Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The back of beyond

There's a roundup of the circumstances surrounding the dismissal of Putin adviser Andrei Illarionov at Pajamas Media. Illarionov was one of the obstacles in the way of Putin's total control of the Russian oil resource which the Russian President wants to use as a lever on the Ukraine and Continental Europe. The principal agency for controlling Russian oil supplies -- and adjusting its influence -- will be Gazprom, which has a surprising new executive on board. According to a Washington Post article dated December 10, 2005, "Former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder landed a job Friday as board chairman for a Russian-German gas pipeline that he championed while in office, a post that deepens his already close relationship with the Russian government and President Vladimir Putin. ... Alexei Miller, the chief executive of Gazprom, the Russian energy giant that holds a majority stake in the pipeline partnership, said the Schroeder-led board would be involved in 'reaching all strategic decisions on all areas of the company's activity.'"

To wiggle off the Russian hook, Europe is looking to bringing oil through a pipeline from Iran, which Dr. Zin calls the Pipeline to Trouble, "But in hitching its energy star to the Islamic Republic, Ukraine runs the risk of endangering the new diplomatic and economic bonds it has begun to build with Washington in the wake of the Orange Revolution. Iran is steadily emerging as America's cardinal strategic challenge in the post-Saddam Middle East." China, which is becoming more energy dependent by hour is also looking to obtain oil supplies from Central Asia, but wants to keep its lifeline out of the clutches of the Russian Bear. Stratfor says " All told, the Chinese plan aims to connect half a dozen pieces of independent infrastructure -- some Soviet-built, some Chinese-built, others built by yet other entities -- then reverse the flow of some of them and cobble together a new export corridor stretching from Kazakhstan's oil-rich Caspian basin through a series of western- and central-Kazakh oil zones, and ultimately into China proper. For the first time, China will have a source of imported energy not vulnerable to such pesky things as U.S. aircraft carrier battle groups."

Commentary

There was always something odd about calling OIF a "war for oil". Oil from the Middle East has been shipped through established marketing channels for decades. OIF is unlikely to alter those arrangements. Perhaps the real war for oil, in the sense of a struggle for arrangements that do not yet exist is over the reserves in Central Asia. In that struggle Russia has the key advantage of geography. It lies right across the Eurasian landmass and the petroleum roads of the 21st century must pass within or close to her borders. The future oil fields are redoubts of the Islamic fundamentalism and the traditional arena of the Great Game power rivalry between Russia, China and the leading maritime power, once Britain, now the United States.

130 Comments:

Blogger Gandalin said...

Wel,, Wretchard, perhaps it is a "war for oil" for our enemies --- precisely because of the potential threat to Saudi oil hegemony represented by Central Asian and Russian (Far East) oil reserves.

Unless I am mistaken, massive Saudi subsidies for extremist Wahhabist madrassas began at around the time that the Soviet Union was breaking up. Wahhabist subversion of the Central Asian states was probably the major geopolitical aim, in order to keep Russian oil from flooding the market.

Afghanistan was a logical place for the Saudis to wreak havoc. It would have provided a fulcrum for them, around which to twist all of the "stans."

Ths Saudis know that they actually control less oil than they pretend to. And they know that bringing the apparently huge Russian reserves on line would drastically reduce their influence on the world market.

To the Japanese buyer from Vladivostok is a easy 36-hours in a supertanker, compared with over two weeks from the Persian Gulf. There is no way that Middle Eastern oil will be able to compete with Russian oil in the Far East.

Unable to wage outright war against Russia, the Saudis elected to conduct a campaign of subversion. I think that you would have to say that they have so far succeeded in delaying the process.

They funded Al Qaeda and who knows how many other extremist organizations. Thus, they unleashed a war for oil.

I don't necessarily think that the Saudis foresaw the September Eleven atrocities, or realized that the dogs of war they unleashed would attack the West, as well as the Central Asian East. Those were probably unintended consequences. But it is their war for oil, nevertheless.

As you note, however, it is a lost cause. Oil is a commodity, and there will be no keeping new reserves from reaching the market, and thereby diluting Saudi power.

And the development of alternative energy sources for automobiles will further weaken their influence.

Which is why, combined with the demographic crisis in the Middle East, the Saudis felt that they had to act fast, while they still had a pivotal role in the world oil market.

12/28/2005 05:43:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

gandalin
You leave out the Reagan element and the defeat of the Soviets.
By maintaining low oil prices, in concert with US, the Saudis crippled the Soviets cash flow, and bankrupted Communism in Russia.
Mr Reagan fought a many front campaign against the Soviets and used allies where they could be found. He found some of them in the KSA.

Islamic fascists and Wahhabist madrassas have not yet be connected by US.
The dots being so hard for Civil Servants to see.

12/28/2005 06:47:00 AM  
Blogger 49erDweet said...

Slowly, through the mist, a murky pattern seems to be emerging. Can it be as simple as gandilin claims?

Excellent post and comments, W (and g).

12/28/2005 08:23:00 AM  
Blogger enscout said...

Very interesting stuff.

What are the implications in South America?

Seems we have the communists and Waabbs vying for position there too!

12/28/2005 09:07:00 AM  
Blogger Gandalin said...

Desert Rat,

Certainly low oil prices did not encourage Soviet exploitation of the Russian and Central Asian oil fields. However, another factor was, I think, the Soviet Union's ideological reluctance to become a supplier of commodities to more advanced economies. I may be wrong about this, but I think that the Soviet Union refrained from developing its Far Eastern oil reserves because it could not itself use them.

12/28/2005 09:18:00 AM  
Blogger Brett L said...

I'm not sure gandalin's narrative follows. The traditionally-Islamic FSRs were Charlie-Fox without Saudi influence. I'm not sure that the Saudis were particularly worried about being able to bribe the Russians, or at least the locals. Additionally, development and transport costs make Russian oil less profitable.

I'm doubtful that the Russians have the ability to get all of these pipelines built before their demographic nightmare takes over in the next 20 years. How would they defend them?

They can't. But the Chinese can if it is, as Wretchard notes, vital to their national security. The Chinese also have plenty of experienced oil field and pipeline workers.

OTOH, the Gerhard Schroeder deal is interesting. Can you imagine the uproar if Pres. Bush were to take a seat on the board of directors of Pemex in 2009? And in return for giving the Eurocrats another way to trade influence for oil, Putin gets to play the heavy with the Ukraine. Oh well, at least Putin's a big enough demon we probably have 10 years before the US has to pick up the pieces. Where are the Washington Post's superior reporters?

12/28/2005 09:24:00 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Indeed, Gazprom is an arm of Russia's foreign policy. As you mention, Russia is using its leverage with Ukraine, Belarus, and also Georgia. It's opened a pipeline to Turkey. Poland and the Baltic States are wondering what the pipeline to Germany will mean for their future supplies.

(Though, the troubles with Gazprom's merger with Rosneft show there are still factions in the Kremlim with their own interests.)

China's quest to secure energy supplies is a significant story, one that bears watching in the coming years.

With the far-reaching deals being made now in Europe and Asia, it just makes our silly dithering over ANWR all the more shortsighted. Our rivals are taking steps to secure their energy supplies, why can't we?

12/28/2005 10:39:00 AM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

>For A Few Rubles More

The larger picture is of how Mr. Putin has made the nation's energy resources the center of his ruling clique that has erased the lines between public and private power and assets. Does the state run Gazprom or does Gazprom run the state? Mr. Putin has made a priority of further tightening the unholy bond between his regime's internal and external goals and the company that provides most of the natural gas to Central and Eastern Europe. They are not state-run companies; they are the state.

Gazprom's chairman Dmitry Medvedev was recently named first deputy prime minister while deputy chief of staff Igor Sechin heads the other energy goliath, Rosneft. That's not the only reason Rosneft is unlikely to be investigated for its takeover of Yukos's prime asset Yuganskneftegas in a bogus auction one year ago. Taking La Famiglia literally, Mr. Sechin's daughter is married to Attorney General Vladimir Ustinov's son. Mr. Schröder is not joining a company; he is joining the Putin administration.
.
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Using energy as a political weapon is a tried and tested tactic, and with big Western names out front Gazprom will act with even more impunity. Having failed to install another Kremlin flunky in Ukraine, Gazprom has now quadrupled gas prices to Russia's neighbor. The latest threat is to cut off winter gas supplies entirely if the Ukrainian administration doesn't bow down to Russia's will. Georgia and the Baltic states are receiving similar treatment: Toe the Kremlin's political line or get ready for a long, chilly winter. Call it the new "cold" war.
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The Russian press is full of rumors that Donald Evans, former U.S. commerce secretary and an old and dear friend of George W. Bush, was offered the position of chairman of Rosneft during recent meetings with Mr. Putin. They are looking to cover their tracks with a big IPO in 2006 and are shopping around for a prestigious front man to calm Western fears. Mr. Evans would formally put the Bush administration's heretofore unspoken presidential seal of approval on the Kremlin's dirty dealings.

This is the latest Kremlin strategy -- to co-opt and hush the Western nations by making them complicit in its crimes. When everyone is guilty, no one is guilty, goes the logic.
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http://halldor2.blogspot.com

12/28/2005 10:55:00 AM  
Blogger Tony said...

This seems a pretty far-fetched venture, given the physical and political terrain. However, if successful, we will have a new ally in China in the war against Islamofascism.

Gandalin - I don't think the Saudis chose Afghanistan for anything. That was a failed state since about the time it was destroyed by Genghis Khan, and after the devastation of the Soviet invasion, the Taliban gradually took over. Their nihilist version of Islamofascism was a good match for Osama's world-ending dreams. The madrassas funded by the Saudis are in Pakistan mostly, aren't they?

It is becoming increasingly clear that our long-term strategy should be the application of American ingenuity to free us of our dependence on oil. The emerging nations are going to consume every last drop they can suck out of the planet, at which point they'll be hot markets for our new technologies.

12/28/2005 11:05:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmo said...

It has always been and always will be 'about oil,' but not in the way war critics think.

A Middle East in the grip of radical Islamists or dominated by a Saddam Hussein (either of them nuclear armed, eventually) would have been a knife against the jugular vein of the global economy. Not to mention the havoc oil-financed terrorism would wreak around the world.

As global hegemon, the United States would have the most to lose here, but those who would suffer most would be the hundreds of millions, particularly in developing countries, who depend upon the performance of the U.S. economy, and with it, the global economy.

As such, the U.S. is performing surgery around the diseased heart of the global economy, keeping the oil flowing while attempting to remove that which would eventually prove terminal.

Europe is incapable of mounting such an undertaking, and so prizes 'stability' and is willing to treat with whomever controls the spigot. The Chinese, for the moment quite dependent upon that same global economy to sustain its growth, are quite happy to let the U.S. spend blood and treasure securing its oil, while it exploits opportunities presented in the wake of U.S. actions and bides time until it can challenge the (weakened? exhausted?) U.S.

But, history would not look kindly upon any leader or nation that allowed fuel for the worldwide expansion of wealth, health, literacy and poverty reduction we've experienced these past 60 years to be held ransom.

This, for better or worse, is the burden history has (once again) handed the United States.

12/28/2005 11:19:00 AM  
Blogger fjelehjifel said...

Vlad Socor of the Jamestown Foundation is particularly well worth reading on the subject of Russia's energy games. You can read his latest on Ukraine's "gas troubles with Russia here.

12/28/2005 11:33:00 AM  
Blogger Brett L said...

mika:

I hadn't seen the IPO news. I wonder how many players will jump into that rigged game.

Now that Pres. Bush has no more elections to win, I think it's about time for him to repudiate Putin. The buddy routine may have been useful to keep forward momentum going in Iranian Containment and a US buildup in Russia's back-yard. US bases in Afghanistan and Germany are not in Russia's best interest. At least, not if they want to be a world power again. I'm sure the US had to give a couple of favors on that one.

The prospect of losing Georgia, the Ukraine, and most of the Baltic and Caspian region to a fascist Russian hegemony for marginal returns in Iran should be carefully weighed. I think many of us in the Anglosphere forget that many nations are decidedly uncomfortable about the amount of power the US wields. We can't win 'em all at the same time.

Which leads me to attempt to hijack the thread with the following question... If it becomes evident that limited resources force a choice between pushing the ME to a stable end-game or countering the attempts by Moscow to restore FSRs to puppet-statehood, where should we choose to focus our efforts?

Yes, diplomats can work towards both, but which should be the more vital effort?

12/28/2005 12:00:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmo said...

Brett:

I think "pushing the ME to a stable end-game" would provide a platform for "countering (or reversing -ed.) the attempts by Moscow to restore FSRs to puppet-statehood."

The latter would seem to be far more difficult (as would meeting other world crises which lay ahead) without the former (read: oil) in hand.

12/28/2005 12:19:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

Brett,

I'd agree with Cosmo, from a military point of view, Russia with or without the FSR's is the Queen on the board. For now, Oil is the King.

Btw, Wretchard, I thought the Aussie expression is "out back of Burke" to say "the back of beyond."

12/28/2005 12:54:00 PM  
Blogger ed said...

Hmmmm.

----------------------
If it becomes evident that limited resources force a choice between ...
----------------------

Then we should put our efforts into revamping the entire transportation network in the US and abandon (mostly) the automobile entirely.

The problem with the automobile is that there aren't many good alternative fuels and electric cars is a joke. But an all-electric ultra-light computer controlled rail system, particularly for interstate and urban driving, would be extremely useful. If you elevate and vertically stack trackways you can dramatically increase the density of the transportation network. By vertically stacking trackways you can also offer multiple entry/exit points from very tall buildings.

*shrug* Overall what is needed is a concerted effort a, to mis-use the phrase yet again, new Manhattan Project.

12/28/2005 01:32:00 PM  
Blogger soflauthor said...

The US can ultimately choose to bow out of the "War for Oil" if we can effectively wage a "War Against Oil (WaO)." The WaO will be long term (like the WoT) and have a profound impact on our economy. But it's a war that must be fought.

The US (and other nations) has the technology, the creativity, the human capital, and the industrial capacity to switch to alternative fuel sources for gasoiline and diesel vehicles, and at in at least some cases, for electric power generation. What the US is lacking is the will.

It's about time that we recognize that a serious effort to develop viable and broad-based alternative fuel technologies is a national security issue at least as important as the War on Terror. We need leadership with the courage to aggressively persue a WaO.

12/28/2005 01:46:00 PM  
Blogger Mannning said...

We certainly need to play all of the energy games there are, oil, and hydrogen power being the main thrusts. Shale oil, too, may be worth the effort if we can find better ways to process it economically.

It has been recommended over and over again, as Tony pointed out, that we should have a super-scale project, perhaps similar to the Manhatten Project, to create the means and infrastructure for using hydrogen.

The emphasis in the US so far has to me seemed slow and underfunded.

Were we to succeed with such a project, the oil games would peak and then recede rapidly, I believe, into supply to those nations that haven't and can't easily be converted to the new energy source in a short time.

One wonders whether the KSA has also helped to keep oil cheap for us until recently simply to hinder us from making the full investment in hydrogen power that we must eventually commit to.

12/28/2005 01:47:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

"Oil is a commodity, and there will be no keeping new reserves from reaching the market, and thereby diluting Saudi power"
---
There is ONE way:
A Moronic US Public and Demonic Green Run Democrat Party.

Trying to explain what having A meaningful PERCENTAGE of our supply produced in country would do for our National Security in time of crisis to a bunch of folks that want unlimited cheap oil without any domestic wells
is like trying to explain relativity to a rapper.

(I was going to also include "civility to C-," but I'll be kind.)
---
Posted something on the Orange Revolution being derailed by old Soul Eyes Putin a month back or so, along with a Schroeder snip. I'll see if I can find it.

12/28/2005 01:50:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmo said...

ed and soflauthor:

Interesting ideas but, as both of you hint, they require a rather high level of political consensus and will -- not only for commitment to the investment but for managing and tolerating the massive economic dislocation and unraveling of established markets and vested interests which would surely follow.

For the moment, periodic military expeditions and a maintaining a global military presence are considered more expedient and less costly -- however unattractive this option seems.

We have the tools to accomplish a lot of things, but I doubt we could obtain the consensus necessary today to build the interstate highway system, much less alternative energy or transportation platforms.

A coountry unwilling to expand refinery capacity or build nukes is also unlikely to embrace such bold initiatives. That is, until it is forced to do so.

12/28/2005 02:11:00 PM  
Blogger Red River said...

If China is betting its strategy on pipelines, then it has has a lot to learn.

Pipelines are notoriously hard to defend against cruise missiles and SOF. There are critical nodes in the Alaska Pipeline whose destruction would put the line out or commission for months - river crossings, turbines, and passes.

Crossing the Asian landmass is just multiplying the difficulties that the USA had to worry about during the cold war.

However, pipelines are a lot cheaper than VLCC delivery.

12/28/2005 02:17:00 PM  
Blogger Brett L said...

The problem I see w/ the "War Against Oil" strategy is that it assumes that it is in the interest of developed nations to be able to retreat to an isolationist standoff rather than engage problem states.

I'm pretty sure that when R&D plus production of alternafuels becomes lucrative, that will happen. But then where will we get our plastics and petroleum derived clothing and materials? What about the cost of replacing all of the fuel oil, petroleum, and LNG power plants?

While lowering demand for oil is obviously a piece of the puzzle, I am skeptical that it is a panacea for foreign policy and global interests of developed nations.

Here in N. Florida the hippies in the PR of Leon County are up in arms about a new coal power plant. Even though the current one uses petroleum. They think coal is dirty, although any coal plant built in the US today probably is less polluting than the Starbucks coffee roasting plant. But just suggest a nucular power plant and watch them change colors!

I find it a convenient analogy for the whole alternafuel movement. Especially in America, it is too damned inconvenient for me to reduce my petroconsumption, that's why you should. Call it the 'Not in my driveway' corrollary of the old NIMBY behavior.

12/28/2005 02:18:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmo said...

Brett got there first, but there are a couple of other considerations about alternative energy platforms -- as attractive and, ultimately, as necessary as they may be.

First, as Brett points out, petroleum reaches deep into every nook and cranny in our lives. Essentially, nothing gets done without oil. Rehabing our transportation infrastructure might be a start, but we'd have to go a lot further.

Second, since energy markets and energy related industries are essentially global, change could not occur in the the U.S. in a vacuum, and would likely involve such things as standard setting and other changes throughout the world, with all the attendant disruptions mentioned in my previous comment.

Think weaning advanced economies off agricultural subsidies is tricky? Try restructuring the biggest business on the planet.

Third, even if we were to begin tomorrow with an (expensive, most likely) alternative to oil and cede the middle east, we'd end up facing an economic and geopolitical competitor (China) fueled by cheap oil and cheap labor. From a business standpoint, not a good place to be.

12/28/2005 03:17:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

My own worry is that Russia is opening a jewelry story in the wrong neighborhood. It is entering the dangerous game of trying to get Europe and China to dance to the tug of oil strings while beset by fundamental weaknesses. And that's like putting a leash on a 2,000 pound grizzly bear and pretending you're taking it for a walk. My guess is that the Islamists, the Chinese and whoever else will say 'nice rocks you got there, mind if I help myself to them?'

Strategically Russia's only chance for survival is to create a broad based and dynamic economy. Playing this oil game is like fooling with matches in fireworks factory.

12/28/2005 03:28:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmo said...

Wretchard:

Agreed. Others have speculated about the temptation a weakened Russia presents to a China hungry for resources and, perhaps, lebensraum.

And I'll wager that if any this bullying ends up in hostilities, Xinjiang and Tibet will guide us as to the likely outcome.

China won't have a problem with war for oil. There won't be an adversarial media roaming around Siberia looking over its shoulders. Any insurgencies or uprisings will be snuffed out viciously. And you can bet there'll be no elections.

As for any subsequent standoff between the Islamists and China, well, let's just say there'll be no squeamish parlor debates about tolerance or how best to accord deference to a mortal enemy.

12/28/2005 03:51:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

"The problem I see w/ the "War Against Oil" strategy is that it assumes that it is in the interest of developed nations to be able to retreat to an isolationist standoff rather than engage problem states."
---
Being able to make it through massive disruptions/interruptions has to be a first consideration, however, imo.

12/28/2005 04:07:00 PM  
Blogger sam said...

Russian Stocks:

Russian stocks also fueled top-ranking funds. Eight of the best-performing funds sold in Europe focused on Russian shares, benefiting from a 78 percent gain in the Russian Trading System Index. The Seligson Prosperity Russian fund led the pack among investors in the country.

The fund has benefited from putting money into Russian oil companies such as OAO TNK-BP Holding, BP Plc's Russian venture, whose shares started trading earlier this month.

Russian Stocks

12/28/2005 04:10:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

"Strategically Russia's only chance for survival is to create a broad based and dynamic economy."
---
Robots Wanted:
Contact PootiePoot@KGB.com

12/28/2005 04:13:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

Mannning, et. al., a suggestion:

Let's model the new energy technology crusade on the Apollo Program, rather than the Manhattan Project.

The Apollo Program was all competed out in the open (not the tech), a gaudy contest between the American and Russian technology development teams. It was Communism v. Free Enterprise, each bringing all their resources to bear. In a single decade, we developed and launched Mercury (one spam in the can), Gemini and finally Apollo. We put guys on the Moon! Even more astonishing than the guys actually walking on the Moon was JFK's vow and its fulfillment (sorry, it's a little techy, notice it's all about new engine development):

"I therefore ask the Congress, above and beyond the increases I have earlier requested for space activities, to provide the funds which are needed to meet the following national goals:

First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish. We propose to accelerate the development of the appropriate lunar space craft. We propose to develop alternate liquid and solid fuel boosters, much larger than any now being developed, until certain which is superior. We propose additional funds for other engine development and for unmanned explorations--explorations which are particularly important for one purpose which this nation will never overlook: the survival of the man who first makes this daring flight. But in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the Moon--if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there."

JFK gave this speech on 25 May 1961, and on 20 July 1969, the Eagle landed on the moon, and Neil Armstrong took that first small step for mankind. Mission accomplished.

See? Isn't that better than "Manhattan Project"?

12/28/2005 04:44:00 PM  
Blogger Brett L said...

tony:

Somehow it's just hard for me to work up the same enthusiasm for hydrogen refueling stations that I have for seeing someone walk on the moon. No one has defined a sufficiently vivid end state for that kind of project. Also, we aren't talking about the confluence of two technologies (rocketry and computers) going through an adolescent growth spurt.

Again, give me the vision I can buy, and I'm in. If you were selling me a crash project for Drexlerian nanofactories that would result in the Matter Converters from Stephenson's Diamond Age, I'd be at the front of the line, but you'll excuse me if I don't jump up and down about a car fueled by the same stuff that blew up the Hindenburg and can only be efficiently extracted from petrochemicals.

12/28/2005 04:58:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

brett,
The only people DOING anything with Hydrogen are the Honda People, and they have no aspirations or expectations whatsoever about it being the next big thing.

12/28/2005 05:06:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Tony,
JFK and Verhner Von Braun now have to pass muster with the EPA, NEA, Norman Minetta, ACLU, Dept of Homeland Security, and etc.

That is one incredible speech.
The exact opposite of NASA CYAese.

12/28/2005 05:10:00 PM  
Blogger sam said...

Here's some stuff on hydrogen:

"As an alternative fuel, Hythane blends hydrogen with natural gas to meet increasing global emissions standards," said hydrogen industry pioneer Frank Lynch, company founder, co-inventor of Hythane (with Marmaro) and member of various industry safety and standards boards. "This may be the world's first use of hydrogen as a vehicle fuel on a massive scale."

Other parties to the memos of understanding include the China Association for Hydrogen Energy, the China Electronic Engineering Design Institute, Tsinghua University, and the Shougang Technology Research Institute.

Hydrogen Busses

12/28/2005 05:18:00 PM  
Blogger Gandalin said...

Wretchard, You are undoubtedly correct in noting that for Russia, developing a free and competitive economy will lead to greater stability and greater strength than merely marketing natural resources. That's true for the Middle East, as well. If push came to shove, and the industrial economies were severely damaged by a global oil shutdown, all of the investments that the Middle Eastern potentates have would go up in smoke, and the immediate losers would be their own people, and others in the impoverished side of the world. The industrial economies of the West are the major mechanism by which the impoverished side of the world survives. The Greens who say "live simply, that others might simply live" are terribly wrong; the truth is, that if we live simply, the others will simply starve. In other words, if the West stops buying whatever the "Third World" has to sell, the relatively impoverished economies will completely shatter. There's not much chance of that, however. As you note, the purchaser of a commodity who transforms it into a value-added product always ends up ahead of the seller of the mere commodity.

12/28/2005 05:30:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

Brett1 -

Yeah, Schroeder got his pipeline gig as a reward for siding with the Russkies. As for the outcry if Bush got a stint with Pemex through his dear friend Vincente, the outcry would be from Bush that it wasn't enough. This is a President bound and determined to continue pouring 3rd Worlders in, hope they reproduce a bunch - because it all depresses wages and enriches his Owner Class. He calls American people fed up with 9,000 illegals flooding in every day, bankrupting hospitals and local taxpayers "Vigilantes". Wants amnesty.

If I was Bush, I'd say his services to Mexico entitle him and the Bush family and retainers to a 10-15% slice of the whole Pemex business.

His version of crony capitalism and free trade led to societal devestation from the Mexican Border all the way to Argentina's tip. And the people there are now turning hard Left to reverse the gains the Owner Classes down there made at their expense from globalization. And eying the American border as the path to remaining jobs and free gov't services, free health care, free education. Karl Rove thinks the 3rd World are natural Republicans. They aren't. Not even the entrepreneural Muslim bin Laden businessman types that have gone across Bush's unguarded borders.

12/28/2005 05:30:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Sam,
High Methane:
We used to fill plastic Dry Cleaner's sacks w/natural gas, attach some dynamite fuse, light and unleash over the unsuspecting populace of our small town!

12/28/2005 05:32:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

C-4,
Buchanan reminds us that folks don't immediately adopt a centuries long cultural heritage, esp when imported in massive numbers.
W/anti Americanism being taught in the schools, free necessities of life & etc, the dream is a bit of a stretch.

12/28/2005 05:39:00 PM  
Blogger Mannning said...

Tony--

Yes, the Space Program is far and away a better model than the Manhattan Project. It was and is a tour de force in technology also, as well as a grand opportunity for invention-to-purpose.

12/28/2005 05:44:00 PM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

Seems as though the Putin government is caught in a catch 22. In order to shore up economic performance it plays roughshod with private enterprise and the legal system. But by playing dirty it scares away real investment in the Russian economy, which in the long term is its the only salvation.

Wretchard, as per your last comment, I disagree. I have many Russian friends, and I know their way of thinking regards the Chinese. If them Chinese so much as look at Russia the wrong way, their 5000 year culture will end the next day. And the Chinese know it.

12/28/2005 05:48:00 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Putin may be trying to create a Saudi-style ruling elite insulated by oil power against the aggressive rot, but Russia is faltering, and at most this is a medium-term gain. A war may be likely between China and Russia precisely in the oil rich regions to the north of China, which Russia will be unlikely to able to competently defend in 30 years. Secondly, as far as I understand it, Russian oil is much more difficult to extract than Arab or Persian, and I doubt the 36 hour vs. 2 week delivery time (if that is what it is) makes much difference except in a strategic sense - which would probably be mooted by the fact that the likely war scenario involves China and Russia, not China v. US over Taiwan. Russia's disintigration is not hypothetical: I've met many, many refugees. Russia is on auto-rot. The oil dimension in the Iraq war, I think, is to remove the strategic threat to a global oil distribution system weighted far too heavily on Saudi Arabia, itself far too vulnerable to Islamist attack or revolution. Iraq puts Iraqi oil back on the market (though obviously not as quickly as expected), increasing the supply balance. Russia may have huge oil reserves, but an economy of 150 million souls cannot run on oil alone, and without their captive markets, I doubt Russian goods can compete with virtually anything else worth buying.

12/28/2005 06:14:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

Gandalin, some comments:

1. The heavy Saudi contribution to Wahabbi madrassas started in 1979 as part of the deal for appeasing the radicals that seized the Grand Mosque, not a decade later when the Soviet Empire imploded. And those radicals were emboldened to occupy the Grand Mosque by Jimmy Carters weakness after the embassy seizure.

2. The Saudis, Pakistanis fought the Russians by supporting the mujahadeen jihad. For them it was justified holy war. The Americans that loved those religious fanatics and feted them at the White House and trained them with advance weaponry as "noble freedom fighters out to save liberty" of course just wanted the Soviets out.

3. The Saudis sell all the oil they can produce. As the center of Islam, they also call the shots for other ME countries holding most the world's oil reserves. They are not worried about sitting with oil they can't sell - as in liberals infantile myth that banning SUVs would drive the evil Saudis to their knees.

4. There are no alternative energy sources that are cheaper or easier to work with than oil. No chance that Bush's mythical "hydrogen economy" or any other miracle new energy source will cause a price war. Exploding global population (the US added 75 million mostly 3rd Worlders since the last energy crisis in 1973 and went from 30% dependency on imports to 61%) - and the rise of India and China taking over much of the industry and jobs from Western nations ensures there will never be another oil glut.

5. Saudi Arabia will continue to make huge money as long as their Reserves hold out. Islamic fervor and a population that doubles every 20 years will ensure that the average Saudi is poorer though as time goes by unless they can figure how to dump their high-breeding surplus population on another country as the Owner Class in America and the elite in Mexico have done so sucessfully..

6. The struggle for Central Asian oil will be between Russia, China, and the Islamists. Already China is using it's WalMart dollar power to pop the US out like an unwanted zit from places like Ubekistan, Kzygaristan - with Russia's full approval. And China has trained 10s of thousands of surplus oil field workers ready to go into places like Sudan to get China the oil reserves. China has even offered to send it's cadres to the USA to boost oil production, given the US now has a shortage of workers due to us having a cyclical oil industry that uses people and petroleum industry factories for 8 years and discards them for ten as excess capacity. No need to train new people in America for high-paying jobs or add new factory capacity. China is ready. Only China now has the manufacturing capacity to make the new piles of oilfield equipment the high price of oil now demands be spend on more exploration and production. Not entirely true - the US, Japan, the Asian tigers, and Europe will still get jobs and stuff will still be built but not like in past oil booms.

7. The ME will be able to sell every drop they make and compete with oil from Venezuela, Russia, Central Asia, Canada. Oil is just a commodity that is dumped in a big pool the world happily gulps from. Same as soybeans or hogbellies. But we can overproduce soybeans. But, thanks to exploding populations, 2 billion people educated on or above par with Americans now joining the global economy, and the power and global reach of Rising China - there is no way anyone will be sitting with barrels of oil or ingots of scarce metals like vanadium, platinum they can't sell at huge profit.

8. The Saudis are a long time US ally, believe it or not, no matter what the neocons say - with an Islamist problem...They are and always have been responsible stewards of their oil. When they have acted against the Soviet Union/Russia over the years from time to time - it was at the behest of the Americans.

12/28/2005 06:18:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

Brett I requested: Again, give me the vision I can buy, and I'm in. If you were selling me a crash project for Drexlerian nanofactories that would result in the Matter Converters from Stephenson's Diamond Age, I'd be at the front of the line,

Imho, current versions of "cars" will go retro back to electric trolley cars, only they won't depend on electricity conducted through steel tracks and overhead wires. They can drive freely, like regular cars, their only roads are gravity and momentum.

The cars themselves will take advantage of micro-shock-absorber type of dealy-o's that convert the random shocks of gravity and inertia into captured energy. The first gen hybrid cars already do something like this. Micro-machines will gather inertia with a very fine touch, so that most of the "lost" energy of current day
"cars" that is lost in bumps and curves and stops is "re-purposed."

That's Step 1.

Step 2 is building the above technologies into the road surface, so that all the energy of the passing traffic is likewise captured and re-used.

Simple, eh?

12/28/2005 07:13:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Been drinking some of that Kurzweill Kool Aid, huh, Tony?

---
Wretchard: There's a quintuple post back on "Who's a Journalist?" you might want to clean up.

12/28/2005 08:46:00 PM  
Blogger Brett L said...

Tony:

Why would I give up my independently driven car that goes where I will it to ride public transportation? I live in Tallahassee, I go to the beach 100 miles SW as often as I can. (It was a beautiful day out there Monday) I doubt that anyone's gonna run a trolley to St. Vincent Island. There ain't enough paying customers for profit, and there ain't enough voters for pork.

Also, where is this electricity coming from? A 100% efficient solar cell would only generate about 1Kw/sec. Wind turbines are big, loud, and ugly...just ask Teddy Kennedy. Hydrogen works as a fuel because it releases energy when it combines w/ oxygen to form water. That means we have to ADD energy to derive it. Stripping hydrogen from LNG is far more efficient, but you've gotta drill for LNG. Nuclear energy might be a possiblity, but 100% nuclear is gonna use a lot of U. Anyone wanna go run around South-Central Africa for a while?

See, fossil fuels are efficient because they are the distillation of billions of energy-fixing machines (plants and animals) by applying high temp-pressure (additional energy investment). Nuclear is same, billions of years of gravitational energy applied to atoms in star furnaces. TANSTAAFL. Any alternafuel we create has to compete with the solar/geo energy investment made over millions or billions of years.

So, then, to come up with some alternafuel that is cheaper than oil to produce is literally impossible. The challenge is to make a fuel that can be produced and delivered for the price of oil delivery. While maintaining the convenience of very high energy storage density in a medium that is a liquid at STP.

Of course, what might be a cheaper alternative is creating a bug that has a voracious appetite for trash and craps hydrocarbons. (or hydrogen, but H is not the most convenient energy storage medium)

12/28/2005 09:27:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Carridine, be sure to check out Radioblogger.com for the Kaplan interview:
Kaplan,
"Yes, one of the things that I think really kind of unnerved the elite, is that while there are all these conferences and discussions in Washington and elsewhere about should we support Afghan warlords or not, should we create an Afghan national army or not, what should our foreign policy be in Yemen or Colombia or in Iraq.

I discovered a world of basically working-class people, who were operationally far more sophisticated and knowledgeable about all these issues, who spoke languages, who had personalities that didn't fit into any one neat division.

They were evangelical, but they spoke two exotic languages.
People like that who

...so while all these discussions are taking place, foreign policy is being enacted on the ground by majors and sergeants and lieutenants, who are utterly oblivious to most of these discussions.
And you know what?
They're doing these things very, very well
.

12/28/2005 09:33:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

Perhaps the real war for oil, in the sense of a struggle for arrangements that do not yet exist is over the reserves in Central Asia.

/////////////
wretchard:

imho there will be some radical technological advances in the next five years in the hydrogen economy --as well as desalination--which will render these central asian games moot.

the whole US venture in iraq will be considered to be a rear guard action in and endgame.
//////////////
To understand this its helpful to know that General Motors bonds are at Junk Bond status. And yet General Motors has predicted for more than a year now that they would be able to make fuel cell costs 1/10 of the current $500@ kilowatt hour. Similiar things will be done in desalination.

When both milestones are hit--and that they will be hit-- is built into the current US research agenda--it will radically change the course of the world.

I have argued before that if Bush could say that the US was on the road to making water desalination and transportation sufficiently cheap so as to make it economically feasible to turn all the world's deserts green--then bush will have done what reagan did with his star wars speech in the early 80's.

12/28/2005 11:12:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

...but then Bush War Bonds might attain Junk Bond Status also.
---
Are you saying GM is right and the market is wrong?
---
Dec 21, Senate GOP effort on ANWR falls short
Senate Republicans were dealt a significant setback today when their effort to pass legislation on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) fell short.

“The Senate today stood up against a dangerous abuse of power and made it clear it’s unacceptable to put oil companies ahead of our troops,” said Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).
“We won’t be bullied, we won’t be blackmailed.
The lines have rarely been drawn so clearly between right and wrong.”

12/28/2005 11:27:00 PM  
Blogger Gandalin said...

Cedarford, your points are well taken.

1. You are right that the Saudis began accomodating the Islamist extremists after the Grand Mosque siege of 1979. However, the Saudi royal house has Wahhabism as its official religion, so it is not quite right to oppose the Saudis and the Wahhabis. Certainly there are elements in the royal house that are more Wahhabist than others, and other elements that are more western-oriented than others.

2. Of course the US supported the Afghan mujahideen against the Soviet Union. That's the kind of alliance you make in a war. Churchill allied himself with Stalin.

3. I agree that the Saudis want to sell oil.

4. You are right, there are no current energy sources that are cheaper than oil. Except perhaps nuclear power. But the next energy source may yet come. Whale oil was superseded by petroleum.

5. I agree that the Saudi economic model is a failure.

6. I agree that China is a huge threat . . . and a huge opportunity.

7. I agree that oil is a commodity.

8. I agree that the Saudis have been in the main a reliable producer and a reliable ally. The ruling house is apparently heterogeneous as to its political ideas, and some of what we are seeing is the result of internal struggles.

12/29/2005 03:36:00 AM  
Blogger Anointiata Delenda Est said...

Gentlemen and Dymphna,

Let's remember the Second Law of Thermodynamics: "in all energy exchanges, if no energy enters or leaves the system, the potential energy of the state will always be less than that of the initial state."

Roughly paraphrased - "this is as good as it gets, unless you want to put in more".

Hydrogen, phydrogen... follow the above law, you are worse off. And it is true.

But a good long term is a series of good short terms.

So for the short term of the next twenty years, the West has the oil as a result of OIF. In the context of a 150 year (defense of the West against Islam) war, twenty years is short-term. After 20 years, we'll own Russia.

And by the way, the Islamists will regret that Allah ever gave them the World's second greatest oil reserves.

ADE

12/29/2005 06:10:00 AM  
Blogger Tony said...

Doug - heh! I was only extrapolating from existing technology, I wasn't talking about gravity drives and the Unified Field Theory!

Right now, hybrid cars capture some of the energy of braking to pump up their batteries, and I'm just taking that idea forward. For example, piezo-electric crystals give off a little spark of electricity when you squeeze them - why not make the entire car work like that, and capture every little bump, turn acceleration, deceleration and even wind resistance and capture the energy that pushing back on the car.

There are already designs for planes that can re-shape their wings (and not just haul them back and forth like the F-14 and F-111), sort of like nitinol that "remembers" its shape based on energy inputs. My cars would have that kind of stuff, too.

And the roads would be made out of the same stuff, and they'd be able to capture, store and share energy with the cars.

Of course, the Second Law of Thermodynamics means even these super-efficient machines are going to lose more energy than they gather, so we'll still need energy input. And that's why God made nuclear power plants.

Brett - these "trolley cars" won't be restricted to tracks!

I'm surprised you guys don't know about this, it was all described in my sci-fi book "The President's Suit." O wait, that never got published.

We'll still need oil or hydrogen or something for the planes, though. Unless we get to the gravity drives through a Unified Field Theory solution.

12/29/2005 11:58:00 AM  
Blogger Tony said...

Correction: We probably won't get to hyrdrogen planes. Kelly Johnson already tried that, and he ended up giving the money back because it couldn't be done. If Kelly and the Skunkworks couldn't do it, I'm thinking it can't be done.

The problem was that the pressure vessel to store the super-cooled hydrogen just puts too many limitations on the entire design. Nuclear-powered planes have a similar design limitation that probably can not be solved.

12/29/2005 12:03:00 PM  
Blogger Brett L said...

tony:

That should be significantly cheaper than the $100 Billion a year we've been spending for the current war... I mean we're only talking about replacing 90% of the power plants and every road and car in the world. Oh, and with immature technologies, too. And if we can't drill at ANWR, how in the HELL are we going to mine Uranium for all those nuc plants domestically? I guess we'll have grow closer to all those mature and stable democracies in Central Africa.

/sarc

12/29/2005 12:18:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

Hey Brett,

You were asking for a dream, I gave you a sci-fi plausible dream. More plausible than what you described: If you were selling me a crash project for Drexlerian nanofactories that would result in the Matter Converters from Stephenson's Diamond Age, I'd be at the front of the line,

Besides, we make all new cars all the time anyway, how long does the average car last in use? Ten years, at the outside. Likewise, roads get re-surfaced constantly on an ongoing basis. We just gotta start incrementally building in my sci-fi technologies, well, after we invent them.

You gotta Think BIG, man!

12/29/2005 12:32:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

One more thing on the sci-fi energy cars, if anyone is still following this silly idea:

Brett - I like your ideas for the size of the market! We're not going to GIVE these babies away, y'know!

On the other hand, we can't really expect the Developing World to simply become addicted to 20th Century energy technology (oil, combustion engines) while we smoothly transition to what now sounds like sci-fi breakthroughs. Or can we?

In places where there are no phones, they don't hang wires and start back at the telegraph, it's cheaper to just jump straight to cell phones. The cost drives the choice.

If we accept that 20th century tech is the cheapest solution available, maybe India, China, et. al. will stay with it, even as we begin to pull away.

In any case, we won't be giving these babies away! It should be a capitalist's dream to develop such an alternative.

Remember - it's the new Apollo Program we're going for: rapid, dramatic, focused evolution in science and technology.

12/29/2005 03:04:00 PM  
Blogger exhelodrvr said...

Why has no one suggested conservation of resources, as a way to limit the funds available to non-U.S. friendly nations and decrease our dependence?

There is plenty that could be done with today's technologies, if people could be motivated to use less resources. (I assume that it will not happen voluntarily; it will need to be some combination of financial benefits for saving, and penalties for using.)

And what about the government offering some substantial monetary award to companies/individuals that develop X technology that results in Y amounts of energy savings? Putting capitalism to work on the problem is the best way to find a solution.

Finally, our oil shale reserves are vast. Once prices permanently get high enough (which would not be much higher than they were a few months ago) oil shale will ba a viable alternative.

12/29/2005 03:27:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

ex-helo,
Too easy, too fast, and it would work.
In Hawaii, where solar water is a trivial matter, large numbers of houses still have oil fired electric water heaters, and less than half of the houses have ANY insulation in the ceilings.

In the 70's it was actually the popular thing to do and talk about for a while, efficient cars, efficient houses, etc...
and then.

I remember Mercedes even advertising using the "social conciousness" theme for their diesels.

How times have changed, current cars make the muscle cars of the 70's look like snails, and if your house isn't built to the property line in many neighborhoods, you are out of step with the times.

Magical thinking:
Burn Oil while refusing to Produce it.

12/29/2005 03:43:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

"And what about the government offering some substantial monetary award to companies/individuals that develop X technology that results in Y amounts of energy savings? Putting capitalism to work on the problem is the best way to find a solution"
---
Pacific Gas and Electric did that on a large scale in Calif. in the 70's and the savings have been significant.

12/29/2005 03:46:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Ukraine, Russia resume gas talks.
MOSCOW: Ukraine and Russia resumed tense talks yesterday amid Russian threats to cut off natural gas exports to its energy-dependent neighbour within 72 hours unless Kiev agrees to a four-fold rise in prices.

The dispute has brought to boiling point tensions that have strained relations between Moscow and its former republic since reformist President Viktor Yushchenko came to power in Ukraine after last year's Orange Revolution, promising to move his nation of 48 million toward integration with the West.

Ukraine has pointed out that other ex-Soviet republics such as Georgia and Armenia have had their gas tariffs raised far less to just US$110 per 1,000 cubic metres.

Maxim Yusin, foreign editor of leading Russian daily Izvestia, said that Ukraine could not expect to keep preferential gas tariffs while behaving as an "openly anti-Russian force."

12/29/2005 05:36:00 PM  
Blogger whit said...

Putin is playing vindictive hardball with the former satellite countries. They bucked him and he is using his leverage to bring them back into line. How they will react and where this will lead remains to be seen. Obviously, our concern is with the amount of pressure he is willing to employ on others. As far as his efforts to develop delivery systems, who can blame him? That’s where the money is. Putin makes his move now or forever sits on the sideline watching the Chinese call the shots.

The U.S. like the rest of the world is addicted to inexpensive mid-east oil because it is inexpensive to produce. Try developing some manhattan project and watch the oil prices plummet just as they fall when the US restarts domestic production. One thing the oil cartel can do is make it very hard for anyone to compete.

12/29/2005 05:57:00 PM  
Blogger rufus said...

Ethanol will comprise about 3% of our gasoline in 2006. It will be about 4.5% in 07', and 6% in 08. We will attain 20 - 25% almost by accident. You can produce ethanol for less than $1.00/gal. Ergo, even though ethanol gets government subsidies ( $.50/gal,) it's "Profitable" without them. Very Profitable.

Oh, and it's 105 Octane. It's less dense than unleaded gasoline, so for max results, it needs a higher compression when used at extremely high ( 85%) mixtures. GM is already producine a car, the Saab 9-5 2.0 bio-power, that gets great gas mileage on gasoline, and even better mileage on 85% Ethanol.

Oh, and it runs like a bat out of h*ll. Ethanol is going to help quite a lot in the next 20 or 30 years.

12/29/2005 06:14:00 PM  
Blogger exhelodrvr said...

Whit,
Oil prices plummeting will be good for us foreign policy-wise. It would hurt the funding sources of the terrorists, hurt Iran, hurt Chavez.
So we would win either way.

12/29/2005 06:23:00 PM  
Blogger sam said...

More stuff on ethanol:

"There can be real localized competitive reasons for fluctuations," AAA of East Tennessee spokesman Don Lindsey said. "Everything is kind of lollygagging back and forth."

And he said E85, an 85 percent ethanol, 15 percent gasoline mix, can be burned by many vehicles including the Ford Taurus at AAA's Knoxville office.

Gasoline Prices Drop

12/29/2005 06:23:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

Exhelo,

The reason conservation is a non-starter is the same reason Kyoto is a non-starter. The huge, explosively growing economies in India, China and Asia are not going to conserve. Like a baby, growth is the imperative now.

Even if we conserve to the point of wearing cardigans in the White House like Jimmy Carter, we are going to have less and less effect on the price and demand for oil.

All the oil is going to get used up, until and unless someone builds a better mousetrap.

America has a history of better mousetraps.

Look where technology has landed us so far - infernal dependence upon viciously contested oil wells in the desert. It's like something out of Dune! Somehow the entire universe revolves around the rare Spice on the desert planet. Wth!

Our next technology will be free of such localized chokepoints.

12/29/2005 06:37:00 PM  
Blogger rufus said...

E-85 is mostly consumed in the Corn Producing states, right now. Minnesota has approx. 200 stations that sell Ethanol. Illinois, slightly less than a hundred the last time I looked. I think Tn has one station that sells it. Older cars aren't as efficient at using ethanol as newer models. It, also, as a result of being less dense burns better in Northern Climes.

The new engines give very little difference in mileage between Ethanol and Unleaded, and, as I said, some engines get "Better" mileage with Ethanol. Several of the new Fords, including the new F-150 are built to burn any mixture from 0 ethanol to 100%.

It's not just a U.S. phenomena. Probably 25 counties, including the all of the most advance, are moving to mixtures of 5 to 10% Ethanol. Brazil is up to approx 40% of transportation fuel.

12/29/2005 06:39:00 PM  
Blogger Brett L said...

rufus:

It was my understanding that the Octane Number was an average percentage by volume. Thus, 105 seems a bit high. Also, that $1/Gal doesn't include the cost of growing the corn (awful lot of diesel fuel spent sowing and reaping) and the fact that most fertilizer is derived from petroleum products. Over and over again, those darn First two Laws of Thermodynamics.

According released by Cornell and UC Berkeley, ethanol costs at least 30% more fossil fuel energy than is reclaimed by the process.

Link to Cornell Study

To exhelo I repeat what I said earlier, even if we stopped running gas engines and gas generators tomorrow, we'd still consume huge amounts of oil in the manufacture of plastics, polymerized clothing, and fertilizers.

Also, if the transistion cost slows down the US economy while allowing China's to accelerate, are we really serving the best purpose here?

The Hydrogen Economy is a myth. It's like SDI--just plausible enough that the Russkies (and Saudis and Iranians) have to consider it. H2 doesn't get us out of petrochem, just crude oil.

12/29/2005 06:42:00 PM  
Blogger rufus said...

BTW, the largest Ethanol refinery in the world, as well as the largest refinery under construction, is in "China."

12/29/2005 06:43:00 PM  
Blogger Brett L said...

PIMF:

According to studies released by Cornell and UC Berkeley, ethanol costs at least 30% more fossil fuel energy than is reclaimed by the process.

12/29/2005 06:44:00 PM  
Blogger rufus said...

It "Costs" less than $1.00/gal to produce Ethanol. Field corn has been raised and sold for cattle feed for 200 years. Field corn sells, today, for $2.15/bu. A bushel of field corn yields about 2.8 gallons of Ethanol, plus about a quarter's worth of Distiller's Grains (used for cattle feed, chicken feed, etc.) and Carbon Dioxide which is sold for a multitude of purposes )such as flooding old oil fields.)

The "Entomologist" from Cornell (Pimiental,) and the guy from Berkeley are Frauds. The guy from Berkeley has made hundreds of thousands, if not millions, as a public advocate for big oil. He is the founder and current director of UCal Oil Consortium. I'm close with that name.

Yes, field corn is quite profitable when sold for $2.15/bu. And, Ethanol is "QUITE" PROFITABLE when made from corn, purchased for $2.15/bu.

12/29/2005 06:55:00 PM  
Blogger rufus said...

Petzak, the guy from Berkeley would never put his work up for "Peer" review. Neither would Pimental. There work was a joke. It was discredited by the university of Colorado School of Mines, Michigan State University, University of Nebraska, Argonne Labs, the USDA, and the Canadian Dept of Agriculture Stuies ( to name a few.)

Their numbers for what it costs to produce corn was a joke. Their numbers for things likel; fossil fuel used, irrigation, yield were (are) 30 years out of date.

12/29/2005 07:01:00 PM  
Blogger rufus said...

The latest work by the USDA give Ethanol a 1.6 to one energy conversion efficiency.

Look, I'm not a Farmer. I have no dog in this fight. BUT, the fight is "Over." Exxon gave up. Ethanol is here. It's very profitable, and we can produce a lot of it. We will bring 2 BILLION GALLONS on line in 2006.

That's the equivalent of the output of two good-sized oil refineris, except no hurricane are going to take them out, and we won't need 150,000 troops and 150 Billion Dollars to protect them.

12/29/2005 07:09:00 PM  
Blogger Allison said...

Wretchard,

re: your comment that Europe is trying to wriggle off of Russia's hook by cozying up to Iran wrt oil, what do you make of Russia's proposal to Iran to move Iran's uranium enrichment facilities to Russia?

Is this a way for Russia to show to Europe that it's still a regional and global power? Is it an attempt at diplomacy with the US, or a way to triangulate the US? Is this a way to strategically begin a way to collaborate with Iran to corner the energy market in Europe, and to start reconciling Iran's oil program into working closely with Russia, thereby putting Europe back on that hook? Or is it something else?

12/29/2005 08:26:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

When supplies are interrupted:

The more oil we have in the strategic reserve, the better.

The more we produce or can produce domestically, the better.

The less we use the better.

Unless and until, everything else will be "coulda woulda."

12/30/2005 03:57:00 AM  
Blogger buck smith said...

It is important to remember oil is a fungible quantity. Europe can make a pipeline to Iran, but they are not going to get Iranian oil significantly cheaper than what Iran can get by putting the same oil on a tanker and selling it somewhere else.

Natural Gas is a little different; it is tied to a pipeline distribution network. Although if the oil prices stay high enough, natural gas will become fungible; it can be liquefied and transported. This required producers and consumers to make investments in liquefication stations and terminals.

12/30/2005 05:54:00 AM  
Blogger The Wobbly Guy said...

Ethanol production and any other associated biotech that can compress the millions of years for solar energy to be converted into hydrocarbons via photosynthesis and geological activity into a year is certainly going to help a lot.

BTW, ethanol can be classified as a hydrocarbon of sorts, and thus a fossil fuel. What is needed are plants capable of rapid growth and low maintainence, requiring minimal fertilizer, and a voracious bacterium yeast able to convert plant matter into ethanol with high rates of efficiency.

12/30/2005 06:17:00 AM  
Blogger exhelodrvr said...

Tony,
If we conserve, we use less foreign oil. That opens up a wide range of foreign policy options that are currently not available to us.
Conserving oil does not have to slow down the U.S. economy. QUite the contrary; whole new technologies and lines of improved products will rise to meet the new demands.

12/30/2005 06:54:00 AM  
Blogger Karridine said...

Doug (and Friends),
Thanks for the nod.

Yes, that was well underway when policy was changed, and I pioneered the non-native instructor system at Defense Language Institute. I was no slouch, but the SuperLearning techniques have in fact and in truth, developed to the point where we are training people VERY WELL in target languages, and then setting them out in their countries where, IN Urdu or Arabic or Kazakh or Farsi, they argue the benefits of self-determination, under God, and they're arguing from a position of strength!

We've been cranking out linguists for decades now, AND honing the language-learning system: My heart AND my vote for the lingies on the ground! Give 'em an earful, Kids! And yr compassionate actions speak even LOUDER than words!

Ooh-rah!

12/30/2005 07:54:00 AM  
Blogger Dave H said...

brett, you seem to have a solid grasp of some facts like the laws of thermodynamics, but it seems there is some controversy or confusion regarding the cost of ethanol and its "octane" rating. I don't think octane rating has much to do with the energy content of the fuel, I don't doubt that gasoline powered cars could match or exceed any fuel economy numbers by an ethanol powered vehicle (mixture that is), but it would be at the cost of performance. The energy available in a plain hydrocarbon is greater than that of any mixture of any alcohol which is "contaminated" if you will by oxygen. So we could achieve the same or better fuel economies by just reducing performance on our vehicles, which we are no doubt loath to do.

There may be a way to exploit solar power and thus tap the most readily available source of "fossil" energy. There are usually considerable differences in the temperature of surface ocean waters and deep water. At the cost of constructing enormous floating plants with very long and very large suction pipes a system consisting of heating a refrigreant with the warm surface water and recondensing the gas to a liquid with cold bottom water after expanding it through an enormous turbine could probably recover a lot of electric energy at very little fuel cost. You then have the problem of getting the energy to someplace where it could be used.

The whole thing would involve enormous engineering costs, and may be ecologically unsound anyway, might have to be located in an ocean current, so the cooled surface waters would be able to be gotten out of the way, or they migt be able to be returned to the depths.

I would like to see some studies regarding a method for the operation of the spaceship earth.

12/30/2005 08:19:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

jI leave for a couple of days, drive hindreds of miles, on DIRT roads, only to discover, upon returning, that the back of beyond in the US is to be abandoned so we can travel communally in trolleys, on paved roads.

City slickers, that's what we have posting around here.

Victory will not be found in isolation, in pulling back or walking away.

The Russians, Chinese nor Saudis are going to roll over and play dead. Even if there is a competitor to oil, oil will still Rule the World for decades to come.

The idea that an auto self destructs in ten years may be true in some places, but not the American West. Here the 150,000 mile marker idicates the beginning of the useful service life, not the end.

12/30/2005 08:26:00 AM  
Blogger Dymphna said...

kxSince my name was mentioned, I thought I'd drop in to mention a subject I haven't seen discussed, and for which Wretch's geopoly genius might have an opinion:

The Ides of March or thereabouts is beginning to look like implosion time:

1.Israel makes her move on Iran,

followed by but not connected to

2.the Feds decision to stop reporting M3 money supply (~ 23 March),

thus

2a.we won't know how much in the way of $$ the US has to print to keep up with debt recall as the dollar drops to the cellar,

since

3.that is also the month (~21 Mar) that Iran switches to the Euro for oil payments.

And then, and then let's consider

The Strait Of Hormuz.

Is anyone concerned about Iran's continuing fortifications there, or wonder what they'll do once they figure they can close it and do a stand-off routine?

Just asking.

Moi, I'm buying stock in wheelbarrows since that's the transpo we'll need to carry our money to buy bread, never mind oil.

12/30/2005 08:26:00 AM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

March, Mars, the Spring campaign 'march' mars the peace. But, don't buy wheelbarrows, buy coal and the railroads which haul it. And a little Exxon won't hurtcha, nor will a good domestic drilling company.

12/30/2005 09:04:00 AM  
Blogger rufus said...

Octane is the "efficiency" with which a fuel is capable of being burned in an internal combustion engine.

YOUR HOTTEST "DRAGSTERS" ARE ALCOHOL-POWERED. So are your Indy Cars.

Octane is important.

The Saab 2.0 engine will turn out 20% + more hp using ethanol than it puts out with standard unleaded. It uses an inexpensive variable turbo-charger to adjust the compression depending on the alcohol mixture (or lack there-of.)

Cut your fuel consumption by 30%, and then satisfy 30% of the remaining 70% with ethanol. Now, How Many "Marines" do you have to send to Iran?"

12/30/2005 09:04:00 AM  
Blogger rufus said...

When I said, "Cut your consumption," I was thinking about "Hybtrids," of course.

12/30/2005 09:08:00 AM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

Break out the maps!

12/30/2005 09:17:00 AM  
Blogger Voltimand said...

Off-thread, I offer this breaking news. Powerline and others have been calling for this investigation, and here apparently it is.

Justice Dept. Probing Domestic Spying Leak
AP - 33 minutes ago

WASHINGTON - The Justice Department has opened an investigation into the leak of classified information about President Bush's secret domestic spying program, Justice officials said Friday. The officials, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the probe, said the inquiry will focus on disclosures to The New York Times about warrantless surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

12/30/2005 10:45:00 AM  
Blogger Voltimand said...

One comment, again off-thread, about this DOF investigation: will the MSM spin this as revenge for attacking the president? It's time get transparency a/b leaks, n'est-ce pas? First Plame, then the world.

12/30/2005 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger Brett L said...

To settle the octane rating: it is a comparison of how the tested gasoline burns compared to pure iso-octane. It may be possible to exceed 100. Mea culpa.

Formula for ethanol: C2H60
Formula for octane: C8H18

In per volume terms, a gallon of gasoline has approximately 35000 more BTUs.

While an ethanol tuned engine can support much higher compression ratios than gasoline, fuel efficiency falls off accordingly. Basically you can pump more ethanol into a piston than gas, but that doesn't help reduce energy consumption. Thermodynamics strikes again.

Also, according to the Dept. of Energy as of 8/2005 an unsubsidized gallon of ethanol generated from corn would cost about $2.75 (before the 40% tax that is currently on gas from the pump). Their most optimistic estimate (which includes some vaporware technologies not yet proven) is $1.07.

Also cited is that ethanol is now more expensive than gasoline in most of Brazil.

Here's another thought for you:
What happens if ethanol demand eats the surplus the US dumps, the food-aid it provides, and forces us to cultivate land left strategically fallow? Do you think ADM and Conagra are going to give up the corporate welfare they receive every year from the US government for those 3 things and their ethanol subsidy? Wasn't the Farm Bill $300 Billion plus this year?

And how will it affect our foreign policy if we don't deliver millions of tons of food to the hungry every year?

Ethanol (and other alternatives) may well be a step in the right direction, but many supporters refuse to consider the Law of Unintended Consequences. I have argued vehemently not so much against alternafuels, but in favor of appreciating the status quo and making reasonable projection of future problems.

Here are two:

1. Crude oil (and LNG) are not just used for transportation, heating, and electricity generation. They are also used to produce plastics, clothing fibers, fertilizers, pesticides, lubricants, and a wealth of other projects. Getting it out of the car would only further obscure the debate.

2. Even if the US quit using oil tomorrow, is anyone really in favor of allowing the Russians and Chinese to run around doing as they will in Central Asia? Am I the only one who thinks that is a the top of the list of really bad ideas?

Reducing the US oil dependence has become the stalking horse for neo-isolationism. Oil has become the scapegoat for all of the attendant problems of globalization. Globalization itself is a consequence of the transportation/communication revolution of the 20th century. Unless transportation and communication become once again slow, expensive, and centralized, the problems blamed on oil dependence will not go away. We might just as easily say that if the US would just stop exporting movies and pop culture, all of our problems would be solved. It is equally false.

12/30/2005 10:54:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

"Cost of Cisneros Probe Nears $21 Million Over 10 Years ...
rivaling some of the largest independent counsel investigations in ...

Barrett said in an interview yesterday that he could not comment because of a judicial order that has barred him from speaking publicly until he completes his investigation and releases a final report. A source close to the investigation said the 400-page report was finished in August and should be released soon."
---
Now Congress has stymied the release of this report detailing Bill and Hillary's obstruction of justice and using the IRS and FBI against political opponents.
---
Wonder why Fitzpatrick is instead a Media Star?
hmmm?

12/30/2005 10:58:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

"Reducing the US oil dependence has become the stalking horse for neo-isolationism."
---
Brett,
Quite apart from that, or any other arguments brought up here, however, is our need not to be brought to our knees by an interruption of supply.

This should be addressed NOW, not later.
...and there is much that could be done now.

12/30/2005 11:04:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

High on the list of our vulnerabilities is Refining Capacity running near 100% for day to day consumption.
Most arguments seem to ignore the consequences of supply interruption, even though the scenarios to bring that about are limitless.

12/30/2005 11:10:00 AM  
Blogger Brett L said...

doug:

I'm more than willing to acknowledge your argument. The supply chain is a weak link that should have been addressed a decade ago. It was very short sighted to allow the refining operation to be exported. However, that was more convenient than meeting the high permitting/production/maintenance costs mandated by ever more restrictive environmental laws.

Perhaps if the government removed some of the cost barriers, the oil companies would be willing to dump some of their cash into this effort.

12/30/2005 11:21:00 AM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

Well, until Bill Clinton's Chinese Navy catches up with the USN, we can make sure that if we don't get any, nobody else does either.

12/30/2005 11:22:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

brett
While I agree with in priniple, I'll take your word on some of the economics, your case seems sound, as well, if not primarily, as your idea that oil is much more then just fuel.

The Central Asia challenge is more a development to watch, I think, then one to get very involved in, at this point.

I am not sure, exactly, what the US could do to halt the Game anyway.
Chinese growth is really a given, unless War and Pestilience sweep the Chinese mainlnd, again.
While Chinese internal struggles for power are obscured by distance and culture, I do not think that China, as an institution, is ready to collapse. Anything but, really.

The Russians may be on the verge of Revival. Much is made of birthrates, dispair and population shrinkage in Russia. To much I think. The Russians have shrunk their population before, through War and Starvation. Neither is occuring in Russia, today. The Russian Challenge can be remedied, but not in a Politically Correct way.

As has been noted, here in the Past, and by VD Hanson, in his Private Papers, that the success the US has had in the Mohammedan Wars makes for a level of expectation of continued success that is unattainable and historicly inaccurate. That the US does not really understand what a "War" is any more.

The Russians do, they also understand Nationalism in a way most Americans do not. They will be needing a War, soon. Where it will be fought and against whom are the only "real" questions.

Better Central Asia than Central Europe

12/30/2005 11:22:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

" ... promise that the conflict that has begun will not end until Muslims have the lands, power and status they demand and deserve. Lesser peoples are to be annihilated or subjugated ..."

" ... Only one aspect of all this is new and novel: the Western conviction that it is passé to wage war in pursuit of such objectives. Most Americans and Europeans can not imagine fighting other than in self-defense or against severe oppression.

That is admirable; less so the lack of imagination that leads so many in the West to “mirror-image,” to delude themselves into believing that everyone sees the world as they do.

To win a war requires more than boots and bullets. It requires understanding the enemy's motives and goals, and perceiving how intensely he is committed to victory.

Postmodern Americans and Europeans may believe wars of conquest are obsolete, a discarded relic of the distant past. They may even see war itself as an aberration, an unnatural disruption of what they have convinced themselves is the “normal” state of peaceful coexistence. But our enemies view the world differently. Their perspective is of an older vintage.

“The ordinary theme and argument of all history is war,” observed Sir Walter Raleigh in the early 17th century. Wishing that were no longer true does not make it so.
We infidels pretend otherwise at our peril. ..."


This is quoted from Clifford D. May, a former New York Times foreign correspondent. Mr May is the president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism. It is on that site that this work is found.

Wonder why he no longer works at the NYT?

12/30/2005 11:51:00 AM  
Blogger Dymphna said...

May is no longer slogging at the NYT because he couldn't stand one more day of being in the same sinking ship as the dolthood of Dowd, Krugman, et al.

Can't say I blame him.

12/30/2005 12:02:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Oh my!
I threw away our History Books,
thinking it was SO over.

12/30/2005 12:07:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Krugman and Mo?
Did you say STINKING Ship?

12/30/2005 12:09:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

That is why Home schooling is suspect, doug.
Folks do not teach what they do not believe, or is that why Public schooling is suspect?

Yeah, you should have saved those books.

Could have used 'em, recycled for heat & ash, as expensive a fuel oil is.
We use natural gas, here in town, and wood out at the ranch. Gasoline powered generaters and solar cells for electric at the ranch, Nuclear powered electric at the Phoenix house.

In a community where everything is piped in, including both water & power, the Security of the delivery systems becomes even more self evident to the thinking. To most though, hit the switch or open the valve, and the Spice will flow. Guarenteed.

12/30/2005 12:24:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

"In a community where everything is piped in"
---
Well, labor is trucked in, and from what Tancredo was saying on Limbaugh this morning, the residents are becoming VERY vocal about it.
'bout time.

12/30/2005 12:29:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

I think when you provide your water and power for yourself, you get a hint of appreciation for reality.
Lived w/o gas, electric, and water for 10 years.
Does toilet paper sage grow well down there?
I'll bet not.

12/30/2005 12:34:00 PM  
Blogger enscout said...

Doug:

Everything either stings, sticks or stinks.

12/30/2005 12:54:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

No, toliet paper does not grow on trees.

There is a piece about how US troops are going to embedded in Iraqi Police units
"... Seven of nine Iraqi special police brigades in Baghdad now have 40 to 45 Americans attached to each. Under the new plan, hundreds of additional U.S. troops will team up with each of the nine brigades. ..."

Seems I've written about that before, with regards the ISF, but of course the Police need the same support.

" ... American officials lately have begun expressing concern that pro-Iranian militias have infiltrated the security forces. In a country with deep tribal and sectarian ties, it's difficult to establish where commanders' loyalties lie, the official said.

Another U.S. military official, Army Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey, who is in charge of training Iraqi troops, told reporters this month that the penetration of the police by militias was "a serious problem…. We don't tolerate the presence of militias when we encounter it." ... "

The stroy goes on to say that the Militias are a problem that the Iraqi Government has to "work out"

" ... the Iraqi Constitution forbids militias to act as a national army, it permits regions to have "home guards" or "regional guards."

"Frankly, the Iraqi government has got to figure out what is meant by that," Dempsey said.

By increasing the number of U.S. troops working with Iraqi police units, the Americans will be better able to mentor and train the police, much as they do now with Iraq's army, the senior military official said. ..."

Now I realize, doug, that because this comes from the Los Angles Times that the story is biased, and it is. But the facts on the ground support what has been said here for a year.

Water is about 14 miles away, still bring it in in 50 & 15 gallon drums, in the back of the truck.

tony's trolly would need some heavy duty off road capacity to be effective in rural AZ. Most of it is unpaved.

12/30/2005 12:56:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

You guys never experienced luxury:
It grew on the shady side of the canyon, had large, soft, fuzzy leaves with a nice sage scent.
(prior to use)

12/30/2005 01:58:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

"tony's trolly would need some heavy duty off road capacity to be effective in rural AZ. Most of it is unpaved"
---
Yeah, but look at all the free energy you'd get from the shock absorber dealys.
(Sorry, Tony, I had to reply so 'Rat wouldn't feel neglected.)
;-)

12/30/2005 02:01:00 PM  
Blogger rufus said...

It was not my intent to turn this man's blog into a rant for ethanol. I was merely trying to point out that, maybe, it might not be necessary to fight bloody war after bloody war for the last drop of oil on earth; and then die.

Having said that; Brett, your last post has so many inaccuracies, I don't know where to start. I'll just do three things, and then shut up, forever

(1) Brazil is a Socialist economy. They produce oil, and they produce ethanol. Both are subsidized to some extent. Whichever one they are making the most "Exporting," will be the one less subsidized, thus, more expensive, at the pump.

(2) If you can find a link where the Dept of Energy says the "unsubsidized" cost of ethanol is $2.75, I'll be giving away my "lap-top" in the parking lot.

(3) The proper compression ratio "MAXIMIZES" fuel economy. For E-85, that is approx. 14 to 1. When ethanol is injected into the cylinder (Not the Piston) at this compression ratio, rather than the 9 to 1 or so, standard in a gasoline engine, you inject a little more mixture; BUT, YOU GET A "LOT MORE BANG." As a result, Better Mileage.

(3) Strategically Fallow?? You're kidding, Right?

12/30/2005 02:22:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Mean while, back on Africa, Sudanese militias and Chadian Army deserters team up to take on the President Deby of neighboring Chad.

" ... Analysts said that while Deby faced betrayal and desertions at home, he was also threatened by spillover across the border from the festering conflict in Sudan's western region of Darfur.

"His regime is vulnerable ... there is already a sense of his administration foundering, with competition among his followers to take over," Suliman Baldo, Africa Program Director of the International Crisis Group think tank, told Reuters.

He said the threat from the Sudanese region and from internal insurgents were entwined because the rebels used Darfur, about the size of France, to shelter and regroup.

"This is where people go to pick up arms, train and come back to attack from," Baldo added.

Deby is from the Zaghawa ethnic group which lives in both Chad and Sudan. After the 2003 revolt in Darfur against the Arab government in Khartoum, Sudanese Zaghawas are among the ethnic Africans targeted by Arab militia backing Sudan's government.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the Darfur violence and Deby's reputation among his own clan followers has also become a casualty as they accuse him of not doing enough to help Sudanese kinsman under attack by Arab militia known as janjaweed. ..."

This report came from Reuters via CNN so it maynot be accurate.

Mean while back in Iraq gasoline prices have spiked to 65 cents per gallon, up from 6 cents. This was due to the slashing of some Government subsidies.

" ... The government’s decision to triple the price of gasoline comes only days after December 15 parliamentary elections set off riots and appears to have led to the replacement earlier this week of the oil minister, who had threatened to resign over the price increases.

Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulum has been temporarily replaced by Ahmed Chalabi, whose remit as deputy prime minister already covers energy issues.

Nonetheless, the government remains apparently determined to phase out subsidies on fuel and gasoline, which together with electricity and handouts to loss-making state industries are thought to consume around half the budget. ..."

Mr Chilabi takes on another role, I remember the CIA wanted him in jail, or something, didn't they? Said he was a spy for Iran or some such. Funny thing, he is still around, as is Mr Rumsfeld, and all those oppossed, in the US Government at CIA & State, are gone.

12/30/2005 03:30:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

The Iraq link is here at The Financial Times,

12/30/2005 03:33:00 PM  
Blogger Brett L said...

rufus:

below is the average truckload cost of ethanol per gallon. Don't forget to add back in the $.51/gal federal subsidy:

Link Here

Oh, and don't forget, this is ethanol made in a petroleum economy where combines and trucks run on gas or diesel.

BTW, I was looking for a better site, but most cite Dr. Pimiental (author of the Cornell study previously cited, in which the $2.75/gal is cited) and I was looking for outside confirmation.

12/30/2005 04:29:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

Desert - heh!

My daughter's driving my ol' Mercury, she's over 180,000 miles and it's still smooth as silk. Even us city slickers like our big V-8's.

Seems like the only word I write that gets attention is "trolley" tho, that's a pity. I was just using the analogy of a thing that gets its energy from the path it covers, I don't mean to imply it would have tracks. In fact, in Philly, we've had "trackless trolleys" since forever. They are big, electric buses, that run off overhead electric wires. Unlike steel rail trolleys, they can go around parked cars and pull up to the curb.

As for AZ, I forgot to mention that my new ceramic all-terrain trolleys have green skin which is a super-efficient solar energy collector.

And since it gathers energy from its entire body, if the batteries start running down, you just get out and beat it with a sledgehammer for a few minutes to gather some spark. Don't worry, you won't hurt the ceramic.

12/30/2005 04:30:00 PM  
Blogger Brett L said...

tony:

whyn'cha just make it jackalope powered?

12/30/2005 04:31:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

And they're both still causing trouble.
(for State Dept/CIA types)

12/30/2005 04:33:00 PM  
Blogger rufus said...

Brett, the link you gave, if taken back to it's home page, will give you some good information. You were 2 clicks, away.

Those prices you gave are sale prices, not production costs. I told you, "It's a VERY GOOD BUSINESS. BTW, the $.51/gal goes to the blender, not the producer. It's basically a bribe.

by the by the way; A LOT of Farmers now use Bio-diesel and ethanol in their farm equipment and farm vehicles.

12/30/2005 05:21:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

Brett,

My stuff is still way closer to reality than nanotech. Piezo-electric crystals have been known for 150 years, they are the basis of sonar, for example. No reason they can't be incorporated into ceramics. ETC.

I thought we were looking for radical alternatives to oil and combustion engines. For us to stand here on the cusp of 2006, all we have to do is look back at the technology of a hundred years ago to see how fast things have evolved. And the evolution is only accelerating, per Moore's, and Kurzweil's Laws. In some fields we may have hit the wall, but not in the field of energy alternatives.

But I'm glad you're getting the humorous side of sci-fi. This is not a bicker blog.

12/30/2005 05:23:00 PM  
Blogger whit said...

Why, if ethanol provides better fuel economy does a Federal publication on estimated fuel economy of all the new vehicles show E-85 models getting about two miles per gallon less?

12/30/2005 05:33:00 PM  
Blogger rufus said...

Nano-Dot technology increases the efficiency of Solar Cells by about 33%. Desalinization is getting Cheaper. Enzyme technology for use in bio-energy is advancing.

Look folks; There is a certain finite amount of stuff we can dig out of the ground. It will, in the long run, only get more expensive. A lot of that stuff is in really bad places.

It's fun to talk about the "Great Game," but there is a limit to the number of wars we want to fight in the Middle East, the Stans, S. America, etc. Oil has been cheap, and, we've been lazy. It's time for the Teenager to "Grow Up."

I was not against the war in Iraq. Great Countries, sometimes, have to do Great Things. AND, a Nuclear-Armed Saddam running around the middle east was just too much. But, we've got to take steps to get less dependent. We can't do it all at once, and there, almost certainly, isn't "ONE" Answer. It's going to take several solutions. Nuclear, Solar, Bio-Fuels, hydro-technologies, and, hopefull, some really great thing that hasn't come along, yet.

That, and a really strong Missile Defense, and a Competent NSA, and we might get through this mess.

12/30/2005 05:49:00 PM  
Blogger rufus said...

Whit, your standard engine has a compression ratio ideal for standard unleaded. Ethanol is less dense, and needs a higher compression ratio. The only engine to date that solves this problem is the Saab 2.0 Bio-Power. It has a variable thrust turbo-charger that senses the amount of ethanol in the fuel mixture, and adjusts the boost to achieve the necessary compression. This isn't nearly as big a deal as it sounds like. It's basically a bolt-on accessory.

All other engines sold by major manufacturers do get slightly less gas mileage. That's why E-85 typically sells for $0.30 to $0.40/gal less than regular unleaded.

Look for more Saab-type engines to come along in the future. The Big auto companies are just starting to realize that there is a market developing, here.

12/30/2005 06:09:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

What did you expect, Tony?
It does rhyme with Folly!

12/30/2005 06:43:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

tony
The purr of a V-8, purr power, not like those high revvvving little motors in the tiny cars.
Pizza crystals will power my new truck with sunlight?
Will they be thin or thick crust?
I have a fondness for a good pan pizza every once in a while.
Can't run my truck with the gas that the pan pizza generates though, well not far anyway, without double sausage.

rufus is right when he says there is no one answer, but a multitude of options. Some will work out, some won't.

The Game, rufus, is to be played with only 10% military, the balance of the play is suppossed to come from the rest of our Society & Culture.

Spending on the Military is not 10% of GDP, why should it be expected to carry such a disproportionate amount of the fight, in a Battle of Ideas?

It should not. Overt Military action is a sure sign of greater failure, it was in Iraq, it definately will be if used in Iran.

The US Military is not ready nor prepared for another long Occupation, especially not on Lady D's and Israel's March '06 timeline.
Military action by Israel against Iran could mess with my forecasted force draw down in Iraq, we can't be having any of that, now or I hope, in March.

12/30/2005 06:45:00 PM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

d'Rat,

Here's an interesting snippet I found today browsing the JPost:

.
.
The disintegration of the Alawi tribal state in Damascus is one among other possible outcomes of the present crisis in both Syria and Lebanon. This particular political script could send this rugged bunch of "heretics" fleeing for refuge back home in their mountain stronghold, unleashing the forces of centrifugal fragmentation in Syria to encompass, in addition to the Alawis, the Druse in the south and Kurds in the northeast. A new map for Syria would carry sweeping regional implications for Iraq and Turkey, Lebanon and Israel.
The "Zionist virus," as the Arabs call it, would then spread and grant liberty to small peoples on the model of the Jews of Israel. Buoyed by a dialectical twist of history, the political transformations would serve Israel's strategic benefit. A tamed or divided Syria would neutralize Israel's last major Arab protagonist after Egypt and Iraq, from active aggression.
The source for this enigmatic Assadian scenario can be traced to Sleiman Assad, Hafez's grandfather, who offered his own contribution to this possible turn of events. He, along with five other Alawi representatives, signed a letter on June 15, 1936, sent to French prime minister Leon Blum. Its contents are remarkable when set in contrast to the views of his Ba'athist pan-Arabist grandson and great-grandson.
Considering the Zionist national enterprise, Sleiman and his friends refer in their letter to "those good Jews who have brought modernity and peace… and spread fortune and prosperity in Palestine, without hurting or taking anything by force. Despite this, Muslims declared a sacred war against them and slaughtered their children and women [in 1929 and again in the Arab Uprising of 1936]. The Jews and the minorities of the Middle East are destined for a black future…"
This foreboding prophecy can explain the shifty ideological path chosen by Hafez and his son, and of the Alawi community in general, flaunting their Arabism at every turn, even feigning Islamic faith.
But the game may be over now, but opening up another option. The "minority equation" within a pluralistic Syria can be animated with vigor, if the Alawis throw off the chains of Arab nationalism and join other politically compatible fellow peoples for a modest life of dignity and freedom in the Middle East.
.
.
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1134309631221&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FPrinter

12/30/2005 07:16:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

Desert Rat, seriously, re this Oil technology and combustion engines, nobody gets out of here alive.

The Plastics argument is a separate thing, and I would expect incremental advances in inorganic chemistry to get rid of the need for petroleum in the creation of cool things like Rayon and UnderArmor.

We, US, as a capitalist nation, should be building the Better Mousetrap right now, to make machines that perform the way we like our V-8's to perform - POWER on demand, turn the key, put in the gas - and you are good to go. ANYWHERE. That's the new thing we gotta build, and I'm hoping it's all new technology, not just an incremental improvement on today's cars. (Even after we get the new stuff, I intend to keep my V-8, btw.)

Some technologies reach perfection and can't be fundamentally improved beyond a certain point; Rifles and Airplanes are two stable examples of this phenomenon.

If we have achieved this point with combustion engines, as we all agree we have, it's time to find a new V-8.

I know that's a scary challenge, but I invite you to stare back through Tech History 100 years. See how much we "invented"?

12/30/2005 07:39:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

'Rat,
Kaplan says our troops being spread all around the world do not overstretch our forces.
(Although the Marines have had to carry the load along with the Special Forces.)
Teams of from 2 in Mongolia, 10 in some South American County, 20 somewhere else, and more than that in the Phillipines.
- Iraq, on the other hand he said, is another matter.

What is the 'Rat solution for Iran?

12/30/2005 08:09:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Hope Lab Rat sees that, Mika.
Thank God for his son and all our heros.

12/30/2005 08:18:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Kaplan said he felt in more danger in Columbia than any of the other places he's stayed!
Said the atrocities there rank with or above our Arab adversaries.

12/30/2005 08:22:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Meanwhile, Roger Hedgecock says Bush has been paying the Mexican Govt. millions to "help us."
...says the money goes to their corrupt military, which has been caught gaurding drug runners INSIDE Texas several times.

12/30/2005 08:26:00 PM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

Doug,

You'd think them hippies would be a little more patriotic and buy red white and blue, instead of that cheap foreign crap. :D

12/30/2005 08:36:00 PM  
Blogger Brett L said...

has anyone else seen that new bolt-on steam generator for the BMW? They claim it's even backwards compatible. Now there's something I can get behind. Link Here.

Imagine that, it only took us 100 years to decide we might be able to use that steam in the radiator for additional power generation. It looks like it also maintains a heat-transfer station on the muffler, too.

For tony:
I'm not particularly against hybrids (although I wish they'd build a slightly more muscular engine), or recapturing/generating electrical power from the shock absorbers as well as the brakes. These are all good efficiency improvements that should be employed if at all cost effective. I noticed that the Instapundit has found his hybrid to perform as well, but not yet cheaper in the TCO than the gas only one. That issue may be due to lack of efficiencies of scale and higher profit margins.

I've found myself getting more and more shrill about things that are good, nay great ideas for reduction of oil consumption. My apologies to the good posters who ignored me or spanked me gently with good humor. If nothing else, I've greatly increased my knowledge on the subject of energy use in the US. Thanks guys.

12/30/2005 08:37:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

2006 Headline:

60 Protestors Freeze to Death in Anwar.
Subhead:
Wolf Population Soars.

-Bill Bennet

12/30/2005 09:03:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

My Next Car:

Nothing prepares the newcomer for the most powerful and most expensive production car in the world. The Veyron is blisteringly, and effortlessly, fast.
Veyron's credentials speak for themselves. A 1,001-horsepower two-seater that blasts to 60 miles an hour in 2.5 seconds - and continues pulling all the way to 253 m.p.h. - the car is a sheer technological wonder.

The fuel economy - if that is the right word - is 9 miles per gallon in the city and 18 highway, according to preliminary E.P.A. estimates. Don't even think about mileage during more spirited driving: at maximum speed, the car would theoretically run out of fuel in 12 minutes, Mr. Raphanel said.

With four turbochargers, the Veyron's mighty 8-liter, 16-cylinder power plant produces 1,001 horsepower and enough torque (922 pound-feet) to uproot a redwood. The engine drives all four wheels via a seven-speed automated manual gearbox.

Despite extensive use of carbon fiber and aluminum, the Veyron is, at 4,162 pounds, quite heavy. Even so, the car is capable of staggering acceleration: from zero to 125 miles an hour in 7.3 seconds and to 250 in 55.6 seconds, according to Bugatti.

12/30/2005 09:18:00 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

The Iraqis are definitely going to have to stop deferring to the AK47-wielding masses. I support the Second Amendment, but c'mon; if these people can't realize that such an attitude is inhibiting their cultural growth, then they've got bigger problems than I think.

12/30/2005 09:58:00 PM  
Blogger ledger said...

As you know, oil is commodity and is highly fungible. As other commodities it can be replaced by other sources of petrol and equivalent products thus dropping the price. Hence, the greater the world output of oil lower the price (despite where it comes from).

But, there are imperfections in this model. For example, Saudi Arabia only provides about 17% of the USA's oil consumption (it's a small part). But, Saudi oil is more profitable to refine because of it's sweet nature (low sulfur content). That is also true of other Middle Eastern countries. So, they have a slight advantage.

But, in general as the world's oil output increases the price of oil declines. This is offset by the World's demand for said oil. Let's look at the definition:

fun·gi·ble

adj.

Law. Returnable or negotiable in kind or by substitution, as a quantity of grain for an equal amount of the same kind of grain.

Interchangeable.

n.

Something that is exchangeable or substitutable. Often used in the plural.


See: fungible

[More on crude oil and it nature as a commodity]

While, in general, crude oil is fungible, i.e., one crude oil can be substituted for another, many refineries are optimized by refining crude oil with specific qualities (e.g., the API gravity, the amount of sulfur in the crude oil, etc.). Also, depending on the global crude oil market condition at the time, the price difference between heavy and light crude oils varies, thus changing the economic dynamics for different refineries. Therefore, many factors determine the source of a company's crude oil imports.

See: oil

All of the above is generally true. Oil is highly fungible. But, oil with low sulfur content is more desirable than oil with high sulfur content.

Oil is generally formed by decomposition of plants, compression, and age. Oil is distributed throughout the earth's surface. The economical extraction of oil is usually found under "geodetic domes" of rock. Oil tends to build up under rock formations making it easy to "drill" for and extract. Oil is also found in sands and other earth materials - but not economically extractable.

In my brief study into oil "finds" it appears that oil speculators tend to find more extractable oil at the end of an oil price upturn and conversely tend to drill for more oil during and down cycle.

The reason is they then to be behind the "curve." Thus, there tends to be an oil glut at the top and shortage at the bottom - but, over the long run it averages out.

Now, oil distillation and transportation of oil products is different matter.

In the US it is nearly impossible to build a new oil refinery because of environmental regulations.

This is not true abroad. It is possible for foreign distillers to ship refined oil products to the USA in some instances.

The distribution of oil in the USA is fair but could use improvement. For example, only 2 to 4 major distributors can ship oil to California USA with a population of 32 million people, about the size of France or Iraq (under EPA rules and other constraints). I would assume there are similar government bottle necks in the EU and Russia (and maybe China).

Therefore, there are economic imperfections in the distribution of oil products. This assumes there are no true oil monopolies.

The bigger picture encompasses substitute sources of energy other than oil and its by products. It seem that nuclear, solar, gravity hydroelectric and other sources of energy could be better utilized.

Interestingly, as these other sources of energy are brought on line - oil companies seem to under cut the price of energy to ensure they remain top dog.

So, are we faced with an oil scarcity - or are we faced with clever gamesmanship of oil sellers? I don't know the answer.

But, as oil prices increase the oil speculators seem to find new oil fields - just in time to discourage alternative sources of energy.

If any of you have a solution to the oil trap please speak up.

12/30/2005 10:39:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

doug
The Iran solution is a coup or revolution.

Supply 1,000,000 handguns to the citizens of Iran, with bullets.

Heavily fund the internal political opposition.

Establish, with the Son of Shah, a Government in Exile.

Targeted assasinations of Mullahs

Covert attacks on their oil infrastructure.

To start

12/31/2005 03:02:00 AM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

update on Eurasian re-settings

12/31/2005 07:35:00 AM  

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