gas prices, the industry has mostly been unprofitable and has only been able to continue by running up more and more debt. How could this be? It seems paradoxical and defies ordinary economic logic.
The answer is to be found in the way that the shale gas sector has been funded. It is part of a bubble economy inflated by monetary policy that has kept down interest rates. This has made investors “hunt for yield”. These investors believed that they had found a paying investment in shale companies – but they were really proving that they were susceptible to wishful thinking, vulnerable to hype and highly unethical practices that enabled Wall Street and other bankers to do very nicely. Those who invested in fracking are going to lose a lot of money.
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