June 22, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 5:27 AM


Shortages: Is 'peak oil' idea dead? (Roger Harrabin, 6/19/12, BBC)

And what do you know? In 2008 we reached a new production high of 73.71 million barrels a day according to the IEA, thanks largely to new technologies for getting the stuff out of the ground.

Oil comes from fragments of vegetable matter laid down amongst particles of rock. Even by 1980 we could only recover about 22% of the oil from a typical well. Technology has now driven that figure to 35%. Same oil wells, more oil.

A surge of car ownership in China has exacerbated concerns about peak oil
Supply has been boosted by unconventional oil extracted from rocks which were previously uneconomic to exploit - like oil shales and tar sands. It takes much more energy and water to separate the oil from these rocks than conventional oil drilling so it's much worse for the environment.

But your car doesn't know or care whether it's running on conventional oil or tar sand oil.

Fears over "peak oil" haven't evaporated, but the advent of unconventional oils has driven the peak further into the distance.

There's also a boom in unconventional gas production that's made the Americans relax about energy security. Gas can be turned into diesel - at a cost - pushing peak oil further into the distance. If things get really bad we can also turn coal into diesel.

Posted by orrinj at 5:07 AM


My Health-Care Alternative for the Old and Poor: Replacing Medicare and Medicaid with a simple debit card will result in better-quality care, for less. (DEVIN NUNES, 6/21/12, WSJ)

Geared toward low-income individuals and seniors, this simple plan will replace participants' Medicare and Medicaid benefits with roughly equivalent funds put on a debit-style "Medi-choice" card. Participants can then use their card to buy the health insurance of their choice on the open market and to pay for out-of-pocket expenses such as co-payments and deductibles. In succeeding years the card's funding level will be adjusted for inflation, and any unused funds will roll over to the next year.

This plan will streamline health-care delivery by replacing hospital insurance, Medigap, prescription-drug programs, Medicare and Medicaid with a simple debit card. Instead of dealing with the notorious restrictions, exclusions and red tape of government-provided health care, participants will be empowered to control their own health care and force insurers and providers to compete for their business. Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries will be freed from these failing, regimented programs, and they will gain the same access and choice in health care enjoyed by other Americans.

The pilot program would be launched in eight counties in California's San Joaquin Valley, an impoverished area whose residents are woefully underserved in health care. According to a December 2005 Congressional Research Service report, "By a wide range of indicators, the SJV [San Joaquin Valley] is . . . one of the most economically depressed regions of the United States" and is "suffering from high poverty, unemployment, and other adverse social conditions." The report found that the region had nearly double the percentage of Medicaid participants (22.9%) compared with the national average (11.7%) and around half the ratio of active doctors (1.4 doctors per 1,000 people in the San Joaquin Valley, compared with 2.3 doctors per 1,000 nationwide).

The valley's poorer inhabitants are precisely the kind of people whom government-provided health care is supposed to help. Yet their access to quality care is severely limited due to myriad restrictions and bureaucratic obstacles. As a result, local hospitals, doctors and medical professionals have shown enthusiastic support for our plan.

The pilot program's costs will be minimal, since it will largely redirect today's inefficient government spending. But its potential rewards are high. It will constitute a voluntary real-life experiment--applying only to those who choose to participate--in using choice and competition to eliminate the waste, inefficiencies and restrictions of the current system. Best of all, if it works in the difficult conditions of the San Joaquin Valley, it will likely work across the country--with essentially no additional costs.

In fact, if the program is implemented on a large scale, it will have beneficial ripple effects throughout the health-care sector and the national economy. It will encourage widespread entrepreneurship, innovation and competition as providers seek to meet the needs of empowered consumers. It will harness the free market to drive reforms that will benefit all Americans, particularly the poorest.