Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Boone Pickens on CNBC.

CNBC: Picken's Next Prediction.


"The biggest move will come in natural gas, not oil."

I'm with ya there, Boone.

Bloomberg: Pickens Says Oil Prices May Rise to $150 by Year End.

The scale of the problem.

Submitted by my friend Richard, and via fivecentnickel.com:

c|net Green Tech Blog: Can renewable energy make a dent in fossil fuels?


4.2 billion.

That's how many rooftops you'd have to cover with solar panels to displace a cubic mile of oil (CMO), a measure of energy consumption, according to Ripudaman Malhotra, who oversees research on fossil fuels at SRI International. The electricity captured in those hypothetical solar panels in a year (2.1 kilowatts each) would roughly equal the energy in a CMO. The world consumes a little over 1 CMO of oil a year right now and about 3 CMOs of energy from all sources.

Put another way, we'd need to equip 250,000 roofs a day with solar panels for the next 50 years to have enough photovoltaic infrastructure to provide the world with a CMO's worth of solar-generated electricity for a year. We're nowhere close to that pace.

But don't blame the solar industry. You'd also have to erect a 900-megawatt nuclear power plant every week for 50 years to get enough plants (2,500) to produce the same energy in a year to equal a CMO. Wind power? You need 3 million for a CMO, or 1,200 a week planted in the ground over the next 50 years. Demand for power also continues to escalate with economic development in the emerging world.

"In 30 years we will need six CMOs, so where are we going to get that?" Malhotra said. "I'm trying to communicate the scale of the problem."

The CMO is a figure you might begin to hear more as utilities and governments map out their renewable energy strategies. SRI's Hew Crane came up with the term as a way to normalize all the different measurements (kilowatt-hours, BTUs, million barrels of oil equivalents, cubic feet of gas, etc.) in the energy business.

It's also a big enough measure to suit the global energy market without saddling everyone with a train of zeros. Many of these stats and a far lengthier discussion of the issue will be found in a book coming from Oxford University Press by Crane, Malhotra, and Ed Kinderman called A Cubic Meter of Oil.

And judging by some of the stats Malhotra gave me, the book will alarm policy makers, environmentalists, and pretty much anyone else interested in weaning ourselves from fossil fuels.


If there's a bright spot here, it's that the world has a lot of fossil fuel, he claimed, so we won't be plunged into darkness yet. Oil reserves come to around 46 CMOs, while natural gas reserves total 42 CMOs. There are 121 CMOs of coal out there. These numbers all go up when difficult-to-extract energy such as tar sands are added.

"It's been 30 years of (oil) reserves for the last 50 years," he joked. "It's like your pantry. Do you look at it and say 'Oh, no. I'm going to run out of flour in two weeks'? You go out and buy more."


The only thing I would add, particularly to his parting comments:

At what price?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Prisoners of the Sun II.

Investor's Business Daily: See Gore, See Spot.


A former NASA astronaut says the same solar phenomenon that doomed Napoleon's army may soon stop Al Gore's march to glory cold. Prepare for the big chill.

Napoleon's retreat from Moscow is a legendary military disaster. While historians and military buffs note the toll the Russian winter took on La Grande Armee, few if any appreciate the role solar activity, or the lack of it, played in one of the great military reversals in history.

Geophysicist Phil Chapman, the first Australian to become a NASA astronaut, and who served as mission specialist on the Apollo 14 lunar mission, writes in the Down Under newspaper the Australian that "the rout of Napoleon's Grand Army from Moscow was at least partly due to the lack of sunspots."

This is more than a historical footnote. The same pattern of solar activity that doomed Napoleon is occurring as we speak.

The sun goes through a series of 11-year cycles in which sunspots fluctuate in both number and intensity, greatly influencing Earth's climate and weather. The end of each cycle is called a solar minimum, where sunspot activity is at a low point. Activity usually picks up after that as each new cycle begins.

As Chapman notes, the most recent minimum occurred in March 2007. Sunspot activity should have increased shortly after that but sunspot activity has remained at a virtual standstill.

If you log on to www.spaceweather.com, you will see a current picture of the sun from the U.S. Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) with but a single tiny sunspot, dubbed number 992. The previous time a cycle was delayed like this, according to Chapman, was during what was called the Dalton Minimum, a particularly cold period that lasted several decades starting in 1790. "Northern winters became ferocious," he says.

The success of Napoleon's march was not in the stars, at least not in the one closest to the Earth.

This has been a winter of record cold and record snowfalls. The four major agencies tracking Earth's temperature, including NASA's Goddard Institute, report the earth cooled 0.7C in 2007, the fastest decline in the age of instrumentation, putting us back to where the Earth was in 1930.

It snowed in Baghdad for the first time in centuries, and Chapman says "the extent of Antarctic sea ice . . . was the greatest on record since James Cook discovered the place in 1770."

So far this year, SOHO has detected just three sunspots, including number 992, which appeared on Monday. One was found in January and lasted only two days. Another appeared earlier this month but vanished within 24 hours. There should be more, many more. At its peak, the sun should look like a teenager's face before the prom.

Kenneth Tapping, a solar researcher and project director for Canada's National Research Council, oversees the operation of a 60-year-old radio telescope that he calls a "stethoscope for the sun."

Tapping reports no change in the sun's magnetic field so far this cycle and warns that if the sun remains quiet for another year or two, it may indicate another repeat of that period of drastic cooling of the Earth, bringing massive snowfall and severe weather to the Northern Hemisphere.

Chapman says the temperate climate we now enjoy is the exception, not the rule. We are currently in an interglacial period, the Holocene. "Under normal conditions," he says, "most of North America and Europe (is) buried under about 1.5 kilometers of ice."

Prisoners of the Sun I.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

An hour with Boone Pickens.

Okay, technically 51:29, but who's counting.. Mr. Pickens talks about oil & energy, but he covers other topics too, and he's a pretty funny guy.

A geologist, a savy, seen-it-all businessman, a decent American, he's warning us about our energy situation, and we seem (so far) not to be listening.

Bloomberg: Boone Pickens Expects Oil Prices to Continue to Rise.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Be Bullish.

WSJ: Crude, Heating Oil, Gas All End at Record Highs.


Buyers also found inspiration in global demand. China imported 1.66 million tons of diesel from January through March, the General Administration of Customs reported Tuesday, a sevenfold increase from the 230,000 tons imported in the same period last year.

Yahoo Tech Ticker: High Oil Prices? You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet.

Yahoo Tech Ticker: 6 Ways to Profit from 'Peak Oil'.


Earlier, Charles Maxwell, senior energy analyst at Weeden & Co., made the case that "peak oil" theory is real and inevitable, and that $300 oil is coming in the next decade. While a frightening prospect with major societal implications, it's also one with significant potential for profit.

When investing in energy for the long run, it's best to avoid the major oil companies like Exxon Mobil, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips, Maxwell says. There's a reason these firms are cutting back on exploration even as oil prices and demand are rising: Facing both geological and geopolitical obstacles, they cannot find reserves big enough to move the production needle.

Instead, Maxwell recommends a basket of companies with "long-lived reserves," including Brazil's Petrobras and Canadian tar sands plays such as Encana and Canadian Natural Resources. Unlike the majors, these firms will be able to maintain and even increase production into the next decade, and thus able to take advantage of the expected sharp rise in oil prices.


Technically, he recommends PBR, LUKOY, SU, ECA, CNQ, NXY in the above video.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Prisoners of the Sun.

First, kudos to anybody that caught that "Land of Black Gold" and "Prisoners of the Sun" are both Tintin adventures. Considering the limited audience here, and the obscure reference that makes.. probably nobody. Oh well. Spielberg's making a picture, or apparently three.

We are all (myself included) pretty sold on the theory of global warming by now. Humans are producing increasing carbon dioxide.. greenhouse gas.. climate warms, etc.

But, in an irony that will probably not be lost on history even if it has so far been lost on contemporary journalists, the year after Al Gore wins the Nobel Prize for his work on climate change [not a big fan personally of Al Gore, bit a wind bag if you ask me.. I digress], there came basically out of nowhere a good, old fashioned cold and snowy winter for North America and parts of Asia. Which by the way, caused us to burn a lot of natural gas and heating oil, and is, in my opinion, responsible for the strength in oil prices this year (and natural gas too).

Obviously, one season does not a trend make, but it appears there is another variable involved in our climate, one that is generally right in front of our eyes and which we seem to have left out of the global temperature equation altogether:

The sun, and it's associated cycles.

I need to do more research on this topic, but it's possible we have here what Micheal Steinhardt would refer to as a variant perception.

And, um, if there is truth to the below theory, it could be a big one.

The Bellingham Herald: Sun’s shift could mean global chill.


Fluctuations in solar radiation could mean colder weather in the decades ahead, despite all the talk about global warming, retired Western Washington University geologist Don Easterbrook said Tuesday.

Easterbrook is convinced that the threat of global warming from mankind’s carbon dioxide pollution is overblown.

In a campus lecture, he cited centuries of climate data in an effort to convince a somewhat skeptical audience that carbon dioxide’s impact on climate is being much exaggerated by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and by scientists who appear to have won the debate over global warming.

“Despite all you hear about the debate being over, the debate is just starting,” Easterbrook said.


Easterbrook doesn’t deny that the Earth’s climate has been warming slowly since about 1980. But he argued that this warming trend fits a longstanding pattern of warming and cooling cycles that last roughly 30 years. Sunspot activity and other solar changes appear to explain the 30-year cycles, he said.

If that pattern persists, the earth could now be close to the next 30-year cooling cycle, Easterbrook said.

He noted that the 2007-08 winter set records for cold and snow in many parts of the globe. According to the data he displayed, the Earth’s temperature hit a peak in 1998 and has been steady or slightly cooler since then.

“One cold winter doesn’t mean much of anything,” he said. “A 10-year trend is interesting.”

He contended that warming periods appear to match periods of sunspot activity, which currently is at a low point.

Easterbrook noted that astrophysicists have been expecting that activity to begin increasing soon, but so far it has not.

Prolonged periods of low activity could lead to a dramatic cooling such as occurred in Europe during the so-called “Little Ice Age,” a term loosely used to describe cooler weather in the 14th to 19th centuries, Easterbrook said.


If the warming trend of the past 30 years really is reversing, it won’t take too long to become apparent.

“In three years we’ll at least know the direction we are headed,” Easterbrook said. “If we are one degree warmer in 2010 than we were in 2005, I will appear here and eat my words.”

While Easterbrook is skeptical about the risks from carbon dioxide, he said he strongly supports efforts to curb air pollution.

“There are a lot of things being put in the atmosphere right now that are way more dangerous than (carbon dioxide,)” he said.

But Easterbrook is far more worried about global population growth.

At present growth rates, the world would add another 3 billion people by 2050, putting enormous strains on supplies of food, water and other resources.

“Nobody is talking about it,” he said. “Nobody is doing anything about it, and it’s happening.”

The Australian: Climate facts to warm to.


"Is the Earth still warming?"

She replied: "No, actually, there has been cooling, if you take 1998 as your point of reference. If you take 2002 as your point of reference, then temperatures have plateaued. This is certainly not what you'd expect if carbon dioxide is driving temperature because carbon dioxide levels have been increasing but temperatures have actually been coming down over the last 10 years."

Duffy: "Is this a matter of any controversy?"

Marohasy: "Actually, no. The head of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has actually acknowledged it. He talks about the apparent plateau in temperatures so far this century. So he recognises that in this century, over the past eight years, temperatures have plateaued ... This is not what you'd expect, as I said, because if carbon dioxide is driving temperature then you'd expect that, given carbon dioxide levels have been continuing to increase, temperatures should be going up ... So (it's) very unexpected, not something that's being discussed. It should be being discussed, though, because it's very significant."

NASA: Long Range Solar Forecast.


The Sun's Great Conveyor Belt has slowed to a record-low crawl, according to research by NASA solar physicist David Hathaway. "It's off the bottom of the charts," he says. "This has important repercussions for future solar activity."

The Great Conveyor Belt is a massive circulating current of fire (hot plasma) within the Sun. It has two branches, north and south, each taking about 40 years to perform one complete circuit. Researchers believe the turning of the belt controls the sunspot cycle, and that's why the slowdown is important.

"Normally, the conveyor belt moves about 1 meter per second—walking pace," says Hathaway. "That's how it has been since the late 19th century." In recent years, however, the belt has decelerated to 0.75 m/s in the north and 0.35 m/s in the south. "We've never seen speeds so low."

According to theory and observation, the speed of the belt foretells the intensity of sunspot activity ~20 years in the future. A slow belt means lower solar activity; a fast belt means stronger activity. The reasons for this are explained in the Science@NASA story Solar Storm Warning.

"The slowdown we see now means that Solar Cycle 25, peaking around the year 2022, could be one of the weakest in centuries," says Hathaway.

You can read an update on solar activity here:

AARL: The K7RA Solar Update.

And view current sunspots here (none currently):

NASA: Sunspots.

Theory details:

Space and Science Research Center: The RC Theory.

I haven't read these two books yet, but I plan to:

Amazon: The Chilling Stars. A Cosmic View on Climate Change.

Amazon: Unstoppable Global Warming (Every 1,500 Years).

[Disclosure: If you buy the books via those links, I get a commission from Amazon. Just so you know..]

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Charles Nenner: Energy Mania Coming.

Charles Nenner predicting an energy and emerging markets mania to come, sees energy as one place to be for a couple of years.

CNBC: Oracle of Eyes.

P.S. Coming?

P.P.S. How did they keep Joe Kernen quiet in this piece?

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Help, Svetlana, stop this crazy thing!

Russia, which was able to outproduce Saudi Arabia for a couple of years there, may be on the oil production treadmill now too.

Reuters: Russian March oil output falls again, exports recover.


Russia failed to grow its oil output for a third month in a row in March and closed the first quarter with a one percent production decline year-on-year, confirming gloomy outlook by analysts for the whole of 2008.

Energy Ministry data showed on Wednesday March oil production edged down to 9.76 million barrels per day from 9.79 million bpd in February, and well below the post Soviet high of 9.93 million bpd reached in October last year.

In absolute figures, March production was over 5 million barrels - the size of five large tankers - down from October.

Since October, oil production in Russia has been balancing between decline and stagnation, prompting many analysts to revise down their oil production forecasts for 2008.