If it seems that I have been quiet, it’s because I’ve been out picking flowers…… oh, wait, no, I mean I’ve been taking a lot of pictures. You can see them over on Flickr.
This is so incredibly cool. It’s been all over twitter but just in case anyone didn’t see it, look at this:
Just a little interlude: home-made train in Cambodia!!
Just like this one:
By: Baden Kudrenecky
Okay, I spent all day investigating the problem Alberta has with crude oil selling for a huge discount, which is negatively affecting oil sands projects.
So, the gist of it all is that the world oil market has two benchmarks, which prices most oil contracts. There is the world (or tidewater) price, which is called “Brent” and based on North Sea light crude, and there is the Cushing, Oklahoma terminal price, called “West Texas Intermediate” (WTI). The Albertan Hardisty terminal price has to be additionally discounted to allow for pipeline fees.
The Brent price has been steadily escalating over the past few years, where the WTI has gone down, as the oil is landlocked, with insufficient domestic refining capacity. This has resulted in a 20 dollar spread in the delivery prices, which is probably going to widen, as there is no new refining capacity in the USA, and the supply is steadily increasing from the oil sands and new tight oil production. Basically, pipelines are a magnitude more expensive to ship oil in than on tankers, which are almost free in comparison, so tidewater is where you want to sell your oil.
So, what is being done? The herds are all following increased pipeline capacity to Cushing to relieve an illusionary export problem. But, the bottleneck IS Cushing where stocks are steadily rising and prices falling. There seems to be a mindless rush to get the Keystone XL pipeline running to alleviate a glut in Alberta. The only part of the Keystone project that is sensible and now under construction is the link between Cushing and the Gulf coast, which will help with the current Cushing glut. The glut itself was exacerbated due to the first Keystone stages supplying Cushing with much more Albertan oil than could be consumed. The cross border XL project will drown Cushing in more oil. One analyst said it’s “the worst place in the world to be selling oil”, and this situation will probably deteriorate in the long term. The Gulf refineries cannot process much more oil, and the USA cannot export it, so the bottleneck may only move somewhere else.
So, who is benefiting from duping Albertans into building more capacity into Cushing. The biggest benefactors are the
Midwest USA refineries, who can buy their feedstock at $20/bbl cheaper then their competitors. Next are the Gulf area refineries who also want some of that cheap canuck oil. And finally are the big pipeline companies who have hoodwinked Albertans into believing that is in their best interests to ship oil 3500 km to the Gulf of Mexico coast for maybe 40/barrel less than the world market price. In comparison, tidewater on the Pacific coast with world prices is only 1100 km away.
Another proposal (MEC) is to ship oil by train from Alberta to Chicago where it can be transported by barge down the Mississippi River. This is only a modified version of the foolish pipeline plan, and lacks economic rigour and vision. First off, Chicago is 2700 km away by rail, where Thunder Bay is 700 km closer.
However, this idea leads to the easiest and quickest solution. Why cannot Alberta oil be transported by train to the Pacific coast? Each train could haul 100 000 bbl, and the cost would be under $10/bbl. There are now massive volumes being transported in the USA by train, so many smarter people are making fortunes doing that. The logistics are simple, and the railways might even be able to start next Tuesday. This concept is so easy and profitable, it’s a wonder that it still eludes Albertan producers, who continue to be hoodwinked and heisted by the pipelines and USA refiners.
We sure had a real French holiday the past couple of days.
First, we saw real cave art at La Grotte de Cougnac. What a feeling standing only a few feet from these red and black paintings that were actually painted more than 14,000 years ago. These paintings are now among the most extensive of the cave art that you can actually get close to. Most of the others are too small or too delicate to withstand crowds of people breathing on them.
Next morning, we zoomed off to Sarlat-la-Caneda because its weekly market is one of the largest in the Dordogne. Unfortunately, several thousand other people had the same idea to visit the market. We were crawling along in the car for many kilometres just to get into the town and then once we got parked out walked into the market streets, it was a total, claustrophobic crowd-scene. And, to make it worse, there wasn’t really anything there that we hadn’t seen at other, smaller, markets.
After the madhouse of Sarlat we figured we’d head to the next town and look for a quick lunch in a restaurant. Instead, we ended up with this amazing, high-quality lunch in a real chateau.
So far, one of the top two restaurant meals on the trip. Imagine the irony, a gourmet lunch in an old chateau on a day when we couldn’t linger because we had reservations for Lascaux.
Nowadays, when you go see the amazing cave paintings at Lascaux, you don’t really see the cave paintings at Lascaux. You see reproductions in a man-made cave situated about 100 metres below the entrance to Lascaux. That’s because, the real cave paintings started to degrade after about 15 years of a constant stream of visitors. All those humans breathing out their CO2 caused calcite deposits to form of the precious paintings and the real cave had to be closed.
Luckily, in the early 1980′s, after 20 years of work, Lascaux II was opened with two little caves that are exact replicas of the originals and contain exact reproductions of the majority of the paintings (complete with mineral-based dyes that are the same composition as the original “paint”). It was pretty cool.
So, we saw actual cave paintings, exact reproductions of the most famous cave paintings in the world, and had lunch in a renaissance chateau. A very French holiday.
I’ve decided that we can distill the definition of the problem with the IOC down to one person: Prince Hubertus.
I know that what’s wrong with the IOC can fill (and has already filled) several books but I say that if you want the short course, look no further than Prince Hubertus of Hohenlohe-Langenburg: a European aristocrat playing ski racer (and “pop singer”, no less).
Oh, I know Hubertus himself is not a member of the IOC. But just look at the list of IOC members. Look at the members representing European countries. Some of them don’t even have names, just titles. They probably don’t have any idea what that looks like to us over here in this part of the world.
So I was able finally to try out scoopler. Okay. Pretty handy.
In fact, it taps a thread that I’ve been thinking about for a while: the idea that the “standard” supply of information content that means something to a given community has to include comments, criticisms, posts, and blogs by the very members of the community. And these posts and comments are now, increasingly, on these social networks that are hard for traditional information-agglomerating tools (website search (google), catalogues (library), listserv archives and digests, and so on.
Last time I tried to use it, scoopler were having some reliabilityi issues. But this time, while I think there’s still a few speed issues, it works pretty well and, in fact, it’s pretty handy to have. Especially for info on events and ideas that are moving fast. It’s worth checking out.
A good camera makes a difference, no doubt. This taken with my Oly E-1, not w/ that iphone. But this camera is also kind of big and conspicuous. I think this guy grumped at me when he figured out I was taking his picture. iPhone doesn’t (so far) seem to get that reaction. Or maybe it’s just messengering on a miserable day is pretty grumpy work.