Secret memos expose link between oil firms and invasion of Iraq

Secret memos expose link between oil firms and invasion of Iraq.  I don’t know who could possibly be surprised by this, but it’s both nice and horrible to have unequivocal confirmation.  Goes a long way toward normalizing Donald Trump’s plan to steal (at least) $1.5 trillion worth of Iraqi oil if he’s elected president.  Trump-Palin 2012!  Apocalypse please.

Corporate Climate Adaptation

The Carbon Disclosure Project is helping industry adapt to climate change.  It’s almost painfully ironic that some of their biggest customers are electrical utilities, mining, and, of course, oil and gas.  75% of the Alaska Pipeline is built on permafrost.  And it’s melting.  And they’re sure not gonna let the PR department keep them from shoring up the footings, just because they don’t believe it’s getting warmer.

Bidder 70 goes on trial

Tim DeChristopher goes on trial Monday. He faces 10 years in prison and $750,000 in fines for punking the last-minute auction of federal oil and gas leases in southern Utah in the last days of the Bush administration.  The auctions were later determined to be illegal.  He will not be allowed to use a “necessity” defense, or even mention his reasons for disrupting the auction.  If found guilty, he should be pardoned.

What can we do about the Arab revolutions?

It’s frustrating to feel like nothing you do matters.  In isolation, we have very little effect on the world.  It’s only in aggregate, by organizing with other people that large changes — social chain reactions — can happen.  Sometimes it’s done purposefully, as in the case of universal suffrage or the civil rights movement.  Sometimes we don’t even realize what we’ve been organized to do, as with our present efforts to terraform the Earth.  A few weeks ago I was completely absorbed by the uprising in Egypt.  I don’t watch live video much (and no TV), and I was glued to Al Jazeera, and temporarily subscribed to a dozen actively twittering people in Cairo.  Then my sister sent me a link to a live hummingbird cam, which was jarringly disconnected from what I’d been immersed in, which looked more like this:

Down wt Mobarak

Continue reading What can we do about the Arab revolutions?

When do fuel costs actually matter?

Kim Stanley Robinson gave a fun talk at Google a couple of years ago in which he brought up the possibility of large, slow, wind powered live-aboard bulk freighters, among other ideas.  I was reminded of it by this post from Alex Steffen.  Especially for commodities like coal, grains and ore — non-perishable goods that get carried in bulk carriers — what matters is the net flux of materials and the predictability of supply.  More (or larger) slow ships can deliver the same flux as fewer high speed ones.  International contracts for these goods can span decades.  If fuel prices became a significant portion of their overall cost, it would be worthwhile to make this kind of ships-for-fuel substitution.  However, it turns out that fuel is a vanishingly small proportion of the overall cost of most internationally traded goods.


Our neighbors in Pasadena moved back to Thailand, and packed their entire household into a single half-sized shipping container.  The cost to get it from their home in SoCal to their home outside Bangkok was $2000.  Their combined airfare was probably a larger fraction of the cost of moving across the Pacific.  You can get a full-sized shipping container moved from point A to point B, anywhere within the global shipping network, for several thousand dollars.  If your cargo is worth significantly more than that, then you don’t have to worry about Peak Oil destroying your business.  For a typical container carrying $500,000 worth of goods, the shipping costs (not all of which are related to fuel!) represent about 1% of the final costs of the goods.  If fuel prices were to go up by a factor of ten, the shipping costs would still only represent 10% of the overall cost.  This would have an effect on business, to be sure, but it would not cause global trade to collapse.

Continue reading When do fuel costs actually matter?

Whose Roads?

A summary of research looking at how road infrastructure is funded (PDF) from VTPI.  Only about half of road funding comes from “use” fees like the gas tax and vehicle registration fees.  The other half comes from general tax revenues.  Ultimately this means that non-motorized road users, whose impacts on road infrastructure are very low, overpay significantly and end up subsidizing motorists.

The Finite World

The Finite World – Krugman at the NY Times talking about the resurgence in global commodity prices over the last year.  Economic recovery in developing economies driving the markets, with the US, and indeed the entire West, largely irrelevant.  Not only are we a smaller than ever slice of the pie, we’re not the ones building cities for hundreds of millions of people from scratch.  I’m not sure I really understand his conception of inflation though.  If rising commodity prices don’t constitute the most basic, raw form of inflation (you get less physical stuff in exchange for the same amount of labor performed), then I’m not sure what does.  Historically we’ve made the economic approximation that natural resources are infinite, and all you have to do is pay the cost of going out and getting them.  If that changes, then things will get weird.  Maybe even weird to the point of sensible!