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.
Iraq, Kurds, Turks and oil - A tortuous triangle The governments of Turkey, Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan play a dangerous game [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]
Exxon mobil has signed a development agreement with the Kremlin-majority-owned Rosneft to develop the Bazhenov oil shale reserves in Siberia (PDF), which are estimated to hold 2 million million barrels of oil equivalent -- that's about 64 years of current consumption.
Unusually for a spring season, gasoline prices have been steadily climbing in the US since the beginning of 2011, and have surpassed $4/gallon in many US states, largely due to political instability in many oil-producing African and Middle-Eastern nations. "Not so fast," says the Department of Energy. Although the price of crude oil has climbed steadily throughout the year, the price of gasoline has climbed much faster -- a disparity known as the crack spread, which has remained at its highest level in 32 months, even in light of a sharp decline in the price of crude oil at the beginning of the month. The DoE speculates that although crude oil is cheap and plentiful enough, the 2011 Misssissippi River Floods are currently more to blame for $4 gas than the uprisings in the Middle East.
Michigan State University builds a prototype that would replace the internal combustion engine in automobiles. The wave disk engine runs on shockwaves, and would emit 90% less carbon dioxide, run at 3.5 times greater fuel efficiency, and weigh about 1,000 pounds less than a combustion engine system in a typical automobile.
In 2009, a remarkably gifted politician, confronting a remarkably difficult set of challenges, will have to learn to say "No we can't", Guantánamo will prove a moral minefield, economic recovery will be invisible to the naked eye, governments must prepare for the day they stop financial guarantees, we will judge our commitment to sustainability, scientists should research the causes of religion, we will all be potential online paparazzi, English will have more words than any other language (but it's meaningless), Afghanistan will see a surge of Western (read: American) troops, Iran will continue its nuclear quest while diplomacy lies in shambles, the sea floor is the new frontier, we should rethink aging, (non-)voters will continue to thwart the European project -- but cheap travel will continue to buoy it -- though it has some unfinished business to attend to, and a Nordic defence bond will blossom.
The Economist: The World in 2009. [more inside]
The Economist: The World in 2009. [more inside]
64-year-old Frank Pringle has figured out a way to extract oil and natural gas out of nearly anything.
DIY activists have been using human hair mats to soak up the carcinogenic bunker oil that's been washing onto Bay Area beaches since the spill. Now they're inoculating the oil-soaked mats with mushrooms that will break down the oil into harmless compost. See also: fungi breaking down plastics, synthetic dyes and organopollutants generally. A bit more from mushroom guru Paul Stamets. (If you're so inclined, here's a link to donate to the non-profit that coordinated the hair mats.) [more inside]
Welcome to the official home of the Louisiana Shrimp & Petroleum Festival.
Sponsored by, you guessed it, Shell. [via]
Sponsored by, you guessed it, Shell. [via]
Petroleum from Pond Scum: Dr. Isaac Berzin, founder of GreenFuel Technologies, is working on a prototype that uses algae to convert power plant emissions into biofuels. Good news: It would only take a bioreactor twice the size of new Jersey to supply the entire US with its petroleum needs.
Petroleum Industry Christmas Wishlist Conservative pundits are quick to point out that no "new refineries have been built since 1976", and even quicker to blame "environmentalists". But the facts just don't support that. Refiners have chosen the environment that they do business in, and in some cases have willingly contributed to it. (Plenty of data here.) Here's why:
- The government has allowed the industry to merge, consolidate, and restrict refining capacity, thus impacting pricing, supply, and demand.
- The quest for profits has caused the need to run extremely lean supplies (ie. no stockpiles of crude - it arrives when you need it, not before) and has resulted in susceptability to wild volatility in prices, but has allowed refiners to operate at very high efficiency but with no margin of excess capacity for temporary shortages, disasters, etc.
- Oil refiners trimmed back capacity after the Oil Crash of the early 1980s and have been unwilling to reinvest in new technologies unless environmental restrictions and local fuel cleanliness mandates are reduced.
Oil companies, not environmentalists behind refinery shortages. The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) today exposed internal oil company memos that show how the industry intentionally reduced domestic refining capacity to drive up profits. Internal memos from Mobil, Chevron, and Texaco show different ways the oil giants closed down refining capacity and drove independent refiners out of business. In related news, petroleum industry analyst Tim Hamilton showed that from January 17th to April 18th 2005 gasoline prices jumped 65 cents per gallon and refiner profits rose [pdf] by 61 cents per gallon.
Power Cut Shuts Down Iraq Oil Exports ASRA, Iraq (AP) -- Iraq's oil exports were shut down Monday by a power cut that darkened parts of central and southern Iraq, including the country's only functioning oil export terminals, Iraqi and foreign oil officials said.
More environmental data goes down the memory hole... Another EPA report gets "edited" by the White House to minimize warnings about climate change and the contributing factors of industrial and automotive emissions. Data from a 2001 report on climate by the National Research Council commissioned by by White House is omitted in favor of research data funded by the American Petroleum Institute. Behold the best government money can buy...
Path of a Pipeline: Oil, Empire, and Influence in the New Eurasia While so many of us talk about Iraq and war in terms of oil, it might prove useful to note what is going on close by. Not mentioned, however, in the article is the guess that China will have stupendous energy needs in the next decade, and what is taking place here will have an impact on their needs.
US buys up Iraqi oil to stave off crisis Buy now. Own later. Is this odd or what?
The life-expectancy of Industrial Civilization is horridly short according to Richard C. Duncan and his Olduvai theory. Like all of these weird theories it can be found on the outer fringes of the Internet. Duncan's theory kind of tracks the Hubbert Curve model of petroleum depletion that has been posted before on this site. As Isaac Asimov has stated "Indeed, the ability to control energy, whether it be making wood fires or building power plants, is a prerequisite for civilization." Only time will tell if Duncan was on to something we should have paid attention to.
Beyond petroleum? British Petroleum’s recent $200-million makeover into sunny-logoed bp seems to respond to mounting concerns over pollution, global warming, and wars for oil. By advocating alternatives to the very product that has made it the world’s seventh-largest company, it also seems like economic suicide. In accordance with their environmental goals, they've helped release bald eagles in Manhattan and bring solar power to rural Tibet, but many remain unconvinced. Each bp ad ended with the same tagline: “It’s a start.” Is it?
"The myth of oil prosperity runs wide and deep". "Petroleum-led development strategies have delivered nation after nation into a spiral of debt and dependency. And yet, governments, corporations, and international financial institutions continue to reinvest in the growing, global oil economy". Consider Nigeria, the point of focus of attention of environmentalists, human rights activists and fair trade advocates around the world. With its annual debt service obligation at over $4 bn, more than a third of its export income, Nigeria has in recent years pegged its annual budget allocation for actual debt servicing at $2 bn. Lower export earnings forced it to cut this to $1.5 bn in the 1999 budget. Who's to blame? Theftocracies, the IMF, World Bank, oil companies, foreign governments? Since it is clear that debt restructuring harms more than helps, will there be more debt relief, and finally, who ends up paying the banks when loans are written off?
We are burning irreplacable fuel for energy at an alarming rate. Commerce is being conducted by crooks. Five members of the house commitee on energy and commerce are upset, but not about that. They're upset about this. I love my government. It's so amusing.
Do internal memos reveal oil refineries engaged in price-fixing? From Joshua Micah Marshall's Talking Points memo; links to a Paul Krugman NYT op-ed, but far more intriguingly to Sen. Ron Wyden's (D-OR) webpage, where on June 14th he released his report on alleged price fixing by varied oil refineries based on internal memos and documents of these companies. These types of allegations have been made before, but there is some rather damning language from those internal memos...
Exxon "helped torture in Indonesia." The Aceh uprising brings up the point--how far do we allow multi-nationals to go to "protect their interests"? Would you sanction torture to keep the price of gas and other petroleum products low?
Grand Old Petroleum. GOP. Get it? The DNC really cracks me up sometimes. This is, however, an interesting development in politics. Is every issue going to have its own clever webpage in the future? The mind boggles.