Why Gas is Almost $4 per Gallon

via Asia is the world’s largest petroleum consumer – Today in Energy – U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Asia surpassed North America as the largest petroleum-consuming region in 2008.

In 1980 the US consumed the lion’s share of the world’s oil.  Since that time, the world has changed significantly.  India and China have both experienced significant growth, and their expanding middle classes demand more products and hence more oil consumption.

As the chart shows, the US portion of world oil consumption has dropped from almost 1/3 to less than 30%,, while Asia’s share has almost doubled.  With a limited amount of oil, and increasing demand, the price was bound to go up.

What can we do about it, if anything?  Increased production would help some, but since we are producing more now than we did in the early 2000s, it is obvious that we can not produce our way out of a price increase – we don’t have that much oil or control of the world market.  Our oil is harder and more expensive to produce now- we’ve pumped all the easy, cheap oil out- and if the price is under $100/barrel it won’t pay for itself.

We will never again see gas under $3/gallon, and most likely the price will continue to rise.  How will the high price of oil affect our lifestyle?  Will it spur increased research on renewable energy?  Will middle class growth come to a halt in Asia?  Welcome to the future.

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The Price of Cotton

The Aral Sea, Before the Streams Ran Dry : Image of the Day.

This image, from 1964, shows the Aral Sea as it existed for millenia.  In the middle of the vast arid region of Central Asia, the Aral Sea was an oasis of wetlands, water, and islands fed by snowmelt in faraway mountains.

Beginning in the 1950s and 60s, the former Soviet Union begin to divert the rivers that feed the sea for agricultural purposes.

The dams, canals, and other water works were built in order to transform the desert into agricultural fields for cotton and other crops. The Aral Sea has been slowly disappearing ever since.

As the crops flourished, the sea began to shrink.  The large cities surrounding the sea, which were home to large fishing industries, were left stranded several miles from the shore and eventually were abandoned.

The increasingly salty water became polluted with fertilizer and pesticides. Blowing, salty dust from the exposed lakebed became a public health hazard and degraded the soil. Croplands had to be flushed with larger and larger volumes of river water. The loss of the moderating influence of the Aral Sea made winters colder and summers hotter and drier.

Now just 10% of its original size, the sea is virtually gone.  What will the future hold?  If the surrounding countries allow the rivers to run free again, will the sea recover?  Will it be too polluted to support life?  How will the agricultural communities that depend on the river water survive as their land grows too salty to support crops?

Panama Plus the Port of Houston Equals Money and Traffic Jams

Panama Canal Expansion Raises Expectations in Houston — Transportation | The Texas Tribune.

The Panama Canal is expanding to accommodate larger ships.  Many of those large ships may dock at the Port of Houston.

The port is overseeing $3 billion in updates to its berths and cranes and other facilities, many of which are being completed in anticipation of the 2014 debut of the expanded Panama Canal.

This year a record 8,073 ships docked in Houston, off-loading cargo from all over the world – Volkswagons, bananas, and iPads.  These products were then shipped across the US on trains and trucks.  If the traffic at the port increases due to the larger ships able to traverse the Canal, how much more traffic will these transportation routes see?

“I think that we will see an increase, but we are very, very conservative in what we forecast, about a 15 percent increase of the traffic we get on the trade lane from Asia to Houston,” Kunz said, discussing the movement of container ships.

Kunz, a Vice-President of the Houston Port Authority, says some of these transportation routes need updating:

“The rail system needs to be redesigned, because even though the two major railroads serving here do a good job, the rail system was designed well over 100 years ago, and a lot of those rail tracks still go through downtown, which doesn’t make any sense.”

Houston won’t be the only port to benefit; New Orleans, Mobile, and those along the East coast will see more traffic:

“The West Coast is going to lose some. We’re going to get a little bit. The East Coast ports are going to get a little. Everyone is going to share a little bit more in the wealth.”

What effect will the increase have on road traffic in Texas?  How much more barge/ship traffic will traverse the Mississippi River?  How will the decrease in West Coast port traffic affect train traffic across the US (a large percentage of Union Pacific train business is transporting cargo from West Coast ports to Chicago/New Orleans ports for transport to Europe)?

Iran Cuts own Throat, Stops Oil Exports to EU

via Iran ‘stops oil exports’ to UK and France – Middle East – Al Jazeera English.

Iran has stopped selling crude to British and French companies, the oil ministry has said, in a retaliatory measure against fresh EU sanctions on the Islamic state’s lifeblood, oil.

Most countries in the EU have stockpiles that will last them several months, until supplies from Saudi Arabia and others can catch up with the shortfall.  Hardest hit will be Greece, the debt-ridden nation.

Motor Oil Hellas of Greece was thought to have cut out Iranian crude altogether and compatriot Hellenic Petroleum along with Spain’s Cepsa and Repsol  were curbing imports from Iran.

Iran was supplying more than 700,000 barrels per day (bpd)  to the EU plus Turkey in 2011, industry sources said.

By the start of this year imports had sunk to about 650,000 bpd as some customers cut back in anticipation of an EU ban.

Will Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and other Middle Eastern oil-rich states be able to make up the short-fall?  How much will the price of oil rise?   How will the resulting increase in gasoline and foodstuff costs affect the worldwide economic crisis?

And in the United States, how will Newt Gingrich be able to provide $2.50/gallon gas, as he recently promised?  Doesn’t he realize that world markets are a little beyond his control?

Here a Chick, There a Chick, Everywhere a Chick Chick

  • There are 4 factory-farmed chickens for every single American.
  • The nearly 14 million broiler chickens on factory farms in Nacogdoches County, Texas produce as much untreated manure as the sewage from the Detroit metro area.
  • The more than 3.8 million egg-laying hens on factory farms in Gonzales County, Texas produce as much untreated manure as the sewage from the San Jose, California metro area.
  • The average Texas hog factory farm has 100,000 hogs.
  • There are 48 times more chickens than people in Arkansas.
  • There are 40% more cattle on feedlots (2.5 million) than people (1.8 million) in Nebraska.
How many CAFOs are there in your county?  Check it out here: The Factory Farm Map

The Perfect Firestorm

via Sobering future of wildfire dangers in U.S. west, researchers predict.

ScienceDaily Feb. 14, 2012 — The American West has seen a recent increase in large wildfires due to droughts, the build-up of combustible fuel, or biomass, in forests, a spread of fire-prone species and increased tree mortality from insects and heat.

Researchers from the University of Oregon’s Geography Department used historical charcoal data to analyze past fires.    They concluded that

climate and people affect the present-day landscapes and forests of the American West, and …. they may change in the future..

Key findings of the study include

warm, dry intervals, such as the “Medieval Climate Anomaly” between 1,000 and 700 years ago, which had more burning, and cool, moist intervals, such as the “Little Ice Age” between 500 and 300 years ago, had fewer fires

Wildfires during most of the 20th century were almost as infrequent as they were during the Little Ice Age, about 400 years ago. However, only a century ago, fires were as frequent as they were about 800 years ago, during the warm and dry Medieval Climate Anomaly. “In other words, humans caused fires to shift from their 1,000-year maximum to their 1,000-year minimum in less than 100 years,”

Climate and humans acted synergistically — by the end of the 18th century and early 19th century — to increase fire events that were often sparked by agricultural practices, clearing of forests, logging activity and railroading.

These conclusions indicate that the current level of wildfires should be much higher due to dry conditions and the build-up of fuels.  Fire suppression activities are “unsustainable” and we should expect more nasty fires to occur.

“Recent catastrophic wildfires in the West are indicators of a fire deficit between actual levels of burning and that which we should expect given current and coming climate conditions. Policies of fire suppression that do not account for this unusual environmental situation are unsustainable.”

 

 

131 Years of Global Warming

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