Archive for June, 2008
That’s right, I said it. Peak Oil is a straw man argument.
If you want to understand what I mean, watch this alternate ending to “The Lord Of The Rings”. You will quickly understand.
See what I mean?
What it sums up is that fixing Peak Oil all comes down to the community’s decision to follow a smarter plan, act accordingly, and share collective resources and talents with one another. That is how you win.
Think about it this way. The “Lord of The Rings” movie everyone has collectively seen presents a story the way it was written. Everyone leaves the theatre thinking that was the way the story had to be. But Ho Ho! If J.R. Tolkien had written “The Fellowship Of The Ring” to actually follow the course in the alternate ending, people would have had a much shorter movie and still had a happy ending.
And this is our society’s problem. We love thrillers. The story of “Peak Oil” is currently being presented as a potentially cataclysmic global energy problem. It is not. Peak Oil is a communications problem among a spoiled, techno-zombie culture. We have communicated with one another for so long about the story ending, we can’t decide what our global population’s story of continuity should be.
In America, the lagging economy is driving a dramatic move back to basics and a reversal of decades-long trends of convenience. Roughly half of all consumers with incomes less than $55,000 per year say they have trouble affording the groceries they need, while nearly a quarter of those earning between $55,000 and $99,000 also say so. Among those with incomes over $100,000, 16% report having trouble. 42% of consumers say they have given up favorite food brands because of rising prices and economic concerns. Source: IRI Economic Trend Database/AttitudeLink, May 2008
Also, large numbers of Americans face the prospect of energy shutoffs during the coming months because of rising energy prices and stagnant wages.
And so communities around the world are going to have to grapple with dwindling resources at the community level. You will not get help from the folks at the top. Anyone over 30 knows that money drives politics, and money is presently tied up in oil. This will remain true until communities free themselves from the global money system and start basing values on things that matter, such as services you provide that benefit the entire community and that do not cause harm to the environment or other people.
I would argue that hemp does not cause harm to people. It is a renewable energy resource and medicine. It’s human laws and lawns getting in the way of nature that are stopping us from having enough food and fuel for everyone.
Because cars are cool. I like walking, but I still want to drive, damnit! And right now, I am making my own fuel – which can run in any car with a combustible engine. The oil companies took over the fuel market a long time ago, and they are defending their money with as much vigor as they can.
So until local communities start firing up moonshine and having their local farmers plant sorghum as a better feedstock alternative than corn, we aren’t really serious about fixing our problems. Until we each begin to learn about the soil food web, we aren’t serious about fixing the problem. Until we each accept one another’s faiths, and work together to improve earth’s life support systems, we are not serious about fixing the problem. If we aren’t willing to help more than just ourselves, our family, and our friends, we aren’t serious about fixing the problem.
It’s going to take collective action from each of us, as well as the truth to emerge about certain solutions that have been suppressed, to implement desperately needed changes. Changes that allow us to continue to live happy lives, eat better, and travel from one place to another. Changes that are possible, given that we take away so much power from corporations and weapons companies that run the world.
Unless communities immediately create renewable local food and water systems, it means even more war and death. Until a majority of us are ready to act on the advice of innovators with proof that we don’t have to be less than human to one another and that there is plenty of land to grow enough food to feed the entire planet, we will just keep on reading headlines about bombs dropping.
If you are ready to listen to a leader that offers real ways our children of tomorrow can be proud of the actions we take today, my company has created a proven path of how we can get there. It’s a positive, loving, and life-affirming alternate ending to the Story of Peak Oil, and I am launching it in Portland.
Imagine the message it would send around the world if we planted a food garden on the White House lawn. The folks from Kitchen Gardeners International have come up with a new campaign called “Eat The View“, which is a petition to get our government to do just that.
It would be one way we could fight back against Monsanto.
If you haven’t started planting your own garden yet, I highly suggest you get the book “Teaming With Microbes: A Gardeners Guide To The Soil Food Web”.
Worm poop, worm poop, worm poop!
It’s one of the secrets to overcoming the problems posed by peak oil. If you are hurting for a job, learning about worm poop is a sure-fire way to make a living with the new kind of employment that will be sweeping across America.
Tom Szaky is under 30, and he made $1.5 million in from worm poop sales in 2006. Now the worm poop industry is ready to fertilize itself and promote it’s own growth. Hey, all you office workers looking for the next chapter in your life… if you already tried to strike gold by dealing with a bunch of crap at work, why not do it for real?
This is why I do my videos. Here is Episode 5 of Lawns to Gardens: Worm Poop. Enjoy! (10 minute episode)
BONUS VIDEO: At least CNN reported something useful and did a piece showing people an alternative lifestyle we can all live up to.
by David Blume, Author
The purpose of the Renewable Fuels Standard is to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, reverse the effects of greenhouse gas emissions, and eventually end the toxic releases from petroleum, coal, and other fossil fuels. The idea is to replace these fuels with clean alternatives like ethanol, which, unlike fossil fuels, are based on captured solar energy that is constantly renewed.
When the alcohol industry agreed to sacrifice the Clean Air Act’s oxygenate standard in exchange for its proposed Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), I was staunchly opposed. Advocates of the RFS said it was a more honest, direct way for us to work toward making our fuel renewable and American, and to wean ourselves from the toxic waste of the petroleum industry (otherwise known as gasoline).
Make no mistake about it: historically, gasoline has ALWAYS been a substance into which oil refineries dispose of whatever waste remains after making valuable products. Just as in the cattle industry, where half of the steer sells as US $15/lb. steaks and the other half ends up as cheap hamburger, in the petroleum business, half of a barrel of oil becomes gasoline. Quite frankly, no one wants to dispose of the 21 gallons of poisonous leftovers at the bottom of each barrel (just how much carcinogenic benzene, toluene, or xylene does anyone really need?)
The Clean Air Act’s oxygenate standard made sure that many of the toxic components in vehicle exhaust would be thermally decomposed (read: burned) to carbon dioxide, rather than remaining as Kevorkian carbon monoxide and a witch’s brew of volatile organics. Destroying these toxins in vehicle exhaust relies on the presence of plenty of oxygen to do the job, and alcohol is about 30% oxygen. Since the act was a regulation that had to do with our health, no discretion existed for waiving oxygenate. That standard was all that stood between Big Oil’s profits and hundreds of thousands of deaths each year from respiratory and cancer illnesses. It also was permanent-it had no expiration date.
But in a poor bargain, we traded a standard based on citizens’ health for one based on economic and environmental values, i.e., the Renewable Fuels Standard. The oil companies insisted that we couldn’t have both, but if we would let go of the oxygenate standard, they would not stand in the way too much on the RFS. Of course, they lied and then only permitted an RFS level that we were already meeting prior to passage of the legislation, so that the regulation had no teeth to increase our use of renewables (very clever of those oil companies).
Well, we did manage, over much opposition by Big Oil, to increase the RFS modestly above the existing level, and investment into the Midwest to make alcohol took off. Big Oil mistakenly thought it could keep the alcohol genie in the bottle…but much to its dismay, the genie escaped and started building distilleries in 2005-6.
Now at the time the bargain was made to trade in the oxygenate standard, I complained to everyone in congress and in the alcohol industry that the RFS would be very easy to waive. It was easy to predict all sorts of conditions where governors or the executive branch could say something like, “These environmental regulations are all well and good, but if they get in the way of economic interests, we just won’t be able to afford to do the right thing.”
“No, no,” the RFS advocates retorted, “we will make sure that a ‘no backsliding’ provision is written into the new legislation.” Well gee, that tidbit didn’t quite survive into the final draft. Now some oil-saturated governors are trying to use their statutory power to get the EPA to waive the standard, so oil companies won’t be forced to use farmer’s fuels.
Instead of cleaning up our air, dealing with Peak Oil, reducing dependence on foreign oil, and reversing global warming, we are doing exactly what I feared. We are talking about simply setting aside the RFS for reasons that ignore health, ignore national security, ignore our dependence, ignore our war to control Mideast oil, and ignore planetary climate stability in favor of simple short-term economic gains. The proposal is even more disingenuous, since the alleged economic gains are not even real. For instance, there is no shortage of corn, no matter what you read in the press. We just had the best crop in 33 years, and we are still trying to find silo space to store the huge surplus. We have increased the amount of animal feed we send around the world to record levels, which is a direct result of our increased alcohol fuel production. We use only cornstarch for alcohol, and all the non-starch parts of the corn become high-quality animal feed. More corn production for alcohol means more animal feed, which means more food. It’s simple.
Now that the data is coming in, we are seeing that in addition to the utterly nonexistent corn shortage, grain price increases have no basis in ethanol or the RFS whatsoever. In fact, the price increases result almost exclusively from the rising price of oil and greater demand for meat in China and other developing countries. If it were not for alcohol fuel, the price of gasoline would be even higher than it is today, and the net effect on a citizen’s pocketbook would be many times the alleged effect of ethanol on food prices.
This attack on the RFS has been planned since the day it was first passed. Because as we run out of oil, the fossil fuel industry plans to replace petroleum with more tar sands, oil shale, and coal to liquids. As the EPA, you are well aware that these fuels will increase greenhouse gas emissions scores to thousands of times the emissions from petroleum. They will also increase the pollution of our air with countless tons of metals and volatile gases, pollute what water is left after we drain the aquifers to make synfuels, and irradiate/poison the planet with radioactive particles and mercury from coal.
But for these environmentally foul fuels to be economically viable, the price of a barrel of oil needs to climb to about $150. Biofuels, on the other hand, can be produced realistically, ecologically, and sustainably for less than $70 a barrel, without any breakthroughs in technology. If biofuels, and in particular ethanol, increase in volume, the economic viability of all the alternatives that Big Oil wants to develop are in jeopardy. And that’s a good thing, since as the EPA, you know for certain that development of these fossil alternatives to petroleum are unbelievably incompatible with continuation of life on Earth as we know it.
No, the RFS is not a discretionary guideline to be set aside, as powerful economic interests and their tamed politicians dictate. The RFS is a health standard meant to protect all living things from the total degradation of our planet. You in the EPA are charged with the responsibility to act as a bulwark against corporate environmental irresponsibility, and doing the right thing requires more than standing firm on the RFS. Far from being waived, the standard needs to be increased annually, bear no expiration date, and remain in force until every single Btu of energy this country uses is renewable. Ultimately, that means an end to fossil fuels and an economic and energy system based on the sun.
A call to action:
The window to submit comment on this critical EPA waiver is closing June 23rd, submit written comments today, identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2008-0380, by one of the following methods: One the web at http://www.regulations.gov, follow the on-line instructions for submitting comments, by E-mail: email@example.com or by fax: (202) 566-1741.
Learn more about David Blume’s Fight to Save The Renewable Fuels Standard.
David Blume is author of Alcohol Can Be A Gas and Executive Director of the International Institute for Ecological Agriculture.
By Randy White
Editor, Lawns to Gardens
Oil prices made their biggest single-day surge on Friday, soaring $11 to $138.54 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, an 8 percent increase. That followed a $5.50 increase the day before, taking oil futures more than 13 percent higher in just two days. While demand has gone up, supply has not been able to add any more oil to the market. Analysts have also cited the decline of the U.S. dollar, fears about the long-term supply of oil, and aggressive speculation as factors in rising prices.
Energy Secretary Sam Bodman said “We’re in a difficult position where we have a lid on production and we have increasing demand in the world,” he told a small group of reporters.
So yesterday, we saw the price of oil go up, up, up and the stock market fall down, down, down. That, my friends, is market pressure growing too great in the bottle, and the sound of a very dangerous cork popping. At this criss-crossing of peak oil, we mow begin the Zero-Sum game as we pass into the forever downward sloping slide of oil depletion. There just isn’t enough oil in the world for everyone to keep living as they do, and now a lot more people are poised to perish because our present governments and markets failed us. Now we are in for some hairy times as government and religious idiots start lobbing missiles at each other all over the world.
Smarter people need to take the weapons out of the hands of hateful people right now. We can have peace and safety while those of us who prefer to avoid conflict and global suicide work out our problems (Even though Russia does have some cool looking airplanes. It reminds me of GI Joe!)
We don’t have to kill one another – but it seems there are people in our global community that choose to. And I can’t stop that from happening, all I can do is try to help people that want to help out their fellow humans.
As for all you macho military warmongers still bent on waving around your weapons, this one’s for you:
Also, I can’t wait too see Bill Maher’s new movie, Religulous.
We let’s agree we can all work together and fix this place.
And lastly, for people in shock wondering about what is going on right now and what to do about it, here is a helpful video:
Don’t be a afraid of your freedom, and buy this book!
Hey all you cool cats – corporations are catching up with reality and reporting that the oil market may have peaked. Interesting how it is the market they report, and not oil that may have peaked. Could it be that we have finally recognized there is not enough plastic juice to mold more Barbie dolls?
Also, Newsweek is telling you to get ready for more war. And while this all may sound like horrible news, at least you can still save money on food, learn from examples that show we can live well while reducing energy consumption, and get really neat LED lights for your bike spokes.
You might be riding yours a lot more soon.