30 September 2005

Eek! Bird Flu!

Bird flu in Vietnam resisting Tamiflu
Last Updated Fri, 30 Sep 2005 08:31:13 EDT
CBC News

Experts in Hong Kong warn that the human strain of the H5N1 bird flu that surfaced in Vietnam is showing resistance to the antiviral drug Tamiflu. Countries around the world are stockpiling Tamiflu to ward off a looming flu pandemic that could kill as many as 150 million people.

"There are now resistant H5N1 strains appearing, and we can't totally rely on one drug (Tamiflu)," said William Chui, honorary associate professor with the department of pharmacology at the Queen Mary Hospital in Hong Kong.

Drug manufacturers were urged to make more effective versions of Relenza, an inhaled antiviral that is also known to be effective in battling the much feared H5N1.

Chui also said general viral resistance to Tamiflu was growing in Japan, where doctors habitually prescribe the drug to fight the common influenza.

There are currently only four flu drugs marketed to battle flu: amantadine and rimantadine, which are called adamantane drugs; and oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza), which are neuraminidase inhibitors. Rimantadine is not sold in Canada.

In places such as China, drug resistance to H5N1exceeded 70 per cent to adamantane drugs, suggesting that they will probably no longer be effective for treatment or as a preventive in a pandemic outbreak of flu.

Chui said that manufacturers should develop an injectible version of Relenza, since "high doses can be given where necessary and onset time is a lot faster."

Intravenous Relenza would also ensure faster onset, which would be critical in patients who are seriously ill.

"We don't have to worry about absorption, injections take drugs right in. But if the patient takes them orally, maybe some amounts won't be absorbed or some may be destroyed by stomach acids," said pharmacist Raymond Mak at Queen Mary Hospital.

"Orally taken drugs take three to four hours to reach maximum blood concentration and three to four hours is very critical in severe cases. But injectable Relenza takes only 30 minutes to reach maximum blood concentration, this is a huge difference," Chui said.

While the H5N1 virus is now mostly passed directly from bird to human, health experts have warned that it is just a matter of time before it mutates into a form that is easily transmissible between people.

29 September 2005

Gays Helped Bring On Katrina N.O. City Council Told

by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

Posted: September 28, 2005 7:00 pm ET

(Baton Rouge, Louisiana) New Orleans City Council has met for the first time since hurricane Katrina and the priest who delivered the invocation at the start of the meeting said the disaster may have been brought on by gays "and other sinners".

The Rev. Robert Guste of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Kenner said that Southern Decadence, the annual gay festival that was to have been held the week the storm hit, and the city's large number of gay bars could have been a contributing factor.

He also blamed the "debauchery" of Mardi Gras, gambling and pornography.

"Does this not invite divine judgment,'' the 78 year old priest told councilors.

Noting that some people call New Orleans "Sin City,'' Guste said the storm was a warning that "God was knocking on our door and telling us to get our house ready.''

Some council members were noticeably uncomfortable with the remarks.

It is not the first time that Guste and his church have been in the spotlight. In 1997 Guste and parishioners at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church claimed that a portrait of the Virgin Mary that hangs beside the altar was weeping. People came from all over the US to see the purported miracle but the Vatican distanced itself from the event.

Nor is it the first time that gays have been blamed for bring on the hurricane. In the days immediately after Katrina hit New Orleans a far right evangelical group in Pennsylvania proclaimed that God "destroyed" New Orleans because of Southern Decadence.

"Although the loss of lives is deeply saddening, this act of God destroyed a wicked city." said Repent America director Michael Marcavage. (story)

"From ‘Girls Gone Wild’ to ‘Southern Decadence’, New Orleans was a city that had its doors wide open to the public celebration of sin. May it never be the same."

©365Gay.com 2005

Isn't is interesting how the fundies always fail to mention that the French Quarter with all of its sin and gay sex, was one of the few districts of New Orleans that was largely spared flooding and damage? Maybe God loves gays and having a good time and wanted to destroy the corruption and hatred in the South instead...?

Forget Gay Diversity, University Appoints Heterosexuality Officer

by Peter Hacker 365Gay.com Sydney, Australia Bureau

Posted: September 28, 2005 1:00 pm ET

(Sydney, Australia) A university in northern New South Wales has appointed a 22 year old student to be its first diversity officer for heterosexual students.

The University of New England student council named Dave Allen to the post. Although 38 Australian universities have LGBT diversity officers it is the first time straight students have had someone "to protect their rights."

Allen describes himself as a country boy who likes to hunt kangaroo and drink beer. In an interview with the newspaper The Australian, Allen said he did not give "a rat's arse" about gays as long as they were not being given special treatment.

"It doesn't matter whether you're straight, gay, black, white or brindle, but when it starts getting 'Oh, we need a space for us to hang out', it's crap; just come down the pub and have a few beers with us," he told the paper.

The student government is giving the Heterosexuality Office a $1000 (Au) budget, but Allen says he has not been told what his duties will be.

The appointment has drawn criticism from LGBT students. The spokesperson for gay issues at the National Union of Students, Craig Comrie called the need for a heterosexuality officer "crazy".

"The reason why queer departments are set up is because those students are disadvantaged on campus," Comrie said. "I think it's just a really unfair reaction to the fact that student unions support queer activism and women's activism on campuses."

Asked by The Australian if heterosexuals were a marginalized minority on the UNE campus, Allen admitted he did not know. " I haven't done a study on it. I couldn't tell you what percentages we are."

©365Gay.com 2005

Those poor heterosexuals. So discriminated against. Life is so unfair. It's too bad society can't accept them just the way they are. Oh wait a minute, heterosexuals DO dictate what is and isn't acceptable! This is about as ridiculous as the announcement earlier this year that Yellowknife was going to have "Straight Pride Day" in conjunction with "Gay Pride Day". These people are truly ignorant to the point of being moronic. Like, do they not get it?

28 September 2005

Energy and the Fossil Fuel Situation: Douglas Woodard

(exerpt) Link Here

It appears that the world's production of conventional oil will peak sometime in the period 2005 to 2015. The peak will probably be flat-topped and about 10 years after the centre of the peak a decline of around 3% per year will be established.

The world natural gas peak is predicted for about 15 years after the oil peak. However, the leading countries for natural gas reserves are Russia and Iran. North America is not well favoured. The North American natural gas peak is probably occurring now. Due to certain characteristics of natural gas wells, the peak will be sharper than for oil.

Reserves of unconventional oil in the form of tar-like bitumen deposits occur in northern Alberta and in Venezuela. Alberta has accessible reserves equal to about 10 years of world oil consumption at current rates, with a further 60 years worth for which accessibility is doubtful to unlikely. Venezuela has about as much again.

One problem with these bitumen deposits is that about 15% (at present) of the gross energy available in the bitumen must be consumed directly to extract and process the material to oil. A much higher capital investment is needed than for conventional oil wells, and this plant requires aditional energy for its construction. Therefore, the "net energy" (please remember this idea) available from "tar sands" deposits is less.

This problem of declining net energy also appears in drilling deeper wells on land and in accessing oil and gas deposits under the sea. Some fossil fuel deposits will be left in the earth, because getting them out would devour so much energy that the effort would be profitless in energy terms alone.

Probably the net energy yield of tar sands will decline in future.

As the tar sands deposits are landlocked, transport from them is expensive and the bitumen is mixed with sand and other materials, processing must take place near the deposits. This means that the air pollution from burning very large amounts of fossil fuels will be concentrated in northern Alberta and northwestern Saskatchewan, which will be especially serious in winter. It is estimated that the extraction of the roughly 300 billion barrels (oil equivalent) which appears to be accessible with current or foreseeable technology will result in the creation of a lake of oily water and sludge the size of Lake Ontario. Thus the exploitation of the tar sands on a very large scale would involve the relegation of much of northeastern Alberta and northwestern Saskatchewan to the status of continental sacrifice areas, to be destroyed for the benefit of the urban lifestyles, and the "car culture" of the more densely inhabited areas of the continent.

Due to the high capital investment needed, labour requirements and environmental factors, industry opinion seems to be that the tar sands will be exploited in a different pattern than conventional oil, much more steadily over a period of 100 years or more.

However, social and political pressures as other sources of fossil fuel decline, may clash with economics and the environment. The energy economics will likely win, but there may be some "collateral damage" in this battle. If the process by which future American leaders learn from reality follows the same pattern as for the current administration, which is to say they learn through high-impact collisions, the outlook for Canadians is not good.

Wednesday musings

The little engine that could

Opinion -- We’ve learned a lot about evacuating cities in recent days, much of it deeply troubling. But if the failures of New Orleans and the gridlock of Houston show anything, it's that we urgently need a third way out of cities, something other than flying or driving. Fortunately, there is such a way: passenger rail. If local and federal authorities had worked with Amtrak to make better use of its trains in New Orleans, thousands could have been evacuated before the worst of Katrina hit. And if Houston had gone ahead with earlier proposals to develop high-speed rail links, the same might have been true there. If the federal government needed another reason to support the development of modern, high-speed passenger rail, then here it is. Not only can it reduce congestion, save energy and strengthen regional economies, in times of emergency it could be a critical third way out.
(New York Times 050928)

So true. We're practically the only continent without a comprehensive passenger rail system, leaving us even more dependent on our car society.

Rita cuts swath through drill rigs

Hurricane Rita has caused more damage to oil rigs than any other storm in history and will force companies to delay drilling for oil in the US and as far away as the Middle East, initial damage assessments show. ODS-Petrodata, which provides market intelligence to the offshore oil and natural gas industry, said it expected a shortage of rigs in the US Gulf this year. "Based on what we have right now, it appears that drilling contractors and rig owners took a big hit from Rita," said Tom Marsh of ODS-Petrodata. "The path Katrina took was through the mature areas of the US Gulf where there are mainly oil [production] platforms. Rita came to the west where there is a lot of [exploratory] rig activity." The US Coast Guard said nine semisubmersible rigs had broken free from their moorings and were adrift. This damage could not have come at a worse time for oil companies and consumers. US crude futures yesterday fell US37 cents to $65.45 a barrel in midday trading in New York as refineries that were evacuated before the onset of Rita returned to operation.

Rigs were in short supply before hurricanes Katrina and Rita blew through the US Gulf in late August and September. High oil prices and the desperate search for new oil supplies needed to meet rampant demand from the US and China have made rigs difficult to find and expensive to hire. Rigs cost $90-million to $550M to construct, depending on how sophisticated the structure and how deep the water in which it will drill. A rig ordered today is unlikely to be ready before 2008 or 2009, analysts said. As a sign of just how precious rigs are becoming to the market, Anadarko this week set a record by committing to a rig six years in advance; commitments in the past were made months ahead of time rather than years. Initial reports from companies are ominous. Global Santa Fe reported it could not find two of its rigs. Rowan reported four rigs damaged, with two having moved, one losing its "legs" and the fourth presumed sunk. Noble has four rigs adrift, with two run aground - one into a ChevronTexaco platform.
(National Post 050928)

The logistics behind extraction equipment is enormous. Blows the mind.

'Plenty of oil available,' Saudi energy chief says

Saudi Arabia's oil minister and the president of ExxonMobil said world petroleum reserves will last for decades, seeking to ease concern about supplies and near-record prices. Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil producer, will "soon" almost double its proven reserve base, said Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi. That will add 200 billion barrels to the current estimate of 264B, he said. ExxonMobil president Rex Tillerson said the world may still have more than three trillion barrels from conventional oilfields, oilsands deposits and other sources. "There will be plenty of oil available to meet future demand," al-Naimi said Tuesday in Johannesburg at the World Petroleum Congress. Prices are high now because "the petroleum industry faces infrastructure constraints and bottlenecks that are causing market volatility and restricting its ability to bring oil from the ground to the consumer." Crude oil prices have soared during the past two years and reached a record of US$70.85 a barrel last month in New York after hurricane Katrina shut off US Gulf of Mexico supplies and flooded refineries. Gasoline pump prices in the US rose to a record above $3 a gallon, levels similar to those of 1981, after adjusting for inflation. The Saudi oil minister called for a global effort among producers and consumers to find a way to increase investment to make gasoline and meet world demand, equal to more than 29B barrels a year. No new refineries have been built in the US in about three decades, and the last new plant constructed in Europe was in 1989. More investment is needed in refineries, pipelines and other infrastructure to meet rising demand, al-Naimi said.

The Congress comes during a month when consuming countries released emergency oil and fuel stockpiles under an International Energy Agency accord for only the second time in 30 years. The IEA is considering further sales of emergency oil after selling three-quarters of the amount they offered to the market, executive director Claude Mandil said. The countries as of Monday had sold 45 million out of the 60M barrels of oil offered, he said. "IEA will make releases only if there is no other solution," Mandil said. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries offered all its remaining spare production capacity to buyers, if needed. "What we are seeing is not a function of the world running out of oil," said Barclays Capital analyst Kevin Norrish. "What we are seeing is the legacy of a very long period where investment has been far too low. The problem is getting the oil out of the ground and delivering it to consumers." Saudi Arabia is the only OPEC member able to compensate for supply cuts and is aiming to raise production capacity by 14% to 12.5 million barrels a day in five years. Saudi Arabia has a plan to raise capacity to 15M barrels a day whenever that much is needed, al-Naimi said. For now, the Saudi oil minister said there are "no takers" of additional oil supply.
(Calgary Herald, National Post 050928)

If there is in fact 3 trillion bbls in reserve, that's three times what some of the Peak Oil theorists are saying. If that's the case, maybe we really don't have anything to worry about in the short term. In the long term, we're still screwed at some point when the polar icecaps melt, though.

27 September 2005

Tag! You're it!

Okay, so to waste some more time, here are my answers:

7 things I plan to do before I die:
1. See the Tour de France and race sections of the route.
2. Work in Australia and scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef before it's gone.
3. Own a nightclub in the funky neighborhood of a cool city.
4. Own a dive shop in the Turks & Caicos Islands.
5. Compete in Ironman Canada & Ironman Hawaii.
6. Build up my cyclist-typical upper body, abs and arms so I can wear lycra without self-consciousness (and before the sagginess sets in).
7. Write a book/screenplay - already the ideas are flowing!

7 things I can do:
1. Leg press 1000 lbs six times.
2. Run a 10K in 37 minutes.
3. Ride a 40K time trial in 55 minutes.
4. Name pretty much any song title and/or artist on demand from the late 80s/early 90s.
5. Milk a cow by hand.
6. Write computer code in six languages.
7. Bullshit with the best of them.

7 things I cannot do:
1. Sit cross-legged comfortably (Curse my hip flexors! - since I was a kid....)
2. Donate blood.
3. Whistle using my fingers (good one Sara! Heck, I can't even whistle well without my fingers!)
4. Remember my dreams. Hardly ever.
5. Enter a Wal-Mart without wanting to kill someone. Some sort of anxiety attack and rage all rolled into one?
6. Remember a good joke long enough to tell it. I hate that I can't tell jokes!
7. Believe that existence is anything but infinitely random events happening in multiple dimensions simultaneously....woah.

7 things that I find attractive in men:
1. Big genuine smile and stunning eyes.
2. Nice shapely bum.
3. Wacky, twisted sense of humour.
4. Muscular arms and legs.
5. A relaxed tendency to party out of control sometimes...?
6. Interest in world affairs.
7. Well-read.

7 things I say most often:
1. Jesus!
2. Holy crap!
3. Freakin' loser!
4. FUCK - pretty much anytime, randomly, sprinkled throughout sentences...
5. Woo-hoo!
6. What the....?
7. Oh, for fuck’s sake!

7 Celebrity crushes - no surprises, but there area so many...
1. Antonio Sabato Jr.
2. Johnny Depp
3. Jude Law
4. Ricky Martin
5. Christian Bale
6. Matthew McConaughey
7. Tom Stephan/Superchumbo

I'm not tagging anyone -- except Natasha? We're pretty much the last ones to do this!

Autumnal observations

So, it's definitely feeling like fall these days. Jeff Skybar witnessed a good skiff of snow in the northwest part of the city last night. Yesterday was nice until the late evening. I made it home at 7:30 last night after a ride out to Bragg Creek just as the sun was setting. Within minutes of getting in the door, the wind outside whipped up like crazy, a bit of rain came down and the temperature dropped ten degrees within minutes. I heard from Craig Good after the Crit races tonight that he got caught in the insanity after his ride last night and thought it was the end of everything since he was wearing bike clothes appropriate for the nice weather only minutes before!

The last few windy days have torn most of the leaves off the trees. Tomorrow it is supposed to return to good weather, with daytime highs of around 20C for the rest of the week. That will make the last night of track racing on Thursday tolerable. We've already had to gear up in our cold-weather cycling clothes, so it will be nice to have one more racing event unencumbered. Hammerfest is the big track finale on Saturday.

At least we'll have a few more good days of summer reminiscing. The biggest adjustment is the sun setting so early now. For the American readers, one great thing about Canadian summers is that the sun doesn't set in late June and early July until 11pm. It makes the days feel like they last forever....

Treslie Redux

My visit in Red Deer was great. Treslie is just over two months old, and is responding to EVERYTHING. She has a great big scrunched face smile, and has a great affection for shopping and TV!

Nice big smile at Mom...plus snot prize.


Uncle love...

Girls Night Out Joke

Two women friends had gone for a girl's night out; both were very faithful and loving wives, however, they had gotten over-enthusiastic on the Bacardi Breezers. Incredibly drunk & walking home they needed to relieve themselves so they stopped in the cemetery. One of them had nothing to wipe with so she thought she would take off her panties and use them. Her friend however was wearing a rather expensive pair of panties and did not want to ruin them, but was lucky enough to squat down next to a grave that had a wreath with a ribbon on it, so she proceeded to wipe with that. After the girls did their business they proceeded to go home.

The next day one of the women's husbands was concerned that his normally sweet and innocent wife was still in bed hung over, so he phoned the other husband and said, "These darn girls night out have got to stop. I'm starting to suspect the worst.. my wife came home with no panties!"

"That's nothing," said the other husband. "Mine came back with a card stuck between the crack of her butt that said "From all of us at the Fire Station. We'll never forget you."

Tuesday news...

U.S. running out of space for Katrina trash
Last Updated Wed, 21 Sep 2005 19:14:17 EDT
CBC News

The environmental destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina can be measured -- at least partly -- by the volume of material that has been cleaned up since the storm hit the Gulf Coast more than three weeks ago.

Emergency workers have removed almost 2.3 million cubic metres of debris -- enough to fill 30 American football fields 15 metres high.

The total includes 1.4 million cubic metres of tree limbs, lumber, upturned metals, trash and other bulk left behind in Mississippi.

By the time all the debris is cleared, federal and state officials expect the total to reach 60 million cubic metres, mainly from Louisiana.

The amount would be 200 times the size of Egypt's Great Pyramid of Giza.

Federal emergency officials said Wednesday the debris -- including the contents of thousands of homes that were destroyed or ruined -- is overwhelming landfills and impromptu staging areas, and requiring material to be burned nonstop.

Cleaning it all up is expected to take almost until the start of next summer.

No one knows for sure how much of the debris in each of the states contains hazardous waste.

The Coast Guard said it has identified 350 damaged boats in Mississippi that could pose dangers because they contain oil that is leaking or some sort of hazardous materials.

Hundreds of thousands of cars and some hazardous waste rail cars also are believed to be submerged, mainly in the New Orleans region.

Charles Chisolm, executive director of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, said the debris is being taken to the state's existing dumps, which include 17 municipal and 150 commercial landfills and 40 transfer stations. Some closed facilities might have to be reopened. He said: "We do not have enough disposal space."

Disgusting...what to do?

Alberta pushes own solution to refinery crunch

Alberta's energy minister says his province - already a major supplier of crude to the US - could be the answer to weaning that country from its dependence on hurricane-prone refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. But the province will have to compete with Kuwait, and maybe even the Pentagon, as the US scrambles to find a way to end the roller-coaster ride of gasoline prices across North America. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have battered US refineries on the Gulf of Mexico, draining supplies of fuel continent-wide and driving up pump prices in a series of dramatic spikes. The problem of tight refining capacity in North America has become headline news, with policy makers now zeroing in on reducing the US dependence on vulnerable Gulf facilities. Nearly two-fifths of US refining capacity is located along the Gulf Coast in Texas and Louisiana. That concentration, combined with the flat-out production in North American refineries and tight gasoline inventories, means that any major disruption, such as a hurricane, immediately throws the entire gasoline market off balance. Enter Alberta, with growing supplies of bitumen and crude - and big ambitions to capture more of the profit from its natural resources. Speaking in Johannesburg at the World Petroleum Congress, energy minister Greg Melchin said he wants to see more refineries built in his province, a move that would help reduce the chance that another hurricane would spur a price spike for motorists.
(Globe and Mail 050927)

Rita wreaks havoc on refineries

Five refineries in Texas and Louisiana suffered significant damage from Hurricane Rita and at least two of them will take weeks to come back on line. US oil companies yesterday took stock and began recovery efforts to Gulf of Mexico refineries and offshore production infrastructure after Hurricane Rita, the second major storm in a month to strike at the heart of the US energy industry. Rita hit near the Texas and Louisiana border with winds near 200 kilometres an hour early Saturday after plowing through the offshore production rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. It missed the Houston refining hub. Seven of the 15 refineries that had shut ahead of Rita reported plans to restart swiftly, amounting to nearly two million barrels a day of capacity. Major pipelines and the nation's only offshore oil port resumed operations. Rita wreaked havoc on at least five refineries in Port Arthur, TX, and Lake Charles, LA. Two of them said it could be weeks before they restart. In Port Arthur, Valero Energy's 250,000 barrel-a-day refinery and Total's 233,000 b/d refinery will be shut for two to four weeks, officials said. The other three reported wind damage and loss of power. Four other refineries, accounting for 880,000 b/d, remain shut in Louisiana and Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina struck last month, triggering widespread worries over fuel supply. The web of pipelines that carry both crude oil and products out of the Gulf Coast's Refinery Row are waiting for refineries to start up again before they start operating at full rates. Crude deliveries via pipeline to Midwestern refineries began to trickle back as the 350,000 b/d Seaway pipeline came back late Sunday.

Rita also severely damaged a major offshore oil production platform and left several drilling rigs missing or aground off the Louisiana coast. As companies began to report the damage sustained from the hurricane, offshore infrastructure appeared to be hit much harder than onshore facilities, threatening to add to energy supply woes. The Typhoon platform - one of three major Chevron deep-water production platforms in the region - was severed from its mooring and suffered severe damage during the hurricane. It has since been located and was in the process of being secured. Offshore drillers GlobalSantaFe and Rowan reported three missing rigs between them while Diamond Offshore Drilling said two of its rigs broke free from their moorings and ran aground about 160 kilometres north of their original locations. “Rita may set an all-time record for the greatest number of offshore rigs damaged and destroyed by a single storm, and almost certainly will set a record for the past 10 years,” Credit Suisse First Boston analysts said.

As the oil industry assessed Rita's damage, crude oil prices rose more than US$1 a barrel yesterday and traders worried that demand for heating oil could soar ahead of the winter months. The strength of the US economy, showing up in continued robust demand for housing, also helped boost prices, analysts said. Light, sweet crude rose $1.63 to settle at $65.82 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after dropping to $62.65 earlier in the day. Gasoline futures rose more than 4 cents to $2.1292 a gallon, after falling as low as $1.94. Heating oil rose nearly 11 cents to $2.0586 a gallon. Natural gas rose nearly 12 cents to $12.44 per million British thermal units. Oil markets are jittery over the possibility of another tropical storm hitting the Gulf of Mexico coast. Hurricane season isn't officially over until November.
(National Post, Globe and Mail, Toronto Star 050927)

Africa to supply one-third of US and EU needs by 2015

Africa will supply about one-third of all US and European Union natural gas by 2015, said Jean Privey, president of the gas and power unit at Total. Europe will import about 165 billion cubic metres of gas from fields in north and west Africa in a decade, Privey said yesterday at the World Petroleum Congress in Johannesburg. That compares with forecast imports of 440 billion cubic metres, he said. Africa has the world's largest gas reserves at 500 trillion cubic feet, more than those of the US and Europe combined, he said, with consumption of only 2.6 trillion cubic feet a year.
(National Post 050927)

I wonder if they're planning to transport the African NG via pipeline or supertanker LNG. Either way, it's gonna be a huge project. I doubt LNG tankers and terminals could be built in a decade.

Another adventure in obviousness

Katrina Seen As Decimating GOP-Black Anti-Gay Coalition
by Tom Raum, Associated Press

Posted: September 26, 2005 9:00 pm ET

(Washington) Whatever the reasons, residents of heavily Republican Texas seemed to get better treatment from the government during Hurricane Rita than the mostly black, poor and Democratic victims of Katrina in Louisiana. The issue of race is likely to linger in the aftermath of the two big storms. Government mistakes in the first storm, including failure to provide a means of evacuation for tens of thousands of New Orleans residents stranded in flooding low-lying areas, exposed racial and social fault lines.

These divides may be reinforced, rather than diminished, by the government's far more robust response to Hurricane Rita.

Texas is the president's home state, has a Republican governor and is the home of big oil. New Orleans before Katrina was heavily populated by poor blacks who vote Democratic.

With Katrina, "poor folks were told to evacuate and they had no means to do it. In Texas, we had a different type of situation. But even there, the local, state and government failed those people," said Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y. "Not to the extent they did with Katrina. But there's no question that affluency made a heck of a difference."

President Bush, vacationing at his Texas ranch as Katrina approached in late August, was a whirlwind of activity this time. He bounded from one command post to another over the weekend to monitor Rita, first to Colorado, then to Texas and then to Louisiana. He went to the Energy Department on Monday for a briefing, and planned to visit storm-affected areas in Texas on Tuesday.

The evacuation of some three million residents ahead of Rita kept casualties tiny. Armies of rescuers, relief workers and U.S. troops swept through stricken areas. Officials at all levels of government could be seen working together.

It provided a marked contrast to the Katrina images beamed around the world: families stranded on rooftops, looters in devastated neighborhoods, refugees huddled in the Superdome and Convention Center, floating bodies, the president catching his first glimpse of the destruction two days after the storm from a window on Air Force One.

"Rita was Bush putting on a show," said David Bositis, a senior political analyst at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a think tank focused on black issues. "Bush and his people took a lot of heavy hits in their response to Katrina. They wanted to be sure that this time around they projected an image of effectiveness."

Bositis said Bush's performance did next to nothing to improve his deeply unpopular image among blacks.

Bush and Republican party chief Ken Mehlman have worked to cultivate blacks, including overtures to black ministers, in hopes of giving the party a better shot at luring black votes in the future. Bush got 9 percent of the black vote in 2000 and 11 percent in 2004, according to exit polls.

The president met privately on Friday with NAACP (website - news) President Bruce Gordon. "They ... talked about ways we can work together on shared priorities," said Bush spokesman Scott McClellan.

Bush's advocacy of "faith-based" government initiatives and opposition to gay marriage resonated among some blacks in 2004, analysts suggested.

"Now, Katrina is a bellwether issue for a lot of people. And it means it's going to complicate his relationship with some of these ministers and their parishioners," said Ron Walters, a political science professor at the University of Maryland who specializes in black politics.

Many blacks "have deep emotional questions" on the treatment of storm victims, Walters said. "A lot of these people are their kin. The social network of the black community is spread throughout the South."

Bush, asked by a reporter on Monday about suggestions by some blacks that the administration is insensitive to the plight of urban blacks, said: "I can assure you that the response efforts and now the recovery efforts are aimed at saving everybody."

Still, he said, the hurricanes exposed Americans to a view of "some poverty they had never imagined before. And we have to address that, whether it be rural or urban."

In an AP-Ipsos poll earlier this month, three-fourths of blacks surveyed felt the government would have responded faster if the victims of Katrina weren't poor and mostly black; just 25 percent of whites felt that way.

Democrats have seized on the divide as political ammunition for upcoming 2006 midterm elections. "Bush's failed leadership on African Americans," trumpets a Democratic National Committee press release.

Suggesting inflated rhetoric on both sides, Earl Black, a political scientist at Rice University in Houston, said: "My view is that it's probably not wise for anybody to make too much partisan hay out of tragedies."

Did they need to do a study to find this out?

Study: SUV Drivers Likely To Hate Gays
by Peter Hacker 365Gay.com Sydney, Australia Bureau

Posted: September 27, 2005 12:01 am ET

(Sydney, Australia) The ad shows a ruggedly handsome man behind the wheel of a four-wheel-drive all terrain vehicle, portaging a river, climbing a rocky hill. He's hip, urbane, and a trendsetter. But a new study shows the guy in the ad bears little resemblance to the men who buy SUVs.

The study, by the Australia Institute, indicates the average 4WD driver is a male city dweller in his late 40s or 50s, and far from cool.

The institute based its study on a Roy Morgan Research survey of 24,718 people aged 14 and over.

It found that the drivers were more likely to be homophobic than other drivers. It also discovered they were not community minded and less likely than drivers of other vehicles to give to a charity.

The study additionally found they were more likely to suffer road rage. According to the institute four-wheel-drive vehicles also had a higher rate of being involved in accidents that kill or maim people in other vehicles.

"These drivers tend to see themselves as rugged individualists who like physical activity. the report's authors, Clive Hamilton and Claire Barbato, said.

"Perhaps with implications for how they drive, they are more inclined to say they sometimes use force to get their way."

Although most SUV drivers are men, the study also looked at women who drive four-wheel-vehicles. Unlike their male counterparts they are cool. They tended to be in their 30s or early 40s, were materialistic and "love to shop".

26 September 2005

Monday is so sobering on so many levels

So, here are five news articles to catch up on the hurricane and economic news o'er the weekend. Depressing, all of it. I'm going to post a HAPPY note momentarily, summing up my weekend...

Rita's Revelation

As oil prices soar, so will demands for atomic energy. Iran knows this and Americans should, too. Why it's time to rethink the global approach to nuclear proliferation.

By Christopher Dickey
Updated: 3:27 p.m. ET Sept. 23, 2005

Sept. 23, 2005 - Acts of God are on everyone's mind just now. They're forcing mass evacuations, inundating cities, driving up the cost of gasoline, weakening the economy, undermining the war effort in Iraq. The Almighty is so often on the tongue of politicians these days, both American and foreign, that invocations of the divine have started to sound like little more than boilerplate. Of course, over the years, few politicians have called on God more often or more automatically than the leaders in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

So when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke to the United Nations last Saturday, it shouldn't have surprised anybody that his language was fit for a Revolutionary Guard revival meeting. Peace and tranquility depend on "justice and spirituality," he kept saying. "Faith will prove to be the solution to many of today's problems." You might hear the same pieties from our own zealous politicos. But here's the problem: on the question of nuclear proliferation—a very big question indeed—Iran's fundamentalists seem to have a clearer sense of fundamental realities that ours do.

That's precisely why Iran has succeeded so well in outmaneuvering the diplomatic offensive by the United States and the European Union at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meeting in Vienna this week. The Bush administration has focused on the threat of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. Washington's crusade is the Global War on Terror. Its idea of hell is Iran with long-range nuclear missiles. But Washington simply has no proof, no smoking gun, not even a blank bullet. Does it have suspicions? Absolutely, and with reason : Iran hid crucial parts of its nuclear enrichment program for about 20 years; American and Israeli officials also say Iran is pursuing a missile program that wouldn't make a lot of sense without nuclear warheads. There are anonymous reports and deep concerns that the Iranians and North Koreans are in league with each other to build bombs and terrorize us all. But since the delusional invasion of Iraq, such American, British and Israeli suspicions don't carry the weight they once did.

The Iranians, for their part, say God doesn't want them to have The Bomb, and they're OK with that. "In accordance with our religious principles," Ahmadinejad told the U.N., "pursuit of nuclear weapons is prohibited." So they claim they're focusing all their attention on the need for nuclear energy as a relatively cheap, efficient and reliable long-term source of electricity. That's why they're conducting their research. That's why they're building their reactors. That's why they're enriching uranium. That's why they are signatories to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which is supposed to open the way for them to develop peaceful nuclear energy, and that's why they are very careful to observe the letter (if not the spirit), of the treaty's language.

Ah, but why does Iran, with all its oil, need nuclear power at all? The answer is straightforward: oil and gas are just too valuable to continue wasting on Iran's internal consumption. Oil is also a finite resource; nuclear energy is not. Acts of God can make the lights go out, but they won't make them go on. So over the long term Iran expects it will have to rely on atomic energy for its continued development, and it's not alone. Eighty per cent of France's electricity comes from nuclear power plants, for instance, and many countries are reaching the conclusion that the atom will be a key to their survival. In a generation or two, whoever controls the ability to make nuclear fuel could well control the world.

The Iranians play to that fear among developing countries with their talk about the "inalienable right"—in fact, the existential need—for nuclear power. And when Ahmadinejad coined the phrase "nuclear apartheid," he nailed it: "We are concerned that once certain powerful states [read: the United States and Europe] completely control nuclear energy resources and technology, they will deny access to and thus deepen the divide between powerful countries and the rest of the international community," said the Iranian president. "When that happens, we will be divided into light and dark countries." Literally.

Iran argues it has to control the entire cycle of nuclear fuel production—mining uranium, enriching it, using it in reactors, eventually perhaps reprocessing it—if the country is going to preserve its long-term independence. The United States and Europe argue that if Iran controls the entire fuel cycle it can enrich uranium for atomic bombs as well as atomic reactors, and that's an unacceptable threat to world peace. The impasse, with inconclusive advances and setbacks, has lasted since 2003, when the extent of Iran's secret enrichment programs was uncovered. All week, the United States and Europe have been pushing the IAEA's board of governors to send the issue to the U.N. Security Council. But Russia has been reluctant, which suggests not much would come out of the Security Council anyway, and most of the developing countries on the IAEA board have found Iran's arguments more persuasive than Washington's.

There is a way out of this dangerous stalemate, if not this week, then at least in the foreseeable future. IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei argues for the creation of fuel banks under international control, where countries wanting to generate nuclear power could go for the low-enriched fuel they need. There would be no danger of their enriching it further for nuclear-weapons production, on the one hand, but there would also be little or no possibility that the United States or other powers could use a cutoff of the fuel as an economic weapon. "Countries will have the fuels they need," ElBaradei told NEWSWEEK last year. "They have the assurance of the supply, but they do not necessarily need to do the job themselves."

This was part of a package of reforms ElBaradei hoped to push through the NPT review conference in New York last May. But the United States showed littler interest in his plans, or in the conference for that matter. Now, it should take another look. ElBaradei's proposals are the best presented so far to test the motives of a country like Iran, appease the many nations that fear Western arrogance and open the way for all of us to have safer, more sensible sources of energy in the future. It shouldn't take an act of God to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, or even an act of war. Good diplomacy, and attention to the real concerns of other countries, could be and should be enough.

For further discussion of these topics—and a sample of reader responses—go to Christopher Dickey's Shadowland Journal.

© 2005 Newsweek, Inc.

Saudi Storms

As hurricanes batter the American coast and send oil prices up, Al Qaeda is watching, and drawing lessons.

By Christopher Dickey

Oct. 3, 2005 issue - The shoot-out earlier this month around a seafront villa in the Saudi Arabian city of Ad Dammam lasted almost 48 hours, and ended only when security forces brought in light artillery. They blasted the opulent home until the roof came down on the people inside. In the immediate aftermath police said they couldn't tell from the charred remains just how many members of "a deviant group" had died in the battle. Finally, with DNA tests, they counted five. Police also found enough weapons for a couple of platoons of guerrilla fighters. The inventory given out by the Saudi Interior Ministry included more than 60 hand grenades and pipe bombs, pistols, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, two barrels full of explosives, video equipment, a large amount of cash and forged documents.

It was the documents that really set off alarms. According to a Saudi Interior Ministry statement, they included forged passes to enter "important locations." The Saudi daily Okaz quoted the minister, Prince Nayef, saying the cell—which was linked directly to Al Qaeda—had planned major attacks on some of Saudi Arabia's key oil and gas facilities. "There isn't a place that they could reach that they didn't think about," said Nayef. And their ultimate target was the global economy. Saudi Arabia is the greatest source of oil on earth, with a quarter of known reserves and a proven policy of trying to stabilize prices even in today's volatile markets.

If the incident made few headlines at the time, it's because it ended on Sept. 6, when the United States—and oil traders—were focused on the impact of Hurricane Katrina. Yet precisely because of the shortages brought on by that storm and the damage still being counted from Hurricane Rita, Saudi Arabia is more important than ever to world oil supplies. What's worse, according to several analysts, Al Qaeda knows it. "They're watching Katrina. They're watching Rita. They're watching what it's doing to the United States," says former CIA agent Robert Baer, who has written extensively on Saudi Arabia's vulnerabilities. A few ruptured pipes could be repaired quickly, says Baer, but a concerted attack at several points could bring on the kind of nightmare scenario that U.S. officials have been dreading since the Reagan years, pushing oil prices up from their current prices in the range of $60 to $70 a barrel to well over $100 for weeks or even months.

Since Al Qaeda's campaign of terror inside Saudi Arabia began in 2003, the Saudis have dramatically stepped up protection of their oil installations. Security forces have issued several lists of their most-wanted terrorists, and tracked down or killed most of them. (Four of the five in Ad Dammam were on the latest lists.) Officials have sought to reassure the world that the terrorists are on the run. Anthony Cordesman at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies, among others, has backed up that basic analysis.

Yet the cells seem to be replaced almost as quickly as they're taken down. The brother of one of those killed in Ad Dammam, himself a wanted terrorist named Muhammad Abdelrahman Al-Suwailimi, put a voice message on the Web afterward claiming the incident was exaggerated by authorities. He also thanked the infamous terrorist Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, in neighboring Iraq, for his support. Saudi Arabia now is increasingly concerned about the potential blowback of disintegration in Iraq. "I don't see how the Arab countries are going to be left out of the conflict in one way or another," said Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal last week. "I think this is what is going to happen if things continue as they are."

Precisely what the Dammam cell intended to hit, if known, has not been revealed in any detail. But, as Baer points out, Saudi Arabia is a target-rich environment. Certain critical nodes in the general vicinity of Ad Dammam have worried American strategists for years. Past studies suggest a moderate-to-severe attack on the Abqaiq oil-processing facilities, for instance, could cut Saudi output (now about 9.6 million barrels a day) by more than 4 million barrels for two months or more.

Al Qaeda has used suicide boats before. A successful hit against a major offshore loading facility at either Ras Tanura or Juaymah would knock millions of barrels off the market. Baer wrote in 2003 that "a single jumbo jet with a suicide bomber at the controls ... crashed into the heart of Ras Tanura, would be enough to bring the world's oil-addicted economies to their knees." After the one-two punch from Katrina and Rita, it might not take that much.

© 2005 Newsweek, Inc.


Hurricanes hammer US deficit plan

Finance minister Ralph Goodale and his Group of Seven counterparts have warned that hurricanes Rita and Katrina have left behind a dangerous legacy for the global economy: supercharged energy prices and a swelling US budget deficit. The storms, which have hobbled US oil production and refining capacity, have also thrown an unexpected curve at what had been a generally improving outlook for the world economy, Goodale said yesterday at the end of three days of meetings in Washington. The cost of cleaning up from Katrina alone could top US$200-billion, jeopardizing the Bush administration's pledge to halve its annual budget shortfall by 2009. The White House has projected a $333B deficit in fiscal 2005 and lower still in 2006, but most economists now say those targets won't be met. Goodale's comments come amid reports that US Federal Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan has acknowledged the US has “lost control” of its budget deficit. French finance minister Thierry Breton said Greenspan made the ominous comment during a private meeting Saturday. Breton added that both he and Greenspan expressed disappointment that reining in the deficit doesn't seem to be a political priority in Washington. Greenspan did not speak to reporters after the meeting, but he has often expressed concern about the economic fallout from the lack of US spending restraint, including an upward pressure on interest rates. Nonetheless, US Treasury secretary John Snow vowed that the Bush administration would “not stray” from its deficit reduction goals, despite the extra costs created by the recent hurricanes. “The relief and reconstruction will be costly, but the Bush administration . . . will not stray from our course of federal deficit reduction. With continued economic strength . . . we'll be able to help our neighbours and continue to reduce our deficit,” Snow said in speech yesterday to the World Bank's development committee.
(Globe and Mail 050926)

A green lining in hurricane clouds?

Attitudes toward energy consumption may have hit a tipping point after a year and half of constant worry about rising oil prices crested with the past month's hurricane-driven spike and last week's spasm of gasoline panic. “We've started to see indications that the demand side of behaviour is changing,” says Steve Kelly, with Calgary energy consultancy Purvin & Gertz. And Bart Melek, senior economist at BMO Nesbitt Burns, predicts that “when all the data comes out after these spikes, I think you will notice, not a huge massive decline, but on the margins some decline in consumption, where people were very conscious of the price and would economize.” He added: “I know in my case, I used the small car rather than the large vehicle. And you multiply that by 140 million households in North America, this can add up... High prices do force people to think about their consumption.” Canadian Auto Workers economist Jim Stanford points to a shift toward smaller vehicles. Sales of large sport utility vehicles are down 15% this year while subcompact cars are up 8%. “It's not dramatic yet, but certainly the sales numbers this year show that the gas price does matter in buying decisions - why wouldn't it?” Stanford said.

But auto industry analyst Dennis DesRosiers says Canadians have limited scope to cut their gasoline consumption, because “most consumers in the automotive sector are already there, in terms of fuel efficiency, or they've got no choice in terms of the kind of vehicle they drive.” About 45% already own relatively small and fuel-efficient cars, he said. Thirty per cent are in mid-size family vehicles “primarily because they need that size of vehicle,” and 15% of the market is commercial vehicles - “they need the horsepower” - he said. “There's a relatively small band of about 10% of consumers that own large luxury cars that are less fuel-efficient.” He notes that the largest SUVs were bought by only 10,000 Canadians last year, in a market of more than 1.5 million cars and light trucks. That compares with sales of 1.1M behemoth SUVs in the US, “the most absolutely irresponsible country in the world when it comes to fuel efficiency and vehicle ownership and the environment,” DesRosiers said. “A very small percentage of consumers in Canada drive a gas-guzzler.”

The Toronto Transit Commission, meanwhile, has observed no ridership surge attributable to gasoline prices. Spokeswoman Marilyn Bolton said recent traffic levels on the country's biggest urban transit system have been within normal variations. On the environmentalist side, “You wouldn't be surprised to find out that an environmental group like Greenpeace sees a positive note in higher oil prices and gasoline prices,” said Greenpeace energy co-ordinator Dave Martin. “This is obviously going to provide the incentive for conservation and efficiency,” he said - although he noted it also will spur the energy industry to exploit resources in sensitive offshore and arctic regions. Consumers have one way that they can protect themselves, and I think they are getting the message. And that is by investing in more efficient technology.”
(Canadian Press 050925)

Oilmen worry over rising energy use

World energy consumption is rising so rapidly even the heads of two Canadian companies positioned to benefit from unrelenting demand and sky-high prices are concerned about the effects, both long- and short-term. "I was in Europe last week and people were rushing back to the pumps [over fears prices would be going up] every time they used a quarter of tank," Clive Mather, president and ceo of Shell Canada told a conference here. "That's what creates the problem moving the gasoline from the refineries out to the service stations [contributing to supply shortfalls]. It isn't very helpful but it is understandable. What we want to do is get back to an orderly market as quickly as we can. My hope is that will happen over the next few days." Gasoline prices rising over the short term, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and with Hurricane Rita threatening the US Gulf Coast of Texas, represented but one concern for the likes of Mather, who predicts world demand for energy will double or possibly triple in the next 20 to 30 years, as economies in China, India and other parts of Asia continue to play catchup. "We talk a lot about North America and Europe and their SUVs, but the real issue is in the developing world," said Mather.

Gwyn Morgan, president and ceo of EnCana, North America's largest producer of natural gas, said the world's tight energy supply-demand picture won't loosen any time soon. "We all know [that] the single biggest reason for high oil prices is that never before in the history of the world have there been [nations of] two billion people [in Asia] growing at rates of 8% or 9%," said Morgan. Consumer behaviour in North America must change given the demand pressures in Asia, Morgan said. "I believe the North American urban model is flawed." he said. "Why do we have millions of cars every day parked on the road [in traffic jams] burning fuel when there is a better way? With demand growth in India, China and places like South Korea, our consumption in North America is unsustainable." Concerns in Canada because of the world's heated energy market range from losing jobs in the manufacturing epicentre of Ontario to Alberta's economy overheating with inflation, Morgan said.
(National Post 050924)

23 September 2005

Argh! Everything is wrong this week!

I can't take it anymore. I'm going out to get drunk. I'm heading up to Red Deer tomorrow to see Treslie so I'll post on Sunday. Or Monday. My thoughts are with you Sarathena vs. Rita. Nite nite.

Jesus of the Week

Jon found this site where I found this. How fascinating...I'm going on a hunt for the ultimate Jesus experience that I can submit. What do you Google during the day to find this stuff, Jon?


Rita Shutters Gulf Coast

America's energy heartland scrambled yesterday to brace for Hurricane Rita, while economists struggled to gauge the impact of back-to-back catastrophic storms on the world's largest economy. As major highways out of Galveston, TX, remained clogged with many of the 1.3 million residents fleeing Rita, shippers, truckers and railroads continued to shut down their operations in the Texas Gulf Coast. Houston's port, the second-largest in the US, closed down while CNF's Con-Way Transportation Services, the top regional trucker, closed its terminals just hours ahead of 150-mile-an-hour winds hitting the low-lying coast. Union Pacific and BNSF halted their train shipments. The state's major refiners were also closing down operations in anticipation of Rita, something that could again drive gasoline prices higher again. Rita appeared heading away from Galveston and now might come ashore near Port Arthur - a section of coastline with the country's biggest concentration of oil refineries. These refineries account for 27.5% of US refining capacity. "My message is that shutdowns of industry facilities could impact the flow of gasoline and other fuels," said Red Cavaney, the American Petroleum Institute's president. "The shutdown, or anticipated shutdown, of any significant part of that capacity could affect US gasoline markets." That's because, Cavaney said, more than 5% of US refining capacity has already been shut down by Katrina. So far, 11 of Texas' 26 refineries, with a combined daily capacity of 4 million barrels, have been shut while the US Minerals Management Service said on Wednesday 469 platforms in the Gulf are shutdown, up from 136 on Tuesday. More than 73% of oil production in the region has been shut in. Besides being a major oil and natural gas hub, Texas is also home to about half of the country's chemical production. Economists said they hoped the hurricane would not be as devastating to the region's energy industry as Katrina had been. "We could get lucky and get less energy destruction," said Chris Varvares, president of Macroeconomic Advisers. Economists admitted they were at a loss to put a pricetag on the widespread damage before Rita hits.

Meanwhile, the issue of capacity and a perceived lack of cushion in the North American refining industry is a popular topic today. No one - from Grand Prairie, TX, to Grande Prairie, AB - wants to see gasoline rationing and kilometre-long queues at the pumps. According to Judith Dwarkin, chief economist at Ross Smith Energy Group, you can blame today's pinch at the pumps and the tightness between supply and demand in world gasoline markets on the late 1970s and oil prices that soared toward US$90 a barrel in today's money. So many refineries were built to take advantage of the boom that the energy industry is just now emerging from a 20-year adjustment to get back to peak capacity, which explains why North America could be in a real fix as a hurricane threatens to put a choke hold on plants that produce about 25% of its gasoline. "The number of refineries in the US today is half of what there was in the mid-1980s, and yet they are producing twice as much product," she said. As the crisis lurks, people are wondering why no new refineries have been built in Canada or the US for almost 25 years. "During that period, margins were really quite pathetic. There was really no incentive to build refineries," said
Dwarkin. Refineries were built as demand for oil, worldwide, was actually falling. Consumption later began to catch up, eventually driving capacity to the point today where every refinery on North American soil is running full-out. Tight profit margins and volatility in world oil and gasoline markets drove companies to find ways to add capacity without spending billions on brand new plants. Even with oil surging toward US$70 a barrel and prices for processed petroleum products such as gasoline soaring, refining is still a risky business, according to Petro-Canada spokesman Jon Hamilton. Petro-Canada operates two refineries, a 110,000-barrel-a-day facility in Edmonton and a 130,000-bpd plant in Montreal. "Our refining and marketing profit is just over 2 cents a litre," Hamilton said. He did say refining margins across North America have gone up over the last 10 years, however.
(National Post, Wall Street Journal 050923)

US$5-trillion needed to tap oil reserves

The International Energy Agency said technological investments will expand world oil supplies, dismissing "peak oil" theories that supplies are running out. "There is no shortage of oil and gas in the ground, but quenching the world's thirst for them will call for major investment in modern technologies," IEA executive director Claude Mandil said in a statement marking the publication of a 150-page book Resources to Reserves, Oil and Gas Technologies for the Energy Markets of the Future. At least US$5-trillion in investment will be needed in the next three decades to tap reserves, the IEA said. The IEA has never before directly responded to "peak oil" theorists, who say the agency is overly optimistic about estimates of increased production. "Peak oil" is based partly on the work of M. King Hubbert, a former Royal Dutch Shell geophysicist who predicted in 1949 that US domestic onshore oil production would plateau by about 1970, a prediction that proved accurate. The IEA said a 5% increase in average recovery rates from the current level of about 35% would "bring more oil than Saudi Arabia's reserves." Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil producer, has the world's largest oil reserves at 263 billion barrels, according to BP statistics. So-called non-conventional oil sources, such as heavy-oil deposits in Canada and Venezuela and reserves in extremely deep water or remote regions may hold more than half of the world's undiscovered oil, the report said. The IEA estimates there are roughly 10 trillion barrels of oil equivalent of conventional oil and gas in place and at least as much non-conventional oil.
(National Post 050923)

22 September 2005

It's déjà vu in the Gulf as Rita bears down

Crude oil prices climbed toward US$68 a barrel Thursday as hurricane Rita closed in on Texas, raising fears it would hit key production facilities along the US Gulf Coast that were largely untouched by hurricane Katrina's onslaught three weeks ago. The Category 5 hurricane with 265-kilometre-per-hour winds is expected to strike Texas, the heart of US oil production, on Saturday. More than 1.3 million people in Texas and Louisiana - including hundreds of oil workers - were ordered to evacuate. The region is home to 18 oil refineries that produce 23% of the country's petroleum products, according to the US Energy Information Administration. Nine of those facilities, representing 12% of US refinery capacity have shut. The US Minerals Management Service said Wednesday that 469 platforms in the Gulf are unstaffed, up sharply from 136 on Tuesday. More than 73% of oil production in the region is blocked, up from 58% Tuesday. Along with Katrina, Rita has the potential to deliver a crippling second punch in a one-two combination to the US energy sector that would drive prices to new records and cause even more economic dislocation. Though it remains several hundreds kilometres offshore, once-bitten corporate executives are already warning about Rita's potential destructiveness. Valero Energy chairman William Greehey said Rita's impact on offshore oil production and refining could be a “national disaster” and push pump prices well above US$3 a gallon. Given Rita's current track, forecasters believe it will make landfall south of Houston, where many of the refineries and terminals are located. But a modest shift north would result in a direct hit on critical oil infrastructure.

Economists said the hurricanes' one-two punch could drive energy prices into the stratosphere, sapping consumer spending and confidence. “We're one storm away from a big shock to the economy,” said Neal Soss, economist at Credit Suisse First Boston. “The shock to the economy from Katrina was bad enough. We have a very severe dependency on a very limited infrastructure because we haven't invested enough in refining capacity for a long time.” Rita's threatening entry into the Gulf of Mexico came as the oil industry was struggling to recover from Katrina's wallop, which shut down offshore rigs and several refineries, four of which have yet to restart. As the industry got production back on track, crude oil and gasoline prices had recently declined from the record post-Katrina highs. The EIA reported yesterday that retail gasoline prices dropped for a second successive week, to an average of $2.79 a gallon for regular unleaded from the peak of $3.07 two week ago. However, pump prices are expected to reverse direction as a result of a spike in crude and wholesale gasoline on the New York Mercantile Exchange this week. Yesterday, crude oil hit a two-week high of $68.10 a barrel before settling at $66.80 while the wholesale price of unleaded gasoline rose 7.65 cents to $2.0532 a gallon. The loonie also fluttered with the prospect of higher energy and commodity prices ahead, rising to a 13-year high of US85.87 cents before falling back to 85.46 cents. And Canadians just starting to see pump prices retreat after weeks of record highs should also brace for a return to higher gasoline costs due to Rita.

In a sign of growing frustration over surging oil prices, the head of the US Energy Information Administration, Guy Caruso, slammed OPEC for constraining production to keep prices high - days after the 11-member oil cartel pledged to make available an additional two million barrels daily to cope with high demand. “Without question,” Caruso said Wednesday when asked during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing whether OPEC has contributed to soaring oil prices. “OPEC policy has been to constrain production and collude ... Under the FTC definition of collusion and price-fixing, yes,” he said. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, responsible for a third of global output, promised earlier this week to make available an additional two million barrels daily, but its members have also said the problem was not with the amount of crude available but with refining capacity.
(Canadian Press 050921, 050922, Globe and Mail, National Post, 050922)

Rita could equal $5 gas

Speculation is a dangerous hobby, but it is the fuel that drives all the Debbie Downers and Cassandras out there into our comfortable frenzied paranoia...

The timing and strength of the latest storm could cause worse spike at the pumps than Katrina did.
September 22, 2005: 9:32 AM EDT
By Chris Isidore, CNN/Money senior writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Remember when gas spiked to $3-plus a gallon after Hurricane Katrina? By this time next week, that could seem like the good old days.

Weather and energy experts say that as bad as Hurricane Katrina hit the nation's supply of gasoline, Hurricane Rita could be worse.

Katrina damage was focused on offshore oil platforms and ports. Now the greater risk is to oil-refinery capacity, especially if Rita slams into Houston, Galveston and Port Arthur, Texas.

"We could be looking at gasoline lines and $4 gas, maybe even $5 gas, if this thing does the worst it could do," said energy analyst Peter Beutel of Cameron Hanover. "This storm is in the wrong place. And it's absolutely at the wrong time," said Beutel.

Michael Schlacter, chief meteorologist at Weather 2000, said Rita now appears most likely to hit between Port Arthur and Corpus Christi, Texas, sometime between Friday afternoon and Saturday morning.

Just about all of Texas's refinery capacity lies in that at-risk zone.

"There is no lucky 7-10 split scenario to use a bowling analogy," he said. "If you're [a refiner] within 200 miles, you're going to feel the effect."

Compounding Katrina's impact
When Katrina hit, 15 refineries, nearly all in Louisiana and Mississippi, with a combined capacity of about 3.3 million barrels a day were shut down or damaged, according to the Energy Department. That represented almost 20 percent of U.S. refining capacity.

Within a week, almost two-thirds of that damaged capacity had resumed some operations, according to the department. But four refineries with nearly 900,000 barrels a day of capacity are still basically shut down.

If Rita hits both the Houston-Galveston area, as well as the Port Arthur-Beaumont region near the Texas-Louisiana border, that could take out more than 3 million barrels of capacity a day, according to Bob Tippee, editor of the industry trade journal Oil & Gas Journal in Houston.

"Before Katrina, the system was already so tight that the worst-case scenario was for a disruption that took 250,000 barrels of capacity out of the picture. That would have been considered a major jolt," said Tippee.

"We're already in uncharted territory now. We can't project what happens from another shot the size of Katrina or worse."

Part of the problem is that skilled crews needed to make refinery repairs are already busy trying to fix the Katrina damage. That would extend recovery time from Rita.

"[Rita] could have a significant impact on supply and prices -- this really is a national disaster," Valero Energy Bill Greehey in an interview with Reuters Tuesday evening.

Gas not the only concern
Problems could spread beyond the gas pumps.

Tippee said that natural-gas prices could see a further spike, since so many of the offshore platforms off of Texas produce natural gas, not crude oil.

And while gasoline imports have helped bring gas prices down from record highs, there isn't as much potential for heating-oil imports, he noted.

"Gasoline tends to obscure everything, especially since we aren't paying heating bills right now," said Tippee. "But we were already looking at a winter fuel problem. We're about to take another hit that will cause a lot of problems."

Schlacter said even the oil platforms off the Louisiana Gulf Coast, which are not likely to take a direct hit from Rita, could be affected by large waves churning up the Gulf of Mexico as the storm passes to the south. Waves of as much as 40 to 50 feet could hit the platforms off the Texas Coast, he estimated.

Tippee said that production across the Gulf is already being affected by oil companies pulling workers off platforms ahead of the storm. And it's not just domestic oil being interrupted.

The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP), the nation's largest gateway for overseas oil, stopped accepting deliveries of its 1.2 million barrels of oil a day Wednesday afternoon due to high seas, LOOP spokeswoman Barb Hesterman told Reuters. She said the disruption was expected to be "for a short time."

But if Katrina is any guide, it could take several days after Rita passes for production to resume even at oil and gas platforms that escape damage.

"There were several days where if you could have gotten out to the platform, you could have started it back up, but you couldn't find the boats or helicopters you needed to get back to the platforms," he said.

21 September 2005

Mother Nature must be SO pissed!

One million ordered away from Texas coast - Rita hits cat. 5
Last Updated Wed, 21 Sep 2005 16:45:06 EDT
CBC News
Hospitals and nursing homes were evacuated and up to one million along the Gulf Coast were ordered out Wednesday as hurricane Rita turned into a 265 km/h monster that could pound Texas and bring more damage and heartache to New Orleans.

Forecasters predict Rita could come ashore Saturday along the central Texas coast between Galveston and Corpus Christi. But even a slight rightward turn could prove devastating to New Orleans.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Rita strengthened into a Category 5 storm on Wednesday afternoon. Forecasters said Rita could be the most intense hurricane on record ever to hit Texas, and one of the most powerful to slam into the U.S. mainland.

All of Galveston, vulnerable sections of Houston and Corpus Christi and the damaged New Orleans were under mandatory evacuation orders, one day after Rita caused minor damage when it sideswiped the Florida Keys as a much weaker storm.

The 267,000 people in Galveston County have been ordered out. Galveston island has no land much more than two-metres above water level.

In 1900, between 6,000 and 12,000 were killed when a hurricane hit Galveston. It was one of the deadliest natural disasters in U.S. history, it practically wiped the low-lying city off the map.

Low-lying, flood-prone areas of Houston, which at its lowest point is only two metres above sea level, were ordered evacuated. The Houston mayors' office said as many as 1 million people in the Houston-Galveston area were under orders to get out.

Along the Louisiana coast, some 20,000 people or more were being evacuated or were warned to leave.

Earlier Wednesday, Texas Governor Rick Perry warned residents of the Texas coast to get out now before Rita hits. Perry said a long stretch of his state's Gulf coast should be evacuated immediately.

The governor said: "Homes and businesses can be rebuilt. Lives cannot. If you're on the coast between Beaumont and Corpus Christi, now's the time to leave."

Beaumont is near Louisiana in eastern Texas and Corpus Christi is near Mexico in the southwest part of the state.

The last major hurricane to hit Texas was Alicia in 1983. It flooded downtown Houston, spawned 22 tornadoes and left 21 people dead. The damage from the Category 3 storm was put at more than $2 billion.

Tropical Storm Allison flooded Houston in 2001, doing major damage to hospitals and research centers and killing 23 people.

If Rita comes ashore anywhere near Galveston or Corpus Christi, the potential to knock out a whole bunch of America's oil production infrastructure is very high. The estimates are that around 25% of the United States' domestic production goes through the refineries around Galveston. This couldn't have come at a worse time. Keep your fingers crossed that everyone stays safe and we don't see yet another price spike after the weekend.

20 September 2005


Lake Louise May 2005

It's Joe and my fifth anniversary today. I can't believe it's been five years already (or is that it's ONLY five years?). How time flies when you're having fun! I think for all the problems that we've worked through, we're pretty compatible. We don't really fight, and less my stupid issues, we don't really have any reason to. I guess there are some difficulties and frustrations, but what relationship doesn't have them? It's a good time to reflect on where we've been and ponder where we're going. We were going to go out for dinner tonight at Rouge, however Joe is sick as heck today, so we're postponing that until the weekend. His birthday is also coming up on the 29th, so I have to dig into my pockets to find some money to buy him what he really wants for his birthday -- a PlayStation 2.

Upper Lake Kananaskis 2005

Fire Drill

So, I just got back to my desk from another fire drill. We haven't had a large-scale exercise in a long time. The entire office building was evacuated. I swear it took 30 minutes to clear out the building. I can't believe how slow some of these freaking people move. Who brought out the ugly stick too? Are there ANY good looking people working in my building? They're all fat, middle-aged, oil and railway kooks that don't take care of themselves very well. Why the frick does it take you so long to walk single file through a doorway? I MEAN - COME ON! If you're a slow beluga in my way in a real emergency, you can fully expect me to be stepping on some of your body parts to get down the stairwell from the 20th floor. Stan and Barry joked that we could either braid Ethernet cable to make a long escape rope from 20th or pack people into our standup closets (which we lovingly call 'coffins') with coats and such for insulation, and then drop them through a broken window for a soft landing on the parkade 17 floors below. They don't call them coffins for nothing...

I was tempted to just go home, however, I was in the food court when the alarms went off. As soon as that happens, the elevators stop working and by the time I started climbing up the stairwell, people were already coming down. I didn't have my coat or keys, so I was screwed. I turned around and shuffled with the rest of the cattle outside. I guess it could've been worse, had I had to walk down the stairwell single file from the 20th -- again.

Accountability? Who woulda thunk?

Kozlowski gets up to 25 years
Mark Swartz, former Tyco CFO, also gets 8-1/3 to 25; both men fined, handcuffed, sent to jail.

September 19, 2005: 4:31 PM EDT
By Grace Wong, CNN/Money staff writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Ex-Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski received 8-1/3 to 25 years in prison Monday for his part in stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from the manufacturing conglomerate.

Former Tyco CFO Mark Swartz got the same sentence from Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Michael Obus.

Judge Obus also ordered Kozlowski and Swartz to pay $134 million back to Tyco, and Kozlowski was fined $70 million and Swartz $35 million -- bringing total fines and restitution to $239 million.

The former Tyco executives were ordered to start serving their sentences immediately and were led from the courtroom in handcuffs.

In a crowded New York state courtroom, the prosecution had asked for the maximum penalty of 15 to 30 years for both men, while Kozlowski's defense had focused on his character as a "family man."

In June, Kozlowski and Swartz were found guilty on 22 of 23 counts of grand larceny and conspiracy, falsifying business records and violating business law. Both men say they will appeal the verdicts.

That verdict came after the first trial against Kozlowski and Swartz ended in a mistrial in April 2004 after the sole juror holding out for an acquittal reported receiving threats.

During the first trial, prosecutors focused on what they called misuse of Tyco's money, such as a $2 million birthday party Kozlowski threw for his wife on the Italian island of Sardinia and a $6,000 shower curtain allegedly purchased with company funds.

But in the second trial, which started last January, prosecutors changed their strategy and narrowed their case.

The sentence was a clear signal that judges at the state level -- who have more discretion over sentencing than judges on the federal bench -- are equally concerned with sending tough messages to executives charged with "white-collar" crimes.

If Kozlowski and Swartz show good behavior, they could be eligible for parole after 6 years and 11 months, according to Linda Foglia, spokeswoman for the New York State Department of Correctional Services.

The pair will spend time at an interim facility, where they will undergo a series of tests and reviews, before a prison is designated for them. Since they received a sentence of more than six years, they likely will be sent to one of New York's maximum security prisons, which include Attica and Sing Sing.

Substantial sentence
As the first high-profile corporate fraud case tried in a state court, legal experts had been watching the sentence to see whether state judges would follow the lead of judges in federal courts, who have imposed severe sentences on corporate executives found guilty of white collar crimes.

Bernie Ebbers got 25 years for his role in the collapse of WorldCom. Adelphia founder and ex-CEO John Rigas also received a hefty sentence of 15 years. Both were tried in federal court.

"Now anyone who wants to know what trial court judges in New York state are doing when confronted with conviction in a high-profile corporate fraud case, the answer is imposing a significant sentence," former prosecutor Jacob Frenkel said.

"Even on the short end of the range, it is a substantial sentence," he said.

The sentences were harsh, but nowhere near as severe as those in previous cases, said Greg Wallance, a former federal prosecutor now at Kaye Scholer LLP in New York.

"It's a much more lenient sentence than handed out in federal cases, and I think that partly reflects the fact that the company was not forced into bankruptcy or destroyed but is doing relatively well," he said.

But he added, the conditions for Swartz and Kozlowski will be harsh. State prisons tend to house more violent criminals, such as those prosecuted for rape and homicide. White-collar criminals sentenced to federal prison often go to minimum-security facilities derisively dubbed "Club Fed."

Few were surprised that Kozlowski and Swartz received much more than a slap on the wrist, saying courts are feeling public pressure to impose harsher sentences.

But long sentences aren't necessarily warranted because the same deterrent effect could be accomplished by giving less time, said Ellen Podgor, professor at Georgia State University College of Law.

"You need imprisonment clearly. It's just the amount needs to be proportional to what we're trying to accomplish in the criminal justice system," she said. "If we're trying to make sure these crimes aren't committed in future, you don't need sentences like this."

Apparently the Enron court cases start in January 2006.

Fear of another Gulf storm sparks record jump in oil price

This is how resilient, well-planned and enduring the infrastructure our entire society and culture depends on is? We are disconcertingly sleepwalking into the future, folks. Two well-placed storms could knock out over 25% of the U.S. extraction and refining capacity. Scary.

Crude oil futures surged more than US$4 -- the biggest one-day price jump ever -- amid worries that tropical storm Rita strengthening off the Bahamas could hit US oil facilities in the Gulf of Mexico later this week, striking another blow at an industry struggling to recover from hurricane Katrina. The swells in crude, heating oil and gasoline futures came as OPEC ministers met to discuss how to relieve price pressures in the oil market and expressed concern that Rita would bear down on the hurricane-ravaged US Gulf of Mexico coast. "The main driver today is tropical storm Rita. We really can't afford to lose more production," said Phil Flynn, analyst at Alaron Trading Corp. in Chicago. Long-range forecasts showed the system moving into the Gulf of Mexico late in the week as a hurricane, then possibly approaching Mexico or Texas. But forecasters warned those across the US southern coast, which is still recovering from the impact of hurricane Katrina, that long-term predictions are subject to large errors. If Rita strikes Texas, the biggest oil refiner in the United States, it could spell serious disruption to the industry. Texas has 26 petroleum refineries, most of which are located along the coast, with the capacity to pump 4.6 million barrels a day. That's more than a quarter of the US total refining capacity, according to the US Department of Energy. Chevron and Shell began evacuating workers from offshore oil and gas platforms and drilling rigs in the Gulf on Monday. A total of five rigs were evacuated Monday, up from two last week.
(Vancouver Sun 050920)

19 September 2005

Alberta bonus is folly, say business leaders

A storm is gathering against Alberta premier Ralph Klein's prosperity bonus cheques with Calgary's Chamber of Commerce saying the payouts are ill-conceived, short-sighted and compromise Alberta's prosperity. "You would think when the chamber speaks the government would listen," political analyst David Taras told the Herald Sunday. "If (Klein) loses the business community, it's over." In a stern release the chamber said writing cheques to Albertans that could total $1.4 billion is "neither disciplined nor balanced" and is a "snap decision without foresight." Jocelyn Burgener, director of public affairs for the chamber, said the comments are a reflection of the growing discontent with how Klein is spending the province's cash. Klein's spokeswoman, Marisa Etmanski, said the chamber needs to be patient. A full-blown tax review is underway and long-term plans for infrastructure and reinvesting in the Heritage Fund are being looked at, she said.
(Calgary Herald 050919)

The Klein government is showing once again how short-sighted and moorless they are now that the books are balanced. They are a one-trick pony, and now that they have accomplished what they set out to do, they don't know what else to do. That plus the fact Ralph is ready to retire and doesn't really care what happens anymore. Not that I'm going to mind getting a cheque from him in the mail, but they could use that money for so many more exciting and progressive things that would truly make Alberta the envy of the world.

Just 'Ming'-ing It

Saturday night found us out on 17th Ave. getting together to see our friend Philbert, who moved to Toronto from Calgary for work a year ago. He's looking well and doing good and still quaffing beers at a rate that allows him into our exclusive club! After our imbibations at Ming, the boys (including Raymond) headed to Twisted Element for the the rest of the evening. If it's any indication on how the evening went, I spent the entire day on Sunday in pain.


Susan, Joe, Reid, Nancy, and Chairman Mao

Philbert and Jeff

Doug, Joe, Nick, Curtis

17 September 2005

New pics of Treslie

I'm planning on heading up to Red Deer to see Treslie next weekend. She sure is looking more like her parents everyday!

New Blue Eyes

A smiley girl in pink...

16 September 2005

**BORE ALERT** A Quick Macroeconomics lesson

Real World Economics
by Ed Lotterman

In modern economies, trade in physical goods is only one component in determining international money flows. Services also flow, whether it be a Minneapolis architectural firm designing a housing project in Korea or a German insurance firm selling variable annuities to U.S. households.

Then there are government payments. The United States gives some $3 billion per year to Israel. Tens of thousands of Social Security and military retirement checks go to U.S. retirees in Costa Rica, Mexico and Poland.

Personal remittances enter in, too. Philippine maids in Hong Kong send money back to their families.

All of these payments — trade, services, investment income, remittances, government payments — fall into a category called the "current account."

Investment income plays a big role. Dutch insurance companies get interest payments on U.S. Treasury bonds they hold. 3M sends profits from its Belgian subsidiary back to Maplewood.

All of these financial flows go into a category of the balance of payments called the "current account." This is the account in which we are running large deficits.

Capital flows are the other major category and are tabulated in a capital account. When the Dutch insurance company bought the T-bonds, that initial principal investment was booked in the capital account, as was 3M's spending in Belgium.

The flip side of a large current account deficit, as the United States currently has, is a capital account surplus. We are buying more abroad than we sell, or paying more income abroad than is received here, or remitting more money to foreign families and governments than they send to us.

But far more money is being invested in the United States than U.S.-based entities are investing abroad. Our capital account surplus is large.

This raises two "pushed or pulled" questions.

First, is capital flowing in because the U.S. is such a great place to invest, or because Japan, Europe and Latin America are such lousy, poor-return alternatives?

More important, are we on an import spree because all the foreign money pouring into the United States has to find a way out? Or is so much capital flowing in because our voracious importing is flooding the world with dollars that have to find a way back somehow?

The answers to these questions are not clear. But a recent Federal Reserve study confirms what economic historians have long known: Current account deficit binges reverse themselves eventually. The Fed found that this usually occurs about when the deficit hits 5 percent of GDP. We are reaching that point now.

It also found that the reversals usually lead to a fall in the exchange rate of about 40 percent. If this happens, Chinese-made clothes at the mall will be sharply higher in price. And Minnesota wheat in Rotterdam will be cheaper. Exporting producers will benefit but consumers will see higher interest rates and prices.

The tide reverses when foreign investors no longer want to risk spending large amounts of their currency to buy the expensive dollars necessary to invest in the United States.

As foreign demand for investing in the United States falls, so will the dollar in relation to other countries. When foreigners with existing U.S. investments see these assets fall in value in their domestic currency many will depart.

And as foreign investors reduce their U.S. holdings, there will be less available capital in the United States and this supply reduction will force up the price of capital — interest rates. Stock and bond prices will fall. The Fed could compensate by increasing the U.S. money supply, but this would feed inflation at a time when a weakening dollar was reducing the downward pressure cheap imports put on U.S. price levels.

© 2002 Edward Lotterman
Chanarambie Consulting, Inc

**YAWN** Are you asleep yet? Frick, economics was always such a bore.

US current account deficit shows improvement

America's deficit in the broadest measure of international trade showed a slight improvement in the April-June quarter although it was still at the second-highest level in history. The Commerce Department reported that the deficit in the US current account totaled US$195.7 billion in the second quarter. That was down 1.5% from the deficit in the first three months of this year -- $198.7B -- which was the all-time high. Even with the slight improvement, the US is on track to surpass last year's record current account deficit of $668.1B. While the US so far has not had any trouble attracting the foreign money needed to finance this deficit, economists worry that at some point foreign investors will no longer want to hold such sizable sums of dollar-denominated assets. The slight improvement meant that the second quarter deficit represented 6.3% of the country's total economy, down from the record level of 6.5% in the first quarter. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has called the current account deficit unsustainable at present levels but he has also said he believes market forces should be able to deal with the problem in a way that does not seriously disrupt the economy. A less benign outcome would have foreigners suddenly deciding to dump their US stocks and bonds, sending stock prices plunging and interest rates soaring. Such a stampede for the exits by foreigners could be enough of a jolt to push the country into a recession. However, in the view of Greenspan and many private economists, the country's current account deficit will gradually improve over time as a slow decline in the dollar's value improves the country's trade performance by making US products cheaper in foreign markets and foreign goods more expensive in the US.
(Washington Post 050916)

***A bit of a good news. Both Canada and the US still have their humungoid capital debts to contend with on top of their trade deficits.***

When will oil supply start running out?

World oil production will peak someday, and supplies will start running out. But when will the tipping point come - in years, decades, or a couple of months from now? The oil industry says crude will be plentiful for at least another generation. But some experts argue reserves are overstated, oil technologies are limited and demand, sharply boosted by the needs of China and India, could soon outpace supply. European Union finance ministers are asking the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to ramp up production when the Saudi-led cartel meets Monday in Vienna - despite the failure of similar boosts over the past year and a half. Skeptics say that won't work. ''World oil production is going to peak on American Thanksgiving, with a three-week period of uncertainty on each side,'' declares Princeton professor, geologist and oil maverick Kenneth Deffeyes. He uses a formula first developed to pinpoint with near accuracy 1971 as the start of oil production decline in the US. Once supply begins to dwindle, the years to follow will see shortages that at best will cause ''global recession, possibly worse than the 1930s Great Depression,'' says Deffeyes. At worst, he warns of ''war, famine, pestilence and death.'' Deffeyes' prediction is clearly controversial. Still, it is gaining an audience, and dozens of energy experts and academics say his arguments have merit.

Oil companies and governments are betting - at least in public - that new discoveries and technology will keep the world supplied for at least the next generation. And there are those who would welcome the tipping point, believing the psychological impact will push the world into a serious drive to wean itself off oil. The US Geological Survey has predicted that a peak in recoverable oil production won't come until 2037, and Saudi Oil Minister Ali Naimi recently declared that ''technological innovation will allow us to find and extract more oil around the world.'' Kenji Kobayashi of the global watchdog International Energy Agency wrote this year that global energy demand will grow by nearly 60% by 2030, and oil will remain the fuel of choice. He urged more exploration and exploitation efforts, noting a worrisome drop in oil discoveries in recent years. Proponents of plentiful oil disagree, saying the world's proven reserves amount to 1,277 billion barrels and expected technological advances will soon open up supplies now impossible or unprofitable to exploit. That, they argue, gives the world a decades-thick cushion to develop other energy sources. ''There will be an increase of production for the next 20 to 25 years. Only after that may we face a decline,'' said Helmut Langanger, head of exploration and production at Austria's OMV oil company.
(Florida Times-Union 050916)

You know what I think? You want to know why there hasn't been any increase in refining capacity in North America for 20 years? You want to know why they're downplaying the fact that oil well discovery rates peaked globally in the 1980s? Why our domestic natural gas supply production growth rate has been in decline for a decade? Why there are no megafield projects scheduled to come onstream after 2008? It's because the oil companies know with great certainty that there isn't much dependable supply left, therefore they're attempting to fleece everyone in an attempt to siphon off as much profit as they can -- status quo is stable, baby. This may sound too simplistic, but the way finite-resource extracting industries work is unique. They're only working on one side of the equation -- all outputs. It's not like in our capitalist system a company is going to announce that they're running out of raw feedstock. It would destroy them. The oil companies want to avoid the same thing. They'll never admit they're running out of product. They're placing great blind faith in the concept that some magical energy source is going to come along and save us all. So is society in general. We can pick up some of the slack with nuclear power, wind, hydro and coal, but nothing comes even close to replacing everything to the scale we've become accustomed to globally. We're due for a huge economic and social contraction unlike anything seen in human history. Unless we can start buring the Dark Matter of course, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster sets us all straight.