Sunday, August 30, 2009

Michael Lynch -- (Part Five, Final)

"But the solution, as ever, is for the industry to shift investment into new regions, and that’s what it is doing. Yet peak-oil advocates take advantage of the inevitable delay in bringing this new production on line to claim that global production is on an irreversible decline." --Lynch

"Industry to shift investment into new regions". In case Lynch missed the Everestian evidence on hand the past half-century, these "new regions" have already been tested. No alternative basket can approach oil's burn-for-the-buck, safety, reliability, compactness, availability, adaptability, plenteousness, versatility, and, last but not least, and to the point of this excerpt, union with trillion-dollar-plus infrastructure.

Wind? A plausible vehicle for individuals on plains and slopes where it's more powerful than a shill's voice through a carnival megaphone, but wind generation is unreliable (frequently 85 % of it is taken over by the transitive method); wind itself is unreliable; the mills' generators and electrical conduction is powered by oil; and, certainly most damning, cannot be built to a large- scale operation (it would take windmills from Vancouver to Abbotsford to power the household electricity needed to light up Richmond).

Ethanol? The worst of the options. Already we're seeing famine in India and elsewhere as a result of fields of corn being used for ethanol/gas instead of food exports; ethanol has an abysmal ERoEI (of at, and even below, zero).

Hydrogen cells? Too expensive (the procedures for freeing hydrogen and then combining it with carbon takes more energy than the resulting compound produces, in addition to expensive compression in many stages of its shipment and storage); too dangerous (hydrogen is very unstable and inflammatory); too caustic (because of its low weight, it leaks, diffuses, and when it gets into other areas, corrodes them since hydrogen always attaches itself to surrounding elements/objects); too much space (for storage, shipping, fuel compartments); best-case ERoEI ratio of 1.4 : 1, before layered maintenance.

Electric cars? Research, money, development, have been ongoing for many decades, but engineering and economic drawbacks have rendered "progress" ineffective. And it still takes oil to run the products, both on the consuming and on the supply side.

Solar power? After thirty years and billions of dollars of investment, it still costs five times as much as coal-fired power.

Nuclear energy and liquified coal are the best alternatives, even though they'll never replace oil in large-scale effectiveness, but they would need to be retrofitted in an internationally agreed-upon structural overhaul to the tune of 50 + trillion dollars, with results not being apparent for at least fifteen years. Think any one-term politician, let alone a consensus of them, will go to town with that option?

"In the end, perhaps the most misleading claim of the peak-oil advocates is that the earth was endowed with only 2 trillion barrels of “recoverable” oil. Actually, the consensus among geologists is that there are some 10 trillion barrels out there. A century ago, only 10 percent of it was considered recoverable, but improvements in technology should allow us to recover some 35 percent — another 2.5 trillion barrels — in an economically viable way. And this doesn’t even include such potential sources as tar sands, which in time we may be able to efficiently tap."--Lynch

I refuse to even take the trouble to refute this. This is based on a dream, Lynch, or on abiotic tinfoilers?

"Oil remains abundant, and the price will likely come down closer to the historical level of $30 a barrel as new supplies come forward in the deep waters off West Africa and Latin America, in East Africa, and perhaps in the Bakken oil shale fields of Montana and North Dakota"--Lynch

My refutations have already been made on this. All oil is not created equal. It's like thinking of all poetry as equally wonderful and effective. But the Shakespeares, in this admittedly inaccurate analogy, have been extracted, and all that remains are the constant black drippings from ubuweb. A lot of effort for fool's gold.

"But that may not keep the Chicken Littles from convincing policymakers in Washington and elsewhere that oil, being finite, must increase in price"--Lynch

The opposite is true, as I've already maintained in another context. Oil is being depressed in price, if you want to go the conspiracy route. But water, and oil, eventually finds its true level. When the U.S. dollar collapses, oil will go back to $147 a barrel, and then beyond. Economics 101: supply and demand. Where's the supply, Lynch? Anyone can certainly see where the demand is coming from, even if Americans can't afford too many new cars these days.


Feedback, pro or con, is welcome.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Michael Lynch's Pinheaded Column (Part Four)

"When the large supply disruptions of 1973 and 1979 led to skyrocketing prices, nearly all oil experts said the underlying cause was resource scarcity and that prices would go ever higher in the future." -- Lynch

"Nearly all oil experts" is a lie. Even in 1973, it wasn't a mystery that OPEC hammered out a consensus to stick it to importers in a power-play for more $. That scare didn't last, though, because OPEC and the U.S. quickly realized that volatile oil prices meant that the Sheiks couldn't depend on a steady long-term cash flow (especially since this was the early stages of Western stagflation), and the U.S. couldn't commit to set contracts because of refinery and reserve projections. The prices levelled off. The 1979 oil scare resulted directly from the Iranian-U.S. hostage crisis. When that ended, again, oil prices levelled. These two isolated reasons had nothing to do with Peak Oil, obviously. (Oil production was increasing throughout the 70s.)

"The oil companies diversified their investments — Mobil even started buying up department stores! — and President Jimmy Carter pushed for the development of synthetic fuels like shale oil, arguing that markets were too myopic to realize the imminent need for substitutes." -- Lynch

The big oil companies today are also positioning themselves to be the beneficiaries of alternative energy development, infrastructure, and sales. But it's specious to conflate that with a guaranteed successful transition simply because interest and investment will shift, as they must. (Oh, and shale oil, in Colorado or Venezuela, in 1979 0r 2009, is a non-starter. Just because one can name an option doesn't automatically make it feasible.) As for the last sentence, I'm shaking my head. Does Lynch take the readers of this dreck for blank-look dufusses (dufi?), agreeing that Carter had more long-term knowledge of harsh oil supply realities than field geologists for the billion dollar companies? Leaving aside this laughable assumption, Lynch missed the irony that Carter, of course, was wrong. Oil was still churning, and it was goopy love all over again throughout the 80s. Today's reality can in no way be compared to 1979. All Lynch has to do is look at production-to-consumption ratios between those years.

The oil companies, today, are far from "myopic". They, more than anybody else, know that their core product is spouting its swan song. But whether or not they maintain close-to-top profits from using their available liquidity to buy up "department stores" (not a good idea in a U.S. economy where 72 % of the GDP is based on consumerism, and where the value of the dollar is tanking) or speculative ground-floor alternative energy finger-crossers such as, for example, a high-tech conversion machine for the infectious medical waste of thermal depolymerization, none of the positioning, money, research, and persistence, in itself, will guarantee an alternative breakthrough which will, in any large-scale practical sense, replace the boon of cheap oil.

"All sorts of policy wonks, energy consultants and Nobel-prize-winning economists jumped on the bandwagon to explain that prices would only go up — even though they had never done so historically. Prices instead proceeded to slide for two decades, rather as the tide ignored King Canute." -- Lynch

Hmmm, I remember when oil was $15 a barrel. Doesn't matter, though. There are many complex reasons for the swings and stops of oil pricing throughout the years. Oil price and the U.S. dollar have a corresponding see-saw structure whereby when oil goes up, the world-pegged U.S. dollar goes down (this can be easily seen when the price skyrocketted less than a year ago to $147 a barrel). Think there may be reasons, easily transparent, as to why the U.S. gov't manipulates the economy in order to keep the dollar up and oil down? Americans use 25 % of the world's oil, yet they get it cheaper than any other country in the world, developed or not. A gallon of gas still costs, even in the "tanking" U.S. economy, about $3. In Canada, it's about $4, in Australia about $6, in Continental Europe about $7, in the U.K. about $8, and in some parts of the third world, it costs a month's wages to fill up the tank, even for those who can afford a car. Bush Jr., wisely political if cynically opportunistic, knew that gas prices had to remain depressed in order to keep the economy purring, if not roaring. But the tiger in the tank now has a sad tale, and is drowning in exponentially increasing caustic debt. The price of oil has been climbing steadily again (currently about $70 a barrel), and as demand from Chindia keeps rising, the U.S. dollar keeps falling, and getting de-pegged by major players and coalitions (European Union, China, Russia, OPEC), exporters hoard, and production stagnates and recedes, U.S. gas prices will rise noticeably. Of course, they'll also rise in the rest of the world, too, but since this article is written from a typical American perspective -- meritless optimism -- it's proportional to point out the chasm beyond the mountaintop.


Final entry next.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Michael Lynch's Pinheaded Column (Part Three)

(continued from yesterday)

"A related argument — that the “easy oil” is gone and that extraction can only become more difficult and cost-ineffective — should be recognized as vague and irrelevant. Drillers in Persia a century ago certainly didn’t consider their work easy, and the mechanized, computerized industry of today is a far sight from 19th-century mule-drawn rigs. Hundreds of fields that produce “easy oil” today were once thought technologically unreachable." -- Lynch

It would be more productive if Lynch followed a different drilling routine, and actually followed up his mixed assertions with ..... oh, I don't know, say a fact or two. But that's just it. That particular field is as oil-vacant as anything in Israel or Japan.

There are countless insiders, people with intimate, current knowledge of extraction difficulties, that can refute Lynch's outrageous claims of "vague and irrelevant", and I'm certainly not going to spend days posting a bookload of them here. But why not put up one, to start, from former head of Exploration and Production at Saudi-Aramco, Dr. Sadad al-Huseini? I don't know of a more unbiased source, and one more knowledgeable about the oil realities --past, present, and future -- than one in his position had and has. He says: "[World]Oil is likely to peak at a 95 MBD [million barrels a day] plateau by 2015." How about this from Dr. Shokri Ghanem, former head of the Research and Division at OPEC's Secretariat, now Libya's Oil National Co. head, : "Peak Oil is not very far away .... there is not much time left for a world economy to be driven largely by oil."

So we have an energy consultant (i.e. paid mouthpiece) trying to pull back the twilight a little longer for the billion$ + profitting oil companies to gather for the transition, one who has no direct knowledge of the situation on the ground, espousing unsubstantiated generalities. And we have scores of experts -- insiders and sober hard-working researchers, in many disciplines, who would have a better personal stake in maintaining opposite views -- who have a much different story. Hmmm, who to trust.

Drillers in Persia a century ago still had almost the entire millions-year-old black gold underfoot. That's been halved. The rest is an ongoing nightmare for engineers and drillers, with falling ERoEI ratios for the stuff they can recover. What about this does Lynch not comprehend? Drillers in Persia a century ago hadn't reached Peak in their country, as is now the case in approximately 54 of the 65 countries where oil is most plenteous. Whether or not the work is "easy" is beside the point, a ridiculous attempt to philosophize blunt millennial differences in non-existent theoretical status quo comparisons. Yes, technology has improved. So what? Where's the results? There's certainly a lot more oil being expended in looking for, and extracting, the rest. The "easy oil" today is gone.

"The latest acorn in the discovery debate is a recent increase in the overall estimated rate at which production is declining in large oil fields. This is assumed to be the result of the “superstraw” technologies that have become dominant over the past decade, which can drain fields faster than ever." --Lynch

This is an attempt to evade the deeper reality that decline in production in large oil fields are now permenent because they're, every one of them, over forty years old. Earth to Lynch: fossil fuels are finite. Those fields have been tapped constantly for a long time. The "superstraw" technologies have depleted fields quicker, but those fields have been newer and much smaller in volume. It's the relatively little that's there in the first place, rather than the technology, which depletes them much quicker than drilling-for-immediate-use urgency.

"But this declining return on individual wells doesn’t necessarily mean that whole fields are being cleaned out. As the Saudis have proved in recent years at Ghawar, additional investment — to find new deposits and drill new wells — can keep a field’s overall production from falling."--Lynch

More misrepresentation and bafflegab. No field will ever be "cleaned out". A lot of oil can be left in any field, but it's stupid to keep drilling if it's a sink. The rest of his "arguement" has been refuted several times. Expensive oil-soaked equipment and engineering + declining rates in existing fields does not equal a production norm. (I've seen the middling results -- not self-serving projections -- of the new niches in Ghawar.) And as I've also already mentioned, it's not even enough to keep the status quo. Production has to increase dramatically just to keep up with world population increase, and developing world usage, (unless we want a far different collective life, but that's another story).

"the peak-oil advocates tend to argue that today’s geopolitical instability needs to be taken into consideration. But political risk is hardly new: a leading Communist labor organizer in the Baku oil industry in the early 1900s would later be known to the world as Josef Stalin." --Lynch

Oh! My! GAWD! Who cares about 1900s Russia in this context? First off, oil exploration was a comparative dribble back then, anywhere. Secondly, the U.S. became a superpower because it EXported oil everywhere. Texas was "the promised land". Thirdly, how much trade was Stalin doing with the rest of the world? Fourthly, we're talking about volatile political situations NOW. Has Lynch ever heard of globalization? Do the New York Times have editors who know anything about this topic? Or are they that deep into the pockets of Wall Street and the oil-igarchy?


More to follow.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Michael Lynch's Pinheaded Column (Part Two)

Continued from earlier today ....

"The global average for water in oil field yields is estimated to be as high as 75 percent." -- Lynch

Just to finish this stunningly stupid paragraph by Lynch, the fact that the global average is 75 % pulls at the disconcerting truth that it's a glib (if not entirely oily) reflection on the state of all stages of oil fields. Time was when you could put a straw in the dirt of Pennsylvania or sand in Saudi Arabia and it was transformed into the backyard of the Beverly Hillbillies, pre-move. To almost a derrick, they're now running on power and fumes. There's still a lot of oil to be sucked up, drilled at, and converted, but there's a fundamental block on the part of sleight-of-hand shills like Lynch to see the other side of the equation. Production has crested, and is in that precarious, queasy top-of-the-roller-coaster stage of the ride. It can even hover there for years, but in the meantime consumption is rising, and will continue to rise. World production has dropped very slightly since May 2005, and even though it's been over four years since then, it's too early to call it a peak. The momentum, though, has clearly stopped, and, unless Mary Poppins or Baby Jesus appears from behind a deep sea platform, permanently so.

"Another critic, a prominent consultant and investor named Matthew Simmons, has raised concerns over oil engineers using “fuzzy logic” to estimate reservoir holdings. But fuzzy logic is a programming method that has been used since I was in graduate school in situations where the factors are hazy and variable — everything from physical science to international relations — and its track record in oil geology has been quite good." -- Lynch

Well, which is it? When it's the Peak Oilers compiling data, the numbers are "vague", the analyses are "poor", the information "anecdotal". When it's oil geologists (many who are actually Peakers, but you wouldn't get that from Lynch), the track record is good, not because it points to verifiable findings, but because it's a proven "programming method" itself! Of course, we have another non sequitur at the quote's end, rather than anything substantive.

"for the most part the peak-oil crowd rests its case on three major claims: that the world is discovering only one barrel for every three or four produced; that political instability in oil-producing countries puts us at an unprecedented risk of having the spigots turned off; and that we have already used half of the two trillion barrels of oil that the earth contained.

Let’s take the rate-of-discovery argument first: it is a statement that reflects ignorance of industry terminology. When a new field is found, it is given a size estimate that indicates how much is thought to be recoverable at that point in time. But as years pass, the estimate is almost always revised upward, either because more pockets of oil are found in the field or because new technology makes it possible to extract oil that was previously unreachable." -- Lynch

When what new field is found? The geologists themselves -- Christ in a cookie! -- Chevron has admitted that production finds are a dead end. That's why money for exploration has dwindled to a drip. The mega-companies didn't get that way by being stupid. The front line geologists know that the costs allocated to "finds" don't come close to what is found.

From Chevron's Vice-Chairman Peter Robertson: "people will ask, ‘Why in the world would Chevron be encouraging its customers to use less energy?’ After all, we sell energy – that’s our product… In many ways, a lot of us are concerned about the ability of the world’s supply system to provide the energy that people need." A somewhat more revealing view than the smokescreen from Exxon. But then, again, Chevron (and Shell with similar comments) aren't just admitting this from global concern, but from a proactive intelligence. The oil giants have become the bloated corporations they are today by viciously buying out smaller companies, and by forcing other companies to cough up their alternative successes. This is happening now with so-called alternative fuels. If (a very big if) an alternative energy source gets any traction with cost reduction and research breakthroughs, you can be sure that, with the help of the federal gov't (certainly in the U.S.) , the spoils will be siphoned off to the megacorps.

As for the rest of Lynch's "reasoning", if estimates are revised upwards, it's akin to the Kuwaitis shrewd positioning from 20 + years ago: when reserves are marked higher, exporting becomes easier since tensions are eased. The importers (the U.S., obviously, but the vast majority of countries are now net-importing) can plan for a steady flow so that supply lines are set since contracts to refineries are made for the long-term, and for revenue accruing for those receivers not beginning for many months.

If "new pockets of oil" are found, they're almost always dribbles from the core extraction. In any event, it's not a recipe for readjusting to any significant level, and it's not surprising that Lynch doesn't supply any numbers to back up this vague -- oops, I mean respectable "programming method" -- tack.

As for the new technology making it possible to extract oil that was previously unreachable, this is a crock, and if Lynch had been following any current stories in this vein, or as seems as likely, had reported on what he had read, the reader would see that the opposite is the case. Remember "Deep Jack" or whatever catchy, ballsy name the oil liars gave it? In the Gulf of Mexico, one or two years ago, a "find" of oil was gushed over as if it would have solved humanity's needs for oil for the next two hundred years. The deep drilling methods were said to be able to suck up this "gigantic" compartment of goo. Then reality set in: first problem was that the drillers couldn't even locate the "find" in any meaningful way. Second: the "boon" was much less than initially reported. Third, and not least: extraction procedure made it impractical, even with all the fancy equipment and methodology. The oil was (is) thirteen miles below the sea's surface, and even if all hurdles were overcome, the rather inconvenient fact of energy cost (that nasty ERoEI again) rendered any production a net loss. Notice, also, how quickly the story dropped off the news rolls when these details became more clear.

"In truth, the combination of new discoveries and revisions to size estimates of older fields has been keeping pace with production for many years."-- Lynch

Don't you just love sophists who use phrases like "in truth"? Well, what follows must necessarily be true, then (the reader says, scratching his hillbilly head while picking his teeth with a whittling stick).

Lynch starts boldly in order to cover up the most egregiously disgusting sentence in this urine-yellow journalistic sludge.

Mexico's Cantarell, the Earth's 2nd largest oil field, has been declining at an alarming rate, by many estimates, including their national oil company, by 15% - 20% per year. Mexico will be a net importer soon, and will cease exporting any oil in 2-3 years (Mexico is currently #3 amongst oil exporters to the U.S.). This brings up another point, a recent and frightening one for all oil importers. Exporters -- Russia and OPEC have certainly made many moves in this regard -- will be reducing their part of the transaction, even though they're able to sell, since they increasingly want to keep their oil within their own borders. Think that won't add to international tensions, resulting in more, and more ferocious, wars? The wars of the 21st century will be dominated by resource discrepancies, not religious differences.

The many other examples of field depletion by giants first discovered over half a century ago are numerous and ominous. The similarly falling graph-lines are available to anyone who wants a peek. Just as alarming, though not as "newsworthy", are the many very small finds where an initial draw of several million barrels has quickly petered out. In short, they don't make 'em like they used to.


The rest to follow.

Michael Lynch -- A Pinhead Column on Peak Oil

I hadn't heard of Michael Lynch before, but he has the same bio -- decades-long energy consultant -- as other pimps for the Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA), itself a mouthpiece for Exxon Mobil. Here's the New York Times article from yesterday>> (Been having troubles blogger-linking lately, apologies in advance.)

Intellectually lazy, ridden by sophistry, fundamentally confused about definitions themselves, and notable more for unfinished arguement than for what it mischaracterizes, I'll wade into the mess:

"REMEMBER “peak oil”?" -- Lynch

Why the quotes? Does Lynch actually think Peak Oil's arguement hinges on accurate predictions as to its arrival? Later, he contradicts himself with an admission that it's a reality, but one not to be troubled with, on the supposition, I suppose, that he'll be dead by then, so why worry. So in the first three words, we have disingenuousness or a faulty capacity for elementary reasoning.

"It’s the theory that geological scarcity will at some point make it impossible for global petroleum production to avoid falling, heralding the end of the oil age and, potentially, economic catastrophe." -- Lynch

This definition is a workable starting point, but it's more complex than this. Most importantly, world oil production can still increase, but the effects of imminent Peak can still be manifested (as will become increasingly apparent soon) when consumption outstrips production. India's and China's oil usage are growing exponentially, China now outpacing the U.S. for vehicule purchases. The current world population of 6.6 billion will be, barring catastrophic war and/or disease, over 9 billion by 2050.

As well, another fact overlooked by blithe apologists like Lynch is that there are many subsets to Peak graphs. Peak by country (U.S. oil peaked in 1970, e.g.) and Peak by categories of oil (light, sweet crude peaked in May 2005, is peaking now, or will in the immediate future) are significant benchmarks. The first example is important since it translates into complex diplomatic, political, and economic conundrums. The U.S. isn't in Iraq simply to promote "democracy", but to create a buffering sentinel as palace gatekeepers to their "friends", the feckless Saudis. (Effectively, and without going into complex graphs at this particular time, when Saudi Arabia has peaked, so too has the world.) The second example is important since the low-hanging fruit has effectively been removed. The energy returned on energy invested (ERoEI) with the super fields of the 1950s and 1960s (world oil discovery peaked in 1964) used to be 30:1, even 50:1 in the world's largest giant, Saudi Arabia's Ghawar. Those giants now resemble Davids more than Goliaths, and the slingshot of alternative energies are currently unworkable, and even were they to be a significant help, would need at least twenty years to develop and be implemented. With the possible long-running recession/depression, energy on R&D and transition will further delay massive crossover, if not making it impossible. (Coal-conversion and nuclear plants are excellent stop-gaps, but environmentalists seem determined to prevent that from happening in Canada and the U.S.) Oh, and the Alberta Tar Sands? Leaving aside the incredibly destructive fate of watertables and fragile ecosystems, the ERoEI, in the best-case scenario (Vancouver Olympics economic expenditure predictions, anyone?), is slotted in at 1 and 1/2: 1. As already mentioned, rising energy costs can easily make this a zero-sum game, if not an actual energy sink.

"Well, just when we thought that the collapse in oil prices since last summer had put an end to such talk, along comes Fatih Birol, the top economist at the International Energy Agency, to insist that we’ll reach the peak moment in 10 years" -- Lynch

That's his arguement against Birol? A negative non sequitur. Where's the beef?

The International Energy Agency (IEA), the comprehensive agency that Lynch belittles in favour of energy and politically biased strongarms of Exxon and U.S. Congress, has conducted detailed analysis on 800 oil fields from around the world. Those fields account for 2/3 of global oil production and 3/4 of the world's reserves. The conclusion? Decline rates are far higher than previously predicted, between 6.7 to 8.6 % a year. 45 million barrels per day would have to be developed and produced to make up for the shortfall. Since the unexpected boons of the North Sea and the North Slope in the 80s, there hasn't been a single significant discovery of light crude anywhere, (the major reason why the U.K.'s economy is now in the tank).

"peak oil theory has been promoted by a motivated group of scientists and laymen"-- Lynch

"Motivated?" Yeah, by a concern for what's happening! What a weaselly essayist. To throw in a condemning word without an arguement, damning by the faintest of suggestive associations. Motivated by money, by personal sales of books, perhaps? Ha. Matthew Simmons made his money as an energy advisor for the U.S. gov't, hardly a crackpot who's sticking it to big business. Heinberg? That he's sold a few books means people are getting the message, a good thing. He needs to make a living, but he's not raking it in (Peak Oil publicists have been a fringe group for decades), certainly not to the extent that consultants are remunerated by the bottomless pockets of the oil industry.

"A careful examination of the facts shows that most arguments about peak oil are based on anecdotal information, vague references and ignorance of how the oil industry goes about finding fields and extracting petroleum."-- Lynch

A careful examination of the facts shows that any "vague references" are on the part of politically-overseen accounts from the OPEC bloc, who, like politicians anywhere, think only in terms of the immediate future. A careful examination of all kinds of factual data and graphs from multiple disciplines cross-referencing each others' work, shows that oil reserves have historically been inflated in order to ease worries from importers. The OTHER spigot the Kuwaitis and Saudis were concerned about as far back as the 1980s, was that of dollars flowing back the other way. That information on reserves, through painstaking research by (in particular) Simmons, and others, in published books and articles, has been exposed.

"And this has been demonstrated over and over again: the founder of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil first claimed in 1989 that the peak had already been reached, and Mr. Schlesinger argued a decade earlier that production was unlikely to ever go much higher."--Lynch

This is the height of intellectual dishonesty. In the long and uncertain history of Peak Oil projection, of course there are going to be people who get in wrong, and by a wide margin. What Lynch conveniently neglects to mention is that M. King Hubbert accurately predicted (in 1956) the U.S. Peak to the year, as well as being close to the effective world Peak (he had stated early 2000s, but this was well before the unexpected Alaskan and North Sea bonanzas, which helped to postpone it). Rereading the above quote again, I can't even see much to argue with about with Schlesinger's prediction. After 1979, production kept going up, yes, but the rate of production increase began slowing noticeably and consistently. All this is to throw sand in the eyes of the reader. Again, it's not about perfect timing of the Peak (though it should be gauged in order to transition less chaotically), but about what the implications for society will be WHEN the peak occurs.

"One leading proponent of peak oil, the writer Paul Roberts, recently expressed shock to discover that the liquid coming out of the Ghawar Field in Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest known deposit, is around 35 percent water and rising. But this is hardly a concern — the buildup is caused by the Saudis pumping seawater into the field to keep pressure up and make extraction easier. The global average for water in oil field yields is estimated to be as high as 75 percent." -- Lynch

Good gawd! I've read Paul Roberts' The End Of Oil, and Roberts is the epitome of a sane, balanced, subdued, comprehensive researcher and writer. The claims about Saudi Arabia Lynch attributes to Roberts were made earlier (and were quoted by Roberts, if Lynch missed it), by Matthew Simmons in the latter's Twilight In The Desert. Lynch, either from stupidity or disingenuousness, avoids the point that what is extracted is largely, even mostly, the water itself, which is then incorportaed into oil production numbers. He also sidesteps the point that the consistent arc of increasing water/decreasing oil is not exactly a good sign. Ghawar's original 50:1 ERoEI is now down to 8:1 (and still falling), and the point Lynch can't seem to comprehend is that a decreasing energy ratio means that more oil needs to be used in extraction just to make up for the shortfall even if the same amount of oil is being produced. U.S. engineers are in Saudi Arabia because Ghawar's structural capacity is falling apart. The world's supergiant is following the trend of all oil giants: the party fluid has been sucked out, and now the technological wizardry has to be accelerated (technology itself is run on oil, a fact that pollyannish techno-futurists can't seem to grasp).


I haven't even dealt with the end of page 1 of the 2 pages yet, and my weekend still beckons. Perhaps I'll return with the rest, but for now, oil's well that ends well.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Warren Tallman Busts a Nut

Warning: put on protective wear before reading the entire essay, here>>

"When some powerful need or desire compels a man so decisively toward speech his voice is likely to take on qualities of otherness, not because it has been taken over by strangers—although that too is possible—but because years of concentrated exercise build it up into almost another person who is in, then alongside, then out beyond the poet. This strong sense of otherness becomes apparent when Duncan reads"--Tallman

Ah ha, that vatic, precious, oracular, sage-hushing, mysterious "otherness".

Which stranger? And are all strange visitors adepts and gurus? It reminds me of the old joke, pithy and appropriate: "Why is it that every seance leader and channeller tells me I'm descended from royalty? Who's taking out the garbage, and who has the bubonic plague, in these past lives?" Not so good for the intermediary business, what?

I like " "almost" another person". How is that possible? It's like being almost pregnant. You're either you, complex or simple, or you're another person. "Beyond the poet". So even a self-appointed bard is not enough. The marketers have to up the ante with the "above and beyond" charade. No, thanks, I'll take an in-the-flesh, good, poet over a Godlike out-of-body intoner any day.

"As he warms to the reading an almost Orphic ground sense or swell enters, as though his voice is not so much in the midst of a room as in the midst of a life it knows. When he turns from that life to his own, the Orphic gives way to the more ordinary"--Tallman

How's that for abstract shenanigans? Voice "in the midst of a life it knows". I prefer a voice that arises from the larynx.

"When he turns from that life to his own". Thanks for the compassion, O Wise One. A veritable Boddisattva, returning to teach us poor deluded souls.

"Given this extent of physical presence, the exceptional amount of body English—body articulation—he exerted when speaking or reading was inevitable. The Wednesday evening that he read from the Howl and Kaddish volumes he always broke off when the body presence wouldn’t enter into the voice tone. When it did enter, the audience was caught, bowled over into corresponding awareness as though stunned to be so fully reminded of all the ways in which they had emotions, a physical being, presence"--Tallman

I like quite a bit of Ginsberg's poetry, but I don't need to hear him read it to experience my own emotions, as if I'm an empty shell waiting to be filled with the guru's benevolent mantras. In fact, I experience varied emotions (yes!) on occasional days, without pretext or subtext, where I hadn't read Ginsberg's offerings for months previous.

And if Ginsberg actually broke off a reading because he "wasn't feeling it", than it's out of vanity that the angels weren't currently dictating, and/or out of a precious posturing. If a composer/musician stops the song or sonata mid-vivace because of a perceived lack of perfect pitch/force/nuance, he or she would be on a short leash of credibility with the audience, who rightfully expect to hear continuity, respecting the fact that the performer isn't always "in the zone".

What arrogance for Tallman to presume to judge the audience's reaction. Did their "awe" transmit itself so easily to Tallman? I confess to not having a clue how any other single person is responding to a voiced poem in the same room as me.

"And on the Friday evening that he read his more recent poems and the spell weakened he entered into a heroic, arm-swinging, head-swaying, all-out dervish attempt to reassert the physical sway"--Tallman

"Heroic"? Is there a bottom to embarassment? Reading the above sentence again, I become troubled, even frightened, since it closely approximates the meteorically snapping heads in the great horror film Jacob's Ladder, which I saw again last night. I wonder what the collective response from the audience would have been to that visual?

"The night [Creeley] read lightening flashed about in the sky, thunder rumbled, rain poured, the lights went out and the Alamo was in the dark."--Tallman

The parallels to Tim Robbins character in the aforementioned movie are becoming clearer. Warren, were those transparent communion wafers or window-pane LSD tabs?

"Wisdoms, truths, experiences, memories, moralities, realities becomes not end points but food, meat, manure, lending nurture to that living tree of breath called speech."--Tallman

I've known a slew of fascinating raconteurs, sure-paced verbal wizards, sonorous insinuators, mellifluous word-lovers who've also shown a distinct and certain knack for not being able to tell a poem from a pork chop. Speech is not poetry, Tallman.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Kenneth Goldsmith and Dale Smith in Conversation

For the entire exchange, go to Jacket Magazine here:

Smith, as the supporter of "Slow" poetry (really, just a nonsensical term to set it off from "fast" or "conceptual" or "Flarf"-- "slow", here, means tradition-bound or conservative, derogatory terms used as a given, though of course all poetry is slow to emerge, in a "revolutionary" sense), does a good job of elegantly deflecting the bizarre assumptions of Goldsmith. I'll respond to a few passages of Goldsmith's that particularly irked me.

"But conceptual writing is truly populist. Because this writing makes its intentions clear from the outset, telling you exactly what it is before you read it, there’s no way you can’t understand it. My books make a case for this" --Goldsmith

Trust the work, not what the author says about it in a preamble. This is one of the things that annoy me the most about poetry readings in general -- all "schools" are guilty of it, to some degree. A work of art must insinuate itself within the reader by surprise and by the ordering of its creation as is. To use "conceptual" props and explanations means that the poem (in this case) is only another poetic marker, no different than the putative art itself. In fact, any observer will note that the chief "excitement" in many avantists' readings, even published "texts", are those set-ups, justifications, prolix abstract jargon-saturated Chinese dolls within a Chinese doll. So many are enamoured of the process, but not the creation. And perhaps that's because the creation, the thing itself, is not, and has never been, exciting for them.

"Anyone can understand these books. But then the real question emerges: Why? And with that, we move into conceptual territory that turns away from the object and toward the realm of speculation. At that point, we could easily throw the book away and carry on with a discussion, a move conceptual writing applauds."--Goldsmith

If the "art" is only a throwaway ruse, a gambit or ice-breaker, what is different about it than, say, a journalistic essay with an intriguing angle? Nothing wrong with that, but I've been under the assumption that art is a loving transmission crafted (word that Goldsmith hates) to last generations since its qualities are timeless. Goldsmith's approach is to applaud oppositional poetics in order to instigate a conversation about art. But it's an endless dry maze with no cheese at the heavenly outlet.

"All types of proposed linear historical trajectories have been scrambled and discredited by the tidal wave of digitality, which has crept up on us and so completely saturated our culture that we, although deeply immersed in it, have no idea what hit us"--Goldsmith

Discredited? Wow. Linearity, order, meaning, tradition, slow connections (and I'm not using a metaphor for internet start-up), sanity, are not pitched out the Windows because our attention has been hitched by the digital age. Books are still important, even if they've suffered commercially with technological competition. So is reflection. Laborious writing and rewriting. Goldsmith is energized by the internet. Good. I like it, too, but I don't consider it a Gutenberg transformation for many reasons I won't elaborate on here. (Even were new technologies a permanent new paradigm, the staples of poetic worth would remain with the pre-1450, or so, tradition. Voice and rhythm, to name but two.)

"The very nature and materials of what we work with — language — is completely different than it was even a decade ago"--Goldsmith

Yes, to language's detriment, since reshapings of "found speech" (scroll up to see the "revolutionary" approach Goldsmith takes with his latest book of poetry), techno-soup scorings, superficial puzzles (Goldsmith applauds Bok's Eunoia, though curiously from a commercial success angle, not a "revolutionary" one), and ten-times-removed-from-experience references substitute for music, emotion, and intelligent thought.

"Kristin Prevallet proposes “reusing poetry as opposed to creating new poetry,” she goes to the heart of Conceptual Writing. We believe in recycling language. With all the existing language out there, what need is there to make more? Or she also claims “Is my thinking really so magnificent that I need to churn it out, not missing a single thought bubble?” It’s a sentiment which I completely agree with, hence my idea of the “uncreative” and my advocating for appropriation and plagiarism."--Goldsmith

I've read and reread the above sentences many times, looking for any sense of irony or flippancy, but I don't detect either. That's the saddest poetics I've read since .... well, I don't have a comparable. Creation may not be impossible, then (everything's been said, so what's the use), but it's definitely superfluous if not downright dangerous to the "advancement" into the entrenched enemy lines. "What need is there to make more"? How about: delight and thoughtful engagement with the contemporary world through crafted, idiosyncratic, personally stamped utterance rather than ripping off contemporary dull musings in a devolving coma-inducement.

One thing seems clear, piecing together Goldsmith's thoughts in this conversation. His underlying ambition is for recognition, for popularity, and he's hit upon a potentially successful formula: the uncreative assembling of existing flotsam into a disposable ark is right for the times, a commercial inevitability for those in all spheres, including the poetic O.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Night Light

Whilst I read Lorna Crozier's Everything Arrives At The Light in bed last night, several moths moved from the recently darkened house to flit inside my overhanging 60-watt lamp fixture. With the patience of Job putting up with a minor inconvenience, I ignored the wings brushing at my face and over the book, until the largest one crossed the line and lodged itself against my left temple. Not wanting to awake my gal -- though the windows were wide in the heat, the screens were affixed -- and not wishing to usher it back to the non-attention of a dark corner where it would only clamour for false life again, I clapped the pages of "Dressage" together after it landed on "a warm and healing stream", and squished its grey-brown pasty shell. Re-opening the book, the light pouring full on white, I shifted the rectangular solidity. The moth's remains were identical page-facing snail tracks, the fine brown powder on my right index finger easily, permanently, washed off with a spritz of tap water.