SocraticGadfly: 3/27/05 - 4/3/05

April 02, 2005

Up next? $100 per barrel oil

Actually, $105 is the called-for price by Goldman Sachs. Sachs says that price is what is needed to get Americans serious enough about oil prices to change their behavior.

What Sachs doesn’t dwell on so much is that, due to various supply factors, once we get $100 a barrel oil, it probably won’t come back down that much, contrary to their rosy expectations.

The fallout? Could be serious.

Note well, this will NOT BE a temporary, politically-driven 1970s oil shock. This will be a long-term, chronic problem of petroleum supply. Hubbert’s Peak began as a 1966 prediction by Shell geologist M. King Hubbert that U.S. oil production would peak in the early 1970s.

Actual peak year? 1970.

Recently, some oil industry analysts have applied Hubbert’s parameters and thought processes to world oil production.


THIS YEAR may be the peak year for world oil production. Meanwhile, growing, growing, booming, booming China, India and Brazil seek more and more oil.

That potentially serious fallout? Well, commercial pesticides are made from oil. Ammonia for fertilizers is made from natural gas. Plastics for made-in-China games for your entertainment come from oil. And Wal-Mart’s just in time delivery and low prices depend on cheap semi diesel fuel.

Here’s a kick-in-the-pants essay on just how bad it will be.

Wind power? Solar? Can’t be ramped up that fast and to that big of a scale.

Oil sands? Oil shales? Not nearly the rate of return per production energy invested as oil.

Fuel cells? Current versions are based on natural-gas produced hydrogen.

Biomass? Robbing Peter to pay Paul with natural-gas derived ammonia fertilizers. (Besides, and also apropos of the comment about it above, natural gas may have its own Hubbert in a decade or so.)

More efficiency in commercial transit, along with much more and much better use of rail, along with upgraded rail system, is a small part of the answer.

Conservation — real conservation — is a bigger part.

Ultimately, though, nuclear power may have to come into the mix. But, it has a Hubbert’s Peak of its own of 10-20 years, unless we build breeder reactors.

Read much more about this serious issue at here, here and here.

Especially take a look at this last link, for the website Life After the Oil Crash. It will challenge and scare you even more than the first-linked Rolling Stone article.

Much of what follows below is stimulated by reading from these two sites.

The longer-term future?

Conflicts over oil are certainly possible. Conflicts as in wars.

But, short of nuclear wars, remember it takes petroleum to drive a modern military.

A decline in the U.S. standard of living? Certainly possible.

Right-wing demagoguery exploiting that? Also certainly possible.

The euro replacing the dollar as the oil currency of choice? May happen by the end of this summer.

More U.S. economic backsliding from that? Of course.

And the shorter term?

Emergency oil savings plans, likely including rationing. Although that particular word wasn't used, the general need for oil savings is the siren song of the International Energy Agency, a consortium of energy agencies of First World governments formed in November 1974 in response to the oil crisis as an autonomous intergovernmental entity within the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to ensure the energy security of industrialized nations.

April 01, 2005

Bill Clinton once again proves he’s no liberal, never was

Supposedly Slick Willie personally worked on Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin and others to get them to vote in favor of the “let’s parade Terri Schiavo around for political advantage” bill.

Geez-o-doorknobs, Bill, can’t you go back to Arkansas and see if being an ex-governor lets you meddle in some lives there? If not, STFU.

Still a hog, no matter how “compassionate”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi recently said: “I think what the president is demonstrating is the weakness of the argument he is out perpetuating. It's the classic case of you can put lipstick on a pig ... but it's still a sow.”

I think this is like putting “compassionate” in front of “conservative” — it’s still a right-winger in the end.

Wash your hair, help the environment

Dandruff may have an effect on climate change, according to German researchers.
Their painstaking, 15-year measurements turned up a collection of human and animal skin particles, fur, fragments of plants, pollen, spores, bacteria, algae, fungi, and viruses.

They are the right size and shape to act as nuclei for ice crystals, which in turn form clouds and rain, and thus could potentially affect weather and climate, they report in (the April 1) issue of the journal Science.

While he is not claiming that dandruff affects global warming, (Ruprecht) Jaenicke said he also ran tests that showed his particles could easily affect cloud formation.

“To form clouds you need water and particles,” he said. “Each particle is a nucleus. To form rain you need certain ice nuclei which transform a droplet into an ice crystal.” These then collide and form rain droplets.

Jaenicke’s team was unable to say how much of this biological dust is pollen and how much is actually dandruff.
But, it might be time to break out the Selsun Blue or Head and Shoulders. All laughing aside, pollen, fur and dander, and perhaps those itchy white flakes, could have serious meteorological effects.
Overall this dust could make up 25 percent of so-called aerosols — particles in the atmosphere that affect pollution, cloud formation and which can both reflect and absorb radiation from the sun, said atmospheric scientist Jaenicke of the University of Mainz.

This is significant because atmospheric and climate scientists admit that as much as 40 percent of all aerosols are unidentified, and climate models do not fully take into account the effects of aerosols, Jaenicke said.
So, you know what to do — lather, rinse and repeat.

March 31, 2005

Hentoff joins slippery-slope crowd, slippery characters

I can't believe Nat Hentoff has actually bought into a slippery-slope argument on Terri Schiavo.

First, Nat, she was in a persistent vegetative state — a phrase that somehow managed to escape appearing in your entire column.

Second, Judge Greer is a judge, not a medical doctor. In a wrongful death suit, does a judge do traffic reconstructions, construction accident reconstructions or similar work?

NO! He or she relies on the testimony of expert witnesses.

In the Schiavo case, we have nearly a decade of expert witness testimony to her mental state.

And, that expert testimony disagrees with your unfounded assertions, too.

Had you seen her in person, Nat, or were you going by a 15-second video clip?

And, even if you have seen her in person, are you a medical doctor? We know the answer to that one is no.

Nat, although I disagree with it, I have admired your principled stand on right-to-life issues. But you're just plain wrong on this one.

Update April 1: A comment from Salon.
The press also downplayed references to a 2000 trial at which Schiavo’s extremely conservative Roman Catholic parents conceded that even if Terri had told them she would never want to be kept alive with a feeding tube, they would not have honored that request (an acknowledgment that goes a long way toward explaining their actions in the case). For the most part, the press portrayed Schiavo’s parents, Terry and the hospice protesters as simply being overly concerned and vaguely conservative. And nothing more.

March 27, 2005

The Dallas Morning News,Shrouded in science illiteracy

The right-thinking folks at the Snooze (without a science editor for six months and still claiming to be a major newspaper), decided March 27 that the Shroud of Turin might indeed be Jesus’ burial wrap.

That prompted this e-mail from me, not a public letter to the editor e-mail (as I am the editor of a suburban Dallas newspaper myself), but an e-mail sent to each member of the Snooze’s editorial board.
Does anybody on the DMN editorial board actually read scientific studies of things like this or not?

The claim by Ray Rogers that the C-14 tested thread was from patchwork has been convincingly refuted by Joe Nickell, who says the same material exists elsewhere on the Shroud.

AND, and, microanalyst Walter McCrone reported that nine years ago.

Problem is, McCrone was, as he says, “drummed out” of the main pro-Shroud group after his independent analysis failed to back up its claims.

As for peer review, note this quote from Nickell:
Astonishingly — and with serious implications to the spirit of peer review — Rogers omits any mention of McCrone’s findings from his report while insisting elsewhere, ‘let’s be honest about our science.’ (Rogers 2004).

If the News had run this past its senior science writer (since in your gunshot-to-the foot cost cutting, you don't have a science editor anymore) you might have had somebody head you off at the pass.

Or maybe you wouldn't have cared anyway. In light of that possibility --

Next, I expect the following editorials:

“Secrets of Yeti still unsolved”

“Secrets of Atlantis still unsolved”

“Secrets of the Bermuda Triangle still unsolved”

If you’re going to write scientifically illiterate pablum like your Sunday Shroud editorial, here's some real ones to start investigating, then editorializing about:

“Mystery of Bush's claim to be a conservative still unsolved”

“Mystery of lack of progressive DMN opinion columnists still unsolved”

“Mystery of why the alt-weekly Observer laughs up its sleeve at the News ... ”

Sorry, scratch that one.