The Near Future for Nuclear Power

Physics Today reports that nuclear energy is making a comeback:

Some two dozen power plants are scheduled to be built or refurbished during the next five years in Canada, China, several European Union countries, India, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, and South Africa. In the US and the UK, governmental preparations are under way that may lead to 15 new reactor orders by 2007.

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The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil

Megan Quinn writes of how Cuba survived peak oil:

At the Organip√≥nico de Alamar, a neighborhood agriculture project, a workers’ collective runs a large urban farm, a produce market and a restaurant. Hand tools and human labor replace oil-driven machinery. Worm cultivation and composting create productive soil. Drip irrigation conserves water, and the diverse, multi-hued produce provides the community with a rainbow of healthy foods.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Cuba’s oil supply was cut in half, but contrary to the predictions of many peak oil theorists, Cubans have been able to cope.

It hasn’t been easy for them — the average Cuban, for example, has lost 30 pounds since the sudden decline in their oil supply — but it has been survivable, with all the nation’s social and political structures remaining intact.

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Check out PBwiki

PBwiki logo I’ve been using PBwiki since shortly after they first made it available. It’s one of the few Web2.0 applications that I’ve found valuable enough to use regularly.

They offer a free, personal, password-protected wiki. A wiki is about the easiest way to create and edit a collection of web pages. Anybody who has used a wiki before has some idea of how versatile they can be. I use mine to collect my thoughts and store valuable information, like gift ideas for my wife and family, my favourite quotes from the books that I read, and maintenance logs on our lawn mower.

Anyways, I think it’s wonderful service and well worth looking at if you are at all interested in capturing your thoughts for later.

Disclosure: PBwiki is running a promotion where they will double the amount of storage space allotted to any of their users who post a link to their service. That I find the offer appealing should, I hope, indicate what I think of their service.

Has peak oil come and gone?

Kenneth S. Deffeyes claims that we’ve hit peak oil production:

In the January 2004 Current Events on this web site, I predicted that world oil production would peak on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 2005. In hindsight, that prediction was in error by three weeks. An update using the 2005 data shows that we passed the peak on December 16, 2005.

Among his other claims:

Since we have passed the peak without initiating major corrective measures, we now have to rely primarily on methods that we have already engineered. Long-term research and development projects, no matter how noble their objectives, have to take a back seat while we deal with the short-term problems. Long-term examples in the proposed 2007 US budget (Feb. 9, 2006 New York Times page A-18) include a 65 percent increase in the programs to produce ethanol from corn, a 25.8 percent increase for developing hydrogen fuel cell cars, and a 78.5 percent increase in spending on solar energy research. The Times reports that solar energy today supplies one percent of US electricity; the hope is to double that to 2 percent by the year 2025. By 2025, we’re going to be back in the Stone Age.

Tastes best with a grain of salt. I’m still hopeful for soft landing.

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Early Retirement

Philip Greenspun writes about early retirement. Although I’m not in any position to be considering it, I found it an entertaining read:

Suppose that you are retired. At this point, your one job is the pursuit of happiness. If you are not happy, therefore you are a failure at your job and in your life. But how can you be happy 24/7? Perhaps if you moved into a hotel in Orlando and went to Disneyworld every day you would be pretty happy. But if you retain the responsibilities of home- and car-ownership, much of your life will continue to be mundane, boring, or unpleasant. Will you wear a big smile on your face as you change the lightbulbs in the hall? Will you be delighted paying bills or begging the plumber to come over and fix the shower? Will you be ecstatic when it comes time to get your car inspected?

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Only eight years of natural gas left in Canada?

Dan Crawford reports for the Republic, “Vancouver’s opinionated newspaper,” from a talk by Dave Hughes of Natural Resources Canada that there is only eight years of natural gas left in Canada:

Consumption trends and patterns were also explored. In every case, the phenomenal growth rates in our economy show a complete disconnect with the reality of the resources currently supporting them. Canada, for example, has 8.1 years left in natural gas reserves.

This isn’t entirely correct.

According to the latest annual review (pdf), as of January, 2004, there were 68 Trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of proven natural gas reserves, 171 Tcf of discovered resources, and 366 Tcf of undiscovered resources (check out the 2000 review for detailed definitions of these terms). In 2004, 5.9 Tcf were extracted.

The prediction of 8.1 years is quite obviously based on proven reserves.

If you include discovered reserves — the ones that are drilled and known with certaintly, but are too far from existing pipelines to economically extract currently — that number more than triples. Once you add to that the undiscovered reserves — known to contain gas, but not yet drilled — the number grows much larger.

So we have more than 8 years before we’re forced to replace our furnaces and water heaters with something else, although it’s easy to point out compelling reasons to switch sooner.

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When the oil runs out

When I opened the latest Maclean’s magazine yesterday, I was surprised to see this article by Jonathon Gatehouse, entitled When the oil runs out:

The Four Horsemen have upgraded to SUVs. Not the hybrid ones either, but those gas-guzzling, bunny-crushing behemoths that Arnold Schwarzenegger favours. In oil-rich Babylon, whores are so thick on the ground that it’s a little hard to pick just one. Although everyone can agree on what the Antichrist is up to — running a multinational petroleum company. Yes, the End is nigh, if you believe the consensus that has been brewing in the halls of academe and the non-fiction aisle at the local bookstore. Starting in 2010, no later than 2020 or 2030, according to the latest vision of secular apocalypse, global oil supplies will peak, and the world will begin to unravel at the seams.

It seems that the idea of peak oil is making it into the mainstream, and that’s a good thing. The more awareness there is of the issue, the greater the chance that we will prepare for a world with expensive oil, then for a world without it. I believe that a soft landing is possible, but only if we face it, and plan for it.

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The New Reality of Oil Prices

Stanley Reed reports for BusinessWeek on the new reality of oil prices:

Everyone knows it: oil prices have gone through the roof. The price of benchmark crude rose 11% this year alone, to about $67 per barrel, before pulling back a little. But many in the industry have always figured that prices would sooner or later simmer down. One indication: Even when short-term prices soared to alarming levels, the futures market had until recently valued oil much more modestly. As new supplies came onstream, traders figured, prices would drift back down to their long-term average, which for years was about $20 per barrel. This thinking still influences the big oil companies, who have held back from investing massively in new projects.

But the futures market is now sending a radically different, and disturbing, message.

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The Undecided

The Undecided: I wish I’d known about this site before the election. It’s a flash application that works like a taste test. They give you a choice of selecting from any of the parties’ positions on a particular issue without showing which party holds it. Then you can rank the issues to find out which one(s) you most agree with.

It wouldn’t have had any effect on how I voted in the election. It mostly told me what I already know: I don’t agree strongly with any of the national political parties of Canada.

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