Oil, Power, And Psychopaths

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James F. Gibson Tent of A. Foulke, Horse Artillery, Brandy Station, Virginia 1864

Courtesy of Raul Ilargi Meijer @ Automatic Earth Blog:

Iran has a – very – long running dispute with the US about its nuclear technology. The US wants Assad (Bashar Al-Assad) out of Syria, while Iran and Russia support Assad (Russia’s sole proper base in the Middle East), who’s an Alawite (a Shi-ite branch), a people historically persecuted by Sunni’s. ISIS (or Daesh in the region) is Sunni. So are the Saudi’s. Iran is Shi’ite. Bahrain is ruled by Sunni but has a majority Shi’ite population. And I could go on for a while. A long while.

All this plays into the oil game, the falling oil prices. Blaming OPEC for the recent price fall is seeing the world from a child’s perspective. OPEC and its major voteholder, Saudi Arabia, are no more to blame for the plunge than the US, Russia or other non-OPEC producers. Everybody produces as if there’s no tomorrow, and the Saudi’s have merely concluded that their only choice is to do the same. It’s a race to the bottom.

The reason is the fast declining demand for oil; China is nowhere near as mighty as we seem to think, Europe is a basket case, emerging economies are being strangled as we speak by the surging dollar and the Fed taper, and we’re just getting started. It’s cute and all that nobody wonders how much virtual money has vanished into the great beyond as both oil itself and the companies that get it out of the earth have lost half of their ‘values’ in Q4 2014, let alone the countries that depend on oil for their very existence. But cute doesn’t cut it.

Oliver Stone talks about ‘Ukraine: The CIA Coup’. I’ve talked about exactly that all of last year. While on vacation, Obama declares new sanctions on North Korea for hacking a Japanese company only the FBI claims it was guilty of. While US sanctions against Iran are ongoing.

America is trying to control the world by throwing it into confusion, emboldened by poorly understood theories about military superiority, and creating conflicts all over the place that look like they will never be solved. Whereas all it would need to do is make sure it secures itself, its own territory, not control the entire planet. Continue reading

What Does It Mean To Be ‘Star Stuff’?

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The Tycho supernova remnant. This type of structure is all that remains after a massive star dies, releasing the chemical building blocks of life and planetary systems into space. Credit: NASA/CXC/Chinese Academy of Sciences/F. Lu et al.

Courtesy of Vanessa Janek @ Universe Today:

At one time or another, all science enthusiasts have heard the late Carl Sagan’s infamous words: “We are made of star stuff.” But what does that mean exactly? How could colossal balls of plasma, greedily burning away their nuclear fuel in faraway time and space, play any part in spawning the vast complexity of our Earthly world? How is it that “the nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies” could have been forged so offhandedly deep in the hearts of these massive stellar giants?

Unsurprisingly, the story is both elegant and profoundly awe-inspiring.

All stars come from humble beginnings: namely, a gigantic, rotating clump of gas and dust. Gravity drives the cloud to condense as it spins, swirling into an ever more tightly packed sphere of material. Eventually, the star-to-be becomes so dense and hot that molecules of hydrogen in its core collide and fuse into new molecules of helium. These nuclear reactions release powerful bursts of energy in the form of light. The gas shines brightly; a star is born.

The ultimate fate of our fledgling star depends on its mass. Smaller, lightweight stars burn though the hydrogen in their core more slowly than heavier stars, shining somewhat more dimly but living far longer lives. Over time, however, falling hydrogen levels at the center of the star cause fewer hydrogen fusion reactions; fewer hydrogen fusion reactions mean less energy, and therefore less outward pressure.

At a certain point, the star can no longer maintain the tension its core had been sustaining against the mass of its outer layers. Gravity tips the scale, and the outer layers begin to tumble inward on the core. But their collapse heats things up, increasing the core pressure and reversing the process once again. A new hydrogen burning shell is created just outside the core, reestablishing a buffer against the gravity of the star’s surface layers.

While the core continues conducting lower-energy helium fusion reactions, the force of the new hydrogen burning shell pushes on the star’s exterior, causing the outer layers to swell more and more. The star expands and cools into a red giant. Its outer layers will ultimately escape the pull of gravity altogether, floating off into space and leaving behind a small, dead core – a white dwarf. Continue reading

The Oil-Price-Shock Contagion-Transmission Pathway

Courtesy of Zerohedge:

As we noted previously, counterparty risk concerns (and thus financial system fragility) are starting to rear their ugly heads. In the mid 2000s, it was massive one-way levered bets on “house prices will never go down again.” When the cracks started to appear, the mark-to-market losses in derivatives led to forced liquidations and snowballed systemically. In the mid 2010s, it is massively levered one-way asymmetric bets on “commodity prices [oil] will never go down again.” Meet WTI-structured-notes… the transmission mechanism for oil-price-shocks blowing up the financial system.

Because nothing says exuberant ignorance like limited upside, unlimited downside OTC (illiquid) derivatives…

Here’s BNP Paribas’ 1-Yr WTI-linked notes that collapse if oil drops below $70…

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IBM Solar Collector Magnifies Sun By 2000X – These Could Provide Power To The Entire Planet

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Courtesy of Arjun Walia @ Collective Evolution:

A team at IBM recently developed what they call a High Concentration Photo Voltaic Thermal (HCPVT) system that is capable of concentrating the power of 2,000 suns, they are even claiming to be able to concentrate energy safely up to 5,000X, that’s huge.

The process of trapping the sunlight produces water that can be used to produce filtered drinkable water, or used for other things like air conditioning etc. Scientists envision that the HCPVT system could provide sustainable energy and fresh water to communities all around the world.

“Each 1cmX1cm chip can convert 200-250 watts, on average, over a typical eight-hour day in a sunny region. In the HCPVT system, instead of heating a building, the 90 degree Celsius water will pass through a porous membrane distillation system where it is then vaporized and desalinated. Such a system could provide 30-40 liters of drinkable water per square meter of receiver area per day, while still generating electricity with a more than 25 percent yield or two kilowatts hours per day. A large installation would provide enough water for a small town.” (2)

The heat is absorbed into hundreds of tiny solar cells called photovoltaic chips. These gather the energy and are then cooled by microchannled water, which is why they are safely able to concentrate such large amounts of solar energy.

According to Greenpeace, this technology can establish itself as the third largest player in the sustainable power generation industry. A study published in 2009 predicted that solar power could supply all the world’s energy needs, with minimal space. (1) Greenpeace estimates that it would take only two percent of the Sahara Desert’s land area to supply the entire planet’s electricity needs.(1) Continue reading

Cold fusion reactor verified by third-party researchers, seems to have 1 million times the energy density of gasoline

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Courtesy of Sebastian Anthony @ ExtremeTech:

Andrea Rossi’s E-Cat — the device that purports to use cold fusion to generate massive amounts of cheap, green energy – has been verified by third-party researchers, according to a new 54-page report. The researchers observed a small E-Cat over 32 days, where it produced net energy of 1.5 megawatt-hours, or “far more than can be obtained from any known chemical sources in the small reactor volume.” The researchers were also allowed to analyze the fuel before and after the 32-day run, noting that the isotopes in the spent fuel could only have been obtained by “nuclear reactions” — a conclusion that boggles the researchers: “… It is of course very hard to comprehend how these fusion processes can take place in the fuel compound at low energies.”

This new report [PDF] on the E-Cat was carried out by six (reputable) researchers from Italy and Sweden. While the new E-Cat looks very different from previous iterations, the researchers say that it uses the same “hydrogen-loaded nickel” and additives (most notably lithium) as a fuel. The device’s inventor, Andrea Rossi, claims that the E-Cat uses cold fusion — low-energy nuclear reactions, LENR — to fuse nickel and hydrogen atoms into copper, releasing oodles of energy. The researchers, analyzing the fuel before and after the 32-day burn, note that there is an isotope shift from a “natural” mix of Nickel-58/Nickel-60 to almost entirely Nickel-62 — a reaction that, the researchers say, cannot occur without nuclear reactions (i.e. fusion). The researchers say there is just 1 gram of fuel inside the E-Cat. For more info about the science/chemistry behind LENR, read our previous story about Rossi’s E-Cat. Continue reading

Deep within spinach leaves, vibrations enhance efficiency of photosynthesis

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Courtesy of Phys.org:

Biophysics researchers at the University of Michigan have used short pulses of light to peer into the mechanics of photosynthesis and illuminate the role that molecule vibrations play in the energy conversion process that powers life on our planet.

The findings could potentially help engineers make more efficient solar cells and energy storage systems. They also inject new evidence into an ongoing “quantum biology” debate over exactly how photosynthesis manages to be so efficient.

Through photosynthesis, plants and some bacteria turn sunlight, water and carbon dioxide into food for themselves and oxygen for animals to breathe. It’s perhaps the most important biochemical process on Earth and scientists don’t yet fully understand how it works.

The U-M findings identify specific molecular vibrations that help enable charge separation – the process of kicking electrons free from atoms in the initial steps of photosynthesis that ultimately converts solar energy into chemical energy for plants to grow and thrive.

“Both biological and artificial photosynthetic systems take absorbed light and convert it to charge separation. In the case of natural photosynthesis, that charge separation leads to biochemical energy. In artificial systems, we want to take that charge separation and use it to generate electricity or some other useable energy source such as biofuels,” said Jennifer Ogilvie, an associate professor of physics and biophysics at the University of Michigan and lead author of a paper on the findings that will be published July 13 in Nature Chemistry.

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There is a problem in the UK’s energy market – but it’s the regulator’s fault

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Courtesy of Stephen Littlechild @ City AM:

OFGEM has referred the retail energy market for investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). This is the right decision, for the wrong reasons. Most of Ofgem’s concerns are insubstantial. The real source of the problem is Ofgem’s policy, described in its annual report issued the same day as “Simpler, clearer, fairer. Three words I think it is hard to argue with.” Unfortunately, Ofgem’s rules to achieve “simpler” tariffs also restrict competition, limit customer choice and deter innovation. But the deeper problem has been Ofgem’s pursuit of “fairer” prices.

Some of Ofgem’s concerns about the retail energy market are unconvincing. Certainly, there has been a loss of consumer trust. But this is easily explained by a decade of the steepest real energy price rises in living memory, with Ofgem hinting that the problem is lack of competition rather than international fuel price rises and costly environmental obligations.

Incumbent advantages that allow higher prices for “sticky” customers? But more active customers search out lower prices in all markets. Indeed, where suppliers have to recover fixed costs, competition will drive them to differentiate their prices in this way. Possible tacit coordination? But if suppliers are all subject to the same underlying cost movements, they will increase or reduce prices at about the same time. Prices that rise faster than they fall? The evidence on whether this happens is mixed, but it is found in many other markets, so does not indicate market power.

Vertical integration harming competition? It hasn’t done so in the market for larger energy customers, where Ofgem finds little evidence of harmful features. Barriers to entry? They haven’t stopped many small players entering since 2009. No evidence of operating cost reductions? Nor is there evidence that Ofgem has looked for them, or acknowledged the increasing costs on suppliers.

There are two legitimate concerns. First, customer switching between suppliers steadily increased until 2009 then started falling. Second, Ofgem calculated negative retail profit margins until 2009 then steady increases: for a dual fuel customer from minus £35 in 2008 to over £100 in 2013. Continue reading