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Most of us know the price of gasoline to the penny, and it's starting to really pinch. President Bush made the rising price of oil a focus of his prime-time news conference last week. But as Bush has acknowledged, lowering the price of oil isn't that easy. "You can't wave a magic wand," he said.
Oil, unlike other products and services that are manufactured and sold, obeys the laws of geology, not just supply and demand. "You don't make more oil," says Sam Shelton, director of the Strategic Energy Initiative at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. The world has to work with what it has. TIME's Jyoti Thottam explains:
•Is the world running out of oil?
No, but that doesn't mean we're off the hook. "There is enough oil, but most of the easy oil, the cheap oil has been got out," says David Wyss, chief economist at Standard & Poor's.
Energy experts obsess over whether we've reached "Hubbert's peak," the point at which oil reserves are 50% depleted. That's because the remaining 50% gets increasingly harder and more expensive to extract. At some point in the next decade or so--estimates range from 15 to 25 years--the world's oil production will peak. Yet demand for oil will continue to rise, increasing 50% over the next 50 years.
(2 May, 2005)
A Promise Unfulfilled: Iraq's Oil Output Is Lagging
With vast reservoirs of oil and the potential to rival Saudi Arabia as a megaproducer, Iraq has long tantalized the world's energy industry, as well as economists and political leaders worried about the impact of high oil prices.
But the new Iraqi government's glaring failure last week to agree on an oil minister and the sectarian bargaining over this crucial appointment, as well as the unabated insurgency, have been new reminders of the political faults that keep the country's petroleum promise unrealized.
But two years after Saddam Hussein was toppled production is limping along at about two million barrels a day, less than before the war, and even at that rate it may be causing long-term damage to poorly maintained fields.
American officials had hoped that output at this stage would be at three million barrels a day, generating badly needed funds for reconstruction. That level of production could also reduce oil prices, which are now around $50 a barrel and a global source of inflationary pressure. But close to $2 billion worth of American technical aid to the oil sector has brought only limited gains.
(2 May, 2005)
State oil giants empowered, majors weakened
PARIS - State-owned oil giants in producing nations are cementing control over much of the world's reserves, intensifying fears too little investment will be made in new energy supplies.
Barriers to foreign investment in the world's biggest oil producers are expected to be among issues broached at a two-day ministerial conference of the International Energy Agency starting in Paris on Monday.
As today's high prices resolve the single biggest problem for producers' national oil companies (NOCs) -- low returns on capital -- the multinational majors face an uphill struggle to gain access to new sources of supply.
(2 May, 2005)
Interest in Building Reactors, but Industry Is Still Cautious
WASHINGTON, April 30 - President Bush may be cheerleading for nuclear power, but the electric industry is not ready to order new reactors.
Electric companies have shown more interest in building nuclear reactors in the last few months than they have in the last two decades. But conditions are not yet right to induce companies and investors to gamble the billion or two it would take to build a reactor and see whether the country is ready for a second round of plants, according to industry experts.
(2 May, 2005)
Deep Seas Hold Key to Oil's Future
Anyone looking for a glimpse into the future of the offshore oil industry needs to travel about 200 miles from the Texas shoreline. But the tricky part will be to descend to the bone-crushing depth of two miles beneath the ocean's surface. That's where the next frontier lies for big oil companies, which are drawn there by the promise of the vast finds that are now a rarity in the shallower waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
That new frontier is in places like the Perdido Foldbelt, which is braced against the international boundary. It holds the attention of several major oil companies with prospects in up to 10,000 feet of water. Annelle Bay, Shell Oil's director of exploration and production for the Americas, said the deepwater activities in places like Perdido Foldbelt represent a "step-change" for the industry. "There's a challenge in every segment of what we're doing right now, from exploring and finding it, to drilling it, to developing it, to producing it," she said.
Those challenges include incredible pressure; not just the kind explorers and producers are getting from their bosses and stockholders who expect big returns on these deepwater wells that cost up to $100 million each to drill.
(2 May, 2005)
The New Urbanism:
An alternative to modern, automobile-oriented planning and development
New Urban News
Through the first quarter of the last century, the United States was developed in the form of compact, mixed-use neighborhoods. The pattern began to change with the emergence of modern architecture and zoning and ascension of the automobile. After World War II, a new system of development was implemented nationwide, replacing neighborhoods with a rigorous separation of uses that has become known as conventional suburban development (CSD), or sprawl. The majority of US citizens now live in suburban communities built in the last 50 years.
Although CSD has been popular, it carries a significant price. Lacking a town center or pedestrian scale, CSD spreads out to consume large areas of countryside even as population grows relatively slowly. Automobile use per capita has soared, because a motor vehicle is required for the great majority of household and commuter trips.
Those who cannot drive are significantly restricted in their mobility. The working poor living in suburbia spend a large portion of their incomes on cars. Meanwhile, the American landscape where most people live and work is dominated by strip malls, auto-oriented civic and commercial buildings, and subdivisions without much individuality or character.
The New Urbanism is a reaction to sprawl. A growing movement of architects, planners, and developers, the New Urbanism is based on principles of planning and architecture that work together to create human-scale, walkable communities.
(8 July, 2004)
More info available at the New Urban News homepage
When restoring old bikes is a labor of love
The shuffling gait and shaky hands come from 88 years of living. Still, faithfully, under the fluorescent light, Arnie Colby toils every afternoon in his workshop by his dahlia garden, stripping off the rust, greasing the bearings and replacing the hand brakes.
This is where old bicycles come to get a second life, he said of the work shed behind his Auburn home.
For the past 13 years, Colby has fixed up nearly 600 bicycles and tricycles to give to needy children in South King County.
"Most kids who get these bikes don't have fathers. If I give them a bike that has to be fixed, there is no one around to fix it," said Colby, who collects bikes from police departments and swap meets. "That's why I make sure every bike is as good as new."
(30 Apr, 2005)
From the land, he fostered a peach of a life
Never wealthy, Donald Anderson was enriched by days and years of tending his orchards on Fern Hill
Enchanted Hill Farm was the name his mother gave the 44 acres she and her Norwegian millworker husband bought in 1932. The city girl was skeptical at first, but she learned to love the small hillside farm with its views of six mountains, the sunrise over Mount Hood on a clear day, the view of the valley spread out below, the bluebirds, quail and pheasant.
So did her son. Donald Anderson grew up on the farm, five miles south of Cornelius on Fern Hill, and lived there most of his life. A career with the U.S. Geological Survey allowed him to live on the farm and pay for his true passion: growing peaches.
He started with 2 acres in the 1970s -- Red Havens and Crest Havens -- got hooked, added Sunhavens, Veterans, Elbertas, Suncrest, Flamecrest, Harkins and Lorings. He worked his way up to 1,000-plus trees, 25 varieties in all.
(2 May, 2005)
Got Millikin? Mike Millikin, publisher of green-car blog, answers Grist's questions
...Given our increasing understanding of climate change and peak oil, we (global we, not just us) need to make the broadest-scale, most rapid transition of behavior, technologies, and markets ever conceived. We don't have all the answers, but we need urgently to figure it out. This must be done from a broad basis of knowledge and understanding, not fear and reaction. My goal is to help that process.
(2 May, 2005)