Archive for July, 2012


300 slaves

July 31, 2012
  • A single barrel of oil is able to accomplish the work of 12 people working continuously for a year
  • The average American uses 25 barrels of oil equivalent in energy each year
  • Therefore, the average American has the equivalent of 300 people  (25 x 12) working full time to maintain his or her lifestyle
  • In 2008, the last year for which I have data, the estimated annual household cost of energy was $5500
  • The size of an average US household is 2.6 persons
  • 2.6 x 300 = the energy equivalent of 780 people working to maintain the average US household
  • $5500/780 = $7.05

That’s quite the bang for the buck, IMO.


By a wide margin, the world leader in renewable energy is the United States

July 30, 2012

The BP statistical energy abstract for 2012 is out.  I will have more to say about this in the days ahead, but I wanted to point out a key fact from the data tables.   In 2011, the world consumed 194.8 million tons of oil equivalent (MTOE) of non-hydropower renewable energy.  That marked a 17.7% increase over 2010.   The largest consumer of renewable energy – by far – was the United States, which consumed 45.3 MTOE, a 16.5% increase over 2010.  US consumption of renewable energy represents over 23% of the global total and is nearly twice that of the nearest competitor (Germany, 23.2 MTOE; China is the third largest consumer at 17.7).

This is consumption, not production.  I will have more detailed analysis of production later.  For now, I will point out that while Germany dominates the world in installed solar power capacity, accounting for 35.8% of the global total, the US is fourth in solar capacity (6.3% of total).  China leads the world in installed wind capacity at 26.1%, the US is second at 19.7%.  The US dominates in geothermal, 28.3% of world total where both China and Germany are negligible (less than 1% each), and in biofuels with 48% of the world total; again, Germany and China are less than 5% each.

Each of the three leading nations has a different approach to renewables – in Germany, there is a relatively even mix between wind and solar electricity generation.  In China, wind dominates.  In the US, biofuels dominates.

More on this later.


North Dakota passes Alaska in oil production

July 27, 2012

From the Alaska Journal of Commerce:

North Dakota has passed Alaska to become the second-leading oil-producing state in the nation, trailing only Texas.

Assistant State Mineral Resources Director Bruce Hicks says North Dakota oil drillers pumped 17.8 million barrels in March, with a daily average of 575,490 barrels.

Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission statistician Steve McMains says that state pumped 17.5 million barrels in March, with a daily average of 567,480 barrels.

McMains says Alaska’s oil production has slipped about 15 million barrels a year since 2008.

North Dakota was the ninth-largest oil-producing state just six years ago, but the state’s oil production has nearly quadrupled since March 2007.

North Dakota passed California in January as the third-largest oil-producing state in the nation.

Tip of the hat to James Coan at the FuelFix blog, who posted this item today, and adds:  “Now that North Dakota has overtaken Alaska in oil production, it can learn a lot from how Alaska handled the flood of wealth that comes with an oil boom. Both states have populations of about 700,000 and face similar sustainability challenges.”



How vulnerable is the US Navy to Iranian countermeasures in the Persian Gulf?

July 27, 2012

In yesterday’s Washington Post, Joby Warrick detailed the new array of asymmetric weapons and tactics that Iran would bring to bear on the US Navy if a conflict erupts in the Persian Gulf:

Iran is rapidly gaining new capabilities to strike at U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf, amassing an arsenal of sophisticated anti-ship missiles while expanding its fleet of fast-attack boats and submarines, U.S. and Middle Eastern analysts say.

The new systems, many of them developed with foreign assistance, are giving Iran’s commanders new confidence that they could quickly damage or destroy U.S. ships if hostilities erupt, the officials say.

. . . A Middle Eastern intelligence official who helps coordinate strategy for the gulf with U.S. counterparts said some Navy ships could find themselves in a “360-degree threat environment,” simultaneously in the cross hairs of adversaries on land, in the air, at sea and even underwater.

“This is the scenario that is giving people nightmares,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in discussing strategy for defending against a possible Iranian attack.

. . .  Modern U.S. warships are equipped with multiple defense systems, such as the ship-based Aegis missile shield. But Iran has sought to neutralize the U.S. technological advantage by honing an ability to strike from multiple directions at once. The emerging strategy relies not only on mobile missile launchers but also on new mini-submarines, helicopters and hundreds of heavily armed small boats known as fast-attack craft.

These highly maneuverable small boats, some barely as long as a subway car, have become a cornerstone of Iran’s strategy for defending the gulf against a much larger adversary. The vessels can rapidly deploy Iran’s estimated 2,000 anti-ship mines or mass in groups to strike large warships from multiple sides at once, like a cloud of wasps attacking much larger prey.

The Navy, however, is not standing still.  Raytheon has begun delivery of its advanced Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR) system which will help combat multiple threats to US warships.  The AMDR concept is illustrated below:

a Raytheon produced video of how an AMDR supplied flotilla would respond to attack by multiple weapons platforms  is also provided at the following link:

Raytheon AMDR Simulated Engagement


South China Sea concerns cause unprecedented failure at ASEAN conference

July 27, 2012

Asia Times Online:

The unprecedented failure of the 45th Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Ministerial Meeting in Phnom Penh in June to issue a joint communique that captured the decisions of the meeting was as disappointing as it was predictable.

Prior to this, ASEAN, whose current motto is “One Community, One Destiny”, had never failed to issue a collective statement at the conclusion of their annual summit in its 45-year history. At the

meeting, the current ASEAN chair, Cambodia, thwarted Philippines’ push to include a statement on the territorial disputes in the South China Sea on grounds that it did not want to add to the rising political temperature on the matter.

The absence of the joint communique was nothing short of a monumental disappointment and presents a potentially morale-sapping loss of face on the bloc’s part to its powerful regional northern neighbor, China in dealing in the issue. The failure of ASEAN to agree and endorse a common position on this divisive matter is effectively an act of ignoring the elephant in the room and a glaring display of disunity among its member nations.

Read the whole thing.


Second Age of Oil? A contrary view

July 26, 2012

Earlier this month, I posted a piece highlighting Leonardo Maugeri’s analysis for the Belfer Center that concluded the world is on the cusp of a major increase in fossil fuel production capacity.  In the interests of fairness, today I link to SmartPlanet’s Chris Nelder and his critique of Maugeri’s methods, assumptions and conclusions.   Of course, we all know that the model is never the system and that even slight changes in a model’s assumptions can result in big changes in the conclusion (as an aside:  for those without a background in methodology, I suggest Jim Manzi’s new book Uncontrolled).  Nelder banks on this to point out how, by changing some of Maugeri’s assumptions, his conclusion would be completely unwarranted.  Fair enough . . . but changing the assumptions a tiny bit works both ways and, as I wrote in my post, if anything, Maugeri probably understated the size of production growth – or, at least, growth in capacity and recoverable reserves – because he did not assume any engineering breakthroughs in the ability to process kerogen, which I believe may be near and which would be a true “game changer” in fossil fuel production.



Gaokao: China’s ultra competitive college entrance/placement exam

July 26, 2012

From today’s China Reform Monitor:

This month 9.15 million high school seniors took China’s college entrance exam: the gaokao. The test determines whether they can attend a university, and if so, which one. Once a student gets their scores they submit a list of universities. The universities decide whom to admit based on their scores. The gaokao promotes rote learning, hobbles creativity, and puts an immense strain on students. In one case students in Hubei were hooked up to intravenous drips while cramming . . .