Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The posh, posh traveling life...

I'm off across the pond to Great Britain for three weeks, to renew ancestral ties (and cumberbuns), search for that elusive little village in Wales, hoist a pint at the local, and to pick up a brogue.

I won't be doing computers on this trip. This is the old hazel stick and a backback, the stop at the public house for a good night's rest, grab a bit of cheese and bread along the road. I'll be recording the passing scene in old-fashioned pencil and paper to be transcribed into glowing phosphors on your computer screens upon my return, if I return, that is.

It will be most interesting to be away from the insanity of the United States for a good while, to view the New American Empire from its humble predecessor, to talk with folks unburdoned by US propaganda. I'll be in the small villages tucked far and a-wee among the hills and lakes of Yorkshire, Ayreshire, the Lake District, North Wales, Pembrokeshire and the Republic of Ireland, absorbing the flavor of life lived on a slower timetable, mostly. Can't get away from all of it, of course, even in Wales, but it will be closer. We'll see...

Until then, thanks to all who have frequented these pages. I hope to reward your persistence with more words of hope, cheer and imminent societal doom. Civilization, if that's what it is, has started down the long porcelain parkway, and not a moment too soon.

Until I return... Iechyd da!

Leona Gulch
Pacific Plate

On my way to The Olde Country!

Friday, April 08, 2005

Shell Oil hopes to begin shale oil production by 2010


Shell Oil hopes to begin shale oil production by 2010

MEEKER, Colo. — With crude oil topping $50 a barrel more than 20 years
after the oil shale bust of the 1980s, Shell Oil Co. is testing a new
technology it hopes will make extracting oil from rock beneath
northwestern Colorado profitable and environmentally sustainable.

Oh, God, Cathedral Bluffs!

I spent the better part of 1980-1983 driving and walking Cathedral Bluffs, documenting the Department of Energy's failed In-Situ Oil Retorting experiments. They spent millions of dollars to learn that it takes far more energy to extract kerogen (there's NO oil in oil shale) from the basement rock than can be gained from burning the resulting petroleum-like product.

EROEI is negative for Oil Shale.


Shell executives think they can make a quick buck in investment returns from their woopdy-doo rock heaters.

Let me tell you about Cathedral Bluffs. It's way the Hell Back of Beyond. You need a four-wheel drive vehicle just to get to the "Main Road!" Then you drive for an hour and a half to get to the actual sites. You need helicopters to get equipment and supplies in and out of these places. Big helicopters. Expensive helicopters. Helicopters that swallow av-gas in Niagara Falls quantities.

Now tell me, where is all the energy coming from to drill these wells, create all this heat, extract the gas and kerogen and transport it to refining and processing facilities? This isn't downtown Grand Junction, for Crush Sakes, this is as far out in the boonies as anyone can get.

I once took a New York City journalist with me on one of my site visits. Picked him up at the Grand Junction airport and drove him in to an oil shale site on Cathedral Bluffs. By the time we arrived on site three hours later, he was convinced we were totally lost and we were going to die of starvation out in the wilderness. He was almost literally scared shitless by the immensity of that country.

Shell and every other energy company is making their final economic move before the petroleum door slams shut with a resounding DOOM! They know they can't get any meaningful amount of energy from oil shale. But they can manipulate the economy to squeeze out the last dollars from the shale before moving on to other things, say, recycling SUVs into affordable housing.

Oil Shale? Forget about it, write it off, pay it no heed: it's a non-starter. Tar sands? Best for making roads.

At some point, "we" must admit that we're fucked. We've gotten drunk on the smell of someone else's cork and now the bottle's empty. Too bad; that's just the way it is. We'll just have to get by on less, the best we can. The energy chickens have come home to roost, the party's over, it's pay-up time and the billfold's damned near empty.

Hey, things are looking up!

Leona Gulch
Pacific Plate

Friday, April 01, 2005

It's Time to get serious about conservation!

There's no better time than the present to get serious about conservation.

Peak Oil has arrived, oil will soon be $100 dollars a barrel, meaning gasoline will be $7 a gallon soon, though not soon eneough.

Even so, the problem is not that there's not enough oil, there are just too damned many people on this planet! We're rushing into an era of steadily declining energy availability, in a "cilivilzation" based on cheap abundant energy supplied by oil and other fossil fuels. In this fantasy world, our population has skyrocketed and continues to increase exponentially, despite wars, disease and famine.

If we had begun a serious program of population reduction, as Paul Ehrlich encouraged in the late 60s, we would be in better shape now to ease into a world of reducing energy. As it is now, we have two options: begin a crash program of population control, or twiddle our thumbs until Ma Nature does it for us.

Our population growth is slowing, globally, though some countries and continents still have excessive growth levels. As energy levels decrease, population declines will accelerate, either by reduction in birth rate and survival, or increase in death rates, or, most likely, both. The trick will be to balance energy depletion with population growth slowdown as much as possible, such that we manage as soft a landing for our societies as we can.

This is where conservation comes in. During Word War II, the United States and Great Britain engaged in government programs to conserve energy, recycle all materials, grow "Victory Gardens," take care of family, friends and neighbors. It became a societal ethic that most followed with pride and for which considerable social sanctions were applied against those who did not comply. When the crisis passed, and the new economic era dawned, conservation was forgotten by most.

We can do it again, if the crisis is admitted, if the people are kept informed, if the politicians have the will to lead the people instead of going off in their own directions to make piles of money before the source drips dry. The individual ethic is paramount now, and we may not be able to marshall support for the necessary effort.

So it will be a bad fall, all clumsy limbs and bumped heads. It won't mean extinction, for humans at least. Many will survive amid the crumbled remains and continue some form of human society. It will be, of necessity, a sustainable society, if it will be at all.

A thousand years from now, human life will be stabilized in common with all life. Humans will live in small comuunities scattered esthetically about the landscape, living bioregionally in cooperative communities united by kinship and mutaul aid. Not a "cave man" existence, by any means, in fact, more than likely, quite a comfortable life. Too bad we won't live to see it arrive.

Leona Gulch
Pacific Plate