To many of us who live near to nature the idea of ghosts is far from fantasy. The concept is neither childish nor macabre either. We commune with our ghosts and respect them. They are the embodiment of our lost dreams and elusive joy, and only haunt those who misinterpret their messages. They have no […]
“What is a refuge?”
I am speaking to a group of 25 or so third graders at an elementary school in the Live Oak neighborhood of Santa Cruz, California. I am giving a presentation about wetland habitats and the animals that rely on them, to prepare them for a field trip to Neary Lagoon, a nearby urban park that describes itself as a refuge for wildlife.
Most of the students in this classroom are Latino. I am white.
It is February 2017. About 24 hours before this moment in which I am speaking to them, there was a Homeland Security raid in a nearby neighborhood, spreading terror like wildfire throughout the immigrant community in Santa Cruz. Later that day, I attended a city council meeting, where residents demanded that the councilmembers listen to the community’s voice on what had happened the morning before. I stood and listened to many heartbreaking…
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A person often reads that low oil prices–for example, $30 per barrel oil prices–will stimulate the economy, and the economy will soon bounce back. What is wrong with this story? A lot of things, as I see it:
- Oil producers can’t really produce oil for $30 per barrel
A few countries can get oil out of the ground for $30 per barrel. Figure 1 gives an approximation to technical extraction costs for various countries. Even on this basis, there aren’t many countries extracting oil for under $30 per barrel–only Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Iraq. We wouldn’t have much crude oil if only these countries produced oil.
2. Oil producers really need prices that are higher than the technical extraction costs shown in Figure 1, making the situation even worse.
Oil can only be…
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Usually, we don’t stop to think about how the whole economy works together. A major reason is that we have been lacking data to see long-term relationships. In this post, I show some longer-term time series relating to energy growth, GDP growth, and debt growth–going back to 1820 in some cases–that help us understand our situation better.
When examining these long-term time series, I come to the conclusion that what we are doing now is building debt to unsustainably high levels, thanks to today’s high cost of producing energy products. I doubt that this can be turned around. To do so would require immediate production of huge quantities of incredibly cheap energy products–that is oil at less than $20 per barrel in 2014$, and other energy products with comparably low cost structures.
Our goal would need to be to get back to the energy cost levels that we had prior…
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The oceans and airs of the world are warming. The waters of the Northeastern Pacific have concentrated that heat — resulting in the formation of powerful high pressure systems never seen in modern human memory. Highs that have warded off rainfall from the US West Coast for the better part of five years. Highs that have boosted already above average heat for the region so that now California snowpacks are at their lowest levels in at least 500 years. A lack of rainfall and water flow from snow melt setting off the worst drought in at least 1,200 years. One that has greatly contributed to the death of millions of trees across the state and increased fire risk to extreme and likely never before seen levels.
(Escaping the Valley Fire. Central Valley resident flees unprecedented and dangerous climate change spurred fires late Sunday night. Human forced…
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Both the stock market and oil prices have been plunging. Is this “just another cycle,” or is it something much worse? I think it is something much worse.
Back in January, I wrote a post called Oil and the Economy: Where are We Headed in 2015-16? In it, I said that persistent very low prices could be a sign that we are reaching limits of a finite world. In fact, the scenario that is playing out matches up with what I expected to happen in my January post. In that post, I said
Needless to say, stagnating wages together with rapidly rising costs of oil production leads to a mismatch between:
- The amount consumers can afford for oil
- The cost of oil, if oil price matches the cost of production
This mismatch between rising costs of oil production and stagnating wages is what has been happening. The unaffordability problem can…
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Are we already starting to awaken some of the horrors of the ancient hothouse ocean? Are dangerous, sea and land life killing, strains of primordial hydrogen sulfide producing bacteria starting to show up in the increasingly warm and oxygen-starved waters of the US West Coast? This week’s disturbing new reports of odd-smelling, purple-colored waves appearing along the Oregon coastline are a sign that it may be starting to happen.
(Purple waves wash over the Oregon beach of Neskowin on August 15. A form of hydrogen sulfide consuming bacteria is known to color water purple. Is this an indicator that the deadly gas is present in Oregon’s waters? Image source: Jeanine Sbisa and Beach Connection.)
A Dangerous Beauty
Oregon beachgoers and ocean researchers alike are flummoxed. There’s something strange in the water. Something that’s coloring the waves of Oregon’s beaches purple even as the off-shore waters are painted…
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