Thursday, August 26, 2010

Interview: Heinberg on Peak Oil and Economic Growth

Author Richard Heinberg's nine books include The Party's Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies and Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines. He discusses what we know about peak oil, as well as its connection to the end of economic growth. His views are explained in his chapter in the forthcoming Post Carbon Reader, some chapters of which are already available for free download.

Heinberg also mentioned Searching for a Miracle, a recent report from the Post Carbon Institute available for free download at the link. It examines the question, "Can any combination of known energy sources successfully supply society’s energy needs at least up to the year 2100?"

Listen to the audio interview at
Equal Time Radio here.
[via Energy Bulletin]

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

US Minerals Databrowser

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) is the administrative branch in charge of managing information regarding mineral resources within the United States. Its minerals information function that collects, analyzes, and disseminates data that describe current production and consumption of about 100 mineral commodities, both domestically and internationally for approximately 180 countries.The goal of the US Minerals Databrowser is to make it easier to extract meaningful information from this valuable dataset. The US Minerals Databrowser provides several different visualization styles, each tailored to answer a specific set of question regarding the USGS Minerals dataset.

US Production / Exports

This visualization uses the production, apparent consumption, imports and exports fields from the dataset. Net exports are calculated as exports - imports. This plot highlights how sustainable US use of a particular mineral is.

World Production / Price

This visualization plots both US and world annual production of each mineral. The nominal price per ton as well as the inflation adjusted price (in 1998 dollars) are overlain. This plot highlights the interplay between price and production as anticipated by basic economics -- high prices should bring about increased production for globally fungible commodities.

Price Evolution

Plotting inflation adjusted prices against global production create interesting plots that give insight into how well the price signal works for a particular mineral.

Usage History

Usage patterns for any mineral will change as new uses are found and older applications are discontinued. The Usage History plots historical timelines of consumption in all the major usage categories.

Usage Pie

Pie charts provide a quick, intuitive view of relative consumption in each category for a single year to answer the question: "What is this mineral used for?"

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Wilberforce: Endless Growth is not Sustainable

Armed with a suitcase full of cash and more blonde beauties than Richard Branson, businessman Dick Smith announced his Wilberforce award at the FEX Market Site in Sydney on Wednesday 11 August 2010.

The award is designed to give a one million dollar prize to anyone under 30 who can impress Dick by becoming famous through his or her ability to show leadership in communicating an alternative to our population and consumption growth-obsessed economy.

Dick Smith is one of Australia’s most recognised individuals. After a successful business career in retailing and publishing, Dick has become well known as a restless adventurer, making many pioneering and record breaking flights by helicopter, aeroplane and balloon.

The $1 Million Wilberforce Award

It has become obvious to me that my generation has over exploited our wonderful world – and it’s younger people who will pay the price. Like many people my age, I’ve benefited from a long period of constant economic and population growth – we are addicted to it. But sooner or later this consumption growth will have an end. We appear to be already bumping against the limits of what our planet can sustain and the evidence is everywhere to see.

Right now I believe we could be sleepwalking to catastrophe because we are failing to both acknowledge that there are limits to growth in a finite world and to prepare for a more sustainable way of organising our economy. In the 19th Century, empires were built on the labour of slaves, and it was believed economies would collapse if slavery was abolished. But brave people like William Wilberforce fought to end the slave trade – and economies still flourished. We need brave people like Wilberforce today, and I want to encourage a new generation of clear-thinking and inspiring young leaders.

So today I am announcing Dick Smith’s Wilberforce Award – $1 million to go to a young person under 30 who can impress me by becoming famous through his or her ability to show leadership in communicating an alternative to our population and consumption growth-obsessed economy. I will be looking for candidates whose actions over the next year show that they have what it takes to be among the next generation of leaders our incredible planet so badly needs.

Candidates will need to have a firm belief that we can have a viable and strong world economy that is no longer obsessed with growth for its own sake, but instead encourages both a stable population and sustainable consumption of energy and resources. They must be able to communicate that we cannot continue to squander the resources that will be needed by future generations, and they must also be able to communicate a plan that offers an alternative to our growth addiction.

Like the Nobel Prize, you will not apply for the Wilberforce Award. Over the next twelve months I will be following the media throughout the world to see who is the most outstanding individual in not only making a significant contribution to this important issue, but who also becomes famous through his or her contribution to the debate.

One year from now I will announce the winner of the $1 Million Wilberforce Award. The Award will go towards advancing the momentum the winner will have already achieved.