Monday, February 27, 2012

Wyoming Doomsday Bill Advances In State House

Wyoming lawmakers pushed forward legislation to explore how the state would respond if the country fell into economic and political turmoil.
The so-called doomsday bill, passed in the Wyoming House on Friday, would create a special task force to study ways the state would handle such crises as a food shortage to a government shutdown. Some provisions that will be explored include Wyoming forming its own army and issuing its own currency.
The task force formed by the bill would include state lawmakers, the head of Wyoming's Department of Homeland Security and the state attorney general.
The bill must pass two more House votes before it reaches the Senate, according to the Casper Star-Tribune.
So far, no word if the task force will explore solutions for a Zombie Apocalypse, as the Center For Disease Control has done.

Oil at 10-month High Above $125 a Barrel

(Reuters) - A jump in energy prices is jamming the slow-turning cogs of an economic recovery in the West, but that may be nothing compared to the economic shock an Israeli attack on Iran would cause.
Oil rose to a 10-month high above $125 a barrel Friday, prompting responses from policymakers around the world including U.S. President Barack Obama, watching U.S. gasoline prices follow crude to push toward $4 a gallon in an election year.
Europe may have more to fear as its fragile economic growth falters and Greece, Italy and Spain look for alternative sources to the crude they currently import from Iran, where an EU oil embargo, intended to make Iran abandon what the West fears are efforts to develop nuclear weapons, comes into force in June.
In euro terms, Brent crude rose to an all-time high of 93.60 euros this week, topping its 2008 record.
"The West's determination to prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons is coming at a price - a price that might include a second global 

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Story of Your Enslavement

Peak Everything -- Why Everything Costs More

Peak Oil -- No Longer the Right Question

A Shell Oil geologist named M. King Hubbert predicted in 1956 that U.S. oil production would peak in the early 1970s. When it did, Hubbert became the geologist equivalent of a rock star and gave the young environmental movement evidence for something it was seeking: a limit to growth.

When is -- or was -- peak world oil production? It's just not the right question anymore. Deepwater drilling, tar sands extraction, and the shale gas boom have extended the supply of hydrocarbon fuels. The new question: What's the smartest way to use them?

The iconic Peak Oil example has inspired parlor-game questions about other resources. Some, like coal, are finite; others, like water, are renewable but have limits to how quickly reserves can be replenished. Can Earth keep up with our demand? Call it Peak Everything.

Peak Uranium -- Nuclear Risk Declines Post-Fukushima

"Peak uranium" entered the lexicon with peak oil, coal and natural gas in 1956, when Shell Oil geologist Hubbert sketched out his famous resource bell curves. The future is still up for debate.

The world reached a uranium production peak in the 1980s, even as consumption climbed. However, supplies continued to meet demand because weapons decommissioned after the Cold War were repurposed for commercial fuel. Those sources are now drying up, and a new demand-driven peak may be on the horizon.

The Fukushima Daiichi disaster in Japan last year scaled back global nuclear ambition dramatically and raised questions about nuclear power's future. That makes peak uranium an uncertain risk at a time when other power sources, such as solar, wind and natural gas, have made great gains.

Peak Population -- Driving the Race for Materials

Population growth and rising affluence are fueling the fastest and largest modernization binge in history.

The human population is set to grow to 9.3 billion people by 2050, from 7 billion today, according to United Nations estimates. Even more impressive, the middle class may nearly triple to 4.9 billion consumers in 2030. The UN estimates the total number of humans may peak at 10 billion by the end of this century.

The global business dilemma of our time is how companies can satisfy these new markets without falling prey to scarcity of strategic resources, as well as social or ecological strain. Sustainability strategies are fast emerging as executives' road map to this quickly changing world.

Peak Tuna -- Sushi Endangers Atlantic Bluefin Species

Sushi eaters have over-indulged in one of the world's most delicious resources. The numbers of Atlantic bluefin tuna, Japan's most prized catch, have passed their peak, decimated by a global craze over the delicate slices of crimson flesh. Some environmentalists want it designated as endangered.

Once-thriving populations have been over-fished to less than 10 percent of their former populations in some regions. The plight of the species has done little to curb demand; a Japanese sushi chain spent a record $730,000 for a single fish this year.

International quotas are ignored each year. The tuna trade has declined since its 2007 peak, but not fast enough, according to the Pew Environment Group. In 2010, bluefin sales were more than double the set limit.

[Also see: Top Counterfeit Goods]

Peak Water -- Era of Clean and Cheap Comes to an End

Water is plentiful on Earth; humans use less than 1/100 of one percent. This global abundance obscures local challenges. In many places, the tap is running dry. That's because there's a difference between usable water -- the kind that's clean and salt-free and located nearby, and unusable water -- everything else.

Many of the reservoirs of water humans draw on for farming, manufacturing and drinking are ground-water aquifers that took millennia to fill. These irreplaceable storage tanks are being depleted over just a few decades.

The era of cheap water has passed its peak, according to Peter Gleick, a California scientist who helped define the term "peak water" in 2010. The good news is there's plenty of water out there if the humans just learn to better manage it.

Peak Iron -- Emerging Markets Keeps Prices High

There's good and bad news about peak iron. The good news is that demand has leveled off in the U.S. and much of the developed world. It's easier to recycle iron products than to mine new supplies.

The bad news: Emerging markets are just getting started on a high-iron diet. Steel skyscrapers from Bangalore to Beijing are piling up in record numbers, and more people than ever are driving cars to get to them. Price volatility jumped in recent years as miners failed to meet Chinese-led demand.

Consumption outpaced seaborne supply every year since at least 2004 and will continue to do so until 2014, Morgan Stanley estimates. The price of Australian lump ore was $184.09 a metric ton last year, compared with $29.40 in 2004.

Peak Coffee -- Climate Change May Stress the Beans

Prices for Arabica coffee beans jumped more than fourfold since Starbucks Corp., the world's largest coffee shop owner, had its initial public offering in June 1992. By 2010, java guzzlers consumed an estimated 135 million bags, the most since at least 2000, according to the International Coffee Organization.

Starbucks plans to open its first store in India by August, becoming one of the first companies to take advantage of new rules opening the doors to foreign chains. The downside to adding a billion new potential customers: increasing strain on an already stressed bean.

Rising temperatures and unusual rainfalls in Central and South America have curtailed crops in recent years, a trend that's forecast to worsen as global warming takes a toll on coffee-growing regions.

Peak Coal--Industrial Age Icon Has Clean Competition

Coal, the fire stone, filler of Christmas stockings, enabler of industrialization, may be reaching its peak. "The peak of global coal production... is imminent," wrote two engineering professors, in the journal Energy in 2010.

Like other peak assessments, coal projections vary with researchers' assumptions and estimates. The Energy Watch Group, based in Germany, has suggested that U.S. coal production peaked in 2002 and that world reserves could climb until 2025. The U.S. Energy Information Agency sees global coal output rising at 1.1 percent a year at least until 2035.

Coal has always been dirty. Airborne soot convinced Londoners in the 1700s to start using all-black umbrellas to hide the grime, a tradition that's carried on even after the air has cleared significantly. Today, the grime from coal is molecular, as power plants release carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming.

Peak Food -- The Earth Can Manage It. Can We?

The price of wheat, the most-consumed food grain, has almost quadrupled in four decades as global demand surged for everything from bread and cakes to cookies and pasta.

With brief exceptions, wheat averaged about $3 a bushel from 1960 until 2008. That year, weather damage and plunging inventories quadrupled prices. At the same time, the price of rice contributed to more than 60 food-related riots worldwide.

After the recession, wheat still trades at about $6.50 a bushel, encouraging farmers to grow the biggest crop ever. Rice trades at almost double its pre-2008 price. If managed right, grain production may have no peak, though volatility and higher prices are becoming the norm. Cargill, the farm commodities trader, has said the era of falling food prices has probably come to an end.

[Also see: Richest cities where no one wants to move]

Peak Phosphorus -- Running Low Except as Pollution

The Earth recycles its phosphorus. Like life's other chemical elements, phosphorus travels from soil, sea or rock, through the food chain, and back to earth again.

Industrial agriculture, which relies on phosphorus for fertilizer, is disrupting the cycle by adding excessive amounts of mined minerals. This creates two problems. First, the world might have only 30 years of mineable phosphorus left before availability peaks, according to the Global Phosphorus Research Initiative.

Second, phosphorus and nitrogen fertilizers wash from farms into rivers, to the sea, where they form massive "dead zones" of oxygen-starved water. A solution to both issues is as difficult to accomplish as it is unappealing to consider: Recycle our own waste streams when the Earth runs low.

Peak Spectrum -- Will Devices Overload the Airwaves?

Spectrum is the highway system of the mobile Internet, and data-intensive devices are taking up more road. Owners of Apple's iPhone 4S take up almost twice as much data as users of the previous version. They belong to the top one percent of mobile device users, who today consume half the world's data volumes. As the other 99 percent catches up, there may be traffic jams and more expensive tolls.

To cope with traffic, users are increasingly offloading data onto more efficient, shorter-range Wi-Fi networks. Service providers are also investing in more towers to address congestion.

As demand increases for limited spectrum, service providers may raise prices. Many are already eliminating unlimited-use plans or capping speeds for heavy users. As with another natural resource -- oil in the early 1970s -- suppliers and consumers are only beginning to take basic steps to minimize consumption.

Peak Rare Earths -- Metals that Play Hard to Get

One resource has scarcity in its name: rare earth metals. Early researchers called them "rare" because of their scattered distribution and the difficult task of mining them. Ironically, they are fairly common in the Earth's crust.

Economic and political factors constrain supply, which puts rare earths high atop the list of strategic concerns. China produces almost all the world's rare earths. The U.S. might need up to 15 years to begin mining its own deposits, according to a 2010 General Accountability Office study.

Rare earths have magnetic and other properties that make them critical to mobile phones, computers and advanced weaponry. Low-carbon energy technologies depend on them, too -- nuclear, solar, wind, biofuels, carbon capture and storage, and electricity transmission. Potential shortages are a risk to clean energy development.

Peak Fracking -- Only Natural Gas Limit is Regulation

No question posed here is less urgent than how long natural gas will last. Gas is booming. Pennsylvania, home of America's early oil industry, is seeing a hydrocarbon renaissance, even as it confronts serious questions of environmental contamination raised in the last several years.

Technology matured in the last decade that allows drillers to bore horizontally, under places difficult to reach by conventional methods, such as Dallas-Ft. Worth. Engineers also became better at a process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

The U.S. has more than a century of natural gas reserves at a 2010 consumption level, according to the Energy Information Agency. Better technology flattens the prediction, offered by Shell Oil's geologist Hubbert, of a U.S. peak between 1975 and 1980. No peak in sight.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Euro Zone Loses Patience with Greece

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Euro zone finance ministers told Greece on Saturday it could not go ahead with an agreed deal to restructure privately-held debt until it guaranteed it would implement reforms needed to secure a second financing package from the euro zone and the IMF.
Euro zone ministers had hoped to meet on Monday to finalize the second Greek bailout, which has to be in place by mid-March if Athens is to avoid a chaotic default. But the meeting was postponed because of Greek reluctance to commit to reforms.
Instead, the ministers held a conference call on Saturday to take stock of progress on the second financing package, which euro zone leaders set at 130 billion euros back in October.
"There was a very clear message that was conveyed from all participants of the teleconference ... to the Greeks that enough is enough," one euro zone official said. "There is a great sense of frustration that they are dragging their feet.
"They should get their act together and start talking honestly, decisively and speedily with the Troika on the aspects of the programme that remain to be finalized - on fiscal and labor market reforms," the official said.
The Troika are the representatives of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, who have prepared a Greek debt sustainability analysis on which the second financing programme will be based.
"The main issue is the lack of reform, or prior action, in Greece," a second euro zone official said.
Euro zone ministers were also dissatisfied with Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos because they believed the minister was paying more attention to his position within his party ahead of the April elections, than to talks about reforms.
"There is a great sense of frustration with Minister Venizelos, who is very hard to get hold of because he is very busy campaigning for the leadership of (the Greek party) PASOK, so he is not available to meet with Troika members," the first official said.
"He is preparing his own political future, rather than the future of his country. People are seriously disgruntled about that and have conveyed this very clearly to him this afternoon," the official said.
"There is an increasing sense of frustration that why should we honour our part of the bargain, which we have in the past, while Greece does not seem to care that much, and has not delivered their part of the bargain," the official said.
In Athens, Venizelos admitted to a growing sense of impatience with the Greeks.
"There is great impatience and great pressure not only from the three institutions that make up the troika but also from euro zone member states," Venizelos said after what he called a "very difficult" conference call with euro zone counterparts.
"The moment is very crucial. Everything should be concluded by tomorrow night."
Jean-Claude Juncker, who chairs the Eurogroup of euro zone finance ministers, voiced the possibility of default.
"If we were to establish that everything has gone wrong in Greece, there would be no new programme, and that would mean that in March they have to declare bankruptcy," he said in advance copy of comments to news weekly Der Spiegel.
Greece has secured a debt restructuring deal with private creditors to halve the value of Greek debt in nominal terms and in exchange receive new, 30 year bonds with an average coupon below 4 percent, officials said.
The restructuring is to help make Greek debt sustainable by cutting it to 120 percent of GDP in 2020 from 160 percent now.
But euro zone governments will only agree to bolster the debt restructuring, called private sector involvement (PSI), with 30 billion euros and further finance the Greek government through 2014 if Athens presses on with lagging reforms.
"The message to Greece now is very clear. The PSI as it stands now is broadly OK but we will not allow you to go ahead with the PSI unless we have guarantees that the rest of the reform to make the whole situation sustainable in the long run will be delivered," the first official said.
"We don't want to give them the PSI, because once we do, we surrender our leverage to obtain any more concrete commitments in terms of policy," the official said. "Before we go ahead with the PSI ... we want to have assurances that Greece is actually capable of implementing the second programme."
Debt restructuring is likely to hit Greek banks harder than others, because they hold a lot of Greek government bonds.
Some EU officials said on Friday that euro zone governments may now have to contribute closer to 145 billion euros than the originally envisaged 130 billion to the second financing package to help recapitalise Greek banks after the bond swap.
But there is strong resistance to that idea from several countries, including paymaster Germany.
"It is highly unlikely that the overall envelope will increase," the second official said.
"In some capitals there is absolutely no appetite whatsoever to reopen the size of the financing package," the first official said.
Investors and some EU officials have suggested that any additional money needed to make Greek debt sustainable could come from the ECB, which holds a portfolio of around 40-50 billion euros worth of Greek paper.
The issue was not discussed at the Saturday call, however.
"This is off the table now. Everybody is saying now that before we can start discussing what the public sector can do, should do or may do, let's talk to the Greeks about what they are prepared to do," the first official said.
"If the Greeks don't start delivering, the question of Official Sector Involvement (OSI) is superfluous."
International lenders to Greece would like to see a lower minimum wage, the removal of the 13th and 14th month "bonus" salary and the liberalisation of labor markets - issues that are politically difficult for Greek parties before the April elections.
"We hope that over the next 12-24-48 hours they will get their act together and ... discuss these matters very urgently with the Troika," the first official said.
Euro zone officials said that Greece, betting that the euro zone would not allow a disorderly default because of the possible repercussions across the 17-country single currency bloc, was playing a dangerous game.
"They think, that we think that the unthinkable cannot be thought. But they better think again," the first official said.
The euro zone expects Greek politicians to come up with a consensus on reforms by Monday, but a letter committing to reforms from political parties may not be enough at this stage, the official said.
"We don't care so much about signed letters by now, we want a clear timetable for legislative action, we would expect them to put it in legislation and pass it possibly before the end of February or in early March - that is the best guarantee - better than any signature," the first official said.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Supervolcano That Can Devastate Europe Showing Signs of Awakening

"Every ten to 12 thousand years, there's a volcano in the heart of Europe that goes boom. ...It's been 12,900 years since the last eruption. ....Seismological activity started in 2010, with the latest movements happening last February, when a series of seven earthquakes ranging from 2.0 to 4.5 magnitude were registered in the area.
The lake has been bubbling since with with carbon dioxide gas that comes from the magma under the lake's bed. "

The Supervolcano That Can Devastate Europe Is Showing Signs of Awakening

Every ten to 12 thousand years, there's a volcano in the heart of Europe that goesboom. And not any boom, but a let's-kill-everyone-with-billions-of-tonnes-of-magmaboom that would cover everything in ash from England and Denmark to the north of Italy.
Now, the supervolcano that can destroy bad teeth, rude waiters, overpriced wine, olive oil, smelly camping sites, disco music, nudist beaches, pasta, David Hasselhoff and Oktoberfest is awakening
It's been 12,900 years since the last eruption. The supervolcano is located under the Laacher See, a caldera lake in the Eifel mountain range, 15 miles from Koblenz and 30 miles from Bonn, the old capital of West Germany.
Some scientists are saying that the volcano can go now at any time, although there are no official alerts. They are just watching for now. Seismological activity started in 2010, with the latest movements happening last February, when a series of seven earthquakes ranging from 2.0 to 4.5 magnitude were registered in the area.
The lake has been bubbling since with with carbon dioxide gas that comes from the magma under the lake's bed. Maybe this is what Europe needs to get out of the Euro crisis.
I wonder what would happen to the world's weather if this, the deadly Mount Tambora and the Yellowstone hypermegasupervolcano explode at the same time. I can already imagine the 2012 doomsday idiots screaming "I told y*" before getting engulfed in flames. [Daily Mail]

Volcano Eruption in Italy

Mt Etna in Italy Erupts .... 1st eruption of 2012 .. won;t be the last ... Italy has one of the super volcanoes which will erupt soon ... possibly in 2012