Monday, August 29, 2005

Katrina presages energy woes?


Woke up this morning and caught some of the news. Although I didn't hear anyone say it before the hurricane hit land, today, NBC's Today Show talked about the possibility that Katrina could endanger the oil refining & shipment facilities in Louisiana that supply 25% of America's oil.

The NBC anchor said speculation on the storm would cause gas prices to climb 20 to 30 cents this week. If damage to those facilities is minor, that price will probably fall again; if not, we could be in for a very long winter.

New York Newsday reports roughly the same thing, saying that seven refineries have shut down in that area:

Wholesale gasoline prices in the New York and Gulf Coast markets soared by 25-35 cents a gallon on Monday following reports that about 8 percent of U.S. refining capacity had been shut down ahead of the storm. One analyst said pump prices nationwide would likely average more than $2.75 a gallon by week's end, up from about $2.60 a gallon Monday.


Unlike last year's Hurricane Ivan, which only hit the edge of the oil and natural-gas producing areas in the central Gulf of Mexico, Katrina is plowing right through the heart of that region.

PVM Oil Associates in Vienna, Austria, said Katrina had the potential to do more damage to southeastern Louisiana than Ivan, which damaged seven platforms, 100 underwater pipelines and shut down production at some facilities for several months.

Some analysts have said the only way to rein in surging prices would be for the United States to tap some of its petroleum reserves. A Department of Energy spokesman said the U.S. government was in touch with oil companies in the region and that a decision on whether to release oil from emergency stockpiles would likely be made in the next 24 to 48 hours. reports that Standard & Poor's initial estimates have put refinery shutdowns at 12% of U.S. capacity, while evacuated offshore facilities are expected to affect 42% of Gulf oil production.

That could be a major problem, since Reuters reports that "Dealers are particularly concerned about damage as the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is already pumping at near its full capacity, leaving it little room to make up for any lasting outages."

That doesn't leave the US much wiggle room, since our Strategic Petroleum Reserve has a capacity of just 727 million barrels. That may sound like a lot, but The Dept of Energy's own reports show that we consume about 20.7 million barrels per day and get 12.1 million BPD as imports while producing only 5.1 million BPD here at home. (By reading the chart, I'm not clear on what makes up the difference -- synthetics? recycled oil? oil shale and similar low-producing sources?-- but its something other than crude oil.)

That gives us a 35 day supply.

According to a different Reuters article, Katrina also affected natural gas production, which was reduced in preparation for the storm:

Natural gas pipeline operators reported that at least 5.6 billion cubic feet per day of offshore production had been cut from their systems, or nearly 60 percent of the 10 bcf total produced daily in the Gulf.

Gulf of Mexico natural gas output accounts for about 20 percent of the nation's total production.

And, as a footnote, Katrina also shut down three nuclear plants, but those will probably be up and running shortly.

Sounds like June's movie Oil Storm, which I wrote about here and here, might be coming true...

As if that's not enough, we still have nearly three months to go in the hurricane season. The National Hurricane Center warns "for the remainder of the season, we expect an additional 11-14 tropical storms, with 7-9 becoming hurricanes, and 3-5 of these becoming major hurricanes" (that is, category 3 or above). If they're right, we'll be into next year's name list before it ends...

Stay tuned, sports fans.

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Blogger Clyo said...

Hi Jay,

Thanks for your comments on my blog posts. I thought you might like to know that I've added RAINN as a link on my blog.

I know you will think I am an absolute flake, but here goes.

Did you notice after the film Twister came out that our Midwest saw an unprecedented number of twisters, including the illusive category 5?

To me it was evidence that what we fill our minds with really does manifest in reality.

Millions saw Twister. The impact on our collect consciousness was significant because, for the subconscious, seeing something on film is akin to experiencing it.

The subconscious does not distinguish between fact and fiction. Put an image in there, and the subconscious takes it for fact. That "fact" will then show up - sooner or later - in our reality.

So I find it fascinating - and galling - that FOX helped program our collective consciousness for disaster with images of a category 5 (I assume) hurricane hitting Louisiana.

Until more people connect the dots and realize we all contribute to the Quantum Field 24/7 and that the Quantum Field gives birth to our reality, we will continue to dig this hole for ourselves.

We are, of course, helped along quite well - thank you very much - by the greed, disregard for our planet and lack of compassion for others practiced by most corporations in pursuit of maximum profits.

8/29/2005 2:53 PM  
Blogger MichaelBains said...

To me it was evidence that what we fill our minds with really does manifest in reality.

Probalistically it is simply evidence that we become more aware of our environment when awareness is forced upon us. I don't mean to be derisive of the above idea. It is just that probability suggests the latter explanation is more, well, probable.

$70 a barrel man. Yikes! And the ceiling on that price is goin' on up.

8/29/2005 3:35 PM  
Blogger Clyo said...


P.S. I think we agree that there is a need for thoughtful and well made films that inform us about choices and solutions.

"Disaster films," however, like the one FOX broadcast for mere "entertainment" are counterproductive, taking our attention off our real problems: we are destroying the earth, causing climate change and following an unsustainable energy policy.

By the way, did you read The Madness of George Bush?

Microcosm always mirrors Macroscosm.

8/29/2005 3:41 PM  
Blogger Jay Denari said...

I'll admit, I did laugh when I read your note, Clyo, but there's definitely some truth to it. Psychologists have argued that for decades, and more recent exploration of the neurology of memory has shown that neural traces DO reinforce themselves simply by thinking about concepts whether they're real or not. (One great book I'm now reading is Steven Johnson's Mind Wide Open.) There's no doubt thoughts influence actions in ways we don't yet clearly understand.

However, I agree with Michael: we have to be careful positing a direct link between our thoughts and global events not of human manufacture so as to avoid "magical thinking." A little of that is harmless, but it can become dangerously delusional on a social scale. That's the big risk of the right-wing's obsession with apocalypse, as I've noted before.

Our thoughts didn't create Katrina or the big twisters, but they did make us more aware of the dangers of such events, and as such probably saved some lives. Given this year's storminess, it was highly probable there'd be a big storm, that it would happen about now (the height of hurricane season), and that eventually some storm would hit New Orleans. The last of these all but guaranteed, for geographical reasons, that said storm could have oil-related effects like those in the movie. They just happened to come together in Katrina. Katrina could've died harmlessly in the Atlantic as Irene did.

The awareness doesn't cause the problems; I think these storms and other events are natural outgrowths of much longer-term situations we're partly responsible for by our collective actions. Of course, such actions are fueled by thoughts, so I guess we've got a chicken and egg scenario here.

That said, it did occur to me when I saw the NBC coverage that there will probably be wacky conspiracy theories claiming Katrina was caused by some cabal or other. When I searched on "conspiracy katrina," though, the first site that came up was actually pretty reasonable, with some good pictures.

8/29/2005 5:17 PM  
Blogger Jay Denari said...

PS: Thanks for the link, Clyo. I hadn't read it, but had seen similar things, including analyses of Bush's behavior as that of a dry drunk, as more generally sociopathic, etc. I think he's got a point that Bush's madness is symptomatic of a broader cultural psychological illness, and all of teh analyses combined make it clear that its a complex problem that needs some very serious work to solve. We probably won't be able to do it on our own, and given the possible ramifications, shouldn't try; we need to reach out to the rest of the world for help. Many of those countries have already experienced this kind of insanity, but they couldn't do as much damage with it as we can.

In a similar vein, have you read Anne Schaef's When Society Becomes an Addict?

8/29/2005 5:28 PM  
Blogger Jay Denari said...

A little good news that shows even foreign leaders care more about the American people than does this administration.

Somebody over at Alternet suggested supporting Citgo while opposing the big US firms, and that sounds like a good idea. (Where I live, Citgo's prices aren't much different, however.)

Venezuela to sell cut-price heating oil to U.S. poor

Aug 29, 2005 — CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) - Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez said on Monday his government plans to sell as much as 66,000 barrels per day of heating fuel from its U.S. Citgo refinery to poor communities in the United States.

The offer, made after populist Chavez held talks with U.S. civil rights activist Rev. Jesse Jackson, would represent 10 percent of the 660,000 bpd of refined products processed by Citgo. The deals would cut consumer costs by direct sales.

Venezuela's Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez said officials were still working on the details on how the oil would be sold from Citgo, a unit of the state oil firm PDVSA.

"We are going to direct as much as 10 percent of the production, that means 66,000 barrels, without intermediaries, to poor communities, hospitals, religious communities, schools," Chavez told reporters at a press conference.

The world's No. 5 oil exporter, oil cartel OPEC member Venezuela is a key supplier to the United States, providing about 15 percent of all U.S. energy imports.

But relations between Caracas and Washington have become strained since left-winger Chavez was elected in 1998 promising social reforms.

Chavez, a former army officer who survived a coup in 2002, frequently accuses the U.S. of backing efforts to kill him or topple his government. U.S. officials dismiss those charges but say Chavez has become a threat to regional stability.

8/30/2005 2:20 PM  
Blogger Clyo said...

Hi Jay,

Thanks for the tip on Mind Wide Open. It definitely sounds like a book I want to get.

Sometime, you might take a look at The Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Joseph Murphy.

It was the first stepping-stone in my quest, which began nearly twenty-five years ago, to get a handle on what is really going on in what we call "reality."

"Magical thinking," as I understand it, is not quite the same thing as finding out that we live in an energy universe in which the energy of thought impacts the world around us and that there is an actual cause and effect.

The self-fulfilling prophesy, a phenomena that countless people have experienced, is anecdotal evidence of this.

It would follow, therfore, that a collection of people all thinking the same thing could create a self-fulfilling prophesy, or, in the case of something like a hurricane, influence how big it got or where it hit based upon their deepest held beliefs.

Quantum mechanics explains how this is possible, but of course it is still a theory and the packets of energy about which it theorizes are infinitesimally small, being the theorized building blocks of everything in the material world.

Real life experience is always the convincer, for me. I consider myself a pragmatist first and last.

Having experienced this phenomena for myself countless times - the ability to change outcomes in my life based upon the thoughts I choose to think - I have come to believe in it. However, I understand how subjective it is.

Until such time that you, yourself, begin to have such experiences and then, futher connect the dots and begin to see that you create both good and bad in your life through the thoughts you think, the concept will not have much meaning for you but will seem like I'm talking nonsense.

Regardless, as always, I enjoy your blog and welcome your comments.


P.S. Did you read the article Scientific Savvy? In U.S. Not Much that says 1 out of 5 adult Americans believes the sun revolves around the earth?

It explains so much.

8/31/2005 4:09 PM  
Blogger Jay Denari said...

Hi, Clyo,

Actually, I understand what you're saying. I just split the idea into two things: thought impact on human-controlled events, and thought impact on natural events.

The first one frequently shows the effect of "self-fulfilling prophecies" throughout history: groups of people believing X so strongly they make it happen (for good or ill). This is what I worry about re: the fundamentalists' apocalypse obsessions. Such a thing can also happen on the individual level.

But I'm skeptical of the impact on weather, earthquakes, or other natural events. I'm familiar with the concepts of quantum mechanics (if any layman can be) and have even read some of Fred Alan Wolf's work which links shamanic practices to quantum physics. The ideas are very interesting, but most quantum forces are very short-range: I'm more willing to accept the idea that people can think themselves out of a terminal illness (and there's fair anecdotal evidence of that) than that collective thoughts can guide a hurricane's development or path.

When a person's sick, that mental energy is being directed at an internal fight their body is already involved in. With a storm, it would have to influence a host of variables nobody yet really understands.

Cause and effect are often not simple: many events on a global scale can be shown to have multiple causes and multiple effects, some of which we never identify, and some of which could've easily combined in other ways with different outcomes.

9/01/2005 4:06 PM  
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