Friday, May 30, 2014

Many princes all in a line

Saudi Arabia, since its founding in 1932, the Kingdom has been ruled by a series of brothers of the original founder: King Abdul Aziz ibn Saud.  They have aged out.  When you consider that the founder had 45 sons all by himself, that leaves a lot of potential claimants to the throne.  So it is getting interesting.
Liz Sly, Washington Post, 26 May 2014 (hat tip: NC)
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — When Saudi Arabia’s elderly king took the unusual step of naming a deputy heir, the move initially was welcomed as a sign of continuity in a country that soon will confront major questions over the future of its leadership.
But in subsequent weeks, the announcement has stirred a rare outburst of dissent, revealing previously unacknowledged strains within the royal family and casting into doubt prospects for a smooth transition from King Abdullah’s rule.
To keep the ever compounding growth rate of the modern world economy, it is my understanding that we need to find an additional 8 Saudi Arabias by the year 2050.  Maybe we should up that to 9.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Grinding gears need oiling

Long detailed post on world oil projections.  It is noteworthy in that it does not have us already at our plateau, but accepts some increases going forward.  Still the news isn't all that great.

How Soon Will the World Oil Production Peak?: A Hubbert Linearization Analysisa
Ron Patterson, Peak Oil Barrel, 4 May 2014
Regarding the future of the world oil production, the most important challenges seems to be that the entire rest of the world (the world total less the eleven top producers) has passed the peak and is currently in decline. The rest of the world still accounts for about 30 percent of the world total oil production. The decline has been accelerated by political instabilities that exist some parts of the world (Nigeria, Libya, and Syria etc.). The current tendency is for the rest of the world’s oil production to decline by 16 million tons per year. The declining pace may accelerate to 33 million tons per year for the decade 2021-2030.
Even though this paper projects that oil production in Saudi Arabia, Russia, China, Canada, Iraq, UAE, and Kuwait will continue to growth in the near future. Their combined growth is insufficient to offset the decline from the rest of the world. Only the US oil production growth can bring about rising world oil production in the next few years.
As a result of the current projections, world oil production is projected to peak in 2018, with a production level of 4.4 billion tons. But if political stability returns to some of the key oil producing countries, the gap between the actual oil production and the projected oil production may be closed. This may allow the world oil production to grow for three or four years after 2018.
I like the charting of the cumulative growth rate across cumulative total production as a way to bench mark the mid-point.
Note that there is some potential for high tech induced extensions, and recovery in some areas suppressed production areas (Libya, Iran, Iraq). To some extent Russia's increased production seems to be simply getting it back to where they were prior to Glasnost: something of a double peak.  So I am not sure they are even saying that 2018 is all that hard and fast.  But even so, it would take some extremely optimistic estimates, and some very small increases in the demand for oil, to push the number all that much further out.
But it does seem to be more the numbers of slow grinding decline to the modern energy driven economy, interspersed with localized societal unrest/chaos, than the global fast collapse scenario.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Flatline fracking

Fracking is going to save us.  We have hundreds of years of fossil fuels at hour disposal.  Until we don't:
Rob Wile, Business Insider, 21 May 2014 (hat tip: NC)
Last night, the LA Times' Louis Sahagun reported a piece of data dynamite the Energy Information Administration plans to detonate under California next month: There now appears to be just 600 million barrels of recoverable tight oil in the state's vast Monterey shale play — a downward revision of 96% from the agency's 2011 estimate. 
There was a report in the Wall Street Journal a few years back based on some fracking industry emails that came to light because of some lawsuits. The emails indicated the operators in Pennsylvania were having a much harder time recovering their costs.  They were getting fuel out of the ground, but they were having a hard time making money. 
That is the point. It's not that their are no hydrocarbons down there, it's just that you can't extract them cheaply. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Waddling through the apocalypse

So if you have a slow collapse scenario, how do the issues change?
There is the obvious point that anyone preparing for a catastrophic crises is going to face issues of aging if the situation drags on.
After all, we still have lots of nukes pointed at us, so you can't say that crises went away: at least not completely. Yet many of the survivalists, called retreaters back then, of the 1970s, have aged out, and are no longer with us.  So you can call their survivalist mission a draw.  They lived out their lives well enough, but had somewhat a failure in timing. Thus spending time and resources on unneeded items.  A significant opportunity cost.
But a slow collapse is a different beast, in fact you don't even have to have to have a collapse.  A long period of crappiness will go a long way to making peoples lives difficult.  Presumably with a populace in a weakened condition, you are set up for follow on problems.
Well here is an issue I had not really thought of.

Jobless contend with weight gain as they search for work
Michael S. Rosenwald, Washington Post, 11 May 2014 (hat tip: MR)
A subject long ignored by policymakers, and one that unemployment counselors are too sheepish to raise with job seekers, the link between bulging waistlines and joblessness is now of intense interest to researchers studying the long-term effects of the country’s economic malaise.
Recent studies and surveys have shown a distinct relationship between unemployment and obesity, particularly for lower-skilled workers who struggle to find work — a search made more challenging by their weight.
They note that even the employed in an area of high unemployment will have a tendency to put on more weight.
So when we are writing that slow collapse novel, you may want to consider having depressed waddlers rather then the desperate gaunt folks.