Friday, April 20, 2012

Friday Night Odds and Ends

To begin with, if you are even remotely interested in astronomy and things going on in the sky, you might want to find someplace or some way to observe the coming transit of Venus.  A planetary transit like this is when the planet crosses the disk of the sun as seen from Earth.  In North America, where most of my readers are, at least some portions of the transit will be visible on the evening of Tuesday, June 5th.  Alaska, Hawaii, and the pacific west of there will see the entire transit, with the transit occuring at sunrise over Europe, east Africa, the Indian subcontinent and the Mideast.
This is an extremely rare event!  I believe there have been seven observed since the invention of the telescope.  Due to the angles between Earth's and Venus' orbits, you get a pair of Venus transits eight years apart (we had one in '04), and then not again for a long time.  The next one will be in 2117 - not only is this the last chance of our lives to see one, but the last of our children's lives and likely our grandchildren's lives.  Our newly arrived granddaughter will have to live to 105 to see one.

This being Florida, we were clouded out of the 2004 transit.  I would like to see this one - with my own eyes.  Yes, I have a solar filter that allows use of a telescope.  If need be, I'll watch it online.  More details here.

I've mentioned before that I don't particularly believe in the concept of peak oil, at least as most commentators use it.  In an even remotely working market, as the price of one fuel rises, research into alternatives picks up (all without the getting involved) as inventors jockey to be the next godzillionaire, and we transition between fuels.  Energy Efficiency and Technology magazine editor Leland Tesch writes on the subject this month
To understand this viewpoint, one has to go back to the originator of the peak oil theory, the geologist M. King Hubbert. Hubbert’s theory argues that world oil output is currently at or near the highest level it will ever reach, and that about half the world’s oil resources have already been produced. Hubbert devised his peak theory in 1956. He claimed U.S. oil production would likely peak somewhere between 1965 and 1970 -- reaching a point that became known as Hubbert’s Peak -- and then precipitously decline.
The problem with Hubbert's idea is that he used a simple statistical model and never accounted for the greater incentive to get more oil (or anything) as it becomes more valuable.
For example, only about 40% of the typical oil field’s production comes through traditional methods. New technology gets more production out of existing fields. And this is why a declining discovery rate for new oil fields is not a trend to worry about, says Yergin. Most of the world’s supply is not the result of new discoveries, but comes from additions to existing reserves. One study by the U.S. Geological Survey found that 86% of oil reserves in the U.S. arise not from estimates at the time the field was discovered, but from revisions and additions that come to light as the field is developed.
The end result is that fields reach a plateau and taper off slowly.  It's one reason why our known oil reserves are greater now than 10 years ago.  

Is there a limited amount of oil on Earth?  Of course, Earth itself is finite, so that's not even the question.  I just don't believe anyone knows how much.  There is evidence old, abandoned oil wells refill from below, and there's a competing (abiotic) theory to oil formation that says oil is component of planets when they form, not just  fossil organic matter as most people think. 
Production at the oil field, deep in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana, was supposed to have declined years ago. And for a while, it behaved like any normal field: Following its 1973 discovery, Eugene Island 330's output peaked at about 15,000 barrels a day. By 1989, production had slowed to about 4,000 barrels a day.

Then suddenly—some say almost inexplicably—Eugene Island's fortunes reversed. The field, operated by PennzEnergy Co., is now producing 13,000 barrels a day, and probable reserves have rocketed to more than 400 million barrels from 60 million. Stranger still, scientists studying the field say the crude coming out of the pipe is of a geological age quite different from the oil that gushed 10 years ago.
Insert my usual rant that if the government and other toxic do-gooders would just leave the darned economy alone,  things would work themselves out just fine.

Finally, I think everyone knows how businesses act like they're actors in porn films; banks in particular check into sleazy hotels and merge repeatedly with every other bank in the world.  "Hey big fella, show me your CDOs".

Two days ago, an unsolicited replacement for one of my Mastercards came in the mail.  I had gotten it from Southeast Bank decades ago.  Over the decades, a list of big banks owned the account and reissued the card: Southeast, First Union, Wachovia, Washington Mutual and now Wells Fargo.  The new card, two days ago, was another reissue, this time by Bank of America

Coincidentally, today it's being widely reported in the gun blogs that BoA dropped McMillan USA as a customer because they are "more of a firearms manufacturer than a supplier of accessories".

Sure looks like it's time to call BoA and tell them I don't want to be a customer of any company that doesn't believe in civil rights.


  1. Karl Denninger spoke to someone at McMilan and confirmed the story.

  2. From the book about the VW Beetle, Small Wonder, after WWII the VW factory in the British Zone was offered to the Americans, Henry Ford in particular. (The British did not want to run a car company.) An adviser to Ford remarked, "Frankly Mr. Ford, what you're being offered here isn't worth a damn!" Heh. Peak oil indeed.

    1. That's a great story, Kerry.

      The coal folks say modern methods remove 95% of the "objectionable" things that greenies complained about 20 years ago. Modern coal is almost unrecognizable compared to the older product. Yet the president has singled out the coal industry to bankrupt.

      I've always said if you want something done, get a group of clever guys together and offer a pot of money to the first to achieve it. Just like the X prize for the first non-governmental group to put a reusable manned craft into space twice in two weeks.

  3. The oil from dinosaurs fable seemed silly for a long time. Really, who thought that one up? And what evidence exists to support it? Heck, I'm wondering how extinct critters ended up stuck in tar pits, which would have been composed of their own bodies?

    Imagine if oil were truly a renewable resource - can't let that meme escape - many NGO's & nations would find themselves on the wrong side of a predicament - $audi comes to mind.

    Mebbe it's all a scam - like DeBeers w/diamonds. Oh yeah - there's another myth - diamonds formed from coal, over gazillions of years? Yet diamonds aren't found in coal bearing areas, and can be lab manufactured over several days.

    sorry to wander off subject...


    1. Itor - my wife tells me that when she first heard the oil from dinosaurs story she thought it was bunk, when she was 8 years old.

      The killer story in one of the links on abiotic oil is that an astrophysicist (Gold?) had them drill for oil in a place conventional theory said you could never find it - in granite (IIRC) and the found it. There's no way to reconcile that with the dead animal theory (although I guess the enlightened geologists say more plants than critters).

      And diamonds come from the mantle. Period. One of the clues to how GE came up with the way to synthesize diamonds was how many meteorites contain diamonds.