17 December 2007

Bali Brou-haha

Canada backs down on climate 'road map'

The Harper government and the Bush administration caved in to international pressure at the United Nations climate change summit Saturday, accepting the "Bali road map" toward a new comprehensive agreement to try to stop human activity from causing irreversible damage to the Earth's atmosphere and ecosystems. The framework was hailed by the UN's top climate-change official, Yvo de Boer, as an ambitious, transparent and flexible solution on the road to a comprehensive treaty in 2009, imposing deeper commitments on the richest nations in the world to slash their greenhouse gas emissions, as well as softer targets or commitments for developing countries to come into force after the end of the Kyoto Protocol's first commitment period in 2012. With the Harper government silent, several developing countries, along with the European Union members, protested, booed and resisted attempts by the US, which has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol, to impose what most of the countries felt were unfair obligations on the developing world in the fight against climate change. The pressure eventually forced US lead negotiator Paula Dobriansky to cave in and accept the consensus, allowing the Bali road map to be adopted. In a subsequent debate by Kyoto countries, Canadian Environment minister John Baird attempted to stop members of the protocol from declaring that developed countries should collectively strive to deepen their post-2012 emission targets in the range of a 25 to 40% reduction below 1990 levels by 2020. The Harper government has insisted that such a measure would be impossible for Canada to achieve in 12 years. But following a series of rebukes, criticism and pleas from 17 different countries, Baird told the conference he would "stand down," garnering a warm ovation from delegates. The concession also meant that he had failed to achieve his main objective of getting binding commitments for major emerging economies such as China and India to reduce their emissions in absolute terms. The Bali road map consists of a framework for emissions cuts, the transfer of clean technology to developing countries, reducing deforestation, and adaptation aid for developing countries vulnerable to droughts and rising sea levels.
(Globe and Mail, Calgary Herald 071215; Calgary Herald 071216)

Corporate Canada braces for new rules on emissions

Canadian corporations can expect growing pressure in the coming years to reduce greenhouse gas emissions beyond what the federal government has already pledged after Ottawa reluctantly accepted new targets at an international climate change conference in Bali. The Conservative government is now finalizing regulations for large industrial emitters and for the auto industry as part of its plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% from 2006 levels by 2020. But before the ink is even dry on those rules, Canada will be facing pressure to cut further and faster – which will inevitably result in new demands on business, Christine Schuh, director of sustainable business practices for PricewaterhouseCoopers in Calgary, said yesterday. She said the two-week Bali conference, which ended Saturday, set an aggressive timetable to negotiate a global agreement on post-2012 climate change targets, and endorsed the International Panel on Climate Change view that dramatic action is needed to avert an environmental crisis. “Business can expect new demands to reduce greenhouse gas emissions … There are still a lot of people who thought they could negotiate their way out of the impending regime, but that is clearly not on.” Recent surveys of Canadian companies indicate relatively few have allocated budgets to cut greenhouse gas emissions, or had senior management focus on how the climate change issue will affect their business. Companies say they are waiting for clarity from the federal government in terms of the new climate change regulations. However, Julia Langer, of World Wildlife Federation, said it is unlikely the current government plan will be the last word. At Bali over the weekend, Canada grudgingly accepted broad targets to reduce emissions by 2020 by between 25% and 40% from 1990 levels. The agreement is part of an accord that covers all 38 of the countries that ratified the Kyoto Protocol.
(Globe and Mail 071217)

06 December 2007

Wanted: Deep Cuts

Cut emissions 50%: scientists

Leading scientists, including several from Canada, are urging the international climate summit to commit to deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. "There is no time to lose," says the Bali Declaration by Scientists, to be released today at the United Nations climate conference where delegates from almost 200 countries are meeting to hammer out an international framework for reducing emissions. The scientists are calling for cuts of at least 50% in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 to try to keep the rise in the global temperature below 2 C. While 2 C does not sound like much, researchers say warming above that threshold would be enough to trigger mass species extinctions and accelerate melting of polar ice sheets, which could lead to a seven-metre rise in sea level in coming centuries. The declaration says humanity has a "window" of as little as 10 years to turn the situation around. Meantime, emissions from the burning of fossil fuels and other human activities continue to rise quickly and the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere "now far exceeds the natural range of the past 650,000 years." The declaration says, "If this trend is not halted soon, many millions of people will be at risk from extreme events such as heat waves, drought, floods and storms, our coasts and cities threatened by rising sea levels, and many ecosystems, plants and animal species in serious danger of extinction."
(Calgary Herald 071206)

05 December 2007


WooHoo! I got tickets today.

04 December 2007

Everyone's gettin' squeezed

Oil, gas explorers feeling pressure of new price floor

Oil and gas explorers around the world need US$70 a barrel oil on a sustained basis to make the returns they were making only a couple of years ago with oil prices at $30, according to a study by international energy research firm Wood Mackenzie. Rising costs for equipment, lack of access to many basins and more challenging plays have elevated prices needed to earn a return of 15% on exploration, Andrew Latham, vp of exploration service, said from Edinburgh, where the firm is based.

"Things have changed quite quickly," he said. "What we are seeing is the equivalent of a new price floor for explorers, and the US$30 that worked two or three years ago certainly doesn't work anymore." The higher floor price is contributing to the higher price of oil, he said. The study, based on an analysis of conventional exploration in 400 basins around the world, found the cost of drilling alone has risen by 60% since 2004.

Latham said the basins hit hardest are those in deep waters, such as the Gulf of Mexico, offshore West Africa and Brazil, where there is a shortage of all types of equipment, from drilling rigs to floating production facilities.
(National Post 071128)

Understatement of the Year

Web user sentenced for killing online rival
Last Updated: Wednesday, November 28, 2007 | 8:58 AM ET
The Associated Press

A 48-year-old Buffalo, N.Y., man entangled in an internet love triangle built largely on lies was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years in prison for killing his rival for the affection of a woman he had never met.

Thomas Montgomery, who posed as an 18-year-old marine in online chats, pleaded guilty in August to gunning down Brian Barrett, 22, in a parking lot at the suburban Buffalo factory where they worked.

The motive was jealousy, investigators said. Both were involved online with a middle-aged West Virginia mother — who herself was posing as an 18-year-old student.

Prosecutor Frank Sedita argued for the maximum sentence of 25 years, describing Montgomery's "almost predatory" pursuit of the woman and his resentment of Barrett when she cooled to Montgomery's advances after 1½ years and thousands of pages of internet chats.

"The chats reveal an obsessive desire to make Brian Barrett suffer," Sedita said.

Barrett, a college student who aspired to be an industrial arts teacher, was shot three times at close range after climbing into his truck at the end of a shift at Dynabrade in Clarence on Sept. 15, 2006. His body was found two days later by a co-worker.

"My wife and I don't understand how this could happen, how such evil could walk the Earth," Barrett's father, Daniel, said at the sentencing hearing. "To gun down a boy over simple jealousy does not make sense to us."

Montgomery's lawyer said fantasy and reality blurred for the then-married father of two teenage daughters, who was involved in his church and was president of his daughters' swim club.

"Until September 2006, this was a man who held his head high," attorney John Nuchereno said. "By September 2006 — call it an obsession, call it an addiction, call it what you want — he was suffering from a diminished capacity of some sort."

Montgomery, now divorced, attempted suicide in his jail cell after his arrest. He chose not to speak at his sentencing.

Montgomery began chatting with the woman, identified in court as Mary Sheiler, in 2005.

Occasionally, the woman would mail packages to his home. When one of the packages was intercepted by Montgomery's wife, she wrote back, telling Sheiler her husband's true age and saying he was married.

Barrett, whom Montgomery had mentioned in his exchanges, was drawn into the triangle after the woman contacted him online to confirm what she had been told by Montgomery's wife.

Justice Penny Wolfgang called the situation a "consequence of misuse of the internet."

No shit.

New Britain Is Sinking

Islanders seek climate summit help

KILU, Papua New Guinea (AP) -- Squealing pigs lit out for the bush and Filomena Taroa herded the grandkids to higher ground last week when the sea rolled in deeper than anyone had ever seen.

What was happening? "I don't know," the sturdy, barefoot grandmother told a visitor. "I'd never experienced it before."

As scientists warn of rising seas from global warming, more and more reports are coming in from villages like this one on Papua New Guinea's New Britain island of flooding from unprecedented high tides. It's happening not only to low-lying atolls, but to shorelines from Alaska to India.

This week, by boat, bus and jetliner, a handful of villagers are converging on Bali, Indonesia, to seek help from the more than 180 nations gathered at the U.N. climate conference. The coastal dwellers' plight -- once theoretical -- appears all too real in 2007, and is spreading and worsening.

Scientists project that seas expanding from warmth and from the runoff of melting land ice may displace millions of coastal inhabitants worldwide in this century if heat-trapping industrial emissions are not sharply curtailed.

A Europe-based research group, the Global Governance Project, will propose at the two-week Bali meeting that an international fund be established to resettle "climate refugees."

Summarizing the islanders' plight, Ursula Rakova said: "We don't have vehicles, an airport. We're merely victims of what is happening with the industrialized nations emitting `greenhouse gases."'

The sands of Rakova's islands, the Carteret atoll northeast of Bougainville island, have been giving way to the sea for 20 years. The saltwater has ruined their taro gardens, a food staple, and has contaminated their wells and flooded homesteads. The remote islands now suffer from chronic hunger.

The national government has appropriated $800,000 to resettle a few Carteret families on Bougainville, out of 3,000 islanders. "That's not enough," Rakova told The Associated Press in Papua New Guinea's capital, Port Moresby. "The islands are getting smaller.

Basically, everybody will have to leave."

In a landmark series of reports this year, the U.N. climate-science network reported seas rose by a global average of about 0.12 inches annually from 1993 to 2003, as compared with about 0.08 inches annually for the period 1961-2003.

But a 2006 study by Australian oceanographers found the rise was much higher, almost one inch every year, in parts of the western Pacific and Indian oceans. "It turns out the ocean sloshes around," said the University of Tasmania's Nathaniel Bindoff, a lead author on oceans in the U.N. reports. "It's moving, and so on a regional basis the ocean's movement is causing sea-level variations -- ups and downs."

Regional temperatures and atmospheric conditions, currents, undersea and shoreline topography are all factors contributing to sea levels. On some atolls, which are the above-water remnants of ancient volcanoes, the coral underpinnings are subsiding and adding to the sinking effect.

The oceanic "sloshing" is steadily taking land from such western Pacific island nations as Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Marshall Islands. In Papua New Guinea, reports have trickled in this year of fast-encroaching tides on shorelines of the northern island province of Manus, the mainland peninsular village of Malasiga and the Duke of York Islands off New Britain.

International media attention paid to the Carteret Islands, the best-known case, seems to have drawn out others, said Papua New Guinea's senior climatologist, Kasis Inape.

"Most of the low-lying islands and atolls are in the same situation," Inape said in Port Moresby.

Here in Kilu on the Bismarck Sea, on a brilliant blue bay ringed by smoldering volcanoes, swaying coconut palms and thin-walled homes on stilts, the invading waves last year forced some villagers to move their houses inland 20 or more yards -- taking along their pigs, chickens and fears of worse to come.

It did, on November 25, when the highest waters yet sent them scurrying. "We think the sea is rising," said 20-year-old villager Joe Balele. "We don't know why."

The scene is repeated on shores across the Pacific, most tragically on tiny island territories with no "inland" to turn to.

Preparing to head to Bali to present her people's case on Tuesday at the U.N. climate conference, Rakova searched for words to explain what was happening back home.

"Our people have been there 300 or 400 years," she said. "We'll be moving away from the islands we were born in and grew up in. We'll have to give up our identity."

01 December 2007


The Shapeshifters are coming to Calgary on December 12. I can't wait! Here is their new song "New Day" from the album Do Not Disturb, coming out in Spring 2008.

27 November 2007

The Way I Are

I just CAN'T get this song out of my head!!!

She Will Survive

The unexpected staying power of Kylie Minogue
By Andre Mayer, CBCNews.ca
November 26, 2007

The challengers for the title of Queen of Pop are fervent but few. Céline Dion and Madonna have the strongest claims, given they’ve each sold in excess of 200 million albums. If ubiquity were the sole measure, I’d probably go with Beyoncé, who has an astonishing work ethic. Nelly Furtado has been surging of late, but I question her permanence.

Kylie Minogue’s name is rarely mentioned in such company, and it absolutely should be. The Australian-born singer has had a remarkable run, tallying no less than 29 Top 10 U.K. hits in a 20-year career. Her newest single, 2 Hearts, is a typical gem. Built on a swaggering glam-rock groove, it’s the potent leadoff to X, her 10th studio album.

You’d have little trouble arguing Minogue’s case for pop royalty in Britain, where she dominates the charts (as well as the tabloid press). She hasn’t been nearly as successful in the American market. I suspect it’s partly her Britishness, but also the uniqueness of her talent.

Let’s examine her competition. Beyoncé is a well-known double threat: she can sing and dance. Céline and Nelly can sing but can’t dance; Madonna and Britney can dance but can’t sing. Kylie… well, one could hardly say she’s got a gift for either. Her voice is genial in the lower ranges (her breathiness certainly enhances the effect); but it tends to become pinched, nasally, slightly ducky when she reaches for the high notes. Close watchers of her videos and performances will notice that she tends to downplay movement. It’s not that she’s stiff — Minogue is keenly aware of her wiles — but she’s nobody’s idea of a dancer.

Unequipped for Mariah-type outbursts, Minogue has put greater emphasis on actual songs. That’s no platitude — melody is a quality too often lacking in American pop, which has made a virtue of vocal excess. In fact, Minogue has made a virtue of consistency. Whether it’s mega-singles like On a Night Like This and Love at First Sight or her lesser-known album cuts, Minogue’s songbook is as strong as that of any current female pop star. For her new album, Minogue called on hot producers like Calvin Harris and Bloodshy & Avant, as well as her old songwriting partner, Cathy Dennis. From the shimmering In My Arms, to the sublime Stars to a freaky little romp called Nu-di-ty, X is another solidly tuneful collection; the fact that only two years ago Minogue had surgery for breast cancer makes it even more triumphant.

Given her early output, there was no reason to expect Minogue to last one decade, much less two. Her first release, The Loco-Motion, was a tacky dance-pop update of the 1962 hit by Little Eva. The 19-year-old Minogue sang it with winsome enthusiasm, but even in 1987, the thing seemed naff. Minogue spent her first half-decade under the stewardship of British hitmakers Stock Aitken & Waterman. She enjoyed chart success (I Should Be So Lucky, Especially for You, Better the Devil You Know), but by 1993 was finding SA&W’s style formulaic, if not restrictive.

Seeking to reinvent herself, Minogue co-wrote songs with an unlikely array of Commonwealth talent, from the Pet Shop Boys, to Saint Etienne to members of the rock band Manic Street Preachers. Like Madonna, Minogue was willing to stray from her comfort zone to keep things interesting. (Her most surprising collaborator was caustic Australian crooner Nick Cave, who was so taken by her 1990 hit Better the Devil You Know that he asked her to record the murder ballad Where the Wild Roses Grow in 1995.) After a spate of uneven material — including an awkward bash at guitar-based pop on the 1997 album Impossible Princess — Minogue found her métier. Starting with Light Years (2000) and culminating with Fever (2001), she produced a spate of hot singles in a style that could be best described as futuristic disco.

Then there’s her stage presence. Her shows mix elements of Broadway, burlesque and more general bombast; her flair for jaw-dropping spectacle exceeds even Madonna’s. Who could forget the 2002 Fever Tour, in which she emerged onstage in cybernetic armour? (Beyoncé stole this act at the 2007 BET Awards.) Or what about her performance at the 2002 British Music Awards, in which she hove into view lying on a giant compact disc?

Given Kylie’s highly sexualized persona, critics have good reason to believe she is more invested in style than substance. A member of the British band Lush once remarked, “It’s a shame she gets so much credibility when there are so many women worth a hundred times that. It’s war—you shouldn’t stick up for Kylie, she should be fought at every turn.”

Like most pop divas, Minogue has made a fetish of her image, but never at the expense of first-rate songs. She’s savvy in other ways, too. Shortly after the release of the single Can’t Get You Out of My Head in 2001, underground producers Soulwax remixed the tune with New Order’s throbbing 1982 hit Blue Monday. When it came time to perform the song at the Brit Awards in 2002, Minogue opted for the Soulwax version — Can’t Get Blue Monday Out of My Head — thus becoming the first pop star to legitimize mash-ups. (The Brit Awards appearance has been expunged from YouTube, but here’s Kylie having another go of it at the 2002 World Music Awards.)

Can’t Get You Out of My Head won her a new cohort of fans. The song was re-recorded by the Flaming Lips, sampled on Kid 606’s 2002 mash-up extravaganza The Action Packed Mentallist Brings You the F---ing Jams and has been covered live by everyone from Basement Jaxx to the Unicorns. Indeed, Kylie is one of the rare megastars to boast the unironic appreciation of the indie set; Madonna and Céline can only dream of that sort of reach. One can even hear echoes of Minogue’s future-disco in the work of artists like Goldfrapp and Róisín Murphy.

X isn’t risky enough to suggest a new direction — if anything, the album reveals Minogue’s own inspirations of late (most noticeably, the work of Gwen Stefani and Timbaland). But like every album she’s released in the last decade, X is a remarkably consistent collection, bound to galvanize dance floors the world over.

X is released by EMI Canada and is in stores now.

Andre Mayer writes about the arts for CBCNews.ca.

Ten indispensable Kylie tracks

Better the Devil You Know (1990): Although unabashedly upbeat, this single marked a shift in Minogue’s image, from jubilant teenybopper to provocateur.

Where the Wild Roses Grow (w/ Nick Cave) (1995): This dark, mournful collaboration with Nick Cave may be the biggest aberration in Minogue’s discography, but it’s also one of her finest recordings.

Cowboy Style (1998): The fiddles and Middle Eastern lilt sound weird at first, but the snaky melody brings it all into focus.

On a Night Like This (2000): An ecstatic club track, this is the starting point of Kylie’s current hit streak.

Spinning Around (2000): As dizzying as its name suggests.

Kids (w/ Robbie Williams) (2000): A smart-alecky duet with Robbie Williams, this song features an absolutely colossal chorus.

Can’t Get You Out of My Head (2001): Simply put, one of the finest disco songs ever recorded. And it’s damn sexy, too.

Love at First Sight (2002): Another indestructible dance-pop gem.

Slow (2003): A more restrained come-on, this robotic cut owes a debt to German synth pioneers Kraftwerk.

I Believe in You (2004): A throbbing, Giorgio Moroder-inspired disco joint co-written with Jake Shears of Scissor Sisters.

The new album, X, is very good. I was quite surprised. There is a big variation in sounds, themes and range and it keeps you engaged from beginning to end. The first single, 2 Hearts, didn't really catch me at first, but now I'm really starting to dig it! Yay for Kylie!

21 November 2007

Oh my god! He's insane!

I got a snicker out of this one. Can you say, 'obscure pop culture reference'?

I guess it could be applied to any artist from the 80s you still secretly have a crush on - but what would the general public do if they saw this sticker on your car? Either laugh at you or drive you off the highway, possibly? Unless they were Sheena Weenies too....

Ahh, good ol' eBay. A junk collector's nirvana.


Foundations of Canadian cities 'near collapse,' investment of $123B needed: report
Tue Nov 20, 5:59 PM

By Michael Oliveira, The Canadian Press

TORONTO - Canada's aging roads, bridges and water systems are on the verge of "collapse" and in need of a $123-billion investment, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities warned Tuesday as it urged Ottawa to devise a new strategy to stave off infrastructure disaster.

The federal government countered by saying it has the necessary strategy in place and that "the time for discussion is over."

Canada has used up 79 per cent of the service life of its roads, sewage systems and other vital components of the country's backbone, and municipalities simply can't afford to fix the problem on their own, said federation president Gord Steeves.

Without significant federal funding, infrastructure could begin to fall apart across the country, he said.

"If we don't act soon as a nation to tackle this deficit we will see more catastrophic failures," Steeves said.

The report states that the breakdown of municipal infrastructure has reached "the breaking point" and "much of our municipal infrastructure is past its service life and near collapse."

As the federation was releasing its report in Ottawa, the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario weighed in on the state of the province's bridges, warning $2 billion in repairs would be needed to ensure 40 per cent of the structures don't fall apart within the next five years.

Bridge safety became a serious public concern last October after five people died when a bridge collapsed in Laval, Que. Another 13 people lost their lives and 100 more were injured this past August when a highway bridge collapsed in Minnesota.

"We had a sense that (Ontario) bridges were generally deteriorating, we had a sense that municipalities were having more and more of a difficult time maintaining these structures, (but) what we got was an eye opener, I think it's a wake-up call," said Andy Manahan, the alliance's executive director.

"The report makes clear that inspections are not being enforced, that hundreds of these structures need rehabilitation, that there's no guarantee that our bridges are safe. So let's not wait for a disaster."

Steeves said the federal government must acknowledge that infrastructure is falling into disrepair nationwide and implement a national plan to fix it once and for all.

But federal Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities Lawrence Cannon said the federation is misleading the public in suggesting that he hasn't already acted.

A new $33-billion, seven-year "Building Canada" plan will help fund infrastructure renewal in big cities and small towns and will address some of the priorities the federation is focusing on, including roads, bridge rehabilitation and safe drinking water, he said.

The federation can continue to debate how much money is truly needed to address all the country's infrastructure problems but the government has a plan and is moving forward to implement it, he added.

"The time for discussion is over, there's $33 billion available, it's going to carry us over the next seven years and we're up and ready to fund (infrastructure projects)," Cannon said in an interview.

"The debate is not what's the amount, the debate should be around what we're doing."

Liberal cities and communities critic Paul Zed said the Conservative plan is woefully inadequate to deal with the overall problem, and that even the people it's designed to serve have no idea how or when they'll get access to the funding.

"People don't know what the Building Canada fund is that the Conservatives have proposed," Zed said.

"It's clear to me that the current government doesn't appreciate the importance of this."

During Question Period in the House of Commons, New Democrat Leader Jack Layton said years of Liberal negligence created the infrastructure deficit but the Conservatives aren't doing enough to deal with it.

Governments will never have enough money to promptly fix or replace every structure in their jurisdictions, so they need to do a better job of closely monitoring which ones pose the biggest safety risks and address them as needed, said Dr. Ghani Razaqpur, the chair of civil engineering at McMaster University.

"It is not sufficient to just say we should just spend more money - that is important, we need the money to fix these things - but I don't think we have enough money to fix all the bridges that we think are in bad shape," Razaqpur said.

"I think we have to prioritize how to do the ones that are in the most urgent need and then do the second tier and so on."

The study team sent questionnaires to 166 municipal governments and got responses from 85. It used these replies to arrive at the $123-billion price tag.

The estimated $123-billion infrastructure deficit is divided into several categories: water and wastewater systems ($31 billion), transportation ($21.7 billion), transit ($22.8 billion), solid-waste management ($7.7 billion) and community, recreational, cultural and social infrastructure ($40.2 billion).

Why have our governments managed to stay solvent all of these years? Because they don't fix anything! Building new stuff exclusively is a great way to stay in the black....and popular. Now we're in a heap of trouble with a groaning, stretched infrastructure that probably won't last another ten years without huge re-investment. The solution? USER PAY! USER PAY!

07 November 2007

Tightening of the noose

Things are starting to look very, very dire. Even the IEA is starting to chirp about the repercussions of unrestrained demand growth. And then the supply side has plateaued, the profits aren't there anymore, and all the cheap low-hanging fruit is history. This is going to affect our societies in major ways, many of which can't even be predicted yet. And all of this is going to start becoming very visible in the next few years, even to those that refuse to believe it's happening.

Rise in global energy demands 'alarming,' IAE says

In an unusually grim and direct warning, the International Energy Agency has predicted that the “alarming” rise in energy demand will speed up climate change, threaten global energy security and possibly create a supply crunch that will send already high prices soaring. The agency urged governments to embrace low-carbon economies to avert a genuine energy and climate crisis. “Vigorous, immediate and collective policy action by all governments is essential to move the world onto a more sustainable energy path,” said the IEA's annual World Energy Outlook, a 675-page report, released this morning in London and Paris. “There has been so far more talk than action in most countries.” In an interview before the report's release, Fatih Birol, 49, the IEA's chief economist and principal author of the WEO, called the report “the most pessimistic overview of the world [energy markets] we have ever portrayed.” He said the agency's climate and energy security fears are based on unprecedented demand growth, driven by the burgeoning Chinese and Indian economies, and governments' inability to curb energy use and the output of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas. “There was a lot of talk and a lot of targets, then peanuts happened,” he said.

The report barely mentions the Alberta oil sands, whose vast reserves are second only to Saudi Arabia's. The omission was no accident. In spite of their size, the IEA thinks the oil sands will amount to little more than a global rounding error as demand, now about 85 million barrels a day, rises to a predicted 116 million barrels by 2030. “By 2015, the oil sands should produce about three million barrels a day,” Birol said. “That will be only about 3 per cent of total oil production. The oil sands will not, unfortunately, change the game.” Birol admits the IEA underestimated China's and India's voracious appetite for oil and other forms of energy in previous reports. Driven by the two countries' energy demands, the IEA concludes that the world's overall energy needs will be “well over 50 per cent higher in 2030 than today.” Almost half of the demand growth will be driven by China and India. In the IEA's so-called reference scenario, which assumes governments will have underwhelming success in changing energy use patterns, combined oil imports of the two countries will climb from 5.4 million barrels a day in 2006 to 19.1 million in 2030. That's more than the combined imports of the US and Japan today. At existing trends, China will surpass the US to become the world's largest energy consumer after 2010. Oil demand for Chinese transportation use will quadruple between 2005 and 2030. The fleet of cars and trucks will rise sevenfold to 270 million vehicles. The Indian figures aren't far behind.

The rising demand for fossil fuels, including coal, the fuel that will see the biggest increase in use, will accelerate climate change, the IEA says. In its reference-case scenario, it predicts emissions will jump by an astounding 57% between 2005 and 2030, with China overtaking the US this year as the biggest emitter. Even in the more optimistic scenario, in which carbon reduction measures considered by governments today are put into force, emissions would rise by 27%. At the IEA's press conference in London this morning, executive director Nobuo Tanaka said “if governments don't change their policies, oil and gas imports, coal use and greenhouse gas emission are set to grow exponentially through 2030 … these trends could threaten energy security and accelerate climate change.” The IEA report concluded that: “Urgent action is needed if greenhouse gas concentrations are to be stabilized at a level that would prevent dangerous interference with the climate system.”
(Globe and Mail 071107)

Output points to peak in profits

Sagging crude output at the world's top oil companies is the latest indicator their profits may have peaked even as oil runs toward US$100 a barrel. Oil and gas production fell at all the largest publicly traded oil companies in the third quarter, as aging oilfields, production-sharing agreements and soaring costs and demand for drilling services took a toll on output. Profits at oil majors such as ExxonMobil and BP have also flattened or dropped despite the record oil prices. And their lower output will only push up international prices further as demand from the US and emerging economies outpaces new supply. "A lot of majors for years have been focused on returns and not about putting rigs to work," said Johnson Rice analyst Ken Carroll. "We're seeing the results." The big integrated oil companies reported third-quarter earnings that largely fell short of year-earlier levels due to much lower profits from gasoline production. Moreover, the companies' exploration and production businesses were not able to pick up the slack in the quarter, even with oil averaging about $75 a barrel in the quarter. Exxon, Royal Dutch/Shell, BP, Chevron, ENI and ConocoPhillips posted third-quarter output drops of between 2% and 11%.

Exxon, Chevron and ConocoPhillips all attributed parts of their production declines to countries changing the terms of production agreements or to contracts that gave host countries a larger share of oil produced at the higher prices. Venezuela, Nigeria and Canada have all made moves to harness a greater share of oil revenue. Rising costs were also an issue. According to a Cambridge Energy Research Associates study released in May, oil and gas production costs were up nearly 80% since 2000 on demand for steel, drilling rigs and other production materials. BP chief financial officer Byron Grote estimated third-quarter costs were up 10 per cent from the year-earlier quarter and the head of Chevron's exploration and production operations acknowledged the company had shelved some projects due to the higher costs. High demand for materials has also forced the delays of some projects, like Chevron's Tahiti prospect in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico. The companies also have to contend with the natural decline rates of oil projects. Shell attributed its 9% drop to field decline, a factor BP also said hurt its output.
(Calgary Herald 071107)

Exploration and extraction equipment is in general very old and in very short supply. The majors are hesitant to build new equipment to send out to remote risky ventures because the ROIs are just going to continue heading into the negative territory which is the antithesis of what corporations today are looking for. There may be oil left out there to plunder, but it's getting to the point where it's not worth it anymore unless the price continues to increase to levels that will kill economies.

06 November 2007

Dirty Filthy

Am I the only one that notices an inverse relationship between the amount of smoke we blow up our asses about our marvellous growth and progress, and the perception that we seem to be moving backwards faster and faster by the day?

Cheap coal comes at a price

Now that the price of coal is at a historic low relative to oil, there's no stopping consumers and producers alike from embracing Al Gore's nightmare. A ton of US coal is so cheap at about US$47 that European utilities will pay $50 to ship it across the Atlantic, according to Galbraith's, a 263-year-old London shipbroker. While oil and coal cost the same as recently as 1998, West Texas Intermediate crude is five times more expensive. Peabody Energy, Consol Energy and Arch Coal, the three biggest US coal companies, forecast the largest increase in exports in 20 years, degrading the call for a moratorium on coal plants by former US vp and this year's Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore. Coal use worldwide has grown 27% since 2002, three times faster than crude, said BP. US East Coast coal has risen 71%, while oil tripled on the New York Mercantile Exchange. "Coal is by far the cheapest fuel because there's no price on how much damage it causes," said John Holdren, a Harvard University professor of environmental science and director of the Woods Hole Research Center in Falmouth, MA. "Unless you get policies to put a price on carbon dioxide and other emissions, no other plants can compete." US coal prices are equal to $1.98 for each million British thermal units of energy, compared with $12.51 for fuel oil and $6.91 for natural gas, data compiled by Bloomberg show. A million British thermal units is the equivalent of eight gallons of gasoline. "There is a huge advantage with coal, and this will continue indefinitely," said Gianfilippo Mancini, the head of fuel purchasing for Enel, Italy's largest power company, which is spending $5.8-billion to convert oil-fed plants to run on coal. US coal exports to Europe for the first nine months of this year were 11.4 million tons, up 15% from the same period
in 2006, according to the US Energy Department.

But what is the environmental price of coal? It generates 41% of the world's man-made carbon dioxide emissions, blamed for the warming of the Earth's climate, Gulf of Mexico hurricanes and rising sea levels. And the rush to produce and use more coal continues. Pittsburgh-based Consol will open its largest metallurgical coal mine by Jan. 1, with as much as five million tons of annual production available to overseas buyers. More than 1,000 coal-fed power plants will be built in the next five
years, mostly in China and India, according to the US Department of Energy. Meanwhile, new cleaner-burning technologies for coal, such as one that converts the fuel to a synthetic gas, have been delayed or rejected as too costly. However, there are some cracks appearing in the coal success story - financing new North American coal plants may become more difficult as environmental groups step up efforts against lenders including Citigroup and Bank of America. But the bigger environmental
battle is overseas where US coal exports have increased 37% this year and will continue to climb because of record global demand and a weaker dollar.
(National Post 071106)

02 November 2007

The World is surely at an End

Loonie high on fed cut

The Canadian dollar stormed through its August, 1957 peak of US$1.0614 yesterday to post a record high for the modern age as a cut in US interest rates prompted the slump in the greenback to dramatically accelerate. While the loonie got a lift from a scorching rally in Toronto stocks and a record high in oil prices, the slump in the greenback gave the Canadian currency additional jet fuel. It soared 93¢ to close at $1.0585 before hitting US$1.0617 after 4pm. That was the highest since the Bank of Canada began keeping records in 1950, while historical graphs show it has not been this lofty since the late 1870s. The US dollar also slumped to a record low against the euro of $1.4504, and to 76.465 on the dollar index, a basket of major currencies, amid signs it is now in free fall. "They're [the Fed] putting chum in the water for the sharks to eat the US dollar alive," said Andrew Busch, global foreign-exchange strategist at BMO Capital Markets. Of particular concern to traders was that the greenback failed to gain purchase despite a more hawkish statement than expected on interest rates from the Federal Reserve and data showing the economy expanded at a 3.9% pace in the third quarter. Although the Fed did cut rates 25 basis points to 4.5% yesterday, it gave investors no indication a still-creaking housing market would induce it to ease further and in fact played up the inflationary risks. "There's profoundly bearish sentiment out there that is going to take quite a bit to turn around," said Shaun Osborne, chief currency strategist at TD Securities. "I think there is risk here we continue to see the dollar running lower and maybe [see] even an acceleration in the trend here unless we see a firm statement of support from the US."

In its statement, the Fed said readings on core inflation have improved modestly this year, but recent increases in energy and commodity prices, among other factors, may put renewed upward pressure on inflation. "In this context, the committee judges that some inflation risks remain, and it will continue to monitor inflation developments carefully," the Fed said. It added the upside risks to inflation were now roughly balanced with the downside risk to growth. The statement effectively puts the Fed back in neutral after slashing rates 50 basis points in September to fend off contagion from the summer credit market meltdown. "Essentially, the impact of their statement was to say that ... they do not believe the deterioration in housing and poor credit market conditions will lead to a recession," said Hugh Johnson, chairman of Johnson Illington Advisors. "They also seem to imply they're not going to allow the financial markets to bully them ... they will make their future interest rate decisions on the basis of incoming economic and inflation numbers."
(National Post 071101)

Can anyone believe this? The dollar was over $1.07US at one point today. What the hell is going on? Aighhh!

Get used to US$100 oil, OPEC warns

Several leading oil experts, gathered in London yesterday for an annual energy conference, sketched a near-term future in which mounting global demand and shrinking supplies push oil prices well past the US$100-a-barrel mark. Consuming countries, they argued, will simply have to deal with the fact that new pockets of oil are getting far harder and more expense to tap. That, combined with years of underinvestment by the industry, has led to a tapering off of new oil supplies that will continue for years, despite rising energy demand in Asia, the Middle East and some industrialized countries. Yet on a day when US benchmark oil prices retreated from Monday's record high, closing down US$3.15 a barrel, or 3.4%, to $90.38 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, two OPEC ministers at the same gathering insisted that the immediate problem is not too little oil. Prices have jumped nearly 40% since early this summer, the oil ministers of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates said, because of the slumping dollar, widespread Wall Street speculation and bottlenecks in the refining process. "Please don't blame us" for record oil prices, said Abdullah al-Attiyah, Qatar's minister of oil, expressing a sentiment that is widely held among major oil-producing countries. "You have blamed us for 50 years."

The debate over what is driving the current surge in oil prices is sure to get more spirited if prices continue to soar and oil executives, consumers and politicians seek to assign blame. But the feuding theories at this year's Oil & Money conference also show how hard it is to pinpoint a cause. Sadad Al-Husseini, an oil consultant and former executive at Aramco, Saudi Arabia's huge national oil company, gave a particularly chilling assessment of the world's oil outlook. The major oil-producing nations, he said, are inflating their oil reserves by as much as 300 billion barrels. These amount to hypothetical reserves that are "not delineated, not accessible and not available for production." A lot of production in the Middle East is from mature reservoirs, and the giant fields of the Persian Gulf region, he said, are 41% depleted. Global oil and gas capacity is constrained by mature reservoirs and is facing a "15-year production plateau," Husseini said. He predicted that supply shortages will continue to add $12 to the price of oil for every million barrels a day in additional demand. Global demand, now at some 85 million barrels a day, was on average 10 million barrels a day lower in 1999.

Nobuo Tanaka, the new executive director of the Paris-based International Energy Agency, which is funded by the world's leading industrialized consumer nations, said he sees little likelihood that the world's spare capacity for oil production will increase notably in the near future, partly because so many oil-rich countries continue to shun outside investors. IEA analysts insist that a sufficient resource base exists to supply demand through 2030, but Tanaka said he isn't confident there will be enough investment, skilled workers and technology to actually get to that oil "in a timely manner." Andrew Gould, the chairman and ceo of Schlumberger, the huge oil-services company, expressed similar concerns, noting that 70% of the oil fields that now quench world demand are more than 30 years old. The growth in global demand since 2003, he said, has been roughly the equivalent of the daily output from two of the world's larger suppliers: the North Sea and Mexico. "Our industry simply cannot cope with these kinds of increases," Gould told the assembly. OPEC countries now supply about 40% of world production. But that slice is expected to grow in coming years as output decreases in non-OPEC countries such as Mexico and Russia. Saudi Arabia, the world's largest single supplier, is looking to increase production
substantially into the next decade.

But with oil prices now flirting with $100 a barrel, OPEC officials have been aggressive in batting aside talk that they are to blame. "The market is increasingly driven by forces beyond OPEC's control, by geopolitical events and the growing influence of financial investors," said Mohammed bin Dhaen al-Hamli, the United Arab Emirates' oil minister, who also serves as OPEC's president. Hamli noted that prices are still "far below" the all-time inflation-adjusted high of $101 a barrel, set in the spring of 1980 after the 1979 Iranian revolution shocked oil markets. His Qatari counterpart, al Attiyah, pointed out that gold prices have been also skyrocketing. "Why are people concentrating on oil and closing their eyes on gold?" he asked, adding later that he is "fed up" with people blaming OPEC for fluctuations in oil prices. Both ministers said the cartel will not formally consider whether to increase supplies to the world market during a heads-of-state meeting in Saudi Arabia next month. The group agreed last month to add about 500,000 barrels a day to world production, effective Nov. 1.
(Globe and Mail 071031)

24 October 2007

Well, that's the stupidest thing I've ever heard....

Humans hard-wired for optimism, study finds
Last Updated: Wednesday, October 24, 2007 | 4:36 PM ET
CBC News
Humans are hard-wired for optimism and think good things will happen to them in the future despite no evidence to support such expectations, according to a study by U.S. and British researchers.

People expect to live longer and be healthier than average, underestimate their likelihood of getting a divorce and overestimate their prospects of career success, psychologists and neurologists from New York University and University College in London wrote in the latest issue of the periodical Nature.

The optimism is wired into the brain, they wrote, which recalls past events in an effort to imagine the future. Certain portions of the brain — the amygdala and the rostral anterior cingulate cortex — showed increased activity in test subjects who had been asked to imagine future events.

The researchers used magnetic resonance imaging to monitor subjects while they thought of future possible events, such as winning an award or the end of a relationship.

"When participants imagined positive future events relative to negative ones, enhanced activation was detected in the rostral anterior cingulate and amygdala, which are the same brain areas that seem to malfunction in depression," said lead author Tali Sharot, now a post-doctoral fellow at University College London.

More optimistic participants showed greater activity in the rostral anterior cingulate region when imagining future positive events, Sharot said.

The researchers found test subjects usually expected positive events to happen sooner than negative events, and generally imagined them with greater vividness.

"Our behavioural results suggest that while the past is constrained, the future is open to interpretation, allowing people to distance themselves from possible negative events and move closer toward positive ones," NYU professor Elizabeth Phelps said in a release.

"Understanding optimism is critical as optimism has been related to physical and mental health. On the other hand, a pessimistic view is correlated with severity of depression symptoms."

21 October 2007

17 October 2007

Talk of $100 oil -- again?

Column - The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries says the recent meteoric rise in oil prices has everything to do with market speculation while those supposedly doing the speculating are firm in their belief that the rise in prices is supported by supply-and-demand fundamentals. Either way, oil closed at US$87.61 per barrel Tuesday after going as high as $88.20; that is up more than 10% in the last week. Tuesday's close brought it closer to the inflation-adjusted record high of $90.46 reached in 1980. Many people have been calling for $100 a barrel for the better part of the last 12 months -- it could very well be that this milestone will be reached in the coming weeks, well before the end of the year.

But does $100 a barrel oil make sense? One way to look at it is by looking at the current state of affairs from the perspective of an oil producer. Between oil prices being high and the US dollar low, oil producers want to sell as much as they have into current market conditions in order to get the highest price and maintain purchasing power parity. This situation causes the inventory numbers to fall, because no one wants to hold the oil if they have the opportunity to unload at a higher price. It's a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Is the situation sustainable? That depends on whether one buys into whether the sabre-rattling going on between Turkey and Iraq -- more specifically, Kurdistan -- materializes into something bigger and knocks out supply. The way the market has been behaving these last few days suggests it is anticipating a worst-case scenario. But the reality is there isn't much production from that part of the world and its impact on the oil price wouldn't be significant if something were to occur. Looked at another way, what this illustrates is the lack of spare capacity in oil producing nations. Making things more complicated is the fact that the non-OPEC suppliers are not delivering on their forecasted production increases. That's another reason why oil prices are so skittish. Then of course there is demand, which is pushing prices upwards as consumption in both China and India continue to rage. Most analysts expect prices will soften below the $80 mark, which is believed to be a more sustainable price range given current fundamentals. Still, it's unlikely the kind of price spike that has been seen in the oil markets of late won't be the last for 2007; there's no getting away from the basic facts that consumption is rising and supply is not and this isn't about to change any time soon.

Oil at $100? Don't bet against it.
(Calgary Herald 071017)

Okay, so who's telling the truth? Is the high price due to market jitters or is there truly a supply/demand squeeze that is creating a natural price increase? And if the latter, what would one expect for the winter season when fuel demands go up further?

Are events unfolding in such a way as to support the near-peak or the far-peak forecasts? If we define oil narrowly, then Deffeyes's forecast for a peak in 2005 may already be confirmed. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), a division of the US Department of Energy, the monthly average for daily world production rates for crude oil achieved 74.2 Mb/d in May 2005; that figure has not been equaled since. The last month for which totals have been published is April 2007, which saw average daily production of about 73.4 Mb/d.

This by itself is an extraordinarily suggestive piece of information: the past two years have seen sustained high prices for oil, a situation that should provide a powerful incentive to increase production wherever possible. However, evidence presented below suggests that, on the whole, ramping up production may not be possible.

If oil is defined more loosely, the situation is similar, though the decline is less severe. Production rates for "all liquids" (a category that includes natural gas liquids and condensates, synthetic oil from tar sands, refinery gains, and biofuels) have been more or less static during the same period: according to the EIA, the twelve-month monthly average for daily production of "all liquids" reached a peak in
February 2006 at 84.578 Mb/d; for April 2007, the equivalent figure was 84.474 Mb/d, indicating essentially flat production rates for the past 14 months.

Production problems or actual production declines are being reported in all of the nations that produce 3 Mb/d or more (production figures are the averages for 2006):

1. Russia (9,247,000 b/d): forecast for future production is worsening; exports are declining
2. Saudi Arabia (9,152,000 b/d): production has been declining for over a year; the reasons for this are disputed
3. United States (5,136,000 b/d): production is in long-term decline
4. Iran (4,028,000 b/d): production is currently declining, apparently as a result of lack of investment in production infrastructure
5. China (3,686,000 b/d): production in the nation's largest oilfield (Daqing) is declining
6. Mexico (3,256,000 b/d): production in the nation's largest oilfield (Cantarell) is declining at a double-digit annual percentage rate
7. North Sea (Great Britain, Norway, and Denmark, collectively producing 4,343,000 b/d): production is declining rapidly; Britain is or will soon be a net oil importer.

Meanwhile, the most obvious confirmation of problems with the global oil supply is the fact that prices have soared from $12 a barrel in 1998 to over $80 today.

Can that be attributed to speculation spooks alone?


It's a murder

We can still see the power of natural instincts and processes at work even in a large urban center. Everyday, at almost the same time every day in the morning and evening, a huge murder of crows flies from southeast to northwest directly over our building. Hundreds of crows will fly around our building, some landing on top en route to their next destination. Presumably they are heading somewhere to nest in the evening and heading out to forage in the morning. It is quite the spectacle to see and hear as the sound of hundreds of flapping wings whiz by our patio door windows. I usually see the evening crew coming across the Beltline from the St. Mary's Cathedral roof, where they seem to collect before continuing north...I'm not sure if that's where they start, although it is close to the Elbow River. Maybe they are coming back from the SE landfills? It also appears that as the sun sets earlier every evening, so does the beginning of their trip. Monday night when I saw them, it was around 6:30pm. This morning, they were moving out at 6:30am, so normally they are out and about before I get a first glimpse out the window.

08 October 2007


Congressman: Dollar Could Collapse To Absolute Zero
Presidential candidate Ron Paul warns of coming global economic depression
Paul Joseph Watson
Prison Planet
Monday, October 8, 2007

Presidential candidate Ron Paul has made a dire prediction that the dollar could collapse to absolute zero - precipitating hyper inflation, soaring oil prices and a global economic depression if current policies are continued.

"Once they realize the American people have awakened to the con game that's been going on - I think those people running the banking and monetary system aren't going to be too happy," Paul told the Alex Jones Show on Friday.

The Texas Congressman forecasts that if current policies are prolonged, the dollar could crash all the way to nothing and be forced to start over.

"If Bush is foolish enough to start bombing Iran, that might precipitate such a crisis as oil going to $200 dollars a barrel and really dampening the enthusiasm of the whole dollar," said Paul.

"If they continue what they're doing, it's gonna go to zero, we're gonna have runaway inflation, all paper currencies eventually self-destruct and are ruined, and we're in uncharted waters right now - this is the first time in the history of man you've had no solid currencies around the world and this has been going on for 35 years."

Paul agreed that elitists would seize upon a global depression by posing as the saviors and offering more control, police state and big government as the solution.

"This was the whole thing that started in the last depression," said Paul, "Scare people to death instead of blaming the Federal Reserve for the depression and the financial bubble of the 20's, they said 'well capitalism failed, it was that stupid gold standard', therefore we have to have welfare and of course everything they did prolonged the depression."

Paul said his warnings about the impending collapse of the U.S. economy, which stretch back years, were helping his campaign gain credibility due to the unfolding crises in the market and the credit crunch.

"When the people understand how the Fed screws up the economy and causes all the bubbles and all the changes that have to come from that, I'm getting a lot more calls," said Paul.

The Congressman also discussed the continued success of his campaign and the establishment's attempts to stifle its importance.

The presidential candidate said the reason that the Democrats and Republicans are trying to speed up the primaries is because they don't like competition from third party and grass roots candidates and are trying to prevent them from gaining traction.

"The move right now is to try to close the primaries - do you think they're sincere when they say they want to have a big tent and invite new people in? They can invite a lot of new people in but they don't want constitutionalists evidently because they want to make it tough to vote in a Republican primary," said the Congressman.

"It confirms the fact that the control of this whole system has been one party so to speak, it's one group of people that control both parties and right now I think the people are getting disgusted with it and they're starting to wake up," he added.

The Congressman stated that the popularity of his campaign outstripped even his expectations and slammed the establishment networks for attempting to skew Paul as a fringe candidate.

"It doesn't discourage our supporters, it enrages them," said Paul, "They always claimed that there were just a few of us out there that cared and that they were bloggers manipulating the Internet - well you can't manipulate to the point where you get 35,000 new donors who average about $40 dollars a piece and raise $5 million dollars and outpace many of the other candidates."

Paul said the other candidates had initially tried to ignore his platform, before ridiculing it, to the point where they are now being forced to adopt constitutionalist rhetoric in order to compete with his burgeoning popularity.

Right Now

This Republican's got balls

Jerry Saunders, Mayor of San Diego.

03 October 2007

Running out of stuff...

Triple-digit oil prices to become norm as wells run dry, analyst says

Oil prices of at least US$100 a barrel are expected to become the norm as early as next year, as conventional supplies continue to decline and consumption in the developing world rises, CIBC chief economist Jeff Rubin said Tuesday. "We're in a world of triple-digit oil prices for the foreseeable future. Whether it's $100 or $140 a barrel ... is up to debate, but the bottom line is we're in the bottom of the ninth inning of the hydrocarbon age." Rubin said higher oil prices will spur technological innovations, as well as growth in nuclear power and biofuels. More of OPEC's production will go toward fuelling its energy needs. Despite Wall Street's obsession with oil consumption by China and India, oil use in Russia, Mexico and the OPEC nations outpaced the world's most populous country last year. By 2012, Canadian oilsands could become the single largest source of new oil supply for the United States as Mexico's supplies become depleted, Rubin said. Recent oilsands acquisitions by Royal Dutch Shell and Marathon Oil could be the "harbinger of things to come." Six of the largest oil suppliers to the US are poised to cut their global exports by nearly two million barrels a day by 2012, Rubin said. The projected cut - amounting to 7% - by Mexico, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Algeria and Russia, "reflect the growing struggle in these countries to grow production and manage their own soaring rates of oil consumption." Canada's oilsands production is expected to increase to 2.3 million barrels a day by 2015, up from about 1.1 million barrels a day in 2005, according to the US Energy Information Administration. Rubin's remarks come as big oil companies, such as Exxon Mobil, continue to forecast plenty of fossil fuel for the world's needs to at least 2030.
(Edmonton Journal 071003)

Industry water use worries experts

Upgraders in the industrial heartland northeast of Edmonton could use as much as 104 billion litres of water annually, almost as much as all the people and industries in the Greater Edmonton area combined. The eight current and proposed upgraders have applied to the government for 92.2 billion litres, while licences for another 11.9 billion litres has already been granted, according to data released to the Journal by Alberta Environment. "We have no idea what the effects of all these allocations might be," said Bill Donahue, a water research scientist. "What I think is most alarming is that the province has never had any plan for development in Alberta and they continue to approve and promote very water-intensive industries. . . they have minimal understanding of their water supply. They have no understanding of the effects of climate change and what they're going to be on the water supplies." Alberta Environment said Monday it had "done the science" on the river and had limits in mind. It will launch a new program today that considers the combined environmental impact of industrial activity on air, land and water. Instead of evaluating proposed projects on their own, the new plan is to add all existing and proposed projects together to determine the combined effect on air and water quality, as well as wildlife living in an area. Alberta Environment said it has already done scientific studies to figure out what the targets for air, land and water quality should be in the industrial heartland. Discussions with industry about how those targets will be implemented will begin right away. The facilities will have to work together to limit air emissions to a regional cap, for example. How protective of the environment these new limits will be depends on how stringent they are, said Chris Severson-Baker, director of the Pembina Institute's energy watch program. "If (targets) are set at the wrong level, then it's going to give a permit to pollute," Severson-Baker said.
(Edmonton Journal, Calgary Herald 071002)

Bank injects $855M into financial markets

The Bank of Canada intervened in financial markets again yesterday, buying $855-million of securities to defend its target overnight interest rate. Since Thursday, Canada's central bank has intervened four times for a total of $3.815-billion. In such purchase and resale transactions, the Bank of Canada buys government bonds from major financial institutions with an agreement to sell them back at a predetermined price the next business day. The bank made the transactions to maintain its overnight loan target rate, which is 4.5%. The Bank of Canada and other central banks, including the US Federal Reserve, have been pumping money or “liquidity” into the global financial system to ease a credit squeeze related to the collapse of the US subprime mortgage market.
(Globe and Mail 071003)

Public wants oilpatch to pay more

An overwhelming number of Albertans - 88% - believe they are not getting their "fair share" from oil and gas royalties, and two-thirds want Premier Ed Stelmach to fully adopt the contents of a review panel report that has the oilpatch seething. Those are results of a poll commissioned by the Calgary Herald and Edmonton Journal, which also shows, despite dire warnings from the energy industry, a majority of Albertans believe oil and gas companies won't flee the province if the government hikes royalties. Industry fiercely opposes implementing the panel's full report and warns that the province could miss out on billions of energy investment dollars - though proponents note Alberta's adjusted royalty scheme would still be in the middle of the pack internationally. The poll indicates there's a significant appetite for change. Of the 88% of Albertans who believe they are not getting their fair share from oil and gas royalties, 51% "strongly agree" with that sentiment while only 4% "strongly disagree." While the review panel's recommendations are ruffling industry's feathers, 67% of the poll's respondents agree with panel chairman Bill Hunter, who said the government should adopt the report in its entirety. Respondents were also asked whether royalties should be increased, decreased or kept the same for each of natural gas, conventional oil and the oilsands. On natural gas, 44% called for an increase in royalties. On conventional oil, 48% support a hike. But on oilsands - Canada's marquee energy play and the future of oil development in Alberta - 55% of respondents said there should be higher royalties. Interestingly, 56% of respondents believe any royalty increase should apply to both new and existing projects, instead of "grandfathering" the old rules for projects already in place.

Alberta Auditor General Fred Dunn said Tuesday that royalty rates should be increased to even higher levels than the review panel recommends. His report, released Monday said the energy department has determined a royalty rate of about 66% would keep the province competitive with other jurisdictions. Even if the government decided to take a bit more than that - in the 70% range - it would still be fair, he said. "What is the risk that the industry sees which would therefore justify the owners - Albertans - selling the resource for less than other jurisdictions?" Dunn said. Meanwhile, Canada's oil and gas lobby moved into high gear Tuesday in its battle against proposed royalty increases. "Changing the current balance would involve trade-offs," Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers president Pierre Alvarez told a Calgary Chamber of Commerce luncheon. "The panel low-balled costs faced by industry by billions of dollars and shrank the revenues paid to government by industry, again by billions of dollars. When you stick to and consider all of the facts, it is clear that the picture does not reflect our current reality." Citing numerous analyses - many from investment bankers and brokerages that serve the industry - that have reached the same conclusion, Alvarez cited industry cost estimates used by the panel and described them as outdated and far too low. Alvarez's speech came the same day that Crescent Point Energy Trust said it will devote all of its preliminary $150-million 2008 capital budget to projects in Saskatchewan due to what it called the "uncertainty" created by the report's recommendations. "Some companies have choices where they can spend their dollars and it will happen," said ceo Scott Saxberg. About 80% of the trust's production is based in Saskatchewan, but he said the company could have spent between $50M and $100M on capital projects in Alberta. "We're deferring that," Saxberg said. "Those projects become less economic compared to our projects in Saskatchewan."

Meanwhile, total supply costs of oilsands ventures in Alberta have increased 23 to 86% over the past 12 months depending on the nature of the projects, the Canadian Energy Research Institute said Tuesday - throwing more fuel onto the heated royalty debate. "Costs at the plant gate are about $35 to $37 per barrel of bitumen, with another $27 or so for upgrading to synthetic crude oil (SCO)," said the report. The report also incorporated costs to be incurred by oilsands producers for dealing with greenhouse gas emissions. It did not factor in an increase in supply costs, if the panel's recommendations are accepted by the government. Derek Butter, head of corporate analysis with Wood Mackenzie, said on Tuesday internal rate of returns will be a contentious issue irrespective of what might be the final outcome of recommendations from the provincial royalty review. However, rising costs in Alberta are not likely to get in the way of the province increasing its bitumen production significantly.
(Calgary Herald, Globe and Mail, National Post 071003)

26 September 2007

Shock Doctrine

Naomi Klein has a new book out that looks really interesting, Shock Doctrine – the Rise of Disaster Capitalism. “The Shock Doctrine is the story of the secret history of the free market over the past 30 years. Spanning Thatcher’s Britain, ‘shock and awe’ Iraq, Pinochet’s Chilie, Sri Lanka after the Tsunami, ‘End of History’ Russia, and New Orleans in the wake of Katrina, Its’ analysis and narrative are orientating and inspiring and adventurous. It is naming and explaining one of the key ideas behind processes which many in this country and beyond have been witnessing, subjected to and resisting over the years.”

Alfonso Cuaran, who directed Y Tu Mama Tambien and Children of Men has made a short 5 minute film that illustrates some of the themes of the book, and I am posting it here. And the Guardian has published a few chapter of the book already that you can read here and there’s a general website for the book here.

25 September 2007

Protect What's Ours

Supporting 'Our Fair Share:' Stelmach's opportunity to think like an owner
Oilsands companies walking away with some of the highest profits being earned by resource investors anywhere
Amy Taylor and Marlo Raynolds, Freelance
Published: Monday, September 24 Edmonton Journal

The Alberta Royalty Review Panel has issued its report and its conclusion is clear: Albertans are losing $2 billion every year because we charge embarrassingly low royalties for the right to develop our resources.

That's especially true when it comes to the Alberta oilsands, the second largest petroleum reserve on the planet.

Now it's time for Premier Ed Stelmach to take charge and start fixing the problem. As a first step, he should accept and implement the entire "Our Fair Share" package of recommendations put forth by the Royalty Review Panel. These explain how Albertans, as resource owners, can earn their rightful share of the profits from conventional oil and gas and oilsands development.

We're not talking about leading-edge policy or risky measures here. The panel's proposals are certainly comprehensive, but they will only make Alberta an average performer when it comes to royalties. Places like Norway will continue to capture much more revenue for their citizens.

Nevertheless, in Alberta, improving performance from worst-in-class to average is a big deal, worth about $500 dollars per Albertan per year.

It means that for each day the Stelmach government hesitates over the panel's report, Albertans give up $5 million dollars. The longer we wait, the more we lose.

It also means that if Alberta had implemented these reforms in 2000, the province would be $11 billion richer. If we'd started saving and earning interest on those dollars as soon as they came in, we'd be $18 billion dollars richer. Eighteen billion dollars is four times as much as the budget surpluses projected for the next three years. It's also more than the value of the Heritage Savings Trust Fund.

Albertans deserve every chance to profit from the highly-demanded resources we own, so we can save, invest and plan for the future.

Nowhere is this truer than in the context of the oilsands, where the industry has more than come of age. As conventional reserves dwindle, Albertans are going to rely increasingly on oilsands revenues for long-term investments, but they won't be able to if today's regime stands.

That's because current royalty rates date back to desperate times when Alberta's priority was providing extra incentives for oil companies to invest in an uncertain resource at oil prices less than $20 a barrel.

No one was thinking about how to capture windfall profits if oil prices climbed higher than $30, $50, $70, or as it stands now, $80 dollars a barrel.

A study published by Alberta Energy showed that this leaves oilsands companies walking away with some of the highest profits being earned by resource investors anywhere in the world. At the same time, they enjoy the oilsands' low exploration costs, low risk, predictable long-term production, close proximity to the U.S. market and location in a stable, democratic region.

Thus, as one member of Alberta's Royalty Review Panel (a former executive in the oil industry) put it rather candidly, industry should stop whining. Especially when much of what industry complains about -- increasing costs and labour shortages -- is the direct result of an overheated resource economy.

If anything, low royalties deserve some blame for having fuelled an unsustainable pace of development (kind of like giving Viagra to the already capable).

But beyond that, the whole debate about inflation and costs is a red herring. The decision on royalties is a decision about property rights.

Remember, as owners, Albertans deserve to get a fair share of profits available from resource development.

The Review Panel has clearly demonstrated that this isn't happening, because once developers start making profits, they get to walk away with 75 per cent of the money -- even when revenues soar as a result of windfall resource prices.

The "Our Fair Share" package of recommendations is a good first step in redressing this balance, by increasing Albertans' overall take, maintaining competitive returns for companies, and ensuring that Albertans' share rises when oil prices go up.

By supporting the entire package, Premier Stelmach has a defining leadership opportunity to, as Peter Lougheed says, "think like an owner" on behalf of Albertans and start building the economy of the future.

So far, the premier has been quoted as saying that he "will not be intimidated" by big oil. We should all hope that's true. Because if he chooses the path of leadership and fairness, Alberta will be better off to the tune $2 billion more each year.

Marlo Raynolds is executive director, and Amy Taylor is chief economist at the Pembina Institute. Publications on economic rent and royalty reform are available from www.pembina.org.

That's because current royalty rates date back to desperate times when Alberta's priority was providing extra incentives for oil companies to invest in an uncertain resource at oil prices less than $20 a barrel.

No one was thinking about how to capture windfall profits if oil prices climbed higher than $30, $50, $70, or as it stands now, $80 dollars a barrel.

Why does this not surprise me? Freaking idiots thinking that fuel would stay cheap forever? Man, there is absolutely no long-term planning done anymore. We've known petroleum is a FINITE resource since they discovered it two centuries ago. Even economics would say the price would eventually go up. Why was this a fact not known by the people who set up the royalty programs? Oh right -- they're politicians.

21 September 2007



With a sold out Homecoming tour, a hugely successful perfume launch, a touring exhibition and celebrations to mark the 20th anniversary since the release of her debut hit 'Locomotion', 2007 has been a great year for Kylie fans. And it's just about to get even better...

Kylie releases her fantastic new single "2 Hearts" on November 12th, preceded by the digital release on November 5th.

"2 Hearts" was written and produced by London based electro band Kish Mauve and finds Kylie sounding better than ever. Speaking about the track, Kylie said: "I loved it from the moment I heard it. It was a joy to record!"

The single is the first taster from Kylie's eagerly-awaited new album 'X' which hits stores on November 26th. The 13 track album, Kylie's first new studio album in four years, was recorded in London, Stockholm and Ibiza, and features the first new Kylie material since the greatest hits compilation 'Ultimate Kylie' in 2004.

'X' includes collaborations with the likes of Richard "Biff" Stannard, The Freemasons, Cutfather & Jonas Jeberg, Bloodshy & Avant, Calvin Harris, Greg Kurstin, Eg White, Guy Chambers and Cathy Dennis.

Here's the tracklist!

2 Hearts
Like A Drug
In My Arms
Heart Beat Rock
The One
No More Rain
All I See

20 September 2007

Green Snub

Environment put into deep freeze
Feds cut funding to department overseeing wildlife

By ALAN FINDLAY -- Sun Media
The Ottawa Sun

Environmentalists and opposition party critics are blasting a broad spending freeze quietly imposed on several Environment Canada programs just five months into the fiscal year.

"We're quite shocked," said Sandy Baumgartner, executive director of programs for the Canadian Wildlife Federation. "I'm not sure how you run out of money in September."


According to CBC reports, the federal department severely cut funding to programs monitoring ecosystems and migratory bird populations. It has eliminated the $1.9-million budget for the National Wildlife Areas program protecting significant habitats after running out of money. Several sources and outside agencies have since suggested that a spending freeze could be virtually across the departmental board.

An Environment Canada spokesman acknowledged in an e-mail that department programs are regularly reviewed to ensure "priority services and programs are adequately funded."

"The government has invested $9 billion on environmental priorities since 2006," stated Gregory Jack, director of ministerial services.

But Sierra Club of Canada's national campaigns director Jean Langlois said the government approach simply means abandoning its own species-at-risk law.

"The government is saying the environment is not a priority, period," said Langlois.

Ducks Unlimited met with senior officials at Environment Canada earlier this week to discuss the issue and were assured it was simply a temporary freeze.

"Their intent is to re-profile programs, and the end result is more money on the ground for conservation," said Ducks Unlimited's manager of conservation partnerships Pat Kehoe. "They've given us assurance this is a short-term pain and the government of Canada will be maintaining its lead role in waterfowl and wetlands conservation at the national level."


Liberal party environment critic David McGuinty called the reported cuts astonishing.

He said Environment Minister John Baird has spent too much time and money campaigning against the Kyoto Accord rather than focussing on his department's important programs.

"At a time we should be investing, they're cutting," said McGuinty.

I think it's obvious where the Conservative government's priorities lie, and they're much more in step with the US Bush Administration and Big Business than they are with the mandates of many of the other world's governments as well as the Canadian public.

No more Monopoly money jokes, eh?

Parity and beyond
How high will the loonie go?
Last Updated September 20, 2007
CBC News
Ever since the Canadian dollar bottomed out at 61.79 cents US on Jan. 21, 2002, it has been on a seemingly unstoppable charge higher.

Since then, the loonie's value has risen by 62 per cent, driven by surging commodity prices, a healthy economy and rising interest rates.

Then, on Sept. 20, 2007, the dollar finally hit a level that seemed most unlikely just a year earlier — parity with the U.S. greenback for the first time in almost 31 years.

The question now being asked is how high the Canuck buck will go.

Canadians may not remember that the loonie was actually worth more than the U.S. greenback for much of 1972, 1974 and 1976 (see chart above). On April 25, 1974, the Canadian dollar went as high as $1.0443 US.

Going back even further, the loonie was worth more than $1.06 US in August 1957.

Most analysts are not expecting it to head to those lofty levels again. But some are.

Beyond parity?
Dennis Gartman, who writes an influential market newsletter, thinks $1.05 US is possible.

"Our clients know us as very long-term bulls on the Canadian dollar, having said for many years that the U.S. dollar and the Canadian dollar are heading eventually toward parity," he wrote on Sept. 11.

"Far beyond parity is entirely possible."

Some of the reasons for the Canadian dollar's strength have been around for years. Commodity prices have been soaring in the last few years. Oil, copper, gold, wheat — you name the resource and Canada seems to produce and export it in abundance.

The loonie is also drawing strength from the comparative strength of the Canadian economy. Canada has healthy budget and trade surpluses; the U.S. runs big deficits in both. The Canadian economy is still generating jobs, while the American economy is shedding workers.

The Canadian housing picture is also much healthier, with little evidence of the subprime meltdown that's shaken the U.S.

The weakness south of the border has the U.S. Federal Reserve slashing interest rates, while the Bank of Canada may soon be raising rates to rein in inflationary pressures.

That divergence has been noticed by currency traders. The futures markets show that speculators are increasingly betting that the Canadian dollar will extend its gains.

The U.S. dollar, on the other hand, has been limping through historic weakness. It's now at an all-time low against the euro.

The implications of parity
On an exchange rate basis, that U.S. vacation is now 60 per cent cheaper than it was back in 2002. We can also expect to see even more Canadian licence plates in the parking lots of U.S. shopping malls near the Canadian border.

Investors who have U.S. stocks will have noticed that the loonie's rise has wiped out the gains they would have otherwise enjoyed. As of Sept. 20, 2007, the Dow Jones industrial average is up 10.6 per cent since the start of the year. But the loonie is up 15 per cent against the U.S. dollar over the same time period. That translates into a bottom line loss for Canadian investors.

It's cheaper to import goods from the U.S. than it has been for a generation. Those who export to the U.S., on the other hand, are hurting even more.

The Canadian Labour Congress cites the high dollar as the main reason for the loss of 250,000 manufacturing jobs since 2002.

But there is no chance that the government would order the Bank of Canada to take measures that would drive down the value of the dollar. The central bank doesn't take orders from the Prime Minister's Office. As Liberal finance critic John McCallum put it: "Once you've got a floating exchange rate, you've got to let it float."

Canada's top banker isn't about to depart from the floating exchange rate that Canada and the United States have had for the past 37 years. In a speech in early May, David Dodge acknowledged "our floating dollar has appreciated sharply and thus, has forced some necessary adjustments."

But he maintained that "a flexible exchange rate regime has definitely helped Canada to maintain production close to full capacity and to minimize the effects of the boom-bust cycles in various sectors."

So look for the loonie to stay high and perhaps go higher still - a floating journey with implications far beyond the currency trading desks.

For one thing, a dollar on par with the greenback makes it easy to compare prices of the same goods in Canada and the U.S. That comparison is even easier with the internet.

Will Canadians tolerate paying $22 for a book that costs $17.50 in the U.S.? How about paying $399 for an iPod that costs $349 in the States? How about shelling out $10,000 more for a luxury European car than the Americans do?

The pressures to reprice may just be beginning.

14 September 2007

To America, Love China

China outsells Canada in US

China has firmly eclipsed Canada as the No. 1 seller of goods to the US, a shift in trade that reflects the Asian consumer goods juggernaut's ever deeper penetration of the US market. It also signals that Canada's much-vaunted special trading relationship with Washington is growing a little less so, a development that experts say should hasten Ottawa's efforts to open up new markets. Canadian Chamber of Commerce president Perrin Beatty said Ottawa must also redouble effort on its relationship with Washington in order to keep borders open and dodge restrictions to bilateral trade. “You pay the greatest attention to people you do the most business with - and the extent to which we get eased out as a supplier to the United States by the Chinese, it has an impact on our relative standing” in Washington, Beatty said. China's shipments by value to the US have previously surpassed Canada on a monthly basis, but this summer marks the first time it did so over a 12-month period. China sold US$312.2-billion worth of merchandise to the US between Aug. 1, 2006, and July 31, 2007, while Canada shipped $305.6B, trade statistics show. “This really pounds home the point of just what kind of weight China now carries in the global economy,” said Douglas Porter, deputy chief economist of BMO Nesbitt Burns. “It's safe to say we have had a shift in positions now … I think China's position as the number one provider to the US economy is basically locked in now.” He said he doesn't believe controversy over tainted Chinese product will undercut China's new lead.

Canada and the US are still each other's biggest trading partner - and are expected to remain so for many years - because this country imports about four times as much in goods from the US as China does. The US shipped $237.5B to Canada over the same 12-month period from August 2006, to July 2007, while it only sold $59.7B to China. Trade lawyer Riyaz Dattu said Canada's second-place finish to China in merchandise goods shipments to the US doesn't tell the whole story because this country's lucrative service sectors - from financial services to engineering to telecom - is where Canadian export strength has been growing. “[This] does show that the Canadian manufacturing sector is not as competitive now - and hasn't been competitive for the last little while - but it means that Canadian businesses need to focus where we can make the biggest dent,” said Dattu with Osler Hoskin & Harcourt. There's a silver lining to this trade shift: Canada has become less dependant on the US market, with sales to the US dropping over the past seven years. As a share of Canadian exports, sales to the US have declined to 75% from an all-time high of around 85% back in 2000. “That's actually helped Canada's economy stay on the rails … in the last year even as the US economy has slowed markedly,” Porter said.
(Globe and Mail 070914)

All the more reason for Canadian industry to start pulling up stakes and more earnestly look for markets elsewhere before the American ship starts sinking and pulling us down with it. We're still far too dependent on the U.S. market for our general prosperity. Time to look at the emerging markets which will be the powerhouses of the future once the exhausted and overextended American market starts to tank. I personally think we're far too late to not be sucked down as well (we really should've been doing this 10-15 years ago), but later is better than never.

13 September 2007

Because the truth hurts

Recession? What recession? says Wall St.

The US may be a long way from recession but economists and policymakers probably wouldn't know the country was in one until it was well underway, argues a leading economist who himself puts the risk of such a downturn at 70%. David Rosenberg, chief North American economist at Merrill Lynch, who has long been forecasting the US housing market would crumble and pressure consumer spending, says the Wall Street consensus has missed all five recessions dating back to 1973, even on the eve of the downturn. "Since very few macro forecasters, if any, ever publish negative growth rates in their GDP spreadsheets, they end up missing the recession even when it is staring them in the face," Rosenberg said in a research note. The average growth forecast for the advancing year, just as a recession is unfolding, has been 2.6%. The actual growth has shrunk on average 0.6% in the past five recession years: in 1973-75, 1980, 1981-82, 1990-91, and 2001. Rosenberg adds policymakers hardly get it right either, including Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the US Federal Reserve who said in August 1990, just after the recession began in July, that "there was no evidence of deterioration in what was a very sluggish pattern." In Jan. 2001, Greenspan forecast growth of 1.7% for the first quarter. Data later showed it to have contracted 0.5% as a recession began in March.

A recession is traditionally defined as two successive quarters of contracting activity, though the National Bureau of Economic Research, widely recognized as the final arbiter of the US business cycle, defines it as "a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months." Thus it declared a recession in 2000-01 even though it was a start-stop affair, with growth contracting in the third quarter of 2000 and the first and third quarters of 2001, interspersed with quarters of growth. Of course, hindsight is not a luxury most economists have. While Wall Street and Bay Street are not normally in the business of flagging bad news - it rarely sells stocks - Peter Dungan, director of the Policy and Economic Analysis Program at the University of Toronto, says the Street's prowess may have been shaped more by the changing business cycle than any inbred optimistic bias. A more gentle cycle may have simply made forecasting more difficult. Indeed the US economy expanded for a record 10 years until the last recession in 2001 while Canada has not had two successive quarters of negative growth since the 1990-91 recession, though some economists figured the soaring loonie might ground it in the recent cycle. Rosenberg, who has no problem being a contrarian, says his recession checklist is flashing for the US economy. But Dungan says a recession is unlikely, mostly because there is nothing constraining the Fed from acting to stop it.
(National Post 070913)

...because the Fed can create money out of thin air now that it is fiat currency, legal tender in itself and not tied to any natural entity or process. Need a trillion dollars? No problem, just print it. Sure, each dollar is worth a whole lot less, but who cares? That doesn't show up as anything in the books so everything's a-ok. WHY DO WE CONTINUE TO LISTEN TO THE ECONOMISTS???? WHY????