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Cuba prepares for Venezuela energy disruptions | StratRisks

Cuba prepares for Venezuela energy disruptions | StratRisks.

Source: Miami Herald
Cuba prepares for Venezuela disruptions

As political violence in Venezuela rolls on, Cubans say they are hearing reports that Havana is making energy or military preparations for a possible disruption of its tight alliance with the South American nation.

Cuba’s stagnant economy depends overwhelmingly on Venezuelan subsidies estimated at well over $6 billion a year — even more than the former Soviet Union once provided to the Caribbean island.

“If something ugly happens in Venezuela, we are fried like in the Special Period,” said Havana teacher Yadiel Ramirez.

The end of Soviet subsidies in 1991 plunged Cuba into a brutal crisis, shrinking the economy by 33 percent and sparking widespread hunger.

Former top Cuban government economist Jesús “Marzo” Fernandez said close Cuban friends working in Venezuela for that country’s state-owned PDVSA oil company have told him Havana has prepared for a sudden stop in Venezuelan oil imports.

The friends said all oil storage facilities on the island, including those set aside for military, government and strategic reserves, were full to the top as of March 4, Fernandez said. Caracas sends Cuba abour 115,000 barrels per day, two-thirds of its consumption.

“They are preparing? No. They are prepared,” added Fernandez, who now lives in Miami. “They won’t be surprised. The Cubans work with a long-distance view.”

Most analysts remain skeptical of claims by the Venezuelan opposition of Cuban troops arriving in the country in recent weeks to defend President Nicolas Maduro and quell the anti-government protests that have left 25 dead and more than 300 injured.

Opposition activists have published long-distance photos of unidentified soldiers landing in a military airport, and reports of people with Cuban accents beating up anti-Maduro protesters.

Read More @ Source

Fossil Fuel and High Energy Burn Uses | The Energy Collective

Fossil Fuel and High Energy Burn Uses | The Energy Collective.

Posted March 11, 2014

Fossil fuels and energy density

There are few more remarkable machines than a Boeing 747. Four hundred people can be hurled half way across the planet with levels of comfort, efficiency and reliability that would have been deemed miraculous by those living a few centuries ago. A vision of the incredible technical proficiency humanity has gained since the Industrial Revolution, the Boeing 747 is also a remarkably potent symbol of what we can achieve with fossil fuels, and what we currently cannot achieve with their low carbon alternatives.

The Boeing 747: a vision of high power density

The impossibility of solar powered aviation

Last year an adventuring Swiss team managed to fly across the United States in a solar powered plane. This feat, which took a leisurely two months, was described by some as a symbol of what can be achieved with solar energy, a rather curious inversion of reality. It is a symbol of exactly the opposite.

Could commercial flight ever be powered by solar panels? The answer is an obvious no, and any engineer who suggests it is yes is likely to find themselves unemployed. However considering why the answer is no is illustrative of the multiple challenges faced by a transition to renewable sources of energy, which is principally a transition from high density fuels to diffuse energy sources.

So, why can a Boeing 747 not be powered by solar panels?

I will now reach for the back of an envelope and compare the energy consumption of a Boeing 747 with what you could possibly get from a solar powered plane. This calculation will tell us all we need to know about solar powered flight.

Mid-flight a Boeing 747 uses around 4 litres of jet fuel per second. Therefore given the energy density of jet fuel, approximately 35 MJ/litre, a Boeing 747 consumes energy at a rate of around 140 MW (million watts).

We can then convert this rate of energy consumption into power density, that is the rate of energy consumption per square metre. Typically this is measured in watts per square metre (W/m2 ). A Boeing 747 is 70 by 65 metres. So the power density over this 70 by 65 metre square is approximately 30,000 W/m2, and of course the power density over the surface area of the plane will be a few times higher, over 100,000 W/m2.

What can be delivered by solar energy? Solar panels essentially convert solar radiation into electricity, and average solar irradiance is no higher than 300 W/m2 on the planet. In the middle of the day this can be perhaps 4 or 5 times higher than the average. However solar panels are typically less than 20% efficient. So sticking solar panels on the roof of a Boeing 747 is unlikely to provide anything close to 1% of the flight’s energy consumption. Perhaps they can power the in-flight movie.

The power density of a Boeing 747 can further be compared with that of a wind farm.

140 MW. How big would a wind farm need to be to provide this in electricity on average? Probably bigger than Europe’s largest onshore wind farm.

Whitelee Wind Farm, outside Glasgow in Scotland, is a 140 turbine wind farm covering 55 square kilometres. It has a rated capacity of 322 MW, and given its average capacity factor of 23%, it has an average output of around 75 MW, almost two times lower than the rate of energy consumption of a Boeing 747. (Of course chemical and electrical energy are not strictly speaking completely comparable, but when I am trying to illustrate here is the orders of magnitude differences in power density.)

The obvious lesson here is that fossil fuels can deliver power densities orders of magnitude higher than wind or solar. And mobile sources of energy consumption such as Boeing 747s require power density at a level that is physically impossible from direct provision of wind or solar.

The limits of batteries

Perhaps we could store low carbon energy in batteries and use them to power planes. Here we move from the problem of low power density to the problem of low energy density. Despite one hundred years of technical progress batteries still offer very poor energy density compared with fossil fuels.

Consider the lithium-ion batteries that power that excessively hyped luxury car the Tesla S. They offer up just over 130 Wh/kg according to Tesla.  So in conventional scientific units they provide an energy density of below 0.5 MJ/kg. In contrast jet fuel provides over 40 MJ/kg. This is a two order of magnitude difference.

Again, reaching for the back of an envelope. A fully loaded Boeing 747 weighs around 400 tonnes at take off, with around 200 tonnes of fuel. The Tesla lithium-ion batteries that could store the same amount of energy would weigh as much as about fifty Boeing 747s.

Lithium-oxygen batteries perhaps could reach close to 4 MJ/kg, an order of magnitude lower than jet fuel, after a couple of decades of future technical progress, according to a recent report in Nature.

So, this is where we are with batteries: a couple of decades from now they might reach energy densities of only 10% of that provided by the best fossil fuels. Clearly a solar energy and battery powered world has its limits.

Aviation’s limited and unpromising low carbon options

Put simply getting a Boeing 747 off the ground requires the provision of high energy dense fuels. This clearly cannot be done with direct provision of renewable electricity, or by storing it in batteries. Nuclear energy is capable of providing extremely high power density, but try powering a plane with a nuclear reactor (or even more importantly try getting a few hundred people to sit in a nuclear powered plane).

There appear to only be two half-plausible low carbon options. The first is the use of biofuels. The second is the use of low carbon electricity to generate synthetic hydro-carbon fuel, so called renewable fuels. Neither of these options is particularly promising.

A growing consensus indicates that current biofuels offer little benefit either economically or environmentally. We have converted large amounts of cropland over to biofuel plantation, all so that we can burn a fuel that an increasing amount of scientific evidence indicates is not reducing carbon emissions. From an environmental and humanitarian perspective this has become indefensible.

Few people realise how dreadful the land use impacts of biofuels are. Consider this: 6% of Germany is used to produce liquid biofuels, yet they only provide around 1% of German energy consumption. Can you imagine a less efficient use of land? Next generation biofuels appear to offer more of the same. The fundamental problem of bio-energy’s low power density cannot be overcome any-time soon.

The only prospect for biofuel production that is actually low carbon and does not have a significant land use impact is to use synthetic biology and genetic engineering to radically alter plants so that they are far more photosynthetically efficient. However the results to date of the research by Craig Venter’s team suggest that this will be the work of a generation, and perhaps generations, of geneticists.

Renewable synthetic fuels are similarly many decades from being an economic reality, if they ever will be. In essence the idea is that you use renewable (or if you prefer nuclear) electricity to convert carbon dioxide into a hydro-carbon based fuel, such as methane or methanol.

However for this to be half-economical, there are no shortage of problems to be overcome. First we need to figure out a way to suck carbon dioxide out of the air on a billion tonne scale. This is obviously not going to happen tomorrow. The cost of this renewable fuel is also guaranteed to be at least two times more expensive than renewable electricity, because of the efficiencies of the conversion process. In other words you will pay for 1 kWh of renewable electricity and get less than 0.5 kWh of renewable fuel out the other end. These scale and cost barriers will be incredibly difficult to overcome, and will likely require either a drastic reduction in the cost of low carbon electricity, or increase in the price of oil.

Renewable fuels then don’t seem to be very promising, on a one or perhaps two generation timescale, as a replacement for jet fuel. This did not stop the German Environment Agency from recently putting forward a scenario where Germany can completely move away from fossil fuels by 2050, which depended heavily on renewable fuels. How heavily? Well, Germany would be sucking around 200 million tonnes of carbon dioxide out of the air by 2050 in this supposedly “technically achievable” future.

I will realise this is all rather pessmistic, but things are what they are. So I will close with a prediction. Aviation will still be powered by fossil fuels by the middle of the century, but this is put forward in the hope that someone proves me wrong.

Authored by:

Robert Wilson

Robert Wilson is a PhD Student in Mathematical Ecology at the University of Strathclyde.

His secondary interests are in energy and sustainability, and writes on these issues at The Energy Collective.
Email: robertwilson190@gmail.com

Fossil Fuel and High Energy Burn Uses | The Energy Collective

Fossil Fuel and High Energy Burn Uses | The Energy Collective.

Posted March 11, 2014

Fossil fuels and energy density

There are few more remarkable machines than a Boeing 747. Four hundred people can be hurled half way across the planet with levels of comfort, efficiency and reliability that would have been deemed miraculous by those living a few centuries ago. A vision of the incredible technical proficiency humanity has gained since the Industrial Revolution, the Boeing 747 is also a remarkably potent symbol of what we can achieve with fossil fuels, and what we currently cannot achieve with their low carbon alternatives.

The Boeing 747: a vision of high power density

The impossibility of solar powered aviation

Last year an adventuring Swiss team managed to fly across the United States in a solar powered plane. This feat, which took a leisurely two months, was described by some as a symbol of what can be achieved with solar energy, a rather curious inversion of reality. It is a symbol of exactly the opposite.

Could commercial flight ever be powered by solar panels? The answer is an obvious no, and any engineer who suggests it is yes is likely to find themselves unemployed. However considering why the answer is no is illustrative of the multiple challenges faced by a transition to renewable sources of energy, which is principally a transition from high density fuels to diffuse energy sources.

So, why can a Boeing 747 not be powered by solar panels?

I will now reach for the back of an envelope and compare the energy consumption of a Boeing 747 with what you could possibly get from a solar powered plane. This calculation will tell us all we need to know about solar powered flight.

Mid-flight a Boeing 747 uses around 4 litres of jet fuel per second. Therefore given the energy density of jet fuel, approximately 35 MJ/litre, a Boeing 747 consumes energy at a rate of around 140 MW (million watts).

We can then convert this rate of energy consumption into power density, that is the rate of energy consumption per square metre. Typically this is measured in watts per square metre (W/m2 ). A Boeing 747 is 70 by 65 metres. So the power density over this 70 by 65 metre square is approximately 30,000 W/m2, and of course the power density over the surface area of the plane will be a few times higher, over 100,000 W/m2.

What can be delivered by solar energy? Solar panels essentially convert solar radiation into electricity, and average solar irradiance is no higher than 300 W/m2 on the planet. In the middle of the day this can be perhaps 4 or 5 times higher than the average. However solar panels are typically less than 20% efficient. So sticking solar panels on the roof of a Boeing 747 is unlikely to provide anything close to 1% of the flight’s energy consumption. Perhaps they can power the in-flight movie.

The power density of a Boeing 747 can further be compared with that of a wind farm.

140 MW. How big would a wind farm need to be to provide this in electricity on average? Probably bigger than Europe’s largest onshore wind farm.

Whitelee Wind Farm, outside Glasgow in Scotland, is a 140 turbine wind farm covering 55 square kilometres. It has a rated capacity of 322 MW, and given its average capacity factor of 23%, it has an average output of around 75 MW, almost two times lower than the rate of energy consumption of a Boeing 747. (Of course chemical and electrical energy are not strictly speaking completely comparable, but when I am trying to illustrate here is the orders of magnitude differences in power density.)

The obvious lesson here is that fossil fuels can deliver power densities orders of magnitude higher than wind or solar. And mobile sources of energy consumption such as Boeing 747s require power density at a level that is physically impossible from direct provision of wind or solar.

The limits of batteries

Perhaps we could store low carbon energy in batteries and use them to power planes. Here we move from the problem of low power density to the problem of low energy density. Despite one hundred years of technical progress batteries still offer very poor energy density compared with fossil fuels.

Consider the lithium-ion batteries that power that excessively hyped luxury car the Tesla S. They offer up just over 130 Wh/kg according to Tesla.  So in conventional scientific units they provide an energy density of below 0.5 MJ/kg. In contrast jet fuel provides over 40 MJ/kg. This is a two order of magnitude difference.

Again, reaching for the back of an envelope. A fully loaded Boeing 747 weighs around 400 tonnes at take off, with around 200 tonnes of fuel. The Tesla lithium-ion batteries that could store the same amount of energy would weigh as much as about fifty Boeing 747s.

Lithium-oxygen batteries perhaps could reach close to 4 MJ/kg, an order of magnitude lower than jet fuel, after a couple of decades of future technical progress, according to a recent report in Nature.

So, this is where we are with batteries: a couple of decades from now they might reach energy densities of only 10% of that provided by the best fossil fuels. Clearly a solar energy and battery powered world has its limits.

Aviation’s limited and unpromising low carbon options

Put simply getting a Boeing 747 off the ground requires the provision of high energy dense fuels. This clearly cannot be done with direct provision of renewable electricity, or by storing it in batteries. Nuclear energy is capable of providing extremely high power density, but try powering a plane with a nuclear reactor (or even more importantly try getting a few hundred people to sit in a nuclear powered plane).

There appear to only be two half-plausible low carbon options. The first is the use of biofuels. The second is the use of low carbon electricity to generate synthetic hydro-carbon fuel, so called renewable fuels. Neither of these options is particularly promising.

A growing consensus indicates that current biofuels offer little benefit either economically or environmentally. We have converted large amounts of cropland over to biofuel plantation, all so that we can burn a fuel that an increasing amount of scientific evidence indicates is not reducing carbon emissions. From an environmental and humanitarian perspective this has become indefensible.

Few people realise how dreadful the land use impacts of biofuels are. Consider this: 6% of Germany is used to produce liquid biofuels, yet they only provide around 1% of German energy consumption. Can you imagine a less efficient use of land? Next generation biofuels appear to offer more of the same. The fundamental problem of bio-energy’s low power density cannot be overcome any-time soon.

The only prospect for biofuel production that is actually low carbon and does not have a significant land use impact is to use synthetic biology and genetic engineering to radically alter plants so that they are far more photosynthetically efficient. However the results to date of the research by Craig Venter’s team suggest that this will be the work of a generation, and perhaps generations, of geneticists.

Renewable synthetic fuels are similarly many decades from being an economic reality, if they ever will be. In essence the idea is that you use renewable (or if you prefer nuclear) electricity to convert carbon dioxide into a hydro-carbon based fuel, such as methane or methanol.

However for this to be half-economical, there are no shortage of problems to be overcome. First we need to figure out a way to suck carbon dioxide out of the air on a billion tonne scale. This is obviously not going to happen tomorrow. The cost of this renewable fuel is also guaranteed to be at least two times more expensive than renewable electricity, because of the efficiencies of the conversion process. In other words you will pay for 1 kWh of renewable electricity and get less than 0.5 kWh of renewable fuel out the other end. These scale and cost barriers will be incredibly difficult to overcome, and will likely require either a drastic reduction in the cost of low carbon electricity, or increase in the price of oil.

Renewable fuels then don’t seem to be very promising, on a one or perhaps two generation timescale, as a replacement for jet fuel. This did not stop the German Environment Agency from recently putting forward a scenario where Germany can completely move away from fossil fuels by 2050, which depended heavily on renewable fuels. How heavily? Well, Germany would be sucking around 200 million tonnes of carbon dioxide out of the air by 2050 in this supposedly “technically achievable” future.

I will realise this is all rather pessmistic, but things are what they are. So I will close with a prediction. Aviation will still be powered by fossil fuels by the middle of the century, but this is put forward in the hope that someone proves me wrong.

Authored by:

Robert Wilson

Robert Wilson is a PhD Student in Mathematical Ecology at the University of Strathclyde.

His secondary interests are in energy and sustainability, and writes on these issues at The Energy Collective.
Email: robertwilson190@gmail.com

Richard Heinberg: Why The Oil ‘Revolution’ Story Is Dead Wrong | Peak Prosperity

Richard Heinberg: Why The Oil ‘Revolution’ Story Is Dead Wrong | Peak Prosperity.

Bruce Rolff/Shutterstock

Richard Heinberg: The Oil ‘Revolution’ Story Is Dead Wrong

The data tell a vastly different tale than the media
by Adam Taggart
Sunday, March 9, 2014, 1:45 PM

With all the grandiosity of the media headlines touting our destiny as the new “Saudi America”, many pundits have been quick to pronounce Peak Oil dead.

Here at PeakProsperity.com, one of the most frequent questions we’ve received over the past two years is: will the increased production from new “tight” oil sources indeed solve our liquid fuels emergency?

Not at all, say Chris and this week’s podcast guest, Richard Heinberg. Both are fellows at the Post Carbon Institute, and you are about to hear one of the most important and most lucid deconstructions of the false promise of American energy independence:

I recently went back and reread the first edition of The Party’s Over because it was the tenth year anniversary. And I was actually a little surprised to see what it really says. My forecasts in The Party’s Over were really based on the work of two veteran petroleum geologists—Colin Campbell and Jean Laherrère. So they were saying back before 2003, because it published in 2003, so it was actually written in 2001 and 2002. So they were saying back in 2000 and 2001 that we would see a peak in conventional oil around 2005—check—that that would cause oil prices to bump higher—check—which would cause a slowdown in economic growth—check. But it would also incentivize production of unconventional oil in various forms—check—which would then peak around 2015, which is basically almost where we are right now and all the signs are suggesting that that is going to be a check-off, too. So amazing enough, these two guys got it perfectly correct fifteen years ago.

The big news right now is that the industry needs prices higher than the economy will allow, as you just outlined. So we are seeing the major oil companies cutting back on capital expenditure in upstream projects, which will undoubtedly have an impact a year or two down the line in terms of lower oil production. That is why I think that Campbell and Laherrère were right on in saying 2015, 2016 maybe, we will also start to see the rapid increase of production from the Bakken and the Eagle Ford here in the US start to flatten out. And probably within a year or two after that, we will see a commencement of a rapid decline.

So you know, on a net basis, taking all those things into account, I think we are probably pretty likely to see global oil production start to head south in the next year or two.

But this change in capital expenditure by the majors, that is a new story. You know, just a couple of years ago, they needed oil prices around $100 a barrel in order to justify upstream investments. That is no longer true. Now they need something like $120 a barrel but the economy cannot stand prices that high. So you know, if the price starts to go up a little bit, then demand just falls back. People start driving less. And so the economy is unable to deliver oil prices to the industry that the industry needs. I think Gail Tverberg is saying this is the beginning of the end. I think she’s right.

If we [continue along with our current policies and dependence on petroleum] then everything will eventually change — as a result of the economy coming apart, the debt bubble bursts, you know, agriculture declines because of the expense of oil and because of depletion of topsoil and because you cannot trust the weather anymore. And we have a very dystopian future if we do not do anything.

So it has never been more important for the average person to understand energy issues than it is right now. But I doubt if there has ever been a time when energy issues have been so deliberately confused by the people who should be explaining it to us.

Click the play button below to listen to Chris’ interview with Richard Heinberg (49m:43s):

TRANSCRIPT

Chris Martenson: Welcome to this Peak Prosperity podcast. I am your host, Chris Martenson, and today, I am really excited to introduce a man who needs no introduction, Richard Heinberg, author, educator, speaker, writer now of eleven books including Party’s Over, the one that got me started on the peak oil story, The End of Growth, and Snake Oil: How Fracking’s False Promise of Plenty Imperils Our Future.

Richard Heinberg: Try say that fast five times.

Chris Martenson: [Laugh] I did, and that is the best I could do [laughter]. Welcome, Richard.

Richard Heinberg: Good to be with you, … read more

SHARE

ABOUT THE GUEST

Richard Heinberg
Richard is a Senior Fellow of thePost Carbon Institute and is widely regarded as one of the world’s foremost Peak Oil educators. He has authored scores of essays and articles that have appeared in such journals as Nature, The American Prospect, Public Policy Research, Quarterly Review, The Ecologist, Resurgence, The Futurist, European Business Review, Earth Island Journal, Yes!, and The Sun; and on web sites such as Resilience.org, TheOilDrum.com, Alternet.org, ProjectCensored.com, and Counterpunch.com.
He has been quoted in Time Magazine and has spoken to hundreds of audiences in 14 countries, including members of the European Parliament. He has appeared in many film and television documentaries, including Leonardo DiCaprio’s 11th Hour, is a recipient of the M. King Hubbert Award for Excellence in Energy Education, and in 2012 was appointed to His Majesty the King of Bhutan’s International Expert Working Group for the New Development Paradigm initiative.
Richard’s animations Don’t Worry, Drive OnWho Killed Economic Growth? and 300 Years of Fossil Fuels in 300 Minutes (winner of a YouTubes’s/DoGooder Video of the Year Award) have been viewed by 1.5 million people .
Since 2002, he has delivered more than five hundred lectures to a wide variety of audiences—from insurance executives to peace activists, from local and national elected officials to Jesuit volunteers.
He lives in northern California with his wife and is an avid violin player.

Richard Heinberg: Why The Oil 'Revolution' Story Is Dead Wrong | Peak Prosperity

Richard Heinberg: Why The Oil ‘Revolution’ Story Is Dead Wrong | Peak Prosperity.

Bruce Rolff/Shutterstock

Richard Heinberg: The Oil ‘Revolution’ Story Is Dead Wrong

The data tell a vastly different tale than the media
by Adam Taggart
Sunday, March 9, 2014, 1:45 PM

With all the grandiosity of the media headlines touting our destiny as the new “Saudi America”, many pundits have been quick to pronounce Peak Oil dead.

Here at PeakProsperity.com, one of the most frequent questions we’ve received over the past two years is: will the increased production from new “tight” oil sources indeed solve our liquid fuels emergency?

Not at all, say Chris and this week’s podcast guest, Richard Heinberg. Both are fellows at the Post Carbon Institute, and you are about to hear one of the most important and most lucid deconstructions of the false promise of American energy independence:

I recently went back and reread the first edition of The Party’s Over because it was the tenth year anniversary. And I was actually a little surprised to see what it really says. My forecasts in The Party’s Over were really based on the work of two veteran petroleum geologists—Colin Campbell and Jean Laherrère. So they were saying back before 2003, because it published in 2003, so it was actually written in 2001 and 2002. So they were saying back in 2000 and 2001 that we would see a peak in conventional oil around 2005—check—that that would cause oil prices to bump higher—check—which would cause a slowdown in economic growth—check. But it would also incentivize production of unconventional oil in various forms—check—which would then peak around 2015, which is basically almost where we are right now and all the signs are suggesting that that is going to be a check-off, too. So amazing enough, these two guys got it perfectly correct fifteen years ago.

The big news right now is that the industry needs prices higher than the economy will allow, as you just outlined. So we are seeing the major oil companies cutting back on capital expenditure in upstream projects, which will undoubtedly have an impact a year or two down the line in terms of lower oil production. That is why I think that Campbell and Laherrère were right on in saying 2015, 2016 maybe, we will also start to see the rapid increase of production from the Bakken and the Eagle Ford here in the US start to flatten out. And probably within a year or two after that, we will see a commencement of a rapid decline.

So you know, on a net basis, taking all those things into account, I think we are probably pretty likely to see global oil production start to head south in the next year or two.

But this change in capital expenditure by the majors, that is a new story. You know, just a couple of years ago, they needed oil prices around $100 a barrel in order to justify upstream investments. That is no longer true. Now they need something like $120 a barrel but the economy cannot stand prices that high. So you know, if the price starts to go up a little bit, then demand just falls back. People start driving less. And so the economy is unable to deliver oil prices to the industry that the industry needs. I think Gail Tverberg is saying this is the beginning of the end. I think she’s right.

If we [continue along with our current policies and dependence on petroleum] then everything will eventually change — as a result of the economy coming apart, the debt bubble bursts, you know, agriculture declines because of the expense of oil and because of depletion of topsoil and because you cannot trust the weather anymore. And we have a very dystopian future if we do not do anything.

So it has never been more important for the average person to understand energy issues than it is right now. But I doubt if there has ever been a time when energy issues have been so deliberately confused by the people who should be explaining it to us.

Click the play button below to listen to Chris’ interview with Richard Heinberg (49m:43s):

TRANSCRIPT

Chris Martenson: Welcome to this Peak Prosperity podcast. I am your host, Chris Martenson, and today, I am really excited to introduce a man who needs no introduction, Richard Heinberg, author, educator, speaker, writer now of eleven books including Party’s Over, the one that got me started on the peak oil story, The End of Growth, and Snake Oil: How Fracking’s False Promise of Plenty Imperils Our Future.

Richard Heinberg: Try say that fast five times.

Chris Martenson: [Laugh] I did, and that is the best I could do [laughter]. Welcome, Richard.

Richard Heinberg: Good to be with you, … read more

SHARE

ABOUT THE GUEST

Richard Heinberg
Richard is a Senior Fellow of thePost Carbon Institute and is widely regarded as one of the world’s foremost Peak Oil educators. He has authored scores of essays and articles that have appeared in such journals as Nature, The American Prospect, Public Policy Research, Quarterly Review, The Ecologist, Resurgence, The Futurist, European Business Review, Earth Island Journal, Yes!, and The Sun; and on web sites such as Resilience.org, TheOilDrum.com, Alternet.org, ProjectCensored.com, and Counterpunch.com.
He has been quoted in Time Magazine and has spoken to hundreds of audiences in 14 countries, including members of the European Parliament. He has appeared in many film and television documentaries, including Leonardo DiCaprio’s 11th Hour, is a recipient of the M. King Hubbert Award for Excellence in Energy Education, and in 2012 was appointed to His Majesty the King of Bhutan’s International Expert Working Group for the New Development Paradigm initiative.
Richard’s animations Don’t Worry, Drive OnWho Killed Economic Growth? and 300 Years of Fossil Fuels in 300 Minutes (winner of a YouTubes’s/DoGooder Video of the Year Award) have been viewed by 1.5 million people .
Since 2002, he has delivered more than five hundred lectures to a wide variety of audiences—from insurance executives to peace activists, from local and national elected officials to Jesuit volunteers.
He lives in northern California with his wife and is an avid violin player.

18% of global population lack access to electricity

18% of global population lack access to electricity.

2014 marks the start of the United Nations Decade of Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL), the international effort to bring modern and sustainable energy to everyone on the planet. IEA data collected over more than a decade have been vital to the push already, establishing the size of the problem and helping determine the resources necessary to allow every woman, man and child to benefit from the security and convenience that most already take for granted.

 

In the latest edition of its annual flagship publication, World Energy Outlook (WEO), the IEA provides the most recent estimate: nearly 1.3 billion people, or 18% of the world population, lacked access to electricity in 2011. While the number of those without electricity declined by 9 million from the previous year, the global population increased by about 76 million in 2011, according to the United Nations estimates, to top 7 billion.

 

And the modest decline in those lacking electricity obscured the fact that energy poverty either stagnated or worsened in some countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, as population growth outpaced energy access efforts. More than 95% of people without access to electricity live in sub-Saharan Africa or developing Asia. Over two-thirds of the population in sub-Saharan Africa had no modern energy in 2011, and the number of people without electricity access there will soon overtake the total in developing Asia. Among the far more numerous people in developing Asia, 17% did not have access to electricity in 2011.

 

As a special focus within its World Energy Outlook 2014 series, the IEA is conducting its most comprehensive analytical study to date of the energy outlook for Africa. Among other topics, the report will examine which policies, investments and infrastructure are required to expand access to reliable and affordable electricity supply on the continent.

 

Modern energy: vital to many development goals

 

The new push by the United Nations for universal access is part of the growing recognition, highlighted in the WEO, that modern energy is crucial to achieving a range of social and economic goals relating to poverty, health, education, equality and environmental sustainability. About 80 developing countries have signed up to the SE4All initiative, including many with the largest populations of those lacking access to modern energy. In addition, IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven is among the leaders who serve on the Advisory Board to the SE4All initiative.

 

The IEA joined with the World Bank to lead a project to create the Global Tracking Framework last year. That tool calculates the starting point to benchmark SE4All progress towards its 2030 objectives of achieving universal access to modern energy services while also doubling both the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency and the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix. The Global Tracking Framework published 2010 data for all of these objectives and has helped decision makers fully appreciate the scale of action that needs to be taken to meet the 2030 goals.

 

The latest WEO includes more recent and detailed data, highlighting areas of improvement. More people gained access to electricity in Bangladesh, Cameroon, Ghana, Indonesia, Mozambique, South Africa and Sri Lanka in 2011. India remained the country with the largest number of people without access to electricity, at 306 million, or a quarter of the population.

 

The previous edition of the WEO found that nearly USD 1 trillion in cumulative investment would bring universal access by 2030. That equates to USD 49 billion a year – or about five times what was being invested in 2009.

 

Under its central projections, the WEO shows a decline of more than 20% in the number of people without access to electricity by 2030, but that would still leave 12% of the world population without modern energy. The projections see the total number of people without electricity in 2030 falling by nearly half in developing Asia, to 324 million. But it will rise by 8% in sub-Saharan Africa, to 645 million.

 

The best news is that the current trajectory is expected to result in universal access in China, Latin America and the Middle East by 2030. Brazil, with its successful “Luz para Todos” (Light for All) programme, expects full access within a few years. Besides continued economic growth and urbanisation, which are general trends that support efforts to improve electricity access in emerging countries, there are specific programmes like the Power Africa initiative, which channel financing and technical expertise to assist national electrification plans.

 

Clean cooking and heating facilities

 

Access to electricity is not the only focus of IEA analysis of energy poverty. The WEO tracks the number of people who do not have clean cooking facilities, a far larger share of the global population at 38%. These 2.6 billion people rely on traditional biomass, usually wood, and their ranks increased by 54 million in 2011, as population growth outstripped improvements in providing better equipment. A further 200 million to 300 million people rely on coal for household cooking and heating.  Recent studies find that the household pollution from use of solid fuels kills 3.5 million people each year, and 4 million when the pollution’s effect on outdoor air is considered.

 

The WEO central projections see less of an improvement by 2030 in both the number and share of people cooking and heating with traditional biomass compared with those connecting to modern energy. The number without clean cooking facilities will shrink by less than 120 million people, to 30% of the population. While nearly 200 million Chinese will stop using traditional biomass, almost the same number more will be using it in sub-Saharan Africa. IEA

 

 

Are You Crazy To Continue Believing In Collapse?: James Howards Kunstler | Peak Prosperity

Are You Crazy To Continue Believing In Collapse?: James Howards Kunstler | Peak Prosperity.

BLOG

Sandra Cunningham/Shutterstock

Are You Crazy To Continue Believing In Collapse?

That it hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean you’re wrong
by James H. Kunstler
Wednesday, March 5, 2014, 4:16 AM

It’s nerve-wracking to live in the historical moment of an epic turning point, especially when the great groaning garbage barge of late industrial civilization doesn’t turn quickly where you know it must, and you are left feeling naked and ashamed with your dark worldview, your careful preparations for a difficult future, and your scornful or tittering relatives reminding you each day what a ninny you are to worry about the tendings of events.

Persevere. There are worse things in this life than not being right exactly on schedule.

Two simple words explain why more robust signs of an economic collapse have hung fire since the tremors of 2008: inertia and fraud. Never in human history has there been such a matrix of complex systems so vast, dense, weighty, and powerful for running everyday life (nor a larger population engaged in it). That much stuff in motion takes a while to slow down. The embodied energy has kept enough of it running to give the appearance of continuity. For instance, agri-biz still sends its amber waves of grain and tankers of corn-syrup to the Pepsico snack-food factories, and the WalMart trucks still faithfully convey the pallets of Cheetos, Fritos, Funyons, and Tostitos from the Pepsico loading dock to the big box aisles of glory. The freeways still hum with traffic even though oil is pricey at $100 a barrel. The lights stay on. The gabble and blabber of Cable TV continues remorselessly in the background of life. All of that is due to inertia. It gives the superficial impression of the old normal carrying on. Things go on until they can’t, in the immortal words of Herb Stein

The fraud is present in the abuse and misrepresentation of official statistics used as metrics in government policy, in the pervasive accounting chicanery of that same government in its fiscal dealings, as well as in our leading financial institutions and corporations, including control fraud in banking, interest rate rigging, mortgage and title fraud, front-running, naked shorting, re-hypothecation, money laundering, pumping-and-dumping, channel stuffing, the endless innovation of swindles, and, most importantly, the fundamental mispricing of the cost of money, which reverberates through everything else, most particularly real estate, stocks, and bonds. Beyond that, in the shadows of the shadowland known as shadow banking, a liminal realm of secrets and intrigues, only a few are privileged to know what is going on, and you can be sure they only know their end of the trade — while immense sums of ever more abstract “money” slosh through the derivative sewers on their way to oblivion in the ocean of failed trust.

So, don’t feel bad if this colossal armature of folly still stands, and have faith that the blinding light of God’s judgment will eventually shine even unto the watery depths where failed trust has sunk. Sooner or later the relationship between reality and truth re-sets to the calculus of what is actually happening.

Meanwhile, the big questions worth reflecting upon are: What is the shape of the future? How might we conduct ourselves in it and on our way to it; and how will we think and feel about all that? It’s very likely that the journey to where we’re going will be rougher than the actual destination, once we get there. There is a hearty consensus outside the mainstream financial media and the thickets of academia that the models we have been using to understand the economy look more broken each month, and this surely adds to the difficulty of constructing our own mental models for how the everyday world of the years ahead will operate.

Some of the commentators in blogville and elsewhere like to blame capitalism. Capitalism is a phantom adversary. It isn’t an economic system. It isn’t an ideology, really, or a belief system. If the word means anything, it describes the behavior of accumulated surplus wealth in concert with the known laws of physics — the movement of energy through time and space — and the choices we make organizing society in relation to that.  The energy is embodied as capital, represented in money for convenience. Interest expresses the cost of money over time and the risks associated with lending it. By the way, interest rates work the same way under all political systems, despite attempts in some societies to criminalize it.

During the high tide of the industrial expansion, when fossil fuels were cheap and we accumulated the greatest wealth surplus ever in history, humanity made some very bad choices, squandering this possibly one-time bonanza. We fought two world wars, and lots of wasteful lesser ones. Russia and its imitators attempted to collectivize wealth under gangster government and only succeeded in impoverishing everyone but the gangsters. America built suburbia and Las Vegas. The one thing that no “modern” culture did was plan for a future when the fossil fuel orgy and the techno-industrial fiesta might wind down, which is exactly the case now. Instead, we opted for the Julian Simon folly of crossing our fingers and hoping that some unnamed band ofgenius wizard innovators would mitigate the problems of resource scarcity and population overshoot just in time.

The demonizers of capitalism propose to remedy our compound predicament by just getting rid of money. But the idea of a human society without money leaves you either up a baobab tree on the paleolithic savannah, or in some sort of Ray Kurzweil techno-narcissistic masturbation fantasy multiverse with no relation to the organic doings on planet earth. I suspect as long as there are human societies there will be things to exchange that have a quality we call “money,” and as long as that’s the case, some individuals will have more of it than others, and they will lend some of their surplus to others on terms. What most people call capitalism was a model of economy derived from a particular transitory moment in history. It seemed to describe reality, but after a while it didn’t because reality changed and it was, finally, just a model. Nothing lasts forever. Boo-hoo, Karl Marx, J.M Keynes, and Paul Krugman.

What’s cracking up first is the complexity and abstraction of our current money operations, sometimes loosely called the financialized economy. If we blame anything for our problems with money, blame our half-baked attempts to mitigate the wind-down of the techno-industrial cavalcade of progress by issuing ersatz surplus wealth in the form of debt — that is, promises to fork over hypothetical not- yet-accumulated wealth at some future date. There are too many promises now, and too few trustworthy promisors, and poor prospects for generating the volumes of wealth as we did in the recent past.

The hidden (or ignored) truth of this quandary expresses itself inevitably in the degenerate culture of the day, the freak show of pornified criminal avarice that the USA has become. It only shows how demoralizing our recent history has been that the collective national attention is focused on such vulgar stupidities as twerking, or the Kanye-Kardashian porno romance, the doings of the Duck Dynasty, and the partying wolves of Wall Street. By slow increments since about the time John F. Kennedy was shot in the head, we’ve become a land where anything goes and nothing matters. The political blame for that can be distributed equally between Boomer progressives (e.g., inventors of political correctness) and the knuckle-dragging “free-market” conservatives (e.g.,money is free speech). The catch is, some things do matter, for instance whether the human race can continue to be civilized in some fashion when the techno-industrial orgy draws to a close.

In Part 2: How Life Will Change, we sort out the new operating principles that will matter more in the future than the trash heap of current cultural norms. The society that emerges from the post-growth economy will surely require a new moral compass, a set of values based on qualities of behavior and things worth caring about — as opposed to coolness, snobbery, menace, or power, the current lodestars of human aspiration.

Click here to access Part 2 of this report (free executive summary; enrollment required for full access).

Are You Crazy To Continue Believing In Collapse?: James Howards Kunstler | Peak Prosperity

Are You Crazy To Continue Believing In Collapse?: James Howards Kunstler | Peak Prosperity.

BLOG

Sandra Cunningham/Shutterstock

Are You Crazy To Continue Believing In Collapse?

That it hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean you’re wrong
by James H. Kunstler
Wednesday, March 5, 2014, 4:16 AM

It’s nerve-wracking to live in the historical moment of an epic turning point, especially when the great groaning garbage barge of late industrial civilization doesn’t turn quickly where you know it must, and you are left feeling naked and ashamed with your dark worldview, your careful preparations for a difficult future, and your scornful or tittering relatives reminding you each day what a ninny you are to worry about the tendings of events.

Persevere. There are worse things in this life than not being right exactly on schedule.

Two simple words explain why more robust signs of an economic collapse have hung fire since the tremors of 2008: inertia and fraud. Never in human history has there been such a matrix of complex systems so vast, dense, weighty, and powerful for running everyday life (nor a larger population engaged in it). That much stuff in motion takes a while to slow down. The embodied energy has kept enough of it running to give the appearance of continuity. For instance, agri-biz still sends its amber waves of grain and tankers of corn-syrup to the Pepsico snack-food factories, and the WalMart trucks still faithfully convey the pallets of Cheetos, Fritos, Funyons, and Tostitos from the Pepsico loading dock to the big box aisles of glory. The freeways still hum with traffic even though oil is pricey at $100 a barrel. The lights stay on. The gabble and blabber of Cable TV continues remorselessly in the background of life. All of that is due to inertia. It gives the superficial impression of the old normal carrying on. Things go on until they can’t, in the immortal words of Herb Stein

The fraud is present in the abuse and misrepresentation of official statistics used as metrics in government policy, in the pervasive accounting chicanery of that same government in its fiscal dealings, as well as in our leading financial institutions and corporations, including control fraud in banking, interest rate rigging, mortgage and title fraud, front-running, naked shorting, re-hypothecation, money laundering, pumping-and-dumping, channel stuffing, the endless innovation of swindles, and, most importantly, the fundamental mispricing of the cost of money, which reverberates through everything else, most particularly real estate, stocks, and bonds. Beyond that, in the shadows of the shadowland known as shadow banking, a liminal realm of secrets and intrigues, only a few are privileged to know what is going on, and you can be sure they only know their end of the trade — while immense sums of ever more abstract “money” slosh through the derivative sewers on their way to oblivion in the ocean of failed trust.

So, don’t feel bad if this colossal armature of folly still stands, and have faith that the blinding light of God’s judgment will eventually shine even unto the watery depths where failed trust has sunk. Sooner or later the relationship between reality and truth re-sets to the calculus of what is actually happening.

Meanwhile, the big questions worth reflecting upon are: What is the shape of the future? How might we conduct ourselves in it and on our way to it; and how will we think and feel about all that? It’s very likely that the journey to where we’re going will be rougher than the actual destination, once we get there. There is a hearty consensus outside the mainstream financial media and the thickets of academia that the models we have been using to understand the economy look more broken each month, and this surely adds to the difficulty of constructing our own mental models for how the everyday world of the years ahead will operate.

Some of the commentators in blogville and elsewhere like to blame capitalism. Capitalism is a phantom adversary. It isn’t an economic system. It isn’t an ideology, really, or a belief system. If the word means anything, it describes the behavior of accumulated surplus wealth in concert with the known laws of physics — the movement of energy through time and space — and the choices we make organizing society in relation to that.  The energy is embodied as capital, represented in money for convenience. Interest expresses the cost of money over time and the risks associated with lending it. By the way, interest rates work the same way under all political systems, despite attempts in some societies to criminalize it.

During the high tide of the industrial expansion, when fossil fuels were cheap and we accumulated the greatest wealth surplus ever in history, humanity made some very bad choices, squandering this possibly one-time bonanza. We fought two world wars, and lots of wasteful lesser ones. Russia and its imitators attempted to collectivize wealth under gangster government and only succeeded in impoverishing everyone but the gangsters. America built suburbia and Las Vegas. The one thing that no “modern” culture did was plan for a future when the fossil fuel orgy and the techno-industrial fiesta might wind down, which is exactly the case now. Instead, we opted for the Julian Simon folly of crossing our fingers and hoping that some unnamed band ofgenius wizard innovators would mitigate the problems of resource scarcity and population overshoot just in time.

The demonizers of capitalism propose to remedy our compound predicament by just getting rid of money. But the idea of a human society without money leaves you either up a baobab tree on the paleolithic savannah, or in some sort of Ray Kurzweil techno-narcissistic masturbation fantasy multiverse with no relation to the organic doings on planet earth. I suspect as long as there are human societies there will be things to exchange that have a quality we call “money,” and as long as that’s the case, some individuals will have more of it than others, and they will lend some of their surplus to others on terms. What most people call capitalism was a model of economy derived from a particular transitory moment in history. It seemed to describe reality, but after a while it didn’t because reality changed and it was, finally, just a model. Nothing lasts forever. Boo-hoo, Karl Marx, J.M Keynes, and Paul Krugman.

What’s cracking up first is the complexity and abstraction of our current money operations, sometimes loosely called the financialized economy. If we blame anything for our problems with money, blame our half-baked attempts to mitigate the wind-down of the techno-industrial cavalcade of progress by issuing ersatz surplus wealth in the form of debt — that is, promises to fork over hypothetical not- yet-accumulated wealth at some future date. There are too many promises now, and too few trustworthy promisors, and poor prospects for generating the volumes of wealth as we did in the recent past.

The hidden (or ignored) truth of this quandary expresses itself inevitably in the degenerate culture of the day, the freak show of pornified criminal avarice that the USA has become. It only shows how demoralizing our recent history has been that the collective national attention is focused on such vulgar stupidities as twerking, or the Kanye-Kardashian porno romance, the doings of the Duck Dynasty, and the partying wolves of Wall Street. By slow increments since about the time John F. Kennedy was shot in the head, we’ve become a land where anything goes and nothing matters. The political blame for that can be distributed equally between Boomer progressives (e.g., inventors of political correctness) and the knuckle-dragging “free-market” conservatives (e.g.,money is free speech). The catch is, some things do matter, for instance whether the human race can continue to be civilized in some fashion when the techno-industrial orgy draws to a close.

In Part 2: How Life Will Change, we sort out the new operating principles that will matter more in the future than the trash heap of current cultural norms. The society that emerges from the post-growth economy will surely require a new moral compass, a set of values based on qualities of behavior and things worth caring about — as opposed to coolness, snobbery, menace, or power, the current lodestars of human aspiration.

Click here to access Part 2 of this report (free executive summary; enrollment required for full access).

EROEI: Economics Without the Money

EROEI: Economics Without the Money.

Chris Mayer

Posted Mar 5, 2014.

“For some years now,” Tim Morgan writes in Life After Growth, “global average EROEIs have been falling, as energy resources have become both smaller and more difficult (meaning energy-costly) to extract.”

You may have heard of this concept called energy return on energy invested (EROEI). It looks at how much energy we expend in relation to how much energy we extract. Some, like Morgan, think this is very important.

Consequently, falling EROEIs have become the basis of a variety of dire forecasts…

Be skeptical of anything that seeks to analyze our economy by taking money out.

In these scenarios, we spend more and more energy just getting energy, and we have less and less for other discretionary items. As Morgan writes, “If EROEI falls materially, our consumerist way of life is over.”

I’m writing to you today to slay this flawed EROEI concept.

I have to say I used to be taken in by this argument. I wrote an issue of my Capital & Crisis newsletter a couple of years back with the headline “Crack This Code: EROEI — Why It Matters Now and What to Do About It.” I included a list of approximate EROEI ratios for various energy sources:

  • 1970s oil and gas discoveries: 30-to-1
  • Current conventional oil and gas discoveries: 20-to-1
  • Oil sands: 5-to-1
  • Nuclear: 4-to-1
  • Photovoltaic: 4-to-1
  • Biofuel: 2-to-1

I noted that such ratios were falling and concluded that a lower mix of EROEI sources means higher prices for many commodities, because “it will take more energy to produce them.”

It means nothing of the kind.

I would like to right my old error and convince you why EROEI is fatally flawed, so you don’t fall for it. I’ll use Morgan as the foil, because he is an articulate and strong proponent of the idea in his new book.

Morgan’s crucial assumption appears on page 5: “The economy is not primarily a matter of money at all. Rather, our economic system is fundamentally a function of surplus energy.”

This is the key to the whole EROEI argument. Morgan repeats it often. And it is completely wrong.

You can’t take money out of the equation! Money is what it’s all about. It is the essence of the economic life. It’s at the center of decision making. As economist Hyman Minsky said, “Money isn’t everything. It is the only thing.”

Be skeptical of anything that seeks to analyze our economy by taking money out. Households and firms make decisions based on money. They certainly don’t use EROEI, nor should they.

When a firm decides to drill a well or not, it does so on the basis of estimated costs and profits. It makes a decision based on some expected return — as measured in money. They are not the same. High-EROEI projects can be losers. Low-EROEI projects can be winners — as measured in profits and return on investment in money terms.

According to Morgan’s logic, you wouldn’t bother generating electricity…

Here is Robin Mills, currently with Manaar Energy (and once a petroleum manager for the Emirates national oil company in Dubai):

“Generating electricity, usually at a thermal conversion efficiency of less than 50% plus transmission losses, has an EROEI of much less than 1, but is still rational and economic because electricity is such a useful form of energy.”

Put another way, the money costs of the inputs are less than the money prices of the outputs. It works because… it’s profitable! People value electricity more than they value the inputs. Looked at through an EROEI lens, though, it doesn’t make sense.

You can build any scary resource scenario you want if you exclude money prices. If, say, falling ore grades were predictive of prices, then we would see continually rising prices for copper and other resources. Clearly, this isn’t the case. But this does not prevent people (usually geologists) from taking these moneyless concepts to make economic forecasts of higher prices.

A general rule of thumb: If it doesn’t take into account money prices, then it isn’t about the real-world economy as it exists today.

That’s my biggest objection to EROEI. But I’m not making a comprehensive case against EROEI here. That would take too long. I won’t get into how EROEI is calculated: there is no agreement and when you think about it, maybe it’s impossible to know with any accuracy worth relying on.

In the end, I think Morgan doesn’t really get modern money. He repeats an old myth about its origins. He doesn’t seem to know why fiat currency has value. (He says money is a “claim on real goods and services,” which only begs the question: Why do people accept dollars in exchange for real goods?) He doesn’t seem to understand the primacy of making a monetary profit in a market economy.

Contrary to Morgan, you can’t take money out and hope to understand the modern economy. You have to study money. And in markets, you have to make a money surplus (a profit) — or you are out of the game before long. I can’t say the same is true for EROEI, which is perhaps the best I can say against it.

You can ignore EROEI, but you can’t ignore money.

Sincerely,

Chris Mayer
for The Daily Reckoning

charles hugh smith-Ukraine: Follow the Energy

charles hugh smith-Ukraine: Follow the Energy.

Ukraine: Follow the Energy   (March 4, 2014)

Scrape away the media sensationalism and geopolitical posturing and it boils down to a simple dynamic: follow the energy.Though many seem to believe that internal politics and geopolitical posturing in Ukraine are definitive dynamics, I tend to think the one that really counts is energy: not only who has it and who needs it, but where the consumers can get it from.

Let’s cut to the chase and declare a partition along long-standing linguistic and loyalty lines a done deal. Let’s also dispense with any notions that either side can impose a military solution in the other’s territory.

Media reports on the weakness of Ukrainian military forces abound (for example,Ukraine Finds Its Forces Are Ill Equipped to Take Crimea Back From Russia), but Russia’s ability to project power and hold territory isn’t so hot, either.

A knowledgeable correspondent submitted these observations:

 

RE: Russian Army. Effective draft evasion is running 80%. Morale is low, training is very poor and poorly funded. The Russian army has also gone through 22 years of near continuous contraction.And this standing army has heavy commitments in the Caucasus and Far East Siberia. Moreover, at least half of these Russian ground troops are short term 12 month conscripts. I don’t think these kids will produce many usable and motivated troops. The low morale recently seen in the Ukrainian Berkut and other police will be multiplied by at least 10x.

Russian speaking Ukrainian bands are rumored to already be crossing the borders into Russia territory. They’re to be ready to sabotage bridges and infrastructure and generally retaliate. Fluent Russian speakers with many years experience of living in Russia. Who can say for sure if this has already happened or is just being threatened? We can say this is a very real danger. These people look just like “Russians.”

And we can also say this threat will seriously complicate Russian rear area security and logistics. And speaking of logistics, the distances in south Ossetia and Abkhazia were very short and the populations were entirely friendly. Neither condition prevails in the Ukraine outside the Crimea.

Supplying moving armored units over hundreds of miles of occupied country is very difficult logistically. The logistics for air assault helicopter units are just as bad. These helo units look mobile but they’re a lot like a yoyo being twirled around your head on the string. They only go fast within a fixed radius anchored by logistics that are about as heavy to move as an armored division’s supply columns. That is years in the 101st Airborne Division talking. The fuel consumption rates are immense. Stuff starts breaking down fast.

Conclusion: a de facto partition is already baked in because neither side can force a re-unification. Various jockeying and posturing will undoubtedly continue for some time, but the basic end-game is already visible: de facto partition.

Let’s move on to correspondent A.C.’s observations about energy.

 

This map rounds out the European energy Rosetta Stone. When they hear that Italian fighter jets are over Tripoli, or that the French Foreign Legion has returned to the deep Sahara Desert, they can can better understand the reasons and real objectives of such operations.

source:

Many have noted that the Russia economy is critically dependent on oil and gas exports to the EU. It should be noted that the converse is less true every day about EU dependence on Russian oil and gas. The Wall Street Journaleven had a line about an EU proposal to push natural gas EAST to the Ukraine. It’s hard to understand that passage or where the natural gas could come from unless one understands the North Africa to southern Europe gas pipelines.

The factors bringing the conflict in Ukraine to a head are:

1. The natural gas discoveries in eastern Poland and western Ukraine played the largest role.

2. The reduced importance of the gas pipeline running through the Ukraine to Europe as compared to 2009. Since that time the Nordstream lines have been finished and Gazprom acquired commercial control of the Belarus pipeline. The South Stream lines are well along in development.

3. Fast developing liquid natural gas (LNG) seaport terminal infrastructure.

Events in Libya, Mali and Algeria are not hermetically isolated from this. They are part of a comprehensive energy policy problem being dealt with by the same leaderships. It increasingly looks like a series of peripheral Energy Wars that are being fought out for control of Europe.

LNG exports are going to become a weapon in the struggle for geopolitical influence and control.

This highlights another problem for Russia/Gazprom. Its present natural gas advantage in Europe now rests mainly on its pipeline infrastructure. This advantage is fading due to the current and proposed pipeline projects running through Turkey to Europe, plus LPG terminal & ship developments, plus the five trans-Mediterranean pipelines from Libya, Algeria and Morocco to southern Europe, plus local shale gas plays…

The Ukraine is not the only country becoming less systemically important to Europe for natural gas supply. So is Russia. Current events will only accelerate everyone’s efforts to diversify away from such an unstable and apparently dangerous supplier.

I think the long-term fallout from the Ukrainian Crisis will be similar to China’s attempt to exploit its temporary low price monopoly position in rare earth metals a few years ago. The result is rare earth metals are becoming less rare by the day as alternate mines outside China are opened and reopened.

Thank you, A.C. Scrape away the media sensationalism and geopolitical posturing and it boils down to a simple dynamic: follow the energy.

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