27 May 2008

Woah, someone showed up late to the party

IEA probes fears that oil will run out
Inquiry will examine 'narrow margin' in 2012
Richard Wachman The Observer, Sunday May 25 2008

The International Energy Agency has ordered an inquiry into whether the world could run out of oil, The Observer has learnt. It will consider whether fears about global shortages are real.

Observers say that the IEA, which provides authoritative research to OECD countries, is concerned that the supply of oil could fail to keep up with demand driven by the fast-industrialising economies of China and India. The investigation comes at a time of mounting concern that the sky-high price of oil could derail the global economy and plunge the world into recession. Oil hit $135 a barrel last week, the highest price on record, forcing airlines to cut back on flights to save fuel and pushing up the cost of living around the globe.

Lawrence Eagles, head of oil markets research at the IEA, said the situation was complex but added: 'Our findings will form part of short- and long-term forecasts that we intend to publish in July and November. Up to now we have believed that supply can cope with demand. One caveat is that we don't know for certain whether estimates of reserves in countries such as Saudi Arabia are entirely accurate.'

John Waterlow, analyst at oil research consultancy Wood Mackenzie, said: 'Many oil-producing countries are closed, secretive societies where it can be difficult to pinpoint the level of provable reserves.'

Analysts disagree about cause of the jump in oil prices - some have blamed commodity speculators but others point to surging international demand from Asia and South America as factors that have pushed the price higher.

IEA researchers have warned that even if there is enough oil under the ground, which is probable, supply difficulties could emerge because national oil companies and Western multinationals have failed to invest sufficiently in the equipment and pipelines needed to extract oil and convey it to consumers.

The IEA is worried about an extremely narrow capacity margin by 2012, when demand is expected to have reached 95 million barrels a day. At that point spare capacity could be at just a million barrels a day - which may not be enough to make good any sudden interruption of supply from volatile countries such as Nigeria or Venezuela - or Iraq, which is now estimated to have overtaken Saudi Arabia as the largest holder of reserves.

16 May 2008

The Forgotten

Woman's dead body lies in flat for 35 years

ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) -- Governments have changed. War erupted and ended. Neighbors had children, and then grandchildren. But Hedviga Golik never left her tiny apartment in Croatia's capital -- until her mummified body was carried out this week, 35 years after she died.

Police said Friday that no one ever reported Golik missing and no one has come to claim her body.

Residents of her loft building in downtown Zagreb had broken into Golik's flat after deciding that the apartment should belong to them, and not to her. Startled by the remains in bed, they called police.

Forensics experts said Golik likely died in 1973, about the time a neighbor last saw her. Expert Davor Strinovic said she seemed to have died of natural causes, but "it's almost impossible to say for certain" after so much time.

Some of Golik's neighbors claimed she had talked about going abroad.

Experts said her windows had been open, likely diminishing the smell. It remained unclear who -- if anyone -- was paying her bills and who exactly owned the apartment. In the 1970s, when Golik died, apartments were state-owned.

Neighbors now argue the apartment should be divided among the remaining tenants.

The discovery of Golik's body on Tuesday prompted media debates on how it is possible for a woman to die so long ago without anyone noticing. One local journalist said it showed people were becoming more alienated.

"My dear neighbors! Please keep on being curious and a bit tiresome, as you have been so far," Merita Arslani wrote in the Jutarnji list daily.

I found this very sad. No one notices your disappearance...ever. How could one person become so forgotten? I wonder how this woman cut all her ties to the government, community and family to completely that no one noticed anything? It seems to be human nature to leave something -- anything -- of your existence on this planet to those behind you. As you get older, I think the opportunities for this for many people become more and more rare, why these stories of bodies being found months or years are almost always those of older people.

Of course, 35 years is a bit of an anomaly, and could probably only happen in a region of the world with lots of turmoil, post-Communist Eastern Europe in this case, where a lot of people and records of their existence undoubtedly fall through the cracks.

13 May 2008

Just Dance

I love this record but I can't keep my head straight anymore...

12 May 2008

Steep learning curve

The Sun visits Burnaby Velodrome ahead of its Maydays Track Challenge
Ian Walker, Vancouver Sun
Published: Saturday, May 10, 2008
Before there was NASCAR, there was velodrome track cycling.

Stop laughing.

Track racing was one of the most popular spectator sports at the turn of the 20th century. Crowds regularly packed indoor and outdoor stadiums to watch a blur of competitors zoom around in circles on banked tracks.

In its heyday, from 1890 to 1920, the best bike racers made more money than baseball stars of the same era.

Now cut out the snickering.

Auto racing overshadowed velodrome racing by the mid-1930s, as cycling fans flocked to stock-car racing.

By the time William France Sr. founded NASCAR in 1948, many of the hundreds of bicycle racing tracks in North America were torn down or left in disrepair.

Not too much has changed since. There are now fewer than 30 velodromes on this side of the ocean, with Vancouver home to just one of three indoor track racing facilities on the continent.

And just barely. It was only five years ago that the City of Burnaby saved the historic track from being sold for firewood.

"For a while there it was pretty much year to year whether we'd still be here," says Jeff Ain, an instructor with the Burnaby Velodrome Club's Learn to Ride program.

"At least now, our existence is a bit more stable. Our numbers are growing; it's just a matter of awareness."

For the uninitiated, the Burnaby Velodrome is a giant wood salad bowl housed in a mini BC Place -- complete with concrete foundation, bubble dome and echo -- just off Barnett Highway.

Once through the airlock entrance, the steady hum of rubber tires on wood is the only evidence anyone is in the building.

It's probably for the best that walls block the view of the 200-metre track. The oval's 47-degree banked corners have been known to buckle the knees of even the most steely-nerved street racers upon first glimpse.

"It can be pretty intimidating, especially in the corners," says Glenn Barr, a BVC board member and organizer of this weekend's Maydays Track Challenge.

"We see a lot of jaws drop as people walk under the track into the infield and see it for the first time."

The equipment isn't any less comforting -- or comfortable, for that matter. Track bikes consist of a frame, two wheels, pedals, a crank, handlebars, a rather small seat and nothing else.

That's it. No mirror, no brakes, no little bell to warn others ... oh yeah, and no coasting.

The rear gear is fixed to the rear wheel, so when the wheels are moving the crank is moving. Riders slow down by easing up on their pedalling and applying back-pressure to the pedals like in spinning classes at the gym.

The key to staying upright is to pedal at a steady clip and let the laws of physics take care of the rest.

Something called superelevation allows riders to keep their bikes relatively perpendicular to the surface while riding at speed.

When travelling through the turns at racing speed, the banking attempts to match the natural lean of a bicycle moving through that curve.

Therefore, the centripetal acceleration of the combined inertia of bicycle and rider moving in the curved path balances the tangential acceleration pulling them outwards.

In other words: "As long as you're going 30 km/h you'll be all right and won't slide off the track," promises Ain, who has beginners follow closely behind him in order to build up their confidence as they make their way up the banks.

"This weekend, guys will reach in excess of 70 km/h in some events."

The Maydays Track Challenge runs through Sunday and serves to kick off the summer season. The annual event will showcase some of the best racing talent from across the country and will serve as a prelude to the 2008 Canadian Track Championships in August.

In Keirin races, all the riders on the track jockey for position behind an electric bike before sprinting madly to the line on the last lap. The Madison -- named after Madison Square Garden in New York -- is considered to be the ultimate event in bicycle track racing because of its incredible combined demands of speed, endurance, teamwork and tactics.

"Track cycling is the most exciting type of racing to watch as a spectator," says Barr. "Everything unfolds right in front of you."

Not to mention, you don't leave smelling like gasoline.



- The Burnaby Velodrome opened in 1997 as part of the Harry Jerome sports complex and replaced the China Creek Velodrome, built for the 1954 British Empire Games and demolished in 1980.

- The track is 200 metres long, six metres wide and 47 degrees in the steepest corners.

- The BVC has more than 25 rental bikes of various sizes that are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

- 2008 Olympic track cyclists Zach Bell and Gina Grain train at the Burnaby Velodrome.

Ian Walker, Vancouver Sun

07 May 2008

Yikes - superspikes

Analyst sees oil surging to US$200

Oil could shoot to US$200 within the next two years as part of a "super-spike," investment bank Goldman Sachs said Tuesday, as crude cruised to a record price north of $122 per barrel and at least one Calgary station briefly advertised regular gasoline at a record CAD$1.29 per litre. It's an oil forecast that's gaining in popularity - and one prospect analysts and economists agreed would lead to a global slowdown, a deep US recession and higher prices for consumers in Canada on everything from gas to food. "We believe the current energy crisis may be coming to a head, as a lack of adequate supply growth is becoming apparent," Goldman analyst Arjun Murti said in a research note. "The possibility of US$150 to $200 per barrel seems increasingly likely over the next six to 24 months, though predicting the ultimate peak in oil prices . . . remains a major uncertainty." Despite high prices, Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach said in Calgary he wasn't keen on the idea of reducing fuel taxes. "All the money that comes from fuel tax goes directly to infrastructure, to highways. We don't use that money for any other operational cost of government," he said. "It is by far the smallest fuel tax in the country."

Doug Porter, deputy chief economist for BMO Capital Markets, said Tuesday $200 oil would probably cause a global economic slowdown that would push the weak US economy into a deep recession and sideswipe Canada as well. "Up to this point, the global economy has held up remarkably well in the face of oil prices going from $20 to over $120 but I think that added increase (to $200) over such a short period of time would prove to be a tipping point for global growth, especially in North America." Consumers would see higher energy prices and higher inflation, Porter said, but some prices would fall simply because energy costs would deplete family budgets to the point that there would be less demand for discretionary items such as clothing, electronics and appliances. Alberta, thanks to oil and natural gas royalties, would be insulated from the slowdown, but the Canadian dollar would likely follow the oil price higher, leading to increased pressure on Canadian firms that sell goods in US dollars, as well as the farming, lumber and travel industries.
(Calgary Herald, Globe and Mail, National Post 080507)

Things are looking worse and worse everyday. What will be the trigger to set everyone panicking for the financial exits?

Gas prices to cut US oil demand

Higher gasoline prices and a slowing economy will cut into US oil demand through the summer driving season much more than previously thought, the US government's top energy forecasting agency said Tuesday. "Based on projections of weak economic growth and record high crude oil and product prices, (petroleum) consumption is projected to decline," the Energy Information Administration said in its latest monthly forecast. Thanks to rising crude oil costs, US drivers will pay an average US$3.66 a gallon for gasoline this summer, up 12 cents from earlier estimates, the US Energy Department's analytical arm said. Pump prices are expected to peak at $3.73 a gallon in June, 11 cents more than previously projected, the agency said. Gasoline prices will be higher due to expensive crude oil, which the EIA said it now expected will average $110 a barrel this year, about $9 more than the agency forecast last month. High fuel costs, along with a sputtering economy, will take an even bigger bite out of gasoline consumption, which was already forecast to decline from last summer's levels. "The gasoline (situation) we're facing here in the US is not something we've seen in 20 years, where we have these high prices on top of a weak economy," said EIA analyst Tancred Lidderdale. "Both are unquestionably taking their toll." The EIA said it expected total petroleum demand, which includes gasoline, diesel fuel and jet fuel, in the current quarter to be 90,000 barrels a day less than last month's forecast and down 170,000 barrels a day compared with the second quarter of last year. For all of 2008, demand will decline by 190,000 barrels a day, 90,000 barrels per day more than the agency said in last month's forecast.
(Calgary Herald 080507)

Everything on this bloody continent is going to be affected by this.

Indonesia may quit OPEC as nation's output dwindles

Indonesia said on Tuesday it may quit the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries as its declining crude oil output prevents the country from meeting its OPEC quota and has reduced its influence in the cartel. Indonesia is Asia-Pacific's only member of OPEC, but its crude oil output has fallen in recent years due to aging wells, a lack of investment, and the absence of any major oil finds. "We are studying whether we have to stay in OPEC or leave. We are now a crude oil importer and our production has declined to below one million barrels," Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said, referring to the country's daily output. Indonesia produced 977,000 barrels per day of oil and condensate in April, an official at the country's energy watchdog said last week. Of this, 859,000 bpd were crude and 118,000 bpd were condensate. Indonesia's status as a net oil importer has prompted many analysts to question its continued membership of OPEC, especially at a time when the cartel has been expanding. Indonesia has aired the possibility of leaving OPEC before. In 2005 a group of advisers to the government had recommended the country leave the group partly because of the financial costs of membership. Kurtubi, an energy analyst at the Centre for Petroleum and Energy Economics Studies in Jakarta, said Indonesia should have left the group because of its status as a net oil importer, which is different from OPEC's interests. "Our interests now are different. As an importer, we want oil prices to come down as high oil prices put pressure on our budget. But exporters want a reasonable or even high price since it is their main source of revenue," Kurtubi said. Indonesia is likely to remain a net importer of oil, and the decline in production has forced it to turn to other energy sources. It has huge natural gas and coal reserves, but has been unable to fully exploit those due to a lack of investment and poor infrastructure.

In other news, OPEC countries cut oil production 1% in April. Nigerian output dropped to the lowest level this decade, a Bloomberg News survey showed. OPEC pumped an average 32.105 million bpd last month, which is down 320,000 barrels from March, according to the survey of oil companies, producers and analysts. Production by the 12 members with quotas - all except Iraq - fell by 305,000 barrels to 29.74 million barrels a day. Nigerian production dropped 160,000 barrels to an average 1.88 million barrels a day last month. This is the biggest decline of any member, the survey showed. It was the lowest output for the African country since August 1999.
(Calgary Herald 080507)

Why are all the fringe suppliers suddenly out of the game? Who's been monitoring activity? Better yet, who's been asleep at the wheel?

06 May 2008

Good for your Memri

Electronics' 'missing link' found

BBC News, May 1, 2008

Details of an entirely new kind of electronic device, which could make chips smaller and far more efficient, have been outlined by scientists.

The new components, described by scientists at Hewlett-Packard, are known as "memristors".

The devices were proposed 40 years ago but have only recently been fabricated, the team wrote in the journal Nature.

They have already been used to build novel transistors - tiny switches that are the building blocks of all chips.

"Now we have this type of device we have a broader palette with which to paint our circuits," Professor Stan Williams, one of the team, told the BBC last year.

Total recall

Memristors were first proposed in 1971 by Professor Leon Chua, a scientist at the University of California, Berkeley.

They are the "fourth" basic building block of circuits, after capacitors, resistors and inductors.

"I never thought I'd live long enough to see this happen," Professor Chua told the Associated Press.

"I'm thrilled because it's almost like vindication. Something I did is not just in my imagination, it's fundamental."

The memristors are so called because they have the ability to "remember" the amount of charge that has flowed through them after the power has been switched off.

This could allow researchers to build new kinds of computer memory that would would not require powering up.

Today, most PCs use dynamic random access memory (DRAM) which loses data when the power is turned off.

But a computer built with memristors could allow PCs that start up instantly, laptops that retain sessions after the battery dies, or mobile phones that can last for weeks without needing a charge.

"If you turn on your computer it will come up instantly where it was when you turned it off," Professor Williams told Reuters.

"That is a very interesting potential application, and one that is very realistic."

'Industry anathema'

Professor Williams and his team have already shown that by putting two memristors together - a configuration called a crossbar latch - it could do the job of a transistor.

"A crossbar latch has the type of functionality you want from a transistor but it's working with very different physics," he explained.

Intriguingly, these devices can also be made much smaller than a conventional transistor.

"And as they get smaller they get better," he said.

As a result, the new devices could play a key part in the future of the electronics industry, as it relentlessly pursues Moore's Law.

This industry axiom, first stated by Gordon Moore, co-founder of chip-maker Intel, states that the number of transistors it is possible to squeeze in to a chip for a fixed cost doubles every two years.

However, according to some, it may be some time before the device is widely used.

"Even to consider an alternative to the transistor is anathema to many device engineers, and the memristor concept will have a steep slope to climb towards acceptance," wrote Drs James Tour and Tao Heare of Rice University, Houston, in an accompanying article in Nature.

They said that some in the electronics industry would only accept the use of memristors "after the demonstration of a well-functioning, large-scale array of these densely packed devices".

"When that happens, the race towards smaller devices will proceed at full steam."

05 May 2008

When the Marketing Dept. is asleep at the wheel

The media afterwards had these headlines:
"Spirit Airlines keeps it classy with their M.I.L.F. sale!"

01 May 2008

Oil in the Sands?

Pricier oilfields inevitable

Royal Dutch Shell, ExxonMobil and the rest of the oil industry may face higher costs to exploit Canada's oilsands because of efforts to rein in climate change. A Canadian mandate to bury carbon dioxide emitted during the process of extracting the oil may add between $2 and $13 a barrel to production costs, according to the Pembina Institute, an Alberta-based environmental group. Mining crude from the area now costs around $60 a barrel. The additional costs are likely to feed through to consumers, leading to higher energy bills and contributing to inflation. Canada's increasing costs "are important in how the market looks to the world," said Michael Wittner, Societe Generale's head of oil research in London. "One way or another, it will push up prices for Canadian oilsands," he said. The European Union, Canada, Norway and Australia are among nations setting rules to force industries that use or produce energy to store carbon dioxide underground, instead of venting it into the atmosphere. "It is not only about oil prices -- you have to take a long-term view on CO2 regulation, royalties and taxation, and then see how unique your technology is," Jeroen van der Veer, ceo of Shell, told reporters while attending the International Energy Forum in Rome on Wednesday. "We hope to produce there for decades," he added in an interview with Bloomberg Television.
(Calgary Herald 080501)

Oilsands for energy 'bizarre': GM vp

Once described by Time magazine as "Canada's greatest buried treasure," Alberta's oilsands and the industry surrounding it should be reexamined because it is a "bizarre" source of energy, one of General Motors' top global executives says. Larry Burns, vp of research and development and strategic planning at GM, said if political leaders are going to re-evaluate whether it makes sense to encourage Canadian farmers to grow crops for biofuels such as ethanol, they should apply the same rigour in analyzing other energy sources. "I think you have to ask the same question, 'Does it make sense for Alberta to be creating an oilsands industry?' " Burns said in an interview at a downtown Toronto hotel yesterday. "I think it's a pretty bizarre way to get gasoline to a corner station. It's an awful lot of capital and an awful lot of work to pull it off." Burns, a 56-year-old engineer who is leading GM's efforts to develop an electric car called the Volt and several parallel projects for vehicles powered by sources other than petroleum, has visited Alberta's oilsands. He said he was struck by the sheer scale of operations there. Burns, in the Toronto area to address a conference of auto-supplier executives, said his industry has to wean itself off a near-complete dependence on gasoline. He said he agreed with the basic argument made last week by Jeff Rubin, CIBC's chief economist, that demand for gasoline from such emerging nations as China and India will put a strain on oil supplies in years ahead. Rubin stunned Canadians when he forecast that gasoline prices will soar to $2.25 a litre by 2012.
(National Post 080501)