The Age of Oil: Every man a master, every man a slave

oil pump jack

"If we do commit a sin owning slaves," said one Alabama slaveholder in 1835, "it is certainly one which is attended with great conveniences." You can say the same thing about using energy from fossil fuels —  it may be immoral, but it sure is handy. And that's the conundrum that Andrew Nikiforuk examines in The Energy of Slaves: Oil and the New Servitude. Every man a slavemaster Just like … [Read more...]

Will 2013 be the year globalization died?

Insourcing American Jobs conference

In The Campaign, last year's hilarious, potty-mouthed political romp with Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis, the Motch brothers (modeled of course on the Koch brothers) shovel piles of cash onto the campaign of Galifianakis's character Marty. Why? They want to build factories in his North Carolina congressional district, where they will employ Chinese workers at Chinese wages. They call it … [Read more...]

With America distracted by oil bubble, peak oil patiently waits

oil graphic

Mohandas Gandhi may or may not have said, "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." But it's become a truism among activists that, after years of playing to an empty house, it's actually a sign of progress when the rotten tomatoes start to fly. For a long time, people in the peak oil community complained that both government and media didn't pay any … [Read more...]

Peak cycling? Bikes are oil hungry beasts

bicycle built for two 1886

I am a keen cyclist. When I lived in Vancouver last year I would cycle the four miles to and from work six days a week during the warmer months. Unfortunately my job here back in New Zealand doesn't allow for cycling (I spend weeks out at sea on fishing boats) but I still try to get out on my bike as much as possible. Cycling has many advantages over other forms of transport: it's free exercise, … [Read more...]

WTI-Brent spread costing Canadian producers over $1 billion a month

Pipeline Monument, Cushing, OK

Facing growing political and environmental opposition in the US to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline (now indefinitely delayed, a victory for pipeline opponents -- ed.), Canada’s landlocked options for exporting its oil have never appeared more costly. Not only has deadheaded oil in Cushing, Oklahoma, the present terminus of the pipeline, put a crimp on expansion plans in the oil sands, but the … [Read more...]

Don’t count on burning Libyan oil just yet

Libyan opposition flag

With the sudden collapse of the Qaddafi regime in Tripoli, the oil industry is hoping it can repair enough of Libya’s damaged export terminals, pumping stations and pipelines to get as much as one million barrels a day of oil flowing into the market within the next six to 12 months. But as I have argued before in this blog, regime change in the Middle East has seldom been bullish for energy … [Read more...]

Asian power plants could take US drivers off the road


What’s more important to world oil demand -- gasoline prices in the U.S. that are nearly $4 a gallon, or power rationing in China? To Americans, of course, it’s the former. But to world oil markets, the latter may be a far more significant indication of where oil prices will be heading this summer. How did our gas get into their tanks? At today’s pump prices, it’s a safe bet U.S. gasoline … [Read more...]

The U.S. fatso after a miracle diet of renewables

monster truck

Almost every day on the way to campus I watch all kinds of monster trucks overtaking my small diesel engine-powered car.  The drivers look down at me with amusement and proudly roar from all of their eight monster cylinders, spewing their monster exhaust fumes.  All these dinosaurs on wheels usually carry one person, who is not getting anywhere any faster than I do.  They do burn, however, … [Read more...]

Billionaire boys’ club for oil

The Asylum book cover

The trading floor with coke, hookers and fistfights is gone, but speculation has only gotten worse in the era of peak oil. Before screen trading took over a few years ago, the world's oil price was set in the pits of the New York Mercantile Exchange. Editor's rating: NYMEX began as a refuge for scrappy ethnic guys from the Bronx and Staten Island who were not welcome in the WASPy club of … [Read more...]

Peak oil for visual thinkers


Some people think that any discussion of peak oil must involve peer reviewed papers and complicated mathematical analyses like the “multicyclic Hubbert model.”  Even the non-modelers love to toss around tables of numbers with units of “million barrels per day” or “tons of oil equivalent." But there's another way of explaining and understanding our global oil predicament that doesn’t require a … [Read more...]