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22 November 2015

Convergence Preview - 03 - Progress

Pretty amazing, I am actually writing this from a Chrubuntu install on the Tegra K1, and more spectacularly, with the Unity desktop environment. There is still a number of things malfunctioning, the road ahead is long, but this is a capital step in this project. Below the fold I detail this latest chapter of the story.

But already one of the most important milestones in this project has been achieved: performance. As a matter of fact, I feel no difference in terms of interface usability in contrast to my usual work environment. Moving windows around, sending them to other workspaces, shifting between workspaces, using the HUD and Lenses, all is fast and fluid. The Tegra K1 is proving an able CPU for desktop work, but for a fraction of the cost, space and power.

21 November 2015

Press review 21-11-2015 - War

In the space of ten days, Daesh was able to successfully attack civilian targets from three different countries well outside its territory. The death toll of these three attacks sums almost 400 and could unfortunately pass that number. It is sad to see pragmatism towards Daesh settling in only after such events.

I live a few hundred meters from the French border, the state of emergency has been quite visible: heavily armed police in train stations, chronic traffic jams imposed by border checks. President Hollande was not exaggerating when he used the term war. But in face of the precipitous bombing of assorted targets in Raqqa, I wonder if the French government is exactly aware of the kind of war it is fighting.

I have postulated various times that geo-political events have more potential to shape the petroleum extraction curve in the short term than geology by itself.

14 November 2015

Press review 14-11-2015 - Peak Coal, says Greenpeace

Foreword: This review was written before the terror attacks yesterday night in Paris. This is incredibly sad; my thoughts are with the families that lost their loved ones. For long I have been reporting in this review that in these past few years Europe has been supporting the wrong side in various conflicts. There is no way to know if these attacks had taken place whether Libya and Syria were not at war. However, this is definitely the moment to rethink the foreign policy towards these neighbouring countries and jihadist organisations in general.

Coal was the big story this week. Within days of the graphs by Jean Laherrère on Coal extraction being published, the Greenpeace came out with a study confirming the terminal decline in the Middle Empire. But the environmentalist organisation goes further, claiming the rest of the world will not be able to make up for this decline. With this report the Greenpeace clearly distances itself from the IPCC and the IEA; this dose of realism is most refreshing.

However, the Coal news making the rounds is an article by the New York Times claiming the Chinese have under-reported their extraction and consumption figures by as much as 17%. Coincidentally, I am subscribed to an e-mail list where David Fridley explained how this American newspaper is simply comparing different figures reported by the Chinese institutions. But it is always interesting to know on which side the press is.

And the other big news of the week was a 10% decline in petroleum prices; the Brent index now stands at 44 $/b, the lowest level since 2009.

13 November 2015

David Fridley on Chinese Coal statistics

Almost simultaneously to the note with Jean Laherrère's graphs on Coal extraction, the New York Times published an article claiming China had been under-reporting their extraction and consumption figures. The opening words of this article were right to the point:
China, the world’s leading emitter of greenhouse gases from coal, has been burning up to 17 percent more coal a year than the government previously disclosed, according to newly released data.
Although never questioning directly the 2013 peak, the article raised doubts on the declining trend setting in. More than anything else, the New York Times aims to hike the pressure on China in light of the coming world climate summit to be held in Paris (COP21).

Days ago I received a message from David Fridley that brought this issue under a completely different light. David is a scientist at the China Energy Group, working and living in China the past 25 years. He was kind enough to consent the publication of his views in this space.

07 November 2015

Press review 07-11-2015 - Autumn Blues

Days are getting shorter and shorter; at some point the clock goes back one hour and suddenly the faint autumn sun sets at five in the afternoon - in the rare days the sun is actually visible between the permanent clouds. For many folk (like me) this seasonal deprivation of natural light can induce depression, in varying degrees each year.

It is also by this time that another depressive story starts emerging: the growing difficulty to adequately supply Europe's energy grids. At the eye of the storm remains the UK, that faces increasing energy deprivation from left and right. The first scare of this season is already there, too soon and at too high temperatures for comfort.

04 November 2015

Peak Coal In China and the World, by Jean Laherrère

I have been trying to follow the Coal story in China for more than two years, when a series of articles made me realise environmental impacts were creating serious obstacles to continued growth. Coal extraction in China peaked that same year, but is this new trend merely circumstantial or something more lasting? Earlier this year I postulated that fundamental changes were about.

Since then, news have multiplied on the rapid decline of Coal consumption and extraction in China. At first there were reports of an ongoing renewal of the blast furnace fleet, but more recently, it is becoming increasingly apparent that steel consumption has saturated - the law of diminishing returns is catching up with infrastructure deployment. Slowly, this declining trend is looking ever more terminal.

The problem with Coal is the lack of detailed or recent extraction figures on the public domain. In recent times my understanding on this has been exclusively drawn from media articles (most of which were highlighted in the weekly press review). The past few days I entertained an e-mail exchange over this matter with Jean Laherrère, the man with the numbers. Jean retains access to commercial energy databases, from which he is able to draw detailed hindsight. As usual, his view on Coal is better summarised in a few graphs reproduced below the fold.

31 October 2015

Press review 31-10-2015 - Uncertainty

Petroleum prices remain in the flat line around 50 $/b shaped since mid August. Pundits issue forecasts to all tastes, some say the price has to drop further, others that it will have to rise, otherwise even core exporters like Saudi Arabia or Russia will go under. The market reflects this uncertainty, with a good degree of indirectioned volatility. Meanwhile, the Euro sank again below 1.1 against the US dollar this week, meaning an effective rising trend in end products cost.

It is in this environment that comes another blow to heavy petroleum resources, with Shell cancelling an important project in Canada's tar sands. The media keeps touting the mantras regarding Canada: "more oil than Saudi", "enough carbon to cook the planet", but reality is somewhat different. The amount of petroleum extracted from the planet's crust is not only a function of demand, supply also counts. It so happens that these resources are at the moment the most expensive to obtain, therefore the most vulnerable in contraction periods.