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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The Globe and Mail: Welcome to the Age of Scarcity

The Globe and Mail: Welcome to the age of scarcity
For a world hooked on oil, the new supply-demand paradigm promises to be as transforming a period as the oil gushers were to the last century. Whether it happens this year, or in two decades, few would argue that depletion is a preventable event.

Price may well be the first hint of this new global energy reality.

A barrel of crude, which cost as little as $10 (U.S.) a barrel in 1998, is now worth five times that after breeching the $50 barrier earlier this year. A few analysts warn the price of crude could double again in the next couple of years. Even more optimistic forecasters agree that the days of cheap oil are likely gone forever, and that scarcity, coupled with rising demand and a falling U.S. dollar, will mean years of sustained high prices.

"After you drive a car off a cliff, it's too late to hit the brakes," he says. "In effect, we have gone over the edge of the cliff."

Two key changes have conspired to make world oil markets much more volatile. There is surging new demand for oil in fast-growing China and India, where the middle class is taking to the road in a big way. And in the Middle East, mega-producer Saudi Arabia appears to have run out of spare production to turn on and off the tap at will.

"The question is not whether there are buried hydrocarbons. It's at what price you can extract them, and does the technology advance fast enough as the horizon of fuels recede?"

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

After the Oil is Gone - The Long Emergency

After the Oil is Gone

By Katharine Mieszkowski - May 14, 2005

Say goodbye to your suburban house, yoke up that horse, and stand by to repel pirates! Author James Howard Kunstler talks about the dire world of his new book, "The Long Emergency."

Suburbs will collapse into slums. Farmhand will be a more viable career choice than public relations executive. And avoiding starvation will replace avoiding boredom as the national pastime.

Those are just a few of the predictions that James Howard Kunstler makes in his new book. "The Long Emergency" paints a dystopic view of the United States in the wake of what Kunstler dubs the "cheap oil fiesta." It's a future the author insists is not apocalyptic. Calling it the end of the world [would] be too easy.

No, Kunstler believes the human race will survive as we slip down the other side of Hubbert's Oil Peak. But the high standard of living we've built by gorging on cheap oil will not. America, as a political entity, will be history too.

When will the doom begin? It has already begun.

Read the entire article here: After the oil is gone
America kept in dark" as carnage escalates; Iraq heads for civil war

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

Friday, May 06, 2005

A plug-in gas-electric vehicle may be key in saving fuel and cutting pollution

Is there a car that can cut America's oil imports to a trickle, dramatically reduce pollution, and do it all with currently available technology? Greg Hanssen thinks so. His company* has already built one such car -- a converted Toyota Prius that gets 100 to 180 mpg in a typical commute. Andrew A. Frank thinks so, too. The University of California at Davis professor has constructed a handful of such vehicles. His latest: a converted 325-horsepower Ford Explorer that goes 50 miles using no gas at all, then gets 30 mpg. "It goes like a rocket," he says.

These vehicles are quickly becoming the darlings of strange bedfellows: both conservative hawks and environmentalists, who see such fuel efficiency as key to ensuring national security and fighting climate change. Reducing dependence on the turbulent Middle East "is a war issue," says former CIA Chief R. James Woolsey, who calls the cars' potential "phenomenal."

What's the secret? It's as simple as adding more batteries and a plug to hybrids such as the Prius. That way, the batteries can be charged up at any electrical outlet -- letting this so-called plug-in hybrid travel 20 to 60 miles under electric power alone. Since most Americans drive fewer than 30 miles a day, such a car could go months without visiting the filling station. "The only time you would have to gas up is when you go out of town," says Felix Kramer, who founded the nonprofit California Cars Initiative to promote plug-ins. Run the internal combustion engine on a blend of gasoline and biofuels like ethanol, and it would use almost no oil products at all. "That changes the world," says Frank J. Gaffney Jr., president of the Center for Security Policy.

CalCars is using the Toyota Prius as a high-visibility platform to demonstrate the fuel economy benefits of a grid-pluggable hybrid that offers an extended EV range. The California Cars Initiative is a group of entrepreneurs, technologists, environmentalists and other citizens working to spur the adoption of efficient, non-polluting automotive technologies.

Greg Hanssen and his colleagues at *EnergyCS, for example, replaced the Prius' existing 1.3-kilowatt-hour nickel metal hydride battery with an advanced 9-kWh lithium ion battery pack. They hope to offer a conversion kit to Prius owners. It carries a weight penalty of about 170 pounds.

In a project sponsored by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), several utilities, government agencies, DaimlerChrysler is building a fleet of up to 40 PHEV Sprinter delivery vans.

However, David Hermance, Toyota's executive engineer for environmental engineering, says, "We keep looking at the concept, and at some point it might be feasible, but it isn't there yet," says. Hybrids are estimated to cost $2,000 to $5,000 more than conventional cars to make, and the larger batteries for plug-ins would add several thousands dollars more.

Last December, (2004) the bipartisan US National Commission on Energy Policy included plug-ins as an element of its energy strategy. The ‘Set America Free’ coalition is meanwhile pushing for $2 billion in incentives, pointing out that "if all cars on the road are hybrids and half are plug-in hybrid vehicles, U.S. oil imports would drop by 8 million barrels per day." (Business Week)

Giving Hybrids A Real Jolt

The Benefits of Plug-In Hybrids

CalCars (Plug-in Prius) Founder Felix Kramer on Science Friday - Streaming information is available at and

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