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3 Surprising Sources of Oil Pollution in the Ocean

3 Surprising Sources of Oil Pollution in the Ocean.

Seeping oil in the Gulf of Mexico.

An iridescent sheen spreads from a drop of crude oil on top of the water in the Gulf of Mexico.


Christine Dell’Amore and Christina Nunez

National Geographic


Obvious oil spills, like the 168,000 gallons (635,000 liters) of oil that leaked into Galveston Bay on Saturday, usually make national news, accompanied by pictures of oil-blackened wildlife.

But such publicized events account for only a small part of the total amount of oil pollution in the oceans—and many of the other sources, such as automobile oil, go largely unnoticed, scientists say.

In fact, of the tens of millions of gallons of oil that enter North Americanoceans each year due to human activities, only 8 percent comes from tanker or oil pipeline spills, according to the 2003 book Oil in the Sea III by the U.S. National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, which is still considered the authority on oil-spill data.

Most oil pollution is “different than the pictures you see of beaches covered with tar and ducks getting stuck in it,” said David Valentine, a biogeochemist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. (Read more about how pollution harms the oceans.)

Here are three little-reported sources of oil that contribute to oil pollution in North American oceans.

1. Natural Seeps

Natural seeps of oil underneath the Earth’s surface account for 60 percent of the estimated total load in North American waters and 40 percent worldwide, according to the National Academy of Sciences.

These leakages occur when oil—which is lighter than water—escapes into the water column from highly pressurized seafloor rock. (Read about Gulf of Mexico seeps.)

Off Santa Barbara, California, some 20 to 25 tons of oil flows from seafloor cracks daily—making it one of the world’s largest seeps.

Valentine, who studies the Santa Barbara seep, noted that much of the natural oil is consumed by ocean bacteria that have evolved to eat certain oil molecules. (Read about how nature tackles oil spills.)

But in “places which don’t have natural oil seeps and you come along with an oil spill or a sewer pipe that delivers [oil pollution], organisms have not had an opportunity to adapt and are going to respond differently,” said John Farrington, dean emeritus and marine geochemist with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.

2. Cars and Other Land Vehicles

A “pretty big issue,” Valentine said, is the oil on roads and other surfaces that’s flushed into the sea during rainstorms.

Most cars drip oil onto the ground, usually on impermeable concrete or asphalt, and that oil ends up trickling into the ocean. In drier places like California, the oil builds up on the asphalt and, when it finally rains, the water shuttles large amounts of oil into the ocean.

“We’re doing a much better job than 40 or 50 years ago of recycling motor oil,” Woods Hole’s Farrington said. “You can find storm sewers around the nation that have stencils on them that say ‘don’t dump, it goes to the sea.’ So there’s less input in that regard.”

But he notes that there are still a lot of cars and trucks contributing to the “dribble, dribble, dribble” effect of slow leaks that end up on asphalt and contribute to runoff pollution.

Not surprisingly, this sort of invisible pollution is more subtle than the Galveston Bay spill, which is much more localized and visible, Valentine noted.

Oil runoff from land is “complex in that it can hang around [in the ocean] and move between water and sediment, [which] makes it difficult to effectively track.”

A hotly debated topic, he added, is what these constant pulses of oil are doing to the environment and its inhabitants. Scientists know that animals directly exposed to oil suffer health problems, but what’s unknown is the impact of low, chronic oil exposures on wildlife, he said. (Related: “On 25th Exxon Valdez Anniversary, Oil Still Clings to Beaches.”)

3. Recreational Boats

People operating recreational craft, such as Jet Skis and boats, sometimes spill oil into the ocean.

“It’s usually operational error, human error or unpreparedness, [or] lack of education. A lot of time mostly it’s just negligence,” said Aaron Barnett, a boating program specialist at Washington Sea Grant, a state-federal partnership aimed at marine research and outreach across Washington State.

“It’s just not on [boaters’] radar scope. They’re there to have fun, it’s leisure, it’s recreation. … That means that certain things don’t get dealt with, like proper engine maintenance.”

Barnett added that boat owners will top off their fuel tanks as they would a car, and on a hot day the fuel expands and escapes through a vent.

Just like land-based pollution, though, oil spills by recreational boats are “hard to track, because about 80 percent of oil spills go unreported, so there’s really no way to know” on what scale this is happening, Barnett said.

Overall, he said, the Environmental Protection Agency “looks at the small-oil-spill problem as sort of like death by a thousand cuts.”

Wheat Group Seeks 50% Yield Boost by 2034 to Feed World

Wheat Group Seeks 50% Yield Boost by 2034 to Feed World

By Rudy Ruitenberg  Mar 25, 2014 6:00 PM ET

Crop researchers will aim to improve wheat yields by 50 percent by 2034 to feed a growing world population, according to an announcement at a summit to mark Nobel Peace Prize-laureate Norman Borlaug’s birth.

The International Wheat Yield Partnership hopes to secure $100 million in funding over the next five years, the U.K.’s Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council and the El Batan, Mexico-based International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, or Cimmyt, wrote in an e-mailed statement today.

Wheat is a key source of calories and protein for 4.5 billion of Earth’s 7 billion population, according to Cimmyt. The World Bank estimates output of the grain will have to climb by 60 percent from 2000 and 2050 to meet rising demand, the researchers wrote.

“We need a collective global approach to make more wheat available,” Steve Visscher, chairman of the partnership’s board of founding members and deputy Chief Executive Officer of the U.K.’s BBSRC, said in the statement. “It’s the most widely grown staple food crop and new varieties with increased yield will be vital.”

Wheat demand is growing “much faster” than production, according to the statement. The partnership’s founding partners include the BBSRC and Cimmyt, as well as Mexico’s Agriculture Secretariat and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Increases in wheat yields have slowed in developed nations since 1990, and price spikes such as those of 2007-08 and 2011 “are likely to be repeated” should production fall short of demand, according to the statement.

Farmers across the world harvested an average 3.04 metric tons of wheat per hectare (2.47 acres) in the 2012-13 season, and that’s predicted to climb to 3.25 tons in 2013-14, data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show. Wheat yields have climbed from 2.67 tons per hectare a decade ago and 1.15 tons at the start of the 1960s.

The partnership will allow for scientific breakthroughs currently out of reach, according to Visscher. One focus will be on improving wheat’s use of the sun’s energy, he said.

The partnership was announced at the Borlaug Summit on Wheat for Food in Ciudad Obregon,Mexico. It marks the 100th birthday of Borlaug, an American crop researcher who died in 2009 and whose work on high-yielding wheat varieties helped avert hunger in Mexico, India andPakistan. He won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in 1970.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rudy Ruitenberg in Paris at rruitenberg@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Claudia Carpenter atccarpenter2@bloomberg.net Sharon Lindores, Randall Hackley

US now spending 26% of available tax revenue just to pay interest

US now spending 26% of available tax revenue just to pay interest

sovereignmanwhiteSOVEREIGN MAN


By the 19th century, the Ottoman Empire had become a has-been power whose glory days as the world’s superpower were well behind them.

They had been supplanted the French, the British, and the Russian empires in all matters of economic, military, and diplomatic strength. Much of this was due to the Ottoman Empire’s massive debt burden.

In 1868, the Ottoman government spent 17% of its entire tax revenue just to pay interest on the debt.

And they were well past the point of no return where they had to borrow money just to pay interest on the money they had already borrowed.

The increased debt meant the interest payments also increased. And three years later in 1871, the government was spending 32% of its tax revenue just to pay interest.

By 1877, the Ottoman government was spending 52% of its tax revenue just to pay interest. And at that point they were finished. They defaulted that year.

This is a common story throughout history.

The French government saw a meteoric rise in their debt throughout the late 1700s. By 1788, on the eve of the French Revolution, they spent 62% of their tax revenue to pay interest on the debt.

Charles I of Spain had so much debt that by 1559, interest payments exceeded ordinary revenue of the Habsburg monarchy. Spain defaulted four times on its debt before the end of the century.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that an unsustainable debt burden soundly tolls the death knell of a nation’s economy, and its government.

Unfortunately, it can sometimes take a rocket scientist to figure out what the real numbers are; governments have a vested interest in not being transparent about their debts and interest payments.

In the Land of the Free, for example, the government routinely doesn’t count interest payments that they make to the Social Security Trust Fund.

They’ve managed to convince people that those debts don’t matter ‘because we owe it to ourselves.’

Apparently in their minds, solemn promises made to retirees simply don’t count.

It’s like a person who is in debt up to his eyeballs with both credit card companies and family members has no compunction about stiffing Grandpa.

Obligations are obligations, no matter who they’re owed to.

Taking this into account, total US interest payments in Fiscal Year 2013 were a whopping $415 billion, roughly 17% of total tax revenue. Just like the Ottoman Empire was at in 1868.

Here’s the thing, though– it’s inappropriate to look at total tax revenue when we’re talking about making interest payments.

The IRS collected $2.49 trillion in taxes last year (net of refunds). But of this amount, $891 billion was from payroll tax.

According to FICA and the Social Security Act of 1935, however, this amount is tied directly to funding Social Security and Medicare. It is not to be used for interest payments.

Based on this data, the amount of tax revenue that the US government had available to pay for its operations was $1.599 trillion in FY2013.

This means they actually spent approximately 26% of their available tax revenue just to pay interest last year… a much higher number than 17%.

This is an unbelievable figure. The only thing more unbelievable is how masterfully they understate reality… and the level of deception they employ to conceal the truth.

Bit Tooth Energy: Tech Talk – Natural Gas, China and Russia in the post-Crimea time.

Bit Tooth Energy: Tech Talk – Natural Gas, China and Russia in the post-Crimea time..


The recent takeover of Crimea by Russia has given China a strengthened hand as it continues to negotiate with Gazprom over the supplies of natural gas for the next few years.

It was not that long ago that Gazprom was riding high around the world, as it supplied large quantities of its own and Turkmen gas to Europe, and was negotiating to sell more into China and Asia in general. Then Turkmenistan and China arranged their own deal, and with the construction of a direct pipeline between the two countries, suddenly the market was no longer running entirely Gazprom’s way. They could no longer mandate that Turkmenistan take the price that they offered at the time that Russia controlled all the pipelines that carried the gas to market. And with that change, and the changing natural gas market, so Gazprom’s fortunes have started to teeter.

At the same time the anticipated Russian market in the United States, which would have been supplied from newly developed Russian Artic reserves such as those in the Shtokman field are no longer needed, as the American shale gases have come onto the market in increasing quantities. The world has, in short, become a somewhat less favorable place for Gazprom and the Chinese have hesitated to commit to a further order of natural gas, in part because they anticipate getting a better deal for the fuel than Gazprom would like them to pay.

Russia would like, and is anticipating, that the deal for some 38 billion cubic meters/year of natural gas, starting in 2018 will be signed when President Putin visits China in May. (In context Russia, which supplies about 26% of European natural gas, sends them around 162 bcm per year). Negotiations over the sale of the gas have dragged on for years, having first started in 2004 but the major disagreement continues to be over price. At a time when Norway is seeing a peak in production and Qatar is moving more of its sales to Asia, Russia had seen an increase in European sales, and has been able to move that gas at a price of $387 per 1,000 cubic meters (or $10.54 per kcf/MMBtu. The price of such gas in the US is quite a bit cheaper.

Figure 1. Natural gas prices in the United States. (EIA )

Russia would like to get a price of around $400 per kcm ($10.89 per kcf) with the slight extra going to pay for the pipeline and delivery costs. Whether the two countries can come to an agreement on the price may well now depend on how vulnerable Russia really is to any pressure on its markets from other sources of natural gas. Japan, for example, is now considering re-opening its nuclear power stations, as the costs for imported fuel are having significant consequences on their attempts at economic growth.

Similarly there is talk that the United States may become a significant player on the world stage by exporting LNG as it moves into greater surplus at home, thereby providing another threat to Russian sales. Part of the problem with that idea comes from the costs of producing the gas, relative to the existing price being obtained for it, and part on the amount of natural gas viably available. Consider that, at present, some of the earlier shale gas fields, such as the Barnett, Fayetteville and Haynesville are showing signs of having peaked.

Figure 2. Monthly natural gas production from shale fields (EIA)

While production from the Marcellus continues to rise, there is some question as to whether the Eagle Ford is reaching peak productionalthough that discussion, at the moment relates more to oil production. However given that it is the liquid portion of the production that is the more profitable this still drives the question.

And in this regard, the rising costs of wells, against the more difficult to assure profits is beginning to have an impact on the willingness of companies in the United States to invest the large quantities of capital into new wells that is needed to sustain and grow production. A recent article in Rigzone took note that the major oil companies are rethinking their strategies of investment, with some reorganization of their plans in particular for investment in shale fields. This raises a question for the author:

Another question for the industry is who will supply the risk capital for exploratory drilling, both on and offshore, if the majors pull back their spending? Onshore, for the past few years, a chunk of that capital has been supplied by private equity investors who have supported exploration and production teams in start-up ventures. They have also provided additional capital to existing companies allowing them to purchase acreage or companies to improve their prospect inventory. Unfortunately, the results of the shale revolution have been disappointing, leading to significant asset impairment charges and negative cash flows as the spending to drill new wells in order to gain and hold leases has exceeded production revenues, given the drop in domestic natural gas prices. Will that capital continue to be available, or will it, too, begin demanding profits rather than reserve additions and production growth?

Before investors put up the money for new LNG plants they need to be assured that there will be a financial return for that investment. Given that it takes time for such a market to evolve, and given the need that Russia has to sustain its market and potentially to increase it, the volumes that the US might put into play are likely to be small, with little other than political impact likely.

If Russia recognizes this, and feels relatively confident that Europe must continue to buy natural gas from Gazprom, particularly with the current move by Europe away from other sources of fuel such as coal, then they are likely to be more resistant to bringing the price down for their Chinese customers. On the other hand if China thinks that it might be able to get a better deal from Iran, were sanctions to ease, or from other MENA countries, then – thinking perhaps that Russia needs the sale more – they might toughen their position and the price debate may continue.

It will be interesting to see if it resolves within the next few weeks, and if so, at what a price.

Ukraine Only Has Enough Gasoline For A Month | Zero Hedge

Ukraine Only Has Enough Gasoline For A Month | Zero Hedge.

Nothing to see here, move along. While it appears the Russians are willing to pay the price of modest sanctions from the west to ‘liberate’ their fellow countrymen, the fallout from further tension with Ukraine could “boomerang” once again on the divided nation. As RBC Ukraine reports, the Minister of Energy and Coal Industry Yuriy Prodan said at a press conference today that “oil reserves will last for 28-29 days” in Ukraine. After that, the negotiation begins as Ukraine already owes billions for previously delivered gas – as Ukraine’s storage levels more than halved in the last 3 months.

Via RBC Ukraine,

Stocks of petroleum products in Ukraine will last for 28-29 days, said at today’s press conference, the Minister of Energy and Coal Industry Yuriy Prodan.

Speaking on the situation with oil, then ensure there is quite stable. Today oil reserves will last for 28-29 days,” – he said, the ” RBC-Ukraine . ”

At the same time, the Minister noted the significant risk reduction in the supply and rising gas prices. As of March 25, 2014 in Ukrainian underground gas storage facilities located 7 billion cubic meters of gas.

“Up there can be about 2 billion is not the quantity that scares experts, it would be possible to hold only a week. It all depends on what kind of regime will be whether we can take about 20 million cubic meters. Meters of gas to reverse and so on “- said Prodan.

According to the company “Ukrtransgaz” abnormally warm winter 2013 2014. has reduced gas extraction from underground storage by an average of 37% compared to the same period last year: it was 60 million cubic meters per day.

In late December 2013. occupied at the time the post of Minister of Energy and Coal Industry of Edward Stawicki reported that Ukrainian gas reserves in underground storage is 16.5 billion cubic meters.

We suspect any further military intervention will only crimp this supply even faster.

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