31 December 2005

Early Happy New Year to you all!




Hong Kong

The year of unnatural disasters

PARIS (AFP) - In the space of a year, a tsunami, an earthquake, brutal storms and floods have claimed more than 300,000 lives and cost at least 100 billion dollars in damage.

Humans prefer to view these catastrophes as the result of misfortune, of randomness, of the unfathomable forces of Nature, of the whim of gods or of God.

But the exceptional disasters of the past 12 months raise a far more difficult question. Could mankind be to blame?

For many scientists, the deep pain from this year's string of disasters is to a very large degree man-made.

From the Mississippi delta to the mountains of Kashmir and the beaches of the Andaman Sea, governments failed in almost every case to respect the basic laws of sustainable development.

In a nutshell, these rules are: don't house people in places that are at risk to disasters -- but if you do, respect natural defences; keep the population growth to sensible limits; build wisely and ensure high safety standards in construction; and set up effective alert and response networks in the event disaster does strike.

"We like to talk about natural disasters because it puts the blame on Mother Nature... (but) it's nonsense, it misrepresents what the causal factors really are," said Anthony Oliver-Smith, a doctor of anthropology at the University of Florida at Gainesville.

"Obviously, there are big, big hurricanes and there are big, big earthquakes that will create a certain amount of damage. But the degree and level of destruction is really much more a result of society than it is of the natural agent."

The October 8 earthquake that struck Kashmir, killing 73,000 in Pakistan and 1,400 in India, exposed shoddy construction standards in which homes and schools became killers and the lack of emergency backup in a vulnerable seismic region.

The Geological Survey of Pakistan described the temblor as "a wakeup call".

"Construction codes are non-existent, or criminally violated," it said.

"It is feared that if mushrooming construction of inferior quality continues unchecked in the cities, half the newly-constructed buildings will crumble in 20-30 years with just a moderate earthquake hitting the region."

In the case of the December 26 2004 Asian earthquake and tsunami, which killed at least 220,000 people, the toll was amplified by the burgeoning development on the Indian Ocean coastline, where villages, towns and tourist resorts have sprung up in the past decade.

This was most notable in Thailand, where hotel complexes were built right on the beach, thus putting them right in the path of a big wave, and mangroves and coral reefs, which would have dampened much of the impact, had been destroyed.

"Indiscriminate economic development and ecologically destructive policies have left many communities more vulnerable to disasters than they realise," said the Washington-based environmental group the Worldwatch Institute.

A classic example of this was the monsoon flooding that hit Mumbai in August, temporarily transforming the city of 15 million into the so-called "Venice of the East" where streets were drowned and more than 400 lost their lives.

Experts blamed the decrepit drainage dating back to the British colonial era, explosive growth in slum housing and the loss of green areas and river channels that used to soak up rainwater seepage and then take it out to sea.

"A myopic view of development and misuse of no-development 'green' zones has virtually killed the city," said Chandrashekar Prabhu, an urban planner.

Such folly is not exclusive to a developing country.

On August 29, Hurricane Katrina laid waste to New Orleans - a delta city built below floodlevel and whose coastal wetlands, which would have been a useful buffer against storm surge, had been destroyed by developers.

Katrina left a trail of a thousand dead across the US Gulf coast and an economic bill variously estimated from 80 billion to 200 billion.

It was the peak in an Atlantic hurricane season that broke records for duration, the number of storms -- 26 tropical storms, 14 of them hurricanes -- and severity, with three reaching the topmost category of five on the Saffir-Simpson intensity scale.

The tsunami and quakes were natural events whose impacts were magnified by human mistakes. The big, troubling question is whether Katrina and Co. were spawned by man.

Climate scientists are loath to pin a single event, or even a season, to the greenhouse-gas effect.

Despite this, a small but increasing number of experts are venturing the opinion that the 2005 hurricane season was no accident, for it coincides with ever-rising sea temperatures that fuel bad hurricanes, and a year set to be the warmest ever recorded.

Others say it could be years before we get confirmation as to whether 2005 was just a freak year for storms, part of a natural cycle for hurricanes, or the start of a man-made phenomenon.

Oliver-Smith says it is too early to say whether the string of catastrophes of the past 12 months has dented mankind's obsession with economic growth regardless of the cost.

"It's a tough call to say that people's consciousness is being changed by these disasters," he said. "We will do anything rather than change."

30 December 2005

You Say You Want A Resolution?

So, I still haven't posted an 'Xmas in Review' blog entry yet. Maybe tonight, maybe Jan. 1. Last night, Natasha and Jeff came over to visit Joe and I. We essentially laid down all the fundamental issues causing all the world problems today, and set out to solve them all. It was tough, but we got through some of the crap to minimize the issues and promote clarity. Anyhoo, Mark Morford's column this week is eerily relevant to what we were talking about last night. Enjoy. Happy New Year!

What to do when the new year invites you in and plies you with drinks and slips you the tongue
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist

Friday, December 30, 2005

Is this the year? Is this the time you reset your intent and cut a wide swath and upset your preconceptions and infuriate the fearmongers and the fundies and the sexually terrified, even as you disavow your grudges and cleanse your spiritual colon and wave your bitchin' flame of self around like a Bic lighter at a 1984 Journey concert?

Because gosh look, just look outside, right now: Do you see it? It's a whole new year, all lined up and facing into the wind and waiting to play with you like an eager puppy, like a supple French hooker, like a shimmering glass of God's own tequila just sitting on the counter of possibility waiting for you to tip your head back and let that white-hot firewater slide down your throat like a snake of temptation straight into your undernourished id. Are you ready? Because get this: You need to be.

Because here's the bad news: We have three more ungodly and humiliating and colon-curdling years of BushCo. We have three more years of some of the most miserable foreign and environmental and human-rights policy you will see in your lifetime.

We have three more years of brutal unforgivable war and misprision and of the religious right trying to cram its splintered stick of wicked self-righteousness straight up the country's yamdinger, and if I'm here to tell you anything at all I am here to tell you this: Your energy is needed. Right now.

Energy of transformation. Energy of possibility. Energy of intellect and clarity and progress and joy and sex and kiss, of change and growth and defiance. Oh I know, it sounds all swoony and big-brushed and impossibly affected. It might sound all froufrou and New Agey and San Francisco. You know what? Who cares.

For lo, I have seen the great surges of flesh and credit card debt and obesity at the local Wal-Mart, big-box stores erupting like a plague across the land, the relentless American craving for cheap-ass Chinese-made crap and toxic garbage food continuing unabated like some sort of perpetual tsunami that continues to crash against the ravaged shore of common sense.

I have seen major industry steep the landscape in enough unchecked pollution to make the ice caps melt and the animals gag and the forests hack like dying emphysema patients, watched massive Midwestern megachurches maim the notion of the healthy self-defined individual soul, borne witness to the inexplicable success of Ashlee Simpson and Mariah Carey while trying, every single day, to allay the shuddering effect of Tom Cruise and Paris Hilton and the Olsen twins with ointments and salves and fine single-malt scotch.

Against the backdrop of a leering and spiritually depraved leadership, I have witnessed the death of poetry. As my friend Rob Brezny points out in his outstandingly odd and delicious book of divine conspiracy, "Pronoia," an estimated 37 million Americans take antidepressants. By the time they hit age 17, 78 percent of teenage girls are unhappy with their bodies. The United States is the biggest arms dealer in the world, by a long shot. Half of all war casualties are civilians caught in the crossfire. And so on.

I have watched the rise of the morally bankrupt Christian fundamentalist mind-set in America with equal parts disgust and sadness and bemusement, all overlaid with a general sense that just about everything these people do is pretty much the exact opposite of what Jesus had in mind. Which is exactly what makes them so dangerous.

I have seen the big pharmcos work like intestinal worms to create a nation of jittery and confused prescription-drug addicts, Big Auto refuse to improve mpg or cop to the overall abusive idiocy of the monster SUV, heard the president mutter the actual words, "We do not torture," as the United States quickly becomes, in its global actions and disregard for all things humanitarian, little better than the fundamentalist terrorists it claims to despise.

And lo, it is bleak and nasty and gray as death's own gum disease.

On the other hand, I have seen new voices of protest being born straight out of the pious machinery of fundamentalist ignorance. I have seen the coolly blasphemous alt-spirituality segment of the bookstore explode and flourish and make a calm mockery of the belief that godhood is somehow unattainable to calm and open-hearted people right here, right now.

Community is flourishing in new and astounding forms, via 10 thousand blogs and 10 million photo-sharing Web pages and countless bizarre blinking winking communication devices, our frayed human interconnections constantly regenerating in new and unexpected ways, like nerve endings after a traumatic accident.

I have watched the fundamentals of industrial design elegance finally invade the public consciousness (thanks, Apple Computer), watched the organic food movement bloom and catch hold (albeit imperfectly), swooned as Fiona Apple returned to show everyone how the sultry lithe songstress thing is supposed to be done. I have read of the discovery of fiery new stars, odd new planets, unexpected remote galaxies that make your ego spin and your perspective reel and your spirit giggle knowingly.

I have seen the failure of the false gods, of the intelligent design simpletons, the ugly macho kill-'em-all Hummer mentality. I have witnessed the hijacking of the Republican Party by dangerous neocon nutballs and then watched their seemingly impenetrable fortress of war and homophobia and intolerance, one of the most secretive and controlling and dishonest regimes in American history, crack and crumble in a matter of months under the weight of their insufferable deception and duplicity.

And lo, this is cause indeed for rejoicing. Or at least for a modicum of smile, a subcutaneous whisper that, really and truly, all is not lost.

So then, as the new year races to engulf us all, perhaps this is what you can choose, this is what you resolve to understand: that the Great Battle continues. The great surge toward enlightenment and evolution must go on, will go on, can't not go on, as those of us who choose to see it understand that we are already reeking gleaming teeming brimful with all the divine juicy godhead we will ever need. It is merely waiting to be, quite literally, turned on.

It is, after all, all about subtle energy, shifts in awareness, the decision to move forward no matter what. It is all about focusing on micro to affect macro. This much you probably already know. In which case, this year you can simply resolve to, well, continue. To keep on, even when it all seems bleak and fraught and impossibly constricted. Because, sometimes, merely refusing to stop cultivating an unquenchable lust for beauty and truth and orgasmic life is the most profound and important thing you can resolve to do.

29 December 2005

Holiday post

...new post coming tonight...

Energy Decline

Written by Anna Semlyen

My aim is not to scare you
But to prepare you
As energy declines
There'll be less
Of what's mine
Because its fair
To share
When less
And less
Is there

As energy shrinks
We are on the brink
Of a new world order
That's much harder

Every family
Must conserve energy
And what's doable
Is more renewables

The best thing
For oil supplies
That's what's wise
Yet the market will decide
And prices sharply rise

Me, me, me
Must give way to
We, we, we
Or there'll be

Clean water's
What we ought to
If we're to weather
This mighty storm
In any civilised form

With a shrinking pie
My mind's eye
Predicts collapse
But perhaps
Of the issues
Will stop the misuse
Of remaining petrol
Before a mighty cull
A mass die off
While politicians cry off
Tackling the problem
Of dwindling petroleum

Sad but true
Now what are you
Going to do?

25 Oct. 2005

Anna Semlyen is the author of Cutting Your Car Use (www.cuttingyourcaruse.co.uk)

23 December 2005

Bah humbuggery

What a hellish week. I'm so stressed out. I wish I could have a couple of days of complete isolation from everyone and everything holiday-related, just to get some mind-clearing solace and sleep. But alas, tomorrow morning we begin the 11-hour drive to Manitoba, spend 60 hours going from family gathering to party to social gathering, and then 11 hours drive and back to work again on Wednesday morning. *sigh*

I'm not sure if it's the fact that I've had to work the entire week and have had everything dumped on my desk because no one else on the team is working this week (it's been my most hectic week in a month or so), or that work + shopping (which I loathe, being the penultimate anti-consumer)+ Xmas preparations + training, etc, etc, is just making my head explode and causing me to despise this season even more than I should. *whine*

I've been reading pretty heavy Peak Oil stuff this week which hasn't been making my heart feel any lighter. We didn't put up a tree this year since we're travelling away for Christmas. I've spent way more than I should have even though nothing was excessive and that should set my debt payment plans back a few more months *moan*

To top everything off, we went for our annual Xmas light run with the running group last night. We made the trip up to Confederation Park where the huge light display is every year from Greg and Marion's place. We got there about 6:35pm and the lights weren't even on yet! I took it to be a very ominous sign of the lack of spirit that I'm feeling this season. I wished Xmas to be over a week ago, and I still have another four days to go. *sniff*

Now that Joe and I have decided we're going to have a NYE party, we inevitably have another hectic week ahead next week prepping for Saturday night and back to the regular fly-from-appointment-to-appointment without a moment to catch my breath. *gasp*

Oh yeah, did I mention I'm on call over the entire holiday season too? I figure with my luck I should be getting a call or two on Sunday. Fuck. *weeping*

I really feel so out of control this time of year. There is so much pressure to conform to expected behaviors. If you decided to opt out of Christmas one year, everyone would think there is something seriously wrong with you. I'd love to NOT have to 'celebrate' this holiday anymore. It's for the kids, I'm not a kid, and I don't really care about spending, spending, spending in order to make sure that I didn't leave anyone out or shortchange anyone. There's nothing worse than having someone give you a gift that completely upstages what you have gotten for them. I think the fact that Joe is grumpy and overworked and tired this week and we haven't seen each other to any acceptable degree for over a week is adding to the stress. It feels like the only communication we've had with each other is a grunt of acknowledgment as one of us gets up or goes to bed - two ships passing in the night.

I hope you're all having a much better week than I am. I really hope getting to mom and dad's, walking in the snow, being part of Trezlie's first Christmas and finally sitting around a tree might get my spirit of the season juices moving. Alcohol, where are you?

Here's hoping that early 2006 brings some quiet time to reassess everything. Having Joe at home more often is a step in the right direction, and I'm hoping the trip to Texas will be what the doctor ordered. I literally haven't had a day off of work since August, so it's long overdue.

22 December 2005

Rum and Monkey

My ethnically enhanced global village name is Farid Darshan.
Take The Global Village Multi Culti Name Generator today!
Created with Rum and Monkey's Name Generator Generator.

I don't believe it!

Bush plan for Alaska oil drilling blocked

Democrats in the US Senate succeeded yesterday in blocking White House-backed legislation to open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, sparing the Canadian government -- at least temporarily -- a showdown with the Bush administration over the controversial plan. Amid heated rhetoric and threats of political retribution, Republican supporters of Arctic drilling failed to get the 60 votes needed to prevent a Democratic filibuster aimed at killing the oil exploration provisions. "It is a real victory for the environmental movement all throughout this country," said Senator Dianne Feinstein of California. The Senate's move was a disappointment for President Bush, who had lobbied for passage of the Arctic oil plan as part of a US$453-billion military spending bill that primarily funds US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Opponents of drilling accused Republicans of trying to force them into supporting the oil plan by including it in a must-pass defence bill. Instead, they balked at the manoeuvre and turned the tables on the majority party. "At the 11th hour, the proponents of oil drilling have attached this provision where it does not belong in the hope that we will be intimidated into voting for something we don't believe is right," Senator Joseph Lieberman said. "I have too much a sense of responsibility to the Senate to be intimidated in this way to support something I believe is wrong."
(National Post 051222)

Wow...who would've thought there were some people in the world who aren't of the mantra, "any oil, all oil at any cost".

21 December 2005

Commodities: Analyst sticks to his forecast of oil at $105 a barrel

By Alejandro Barbajosa Bloomberg News


LONDON Arjun Murti, the Goldman Sachs Group analyst who roiled oil markets in March by saying crude could reach $105 a barrel, now says that forecast might be conservative if the "peak oil" theory is right and world supplies are running out.

The theory, which postulates that the world's oil supply is close to an irreversible drop, is no longer "on the fringes" of the market, according to a research report by the New York-based Murti, who forecasts oil prices of between $50 and $105 a barrel until 2009.

The UBS analyst James Hubbard, a former oil engineer at Schlumberger, has said an inevitable decline in supply will start sooner and be worse than expected unless investment is increased for many years.

A jump above $105 a barrel "is possible if we don't invest the right amount of money," Hubbard said in an interview in London.

"There will be a peak in production earlier than expected, and that post-peak decline will be more dramatic than currently assumed unless there is a sustained increase in investment in oil and gas production, greater consumer efficiency and alternative energy sources."

The Saudi Arabian oil minister, Ali al-Naimi, and the president of Exxon Mobil, Rex Tillerson, have both said oil supplies will last for decades. But energy traders are increasingly debating the amount of available crude after rising demand from China surprised suppliers, who had failed to spend on new pipelines, rigs and refineries.

Tillerson in September told the World Petroleum Congress in Johannesburg that a U.S. Geological Survey estimate of two trillion barrels of conventional oil reserves still to be recovered is conservative, with the range of possibility as high as seven trillion barrels. Less than a trillion barrels has been pumped in the world so far.

Investors who back the peak oil theory, like Boone Pickens, a Dallas-based hedge fund manager and former oil executive, have fueled the price rally of the past two years, when oil almost doubled in price to reach a record $70.85 in August. Prices ended last week at $58.06 a barrel in New York.

Congress Meets Peak Oil


Last week the House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce held its first hearing on peak oil. Appropriately, or perhaps ironically, it took place on December 7, Pearl Harbor Day. The hearing was held at the instigation of Maryland Congressman Roscoe Bartlett, who recently introduced a resolution calling on the government to immediately embark on an international crash program to mitigate the effects of declining world oil production.

However, given the issues currently confronting Congress —Iraq, poll numbers, congressional elections, record budget and trade deficits, global warming, and a pandemic— hearing the world is about to run out of cheap oil is close to the last thing any member of Congress wants to hear. Who on earth would want to go into the next congressional election with their voters thinking gasoline was about to become unaffordable? Just to get a hearing on peak oil is a testimony to the legislative skill of Congressman Bartlett and his standing in the Republican caucus.

When confronted with holding a hearing they really didn’t want, the Committee leadership and staff used the time-tested technique of turning something completely obvious into an academic debate with different points of view.

In effect, the title of the hearing said it all— “Understanding the ‘Peak Oil’ Theory.”

The speakers for both sides were excellent. Bartlett and Congressman Udall of New Mexico led off with a clear case as to why world oil production would be peaking soon with very serious consequences. They were followed by star witnesses Kjell Aleklett, from the Association for the Study of Peak Oil, and Robert Hirsch, from the consulting firm SAIC. The four speakers could not have made the case for peak oil more clearly or succinctly.

The peak-oil-is-imminent speakers were followed by Robert Esser, a senior consultant for Cambridge Energy Research Associates, who told the committee the world “is not running out of oil imminently or in the medium term.” “Rather than an isolated ‘peak’ we should expect an ‘undulating plateau,’ perhaps three or four decades from now,” he said. “The major risks to this outlook however are not below-ground geological factors but above-ground geopolitical factors.”

And that was the hearing. Take your pick: either the world is faced with an imminent catastrophe or an “undulating plateau” decades from now. In the midst of a dozen pressing crises, a theoretical peaking of world oil production certainly will look to most in Congress like something that can be put off until the evidence becomes clearer.

Thus far, the press coverage of the event has been sparse despite the presence of at least a dozen journalists at the hearing. The Oil and Gas Journal, whose readers are obviously concerned, ran an extensive piece on the hearing and the arguments for peak oil. At the other end of the scale, the Wall Street Journal ran a story from Market Watch reporting only the Cambridge Research contention that there will be plenty of oil for decades.

If one were expecting that Congress would have a “ Eureka ” moment because they were given a forceful case that peak oil is imminent, then you should know that Congress does not work that way. A threat thought to be five years away is meaningless.

Thus, this hearing is unlikely to result in the Peak Oil Resolution being reported out to the House floor where the whole House would have to vote on whether peak oil is imminent. The hearings and the resolution however, did result in the formation of a bi-partisan Peak Oil Caucus, which thus far, only has a handful of members.

Someday however, the Energy and Commerce Committee will be holding hearings on “Why is Gasoline $5 a gallon?” Hopefully Congressman Bartlett will still be around to testify about peak oil and his caucus will have grown into the hundreds.

Quite literally, Fortress America

U.S. to study fence at border


WASHINGTON (CP) - Canada has no interest in a new U.S. initiative to study building a security wall along the border, officials said Saturday.

And a cross-border business group said it makes no sense when what's urgently required are measures to speed the flow of trade.

The study "on the use of physical barriers" was slipped into an amendment to a bill on border security and illegal immigration passed Friday by the U.S. House of Representatives.

The amendment, sponsored by California Republican Duncan Hunter, also approved building security fences with lights and cameras along more than 1,000 kilometres of the U.S.-Mexico border in four states to keep out illegal aliens and drugs.

The move comes amid heightened bilateral tensions arising from Canada's election campaign. But U.S. sources said it was prompted by southern U.S. politicians anxious to assure constituents they're not penalizing one border over another.

Alex Swann, spokesman for Canada's Public Safety Minister Anne McLellan, said the U.S. administration has never discussed the notion with Canada during regular meetings on border security.

"This is not a priority for us," said Swann.

"There's all sorts of things we want to do. This just isn't one of them," Swann added.

He insisted such a barrier would be impractical.

"Just look at the Great Lakes."

Scotty Greenwood, executive director of the Canadian-American Business Council, said the study is a waste.

"It's an indication of a lack of understanding about what the true challenges are on the northern border," she said.

"Just the fact that it would quietly pass is scary. They'll study it and it isn't going to be controversial."

"That's the tragedy. They shouldn't be spending limited resources doing that."

Legislators should be focused instead on improving key border crossings like Windsor-Detroit, the world's busiest, and expanding programs that expedite the flow of people and goods like NEXUS and FAST, Greenwood said.

"Security, sure. But it should be smart security."

"One size does not fit all."

The entire border security bill, which includes other measures to tighten the southern border and stop illegal aliens from finding jobs, passed by a vote of 239-182.

Conservatives have long wanted to build a barrier along the Mexican border. Although some Democrats compared it with the Berlin Wall in Germany, 50 party members supported the amendment to erect fences and direct the Department of Homeland Security to study doing the same on the Canadian border.

"You typically have these diplomatic-type protests that speak stupidly of the Great Wall in China or some other nutty comparison," Hunter told the National Conservative Weekly, noting there's already a 23-kilometre stretch of fence in San Diego.

"We're simply talking of having a real border and asking people when they want to come to the United States that they come in the front door."

Canada has long fought the perception it's a haven for terrorists, combatting the mistaken belief some of those involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks entered the United States from the north.

There have also been complaints from some U.S. legislators that Canadian immigration policies are too lax, although there are an estimated 50,000 to 120,000 people in Canada without legal status, compared with more than eight million in the United States.

In 2004, the U.S. Border Patrol made over one million apprehensions on the southwestern border, compared with 10,000 at the Canadian line.

After the attacks, both countries took steps to increase security along what's been known as the longest undefended border in the world. About 300,000 people and $1.2 billion US in goods and services cross daily.

The so-called smart border accord sought to strike a balance between security and trade by creating joint policing and sharing more information.

In its last budget, Canada increased funding for its border security agency by $430 million over five years.

U.S. officials are now considering a plan that would a require passports or other secure document of anyone crossing the border. Canada and tourism and business groups in both countries oppose the passport plan, saying it's too expensive and would seriously hinder commerce and casual visits.

The passport issue, container security and the Windsor crossing are among Canada's priorities, said Swann.

20 December 2005

On Hope

On Hope » The Anthropik Network says:
December 6th, 2005 at 12:07 pm
[...] He isn't alone in seeing what he wants to see of course - the Viridian camp sees a shiny green future awaiting us in the post oil world, old school oil guys like T Boone Pickens see a exploration and drilling bonanza, energy industry investors like Matt Simmons and Henry Groppe see soaring energy prices, gold bugs see rampart inflation and soaring gold prices, ferals and hippies see a return to living closer to nature, socialists see the revivial of marxism, conspiracy theorists see government/elite conspiracies and the rise of the new world order, primitivists see the collapse of industrial civilisation and human dieoff, libertarians see an opportunity for the market to bring new energy sources and technoloies to us, fascists see an opportunity for a return to authoritarianism and some of the uglier approaches to population control used by their ilk in the past, economists see suuply and demand issues being resolved by energy prices, military-industrial complex members see the need to militarily dominate the energy rich regions of the planet, end-times Christian fundamentalists see another symptom of the impending rapture and survivalists see an opportunity to say "I told you so" and finally get to use the skills and tools they've spent their lives practicing for. [...]

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Peak Oil


The following essay comes from the great Karavans site. Not very light thought at this time of year, but it certainly expresses how I feel about things these days, going into 2006. Link: http://karavans.typepad.com/karavans/2005/12/how_i_learned_t.html
Maybe all these theories are real, fake, planted, who knows? You hear the same claims about 9/11 and Pearl Harbour. Is someone trying to manipulate us through fear? Maybe. At any rate, environmental alteration and an end to finite resources are REAL and something we're going to have to deal with in the near future. The reality won't be pretty, either, I highly suspect.

I still hope, and (previously) even moreso at this time of year that humanity is smarter as a whole than as individuals and that we'll be able to work together to solve our common problems. I'm having a hard time as I get older justifying my hope, but it's is still there like the Grinch's heart. Whew! Pretty heady stuff for this reflective moment. Whatever.

Bah! Drink lots on Christmas day to handle your family, enjoy receiving more than giving, sleep in on Christmas morning and forget your problems for a few days. Merry Christmas.

Now, here is Karavans.

Someone recently accused me of being gloomy about the future because of my monitoring of Peak Oil.

Actually, I'm not a doomer. However, I do see a lot of short-term pain for long-term gain.

Let me quickly summarize the different scenarios as envisioned by the various factions of Peak Oil watchers. These are solely my classifications.

Being a movie buff I will use movies as a form of shorthand to identify these scenarios:

-Quest for Fire
This is the scenario envisioned by the gang over at Anthropik (although they are not alone in this thinking). They see a quick Peak Oil induced collapse of civilization followed by a huge die-off over the next 30 years with the survivors reverting back to the way humanity lived for 99.7% of its 3 million year existence: as hunter/gatherers.

Think Stone Age 2.0.

If you are tempted to do a knee-jerk dismissal of their ideas, I suggest you do yourself a favor and a spend a few evenings reading their Thirty Theses of Collapse. They know how and why civilizations collapse--and they all collapse eventually--when their primary source of cheap energy runs out.

-Little House on the Prairie
This is what I call the James Kunstler scenario. He is the author of The Long Emergency, a best seller on Peak Oil. Under this scenario we also have a die-off with the survivors settling down to a basically no-tech agrarian lifestyle like that of the Olson family in the old TV series.

A variant of this is what I call The Postman scenario. If government breaks down sufficiently there could roving gangs of bandits who decide that there’s a better ROI from robbing people than from work. In the movie the honest folk had to live behind stockades which often didn’t protect them from the bad guys.

This refers to the short-lived TV sci-fi series which blends the old west with a distant future set in space. I think this anachronistic vision is closest to what we will see by, say, 2030--minus the space travel. Firefly’s world is about living along the edges of empire free from its suffocating controls. When the crew travels towards the center of the empire it finds cities and a society much like ours today: a high-tech, corporate-controlled, police state with surveillance cameras and armed guards at every doorway. In contrast, when the crew flies out to the perimeters of empire, it finds the type of freedom people had back in the 19th century. Most Firefly outposts wouldn’t be out of place in the Wild West of the 1850s.

My hope is that we'll end up in an anachronistic low-power world but with Internet access and email so that people may continue to collaborate on solutions for the most pressing problems. We’ll still have some energy after Peak Oil but it will be allocated for priority uses instead of being squandered on three-block trips to Blockbuster in an SUV. The human population will be reduced significantly with the survivors finally understanding the importance of living sustainably. Wal-mart, globalism and all the corporate propaganda that tries to tell us that life is about working like a slave in order to buy mostly useless junk will be a thing of the distant past. Social and economic life will become localized. We'll trade with our neighbors instead of potential enemies half-a-world away.

If you stop and think about it, this is the life most normal human beings really want. We want freedom from meddlesome bureaucrats and politicians (and these days, busy-body fundamentalists) who want to tell us how to live. We crave some elbow room from our neighbors as well as the opportunity to spend at least part of our time in nature. We also want to experience genuine self-reliance at the community and individual levels. Life is truly about our relationships with other people and not about merely accumulating various gizmos.

Firefly portrays this type of life and contrasts it clearly with what we have today. This explains the resonant chord it strikes with viewers. I only watched it recently and fell in love with it despite not being a fan of the science fiction genre.

Let me end this post with a quote from The Long Emergency:

"These are daunting and even dreadful prospects. The Long Emergency is going to be a tremendous trauma for the human race. We will not believe that this is happening to us, that 200 years of modernity can be brought to its knees by a world-wide power shortage. The survivors will have to cultivate a religion of hope -- that is, a deep and comprehensive belief that humanity is worth carrying on. If there is any positive side to stark changes coming our way, it may be in the benefits of close communal relations, of having to really work intimately (and physically) with our neighbors, to be part of an enterprise that really matters and to be fully engaged in meaningful social enactments instead of being merely entertained to avoid boredom. Years from now, when we hear singing at all, we will hear ourselves, and we will sing with our whole hearts."

My hope is that the smart people stop working on yet another way to download song snippets as ring-tones and apply themselves to working on renewable energy systems and other solutions to soften the landing for humanity over the coming decades.

Let's get back to being humans instead of just consumers.

� Steve Bell 2005

Yes.......my precious......PRECIOUS....

US House approves Alaska refuge drilling

Ignoring vigorous opposition from Canada, the US House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly yesterday to open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. The controversial move, which risks triggering another showdown between the two countries, sent Canadian officials in Washington scrambling to find last-minute allies in the Senate to try to block the legislation before Congress recesses for Christmas. The Alaskan oil provision was approved in the House after pro-drilling representatives succeeded in attaching it to an unrelated US$453-billion military-spending bill that funds troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. The defence appropriations bill passed 308-106 amid outrage from drilling opponents who said they were forced, in effect, to choose between supporting US troops or the northern caribou herds who live where the oil exploration is to occur. "I have consistently and repeatedly opposed drilling," said Representative Mark Kennedy, a Wisconsin Republican. "However it would be the height of irresponsibility to vote against a bill that funds our troops and our military while our nation is at war."

Ottawa has repeatedly lobbied Washington to drop plans to drill for oil in the 600,000-hectare refuge, a sensitive wilderness preserve that borders the Yukon in northeastern Alaska. In private meetings and telephone calls with President Bush, Prime Minister Paul Martin has warned oil activity threatens the migratory Porcupine caribou herds that members of Canada's Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation rely on for sustenance. Ottawa also maintains oil drilling would violate a 1987 bilateral agreement to forego any activities that could harm the herds or their habitat. The White House argues drilling in the Alaskan refuge would help the US reduce its dependence on foreign oil, but Congress has consistently blocked stand-alone legislation to allow oil activity. The move to include Arctic drilling provisions in a military-spending bill was the brainchild of Senator Ted Stevens, an Alaska Republican who had vowed to win approval for oil exploration before Christmas.

By yesterday afternoon, it appeared Canada had allies in high-profile senators John Kerry, John McCain and Joseph Lieberman, who vowed to try to strip the drilling provisions from the military-spending bill. "As somebody who supports the military, I am not going to allow this precedent to be set that every year we adopt a defence appropriations bill, somebody with a pet project who happens to be in a position of power is going to attach it at the last minute," Lieberman said. Senator John McCain of Arizona called Stevens' tactics "disgusting." "It's disgraceful that I have to be put in that position" of choosing between troop funding and oil drilling, he said. Studies have estimated the Arctic refuge holds five to 16 billion barrels of recoverable oil, an amount Stephane Dion, the federal Environment Minister, has dismissed as insignificant compared to US demands for energy. "It would give them what -- six months of oil?" Dion said in October before a meeting at the White House on the issue.
(National Post 051220)

Open letter to ANWR:

Sorry, but I gotta kill ya! Yes, sweet sweet crude. I've come to realize that I am addicted to the stuff to the point now that I will do anything (ANYTHING) to get more of it. Even if it means hurting and/or killing the things and people I love. Even if it means making enemies and destroying myself and everything around me. Don't take it personally; It's not my fault - I'm just living up to the stereotype of a hopeless druggie - fully aware that I have a terrible problem, but so hopelessly mired in my addiction that my only option is to convince myself not to do anything about it but get more of the good stuff, oh yeah. That's all I care about anymore. I'll try to remember how great and essential you once were before I altered you, possibly destroyed you, but after a couple of years I'll have finished with you and will most likely forget about it all, including the lifeless body I've left behind as I go on searching for more of the precious.....

Western society

19 December 2005

Lots of weekend shots (of liquor)

Another draining weekend...urgh...when is this insane season going to end? Just kidding - nothing makes this time better than spending it with friends and family. Instead of typing a whole crapload, I'll just let the pictures speak for themselves!

Thursday night was the Calgary Bicycle Track League AGM and Awards Dinner.

cp with the Journal Cup - winner for 2005 is Synergy Racing Cycle Club!

Graeme and Chris share some stories...

Hammerhead Award winners for the A,B,C groups -- Reid, Nick and Bill

Our fearless President gets up to speak...

Friday night was Jeff's annual blow-out Christmas Party. It was once again a fantastic time, and it was great to get together with the gang just before Xmas.

The Experience and Canagal

The Congregation

Very festive indeed

And if I do THIS.....

The Host with the Most

Merry Xmas guys!

Supermodels hanging out in the kitchen

I think it's about time to go home, guys. You've had enough.

...and that's the end of that! We managed to make it home alive and hit the sack, however I slept in and missed the 9am running start at Greg and Jerry's. Once I woke up and fucked around the house, I didn't get over to their place until noon.

Frontrunners brunch at Greg and Jerry's newly renovated house. Tim in brown on the left is the guy that I share lead/second with on our curling team. Jerry is cut off to the left of him and Greg is on the far right.

I got to the gym at 1:30. After a workout, I headed over to the North Hill Curling Club for a 4:30 game. The Queer Eye for the Cute Guy team won a curling game for a change! We actually were really on our game and it was added to the fun in the lounge afterwards which was coincidentally the Apollo Curling Xmas Party.

Shawn and Bryan post-game at Apollo Curling

Aaron, the third

BITCH! The winner of the post-game 50/50 draw is humiliated for the bitch queen she is!

I was supposed to either go out to Bryan's place and the Eagle afterwards or to Natasha's potluck dinner and I unfortunately had to bow out on both. Reid skipping a Saturday night? Can you effing believe it? I spent the evening at home with Joe. I felt the cold creeping back on me, so I just slept and slept and slept. Sunday I did Synergy finances and waited for the cable guy to show up. We're switching back to basic cable from the digital TV pilot project we were on from Joe's work. They're releasing it to the public now and we'd have to pay for it starting January 1. It's insanely expensive, even with Joe's employee discount (oh yeah, Joe's quitting there too on Jan 4, so it was sort of necessary). I'm glad we're going back to the cheaper option at any rate. After the meeting, I went down to Ryan's place to do some business and praying.

This will probably be the last big written post until after Christmas, so right now I'd like to wish everyone reading this a happy holiday season and best wishes for 2006. Good luck for 2006. You'll need it. *wink*

I'm so excited to be going home now. I'm bringing my man with me and I'm heading to my hometown. I fully expect my family to be completely normal about it and for the days there to be full of fun, food and lots of laughs. It'll be Trezlie's first Christmas too. What more could I possibly ask for? Once again I say, "I am so blessed". Even if it is Jebus and Gob, or is that Allab or Mohabbed, or Bongfucious? Whatever you believe in, call your mom right now.

Merry Christmas.
Over and out.


Big smile!

Could she be any cuter?

What a pose...


Honestly - who are the retarded ones here?

Canada described as 'retarded cousin' by U.S. pundit, in spate of attacks
15:40:35 EST Dec 19, 2005

WASHINGTON (CP) - Canada has been described lately by a conservative U.S. television host as "a stalker" and a "retarded cousin."

Another pundit recently asked if Canadians weren't getting "a little too big for their britches." There's been a spate of Canada-bashing by right-wing media commentators in the United States ever since Prime Minister Paul Martin's complaints about lumber penalties and U.S. policy on climate change. His remarks prompted an unusual rebuke last week from the American ambassador.

The attacks on Canada have had web bloggers typing overtime and a non-profit group that's monitoring the trend, Media Matters for America, says it's disturbing.

Yet Paul Waldman, a senior fellow for the group, said Monday the criticism is confined to the usual faction that erupts whenever there's criticism of President George W. Bush's administration and it probably won't last past Canada's Jan. 23 election.

"There are always going to be occasions when it pops up. But Canada is never going to occupy an extraordinary amount of American thought," said Waldman.

"It's more like: 'Who can we beat on today?' It's never going to reach the heights of animosity toward France in the run-up to the Iraq war."

Last week, MSNBC host Tucker Carlson, a well-known conservative pundit, let loose with a string of anti-Canada rants.

"Anybody with any ambition at all, or intelligence, has left Canada and is now living in New York," he said.

"Canada is a sweet country. It is like your retarded cousin you see at Thanksgiving and sort of pat him on the head. You know, he's nice but you don't take him seriously. That's Canada."

Carlson also said it's pointless to tell Canada to stop criticizing the United States.

"It only eggs them on. Canada is essentially a stalker, stalking the United States, right? Canada has little pictures of us in its bedroom, right?"

"It's unrequited love between Canada and the United States. We, meanwhile, don't even know Canada's name. We pay no attention at all," he said.

The day before, Fox News host Neil Cavuto highlighted Martin's remark at a news conference that the United States is a "reticent nation" lacking a "global conscience" on climate change.

"So have the Canadians gotten a little too big for their britches?" Cavuto asked.

"Could our neighbours to the north soon be our enemies?"

Douglas MacKinnon, a press secretary to former Republican senator Bob Dole, also recently accused Canada of harbouring terrorists.

"Can Canada really be considered our friend anymore?" he asked in a recent commentary in the right-wing Washington Times newspaper.

"What other question can be asked when the Canadian government not only willingly allows Islamic terrorists into their country but does nothing to stop them from entering our nation?"

U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins warned Martin last week to tone down anti-American jabs or risk hurting bilateral relations. But Martin was unrepentant, saying he would "not be dictated to" by the United States and his hard line appears to be resonating with some voters.

While the offensive from American pundits isn't widespread, it still has the potential to affect cross-border ties, said Waldman.

"On Capitol Hill, the TVs are turned to Fox News. This kind of media environment is what the White House pays attention to," he said.

"That hostility is probably shared by a lot of people in the administration."

© The Canadian Press, 2005

Ooh! Big bad Canada is such a threat to poor defenseless America! That's what the right-wingers would have you believe. If America is so freaking awesome, why do the Fox News pundits and the likes of good ol' Ann Coulter take such offense to comments made by leaders/media of other nations at all? Like, if TROTW is so insignificant to America, why do they even give a flying crap what anyone else says? Sounds like a case of an overabundance of conservative self-consciousness gone mad. Why is that? What is going on in the back of their heads that makes them react to outside criticism with such bitterness and rage? I thought the people in power (and the media that they control) were of the "if you're not with us, fuck you!" mentality? Are there some sensitivity issues there that we're not seeing? Maybe we should look on this hypersensitivity as the Achilles heel of the conservative movement, just in case we need to exploit it...

Okay, it's not like I'm offended by any bile spewed by the Canadian or American right-wing pundits - I'm only offended by their incredible ignorance of reality - but what really disturbs me about this article (although I'm not surprised) is that the Bush Administration watches, and apparently ONLY watches Fox News. Yipe! That is a tad scary. Talk about lack of perspectives. If I had to listen to Tucker Carlson all day, I think I'd be a little fucked up too!


Weekend update coming today or tomorrow...

Alberta exports to top $70B

Sky-high energy prices have Alberta on track to set a new export record in 2005, with the value of goods and services shipped from Wild Rose Country preparing to smash through the $70-billion mark for the first time. Figures obtained from Statistics Canada and Industry Canada show Alberta exported $63.2B of products in the first ten months of 2005, a 16% increase from the same period of 2004 and more than the province exported in all of 2003. At this rate, Alberta's exports could exceed $75B by year-end, eclipsing the $66B level seen in 2004. The trade numbers also indicate that, for the first time, the $9.2B in energy shipments from Canada in October were the country's No. 1 export, surpassing perennial heavyweights manufactured goods at $7.9B and automobiles at $7.8B. It's further evidence Alberta's energy-based wealth may be changing the economic dynamics of the Canada confederation, analysts say. Not all analysts believe energy prices will stay high in 2006, but, if they do, it could start to reshape structure of Canadian industry along regional lines, said Peter Hall, deputy chief economist with Export Development Canada. "If that's a permanent move up to that level you can start talking about a rebalancing of the industrial production of Canada that favours the energy sector," Hall said from Ottawa. "But we don't believe that that new price regime is going to persist," he added.
(Calgary Herald 051219)

It's a very interesting to consider how this economic shift could affect the political power struggles of the Canadian federation. I think the analysts might be surprised how persistent the price of oil might remain over the next few years, and what that means for the political status quo of Canada. If the power shifts to the West, you might potentially see a permanent breakup of the Confederation someday.

Business, not consumers, new driving force of growth

For economic guru Philip Cross, the proof that consumers were no longer driving the Canadian economy came when he read that Canadian Natural Resources was investing $25-billion in oil sands expansion. The announcement came in early November, and is an eye-popping example of the mountain of cash that Canadian companies - not just in the oil patch but across the economy - are sitting on, and are preparing to invest. With his keen eye for economic trends, Cross, chief of economic analysis at Statistics Canada, knew the Calgary oil company's ambitious plan marked a seismic shift for the Canadian economy. For the past few years, consumers have been the driving force behind growth, spending their way through the tribulations of a high dollar, high energy prices and a manufacturing downturn. But now, business investment has taken the lead, and consumer spending has become a secondary force, recent data indicate. “This clearly was the year household spending passed the baton to investment spending first, and exports second,” Cross said in an interview. “Clearly, investment is the most dynamic sector of the economy now.”

In 2004, household spending was responsible for 84% of all growth in Canada, Statscan reports. The consumer side of the economy had been strong since interest rates slid in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September, 2001, in the US. Meanwhile, business investment, together with exports, were actually a 4% drag on overall growth in 2004, following on a weak 2003. But by the third quarter of this year, consumers had started to swap places with business investment. Household spending contributed less than half of total growth, while business investment and exports accounted for 57%. The consumer is not dead, economists say. However, consumers are no longer the mainstay behind Canada's steady, solid growth. “The sources of growth have shifted and will continue to shift in a more profound way, away from the household sector to the business sector,” said Don Drummond, chief economist at Toronto-Dominion Bank. Much of that is because the housing market boom has exhausted itself, he explained.
(Globe and Mail 051219)

A shift from dependency on consumer spending for economic growth back to the corporations and businesses is a good thing, especially in Canada where business investment and productivity has been sorely lacking the past few years. There is a potentially cataclysmic fundamental overextension of consumer debt and financing that is going to bite the global economy in the collective ass sooner rather than later, and by reducing dependency on this sector of the economy is probably a good thing.

China to become 4th biggest economy

China will leapfrog Italy, France, and Britain to be officially recognized as the world's fourth biggest economy if, as expected, it revises upward its 2004 gross domestic product by nearly US$300-billion, analysts said. But such a move will again bring into question China's ability to accurately report its economic statistics and further unmask a government already obsessed with controlling how the media and public view the huge nation, they said. “As if China's economy was not growing fast enough, thanks to a statistical revision, growth in 2005 looks like being about 30 per cent,” Standard Chartered economist Stephen Green said in a research note. China's National Bureau of Statistics is expected to announce tomorrow the results from the country's first nationwide economic census, which, according to Hong Kong's South China Morning Post, will show that China's GDP has been understated by about $300B. Green said the revised figures would greatly bolster per-capita GDP, while lowering China's external debt in terms of its percentage to GDP as well as the country's burdensome non-performing-loan/GDP ratio. “The IMF [International Monetary Fund] was looking for domestic debt at year-end 2005 to be worth 19.6 per cent of GDP. That can now be revised down to about 16 per cent,” Green said. Other analysts agreed that the revised figures would allow the Chinese government to spout more good news about its booming economy, but expressed caution about the intentions behind the move. “They are making this announcement for two purposes. The government has been criticized for overinvestment, so this will make the investment a smaller percentage of GDP,” said Andy Xie, chief Hong Kong-based economist for Morgan Stanley. “Also they want to sustain optimism, especially optimism among foreign investors.”
(Globe and Mail 051219)

The Red Dragon is roaring and smashing across the landscape! It's scary that so much is questionable in the numbers released by the Chinese government. Really, how big is the Chinese economy? How quickly is it growing? Appears to me to be a similar situation as true global oil production and consumption rates. Does anyone really know the true numbers, or is it essentially a monster running out of control, with no one really knowing how to control it let alone cool it down?

15 December 2005

Burgan go bye-bye

Kuwait's biggest field starts to run out of oil
It was an incredible revelation last week that the second largest oil field in the world is exhausted and past its peak output. Yet that is what the Kuwait Oil Company revealed about its Burgan field.

The peak output of the Burgan oil field will now be around 1.7 million barrels per day, and not the two million barrels per day forecast for the rest of the field's 30 to 40 years of life, Chairman Farouk Al Zanki told Bloomberg. He said that engineers had tried to maintain 1.9 million barrels per day but that 1.7 million is the optimum rate. Kuwait will now spend some $3 billion a year for the next year to boost output and exports from other fields. However, it is surely a landmark moment when the world's second largest oil field begins to run dry. For Burgan has been pumping oil for almost 60 years and accounts for more than half of Kuwait's proven oil reserves. This is also not what forecasters are currently assuming.

Forecasts wrong
Last week the International Energy Agency's report said output from the Greater Burgan area will be 1.64 million barrels a day in 2020 and 1.53 million barrels per day in 2030. Is this now a realistic scenario? The news about the Burgan oil field also lends credence to the controversial opinions of investment banker and geologist Matthew Simmons. His book 'Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy' claims that the ageing Saudi oil filed also face serious production falls. The implications for the global economy are indeed serious. If the world oil supply begins to run dry then the upward pressure on oil prices will be inexorable. For the oil producers this will come as a compensation for declining output, and cushion them against an economic collapse. However, the oil consumers then face a major energy crisis. Industrialized economies are still far too dependent on oil. And the pricing mechanism of declining oil reserves will press them into further diversification of energy supplies, particularly nuclear, wind and solar power.

Geological facts
All this was foreshadowed in the energy crisis of the late 1970s when a serious inflection in oil supply by the year 2000 was clearly forecast. How ironic that those earlier forecasts now look correct, while more modern and recent forecasts begin to look over optimistic and out-of-date with geological reality. Nobody can change the geology, and forces of nature that laid down reserves of oil and gas over millions and millions of years. Could it be that we have been blinded by technological advances into thinking that there is some way to beat nature? The natural world has an uncanny ability to hit back at the arrogance of man, and perhaps a reassessment of reality at this point is called for, rather than a reliance on oil statistics that may owe more to political maneuvering than geological facts.

I bought 'Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy' by Matthew Simmons last Thursday. I'm looking forward to this light reading while sitting on the crapper in the mornings.

14 December 2005

The most inoffensive of all....

Here's a funny greeting from BK. Good for about any observance you can possibly think of...

Dear Colleague:

Please accept, with no obligation, explicit or implied, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral, culturally and ethnically tolerant, celebration of the winter solstice (un) holiday / season (or otherwise appropriate time period which best describes the duration of your celebration or non-celebration), practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious / secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.

And furthermore, a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling, and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2006, but not limited to or without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make this country great, (not to imply that this country is necessarily greater than any other country), and without regard to the race, creed, color, gender(s), age, physical ability, religious faith, hair color, astrological sign, dressing habits, choice of computer platform, favorite reality television program, paper / plastic, or sexual preference(s) of the wishee.

By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms:

This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for her/himself or others, and is void where prohibited by law, and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year, or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher.

{enter name here}

It was the best of times, it was the BLURST of times...?


Canadian dollar flirts with 87 cents US
Last Updated Wed, 14 Dec 2005 16:49:27 EST
CBC News
The dollar spent early Wednesday in territory it hasn't seen since early 1992.

After spending part of the day above 87 cents US, the loonie later lost its gains and closed at 86.82 cents US, unchanged from Tuesday's close.

The Canadian has not closed above 87 cents US since Jan. 13, 1992.

The U.S. greenback was under early pressure as the U.S trade deficit in October rose to an all-time high of $68.9 billion US.

The rise in the trade deficit was unexpected as economists had been forecasting a slight decrease in the gap between what the United States sells outside of the country and what it imports.

Meanwhile, Canada's trade surplus topped expectations as it came in at $7.17 billion in October, matching a revised September figure.


US trade deficit hits all-time high in October

The US trade deficit unexpectedly rose to an all-time high in October as oil shipments soared and the US set deficit records with China, Europe, Canada and Mexico. The US Commerce Department reported that the gap between what America sells overseas and what it imports rose by 4.4% in October to US$68.9 billion, surpassing the old record of $66B set in September. So far this year, the trade deficit is running at an annual rate of $718B, far surpassing last year's $617.6B imbalance. Critics say the soaring deficit is evidence that President Bush's policy of pursuing free trade deals around the world is not working. To counter the attacks, the administration has stepped up pressure on Europe and Japan to boost economic growth as a way of increasing demand for US exports. It is also pressuring China on a number of trade issues, from textile imports to the country's currency, which American manufacturers say is being manipulated to give Chinese producers unfair trade advantages.
(Associated Press 051214)

Oily ploy?

Oil demand seen growing strongly

World oil demand should grow strongly over the next five years despite high prices, straining the supply chain as developing countries burn more, the International Energy Agency said yesterday. The adviser to 26 industrialized nations on energy policy forecast demand will grow at 1.8 million to 2.0 million barrels per year through 2010. "Several key non-OECD oil consumers, such as China, are in a phase of rapid energy-intensive industrialization," it said in its monthly Oil Market Report. "This should contribute to relatively robust oil product demand growth ... even if prices remain high." US light crude futures rose US7 cents yesterday to $61.37 a barrel, in part due to the IEA's demand forecast. The IEA raised its 2006 demand-increase forecast by 130,000 bpd from last month to 1.79 million bpd. Growth in 2005 was seen at 1.18 million bpd. Hurricanes Rita and Katrina, followed by unseasonably warm northern hemisphere weather in late fall, slowed 2005 demand growth. But demand is expected to grow as temperatures drop.
(Toronto Star 051214)

Energy demand to skyrocket

Exxon Mobil said the world will need 60% more energy by 2030 as demand increases by an average of 1.6% a year. The fastest annual growth, 2%, will be demand for energy to generate electricity, Exxon Mobil said in a presentation posted on its website. Growth in overall demand will be fastest in developing countries, the company said. The projected increase would mean the world will need the equivalent of about 335 million barrels of oil, up from 205 million in 2000, Jaime Spellings, gm of corporate planning, said during a webcast of the presentation. Rising demand in the US, China and India has contributed to oil prices reaching a record US$70.85 a barrel Aug. 30. Energy demand will rise most rapidly, 3.2% per year, in developing Asia Pacific nations, he said. By 2030, countries including China and India will be using the equivalent of 113 million barrels of oil per day, or one-third of the global total.
(Calgary Herald 051214)

Acerbic rant to follow:

OK...need to do some math here. We're already consuming over 80 million barrels of oil per day. A 60% increase brings us up to the area of 130 million barrels of oil per day. That's a lot of freakin' oil. That's completely living with the fantasy that production rates will keep up with increasing demand (can you fathom pumping 60% more oil out of the ground every day globally?). Even if we do keep up, very conservative guesses predict Peak Oil will occur before 2030. By my guesstimates, that means that even as they're predicting incessantly increasing demand over the next 25 years, it is virtually impossible that supply will be able to keep pace - it's not like there are many (if any) more megafields to be discovered. Remember, Ghawar and Burgan are already in decline. Is a 2.5% production rate increase annually for the next 25 years reasonable? Oh, where oh where are the abiotic oil theorists when you need them?

It's common knowledge that numbers are based on what has already occurred, not what is happening right now. The IEA bases a lot of its production, storage and processing rate numbers on indicators from a couple of years ago since those are the only numbers that are 'complete'. Yet they keep spitting out these reports, citing huge increases in demand like there is no reason for concern over the current and potential future situation. Is anyone getting the big picture here? Is anyone alarmed (by doing simple deduction) that unless we start implementing some huge (and I mean HUGE) alternative energy production projects to assume some of the burden of those billions of barrels of oil a year we consume (with implications that with the scale required that it will take decades, not years, to fully implement a suitable replacement infrastructure - if so needed, of course - we can put the electricity created by breeder reactors on the grid, but hydrogen would require an entirely new infrastructure to be laid underground)? That if things remain as they are, we're going to be in a situation metaphorically like a train running full speed towards a bridge that's out with everyone partying inside, oblivious to what's about to happen, with the engineer driving the train being coerced by the insane (but oil-wealthy) conductor to go 'faster! faster!'? Insanity indeed. Non-negotiable lifestyle indeed.

Why would/How could someone deny something so heinous from being so obvious? It's called the psychology of previous investment. So many resources and so much time and energy has been used to create what we consider an immutable and 'normal' infrastructure today, and more importantly, for some people so much money has been made that it is unconscionable that the status quo could change or that the party could ever end or that power could be shifted to someone else. In that light, some people will do or say anything to give the illusion to the unwashed masses that everything's okay.

13 December 2005


I've succumbed to this stupid cold which has haunted me for a week (and put a hit on my training regimen), however we still managed to get out for all the Xmas party action this weekend. Thursday night Ryan brought Takeo over to the apartment for a visit, much to the chagrin of Gizmo and Bandit. Actually, Gizmo is so nonchalant he didn't even seem to care that this humungoid Malamute was nearby. They have met each other before...

Takeo at the apartment

Bandit's reaction to Takeo

Friday night Ryan and I hung out at Swan's for awhile while Joe bartended. I was still pretty sick so it wasn't the most fun for me, but then that is on a scale of bad night at the bar vs. good night at the bar. Aren't they all good?

Saturday I stopped in on the running group for coffee and meandered up to Peak Power before curling in the afternoon. I didn't do any workouts. We lost at curling. Shitty all around.

Joe and I headed to Don's party around 9pm and then brought Calvin, Shawn, Doug and Darren back en route to Pulse.

Shawn, Doug, Darren in between parties (Don's and Pulse...)

Joe and Calvin

Doug, Darren and I went to Pulse for awhile and chilled out. Sunday I got up at noon, cleaned up the house and did laundry and met Joe at Swan's for the Xmas party around 6:30. After food and gifts, everyone played pool and darts and then after everything was closed down, everyone went to A Bar Named Sue to finish off the evening and watch the Acoustic Jam.

Joe's Xmas gifts from secret Santa

Kirsten with Gerry's decorated Oilers hat

Kirsten with some Joe propping

Joe and Gerry behind the wood

Kirsten and Kari - some hot girl-on-girl action

I was still pretty sick and tired on Monday, so I took the day off work. Joe and I went out Xmas shopping, but I still haven't found anything I'm looking for for gifts. Joe did buy my Xmas present though - the Park Tool home mechanic cycle stand. I love that boy!

Today was back to work. I did hear some good news from my manager - apparently we're out of the danger zone for layoffs on our team, however we will most likely be ending up in a different team in the new organization with a new manager. That sucks. I really liked working for Myles. Oh well, we'll have to see how things play out.

Who's laughing at Canuck Bucks now?

Dollar hits 14-year high

Maybe people (Americans) will stop making the loonie the butt of their money jokes now...ah hell, who am I kidding? Like they're ever going to hear about this!

The Canadian dollar reached a new 14-year high of US86.81 cents Monday and will continue to trend upward because of surging energy prices and continued weakness in the deficit-plagued US economy, a top British Columbia economist predicts. Helmut Pastrick, chief economist for Credit Union Central BC, said continued strength in oil coupled with the Bank of Canada tightening its monetary policy with rising interest rates will help support a higher dollar in the longer term. "The run-up in oil is seasonal," Pastrick added. "Of course the longer-term story is more demand than in supply. Those two factors are favourable for the Canadian dollar." In the medium term, Pastrick expects there to be volatility in the dollar's value and that it will eventually slip from current levels, but "I'm of the view that the trend is generally upward."
(Vancouver Sun 051213)

Oil prices expected to soar to feed global appetite

By Patrice Hill
December 13, 2005

The era of cheap oil is over, the government's chief energy forecaster said yesterday as it nearly doubled its previous forecast for world oil prices in the next 25 years.
Oil will stay near today's high levels largely because the oil-rich nations of OPEC are not investing in new supplies fast enough to easily meet growth in demand led by China and the United States, the Energy Information Administration said.
"It's what we would call deferred investment," said Guy Caruso, head of the respected forecasting agency, adding that he expects oil prices remaining well over $50 a barrel to spur consumers to purchase more fuel-efficient cars. If that does not occur, prices would climb even higher.
The sea change in the energy agency's thinking also reflects the increased cost and technical difficulty of extracting what oil is available in remote areas such as the deep-water ocean and arctic Siberia, he said.
Also driving up oil prices are the impediments oil companies have been encountering in gaining access to reserves in many countries -- including the United States, he said. Congress in the fall once again dropped legislation authorizing oil and gas drilling on federal lands offshore and in arctic Alaska.
While many private forecasters already had concluded that the era of cheap oil was over -- with some warning that the era of peak oil is not far away -- the energy agency had been perennially optimistic that oil would stay plentiful and inexpensive.
Its stand was increasingly dubious, however, in light of recent developments ranging from the failure to find any major new reserves of oil in recent years to questions about the reliability of Saudi Arabia's claims about having reserves large enough to feed the world's escalating appetite for oil.
Most telling was the failure of this year's 50 percent spike in prices -- which hit a record high near $70 a barrel for premium crude in September -- to spark much increase in the development of supplies.
Prices remain in the $60 range -- double what they were in 2002 -- but that has not spurred the billions of dollars of investment needed by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to keep pace with the world's increasing appetite for oil, the agency concluded.
Political struggles have prevented Iraq and Iran -- two of the four OPEC producers with the largest reserves -- from increasing production. Saudi Arabia has announced a modest increase to 12.5 million barrels a day from its top production rate of 11 million barrels.
But the world currently consumes 87 million barrels a day -- and demand is expected to grow to more than 100 million barrels by 2015. Many analysts question where the increased supplies will come from.
The energy agency expects "unconventional sources" such as liquid fuel derived from coal and natural gas to increasingly fill the gap, although the price of natural gas has jumped more than the price of oil.
Robert L. Hirsch, an energy consultant with Science Applications International Corp., noted that the energy agency was grossly overoptimistic about the outlook for natural gas as recently as 1999, when it predicted gas would cost one-fifth as much as it does today.
The agency yesterday gave only a nod to theorists who believe the world is nearing peak production of oil. But Mr. Hirsch believes the situation is more urgent, because it will take 20 years to develop transportation fuels to replace oil.
"Peaking could be soon -- within 20 years," he told the House Energy and Commerce Committee last week. "The economic future of the United States is inextricably linked to Saudi Arabia because they're the linchpin of future world oil production.
"No one outside of Saudi knows how much oil they have in the ground because that's a closely held state secret. Also, no one outside of Saudi knows how much and how fast the Saudis will be willing to develop what they have," he said.
A retired Saudi oil executive recently predicted the world is headed for an oil shortage, he noted, and even some members of OPEC are warning that supply will not be enough to meet world demand in 10 to 15 years.
Cambridge Energy Research Associates, a respected private forecaster, told the committee the peak should not come before 2030, however. It expects new finds of oil as well as technological innovations to make plentiful fuel available.

Big 3 SUV blitz could backfire

Automakers forge ahead despite high gas prices, changing consumer tastes.

By Eric Mayne / The Detroit News

High gasoline prices and changing consumer tastes have stalled sales of big sport utility vehicles, a critical source of profits for Detroit automakers since the early 1990s.

Despite the dropoff, General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group are forging ahead with a parade of all-new and redesigned SUVs.

Over the next 18 months and beyond, showrooms will get more crowded with Jeep's first seven-passenger SUV, new versions of the full-size Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator, and more than a dozen redesigned midsize and full-size SUVs from GM. Bleeding cash in North America, GM said it's pulling ahead the introduction of its redesigned Chevrolet Suburbans, GMC Yukons and Cadillac Escalades to early next year to help reverse its fortunes.

Can SUVs pull the U.S. auto industry out of the ditch one more time?

It's the billion-dollar question in Detroit and on Wall Street.

In the first quarter, demand for full-size SUVs dropped 21.5 percent from a year ago, according to Autodata.

The sharp decline caught Ford and other automakers by surprise. With more competition from Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co., Detroit automakers have been reluctantly forced to dramatically raise discounts on big SUVs.

"From a profitability side, it's going to be tough" with the new models, said analyst Art Spinella of CNW Market Research. "They're not going to make the $15,000 (per unit) they're used to making."

No turning back

Despite the cloudy outlook for SUV sales, there's no turning back now because the new models represent billions of dollars in product development costs.

"There's still a lot of money being made in SUVs," said Jim Hossack of AutoPacific, a California-based consulting firm.

Still, SUV demand is expected to drop to 2.2 million units this year, marking the third straight year of decline and the lowest total since 1996, according to WardsAuto.com. SUV sales peaked at 2.98 million units in 2000.

Analysts blame fuel prices and the emergence of crossover utility vehicles . While they seat as many people as big SUVs, they consume less fuel.

Sales of crossovers, such as the Ford Freestyle, Honda Pilot and Chrysler Pacifica, rose 15.5 percent in the first quarter, according to WardsAuto.com.

Hoping to break even

"What (automakers) are hoping is that they can at least break even on the (SUVs and crossovers)," Spinella said. "They won't come out ahead."

Large SUVs, once the industry's fastest-growing segment, comprise about 37 percent of the total SUV market.

But their contribution to the bottom line is falling. In March, discounts from list price on large SUVs averaged $8,608 -- about $2,700 above 2002 levels, according to Edmunds.com. And they remain parked on dealer lots for an average of 91 days before a sale, 41 days longer than they did three years ago.

Detroit automakers say they aren't panicking. For GM, some falloff was inevitable given the age of its SUV fleet and increased competition.

"As we get to the end of our product life cycle, and with more alternatives in the utility space, it's not a surprise that we've seen some sales fall off," said Paul Ballew, sales analyst at GM, which owns more than 60 percent of the large SUV market.

"We're not anticipating we'll see big growth in that category. But we see it as a pretty stable, pretty profitable category."

This fall, Chrysler's Jeep division is scheduled to introduce its first seven-passenger SUV, the Commander.

Foreign automakers also continue to make big bets on large SUVs.

Mercedes-Benz plans a new G-wagon. The midsize M-Class SUV has been revamped for the 2006 model year, and Mercedes plans to build an additional full-size sport utility at its assembly plant in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Ford, which rolled out a $50 million ad campaign touting SUVs last week, is investing $300 million to prepare its Michigan Truck factory in Wayne -- once the most profitable assembly plant in the world -- to produce the next-generation Expedition and the Navigator.

Challenge to Suburban

And in a challenge to the dominance of GM's Chevrolet Suburban, GMC Yukon XL and Cadillac ESV models, Ford plans to market longer versions of the Expedition and Navigator.

"Those vehicles are coming," said Chris Fuell, Ford's SUV group marketing manager.

With SUV sales down, dealers such as George Fowler said the time is right to reload with redesigned trucks.

"In this economy, you've got to have new faces all the time," said Fowler, general manager of Superior Buick Pontiac and GMC Truck in Dearborn. "Anytime you get a product that's into the third year of its cycle and you don't do something to refresh the face, people will go buy other things."

Mark Douglas, president of Avis Ford in Southfield, is counting on the new models to invigorate sales and give consumers more choices.

"There still may be the same number of SUV buyers in the market," Douglas said. "We just need to make sure we keep our percentage."

Gas-guzzlers still popular?

But there remain serious questions about whether the buying public wants gas-guzzling SUVs.

Consumer surveys regularly identify rising gas prices as a major factor in vehicle purchase decisions. Kelley Blue Book found 49 percent of all April shoppers were influenced by high pump prices -- the highest total since it launched a monthly study of buyer behavior last year.

Peter Dailey traded his midsize SUV, a 1996 Land Rover Discovery, for a Volkswagen Passat, a midsize sedan.

"I absolutely loved the Discovery," said Dailey, a 35-year-old advertising executive in Santa Monica, Calif. "But the fuel was killing me -- $60 bucks to fill the tank. I found myself not driving as much. What's the point of having something you love if you can't drive it?"

But Detroit automakers are counting on loyal SUV buyers such as Troy resident Mike Tilley.

"I don't care about the price of gas," said Tilley, 36, whose printing company owns a pair of Chevrolet Suburbans. "I've always had big vehicles. I've got two boys and I do lots of stuff. I just like 'em."

While Chrysler's Dodge brand scrapped plans for a big SUV in large part because of the crowded field, its Jeep division is ready to forge new ground.

The Commander, its first seven-passenger SUV, features three rows of seating. However infrequent, many consumers have a need to carry more than the five passengers accommodated by two-row SUVs such as the midsize Jeep Grand Cherokee.

"That need is real," Jeff Bell, vice president of the Jeep division of DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group. "It matters. The question is, how much does it matter?"

Improving fuel economy

To minimize the risks, the Big Three are taking additional steps to improve the fuel economy of their SUVs.

Ford has pulled ahead the introduction of its second gasoline-electric SUV. A hybrid version of the Mercury Mariner will join the Ford Escape Hybrid, which debuted last year.

Bell says Jeep is contemplating how it could increase production of its diesel-powered Liberty, a small SUV that debuted this year. Jeep has rolled out V-8 engines that conserve fuel by shutting down half their cylinders at cruising speed. GM has used the same technology to help increase its SUV fleet fuel economy by one mile per gallon over its 2004 lineup.

And GM promises more fuel economy gains with its new products.

"People come back at the large utes and ask, 'Is the day of the big utility now past?'" Ballew said. "Very few people will talk about other parts of the business."

The crossover segment is one. For nearly two years it's been the fastest-growing vehicle niche in the United States.

But the migration won't turn Detroit into a ghost town, said Spinella, adding that vehicle buyers usually fit in one of two categories: the fashion-conscious or the "core" fanatics.

The former are finding their way into crossovers. The core group is staying with SUVs, Spinella said. "The core is bigger. Fortunately."

You can reach Eric Mayne at (313) 222-2443 or emayne@detnews.com.

Letter to Detroit: Attention - stop making these humungous pieces of shit. If you didn't make them and stopped marketing them as trailblazing pioneer adventure vehicles, people wouldn't feel the need to own them. It doesn't help that they seem to be the only vehicles depicted on TV and in movies any more. Who the frick needs all of that room anyways? It's just another sign of our runaway consumerism. Stupid Detroit. I hope this plan to go ahead with more SUV models is your final undoing. You'd completely deserve it.

09 December 2005

New surveys show that US big business has a PR problem

More than ever, Americans do not trust business or the people who run it. Pollsters, researchers, even many corporate chiefs themselves say that business is under attack by a majority of the public, which believes that executives are bent on destroying the environment, cooking the books and lining their own pockets. Even as corporate scandals like Tyco's recede, fresh complaints - over high energy costs and soaring oil company profits, planned layoffs in the auto industry, bribery and conflicts of interest in military contracting - fuel the antipathy. And every report of high-dollar executive compensation strengthens the feeling that business funnels money from the workers to the elite. "There is a sense that business is a zero-sum game, that if companies are making a lot of money, it must be coming out of someone else's pocket," said Michael Hammer, a management consultant who writes frequently about business. Executives ruefully agree with his assessment. "This is a challenging time for big corporations," said John Hofmeister, who runs the US operations of Shell. The modern feeling, he said, is "big is bad." It is not clear whether such views will bring significant change, but it is clear that the disaffection is spreading. In a Roper poll conducted from July 28 to Aug. 10, 72% of respondents felt that wrongdoing was widespread in industry; last year, 66% felt that was the case. Only 2% checked off "very trustworthy" to describe the ceos of very large companies, down from 3% last year. Perhaps unsurprisingly, some politicians are picking up the anti-business scent. Representative Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat, recently introduced a bill to require shareholders to approve executive compensation and force companies to take back bonuses that were based on faulty accounting. Even Republicans have joined the attacks. At a recent Congressional hearing, senators from both parties demanded that oil executives defend their record profits. And now some Senate Democrats, unsatisfied with what they heard, are clamoring for the oil executives to be called back again, this time to testify under oath.

In discussing the reasons for the rampant distrust, some executives concede that business brought the opprobrium on itself. "Today's companies are run not by entrepreneurs, but by traders who are increasingly preoccupied with short-term gain and profits," said Henry Schacht, the former chief executive of both Cummins and Lucent Technologies. (Schacht serves on the board of The New York Times Company.) But others say that middle-class Americans are seeking villains to blame for their losses in the stock market implosion of 2000, and for the high oil and gas prices today. Others point out that the gap between the income of the top 10% to 20% and the rest of the work force keeps widening. Still, many executives insist that society must share blame for the business practices it so despises. For example, they say that people who blame McDonald's for their obesity still order the large fries, and that those who complain about low wages still insist on low prices.
(New York Times 051209)

"Today's companies are run not by entrepreneurs, but by traders who are increasingly preoccupied with short-term gain and profits"

Funny...I was just talking about this yesterday. It's so true, and it's not surprising that trust levels towards public corporations are so low. So many of them have resigned their own destinies to the whims (and all-out short-term greed) of the investment analysts and traders. I mean, isn't the role of the Executive of any corporation to make these decisions and stand their ground when someone disagrees? Seems like they don't even want to do their jobs anymore (but have no problem taking the money for doing so). I would totally support shareholders having more control in the decision making process, from how much executives are rewarded and paid for their work, to what the annual guidance plan would look like. But that is sort reflective of how the election system is today. You can't even get people out to vote anymore since they're so disenfranchised from the political system and alienated by the politicians; how can you expect a majority of disinterested shareholders to shoulder some of the responsibility? In a perfect world, it would work out, but reality is far from perfect. Greed is good, and is what will kill us.