Wednesday, June 27, 2007

More on Peak Oil and Climate Change

Here's a good article on the subject, by David Strahan. He discusses why Climate Change campaigners don't want to discuss Peak Oil and vice versa, despite the obvious interdependence of the two subjects.

Peak oil could also sabotage attempts to fight climate change by paradoxically increasing greenhouse gas emissions, if oil depletion forces us to exploit the wrong kinds of fuel. The alternatives to crude oil are all resource constrained and unlikely to fill the gap – at least not in time – but they still have the potential to do enormous climate damage. Burning rainforest and peatlands to create palm oil plantations for biofuels releases vast amounts of CO2, and has already turned Indonesia into the world’s third biggest emitter after America and China.[4] Synthetic transport fuels made from gas using the Fischer-Tropsch chemical process emit even more carbon on a well-to-wheels basis than conventional crude. When the feedstock is coal the emissions double. So in the unlikely scenario that we manage to replace more than half the yawning conventional deficit with coal-based fuel, but not all of it, we would still suffer fuel shortage while emitting even more CO2 than in the current business-as-usual forecast - the worst of all possible worlds.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Climate Change and Peak Oil

I'm no expert on neither Climate Change nor Peak Oil. However, The more you look into the two issues, I have to say that the more convinced I become that global warming is something we can do quite little about, while peak oil is something that is very real indeed. To be clear, it seems clear that the climate is changing, and that greenhouse gases play a role here (though probably not a decisive one). That we could make decisive changes to the climate in the coming decades by changing our behavior now (short of going cold turkey on fossil fuels) seems improbable.

But, it seems to be clear that energy prices will rise a lot in the coming years and that this will have effects on our lives comparable in gravity to those thought to be caused by climate change.

Still, it is climate change that has become a big issue in politics lately. Now, so far I have been of the opinion that this actually is not so big a problem, because the two problems are so closely related. Most sane actions taken to counter climate change reduces use of fossil fuels.

However, it seems that the politicians really can't do anything right when it comes to the environment. Rather than taking sane actions, like supporting the development of alternative - clean - sources of energy, we see Nuclear Power coming back on a big scale. We hear that it is carbon neutral and safe and clean. Obviously it is none of these things. Energy is used for transports both of Uranium and the waste. It is not safe nor clean: especially the mining of uranium is increasingly messy because it is found in so difficult places. And obviously the waste will be with us forever.

Even worse, the other solution now getting much more political momentum is coal plants that collect the carbon emissions. This is a solution typical of the generation that has always felt that problems out of sight are solved. There are no good solution for storing these emissions, and there are good reasons to believe such deposits will become new environmental hazards.

But putting real effort into developing real renewable energy sources or encouraging people to save energy, that is to much to expect.

The problem here is that future historians - if such will exist - will have a great problem of understanding why we put so much effort into a problem that we was not sure existed while at the same time ignoring a problem plane to see for anyone who cares to look, thus destroying our civilization ourselves.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Yes Men Strike Again

While we're on the oil theme... You might have heard of this already:

June 14, 2007

Conference organizer fails to have Yes Men arrested

Text of speech, photos, video:
GO-EXPO statement:
Press conference before this event, Friday, Calgary:
More links at end of release.

Imposters posing as ExxonMobil and National Petroleum Council (NPC)representatives delivered an outrageous keynote speech to 300 oilmen at GO-EXPO, Canada's largest oil conference, held at Stampede Park in Calgary, Alberta, today.

The speech was billed beforehand by the GO-EXPO organizers as the major highlight of this year's conference, which had 20,000 attendees. In it, the "NPC rep" was expected to deliver the long-awaited conclusions of a study commissioned by US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman. The NPC is headed by former ExxonMobil CEO Lee Raymond, who is also the chair of the study. (See link at end.)

In the actual speech, the "NPC rep" announced that current U.S. and
Canadian energy policies (notably the massive, carbon-intensive exploitation of Alberta's oil sands, and the development of liquid coal) are increasing the chances of huge global calamities. But he reassured the audience that in the worst case scenario, the oil industry could "keep fuel flowing" by transforming the billions of
people who die into oil.

"We need something like whales, but infinitely more abundant," said "NPC rep" "Shepard Wolff" (actually Andy Bichlbaum of the Yes Men),
before describing the technology used to render human flesh into a new Exxon oil product called Vivoleum. 3-D animations of the process brought it to life.

"Vivoleum works in perfect synergy with the continued expansion of fossil fuel production," noted "Exxon rep" "Florian Osenberg" (Yes Man Mike Bonanno). "With more fossil fuels comes a greater chance of disaster, but that means more feedstock for Vivoleum. Fuel will continue to flow for those of us left."

The oilmen listened to the lecture with attention, and then lit "commemorative candles" supposedly made of Vivoleum obtained from the flesh of an "Exxon janitor" who died as a result of cleaning up a toxic spill. The audience only reacted when the janitor, in a video tribute, announced that he wished to be transformed into candles after his death, and all became crystal-clear.

At that point, Simon Mellor, Commercial & Business Development Director for the company putting on the event, strode up and physically forced the Yes Men from the stage. As Mellor escorted Bonanno out the door, a dozen journalists surrounded Bichlbaum, who, still in character as "Shepard Wolff," explained to them the rationale for Vivoleum.

"We've got to get ready. After all, fossil fuel development like that of my company is increasing the chances of catastrophic climate change, which could lead to massive calamities, causing migration and conflicts that would likely disable the pipelines and oil wells. Without oil we could no longer produce or transport food, and most of humanity would starve. That would be a tragedy, but at least all those bodies could be turned into fuel for the rest of us."

"We're not talking about killing anyone," added the "NPC rep." "We're talking about using them after nature has done the hard work. After all, 150,000 people already die from climate-change related effects every year. That's only going to go up - maybe way, way up. Will it all go to waste? That would be cruel."

Security guards then dragged Bichlbaum away from the reporters, and he and Bonanno were detained until Calgary Police Service officers could arrive. The policemen, determining that no major infractions had been committed, permitted the Yes Men to leave.

Canada's oil sands, along with "liquid coal," are keystones of Bush's Energy Security plan. Mining the oil sands is one of the dirtiest forms of oil production and has turned Canada into one of the world's worst carbon emitters. The production of "liquid coal" has twice the carbon footprint as that of ordinary gasoline. Such technologies increase the likelihood of massive climate catastrophes that will condemn to death untold millions of people, mainly poor.

"If our idea of energy security is to increase the chances of climate calamity, we have a very funny sense of what security really is," Bonanno said. "While ExxonMobil continues to post record profits, they use their money to persuade governments to do nothing about climate change. This is a crime against humanity."

"Putting the former Exxon CEO in charge of the NPC, and soliciting his advice on our energy future, is like putting the wolf in charge of the flock," said "Shepard Wolff" (Bichlbaum). "Exxon has done more damage to the environment and to our chances of survival than any other company on earth. Why should we let them determine our future?"

About the NPC and ExxonMobil: About the NPC and Exon Mobil
About the Alberta oil sands: About Alberta oil sands
About liquid coal: Sierra club on liquid coal

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Expensive Oil

Higher oil prices was supposed to lead to the development of cleaner technology, right. Well, why would the oil industry suddenly develop morals?

Naomi Klein's got the story.

It has become fashionable to predict that high oil prices will spark a
free-market response to climate change, setting off an "explosion of
innovation in alternatives," as New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote recently. Alberta puts the lie to that claim. High prices have indeed led to an R extravaganza, but it is squarely focused on figuring out how to get the dirtiest possible oil out of the hardest-to-reach places. Shell, for instance, is working on a "novel thermal recovery process"--embedding large electric heaters in the deposits and literally cooking the earth.

And that's the Alberta tar sands for you: The industry already contributing to climate change more than any other is frantically turning up the heat.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Arcade Fire Early Demo

If there is anyone else out there who feels that one classic album (Funeral) and one great album (Neon Bible) and on maybe not so great EP is enough Arcade Fire, do check out these early demo's from 2001. Some of the songs are really good, others rather mediocre, as you would expect from a band like Arcade Fire.

Apparently Mr. Butler went through a C.S. Lewis period at some point, too:

Oh my God, a winter for a year
Oh my God, a winter for a year
And I cleaned out the back of my wardrobe for a year
Jackets never turn into branches
Not while you're not here
Winter for a Year

Female Theology Bloggers

I have from time to time commented on how few women feel the need to blog on theology, especially when it is time to create a list of some kind. Well Michael L. Westmoreland-White has gathered together a list of the actually-not-so-few exceptions.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Nationalism and Patriotism

There has been some discussion recently in the blogosphere about nationalism and patriotism, and either's relation to Christianity. Read in particular this posts by Michael J. Iafrate (and the follow-up), this post at Vox Nova and this one by Halden.

Coming from a small country like Finland, nationalism and patriotism clearly means something else than in the US, for example. Patriotism here means honoring those that took part in Finland's wars against the Soviet Union, but there is little notion of what Finland should be like today. Very few Finns have any concept of some glory of the Finnish nation, and no idea of any special status of our country compared to others.

Still, as I wrote in my post on Gutierrez last week, there is also an ugly flip side to the comparably weak Finnish nationalism, and this is I think true of all forms of nationalism. Nationalism will be used as an excuse to limit solidarity to our group. I mean, it is natural to have special concern for your family, relatives, the people who live in you home town, because you see them quite often and share much with them. In general we could say that we identify with people we share an experience with.

The problem is that identification with the nation is manufactured. My life resembles that of PhD students in other countries much more than that of a farmer in Carelia or some suit in Helsinki. What binds Finns together is the created common narrative of history taught to us in school and through media. Nothing else.

The point is, national narratives are created by the state ultimately for one purpose. To make it possible for the state to recruit people for the army. (Ok, they are some added "benefits" like shared experience of watching hockey and, but that's about it). This is the historical background to nationalism (to create empires) and it is still true today. Support for a nation's army is strongly correlated to the prevalence of nationalist ideals in that country.

The idea that something has a special value because it is Finnish is fake. One could argue that we need a Finnish culture to withstand "American" culture, but here too nationalism leads us wrong, since the problem is not about creating a Finnish alternative to for example the American, but about creating a local alternative to the global or commercial and upholding cultural diversity in general.

An identity based in real experience do not have sharp borders. The further away from Me we move, we share less experience but we can probably find something that connects us even if we move very far. But manufactured identities draw sharp lines, creates us vs. them scenarios. Finns against Russians, Christians against Muslims, Humans against nature. This is the mindset nationalism fosters. If we avoid nationalism we can learn to recognize what we share rather than what separates us.

(BTW, Our neighbours the Swedes celebrate their national holiday today. Since nationalism is very weak in Sweden (they have not fought a war in almost 200 years) they don't really know what to do on their national holiday. Very refreshing that. Hoppas ni njuter av vädret, vänner!)

Monday, June 04, 2007

Lost in the Flood

There's a new song up on my band's MySpace-site. I'm rather proud of it, so you might want to give it a listen.

We play Springsteen songs. We're not aiming for the note-perfect xerox-copies of the originals but try to play the songs the best way we can. This song I think we succeeded pretty well. It's one of Springsteen's best songs in my opinion with somewhat cryptic but very strong lyrics. Though what he means by "Nun's run bald through Vatican Halls, Pregnant, pleading Immaculate Conception" is anybody's guess.

New Blog of the Month at Theology Blogs

Check out who Lawrence chose.