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World faces 'water-energy' crisis | GlobalPost

World faces ‘water-energy’ crisis | GlobalPost.

Agence France-Presse March 20, 2014 11:36pm

World faces ‘water-energy’ crisis

Placard

(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Surging populations and economies in the developing world will cause a double crunch in demand for water and energy in the coming decades, the UN said Friday.

In a report published on the eve of World Water Day, it said the cravings for clean water and electricity were intertwined and could badly strain Earth’s limited resources.

“Demand for freshwater and energy will continue to increase over the coming decades to meet the needs of growing populations and economies, changing lifestyles and evolving consumption patterns, greatly amplifying existing pressures on limited natural resources and on ecosystems,” the report said.

Already, 768 million people do not have access to a safe, reliable source of water, 2.5 billion do not have decent sanitation and more than 1.3 billion do not have mains electricity.

About 20 percent of the world’s aquifers today are depleted, according to the report.

Agriculture accounts for more than two-thirds of water use.

The World Water Development Report, the fifth in the series by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), is an overview collated from data from scientific studies and investigations by agencies.

It said ever more freshwater will be needed for farming, construction, drinking, cooking, washing and sewerage, but also for energy production — 90 percent of which uses water-intensive techniques today.

The report gave this snapshot of the future:

– Global water demand is likely to increase by 55 percent by 2050.

– By then, more than 40 percent of the world’s population will be living in areas of “severe” water stress, many of them in the broad swathe of land from North Africa and the Middle East to western South Asia.

– Asia will be the biggest hotspot for bust-ups over water extraction, where water sources straddle national borders. “Areas of conflict include the Aral Sea and the Ganges-Brahmaputra River, Indus River and Mekong River basins,” said the report.

– Global energy demand is expected to grow by more than a third by 2035, with China, India and Middle Eastern countries accounting for 60 percent of the increase.

– In 2010, energy production gobbled up 66 billion cubic metres (2,300 billion cu. feet) of fresh water — more than the average annual flow of the River Nile in Egypt.

By 2035, this consumption could rise by 85 percent, driven by power plant cooling systems that work with water.

– Thirsty energy –

Shale deposits and tar sands, driving an energy boom in North America, are especially hefty in their demands for water to force out the precious gas and oil, the report said.

Even so, “they are outstripped by far by biofuels,” said researcher Richard Connor, who headed the study.

Renewable sources like solar and wind energy that use far less water are gaining ground, and accounted for about a fifth of global electricity output in 2011, the report said.

But they are unlikely to expand this share significantly if fossil fuels continue receiving the bulk of subsidies, it said.

Oil, gas and coal had subsidies of $523 billion (376 billion euros) in 2011, nearly 30 percent more than in 2010, compared to $88 billion for renewables, the report said, citing International Energy Agency (IEA) figures.

Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean have plenty of potential for hydro-energy, which reuses the precious resource, it added.

Hydro-electric dams have been extremely controversial. Big projects deliver gigawatts of power but critics say they are ecologically damaging and prone to massive cost overruns.

The review called for a global effort in efficiency gains, pointing the finger at the arid countries of the Middle East where between 15 and 60 percent of water is wasted through leaks or evaporation even before the consumer opens the tap.

The report also called for smart choices in allocating the trillions of dollars likely to be invested in water and energy infrastructure over the next two decades.

ri/mlr/fb

World faces ‘water-energy’ crisis | GlobalPost

World faces ‘water-energy’ crisis | GlobalPost.

Agence France-Presse March 20, 2014 11:36pm

World faces ‘water-energy’ crisis

Placard

(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Surging populations and economies in the developing world will cause a double crunch in demand for water and energy in the coming decades, the UN said Friday.

In a report published on the eve of World Water Day, it said the cravings for clean water and electricity were intertwined and could badly strain Earth’s limited resources.

“Demand for freshwater and energy will continue to increase over the coming decades to meet the needs of growing populations and economies, changing lifestyles and evolving consumption patterns, greatly amplifying existing pressures on limited natural resources and on ecosystems,” the report said.

Already, 768 million people do not have access to a safe, reliable source of water, 2.5 billion do not have decent sanitation and more than 1.3 billion do not have mains electricity.

About 20 percent of the world’s aquifers today are depleted, according to the report.

Agriculture accounts for more than two-thirds of water use.

The World Water Development Report, the fifth in the series by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), is an overview collated from data from scientific studies and investigations by agencies.

It said ever more freshwater will be needed for farming, construction, drinking, cooking, washing and sewerage, but also for energy production — 90 percent of which uses water-intensive techniques today.

The report gave this snapshot of the future:

– Global water demand is likely to increase by 55 percent by 2050.

– By then, more than 40 percent of the world’s population will be living in areas of “severe” water stress, many of them in the broad swathe of land from North Africa and the Middle East to western South Asia.

– Asia will be the biggest hotspot for bust-ups over water extraction, where water sources straddle national borders. “Areas of conflict include the Aral Sea and the Ganges-Brahmaputra River, Indus River and Mekong River basins,” said the report.

– Global energy demand is expected to grow by more than a third by 2035, with China, India and Middle Eastern countries accounting for 60 percent of the increase.

– In 2010, energy production gobbled up 66 billion cubic metres (2,300 billion cu. feet) of fresh water — more than the average annual flow of the River Nile in Egypt.

By 2035, this consumption could rise by 85 percent, driven by power plant cooling systems that work with water.

– Thirsty energy –

Shale deposits and tar sands, driving an energy boom in North America, are especially hefty in their demands for water to force out the precious gas and oil, the report said.

Even so, “they are outstripped by far by biofuels,” said researcher Richard Connor, who headed the study.

Renewable sources like solar and wind energy that use far less water are gaining ground, and accounted for about a fifth of global electricity output in 2011, the report said.

But they are unlikely to expand this share significantly if fossil fuels continue receiving the bulk of subsidies, it said.

Oil, gas and coal had subsidies of $523 billion (376 billion euros) in 2011, nearly 30 percent more than in 2010, compared to $88 billion for renewables, the report said, citing International Energy Agency (IEA) figures.

Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean have plenty of potential for hydro-energy, which reuses the precious resource, it added.

Hydro-electric dams have been extremely controversial. Big projects deliver gigawatts of power but critics say they are ecologically damaging and prone to massive cost overruns.

The review called for a global effort in efficiency gains, pointing the finger at the arid countries of the Middle East where between 15 and 60 percent of water is wasted through leaks or evaporation even before the consumer opens the tap.

The report also called for smart choices in allocating the trillions of dollars likely to be invested in water and energy infrastructure over the next two decades.

ri/mlr/fb

Overpopulation: An Overlooked Factor in Global Health

Overpopulation: An Overlooked Factor in Global Health.

Written by Brian Krans | Published on March 19, 2014
|
TEXT SIZE: A A A

New research suggests that population growth is driving numerous global health crises, yet it’s rarely factored into the equation.

Overpopulation Overlooked Factor Global Health

The world’s population currently stands at 7.15 billion people and has the potential to double in the next 50 years. In the U.S., there’s one birth every eight seconds and one death every 12 seconds.

With an ever-growing population on a finite earth, the issue of overpopulation should be a major concern when evaluating how we’ll be able to feed and care for the masses.

But it’s not.

Camilo Mora, an assistant professor of geography in the College of Social Sciences at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, reviewed nearly 200 research articles and found that population is being “downplayed and trivialized,” despite its biological impact and its fundamental role in human welfare.

In the U.S. alone, unintended pregnancies are responsible for $11 billion in public spendingeach year.

Pregnant? You’ll Want to Watch These Videos »

‘The Picture Isn’t Pretty’

Mora’s research, published in the journal Ecology and Society, suggests that major health crises won’t be fixed if researchers continue to ignore burgeoning birth rates and declining death rates.

“In a planet with limited resources and a sensitive climate, with most of its natural resources being overexploited and its economic systems overstressed, meeting the additional demands of a growing human population without destroying the Earth and our social systems will be one of the greatest tests to humanity in the years to come,” Mora concluded.

Doomsday scenarios aside, Mora said diseases like HIV/AIDS and malaria will continue to spread, mainly through unsafe behaviors linked to overpopulation: high-risk sexual practices, a lack of access to contraception, and an increase in the number of sex workers.

In Africa, extreme poverty has forced many women into the “sex for fish” trade, in which they have sex with local fishermen in exchange for a portion of the daily catch. Because these woman have inadequate access to contraceptives and safer-sex tools, this practice increases the spread of HIV and makes unwanted pregnancies more likely.

“People are forced to do these things. There’s no way to dig people out of this kind of poverty,” Mora told Healthline. “When you get a perspective, the picture isn’t pretty.”

Learn About the Life Expectancy of an HIV Patient »

Is One Child Enough?

In his paper, Mora pointed to the case of former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who has 22 grandchildren. If each of Romney’s children were to follow in his footsteps, he and his wife, Ann, would be responsible for creating 124 people in just four generations.

While the Romneys have the financial capacity to provide food, education, and healthcare for a flock as large as theirs, they are in the minority.

The average ideal family used to be 2.1 children: one to replace each parent and 0.1 to account for child mortality rates. Now that child mortality rates have dropped and medical advances have helped more people living longer, Mora suggests that the average family have only one child.

“Everything has to go down to women and how many children they have,” he says. “In some countries, that isn’t an option.”

With scientific literacy in the U.S. and other developed countries falling below 17 percent, few people consider the ramifications of their family size and the impact it has on earth’s future.

While one-child mandates may be perceived as fodder for science fiction—or as the practice of oppressive governments—Mora says changing social norms are the better way to go.

“People need to look at the total impact,” he says. “The more people you have, the fewer services you have to go around.”

Learn About the 10 Worst Disease Outbreaks in U.S. History»

Is the Earth overpopulated? » peoplesworld

Is the Earth overpopulated? » peoplesworld.

assets/Uploads/_resampled/CroppedImage6060-Meeropol.jpg

march 13 2014overpop520x300

Recently I’ve been facilitating two groups studying global warming. (I will send my annotated 10-book syllabus to anyone who asks for it). Our current discussions are based on Alan Weisman’s new book, “Countdown.”While the book contains statements indicating it is not so simple, Weisman’s main point is that overpopulation is at the core of our environmental problems.

I’ve also been reading Clive Ponting’s “A New Green History of the World.” Ponting concludes that: “The current environmental problems in the world can only be understood in the context of the nature of the world economy produced since 1500.”

At first glance these points of view appear to restate the old argument between Malthus and Marx. Malthus argued in 1798 that food production could never match population growth, and so, the masses were doomed to starvation. Marx, on the other hand, maintained that there would be enough for everyone if the earth’s resources were distributed fairly. He attacked Malthus for placing blame on the victims of capitalist exploitation rather than on the capitalists, who were the real culprits.

Raised by two sets of Old Left parents, and coming of age as a New Left Marxist, I initially rejected all claims that we could eliminate poverty and environmental damage through population control. However, in 1798 when Malthus first staked out his position, there were fewer than one billion people on the planet, and when Marx critiqued him there were no more than 1.5 billion. The world’s population has recently topped 7 billion, and is headed for nine or ten billion in the next several decades. Marx was right that when Malthus propounded his theory it was a self-serving defense of inequality, but since then, overpopulation has become a major problem.

I also agree with Ponting that the world’s current unequal distribution of resources is responsible for environmentally-devastating first world overconsumption and mass human suffering. But capitalism’s love affair with increasing population is a key part of the current global economy. More people equals more workers willing to work for less as they compete with each other. More consumers buy more, generating more profit. A system based on perpetual growth serves its principal beneficiaries when individuals consume more AND there are more individuals doing the consuming. Is it possible that Weisman and Ponting are both correct?

Seven billion people are way too many, and 10 billion will just hasten disaster. Weisman’s point is well-taken; we must and can bring down the population through universal education, and government assisted family planning programs, and doing so is a necessary condition of controlling global warming. Weisman, laments that all we lack is the political will to do so. He writes: “why [are] health decisions about Mother Nature … made by politicians, not by scientists who know how critical her condition is.” But as Ponting makes plain, the nature of our global economy means that politicians serving multinational corporate masters will continue to make such decisions. As long as the world’s economy is driven by competition, profit and growth, efforts to reduce substantially either our population or consumption will be ineffective.

It is not a question of one or the other. Both are essential and we must address them in conjunction.

This article originally appeared at the Robert Meeropol’s blog.

Photo: Tomonari Suzuoki CC

Tackling food security with a growing population, climate change and peak oil | Climate Citizen

Tackling food security with a growing population, climate change and peak oil | Climate Citizen.

With a growing population and improving diets there is a need to double our food supply by 2050. Identify three measures you would take to meet this demand. Identify one of your measures from your list and post your solution into the discussion – be prepared to defend your choice!

That is a big question to throw in a climate change course. I am presently doing an online course – Climate Change: Challenges and solutions – offered by the University of Exeter (UK). So please indulge me as I also use this blog for some climate course work. This article is for week 6, section 6.5 of the course on ‘Tackling food security’.

Food security is one helluva big area to try and come to terms with. Earth’s population is just over 7 billion people. It is projected by the United Nations in a June 2013 report on global population to reach 9.6 billion people by 2050, although some commentators like David Merkel think it may peak at 8.5 billion around 2030 due to officials underestimating the fall in the fertility rate.

Currently, at least one billion people are constantly hungry or living under the threat of hunger.

Agricultural productivity of the last century has been brought about by the energy input from fossil fuels. There is a strong recent correlation between soaring food costs and soaring oil costs. With Peak oil, energy costs can expect to increase much further, placing further costs on food production. A FAO 2011 report says: “Commodity prices tend to be linked with global energy prices. As energy prices fluctuate and trend upwards, so do food prices”.

”Feeding a growing world population will require a 60 percent increase in food production by 2050, but we are not going to be able to meet that goal the way we did during the Green Revolution, relying on fossil fuels,” said Alexander Müller, FAO Assistant Director-General for Natural Resources and the Environment. “A very different approach is required.”

The food sector accounts for around 30 percent of the world’s total energy consumption and
accounts for around 22 percent of total Greenhouse gas emissions according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

Most of the big productivity gains of the Green revolution ocurred due to substantial intensification of energy inputs into agriculture through fossil fuels. From non-organic fertilisers, pesticides, mechanisation of farming practices, increased processing, refrigeration, packaging and transport to more distant markets and more urbanised consumers.

Ten measures to increase food production sustainably

So I sat down and brainstormed ten measures to increase food production, keeping in mind the increasing problem of peak oil and need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for climate change. Yes, I know, the course only wanted me to list three and argue for one! I got carried away.

We are now facing the prospect of increasing productivity to feed a growing global population, reducing greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change, and fossil fuels becoming progressively more expensive due to peak oil. The large easily accessed oil fields are now in decline, and to maintain production we are more reliant on fossil fuels both harder to access and more expensive such as Arctic oil, deep sea oil, coal seam gas and tight shale oil. Some of the methods of accessing fossil fuels are either far more polluting, risk chemical contamination of groundwater and can impact agricultural productivity.

So here is my quick list of 10 measures we should be implementing to tackle food security and reducing fossil fuel use in the food sector:

  • 1. Reduce reliance on fossil fuel energy for agricultural production to counter the threat of peak oil and reduce agricultural production of carbon emissions. Reduce non-organic fertilizers and pesticides by adopting integrated pest and weed management techniques, and shifting to crop varieties and animal breeds that require fewer inputs.
  • 2. Reduce ruminants for food and emphasise health importance of a dietary change to less red meat, enabling increased water efficiency and crop production for human consumption. This also reduces agricultural methane production.
  • 3. Reduce food waste (About one third of food produced each year – 1.3 billion tonnes – is wasted) Better logistics and energy efficiency in food manufacturing, processing, packaging and transport would help to reduce this, but increased regulation and prevention of food dumping and waste practices in the food chain from producer to end retailer needs to be enacted. Composting food waste by consumers needs to be encouraged to reduce decomposition and methane production in landfill sites.
  • 4. Encourage consumption from local production rather than long distance and out of season imports (Awareness of food miles), which reduces transport CO2 emissions. Encourage Urban agriculture.
  • 5. Natural Water retention and water storage needs to be enhanced to enable greater crop productivity. The health of river ecosystems needs to be carefully managed and not over allocated for agriculture, especially wetlands which provide important ecological services especially in times of drought as a biodiversity refuge. Ground water aquifers need to be protected from contamination or water table alteration by mining (eg open cut coal mining, fracking for coal seam gas or tight oil deposits)
  • 6. Adopt more intensive organic and agroecological practices, including greater permaculture, companion planting practices, agroforestry, crop rotation and land for wildlife.
  • 7. Reduce monoculture practices and boost support to small farmers as recomended by UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in the Trade and Environment report 2013 (PDF)(media release):
  • 8. Encourage preservation and production of heritage plant species for their genetic diversity, enabling the crossbreeding for producing new varieties tolerant to specific threats in the future.
  • 9. Develop closed cycle aquaponics for intensive horticultural production and aquaculture to supply fish protein.
  • 10. Greater emphasis on soil carbon farming to both enrich soils and act as a carbon storage sink. Reduce soil erosion. See FAO on Greater focus on soil health needed to feed a hungry planet

None of these will be easy to do, but I suspect all will need to be done to lift agricultural productivity while reducing fossil fuel energy input.

Transitioning industrial agriculture to organics and agroecology

In my search for some answers and solutions I stumbled upon a seminar held by the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) on 25th April 2012 in Stockholm: 100 % Agroecology Can Feed the World. The presentations were videoed and the powerpoint slides published.

Johanna Björklund, Teaching Professor of Agroecology, Örebro University, argues in her presentation that “To feed an increasing global population and in the same time cope with climate change and ecosystem degradation the large-scale, low productive and extensive mode of food production in industrial countries needs to be abandoned.”

Björklund puts forward some Non negotiable demands on the future food system:

  • More food with less use of water and without fossil fuels
  • Agricultural areas needs to sequestrer carbon
  • Drastically reduced input of new nitrogen fertilizers
  • No more phosphorus which ends up in the oceans
  • Extinction of species need to be halter to at least 10 per cent of today
  • Decreased meat consumption in developed countries

Björklund presentation on The potential of a productive, fossil fuel free agriculture based on ecosystem services is worthwhile watching on Youtube or below. Slide Presentations are also available for viewing. She also emphasised that urban agriculture can play an important part of ensuring food security.

At the same session in Stockholm Hans Herren, Director of the Millenium Institute, gave a presentation on Action plan for changing course in agriculture in which he outlined the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) global assessment report – Agriculture at a Crossroads. This report was prepared by the UN Environment Program (UNEP) by the Division of Early Warning and Assessment. Watch the video, or slide presentation:

Herren has done agricultural modelling to show that transitioning our industrial agriculture to more organic and sustainable agro-ecological methods is possible to feed a larger population with increased productivity, greater employment, increased soil quality, reduced water use, reduced deforestation, providing a more than adequate calorie supply to each person on the planet. A matter of changing agricultural policies and methods and consumer behaviour.

In 2013 Dr. Hans R. Herren, and Millenium Institute partner Biovision Foundation, were selected as a recipient of the Right Livelihood Award, “for his expertise and pioneering work in promoting a safe, secure and sustainable global food supply.”

One of the concerns with organic methods of agriculture is that yields are substantially less than conventional agricultural methods, although often this is made up in social, ecosystem and biodiversity benefits. On the same day as the symposium in Stockholm Natasha Gilbert outlined in a news article in Nature magazine that Organic farming is rarely enough with Conventional agriculture giving higher yields under most conditions. This article draws upon the research by Verene Seufert et al (2012) in Nature who say in their study – Comparing the yields of organic and conventional agriculture:

Our analysis of available data shows that, overall, organic yields are typically lower than conventional yields. But these yield differences are highly contextual, depending on system and site characteristics, and range from 5% lower organic yields (rain-fed legumes and perennials on weak-acidic to weak-alkaline soils), 13% lower yields (when best organic practices are used), to 34% lower yields (when the conventional and organic systems are most comparable). Under certain conditions—that is, with good management practices, particular crop types and growing conditions—organic systems can thus nearly match conventional yields, whereas under others it at present cannot. To establish organic agriculture as an important tool in sustainable food production, the factors limiting organic yields need to be more fully understood, alongside assessments of the many social, environmental and economic benefits of organic farming systems.

FAO: Energy Smart agriculture needed

Since the 2011 UN Durban Climate change conference the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has been pushing for Energy-smart agriculture to escape the fossil fuel trap.

“There is justifiable concern that the current dependence of the food sector on fossil fuels may limit the sector’s ability to meet global food demands. The challenge is to decouple food prices from fluctuating and rising fossil fuel prices,” said an FAO paper published during the Durban UN Conference on Climate Change in 2011.

According to the report, the food sector (including input manufacturing, production, processing, transportation marketing and consumption) accounts for around 95 exa-Joules (1018 Joules), approximately 30 percent of global energy consumption, and produces over 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

On-farm direct energy use amounts to around 6 exa-Joules per year, if human and animal power are excluded — just over half of that is in OECD countries. On farms, energy is used for pumping water, housing livestock, cultivating and harvesting crops, heating protected crops, and drying and storage. After harvest, it is used in processing, packaging, storing, transportation and consumption.

“The global food sector needs to learn how to use energy more wisely. At each stage of the food supply chain, current practices can be adapted to become less energy intensive,” said FAO Assistant Director-General for Environment and Natural Resources, Alexander Mueller.

At the farm level this includes more fuel efficient engines, use of compost and precision fertilizers, irrigation monitoring and targeted water delivery, adoption of no-till farming practices and the use of less-input-dependent crop varieties and animal breeds says the FAO report.

After food has been harvested, more efficient transport and logistics, better insulation of food storage facilities, reductions in packaging and food waste, and more efficient cooking devices offer help to reduce energy use in the food sector.

Losses and wastage in the food system presently amount to around one-third of all food produced, which includes the energy that is embedded in it. Reducing this loss also saves substantial energy.

Agriculture also has some potential for providing some of it’s own energy through processing wastes to produce biogas which can supplement solar, wind, hydro, geothermal or biomass energy resources where they exist.

“Using local renewable energy resources along the entire food chain can help improve energy access, diversify farm and food processing revenues, avoid disposal of waste products, reduce dependence on fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions, and help achieve sustainable development goals,” the FAO report says.

The FAO energy smart food for people and climate program is based on three pillars:

  • (i) providing energy access for all with a focus on rural communities;
  • (ii) improving energy efficiency at all stages of the food supply chain; and
  • (iii) substituting fossil fuels with renewable energy systems in the food sector.

Watch a September 2013 youtube video of Peter Holmgren from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation on climate smart agriculture

Food miles and food transport

We live in a globalised economy where food is often transported over long distances, often to places where it is out of season. But this uses transport which utilizes primarily fossil fuel energy. Much food is transported over long distances by road, rail and shipping. The FAO report says “Air transport is costly in terms of energy intensity and economic costs, therefore rarely used. For example, only 0.5 percent of the fresh fruit imported to the USA is shipped by air (Bernatz, 2010).

Globalization in the past two decades appears to have increased the average distance travelled by food products by 25 percent.” This has lead many aware consumers in the developed world to look at ‘food miles’, although some point out that Food miles can mislead and total carbon footprinting may be more important for analysing the food we buy.

The report does suggest better labelling on retail food packaging to display the energy used in the production, processing, packaging and distribution of the product so that consumers could consider the energy and GHG implications when making purchases. But this would require development of international standards for measuring energy consumption using standardized Life Cycle Assessment methodologies to assess each stage of the food chain.

“The key question at hand is not, ‘If or when we should begin the transition to energy-smart food systems?’ but rather ‘how can we get started and make gradual but steady progress?” said Mueller in the 2011 FAO media release.

There is at least one example of a country being forced to make the transition to low fossil fuel input into agriculture: Cuba.

Cuba’s transition to permaculture with early onset of peak oil

When the Berlin wall fell and the Soviet Union reduced it’s fossil fuel subsidies to Cuba in the 1990s we saw a taste of what Peak Oil might mean for a fossil fuel dependant economy. Cuba embarked on fuel rationing which entailed transforming their energy and agricultural systems. The film The power of Community. How Cuba Survived peak Oil provides lessons for us all when the oil starts running out. Watch the Youtube video below

The impact of reduced availability of fossil fuels on Cuban life was transformative. It entailed a major shift in agricultural practices to organic and permaculture methods with much more labour intensive small farm activity, along with urban permaculture. Transport was also shaken up with more emphasis on living locally, using public transport and cycling. It wasn’t an easy transition to make for most people.

Are we ready for such a transition? The earlier we start, the more preparation we make, the easier it will be on the communities we live within. The threat of peak oil and climate change has sparked theTransition Towns movement, a global movement to build community resilience and sustainability to the threats posed by climate change and peak oil. Another small part of the solution.


Sources:

Posted by John Englart at 7:29 PM

Survive Peak Oil: Oil and Gas: How Little Is Left

Survive Peak Oil: Oil and Gas: How Little Is Left.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Oil and Gas: How Little Is Left

“If we’re doing things like fracking, it just shows how little is left of all this stuff, and how desperate we are to get at it.” — Anonymous

Global production of conventional oil is past its peak and is now beginning its decline. A mixed bag of unconventional fuels (shale oil, tar-sands oil, natural-gas-liquids, etc.) is keeping the total on a slight rise or a rough plateau.

The hottest discussion in the US over the last few years has involved the fracturing (“fracking”) of shale to extract both oil and gas, but production by this method is already slowing or in decline. The costs of fracking are considerable, and so is the environmental damage.

The price of oil is still about $100 a barrel, far above that of the 1990s, in terms of both nominal and real dollars. The failure of the price to go down is an embarrassment to those who think unconventional oil is really solving any problems. But the high price is due not just to increased demand or to geopolitical risk. It is because of trying to squeeze oil out of places where it makes little sense to be squeezing.

The following data are “annual” and “global” and are from BP’s 2013 report unless described otherwise.

Laherrère: “The plots of these data start flattening in 2005, followed by a bumpy plateau. The post-2010 increase is mainly caused by the increase of liquids from US shale gas and US shale oil.”

Hughes: “. . . Politicians and industry leaders alike now hail ‘one hundred years of gas’ and anticipate the U.S. regaining its crown as the world’s foremost oil producer. . . . The much-heralded reduction of oil imports in the past few years has in fact been just as much a story of reduced consumption, primarily related to the Great Recession, as it has been a story of increased production.”

RATE OF SUPPLY; NET ENERGY

Hughes: “The metric most commonly cited to suggest a new age of fossil fuels is the estimate of in situ unconventional resources and the purported fraction that can be recovered. These estimates are then divided by current consumption rates to produce many decades or centuries of future consumption. In fact, two other metrics are critically important in determining the viability of an energy resource:

“• The rate of energy supply — that is, the rate at which the resource can be produced. A large in situ resource does society little good if it cannot be produced consistently and in large enough quantities. . . . Tar sands . . . have yielded production of less than two percent of world oil requirements.

“• The net energy yield of the resource. . . . The net energy . . . of unconventional resources is generally much lower than for conventional resources. . . .”

GLOBAL OIL PRODUCTION

For conventional oil, the peak annual global production was about 27 billion barrels, or about 73 million barrels per day. The peak date of production was about 2010.

BP shows global oil production still increasing in 2012, although much more slowly than before — an annual increase of about 1 percent between 2002 and 2012, as opposed to about 9 percent annually between 1930 and 2001. Laherrère’s Figure 10, on the other hand, shows an actual peak at 2010. The difference is due to the fact that the BP figures include unconventional oil (shale oil, tar-sands oil, natural-gas-liquids, etc.).

According to most studies, the likely average rate of decline of oil production after the peak date is about 3 or 4 percent, resulting in a fall from peak production to half that amount about 20 years after the peak. However, there is also evidence (Höök et al., June 2009; Simmons, 2006) to suggest that the decline rate might be closer to 6 percent, i.e. reaching the halfway point about 10 years after the peak.

Per capita, the peak date of oil production was 1979, when there were 5.5 barrels of oil per person annually, as opposed to 4.4 in 2012.

Laherrère: “The confidential technical data on [mean values of proven + probable reserves] is only available from expensive and very large scout databases. . . .

“There is a huge difference between the political/financial proved reserves [so-called], and the confidential technical [proven + probable] reserves. Most economists do not believe in peak oil. They rely only on the proved reserves coming from [the Oil and Gas Journal, the US Energy Information Administration], BP and OPEC data, which are wrong; they have no access to the confidential technical data. . . .

“The last [International Energy Agency] forecasts report an increase in oil production from 2012 to 2018 of 8% for Non-OPEC (+30% for the US) and of 7% for OPEC, which is doubtful. . . .”

US OIL PRODUCTION peaked in 1970 at 9,637 thousand barrels daily, declined in 2008 to 5,000, and rose in 2013 to 6,488.

NATURAL GAS PRODUCTION

GLOBAL GAS PRODUCTION rose from 2,524 billion cubic meters in 2002 to 3,370 billion cubic meters (95 trillion cubic feet) in 2012, an average annual increase of 3%.

Laherrère: “. . . [Global] production will peak around 2020 at more than [100 trillion cubic feet per year].” [emphasis added]

“Outside the US, the potential of shale gas is very uncertain because the ‘Not In My Back Yard’ effect is much stronger when the gas belongs to the country and not to the landowners. . . . Up to now, there is no example of economical shale gas production outside the US. The hype on shale gas will probably fall like the hype on bio-fuels a few years ago. . . .

US GAS PRODUCTION rose from 536 billion cubic meters in 2002 to 681 in 2012, an average annual increase of 2.5%.

Laherrère: “Natural gas production in the US, which peaked in 1970 like oil, is showing a sharp increase since 2005 because of shale gas. In 2011 unconventional gas production ([coal bed methane], tight gas and shale gas . . . .) was higher than conventional gas production . . . .

This . . . leads to a peak in 2020 at 22 [trillion cubic feet] and the decline thereafter of all natural gas in the US . . . should be quite sharp. [emphasis added] The goal of exporting US liquefied natural gas seems to be based on very optimistic views. . . .

“The gross monthly natural gas production in the US has been flat since October of 2011, after its sharp increase since 2003, with only shale gas production rising. . . .” [emphasis added]

“Some claim that the US can export its shale gas as [liquid natural gas] even though conventional gas . . . is declining fast and will be quite small in just a few years.”

Hughes: “Shale gas production has grown explosively to account for nearly 40 percent of U.S. natural gas production; nevertheless production has been on a plateau since December 2011. . . . The very high decline rates of shale gas wells require continuous inputs of capital — estimated at $42 billion per year. . . . In comparison, the value of shale gas produced in 2012 was just $32.5 billion.”

TIGHT OIL (SHALE OIL) PRODUCTION

Laherrère: “Shale oil is now called light tight oil because the production in Bakken is not from a shale reservoir, but a sandy dolomite reservoir between two shale formations. . . . In Montana, production from Bakken is mainly coming from the stratigraphic field called Elm Coulee, which is decline since 2008. In North Dakota, production from Bakken has sharply increased.”

Hughes: “Tight oil production has grown impressively and now makes up about 20 percent of U.S. oil production. . . .More than 80 percent of tight oil production is from two unique plays: the Bakken in North Dakota and Montana and the Eagle Ford in southern Texas. . . . Tight oil plays are characterized by high decline rates. . . . Tight oil production is projected to grow substantially from current levels to a peak in 2017. . . . [emphasis added]

TAR-SANDS OIL PRODUCTION

Hughes: “Tar sands oil is primarily imported to the U.S. from Canada. . . It is low-net-energy oil, requiring very high levels of capital inputs (with some estimates of over $100 per barrel required for mining with upgrading in Canada). . . . The economics of much of the vast purported remaining extractable resources are increasingly questionable. . . .

NATURAL GAS PLANT LIQUIDS (NGPL) PRODUCTION

Laherrère: “World NGPL production . . . may peak in 2030 at over 11 [million barrels per day]. . . .”

OTHER RESOURCES

Hughes: “Other unconventional fossil fuel resources, such as oil shale [kerogen], coalbed methane, gas hydrates, and Arctic oil and gas — as well as technologies like coal- and gas-to-liquids, and in situ coal gasification — are also sometimes proclaimed to be the next great energy hope. But each of these is likely to be a small player. . . .

“Deepwater oil and gas production . . . would expand access to only relatively minor additional resources.”

CONCLUSIONS

Laherrère: “Peak oil deniers claim that peak oil is an unscientific theory, ignoring that peak oil has actually happened in several countries like France, UK, Norway. They confuse proved reserves with the [proven + probable] mean reserves. . . . It seems that world oil (all liquids) production will peak before 2020. . . The dream of the US becoming independent seems to be based on resources, but not on reserves.”

REFERENCES AND FURTHER READING

BP. (2013). Global statistical review of world energy. Retrieved fromhttp://www.bp.com/statisticalreview

Heinberg, R. (2013). Snake oil: How fracking’s false promise of plenty imperils our future. Santa Rosa, California: Post Carbon Institute.

Höök, M., Hirsch, R., & Aleklett, K. (2009, June). Giant oil field decline rates and their influence on world oil production. Energy Policy, Volume 37, Issue 6, pp. 2262-72. Retrieved fromhttp://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2009.02.020

Hughes, J. D. (2013, Feb.) Drill, baby, drill; Can unconventional fuels usher in a new era of energy abundance? Executive Summary. Post Carbon Institute. Retrieved fromhttp://www.postcarbon.org/reports/DBD-report-FINAL.pdf 

Klare, M.T. (2012).The race for what’s left: The scramble for the world’s last resources. New York: Picador.

Laherrère, J. H. (2013, July 16). World oil and gas production forecasts up to 2100. The Oil Drum. Retrieved from www.theoildrum.com/node/10009

Simmons, M. R. (2006). Twilight in the desert: The coming Saudi oil shock and the world economy. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.

Over the Climate Cliff

Over the Climate Cliff.


Do you want to know what the future looks like? Try Australia, where bats falls dead out of the sky, and tennis players drop like flies in the heat. Coming right up: a report from the hot front with Cam Walker, Friends of Earth Australia.

Then we’re back to sky science. Atmospheric rivers move below the Jet Stream, carrying more water than the Amazon, and dumping it suddenly causing floods below. Expert David Lavers explains.

Then it’s journalist and author Alan Weisman. His previous book looked at the world without us. Now it’s Countdown, Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth. Are we headed for biological burnout?

Wiradjuru, Murray-Darling Basin, Australia image via oxfam/flickr. Creative Commons 2.0 license.

MIT Research on Global Water Stress by 2050 | Peak Resources

MIT Research on Global Water Stress by 2050 | Peak Resources.

Peak Resources investigates the growing concern of global water stress. It is no big secret that the world population of humans is growing at an exponential rate. The growth of the human population has caused almost every nation around the globe to focus its attention on the available of freshwater for the future while some nations must focus on having fresh water today. Add into the mix the continual pressure from global climate change, and you have a lot of trouble. Hotter temperatures mean less ground water, shallower lakes, and rivers, and less water for crops, drinking, and bathing. To set this into motion, MIT researchers developed a new tool that models the ability of the hydrologic cycle to meet the growing needs of the world population through the year 2050.

Water Stress
Water resources are tied to populations of people. By 2050, the world population, is expected to rise to 9.7 Billion. Of those 9.7 billion people, 5 billion are expected to be living in water-stressed communities or regions. Of those 5 billion people, 1 billion are expected to live where there is not enough water to meet daily needs of people, environment, and agriculture. For some nations, this is not news, India, and Middle Eastern countries are already facing water stress issues.

MIT Model
What the MIT model does is it allows researchers to look at the two variables that are going to have the most impact on freshwater over time. Those being socioeconomics, and global climate change. What they find when they look into how the socioeconomic data changes over time, they discovered that the rate at which populations grow and the changes to economic growth lead to situations of water-stress. What they are talking about are emerging markets, where water is already limited. The impact of the situation is made worse by adding in global climate change.

Results of the MIT Model
As populations of villages and cities grow more food is needed, more drinking water is needed, and more water is needed for industry, but water is finite and the amount of available water is decreased as temperatures rise. But emerging markets and developing countries are not the only people hit by water issues and global warming. The study shows that developed nations are also going to feel increased water-stress as time passes and global warming increases. Overall, global warming is expected to impact how, when, and where rain falls. Changing patterns of precipitation will impact most countries around the globe.

While this model shows a good picture of what the future will look like, it shows something even more valuable. It shows that studies and modeling of this nature are deeply important to humanity. Peak Resources sees clearly that those who have the knowledge to forecast accurately, will be the ones who have the power to make changes. Those changes represent resource investment opportunities. Knowledge is the tool that will shape the future. Water demand is getting worse, and as time goes by the question is how do we deal with it today.

Why Shale Oil Boosters Are Charlatans In Disguise | Zero Hedge

Why Shale Oil Boosters Are Charlatans In Disguise | Zero Hedge.

Something has bothered me of late: why is the price of crude oil still elevated? Other commodities have taken a battering since 2011. Gold, copper and iron ore – all are way down off their peaks. But oil has seemingly defied gravity. And that’s despite increased supply from shale oil in the U.S., still soft demand particularly in the developed world and declining rates of inflation growth across the globe.

What gives? Well, shale oil proponents will say falling oil prices are just a matter of time. And that the boom in shale oil will reduce U.S. reliance on foreign oil, leading to cheaper local oil, which will free up household budgets and spur consumption as well as the broader economy. Perhaps … though I’d have thought all of that would be already reflected in prices.

On the other side, you have “peak oil” supporters who suggest high oil prices are perfectly natural when oil production has peaked, or at least the good stuff has disappeared. Yet the boom in U.S. shale oil appears to put at least a partial dent in this thesis.

There may be a better explanation, however. It comes from UK sell-side analyst, Tim Morgan, in an important new book called Life After Growth. In it, he suggests that the era of cheap energy is over. That the new unconventional forms of oil are far less efficient than old ones, meaning they require significant amounts of energy to produce. In effect, the energy production versus energy cost of extraction equation is rapidly deteriorating.

Morgan goes a step further though. He says cheap energy has been central to the extraordinary economic growth generated since the Industrial Revolution. And without that cheap energy, future growth will be permanently impaired.

It’s a bold view that’s solidified my own thinking that higher energy prices are here to stay. And the link between cheap energy and economic growth is fascinating and worth exploring further today. Particularly given the implications for the world’s fastest-growing and most energy-intensive region, Asia.

Real vs money economy

First off, a thank you to Bob Moriarty of 321gold for tipping me off to Morgan’s work in this well-written article. Morgan’s book is worth getting but if you want the skinny version, you can find it here.

Morgan begins his book outlining four key challenges facing economies today:

  1. The biggest debt bubble in history
  2. A disastrous experiment with globalisation
  3. The massaging of data to the point where economic trends are obscured
  4. The approach of an energy-returns cliff edge

The first three points aren’t telling us much new so we’re going to focus on the final one.

Here, Morgan makes a key distinction between what he terms the money economy and the real economy. He suggests economists around the world have got it all wrong by focusing on money as the key driver of economies.

Instead, money is the language rather than the substance of the real economy. The real economy is a surplus energy equation, not a monetary one, and economic growth as well as the increase in population since 1750 has resulted from the harnessing of ever-greater quantities of energy.

In fact, society and economies began when agriculture created surplus energy. Before agriculture, in the hunter-gatherer era, there was an energy balance where the energy which people derived from food was largely equivalent to the energy that they expended in finding the food.

Agriculture changed that equation. It allowed for the creation of surplus energy. In essence, three people could be supported by the labor of two people, allowing one person to engage in non-subsistence activities. This person could make better agricultural tools, build bridges for better infrastructure and so on. In economic parlance, this person didn’t have to concentrate on products for immediate consumption but rather the creation of capital goods. The surplus energy equation allowed for that.

The second key development was the invention of the heat engine by Scottish engineer James Watts in 1769, although a more efficient version was produced later in 1799. This invention allowed society to access vast energy resources contained in oil, natural gas, coal and so forth. In other words, the industrial revolution allowed the harnessing of more energy to apply vast leverage to the economy.

World fossil fuel consumption

In sum, the modern economy is the story of how society overcame the limitations of the energy equation. Or as Morgan puts it: “…all goods and services on which money can be spent are the products of energy inputs, either past, present or future.”

The creation of surplus energy during the Industrial Revolution and subsequent explosion in economic and population growth isn’t an accident. They’re tied at the hip.

Energy and the population

Understanding the distinction between the money economy and the real economy can also help us better understand debt. Debt is a claim on future energy. The ability of indebted governments to meet their debt commitments will partially depend on whether the real (energy) economy is large enough to make this possible.

Era of cheap energy is over

Morgan goes on to say that the era of surplus energy, which has driven economic growth since 1750, is over. The key isn’t to be found in the theories of “peak oil” proponents and the potential for absolute declines in oil reserves. Instead, it’s to be found in the relationship between the energy extracted versus the energy consumed in the extraction process, also known as the Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROEI) equation.

The equation maths aren’t difficult to understand. If the EROEI is 10:1, it means that 10 units are extracted for every 1 unit invested in the extraction process.

From 1750-1950, the EROEI of oil discoveries was very high. For instance, discoveries in the 1930s had 100:1 EROEIs. That ratio declined to 30:1 by the 1970s. Today, that ratio is at about 17:1 with few recent discoveries above 10:1.

Morgan’s research suggests that going from EROEIs of 80:1 to 20:1 isn’t disruptive. But once the ratio gets below 15:1, energy becomes a lot more expensive. He suggests the ratio will decline to 11:1 by 2020 and the cost of energy will increase by 50% as a consequence.

Energy returns vs cost to GDP

Non-conventional sources of oil will provide little respite. Shale oil and gas have EROEIs of 5:1 while tar sands and biofuels are even lower at 3:1. In other words, policymakers who pin their hopes on shale oil reducing energy prices are seriously deluded.

EROEI and energy sources

And further technological breakthroughs to better locate and extract oil are unlikely to help either. That’s because technology uses energy rather than creates it. It won’t change the energy equation.

While some unconventional sources offer hope, such as concentrated solar power, they won’t be enough to offset surplus energy turning to a more balanced equation.

Oeuvre to growth tool

If the real economy is energy and the days of surplus energy are coming to an end, then so too is economic growth, according to Morgan. In his own words:

“…the economy, as we have known it for more than two centuries, will cease to be viable at some point within the next ten or so years unless, of course, some way is found to reverse the trend.”

This terribly pessimistic conclusion requires some further explanation. Morgan explains the link between energy and the economy thus. If your EROEI sharply declines, it means more energy is needed for extraction purposes and less energy is available to the economy. Ultimately, this results in the cost of energy rising as a proportion of GDP, leaving less value for other things. Put another way, with the leverage from surplus energy diminished, there’s less energy available for discretionary uses.

Implications

Now I don’t have total buy-in to Morgan’s thesis. It certainly solidifies my thinking that the era of cheap energy is indeed over. It provides a unique and compelling way to think about this. And the proof is seemingly all around us. It explains the high oil prices and the surge in agriculture prices (agriculture relies on energy inputs).

You can’t help but being more bullish on energy and agriculture plays in the long-term. Oil drillers for one as they’re more reliant on increased work than the price of oil. Also, the likes of fertiliser companies given agriculture land is tapped out, making an increase in output essential and thereby requiring greater quantities of fertiliser.

Morgan thinks inflation is on the way given a squeezed energy base with still escalating monetary bases. Regular readers will know that I am a deflationist over the next few years. But nothing is certain in this world and Morgan’s arguments on this front have some credibility.

As for whether this spells the end of a glorious 250 year period of economic growth, well, I’m not so sure. The link between energy and economies is compelling. But whether we’re at a tipping point where surplus energy disappears is a guess. I’m convinced that we’re coming up against resource constraints that will inhibit economic growth. To say that we’re imminently coming to the end of economic growth requires further evidence, in humble opinion.

Impact on Asia

Asia has been the largest demand driver for energy over the past decade. The region’s net oil imports total 17 million barrels of oil a day. China is now the largest net oil importer, having recently overtaken the U.S.. Other large net oil importers in Asia include India and Indonesia. Obviously, higher oil prices would be detrimental to these net importing countries.

It may be somewhat offset by agricultural prices staying higher for longer. China and India are agricultural powerhouses. And the impact of agriculture on their economies is still profound (agriculture accounts for 14% of Indian GDP and 10% of China).

On the other hand, higher agricultural prices mean higher food prices. And given lower incomes in Asia, the proportion of household budgets dedicated to purchasing food is much higher than the developed world. Therefore higher food prices has a larger impact on many Asian countries. Witness periodic recent protests on this issue in Indonesia, Thailand and India. So net-net, higher energy prices would still be a large negative for Asia.

Turning to resource constraints potentially inhibiting future economic growth: given Asia has the world’s strongest GDP growth, it would be disproportionately hit if this scenario is right. The past decade may represent a peak in the region’s economic output. Whether there’s sharp drop or gradual fade is impossible to forecast.

These are but a few of the potential implications for Asia.

AC Speed Read

– The real economy is a surplus energy equation, or the harnessing of ever-greater quantities of energy.

– That equation has deteriorated to such an extent that one can now declare the era of cheap energy over.

– If the economy is energy and cheap energy is gone, future economic growth will be inhibited.

– Consequently, higher energy and agricultural prices can be expected in the long-term.

– The impact on Asian growth may be disproportionately large.

This post was originally published at Asia Confidential:
http://asiaconf.com/2014/01/25/shale-oil-charlatans/

UN report sounds alarm on farming land-use crisis  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards

UN report sounds alarm on farming land-use crisis  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards.

To feed the world’s burgeoning population while saving it from exhausting natural land resources, the United Nations today issued a report for policymakers, “Assessing Global Land Use: Balancing Consumption With Sustainable Supply,” published Jan. 24 by the International Resource Panel of the United Nations Environment Programme.

“Over the past 30 years, we’ve been increasing production on agricultural land, but scientists are now seeing evidence of reaching limits,” says Robert W. Howarth, Cornell’s David R. Atkinson Professor of Ecology and Environmental Biology and a lead author of the United Nations report.

“We need to stop over-consuming land-based products. For example, one of our key challenges is overusing agricultural land for growing meat. There is just not enough land on Earth for everyone in the world to eat like Americans and Europeans,” says Howarth. “We don’t need to become complete vegetarians, but to put this into context and to help sustain feeding a burgeoning global population, we need to reduce our meat consumption by 60 percent – which is about 1940s era levels.”

The U.N. predicts the world’s population will be around 9.2 billion people in 2050, with the world’s less-developed regions contributing the most people. More cropland will be required to feed them. The report explains wide-ranging scientific options for sustainable, global land management. Expanding global cropland forever depletes environmentally needed savannahs, grasslands and forests.

If current conditions continue, by 2050 the world could have between 320 million and 849 million hectares more natural land converted to cropland. “To put things into perspective, the higher range of this estimate would cover an extension of land nearly the size of Brazil,” says the report.

Further, the U.N. report – compiled by noted international scientists – says that decoupling fuel and food markets would be a major component of sustainable resource management. Howarth says that countries must halve their current biofuel expectations to ease potential crises. “With widespread use of biofuels, rising petroleum prices will inevitably also drive food prices because biofuels are derived from cropland,” says the report. “Intolerable price increases for food may lead to spreading hunger, cause riots and sociopolitical disturbances.”

This difficult challenge reaches beyond agriculture and forestry. The report delves into energy, transportation, manufacturing, global health and family planning, climate protection and conservation.

Large areas with degraded soils must be restored, and improved land-use planning must be implemented to avoid building on fertile land, according to the report. An estimated one-fourth of all global crop soils is degraded, but nearly 40 percent of this degenerated land has strong potential for easy restoration.

To ease land pressures, the U.N. suggests more programs for economywide sustainable resource management; promoting a healthy diet in countries high in meat consumption; programs in family planning that slow population growth; and reducing food loss at the production and harvest stage in developing countries by increasing infrastructure, storage facilities and bolstering cooperatives.

Cornell.edu

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