Flusom prison blues

I suppose I’d better write a post, hadn’t I?

First of all, this lockdown doesn’t really bother me, aside from the fact I can’t get to a gym. I’ve spent plenty of time sitting in flats in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk waiting out blizzards, mooching about my apartment in Lagos as the general strike went on outside, or surfing the internet in a flat in Kuwait for the best part of a year because there was absolutely nothing to do outside but loaf around a shopping centre. I’ve also spent 28 days on an offshore platform and 10 days on a Russian ship. I can entertain myself easily enough anywhere with a computer, internet, TV, banjo, and guitar.

I’m also quite happy working from home, and the job has turned out to be quite rewarding. I’m in charge of three projects in support of technologies which have never been done on this scale before, so it’s all quite new and exciting. In hindsight, working in the oil industry is like hanging out with a village blacksmith insofar as exposure to new technology and processes goes. We’re all working remotely now, and given most of us are engineers we don’t mind being deprived of human contact provided we have our computers and spreadsheets.

I honestly have nothing to say about the Corona Virus and the government’s response to it. I have no idea whether this lockdown is a massive overreaction which will destroy the economy or whether it’s necessary to prevent tens of thousands of avoidable deaths which no democracy can tolerate, and anyone who claims to emphatically know one way or another is probably a bullshit artist. The best thing I can do is stay at home and see how things pan out.

However, I have noticed that Plod, true to form, is absolutely relishing their new powers to harass and threaten ordinary members of the public, lying to them about the law in the process. If in a week’s time civil unrest breaks out and the usual suspects start kicking the crap out of policemen, they’re going to wonder – again – why nobody bothered stepping in to help them. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the police are not on the side of the ordinary public, and this COVID-19 lockdown is demonstrating just that.

And I found this amusing:

New Hampshire has banned the use of reusable shopping bags in a bid to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Governor Chris Sununu issued the emergency order on Saturday to temporarily revert to single-use plastic or paper bags in grocery stores, supermarkets, convenience stores and other retail businesses to protect customers and workers.

This comes after several other US states took similar measures. It’s almost as if Chesterton’s fence had a purpose after all, isn’t it?

Stay safe, everyone.


Dumb baggery

Now there’s a surprise:

Sales of “bags for life” rose to 1.5bn last year as the amount of plastic used by supermarkets increased to 900,000 tonnes, Greenpeace research has found.

Many supermarkets have stopped selling 5p single-use bags altogether in favour of stronger 10p bags, which are intended to be reused.

A study by the Environment Agency concluded that these plastic bags for life needed to be used at least four times to ensure they contributed less to climate change than the lighter, single-use bags.

Y’know, it might have been a good idea to have investigated the relative effects of different bags on the environment before lobbying idiotic politicians into passing laws banning the most useful and popular type. But as I like to point out, this is driven by emotions not rationality.

The Greenpeace and EIA research says that bag for life sales were cut by 90% in the Republic of Ireland by setting higher prices of 70 cents. The report recommends a charge of 70p or “ideally” a government ban.

The charge appears to be based on that of another country, only changing the currency without even bothering with exchange rates, let alone purchasing power. I suppose we should be grateful the unwashed clowns at Greenpeace didn’t take Venezuela as the test case. And what is everyone supposed to use to carry groceries if there is an outright ban on plastic bags? Re-purposed drawstrung elephant scrota?

The research also found that overall supermarket plastic use has risen to more than 900,000 tonnes in 2018, despite pledges by retailers to cut down on packaging.

The previous year, they used 886,000 tonnes of single-use plastic packaging.

The report found that supermarkets had slightly reduced the plastic from own-brand goods but that packaging from branded goods increased.

In other words, they’ve spent years hounding the wrong part of the supply chain. These are the people who wish to be in charge of a command and control economy.

Fiona Nicholls, ocean plastics campaigner for Greenpeace UK, said: “Supermarkets are failing on plastics and failing their customers.

“We hear piecemeal supermarket announcements on plastic every other week, but in reality they are putting more plastic on the shelves than ever.”

These supermarkets are failing their customers in the same way coke dealers are failing London property developers.

Only Tesco has given suppliers an ultimatum to cut plastic use or see their products removed from the shelves.

Perhaps their management are not happy with the pace at which they are losing market share and wish it to quicken?

Waitrose was ranked top for cutting its packaging and trying out refill stations for products such as coffee, rice, pasta, wine and detergent.

The Waitrose near me in St. Katherine Docks serves coffee in porcelain cups, but doesn’t let you leave with them. In other words, it’s a cafe serving people who have time to loaf around in the middle of the day drinking coffee. And we’re back to London property developers again. Meanwhile, nobody seems concerned about the amount of plastic used in women’s makeup:

I wonder why that is?


Devil in the Retail

Via a reader on Twitter, an academic paper on one of this blog’s favourite subjects, the effectiveness of banning single-use plastic bags. Here’s the abstract:

Leakage occurs when partial regulation of consumer products results in increased consumption of these products in unregulated domains. This article quantifies plastic leakage from the banning of plastic carryout bags. Using quasi-random policy variation in California, I find the elimination of 40 million pounds of plastic carryout bags is offset by a 12 million pound increase in trash bag purchases—with small, medium, and tall trash bag sales increasing by 120%, 64%, and 6%, respectively. The results further reveal 12–22% of plastic carryout bags were reused as trash bags pre-regulation and show bag bans shift consumers towards fewer but heavier bags. With a substantial proportion of carryout bags already reused in a way that avoided the manufacture and purchase of another plastic bag, policy evaluations that ignore leakage effects overstate the regulation’s welfare gains.

Oh. It might have been useful to analyse second-order effects before imposing sweeping legislation, no?

The trouble is, despite environmentalists’ claims to be believers in “science”, what we’re dealing with here are religious fanatics. They’ve decided plastic is the devil’s material and therefore any move which appears to reduce its use sets mankind along the path of righteousness. All the academic research in the world isn’t going to make a dent in the propaganda pumped out by the United Church of Modern Environmentalism; you might as well go to Mecca during the hajj and start picking holes in bits of the Koran.

That’s not to say this paper and others like it aren’t useful; they are vital in demonstrating that people’s views on the environment are in large part spiritual, not rational. This is important because those who advocate these policies generally consider themselves atheists whose beliefs are based on scientific data (albeit that which they’d not have the foggiest idea how to interpret without the “guidance” of the contemporary equivalent of a religious hierarchy). The evidence suggests it’s rather pointless to tell a man who claims to be pious that his behaviour suggests otherwise. But I’ve found there is considerable traction in admiring the spiritual commitment of so-called atheists and remarking that they’d be quite at home in a busy-bodying church.


Politicians deliver Brazilian whacks after outrage at burning bush

The last 48 hours have seen my social media feeds inundated with hysterical stories over fires in the Brazilian rainforest, reposted by well-meaning but dunderheaded acquaintances. Scanning the news sites, I see the Brazilian rainforest fires are making headline news.

So what’s going on here? Well, we can be sure that with this amount of media coverage it doesn’t have much to do with fires in the Brazilian rainforest. I don’t know how bad the fires are or whether it’s anything unusual, but I’d put a tenner on there having been hundreds of similar fires in the past few years that haven’t generated this much attention. Hell, the world can lose the entire Aral Sea and nobody says anything. The first thing that springs to mind is the global elites detest Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro because he’s – gasp! – right wing and too much like Trump for their liking. So if they want to weaken his position, what better method than saying he’s upsetting the Earth Goddess and encouraging the faithful to unite in his denunciation? This article sheds further light on matters:

France will block an EU trade deal with Brazil and its neighbours over the country’s handling of fires in the Amazon rainforest, a spokesperson for Emmanuel Macron has said.

Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro has been criticised around the world for his response to the fires, which scientists say are man-made and campaigners have linked to businesses looking to exploit the land.

“The president can only conclude President Bolsonaro lied to him at the Osaka summit,” a spokesperson for the Elysee told the Reuters news agency.


Conservationists say Mr Bolsonaro, who was elected on a pro-business platform, has encouraged the setting of fires as part of his pro-business programme. Brazil’s space research centre, Inpe, has detected 72,843 fires in the Amazon so far this year – an 84 per cent rise compared to 2018, when Mr Bolsonaro was elected. The president has said his country cannot fight the fires.

Is Macron really interested in fires in a country which apparently is used to tens of thousands of them, or is he seeking to protect French farmers from South American beef imports?

Earlier today Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s prime minister, also indicated that Ireland could try and block the EU trade deal.

“There is no way that Ireland will vote for the EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement if Brazil does not honor its environmental commitments,” Mr Varadkar said.

Yes, when I’m told “the lungs of the planet” are on fire, my first reaction is to threaten to yank a free trade deal. How’s Ireland’s beef industry looking after 31st October, by the way?

Mr Macron on Thursday called for the issue to be discussed at the G7 summit, branding it an international emergency.

I suppose international grandstanding is easier than dealing with the riots outside the windows of his own office, isn’t it?

Indigenous groups living within the Amazon have tried desperately to save the land. Many blame illegal ranchers for setting the fires and conservation groups believe the crisis is man made. They also believe the Bolsonaro government has tacitly encouraged people to set the fires in order to clear the land for economic development.

I very much doubt much has changed on the ground since Bolsonaro took office. What we’re seeing here is an international effort to undermine and ultimately unseat a popular president who is not on board with the globalist agenda. If he’d been a good lefty globalist, we’d not have heard a peep about these fires and my Facebook page would still be filled with middle class mothers bleating about plastic in the ocean.


Jet Dough

From The Times, August 2nd:

The Duke of Sussex has given a barefoot address about the need to save the environment at the star-studded Google Camp being held on Sicily, it has been reported.

The duke is said to have given an impassioned lecture at the three-day event hosted by the internet giant and which has a climate change theme, according to the Page Six gossip column of the New York Post.

Harry reportedly covered much of the same ground that he did in his interview with British Vogue’s September issue, which was guest-edited by his wife.

The duke told the magazine the couple would not have more than two children, and spoke about “terrifying” effects of climate change.

From the BBC, August 19th:

Sir Elton John has defended the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s use of private jets

The royal couple have faced criticism after newspapers claimed they took four private jet journeys in 11 days, including to Sir Elton’s home in Nice.

From Elton John himself:

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

“[An indulgence is] a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and all of the saints”

In other words, you can reduce the time spent in purgatory for your earthly sins by coughing up some cash for the church:

Trading in indulgences was big business before the Reformation. Buying indulgences was expensive and thus reserved for the rich, who had the money to buy them or to go on a pilgrimage to Rome or Santiago del Compostela.

Environmentalism really is a new religion, isn’t it?


Fossil Fool

A couple of days ago I listened to Joe Rogan’s podcast with Bernie Sanders. The thing with Sanders is he’s actually pretty good at identifying genuine problems. In 2016, what he was saying about blue collar America wasn’t much different from Trump’s message, which is partly why so many of the Bernie Bros couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Hillary. However, Sanders’ solutions to the problems he identifies are terrible, consisting of top-down authoritarianism presiding over a command-and-control economy, much like what he saw in the Soviet Union on his honeymoon. Take for example his proposals for tackling climate change around the hour mark of the podcast:

Sanders has bought wholesale into the nonsense that we have 12 years left to save the planet, but his solutions are even more daft. His proposal is to “tell the fossil fuel industry that their short term profits are not more important than the future of the planet”. He then goes on to say “you cannot keep producing a product which is destroying the planet.” Rogan asks him whether this means he will tell the fossil fuel companies to stop selling their products, and Sanders replies that yes, “this is the bottom line”.

It’s hard to know where to begin with such stupidity. The only major oil and gas companies the US government would have some degree of control over should it issue such an order are ExxonMobil and Chevron. While most international oil companies work overtime not to fall foul of the US government in ordinary circumstances, faced with what amounts to closure orders from a President Sanders they’d cease all cooperation immediately. Sanders talks about the need to work with Russia and others but it’s hard to imagine Gazprom and Rosneft shutting down production because a septuagenarian multi-millionaire from Vermont deems it necessary. Although if Theresa May were still British Prime Minister you could well imagine her closing down BP in order to seal her “legacy”.

But the impossibility of implementing the policy isn’t even the most stupid part. Sanders speaks as though the fossil fuel companies sell products with no utility, as if they don’t underpin the entire way of modern life. He seems to think they’re luxury products we can do without if only the right leadership is shown. I see this with a lot of people: they think cars should be electric, and electricity generated by solar, wind, and hydro power and therefore we don’t need fossil fuels any more. What staggers me is the ignorance among the general public about what fossil fuel products are actually used for. Even making the ludicrous assumption we could switch our cars to electric and generate all electricity from renewables, how do we power planes, ships, and tractors without fossil fuels? Even my erstwhile environmental engineer friend didn’t seem to understand that a demand for fossil fuels will likely remain until the very end of human existence. She didn’t seem to consider the economics of her preferred policies at all, let alone the effects at the margins (i.e on the poor), which puts her in good company with Bernie Sanders and most of the public who subscribe to swivel-eyed environmentalism. One minute Sanders is bemoaning the difficulties low-paid workers face in America, the next he’s saying we should make basic energy products as expensive as diamonds.

As I’ve said before, I have a theory that when a certain number of generations have taken the bottom two levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for granted, the society starts to self-destruct. A critical mass of people simply lose connection with the foundations which prop up their society, start meddling with them, and eventually call for their destruction. I’ve tried to think of a similar instance from history, and the closest I can find is China’s decision in the 15th century to destroy their ships in an effort to isolate themselves from the perils of free trade. And even that doesn’t come close to ordering a halt on fossil fuel production. What’s that saying that whom the Gods would destroy they first make mad? We’re here, folks.


Bag Ladies

It’s a rare and wonderful day that I can write two posts on this blog’s favourite niche topics. Two readers have alerted me to this article, via Guido:

Last week, the government proudly announced that plastic bag sales had fallen dramatically.

However, the government’s press release only mentioned in passing that these figures only include so-called “single-use” plastic bags.

This is significant because most supermarkets are actively trying to replace or supplement the sale of thin single-use bags with more durable bags, known as “bags for life”.

But the government’s figures do not include any bags for life – which now account for a significant proportion of supermarket plastic bag sales.

About ten days ago I was on the beach with an environmental engineer who was convinced that using “bags for life” was better than single-use bags. I said that this was cute, but it was no less an article of faith than a Medieval peasant believing in the afterlife. She disagreed, so I asked if she was aware of the Danish study which shows “bags for life” are more damaging to the environment than single-use bags. She said she wasn’t, but she was more concerned with the overall environmental impact, not just the amount of plastic used. I said this is precisely what the study looked at. She dismissed this with a wave of the hand and said she was “sure” there are lots of studies out there. I asked if she could name any, because the one by the Danish government was the only one I’d heard of. She said she didn’t know of any. I said I admired her commitment to her faith. She suggested we go for a swim.

The problem is this is not about personal choice. I couldn’t care less if middle class women in white collar professions want to make pointless offerings to the Earth Goddess, but they want their dumb personal preferences turned into national legislation without the slightest consideration of the broader consequences.

Bags for life are much thicker than single-use bags, so they contain much more plastic.

For instance, FactCheck calculates that a Waitrose bag for life weighs almost four times as much as the supermarket’s single-use bags.

The idea is that customers will use fewer of them – so the total amount of plastic being used over the course of a year will be less. But reports suggest this is not always working.

Last year, The Times said an average UK household uses 44 bags for life in just one year.

And the managing director of Iceland admitted the supermarket was actually using more plastic – not less – as a result of switching to bags for life.

He told the paper: “These bags for life are a thicker, higher grade of plastic… We are selling less of them but it’s not yet less enough that it’s compensated in terms of the extra weight that they are for the fewer amount of bags that we are selling. So therefore I haven’t yet reduced the total amount of plastic weight, even though I have eliminated 5p carrier bags.”

Legislation is being passed by religious fanatics who are convinced they’re acting rationally in accordance with economic and scientific data. At least in the olden days the religious orders put up some nice buildings.


French Resistance


Teen activist Greta Thunberg has lashed out at French lawmakers for mocking her in a speech to parliament that was boycotted by far-right politicians.

Far-right, eh?

Ms Thunberg, whose solo protest outside the Swedish Parliament inspired the school climate strike movement, has been lauded for her emotive speeches to politicians.

But lawmakers from French parties, including the conservative Republicans and far-right National Rally, said they would shun her speech in the National Assembly.

So not just the far-right, then. Ordinary conservatives as well, those representing French men and women who might not like being lectured to by weird Swedish teenagers.

Urging his colleagues to boycott Ms Thunberg’s speech, leadership candidate for The Republicans, Guillaume Larrive, wrote on Twitter: “We do not need gurus of the apocalypse.”

Other French legislators hurled insults at Ms Thunberg ahead of her speech, calling her a “prophetess in shorts” and the “Justin Bieber of ecology”.

Republicans MP Julien Aubert, who is also contending for his party’s leadership, suggested Ms Thunberg should win a “Nobel Prize for Fear”.

Speaking to France 2 television, Jordan Bardella, an MEP for the National Rally, equated Ms Thunberg’s campaigning efforts to a “dictatorship of perpetual emotion”.

Say what you like about the French, but at least their politicians seem broadly representative of everyone in society. Contrast this with the UK: who among our political classes was representing the tens of millions of people who thought this Thunberg brat had no business addressing parliament?

Members of other parties, such as the Greens and French President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist En Marche, were more supportive of her appearance.

Well, yes. They’re representative of the wealthy Metropolitan elites who have no problem whacking up the living costs of those in the provinces in order to engage in Earth-worship.

Speaking in English, Ms Thunberg said…

I’m sure that went down well, too.

Ms Thunberg has been harshly attacked by journalists and trolls on Twitter, but politicians usually use more measured rhetoric when criticising her.

That’s French politicians for you. Good for them.


Gas Trap

I’ll use this tweet to kick off a post about associated gas:

When you produce crude oil through a well, it’s not just oil that comes up. You also get mud, water, gas, and certain nasty substances. The water is called “produced water” for obvious reasons, and the gas “associated gas”. This means it is associated with oil production, which distinguishes if from a field which is developed purely for its gas reserves (in which case it’s called unassociated gas).

The problem of what to do with associated gas is one that has plagued the oil industry since its founding. Produced water can be treated and put back into the sea or a water course, but you can’t do that with gas. Until a decade or two ago, oil companies would simply burn it off, which is why old pictures of oilfields showed enormous flares lighting up the entire region twenty four hours a day. This pumped some pretty nasty substances into the local environment, but important people only really got concerned when global warming came along and they started looking at how much CO2 was produced by this practice. So what is known as “operational flaring” got severely restricted or banned in most places. The tweet above is referring to the ongoing practice of operational flaring in the Permian basin, the home of the US shale revolution.

One small point before we continue: you still see flares on modern oil and gas facilities because they are part of the process safety system. If you have a problem on your plant, the option of last resort is to dump all your inventory to the flare and let it burn. It’s not good, but better than blowing up the whole plant, taking the neighbouring town with it. So this is why you still see a small, lazy flare burning at the top of a stack in a refinery: it’s burning fuel gas, just to keep it lit for when it’s needed. This is completely different from operational flaring.

So if you can’t flare the associated gas, you have two options. You can reinject it into the reservoir, either to increase reservoir pressure to aid production or just to stop it being emitted to the atmosphere. If that’s not possible either because the reservoir engineers will get upset or, in the case of shale, there is no reservoir, the other option is to monetise it somehow (which might be attractive even if you can reinject it). In many developments, this means running a pipeline to an existing gas plant. If your oilfield is close to other developments, this is often possible. LNG isn’t really an option with associated gas, but you might be able to build a gas plant providing power to local homes and businesses if there is a population centre nearby. Another option is an LPG plant where the gas gets treated and bottled and then trucked to a nearby population centre. I’ve heard of oil companies talking about giving away gas stoves to locals in order to create a market for LPG, but I’m not sure if it was ever done.

The problem comes when none of these options are feasible. I’ve been involved in lots of new development studies at the preliminary stages and the question always arises: what do we do with the gas? One project was in Kurdistan, miles from anywhere. The intention was to produce crude, store it in those huge tanks you see beside refineries, and then pipe it to a refinery or terminal somewhere or offload it into trucks. But we didn’t know what to do with the gas, and there was a lot of it. We couldn’t reinject it, and there was no population centre nearby. We then discovered the gas was full of nasty substances so when we crunched the numbers we’d find we’d be spending X of CAPEX to produce oil and 2X processing the associated gas, and then not knowing what to do with it. So the project got binned: too expensive.

This is why they still allow operational flaring in the Permian basin. It’s not good for the environment, but if it were banned there would be no shale revolution, the oil price would still be above a $100 per barrel, and I might still have a career. One option, and I don’t know how feasible this is without looking at the area in question, would be for the government to provide incentives to all players to build a central gas processing facility which could take all the associated gas and do something with it. But that might face all sorts of regulatory hurdles, let alone the pipelines associated with such a scheme. So they’re stuck between a rock and hard place: force them to dispose of the gas or charge them for emissions, and you’d kill the industry and America’s new-found energy independence. I expect we’ll see several battles played out over this issue in the years to come.


Unoriginal Sin

Regular readers will know I like to draw comparisons between environmentalism and the traditional religions that modern societies abandoned:

I mentioned climate change because this seems to be the aspect of modern politics in supposedly secular countries which most closely resembles a religion. Once again, we have the sacred texts, the high priests, the apostates, punishment of unbelievers, calls for sacrifices, and indoctrination all wrapped up in a great moral crusade stretching beyond our lifetimes that secures the blind faith of the followers. It makes me laugh when I hear atheists refer to “Science!” when talking about climate change: these people are no more able to challenge the pronouncements of the scientists, whose words have been filtered through the media and politicians, than a medieval peasant was able to challenge the high priests’ interpretations of sacred texts. They are as much wedded to faith as their devout ancestors, but they don’t realise it.

In support of this theory I present a chap on Sky talking about original sin:

Let the self-flagellation begin!