It was 2008, after the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy. Markets were in turmoil. Banks were failing left and right. I worked at a major investment bank, and while I didn’t think the disastrous deal I’d done would cause its collapse, my losses were quickly decimating its commodities profits for the year... [more inside]
Scientists have used groundbreaking technology to figure out how the Earth looked a billion years ago
How Obama Let Big Oil Drill in the Pristine Alaska Wilderness. Alec MacGillis (of ProPublica) writing in Politico Magazine (Dec. 21, 2015), shows how one well-connected man (and big lobbying money) can really make a difference. [more inside]
Oil may be king of the commodities, but its physical form is tough to come by for a retail investor. Mom and pop can buy gold and silver. They can gather aluminum cans, grow soybeans, and strip copper wiring, if they choose, but oil remains elusive—and for very good reason. Oil, as I would soon discover, is practically useless in its unrefined form. It is also highly toxic, very difficult to store, and smells bad.
Twitch, the social media platform for video games, just launched ‘Twitch Creative': a section of the site dedicated to non-gaming videos from artists. There you'll find people creating paintings or illustrations, composing songs, designing costumes, and even glass blowing. To celebrate, Twitch is holding an 8-day marathon livestream of every single Bob Ross The Joy of Painting episode.
Project Oil Sands - "In the late 1950s, Dr. Manley Natland, a passionate, lifelong geologist working for the Richfield Oil Corporation, hatched a gonzo idea to harness the power of a nuclear explosion for the benefit of bitumen extraction in Alberta’s oil sands. He proposed a plan to plant an atomic bomb deep below the oil sands, set it off and start pumping the oil freed up by the intense heat of the explosion."
With oil prices low and unlikely to rise, Saudi Arabia is in severe trouble, facing existential crisis by the end of the decade if the oil futures market is right. [more inside]
In the past few years, science has lurched closer to envisioning habitable Mars, though at the moment estimates for creating breathable oxygen range from hundreds to 100,000 years in the future, the soil is currently toxic to astronauts, and travel is so unwieldy that scientists have proposed "printing" humans on Mars. Meanwhile, I wondered why not make Earth's increasingly inhospitable deserts greener.[more inside]
The Unknown Fields Division is a "nomadic design research studio that ventures out on expeditions to the ends of the earth to bear witness to alternative worlds, alien landscapes, industrial ecologies and precarious wilderness." [more inside]
In the past five years, no product has perplexed, mesmerized, and divided the cannabis world quite like the increasingly popular and incredibly potent form of concentrated marijuana known as butane hash oil, or BHO. Demand for the intense high BHO delivers has birthed a massive underground industry, with federal and state governments at a loss for how to regulate it and potheads and entrepreneurs accidentally incinerating themselves trying to make it... But while many stoners take BHO’s presence on dispensary shelves as a sign that it is just as safe as weed itself, others find the noxious goop inherently suspicious, and the people who are making, selling, and regulating hash oil admit they know very little about the product.Wax Is Weed’s Next Big Thing And No One Knows If It’s Safe
In the 80's and 90's, Robert Norman "Bob" Ross gave us The Joy of Painting. In each minimalist, 30-minute show, he would create an imaginary landscape using a wet-on-wet (or alla prima) oil painting technique while gently teaching viewers his methods. His signature, soothing comments described the "happy little clouds," "almighty mountains" and "happy little trees" that he was creating with his brush. Of the 31 seasons and 403 episodes that aired on PBS, the Internet Archive currently has the first 19 seasons (247 episodes) available for stream and download. [more inside]
On the day before Danielle Smalley was to leave for college, she and her friend Jason Stone were hanging out in her family's mobile home. Seventeen years old, with long chestnut hair, Danielle began to feel nauseated. "Dad," she said, "we smell gas." It was 3:45 in the afternoon on August 24th, 1996, near Lively, Texas, some 50 miles southeast of Dallas. The Smalleys were too poor to own a telephone. So the teens jumped into her dad's 1964 Chevy pickup to alert the authorities. As they drove away, the truck stalled where the driveway crossed a dry creek bed. Danielle cranked the ignition, and a fireball engulfed the truck. "You see two children burned to death in front of you – you never forget that," Danielle's father, Danny, would later tell reporters. [more inside]
"In creating a work that portrays real internal struggle and transformation, Caravaggio converted painting. [more inside]
The "world's largest ship" is named after a Nazi war criminal. Unsurprisingly a few people have a problem with that.
A Mexican restaurant has started a Sunday brunch to expand its revenues beyond dinner. A Mercedes dealer, anticipating reduced demand, is prepared to emphasize repairs and sales of used cars. And people are cutting back at home, rethinking their vacation plans and cutting the hours of their housemaids and gardeners.
In Texas, they're hunkering down for the Oil Bust.
In Texas, they're hunkering down for the Oil Bust.
Isabella Rossellini's daughter Elettra has a witty, attractive food/recipe blog where she shares a customizable pasta dish her grandfather, the iconic director Roberto Rossellini, used to make.
Oil is getting cheaper. The price of a barrel of Brent crude is approaching $60, down from around $140 in 2008. The price drop is largely attributed to American shale oil, also called tight oil, production of which has increased from a few thousand barrels/day a decade ago to over 5 million barrels/day today, mainly coming from the Bakken, Permian and Eagle Ford shales. By the end of 2013, American tight oil accounted for 4.1% of global crude oil production. The International Energy Agency calls it a "supply shock", and according to the World Energy Council, the notion of "peak oil" has almost been forgotten [PDF, page 24]. While speculation continues over the motives behind OPEC's refusal to curb production, others worry that the drop in oil prices distorts economic and political decision making, discourages the development of renewable energy sources [may require registration], and may induce deflation. The BBC tallies up the winners and losers.
In 2012, the UN said that Denmark was the happiest place on earth. This year, Denmark returned to the UN with some nice Danish pastries, and a territorial claim to the North Pole based on its relationship with Greenland, a Danish autonomous territory. [more inside]
Chanukkah begins tomorrow night and the traditional foods are fried in oil. Latkes (potato pancakes) are established Hanukkah treats but the other treat most common in Israel are doughnuts. Ashkenazi Jews eat sufganiyot, which have their origins in Germany and are traditionally filled with strawberry jam. In North Africa the doughnuts are called sfenj (pronounced shfinz) and generally are traced to Morocco. Sfenj are drizzled with honey or date syrup. [more inside]
Oil and conflict in Nigeria's Niger Delta region: Between the barrel and the trigger. In the most recent issue of The Extractive Industries and Society, Cyril Obi examines the "resource curse" explanation for the “failure” of African states: poverty, corruption and violent conflict. [more inside]
Taking Canadian Highway 63 straight north from Fort McMurray, during the half-lit hours of the morning commute, I moved past the old downtown, with its bars and weekly-rate hotels, past the sprawling suburbs and high-speed ring road, into expanses of peat-rich muskeg and forests of tamarack and spruce. As the sun climbed, cars became scarce and the road seemed to stretch endlessly toward the horizon. Traveling from McMurray to McKay doesn’t take long—it’s less than 40 miles—but the transformation you see in that short distance is astounding.
...the reality of ISIS and what this group seeks is opaque to the public, and to policymakers not clued into the private salons where the details of secrets can be discussed. Even among those policymakers, the compartmentalized national security establishment means that no one really grasps the whole picture. The attempt to get the US into a war in Syria a year ago was similarly opaque. The public cannot make well-informed decisions about national security choices because information critical to such choices is withheld from them. It is withheld from them at the source, through the classification-censorship process, then by obfuscations in the salons and think tanks of DC and New York, and then finally through the bottleneck of the mass media itself.The Solution to ISIS Is the First Amendment by Matt Stoler [more inside]
In the somewhat tumultuous debate over the Scottish independence (previously), and with less than a week before the historic vote, a new voice has risen out of the fray.
The second televised debate between Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling is to be shown across the UK tonight. After a lacklustre first debate, the final days of the referendum campaign are ticking down. There are signs of growing momentum for the Yes side, with undecideds moving to Yes in some polls and the 'Yes Declaration' recently hitting a million signatures. But the Better Together campaign still has some heavy hitters on side, with Sir Ian Wood recently casting doubt on oil extraction figures he had previously agreed with. [more inside]
Do you or your family live, work, or go to school within the potential blast radius of the next Lac-Mégantic?
Norway seems to be particularly good at making interesting museums. If you're touring, the museum of magic is spell-binding. The museum of knitting is a real purl. The petroleum museum is a gas. The Lofoten Stockfish museum is off the hook. And the Norsk Hermetickk-museum is about the history of sealing things in cans. [more inside]
Factcheck: The Keystone XL Project. An evenhanded summary of the controversy around the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
Extra Virgin Suicides is an interactive graphic from the New York Times about the global business of counterfeit olive oil. The NYT graphic is pretty slick, too.
There is another bubble. Before it's burned, Coal, Oil and Gas sit for years on the balance sheets of private (and national) resource companies, as "known reserve" assets. Assets that, someday, will become revenues. Or will they? And if they won't, what will the balance sheets of ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Petrochina, and Gazprom actually look like? [more inside]
For several months, bitumen from the Athabasca oil sands has been leaching out of the ground near Cold Lake, Alberta, so far amounting to roughly half of the oil leaked in the Enbridge-caused disaster in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Nearby sites of high-pressure steam injection used to extract the bitumen (and which is already associated with violent seismic activity in natural gas fracking operations) are suspected to have caused fractures that push bitumen "sideways" and out to the surface. As Vice reporter Sarah Berman notes, "The oozing leaks will continue until the underground pressure subsides. How long that will take is anybody’s guess." While tons of contaminated vegetation and dead animals have been removed from the sites, access to the region and to government data by First Nation representatives has been repeatedly denied.
Semi-submersible ships are the only vessels capable of loading, transporting and off-loading extremely heavy equipment. These mighty ships are used to carry entire gas refineries, huge oil drilling rigs, and even warships and submarines, on lengthy journeys across the globe.
Last Saturday morning, a town in Quebec exploded. A runaway train carrying roughly 100,000 liters of crude oil derailed and subsequently exploded in the small Quebec town of Lac-Mégantic in the early hours of Saturday morning. A significant amount of the downtown is burnt or leveled, and as the search for survivors continues, residents are beginning to realize the scope of the destruction [more inside]
Canada has lost its famous politeness. With oil and gas now accounting for approximately a quarter of its export revenue, over the last decade Canada has not so quietly become an international mining center and a rogue petrostate.
Forest fires due to slash and burn farming in Sumatra, Indonesia have led to unprecedented air pollution levels in Singapore and Malaysia. In Singapore particularly, Facebook and Twitter are aflame as well. For a country used to very clean air, the sudden pollution has led to public outcry, with air purifiers and face masks being snatched off the shelves. So far, no stop-work-order has been issued, and there are complaints that the government is not tackling the situation rapidly enough. Indonesia is working to put out the fires and is considering cloud seeding; their response to pressure from Singapore to do more was that Singaporeans should stop behaving like children and not disturb their domestic affairs. While image macros about the 2013 haze continue to fill up Facebook feeds, some people are taking the whole affair in a more irreverent way. [more inside]
Retail prices 'rigged for a decade': The European offices of BP and Shell were raided by European officials earlier this week in the beginning of an investigation into allegations of illegal market collusion and price fixing dating back to at least 2002. [more inside]
Does the US have a national interest in securing Middle Eastern oil? Economist John Quiggin thinks not, and argues that oil is a commodity like any other. Other scholars have questioned the conventional wisdom surrounding oil. Timothy Mitchell says that the problem with oil is not its scarcity, but its abundance, and we simply have too much oil. Eugene Gholz & Daryl Press argue that "American national security policy is based on a misunderstanding about U.S. oil interests. Although oil is a vital commodity, potential supply disruptions are less worrisome than scholars, politicians, and pundits presume."
Charles C. Mann writes for The Atlantic:
This perspective has a corollary: natural resources cannot be used up. If one deposit gets too expensive to drill, social scientists (most of them economists) say, people will either find cheaper deposits or shift to a different energy source altogether. Because the costliest stuff is left in the ground, there will always be petroleum to mine later. “When will the world’s supply of oil be exhausted?” asked the MIT economist Morris Adelman, perhaps the most important exponent of this view. “The best one-word answer: never.” Effectively, energy supplies are infinite.[more inside]
Daily Telegraph: Why the world isn't running out of oil: "Moreover, as well as bountiful oilfields in North America, Russia, Saudi Arabia and other producers in the Middle East, there are massive, barely tapped reserves in South America, Africa and the Arctic: not billions of barrels’ worth, but trillions. So the planet is not about to run out of oil. On the contrary, according to a Harvard University report published last year, we are heading for a glut. The 75-page study, by oil executive Leonardo Maugeri, was based on a field-by-field analysis of most of the major oil exploration and development projects in the world, and it predicted a 20 per cent increase in global oil production by 2020." [more inside]
Iraq, Kurds, Turks and oil - A tortuous triangle The governments of Turkey, Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan play a dangerous game [more inside]
Today it is an economic and even geopolitical necessity for oil companies, in order to maintain pipelines and offshore rigs, to send divers routinely to depths of a thousand feet, and keep them at that level of compression for as long as a month at a time. The divers who do this work are almost entirely male, and tend to be between the ages of twenty-five and forty. Were they any younger, they would not have enough experience or seniority to perform such demanding tasks. Any older, and their bodies could not be trusted to withstand the trauma. The term for these extended-length descents is “saturation diving,” which refers to the fact that the diver’s tissues have absorbed the maximum amount of inert gas possible.
The "Mysterious patch of light in North Dakota" is not so mysterious. Near the edge of the empty western plains there is a massive light source. On some nights North Dakota is almost as bright as the Aurora Borealis.
"I am currently hiking the 1,700 mile proposed Keystone XL route. I started in Denver, hitchhiked across the Canadian border, took a flight over the Tar Sands of Alberta, and commenced my walk in Hardisty, AB, the northern terminus of the soon-to-be pipeline." Heading southward, Ken Ilgunas is currently in Nebraska. This is his blog chronicling the landscapes, weather, people, animals and everything else he encounters. [more inside]
Up through Los Angeles came a bubblin' crude: Southern California was the Kuwait of the Jazz Age, turning a religious piano teacher into an oil baroness
"In 1925, California supplied [much] of the world’s oil (Google quickview, original PDF) and much of it came from pumps in the Southland (quickview, PDF). To date, around 9 billion barrels of oil have been produced in the Los Angeles area. There are still over 30,000 active wells here pumping around 230 million barrels of oil a year, making Los Angeles County the second most productive oil county in California (although the quality of the oil here is somewhat low by today’s standards). There are 55 known oil fields in the Los Angeles area and 11 of them are located in a very urban context. This setting makes the oil extraction process in Los Angeles unique." Things to do in LA: Urban Oil Wells In Los Angeles, Part I and Part II. [more inside]
Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court returned from summer vacation, and among other things, it heard the second oral argument of Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co.. Esther Kiobel and eleven other Nigerian plaintiffs are accusing oil companies of complicity in a brutal crackdown on protesters that included torture and murder; during the first round of arguments, "some of the court's conservative justices signaled a willingness to shield corporations from liability in U.S. courts over allegations that they had aided or acquiesced to foreign governments that abused their own people." Meanwhile, a group called People Against Legalizing Murder has launched MurderisBad.com - which Shell has allegedly blocked from its employees.