May 31, 2008

Net Oil Exports Falling

A Wall Street Journal article reports that net exports of oil from the top 15 oil producers fell in 2006 and 2007, according to US Government data.

The implications for our future are huge.

There have been many projections made regarding when we will experience peak oil. Those projections usually focus on peak oil production. This data points out the cold hard reality that peak oil availability is what is important for oil importers.

If you are looking for the peak oil availability date for oil importers, that day has already come and gone.

Some would argue that we have to reduce our dependence on foreign oil because of economics.

Some would argue that we have to reduce our dependence on foreign oil for national security.

Some would argue that we have to reduce our dependence on foreign oil to protect the environment.

Some would argue that we have to reduce our dependence on foreign oil for moral reasons.

The cold hard fact is that we have to reduce our dependence on foreign oil because we have no other choice.

"Fresh data from the U.S. Department of Energy show the amount of petroleum products shipped by the world's top oil exporters fell 2.5% last year, despite a 57% increase in prices, a trend that appears to be holding true this year as well.

Demand in the Middle East is a major factor right now, said Adam Robinson, an oil analyst at Lehman Brothers in New York. Mr. Robinson predicts the region will constitute more than 40% of increased demand next year.

Saudi Arabia in particular has become a major energy consumer as the country pushes to put its oil riches to greater use. The kingdom is in the middle of a major investment campaign to become a world player in petrochemicals, aluminum and fertilizers, all of which will require huge amounts of oil and natural gas.

Since 2004, Saudi oil consumption has increased nearly 23%, to 2.3 million barrels a day last year. Jeffrey Brown, a Dallas-based petroleum geologist who studies net export numbers, said that at its current growth rate, Saudi Arabia could be consuming 4.6 million barrels a day by 2020.

That would cut significantly into Saudi exports even as the world looks to its largest oil supplier to help manage rising demand. Saudi Arabia has nearly a quarter of the world's proven reserves and supplies around 12% of the 86 million barrels a day that the world now consumes."

May 25, 2008

Microbes found that eat plastic bags

Now a high school teenager has found a way to make plastic bags degrade faster -- in three months, he figures.

Getting ordinary plastic bags to rot away like banana peels would be an environmental dream come true. After all, we produce 500 billion a year worldwide and they take up to 1,000 years to decompose. They take up space in landfills, litter our streets and parks, pollute the oceans and kill the animals that eat them.

Daniel Burd's project won the top prize at the Canada-Wide Science Fair in Ottawa. He came back with a long list of awards, including a $10,000 prize, a $20,000 scholarship, and recognition that he has found a practical way to help the environment.

He found strains one and two together produced a 32 per cent weight loss in his plastic strips. His theory is strain one helps strain two reproduce. Tests to identify the strains found strain two was Sphingomonas bacteria and the helper was Pseudomonas.

A researcher in Ireland has found Pseudomonas is capable of degrading polystyrene, but as far as Burd and his teacher Mark Menhennet know -- and they've looked -- Burd's research on polyethelene plastic bags is a first.

May 13, 2008

Sustainable Fishing - Not!

How the World's Oceans are Running Out of Fish

Callum Roberts, professor of marine conservation at York University, predicts that by 2050 we will only be able to meet the fish protein needs of half the world population: all that will be left for the unlucky half may be, as he puts it, 'jellyfish and slime'. Ninety years of industrial-scale exploitation of fish has, he and most scientists agree, led to 'ecological meltdown'. Whole biological food chains have been destroyed.

Roberts has one solution: marine reserves. Protecting up to 40 per cent of the world's oceans in permanent refuges would enable the recovery of fish stocks and help replenish surrounding fisheries. 'The cost, according to a 2004 survey, would be between £7bn and £8.2bn a year, after set-up. But put that against the £17.6bn a year we currently spend on harmful subsidies that encourage overfishing.'

Reserves must not be ruled by politicians, says Roberts. 'The model of industry-political control for regulatory bodies just doesn't work. It's like central banks - put them under politicians' control and they make dangerous, short-term decisions that result in economic instability. Put them under independent control, and they make better-judged, more strategic decisions.'

The Newfoundland cod fishery, for 500 years the world's greatest, was exhausted and closed in 1992, and there's still no evidence of any return of the fish. Once stocks dip below a certain critical level, the scientists believe, they can never recover because the entire eco-system has changed. The question is whether, after 50 years of vacillation and denial, there's any prospect of the politicians acting decisively now. 'It is awful and we are on the road to disaster,' says Tudela. 'But the collapse - in some, not all the situations - is still reversible. And it's worth trying.'

South Korea Village 100% Solar

"Donggwang has achieved what even the most powerful countries in the world are still struggling to accomplish: total energy independence with clean technology.

On the roof of each of the 40 houses in Donggwang lies a large beds of solar panels. Even the small, local elementary school runs on free electric energy from the sun. The photovoltaic panels produce enough energy to power the entire area. Amidst cattle and fields, Donggwang is a state-of-the-art renewable energy village.
When asked whether he is concerned about environmental issues, Mr. Lee replies casually, “Yeah, the environment is a very important issue. The motto is a clean city - clean island. They’re trying to do this solar and then the windmills. My favorite part of living in Jeju is the fresh air. The clean air.”

May 12, 2008

Zero-Emission City planned in Abu Dhabi

"Construction of the new zero-emission city started last week. It will eventually house 50,000 people and 1,500 businesses. The energy efficient buildings and infrastructure will require less energy to start with, and what little energy they do require will be supplied entirely from renewable energy sources. Construction of the new zero-emission city started last week. It will eventually house 50,000 people and 1,500 businesses. The energy efficient buildings and infrastructure will require less energy to start with, and what little energy they do require will be supplied entirely from renewable energy sources. "

But what would one of the world's largest producers of oil want to promote city life that doesn’t require oil? Isn’t that a bit like shooting yourself in the foot? Apparently even the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are willing to admit that oil isn’t a great long-term solution for the world’s growing energy needs.

Abu Dhabi is hoping the project will propel the country to become world leaders in renewable energy.

May 9, 2008

Simple, Cheap Solar Power from MIT

Harnessing sunlight on the cheap
MIT student project aims to develop cost-efficient solar power

A team of students, led by mechanical engineering graduate student Spencer Ahrens, has spent the last few months assembling a prototype for a concentrating solar power system they think could revolutionize the field. It's a 12-foot-square mirrored dish capable of concentrating sunlight by a factor of 1,000, built from simple, inexpensive industrial materials selected for price, durability and ease of assembly rather than for optimum performance.

Rather than aiming for a smooth parabolic surface that would bring the sunlight to a perfect focus, the dish is being made with 10-inch-wide by 12-foot-long strips of relatively low-cost, lightweight bathroom-type mirror glass. The frame is assembled from cheap aluminum tubing, with holes drilled in precise locations using a simple jig for alignment, so that the struts can be assembled into a framework that passively snaps into just the right parabolic curvature.

The control mechanism, which allows the dish to track the sun automatically across the sky, is also remarkably simple--photocells mounted on each side of the dish with opaque baffles, which cast a shadow on the cell when it drifts out of alignment, connect to a simple circuit that turns on small electric motors to push the dish back into the right position.

"The technical challenge here is to make it simple," Ahrens explains.

May 1, 2008

Fuel Efficiency Standards - What is possible?

A friend of mine recently gave an impassioned argument that we could do better, much better than we have been doing with fuel efficiency standards.

Well, here are a couple articles that let you know what is possible for fuel efficiency. As you may remember the US government has recently set a goal of achieving 35 mpg by 2020. The EU requirements for new passenger car fuel efficiency by 2012 are 47 mpg.

And for those of you with a hankering for a sports car that is in production today, here's the prettiest car all electric car I've ever seen and it has incredible numbers. 0 - 60 mph in under 4 seconds. 135 mpg. 2 cents a mile. 220 miles per charge. Did I say it is the prettiest thing you've ever seen? Make sure you click on this one!

Of course if you are going to be environmentally friendly, you better sign up for the Green Power option from your electric utility before you charge your electic vehicle!!

Finally here is a 2 minute video from PBS and RMI. The quote that sticks with me is that barely 1% of the energy in a gallon of gasoline actually moves the driver in a forward direction. 7/8's of the fuel energy never even makes it to the wheels!!!

It would seem that my friend is right. We can do better!