See more articles, reviews, fiction and poetry, including more of my writings, at group blog PLUTO'S REALM.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Guest Blog, by Jimmy Lydecker

Jimmy Lydecker is one of my best friends of all time; he and I see things pretty much the same. I was engaged to his sister at one time; 'nuff said, except that we didn't get married, which is probably the best for both of us. He lives in Marin County, CA. He is also probably a better writer than I am; you judge.

Jimmy Journal

San Rafael, California
May 14, 2007

I woke up this morning to the sound I fell asleep to last night: The whooshing of cars going north and south on 101.

Actually, the whooshing is being replaced by a huge sucking sound... It is the sound of crude oil being sucked out of the ground to allow those cars to go flying by.

In America, unlike the rest of the world, 1/2 of the oil we use goes to the production of gasoline. Each day, the world uses over 80 million of barrels of oil. The United States, with 7% of the world’s population, uses over 25% of that 80+ million. That’ll happen when a nation of 320 million has more cars and trucks than people.

I laid in bed thinking of all the other things oil and its cousin, natural gas, are used for and how today would go if they were non-existent. This little exercise has been done before and everyone should think about it.

Living in Northern California, we have a fair amount of electricity generated by hydro, but not enough to keep all of us out of the dark all the time. Since it is 6:30 and still dark, I roll over, turn on my light and hope my section of the grid was not blacked out.

The light, in a fixture circa 1890, lit. I noticed the wire from the light needed attention as the fabric covering it was coming frayed... remember, no oil means no rubber insulation.

I roll onto the wood floor. My Dupont Stainmaster rug is no longer there. It was made out of oil.I look at myself in the bathroom mirror and decide I need to shave and get ready for another day in San Rafael. This is not going to be as easy as usual. Without oil, all my toiletries are history. There is no disposable razor as it is primarily plastic. Without oil, there’s nothing plastic.

Even if I had one of those old fashioned straight razors, I’d have no shaving cream: The lather is oil based.

For that matter, I have no shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, soap, toothbrush or toothpaste as they are all made from oil.

I look into my empty medicine cabinet and wonder where did my vitamins, aspirin, Zantac and antibiotics go? Oh, yeah, they are all made from oil. Even the moisturizing cream I use is no longer there.I decide to jump into the shower. At least the cold water will wake me up. But then I’ll have a hell of a mess to clean up as the water will splash all over without my shower curtain. It, too, is made of oil.It is au natural for me today.

Luckily, I am a cotton guy. I pull on a pair of Levi’s, t-shirt and socks. The socks suck because without oil, there is no elasticity to them and they keep falling down to my ankles.

I look for my Nike’s. They are not here! God, that’s right! Sneakers, one of the best inventions of all time, are non-existent. They are primarily oil based. I have to wear these uncomfortable clodhoppers with thick, stiff leather soles. Uncomfortable and just plain ugly!

Still cool outside, I look for my familiar multi-use Patagonia jacket. It is no where to be found. Ahhhhhh!!!, now I remember! It is made from oil. Instead I reach for my denim jacket.

Leaving my house on Hammondale Court, I am surprised by all the dust caused by the occasional horse or carriage going downtown on Lincoln Avenue. Without oil, there is no asphalt and the streets are dirt.I traipse the mile downtown to 4th Street where there are a number or restaurants. The trick is to find one that has what you want to eat. Today I decide to keep it simple: Eggs, hash browns, whole wheat toast and coffee.

Eating is the most challenging part of the day as nothing in our lives is more affected by a contraction of oil and natural gas supplies than agriculture. In 1859, when we entered the oil age, we were an agrarian nation where 90% of the population produced our food. Oil and natural gas, from which all pesticides and fertilizers are produced, are directly responsible for the Green Revolution. Today, 2% of the population produces the food for the other 98%.

Without pesticides or fertilizers, crop yields plummet. Without oil, there are no tractors, combines, threshers or any other of the mechanized methods we now take for granted. And the transportation of our agriculture products becomes a nightmare at best without reliable refrigeration.

Curse those futurists, I think, those that said we can get by using ethanol and other crop-derived energy sources. Haven’t they thought of Jevon’s Paradox? I guess not! Jevon’s Paradox is when you attempt to get yourself out of a progress trap by doing something that makes everything worse.

In fact, every alternative source for oil or oil based energy is ruined by Jevon’s Paradox.To switch to ethanol would consume what is left of oil and natural gas faster than just continuing on our present course.

Hydrogen? We’d need an additional 300 nuclear power plants to produce it for 300+ million people. Before the first 50 were built, we’d reach Peak Uranium and be in South Africa fighting for control of the world’s uranium.

And replacing 10% of our cars with fuel cells would use up the world’s supply of platinum.

I think of all the promises made about the oil sands of Canada... Oh, that’s right, the problem is the same as making synthetic oil from coal. It is a big problem with a big acronym - EROEI: Energy returned on energy invested.

If the EROEI is a negative number where you have to invest more energy into getting the same amount back, then what is the sense? This is the ultimate Jevon’s Paradox.There was a time when the EROEI from Middle Eastern oil was a staggering +30. At best now it is +10.

The best we can do with oil sands is about -5. The only way the industry stumbles by now is because of huge subsidies from the American and Canadian governments. Since it requires huge amounts of natural gas, the EROEI will keep heading south as natural gas is depleted.

Wait a second! What am I doing here? I shouldn’t be contemplating this over as I’m in the middle of my oil-free exercise.

Quietly I finish my single egg, piece of bread (no toast), potato and wish I had some coffee. Coffee is difficult to come by without reliable shipments from South America.And I don’t know about that glass of milk I drank. The waitress said it was pasteurized but...Sheeeeesh, I sigh as I begin the mile long hike back home. I figure I’ll kick back the rest of the day and relax.

But what to do in a world without oil? I can’t watch the tube or listen to the radio. They both require massive amounts of oil to manufacture.

Watching a DVD or listening to CD is out as well! In fact, I won’t even be writing this little exercise of mine now as computers will be non-existent.

Despite it all, I look around and notice the world around me seems cleaner. Probably something to do with our disposable society that no longer exists. And the air is cleaner without all those cars on 101 - Hey! It is quieter, too. I can actually hear birds singing up above and children playing in backyards.

But it is not going to a pretty scene as hydrocarbons are depleted. We are talking social strife, mass migration, starvation, epidemics and worse. The world’s population has become unmanageable to exist without oil.

I always tell people to go to YouTube and type “post-oil man” into the search bar. It may be the most eye-opening 4 minutes you’ll spend in your life.As I reach home after my dusty walk from breakfast downtown, I look around and know at least it’ll be light today even if PG&E turns off the power on Hammondale Court. Nope, a rolling blackout won’t affect the light or temperature indoors.Up above, our familiar ol’ friend, the Sun, shines bright and warm.

Jim Lydecker
Jimmy Journal
OF EINSTEIN, BEES AND PEAK OILMay 13, 2007San Rafael“A crisis is a problem that was ignored. All great crises were ignored until it was too late.” - Matthew Simmons.

Walking to my weekend bookkeeping job early this morning, I reflected on two issues that challenge us now. These are problems at our doorstep that, as Matt Simmons says, can become very large crises very quickly.

“Bee Colony Collapse Disorder - Where is it Heading? Filed under Agriculture & Food by Craig Mackintosh) … There’s still no concrete evidence about what is killing the billions of bees around the country, but there are a lot of guesses. If we don’t figure this out real quick, it’s going to wipe out our food supply…”

From Science Daily: “Honey Bee Die-off Alarms Beekeepers, Crop Growers And Researchers… An alarming die-off of honey bees has beekeepers fighting for commercial survival and crop growers wondering whether bees will be available to pollinate their crops this spring and summer. Researchers are scrambling to find answers to what's causing an affliction recently named Colony Collapse Disorder, which has decimated commercial beekeeping operations across the country…”

The US Department of Agriculture has placed CCD at the top of their priorities. UC-Davis and Texas A&M have been given million dollar emergency grants to figure CCD out. A spokesman at Davis said we could be looking at “a precursor to famine.”

A chilling prediction about the importance of bees to mankind comes from none other than Albert Einstein. When at Princeton, Einstein learned to relax from academia by gardening in the backyard of his New Jersey home. One day he mused, "If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man."

A Davis scientist on Coast-to-Coast AM last week said we have no more than 4 years to do something about CCD; two years beyond that and things will become dire.

Einstein has been a dead dude for 52 years but he still walks among us.

It is impossible for me to go very long and not worry about Peak Oil. My place here in San Rafael is a stone’s throw to 101 and the non-stop whooshing of cars never stops. I was unable to sleep the first few nights after moving in until I deluded myself into believing I was actually at the ocean listening to the sound of crashing waves.

Well, not really…

You’d have to be a three-toed sloth hanging upside down from a tree in the Amazon to not be aware of how expensive gasoline is.Most people want to lay blame on Big Oil, OPEC, lack of refining capacity or any other of the usual suspects.

Now, I am not an expert like Mathew Simmons but over these past several years I have become extremely knowledgeable on oil and think Simmons is correct. Remember, Mathew Simmons owns the world’s largest energy investment bank (Simmons International, Houston), is an oil geologist and insider who also is principal advisor to both the Bush and Cheney families on…oil.
Simmons has intimate knowledge of what lies under the Middle East sands since he was one of the last booted out from Saudi Arabia after OPEC nationalized the oil industry.

Simmons is also the one screaming loudest about Peak Oil and how it is upon us.Last week the Department of Energy and International Energy Agency posted some scary numbers that shed light on gasoline’s unprecedented upsurge.

First, world supply of crude, gasoline and various distillates is at the lowest level in four years and continues to draw down.

Second, world oil production is at the lowest level in 5 years and producers, particularly OPEC, say they are coaxing as much out of the ground as quickly as possible.

Remember, the North Sea and Mexico’s giant Cantarell oil field, the eighth largest in the world, are suffering from “severe premature declines of unprecedented proportions.”

The real question is the health of Saudi Arabia’s Ghawar, the largest oil field of all time. Ghawar has been producing an average of 5 million barrels of crude a day since 1951. When Simmons left Saudi Arabia in 1979, the Saudis were pumping over 9 million barrels of sea water into Ghawar daily. Rumors creeping out of the Saudi Arabian Empty Quarter are that Ghawar’s water cut has reached 60%, an unacceptable amount.

Simmons says we are in trouble when Ghawar winds down. And how will we know? Most experts say when Saudi Arabia announces it is going to open up Manifa for drilling, which is exactly what they said last week. But here is the latest on Manifa:-After OilBy David Fleming(C) Prospect Magazine “Beneath the seabed off the coast of Saudi Arabia is an oil field called Manifa. It is giant, and its riches are almost untapped. There is, however, a snag. Its oil is heavy with vanadium and hydrogen sulphide, making it virtually unusable. One day the technology may be in place to remove these contaminants, but it will not be for a long time, and when, or if, it becomes possible, it will do no more than slightly reduce the rate at which the world's oil supplies slip away towards depletion. Even this field has one advantage over the massive reserves of oil which Middle East suppliers are said to hold, ready to secure the future of industrial civilization. Unlike those fantasy fields, Manifa does actually exist.”

Consider us lucky for paying what we do for gasoline because the problem is much worse. According to a report two weeks ago from the CIA, virtually all oil producing nations are quickly going broke. Every nation in OPEC, except Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, are borrowing tremendous sums from the World Bank and other sources to stay afloat. (Iran’s financial position is so precarious that it will be unable to fund their nuclear ambitions much longer, says the report.)

Since they are hurting so bad, they are underbidding each other while pumping as fast and as much as they can. They still are unable to keep up with demand.

With Peak Oil and the bee Colony Collapse Disorder, I find myself humming that REM song over-and-over again: “It’s the end of the world as we know it…”*I’ve got to give credit for credit due… Ernie, my brother, turned me onto the dead dude Einstein antidote. Nice story, I thought until checking it out.

Most sources accept it as true.

Jim Lydecker

No comments: