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Mind the gap: How to ease yourself across the oil peak
Ryan McGreal, Raise the Hammer
By nearly all accounts, the age of cheap energy is coming to an end, at least for the forseeable future. We may be destined for a glorious paradise of magical energy too cheap to meter, but nothing on the drawing board today can bridge the gap between our ever-growing demand and what appears to be an absolute upper limit to supply - except price.
The next five or ten years will offer extreme price volatility for energy, particularly oil and natural gas, as demand bangs repeatedly off the production peak and then crashes under gruelling price spikes.
The best way to survive this period more or less intact is to insulate yourself, as much as possible, from fluctuating energy prices. In other words, limit your dependence on cheap energy so you don't miss it as much. The following steps will help.
(16 May 2005)
A string of provisions, from giving consumers rebates on energy efficient appliances to expanding the size of the government's emergency petroleum reserve, were to be taken up by the Energy and Natural Resources Committee this week, beginning with Tuesday's session.
(18 May 2005)
California Governor Scharzenegger weighs in on federal energy bill
LBReport.com (Long Beach, Calif.)
Gov. Schwarzenegger Weighs-In On Fed'l Energy Bill, Tells Key U.S. Senators He Opposes Fed'l Preemption On LNG, Opposes MTBE Immunity, Opposes New Oil & Gas Leases Off CA Coastline...And Supports Doubling Nat'l Fuel Economy Stds for New Cars, Light Trucks & SUVs
As closed-door Senate negotiations continue over a federal Energy bill with major impacts for LB and California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has sent a letter to two key GOP Senators, backing large parts of previously advanced legislation but opposing controversial provisions -- including federal preemption of state powers in LNG facility siting -- contained in the version of the bill passed by the House of Representatives in April.
LBReport.com has obtained a copy of the letter, dated May 13.
(17 May 2005)
Importing power, fostering pollution
Mark Martin, SF Chronicle
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has committed California to an interstate power project that environmentalists warn could help usher in a new era of electricity generation that will dirty the air and spoil the water for the next 50 years.
Schwarzenegger and the governors of three other states -- Wyoming, Utah and Nevada -- last month pledged support for a proposed 1,300-mile electricity transmission line imagined as a new highway for megawatts in a region starved for more power.
Schwarzenegger's top energy advisers tout the so-called Frontier Line as a way to lessen sky-high electricity bills, create a more reliable Western energy grid to protect against blackouts, and encourage the use of sources like the wind and earth to produce eco-friendly power. The line is conceived as an incentive for new power generation in the three interior states that would be built mainly to feed California's revving economy.
But the Frontier Line plan comes as energy companies have proposed more than two dozen power plants across the West that would be fueled by coal -- a high-polluting fossil fuel that clean-air advocates contend is a major contributor to global warming.
They worry that the line could encourage the coal projects -- none of which are proposed in California -- and allow this state to, in essence, import power while exporting pollution.
(15 May 2005)
Latin states seek more control of oil
Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador want new terms with energy firms
Danna Harman, Christian Science Monitor
CARACAS, VENEZUELA – Tens of thousands of poor protesters took to the streets in Bolivia this week, demanding that President Carlos Mesa do what Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has already done: take greater state control over oil and gas production.
Last month, Mr. Chávez changed the terms of contracts with 32 foreign companies operating here. In the next six months, they must form joint ventures with the state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela (PdVSA), and accept a 49 percent minority stake; turn over half their profits to the government; and pay back taxes that could total $2 billion.
"If they don't pay it, they will have to leave the country," Chávez said on TV last Sunday.
At a volatile time for world energy markets, the higher cost of doing business in Venezuela, the world's fifth-largest oil supplier, adds upward pressure to prices already hovering near $50 a barrel. And if Bolivia joins Ecuador, which said this week that it, too, would review its oil contracts, prices at the pump could rise further.
(18 May 2005)
Foreign gas companies in Bolivia face sharply higher taxes
Juan Forero, NY Times
LA PAZ, Bolivia, May 17 - President Carlos Mesa's government allowed passage of a bill on Tuesday that will sharply raise taxes on foreign energy companies, a move officials hope will defuse mounting protests from groups that want Bolivia to squeeze the big multinationals that have flocked to this poor country.
But the decision by Mr. Mesa, who has bowed repeatedly to demands from protesters in his 19-month term, appeared to placate few. Foreign oil companies say the law is financially onerous and will prompt them to cut back on investments, and the influential Movement to Socialism Party, led by Evo Morales, has promised more protests, contending the law is too soft on the companies.
Thousands of Indians and miners continued to march from several communities in the highlands toward the capital, some of their leaders promising to take over Congress unless a tougher law is approved.
(18 May 2005)
Jeffery R. Webber, New Socialist (also at Znet)
At around 8:00 am on Monday morning, massive crowds of mostly poor indigenous Bolivians gathered on the cusp of a mountainside that descends into the capital city of La Paz. They are residents of the massive shantytown of El Alto, located on the high plateau (the altiplano) that overlooks the valley which encompasses La Paz.
Workers in the massive informal sector, ex-miners "relocated" to the shantytown after privatization of the mines in 1985, the unemployed, recent migrants from the countryside pushed from their former livelihoods through the devastation of the agricultural economy in the high plateau, women in traditional indigenous dress with their unique bowler hats, shoe-shine boys, Trotskyist teachers, communists, socialists, indigenists, neighbourhood activists, populists, and others milling around in a jovial mood eating breakfast on the street, provided by women venders who have erected their food-stands along the opening path of the planned march for the nationalization of the country’s natural gas.
(18 May 2005)
China: Danger of melting Everest glaciers
Reuters via CNN
BEIJING, China (Reuters) -- Global warming is shrinking glaciers on the Tibet side of Mount Everest faster than ever, putting world water supplies at risk, Xinhua news agency said on Tuesday.
Chinese scientists researching the world's tallest peak, which China refers to by its Tibetan name, "Qomolangma", had found clear evidence of increasing glacial melting, Xinhua said.
"Global warming has resulted in glaciers melting fast in the Mount Qomolangma area ... threatening the balance of global water resources," it said.
Around 75 percent of the world's fresh water is stored in glacial ice, much of it in mountain areas, allowing for heavy winter rain and snowfall to be released gradually into river networks throughout the summer or dry months.
(17 May 2005)
Julian Darley and Celine Rich are interviewed on the premiere of the Lifeboat Show (video)
KMUN (via Global Public Media)
Julian Darley and Celine Rich are interviewed by Christopher Paddon and Karen Black on the first episode of the Lifeboat Show on KMUN(kmun.org) in Astoria, OR. The Lifeboat Show is an initiative of The Titanic Lifeboat Academy As an Outpost of the Post Carbon Institute, the Titanic Lifeboat Academy is a working demonstration site and non-profit education center promoting community-based, sustainable living practices, deep ecology ethics, indigenous energy systems and low-impact appropriate technologies in Coastal Oregon.
(9 May 2005)
Global wind map may provide better locations for wind farms
American Geophysics Union Press Release
"The main implication of this study is that wind, for low-cost wind energy, is more widely available than was previously recognized," Archer said. "The methodology in the paper can be utilized for several applications, such as determining elevated wind speeds in remote areas or to evaluate the benefits of distributed wind power."
Support from city folk takes root on the farm
Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY
A new way of farming is quietly sowing seeds of change. It has brought new life to family farms in Illinois, let city dwellers cultivate deep relationships with the people who grow their food in Rochester, N.Y., and allowed new farms to sprout up in Tulsa. The ultimate harvest may be the preservation of the family farm.
Community-supported agriculture - CSA - has grown from a few pioneers in the late 1980s to as many as 1,700 farms that feed about 340,000 families a week, according to Local Harvest, a Santa Cruz, Calif.-based Web site that tracks CSAs and farmers markets.
Here's how it works: For $13 to $25 a week, a family buys a share of a nearby farm's yearly harvest. Each week the family gets a box of vegetables - and, at some CSAs, fruit - either delivered to the house or a designated drop-off point.
(12 May 2005)
Small family farms 'may vanish'
Traditional family farms could soon disappear, National Farmers' Union President Tim Bennett has warned. The farmers' leader blames cheap food prices and the changes to the way European subsidies are calculated.
Mr Bennett told BBC News generations of agricultural experience could be lost, and the change could be devastating for the countryside. European subsidies are moving in emphasis towards environmental stewardship and away from production.
(17 May 2005)
Paul K. Keene, 94, organic farming pioneer, dies
Margalit Fox, NY Times
Paul K. Keene, a pioneer of organic farming in the United States whose products were among the first commercially available organic foods in the country, died on April 23 at a nursing home in Mechanicsburg, Pa. He was 94. Mr. Keene's family announced the death.
For more than half a century, Mr. Keene ran Walnut Acres Farm, near Penns Creek in central Pennsylvania, which produced and packaged an array of foods including peanut butter, granola and free-range chicken. Walnut Acres products were grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers and were stocked by health food stores around the country and sold worldwide through the company's mail-order catalog.
When Mr. Keene started Walnut Acres in the mid-1940's, the agricultural gospel called for using chemical fertilizers and insecticides, with their promise of cheaper, more efficient farming. Natural farming was viewed as eccentric, if not downright un-American.
"It doesn't seem that long ago that everyone thought we were kooks or Commies," Mr. Keene told U.S. News & World Report in 1995. "Someone once tossed dynamite on the property. Another burned crosses."
A former mathematics professor and avowed pacifist, Mr. Keene never set out to be a commercial farmer. He simply wanted to go back to the land.
(18 May 2005)
(Grocery) Store Wars (video)
Organic Trade Association
"These are dark times young Cuke."
"What do you mean Obi Wan Canoli?
"For over 1000 generations, organic food like us lived in harmony with the ways of the Farm."
"Yes, cuke, the Farm is what gives us our power. It's a kind of a ... field that creates all edible things."
"But, alas, the market has been taken over by the dark side of the Farm. An empire of pollution and pesticides has ruthlessly conquered the market, nearly wiping our organic birthright with unsustainable and short-sighted practices, like genetic energineering, irradiation and massive pesiticide use. Seduced by artificially lower prices, people don't even want to know where their food comes from. The true ways of the Farm are now almost completely forgotten."
"But here is a new hope. [Inspiring theme song] A growing resistance called the Organic Rebellion is now fighting back."
Ed: Vegetable puppets parody "Star Wars" to promote organic farming.