How Australia will run out of oil by 2020: the rout begins…

25 07 2012

Remember this inconvenient chart of Australia’s oil production?  Well, it now looks like it’s not just Shell that believes it’s real too….  they are going to close their Clyde refinery in Sydney.  But now, Caltex are joining the fray as well……

Australia’s failing oil production

Caltex axes hundreds of jobs at Kurnell refinery

Posted July 26, 2012 09:00:15

Petroleum company Caltex says it is cutting hundreds of jobs as part of restructuring plans which include the closure of Sydney’s Kurnell refinery.

Caltex says it will close Kurnell by the middle of 2014 after 57 years of operation.

More than 300 jobs will go as staff numbers are reduced from 430 to about 100.

Kurnell’s facilities will then be used as a transport fuel import facility.

A review of the plant’s operations was announced in May this year as part of a major restructuring of the company’s supply chain.

The company says the carbon tax had no impact on the decision to close the refinery.

Shell to stop refining at Clyde

Updated: 20:38, Wednesday July 27, 2011

Shell has confirmed it will stop refining at its Clyde Refinery and will import petroleum products into Sydney because it can’t compete with Asia’s mega refineries.

Shell announced on Wednesday it will convert the Clyde Refinery and Gore Bay Terminal in Sydney into a fuel import facility by mid-2013.

Now of course, the question is why can’t shell compete with Asia’s mega refineries?  Could it be lack of oil?  Or that perhaps as we start scraping the bottom of the barrel the cost of bringing the dregs to the surface is too costly?  it will be interesting to see just what the other oil majors do next..

Yacon Strudel

22 07 2012

And now…….  for something totally new on this site, a recipe……


Easy to grow, high-yielding, supernutritious and crunchy like an apple, yacon is one of the many Permaculture vegetables adopted from South America. This fruit like vegetable has been cultivated throughout the Andes for more than a thousand years……  South Americans eat it as a fruit; they also use the huge leaves to wrap foods during cooking, in the same way cabbage leaves are used in Germany, grape leaves in Greece, and banana leaves in Asia.

Yacon in flower

Additionally to its distinctive flavour — a subtle cross between celery and apples — yacon is noted for its high fibre and low energy content.  The tubers and leaves contain high levels of Inulin, a form of sugar humans cannot quickly break down, making it low in calories.  Inulin also assists digestion and promotes the growth of beneficial bugs in the intestine, while inhibiting toxic bacteria.  Research has also discovered that yacon tubers and leaves are a good source of antioxidants.  Yacon is an ideal food for diabetics and weight watchers, but it will make a delicious addition to anyone’s diet.  Plus, the tubers only get sweeter in storage.

Yacon tubers straight out of the ground

So I thought, what can I make with this plant, and anything else lying around here…. and as they’re also called Peruvian Ground Apples, I thought I’d make some apple compote with it.  I peeled two or three small tubers (keeping them underwater to stop blackening), brought some water to the boil on the AGA, and grated the yacon into the water to soften.  When reduced, I also added three tablespoons of honey.  That’s when the strudel idea came into my head!  So I added some cinnamon, and organic raisins until the whole lot kind of looked like jam.

I then got two sheets of bought puff pastry (yeah I know it’s cheating, but I’m no pastry chef!), and cut them diagonally in four.  The yacon mixture was then put in the sink half full of cold water to cool down.  If you put the mixture hot in the puff pastry, it will just go all soggy and yucky…

Yacon Strudel straight out the oven

Once cold, I gingerly guesstimated 1/8 portions which I laid on one half of each small triangle of puff pastry.  Once done, fold the puff pastry triangles in half, covering the filling completely, and using a fork, press down on the joins to make them stick together.

Fifteen minutes in the AGA did the trick (or if you’ve got an oven with a glass front like most conventional kitchens, keep an eye out until the pastry is golden brown!).  The ladies in the house were thoroughly impressed……  I have to say, they were truly yummy!

AGA Wood Conversion

19 07 2012

I’m receiving so many enquiries on how to convert an AGA to run on firewood, I’ve decided that rather than reply to individuals one at a time, I’d make it a full post here….

Yes, it is possible…… but an AGA running on wood does not run like an AGA on anthracite I now understand.  When all and sundry on the internet told me “it will never work”, I now understand they meant “it will never work the way it was designed”!

A solid fuel AGA is a wonderfully designed and engineered piece of kit.  The inner barrel (which is removed during the conversion) feeds coal to the fire at a steady rate using gravity, ensuring the stove remains at a constant temperature once you have established the position of the thermostat on the left hand side of the front.  And I suspect you’d only need to fuel it once a day, maybe even less often….

When using wood, you have to feed it fuel constantly through the [new conversion kit] top, about 1/2 kg/hour.  Otherwise your temperature will be all over the place, albeit changing slowly, as the stove has amazing thermal momentum due to all the cast iron in it…..  And, when re-stoking it in the morning, you will have to at the very least move the thermostat to 5, or even open the ashpit door to get lots of air to restart the fire if it goes out overnight.  Most mornings, mine is on the edge of the black zone on the heat gauge, or somewhere between that and the black line in the middle, which is your target temperature.  But I put a couple of kgs of wood in it before going to bed.  The gauge will redline, and the cooking rings will glow red hot!

Wood doesn’t burn as efficiently as anthracite, and burning it produces a lot more exhaust gases than coal.  So you need a larger diameter flue.  You can buy a conversion kit in Australia from here where you can also view a (pretty crappy) B&W picture of the conversion kit

The kit consists of an adapter from 4″ to 5″ flue (top RH item in the pic), a new grate, and a new set of boiling plate rings that allow you to feed large pieces of wood through the top.  The rest of the stuff is for cleaning the flueways, an ash shovel, and a tool for lifting the middle cover for feeding the wood.  Not sure what the little round thing is…..  There is one other major thing you need to do, and that’s to open up the flueway above the top oven.  When you lift the RH simmering plates off the stove, you will see a bar that runs diagonally above the top oven.  It has a semi circular cutout in the middle of it, which astonishingly is all the space allowed for the exhaust to pass through to the flue, as the simmering plate sits on this.  This is way too small when using wood, and you have to cut it with an angle grinder so that none remains.  I did this by making lots of cuts close together, and using a hammer to knock out the small pieces.  It’s a bit messy, but it works….  I suspect this reduces the temperature of the simmering plate somewhat, but there you go, you can’t have everything in life!

I’m still pleased with the conversion, but beware….  ONLY burn well seasoned wood!  The first load of wood I got was quite good, but the second was not.  It burns less hot, and worse, creates rather large amounts of soot that deposit in the flue box where the flue proper shoots off upwards.  When enough soot blocks the manifold (that’s the part I had to replace when I fixed the AGA), the whole thing refuses to work…  a bit like blocking the exhaust pipe of your car!  It’s not hard to fix with a scraping tool and a vacuum cleaner, but it means letting the stove go cold.

Good luck, and let me know how you get on…..

UPDATE:  This blog is getting a lot of hits from searches for converting gas/oil AGAs to wood.  IF your AGA was originally a coal burning device that has been converted to gas/oil, then YES it can be converted to wood, because if it can be converted back to its original fuel, then it can be converted to wood as well.  However, if your AGA was built to only burn gas/oil, then I’m afraid you can stop searching…….  it can’t be done.

James Howard Kunstler: It’s Too Late for Solutions

17 07 2012

This is a podcast between two people I highly respect and admire:  Chris Martenson and James Howard Kunstler.  Enjoy…..  I did!

It’s a girl…!

17 07 2012

Whatcha lookin’ at..?
Things are hottin’ up

We got a new billy goat almost a year ago now, he’s a British Alpine.  The idea was to get our last remaining nanny in kid, and billy goats are early starters!  So after the prerequisite 5 months gestation, Shove gave birth late yesterday afternoon to a really cute girl kid Glenda has named Jezzebell.

She was so big, and her udder so pumped up hard, we were actually surprised triplets didn’t pop out!  And she sure picked a good day, no rain for the first time in what seems like months.

I don’t know what’s in the soil here (though I’m told acid soils make births of male kids more common), but out of the eight kids born here, only two have been girls, and the last one unfortunately died after being attacked by a tick in its nostril where we never thought of looking…..  bummer.

It’s unusual for Shove to not have twins, but there you go.  Maybe this girl will grow big and strong with a mother all to herself.  I’ll let her have all the milk for a whole month before I start milking our fair share.  Can’t wait to have goats’ milk again, and cheese…

David Icke: Conspiracy theories revisited

16 07 2012

I recently wrote a post about the crap people say regarding the Club of Rome, which ended with “Sometimes, I have to say, I feel like giving up…..  why is it that whenever any truth becomes inconvenient, it has to become a conspiracy?

Then, an English lady called Anna visited this blog and left me a message  (in the “About” section of this blog) enticing me to google David Icke who turns out to be a conspiracy theorist…..  In the process of researching him, I found this video (which I stopped half way through – by all means watch it, but I’m only slightly impressed with it).  Icke has some things to say that I totally agree with.  The state of affairs regarding elections is spot on, I sort of glossed over this in my last post.  But when he started going on about one world government and currency…… my eyes literally glazed over; because Peak Oil and Limits to Growth will put paid to those ideas…!  Further research then revealed Icke doesn’t believe in Limits to Growth at all, and in fact produced a film called “Peak Oil, Economic Collapse are a fraud”.   It’s even more boring than watching paint dry, mostly still images with a soundtrack of running water and thunderstorms…. the main theme is the legalisation of hemp, which he must believe could replace oil for the production of plastics and fuels and energy.  Well it might if there were only 50 million humans on the planet!  He has his own youtube channel which you may want to check out for yourself…….

One thing I found really amusing was in one of the clips he takes us for a tour of his flat, where he keeps a store of incandescent light bulbs because he (rightly so) has it in for CFL’s.  Of course incandescents don’t last that long, and regardless of how many he has stocked, one day he WILL run out….  just like the oil!!

Some visionary……..

I don’t doubt that the Illuminati are either planning or wanting to take over the world and that they sort of operate as a secret society, but they don’t understand physics, and they haven’t planned for collapse.  And after seeing what’s happening with the Euro, how can anyone believe in a world currency….?  He can’t be serious?  Unfortunately, he is.

If you can stand it (and I couldn’t!), there is a 2 1/2 hour movie on youtube called David Icke Debunked.  Some of what Icke believes is just……..  how shall I put it?  Laughable??  Like the Archangel Michael is the reason the Earth and the Moon haven’t collided…?  Has he never heard of Isaac Newton?

Anyhow, sorry Anna, Icke is colourful to say the least, but I won’t listen to these people who believe in mumbo jumbo.  Not even if we agree that two party political systems really suck!


14 07 2012

More signs the end is nigh

Human civilisation has definite boundaries.  I believe they have now been identified.  Regardless of the fact economists are loathe to admit it, we have reached a stage of resource limitations that will kill any kind of future growth, and I mean growth of real wealth, not that pretend debt-based paper rubbish we carry around in our wallets….. No technological breakthrough is going to alter the fact we have used up the low hanging fruit. Only a technological miracle from a science fiction novel will give us the completely new kind of previously unimagined energy source we now need.  Such a miracle energy source might make it feasible (in principle) to recycle our currently wasted material resources.  Make no mistake, it takes loads of cheap and abundant energy to combat entropy.  Every time civilisation consumes, dissipates, or wastes concentrated or manufactured material wealth, we come that much closer to entropy’s last post. The material throughput in our economic system is all one way at present, with only limited quantities of things like aluminium and copper being actually recycled.


Civilisation’s major source of energy is stored in fossil fuels, ancient sunlight. We are depleting those at the most unbelievable rate possible. We have now without a doubt reached the peak of conventional oil extraction (despite the recent bullshit being reported by the MSM and the likes of George Monbiot (who has yet to reply to Nicole Foss…!) Combine that with the declining ERoEI in both conventional and non-conventional fuels, such as shale oil, there is absolutely no hope that fossil fuels will provide the energy we need for the future maintenance of civilisation, let alone growing it…….

Long time readers of this blog will be aware of all this, so how can we know when the end is nigh…?  So I thought I’d share with you the sorts of things I keep an eye on in the world that will mark events and trends signalling the collapse of modern civilisation. I never expected to be around to see the most catastrophic events, but the rates of change we are seeing now means I might have to re-assess that….!The processes I keep tabs on have largely been covered in my previous posts. What I will show you now is simply when a significant change or event that provides me with a better handle on how quickly the collapse is happening. I intend to also look at the relationships between all these processes and attempt to work out how changes in one may effect changes in others.  Should be interesting.

The things that most affect daily lives immediately around the world are economics and politics. Those two are tightly interconnected, but not in ways most people are aware of. Political actions cannot and never will make the economy better; certainly not in any way I can think of. In fact, it’s now obvious, Politics can only make matters worse. We are seeing this in action right now.

So I expect to see a lot of mismanagement ensuing in the not-too-distant future.  Probably made worse by Abbott winning the next (Australian Federal) election… No matter which party gets control of the Parliament, they will both screw things up equally badly, just trying different approaches. We know that PM Gillard will do so, because she already has; insisting on a budget surplus at any cost, just as  the (fiddled) unemployment numbers start to rise was the wrong move…. Like all the other world leaders, she is in the banksters’ pockets….. And the Wall Street bankers and investment houses are guaranteed to steal from us, the rest of society, inevitably bringing the Australian banking system to its knees too; Barclay’s Bank showed us that fraud is a global phenomenon and Wall Street is just a symbol for the general condition which will soon make an appearance in our High Streets…. Even worse than just stealing “real wealth”, bankers create money out of thin air and pay themselves huge bonuses for doing so. They also happily create debt and gambling bubbles that are guaranteed to implode on everybody except themselves, and pay themselves even more huge bonuses for doing that too. And as the US President and British PM have demonstrated, they can do this with impunity because when the shit hits the fan, governments will simply bail them out so they can do it again……. and again…..

The economy is totally governed by energy flows. So I watch those very very carefully. While a lot of the focus from “people like me” continues to be placed on Peak Oil as a critical event, the real issue is nett available energy to do all that “useful” work per capita. I don’t like the word “useful” here, most work is destructive…. ERoEI is the limiting factor.

The belief structure operating globally today is that a capitalistic, market-based, consumer-oriented economy is the best/only approach to creating wealth.  To give credit where credit is due, once upon a time that was true.  At least before exponentially exploding debt caused the emphasis to shift toward the consumerist aspects of the economy.  Share holders’ profits, competition to drive down prices (usually by off-shoring labour), and all of the mechanisms that are essential to this kind of economy did indeed produce enormous wealth for some scattered segments of humanity.  But the whole notion of such an economy is based on continuous growth (to pay the interest on previous debts) and that required the shift to consumption as a sort of modus operandi.  For the engine to keep going, ever expanding purchasing of stuff and services had to become the norm, even if that “stuff” and services did not contribute one iota to fulfilling happiness.  Today, economies are trapped needing growth to maintain investment opportunities against a loss of the very basis of wealth creation — energy.  Without the latter capitalism will die.

Watching the political process in Australia is like watching the clown act in a circus.  Just watch question time on the tube one day…..  Only your average Australian doesn’t get the joke.  They take everything the clowns say and do seriously.  They think it really means something.  And the media just encourages it….. just ridiculous.

The only reason for watching any of this spectacle is what it can tell you about humanity’s likely responses to the traumas that are coming…. The Liberals are not only denying Climate Change, in my state of Queensland they have just decided to remove it from the science curriculum in our schools, even as all records are being broken (we just got three times the normal rainfall for June, just as the SOI is way down in negative territory and should be producing dry weather).  Just what kind of evidence do you need to get them to realise that something weird and important is happening?  Furthermore, at what rate do you need to see changes taking effect before you admit that there is something not quite right going on?

The ALP, unfortunately, are really not much better in regard to their responses. They acknowledge the science of global warming, even introduce a Carbon Tax; but then turn around and ignore hard science when it comes to wishful thinking about “going green”.  They continue to spout off about how all of our problems will be solved by technology, and are now attacking the Greens who helped them gain government.  And, they think, with no real evidence to go on, that that shift to “green” will create wonderful new, high paying jobs.  They are no more realists than the Liberals who slash and burn Feed in Tariffs to protect their coal burning mates…..

Then of course there are the biophysical realities of climate conditions, water over-consumption, soil degradation, food production declines, and biodiversity loss. All symptoms of what is coming.  As with all symptoms we need to monitor them just to understand the progression of the disease.  To make matters worse, environmentalists never admit that humans have screwed the environment and are THE number one problem. They won’t touch population, and they are equally guilty of counting on technological solutions as the politicians.

Climate change, while merely symptomatic, may be one of the most critical long term factors to keep an eye on.  Radical weather extremes and shifts in climate parameters will probably provide some of the worst kinds of stresses on civilisation.  Populations will be displaced (some already are), or, more likely due to lack of energy to power mobility, they may simply expire in situ.  The energetic (and therefore financial) costs of mitigation and adaptation will be unaffordable, given the decline in nett energy. I suspect there will be little real large-scale adaptation attempted as a result.  All you have to do is look at the failures of our governments (at all levels) to simply maintain critical infrastructure like health and education…!  Where will the resources to pay for mitigation and adaptation come from if the climate disturbance gets as bad as some climate scientists now reckon is likely to be?  We will not only have to suffer political failure but also failure of governance in general.  Systems of global governance are so fragile that they cannot possibly adapt to the rapidly changing situations.  We may well witness many revolutions like what we saw in Egypt (a classic case of Limits to Growth), and likely with similar, though more bloody, outcomes, especially in the US where everyone is armed to the teeth!  Without fundamental changes in the way societies operate, the revolutionaries will not be able to do any better; and so there could be waves of revolutions as long as there is some energy to drive the effort.  Such revolutions would likely destroy the very capabilities of extracting energy, and so defeat their own futures.

I consider the simultaneous predicaments of energy decline and climate change stresses to provide the greatest forces driving collapse.

From where I stand, the real “cause” of our dilemma is our own mental weaknesses.  We cannot possibly be truly rational creatures. We are guided more by heuristics and producing biases than rationality.  This weakness extends to everything from decisions to buy big SUV because some pouting babe was on the bonnet, to choosing a business career because that happens to be the hot topic du jour.  None of us is immune from insufficient wisdom (except for those rare few), not even those among us supposedly endowed with high IQ’s.  And then of course we have the financial wizards and bankers — the egotists who faithfully believe that their creation of paper assets based on smoke and mirrors is “doing God’s work”.

I’ve met so many people who believe that once the housing market follows the US and bottoms out, we’ll get back on track for economic growth again — the mind boggles. But the truth is simply too inconvenient….  My past posts have attempted to demonstrate that all of these events have a common source: our dangerous reliance on finite fossil fuels, and the resulting bursting of the biggest bubble of all, the energy bubble.  We are reckless in all that we do to use that fossilised sunlight, including and especially expanding our populations and profligate consumption of “stuff” just for the sake of consuming. We have no natural awareness of the long-term consequences of this recklessness because our brains are incapable, on average, of modelling such outcomes.

Ultimately, it will come down to how people react to contraction once it sets in in earnest, and the pain simply can no longer be ignored.  In all honesty, I have no idea how people will generally react.  Let’s just say I’m glad I don’t live in the gun blazing US of A…

Older civilisations have collapsed and different cultures have produced different reactions.  But in all of those cases the civilisations were localised.  People had other places to go when the going got hard.  In a global collapse there are no other examples and no other places to run to and hide. There is no Planet B…. Everything and everyone will be subject to similar conditions.  Given that the dominant culture of the day is greedy capitalism I fear that the predominant reaction might be violence, both in terms of attempts to steal, and attempts to protect possessions.

But we will just have to wait and see what happens next……..