Energy Monsters

“People do not go to hell after death. The designers and builders of hell are human beings. The designs and buildings are almost completed. It is becoming difficult to add more hell.”
– Tamo-san

If I were to make the claim, prior to the American Civil War, that to wish for an end to slavery in America, was monstrous, because its downfall would entail the suffering of millions of white southerners, who would become jobless and hungry, some may have been so inclined to call me a monster. My point here is not to compare the degree of suffering that may or may not happen to us soon, to the suffering that may or may not have happened in the Confederate states, had they ended slavery, but to illuminate the actual reality, rather than the perceived reality most of us know. Some believe, that it is monstrous to wish an end to civilisation.  I have highlighted some of the current atrocities being committed today, in previous posts, here, and here. The next few posts will examine even more of the monstrous activities our civilisation is engaged in. This is an effort to give credence to the notion that our culture is doomed, and the sooner it ends, the better. And furthermore, to dispel the illusion that this way of reasoning is “monstrous”.

mon·strous adj

  1. Shockingly hideous or frightful.
  2. Exceptionally large; enormous: a monstrous tidal wave.
  3. Deviating greatly from the norm in appearance or structure; abnormal.
  4. Of or resembling a fabulous monster.

Giant Earth Movers
Often we hear about how the marvels of technology will save us from the coming decline of world energy supplies. I would challenge anyone to tell me how one could possibly build something more “monstrous” than the aberration shown above. It is the largest earth mover in the world, built by the Krupps corporation, shown here crossing an interstate in Germany. You can see the power point presentation here. The monster cost 100 million to build, and weighs 45,500 tons, watch the power point for more info on that. This was one of the most terrifying things I have seen in a long time. These are the depths we must now go to, in order to extract coal from open-pit coal mines. Coal is mostly used to generate electricity, and to produce 1 joule of electricity, you need to extract 3 joules of energy from coal. With peak oil now clearly a reality, large utility companies like Peabody, and Dominion, are frantically building new coal-fired power plants nationwide. This is the “solution” to peak oil for corporate America. Co-op Americareports:

Major power companies and the current White House administration are telling Americans that coal is the future of affordable energy. But increased greenhouse gas emissions, dangerous coal mining, mercury pollution, increased asthma and human health problems, and dramatic groundwater waste are costs that no one can afford. Tell the CEOs of power companies Peabody and Dominion and their Board members to heed the call of shareholders and their power customers and halt climate change, stop building new coal plants, and shift the billions of dollars they are spending on coal into green energy like solar and wind as well as energy efficiency.

While this type action is a good start, it ignores or fails to understand the enormity of the problem. We don’t need to simply “tell” the CEO’s about it. We are the ones using the electricity, if we don’t want coal-fired power, than we need to “Powerdown”. Richard Duncan explains in his update to the “Olduvai Theory” about the immense costs associated with the continued production and maintenance of the electricity grid. I wrote recently at peakoil.com:

I think a common misunderstanding about the feasibility of alternatives, is that most proponents don’t really see the total cost of implementation, everything from the direct costs, to the electricity grid. Without electricity, we cannot produce anything, and the investment required to maintain what we have today, is staggering, consider this, from Richard Duncan’s update to the “Olduvai Theory”:

Permanent Blackouts are Coming. The third catch, according to the Olduvai Theory, is that sooner or later the power grids will go down and never come back up. The reasons are many, The International Energy Agency (IEA, 2004) estimates that the cumulative worldwide energy investment funds required from 2003 to 2030 would be about $15.32 trillion (T, US 2000 $) allocated as follows:

  • 1. Coal: $0.29T )1.9% of the total),
  • Oil: $2.69T (17.6%)
  • Gas: $2.69T (17.6%)
  • Electricity: $9.66T (63.1%).

Thus the IEA projects that the worldwide investment funds essential for electricity will be 3.7 times the amount needed for oil alone, and much greater than all of that required for oil, gas, and coal combined. The OT says that the already debt-ridden nations, cities, and corporations will not be able to raise the $15.32 trillion in investment funds required by 2030 for world energy. (Not to mention the vastly greater investment funds required for agriculture, roads, streets, schools, railroads, water resources, sewer systems, and so forth.)

This is why, despite the optimism of some energy experts, the electricity grid will be more and more difficult to maintain, as oil prices climb, and the effects of peak oil set in. The amount of money needed to continue to build giant earth movers is going to dry up, because no company in the world is going to invest in electricity generation when their is no return on investment, we are already in that position now. This is evidenced by the massive number of mergers among power companies, like Constellation Energy of Baltimore recently purchasing FPL of Florida. This illustrates the monstrous nature of our electricity production, and the inevitability of its demise. It should also be duly noted that in medieval times, coal was considered an extremely poor source of energy, because it turned the skies black. Europeans only came back to coal after they exhausted the wood supply in surrounding forests. So much for the wonders of technological progress.

Alberta Tar Sands

The tar sands in Alberta are often coveted as the “solution” to peak oil. Without devolving into an “alternatives” discussion, here is a photo essay from “Technology Review”.

Where the oil sands lie close to the surface, mostly near the town of Fort McMurray in Alberta, they can be mined. In the effort to get at these sands, areas have been drained of wetlands and stripped of boreal forests, which play an important role in climate regulation and carbon storage. Their destruction contributes to the greenhouse effect.

Equipment used by oil-sand miners includes tractors with top-mounted radiators and cooling fans to protect their engines from oil particles and sludge, thousand-metric-ton shovels, and the Caterpillar 797. This colossal dump truck weighs more than 500 metric tons when empty. When its tires wear out after about a year, they are reused as cattle feeders. Producing crude oil from the Alberta sands is an energy-­intensive process. Giant digging and transportation machines use commensurately large amounts of fuel. Refining and welling technologies consume roughly 300 cubic meters of natural gas per barrel of recovered oil. Environmental watchdogs estimate that, as a result, producing a barrel of oil from the Alberta sands releases two to three times the volume of greenhouse gases that traditional oil production would. By 2015, production from the oil sands is projected to release 94 megatons of greenhouse gases. Oil sand retrieved from surface mining is crushed and then moved to a processing plant via “hydrotransport.” As the sand, mixed with water, tumbles through transport pipes, the clumps of bitumen, sand, and water begin to loosen.

The sand-and-water slurry is dumped into tanks with hot water, where it separates into three layers: sand, bitumen froth (impure bitumen), and a middle layer that is further treated to extract bitumen. Bitumen froth is also treated to remove impurities.

Oil companies create ponds in which to dump millions of cubic meters of the sandy, toxic by-product of oil-sand processing. These “tailings ponds” are characterized by salt and acids. Here, a worker installs a scarecrow to keep birds away.

I would qualify this, along with the giant earth mover, as “Beyond Monstrous“.

Does Cheney know about peak oil?

This is being reproduced with the permission of William R. Clarke, author of the new book Petrodollar Warfare. This is probably the most concise, obvious, and shocking assesment of the current situation that I have read.

You can be sure that Cheney read the IHS Energy (formerly Petroconsultants Inc) reports back in 1997-2000. The most interesting thing that alludes to Cheney's world view from that 1999 speech in London is this sentence:

Well, the end of the oil era is not here yet, but changes are afoot and the industry must be ready to adapt to the new century and to the transformations that lie ahead.

Of course the "transformations" that he spoke of did not become apparant until after 9/11, but it is obvious to every dispassionate observer that the plan is for the US military to gain strategic control of the world's oil and gas reserves under the guise of the perpetual "war on terror." Of course Cheney knows all about Peak Oil. He seems to have been brought into the Bush administration to specifically do something about it. In Feb 2001 his frist assignment was to develop a National Energy Plan Development Group (NEPDG). Michael Klare, an international expert on natural resource conflict and author of Resource Wars and Blood for Oil, provided the following analysis of the NEPDG report. The report made three key points about US energy challenges between 2000 and 2020:

• The United States must satisfy an ever-increasing share of its oil demand with imported supplies. (Note: By 2020, daily US imports will total nearly 17 million barrels per day, over 65 percent of consumption, up from 10 m/bl/d, or 53 percent in 2000.)

• The United States cannot depend exclusively on traditional sources of supply like Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Canada. It will also have to obtain substantial imports from new sources, such as the Caspian states, Russia, and West Africa.

• The United States cannot rely on market forces alone to gain access to these added supplies, but will also require a significant effort on the part of government officials to overcome foreign resistance to the outward reach of American energy companies.

Instead of advocating various policies to reduce America’s consumption of oil, either through conservation, improvements in efficiency, or the development of large-scale alterative energy sources, the 2001 Bush/Cheney energy policy implicitly assumed the US will continue to consume what is almost universally regarded as excessive oil consumption. According to Klare this was a “fateful decision.” It means the US must find a way to increase oil imports from 11 mb/d to 18.5 mb/d by 2020. Klare noted, “Securing that increment of imported oil — the equivalent of total current oil consumption by China and India combined — has driven an integrated US oil-military strategy ever since.” The 2001 NEPDG energy plan obliquely inferred that the primary role of the US military in the beginning decades of the 21st century will be to “secure” physical control of the world’s largest hydrocarbon reserves. The problem? As evidenced in Iraq and Iran, US and/or UN sanctions have prevented US oil and gas companies into these two countries (until Iraq was overthrown and the US/UK gained control of the oil). Elsewhere in Central Asia, US energy companies will have to compete with European, Chinese, Russian and ultimately Indian oil and gas firms for those deposits. To reiterate the item highlighted by Cheney 2001 energy plan:

The United States cannot rely on market forces alone to gain access to these added supplies, but will also require a significant effort on the part of government officials to overcome foreign resistance to the outward reach of American energy companies

How do you overcome this "foreign resistance"? Well, as the famous Prussian war strategist Karl von Clausewitz stated:

"war is merely the continuation of policy by other means."

In May 2001 Cheney was as put in charge of a domestic terrorism task force – supposedly to protect the nation according to a statement by Pres. G.W. Bush:

Therefore, I have asked Vice President Cheney to oversee the development of a coordinated national effort so that we may do the very best possible job of protecting our people from catastrophic harm. I have also asked Joe Allbaugh, the Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to create an Office of National Preparedness. This Office will be responsible for implementing the results of those parts of the national effort overseen by Vice President Cheney that deal with consequence management.

Cheney did nothing depsite the warnings…. until the aftermath – then he made sure the 300 page US Patriot Act was passed (see Enabling Act of 1933). Meanwhile Bush and Cheney both "asked" Sen. Daschle not to investigate 9/11- which is something that has never happened in US history after a national tragedy (Pearl Harbor, JFK, RFK, Oklahoma City bombings, etc). http://archives.cnn.com/2002/ALLPOLITICS/01/29/inv.terror.probe/ Along with a subservient press, that event paved the way for the pre-planned invasion of Iraq. The world was not amused – with the largest protests in history taking place Feb 14-16, 2003 (estimated to have included 12 million people in 700 cities, representing 60 countries). One of the reasons for the rampant "anti-Americanism" around the globe is the realization of Bush and Cheney's geostategy re hydrocarbon energy supplies. Even some decent British MP's object. For example: In 2003 former British MP Meacher has characterized US strategic maneuvers as revolving around a “bogus” war on terror. After reviewing the goals outlined in PNAC doctrine, Meacher concluded that “the ‘global war on terrorism’ has the hallmarks of a political myth propagated to pave the way for a wholly different agenda — the US goal of world hegemony, built around securing by force command over the oil supplies required to drive the whole project.” On what evidence can Meacher and others point to? Here's a few facts: In May 2001, four months before 9/11, General Franks reviewed war plans that were to be used in the upcoming campaign in Afghanistan. Around that time, Michael Klare observed that US military planning had become increasingly defined as providing “resource security as their primary mission.” Although this was hardly addressed in the US media, in April 2002 Franks testified that one of his key missions as commander of the Persian Gulf-South Asia region was to provide “access to [the] region’s energy resources.” The funny thing is that these US policy makers are not really taking about "access" at all – which all industrialized economies have to oil and gas deposits – they are disguising their true intent with Orwellian terminology. The post 9/11 US military base structure belies the real agenda – which is all about US strategtic control or domination of the world's energy supplies. Period. While it is true the US Navy plays an important role in keeping the sea routes safe for the transportation of oil, it is interesting to note that in the months prior to 9/11, US policy planners were increasingly devising military frameworks around potential energy issues. According to Klare’s book, Blood and Oil, a top-secret document dated February 3, 2001, directed the “NSC [National Security Council] staff to cooperate with the NEPDG in assessing the military applications of the energy plan.” What other country uses "energy policy" and "military applications" in the same breath? It gets worse… According to Jane Meyer of The New Yorker, who has reportedly seen a copy of the document, it envisioned the melding of two White House priorities: “review of operational policies toward rogue states” [such as Iraq/Iran] and actions regarding the “capture of new and existing oil and gas fields.” Klare deftly appraised the 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review and related US joint energy-military policy documents as follows:

In fact, it is getting harder to distinguish US military operations designed to fight terrorism from those designed to protect energy assets. And the administration’s tendency to conflate the two is obvious in more than just the Gulf and Caspian areas. In Latin America, the US Southern Command has been ordered to strengthen the Columbia army’s ability to defend oil pipelines against guerrilla attack — again on the basis of expanding the war against terrorism. In the Caucasus, the European Command is doing its part in the war on terror by training Georgian forces to protect the soon-to-be-completed Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan pipeline; terrorism and the vulnerability of the oil supplies are also providing the justification for Eurcom’s efforts to enhance America’s power-projection capacity in Africa. Recent strategy documents prepared by US government officials, remarks by high-ranking members of the US armed forces, and the building of new overseas military bases amount to an open declaration by both the civilian leadership and military commanders that the military’s role in the new century is not limited to protecting the Constitution from enemies both foreign and domestic, but include gaining access to, or more accurately, domination over, the world’s largest oil reserves — all under the guise of the “war on terror.”

The governments of Europe, Russia, and China are naturally resisting the Bush administration’s destabilizing imperial strategy. Meanwhile, US political leaders continue to use ambiguous and euphemistic phrases to justify their imperial goals such as fighting evil, protecting freedom, and spreading democracy. Despite these proclamations, most industrialized and developing nations engage in legal trade agreements with the nations that export their natural resources such as oil, and typically leaders do not resort to Orwellian phraseology to justify faraway wars against “terror” or obfuscate their agendas with misleading but impressive-sounding slogans. According to Cheney’s energy plan from 2001, US oil consumption is projected to grow by an additional 7.5 mb/d by 2020. Current global production is around 84.5 mb/d, which is stretching the supply of all oil producers. Saudi Arabia has not increased its oil production since 2003, and OPEC's president stated in 2004 that there was no extra supply. In 2005 senior Saudi Arabian energy officials were reported to have privately warned US and European counterparts that OPEC would have an “extremely difficult time” meeting projected oil demand by 2015 to 2020, stating that there will be a 4.5 mb/d gap between what the world is projected to need and what the kingdom can provide. If these sentiments by energy experts are accurate, one must ask how the projected 18–20 percent increase in demand by 2020 will be met. Technical data on oil discovery and production, in conjunction with analysis by numerous veteran oil geologists, clearly indicate that an of additional oil supply 7.5 mb/d to the US may be possible under only one ominous scenario: strategically using the US military to redirect to America oil exports from the Middle East earmarked for China, India, Japan and the EU. It is farcical to even ponder whether or not Cheney knows about Peak Oil. So, let's recap the events 2001-2005: current US geostrategy, as articulated by PNAC documents and subsequent National Security Strategy policy, is a bold attempt to justify unilateral US military action anywhere on the globe (and in space) to maintain US hegemony and secure the oil that feeds it. This remarkable merging of foreign policy with overt military force projection provides further evidence that plenty of US policymakers are acutely aware of global Peak Oil and its implications. An understanding of these connections easily explains current geopolitical tensions and the growing expansion of US military deployments in the Middle East, Central Asia, West Africa, and Latin America. The modus operandi of the Bush/Cheney administration — since day one — is obvious for those who follow the facts…

If you want to rule the world, you need to control the oil. All the oil. Anywhere. — Michel Collon, Monopoly (2000)