Category Archives: science

211. The price of oil: 4 – a rising road ahead

st pauls cathedral city of london england banking financial crisis 2008As the world begins hesitantly to emerge from this downturn, when and how strongly the recovery will manifest itself is still unknown. There are huge uncertainties remaining.

So why should energy costs be rising again already? Last week’s post about the oil price shock of 2008 described a fall from a $147 peak last summer to $34 in February 2009.

In concluding, I noted that although a $60 oil price looks ‘low’ today, in relation to past prices, it’s still way above the average.

In fact, the oil price has only exceeded $60 for some 15 months across the whole of recorded history. What has happened to keep the oil price high?
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210. The price of oil: 3 – energy economics and the financial crisis

storm in the north seaThe highest ever oil prices.

The fastest and greatest fall in energy costs in economic history.

A lot has happened since early 2008 and my last essay on the oil price.

This article will explore events in the oil markets since then, and in the next I’ll take a look towards the future.

* * * * *

Early last year the oil price lay close to historic highs at almost $100 a barrel.

Supply was tight, I said, and getting tighter. Prices could fall to $60 later in the year if the credit crunch really bit. But long term, the trend was clearly upwards. And a world of $100, $200, $400 oil prices was not that far away.

world oil price jan 2006 to may 2009 energy information administration
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182. The truth about global warming

The sun is out again in London, after an unusually cool spring. It’s been a cold winter across much of Europe and North America, too. But the year is turning now, as it always does eventually.

Cooler weather will come and go. Floods, droughts, disasters, snowstorms and heatwaves, too. That is the nature of living on the Earth. You’ll see reporters referring unusual weather events to climate change, but that’s largely misleading, and it’s misinformed as well.

So let’s not get confused. That is only weather, and it’s not the same as climate. Reports like those just serve to confuse the public.

The urgently pressing fact is that climate change is real. And it’s happening.
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175. The price of oil: peak petroleum production and energy economics in a thirsty world

NOTE: May 2009 — For further updates on the oil price, see also:
The price of oil: 3 — energy economics and the financial crisis;
The price of oil: 4 – a rising road ahead.

north-sea-oil-rig-and-helicopter-offshorepictures.jpgIt was a chilly evening in early February when the Managing Director called us all together. He paused a moment, glanced at the expectant faces all around him, and then he started.

Business is tough, he said, and we’re doing what we can. But finally, we’ve reached that moment when we’ve got to let some of you go.

A hundred of us stood there then, looking at each other, at the floor, and at the winter’s dusk outside.

There was silence. Some more explanation was required, and some more honesty was needed. And, to his credit, Mitch provided it. As ‘this company is going down the toilet’ talks go, it was pretty fairly done.

We’d had problems with one of our installations in the North Sea, he told us. We all knew that already. In the big money business of finding oil and gas and getting them to the beach, failing on either of those priorities was never good.

roustabouts-on-the-drill-floor.jpgAn asset team would miss its targets, and there’d be no bonuses or payrises for anyone ahead. Such is business, in any organisation. But this time, it was worse.

It’s the oil price, he said. February, 1999. Continue reading

158. How evolution works

If life evolves steadily from one species to another, then why do homo sapiens and chimpanzees still co-exist ? That’s a classic question, and one which goes right to the heart of evolution.

It’s important to our understanding of how all life forms develop, and to reconstructing the the evolution of early man (thanks to Ella for the link).

ammonites2.jpg

The point is that whilst evolution is a slow process, the mechanism which allows change to happen is not a gradual one at all. We might see Darwin’s drawings of Galapagos finches as a continuous spectrum of evolutionary development, but perhaps that sketch gives quite a false impression of how evolution really works.

When evolutionary change takes place, it does so rapidly and abruptly.
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144. East of Eden – evolution and enlightenment

east-of-eden.jpgThe wonder of geology, to me, is that it’s so much more than a study of inanimate rocks and stones. It’s a history of our planet, of life on Earth, and even of time itself.

The landscapes and seas around us, our climate, the plants and animals we depend upon to live, the resources we use whenever we go anywhere or make anything – geology is a route towards the understanding of all those things.

Every historian and foreign correspondent knows that in order truly to know the present and to predict the future, we have to understand the past.

dinosaur-footprints.jpgAnd that is what geology gives us. Geology is a unifying discipline, which borrows so much from other science, and puts it all together to reveal the history of our planet and of life both past and present.

It’s so much of what we know about our world, and about ourselves as well.

But there’s a debate going on, right now, in the most developed country in the world, about whether any of it is true.
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140. The Great Global Warming Swindle

A Channel 4 documentary to be broadcast in the UK this Thursday evening and entitled The Great Global Warming Swindle argues that global warming is real, but that it is caused by entirely natural cyclicity in solar insolation.

Predictably this sensationalist claim has already been seized upon by the media. It will doubtless be interpreted by many as proof of the hoary old chestnut that ‘the scientists are divided’ on global warming. Those same people will find easy and equally inaccurate confirmation that there is no need to muzzle their gas-guzzling SUVs or to take the slightest care of our energy resources.
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