The trade, given a lift recently by global warming, which has melted away the tundra and exposed more frozen remains, is not only legal but actually endorsed by conservationists. They note somewhat grudgingly that while the survival of elephants may be in question, it is already too late for mammoths. Mammoth ivory from Siberia, they say, meets some of the Asian demand for illegal elephant ivory, and its trade should be encouraged.
While mammoth tusks may not be as valuable as Russia’s deposits of oil and natural gas, they are plentiful. The Siberian permafrost blankets millions of square miles, ranging in depth from a few feet to more than a mile and resembling frozen spinach.
Hidden in one of the upper layers of this mass, corresponding to the Pleistocene Epoch, are the remains of an estimated 150 million mammoths. Some are frozen whole, as if in suspended animation, others in bits and pieces of bone, tusk, tissue and wool.
Woolly mammoths are actually the last of three extinct elephantine species that inhabited Siberia. They appeared about 400,000 years ago and lasted at least until 3,600 years ago — the age of some mammoth remains found on an island off the northern coast of the Russian region of Chukotka in 1993.
The tusks emerge with the spring thaw or after heavy rains, or along the eroding banks of rivers. A boom in gas and oil investment has added another source, as crews dig wells and pipeline ditches. Fresh from the permafrost, mammoth ivory is nearly pristine, though with a characteristic green patina. But if left outside and exposed to the elements, it will disintegrate within three years into worthless splinters.
As most of you know, unless something amazing happens, (i.e., an opportunity in London or a winning lottery ticket and subsequent move to Hawaii) I’m planning to relocate to Houston in the near future. I get plenty of flack from my friends and family about this, because they tend to view Houston as a humid cesspool full of Bush fanatics and traders who stole money from our poor grandmothers. And really, I don’t blame them. I certainly held those same views before I actually visited the city and discovered that it wasn’t such a bad place after all (ok, the humidity does suck, but I’ll take that over snow any day). Read this article by Joel Kotkin (a college professor from SoCal, no less) in which he claims that Houston is “emerging as one of the world’s great cities”:
In an era when many other cities try to position themselves with trendier distinctions (as “smart growth” exemplars or as magnets for high-income households, for instance), Mayor Bill White, a Democrat, is happy for Houston to be known simply as an “opportunity city,” which is a pretty good description of what the place has been since its inception: a venue where people who work hard can get ahead.
The area also abounded in natural resources such as timber and rich soil that was ideal for growing cotton. And when oil drillers hit a gusher in Spindletop, about 90 miles from Houston in East Texas, in 1901, Houston suddenly found itself positioned as the nearest city to some of North America’s richest oil and gas reserves.
None of this, however, adequately explains Houston’s ascendancy. Other cities enjoy better locations for shipping, richer agricultural resources, or similar proximity to oil fields. The answer, I have come to understand as I have worked in Houston as a reporter and consultant, echoes something that the late Soichiro Honda once told me: “More important than gold and diamonds are people.” This critical resource, more than anything, accounts for Houston’s headlong drive toward becoming not only the leading city of Texas and the South, but also a player on the global scene: it is emerging as one of the world’s great cities.
It took a certain type of settler, back in the 1830s, to look at a sun-blasted, humidity-drenched, mosquito-infested flatland far from any major river or port and think: “Here is where I’ll make my success.” That tradition of hopefulness and determination can readily be found in the city to this day. As Rice University sociologist Stephen Klineberg notes, roughly 80 percent of Houstonians, according to his annual local surveys, consistently agree with the proposition that “if they work hard, they can succeed here.”
The life of a war profiteer is indeed a lonely one, if Efraim’s MySpace profile is any indication:
He assures us, however, that he is a “super nice guy” who enjoys “chilling with my boyz”, business travel, and “fine scotch whisky”, which you can surely afford when you’re making a nice profit from those multi-million dollar defense contracts.
About me: Well of course im a super nice guy!!! , i know what i want out of life but not exactly quite sure how to get it yet. I was born and bred in miami beach and have no immediate plans to leave but i have thought about it. Im a pretty easy going guy and many say i have a good sense of humor. I had problems in high school so i was forced to work most of my teen years and i probably grew up way to fast. I finally got a decent apartment and im content for the moment , however i definately have the desire to be very successful in my business and this does take up alot of my time.
for the moment im basically just working and chilling with my boyz when im not, im looking for some hobbies like i keep saying im gonna go to the gym and i started playing football again which is definately my favorite sport. im one of those guys who needs to be entertained and having lots of fun all the time so if your also an undiagnosed case of ADD look me up. i like to eat good food and i dont know how to cook so i eat out alot!!!! ilike to travel whenever posssible sometimes for business , and of course i like going clubbing or going to a movie, oh and ive really taken a liking towards fine scotch whisky recently dont ask me why….
MY FAVORITE MOVIES ARE: HEAT,,BLOW,SCARFACE, FACE OFF, THE ROCK,GOFATHER, SCHINDLERS LIST,AMERICAN BEUTY ETC…..
Someone in the Pentagon gave this 22 year old dude a $300 million contract to supply ammo to Afghan security forces?! Jesus Christ, he spells boys as “boyz” and doesn’t know where his goddamn caps lock key is located! That sound you hear is my brain exploding.
It’s official – I am not going to federal prison! The IRS sent me another letter informing me that my tax snafu has been resolved and I don’t owe them $2,000. They even added a nice little “Thank you for your cooperation” at the end of the letter. Yeah, whatever, dudes.
With oil prices now at $100+ per barrel, companies are revisiting older wells that were shut down when it was economically unfeasible to produce oil from them. Many of these wells are located in southern California:
Independent producers and major conglomerates alike are reinvesting millions in these mature wells, using expensive new technology and drilling techniques to eke every last drop out of fields long past their prime —- and often in the middle of suburbia.
In this instance, Terra Exploration & Production Co. believes that up to 2 billion barrels of oil remain hidden beneath Signal Hill, once nicknamed “Porcupine Hill” for its crown of oil derricks before developers planted gated communities and strip malls.
“A lot of these wells have been sitting idle for many years,” said Mick Conner, who hopes to increase daily production on his half-dozen wells. “If we can take a 10-barrel well and make it a 20-barrel well, it becomes very profitable for us.”
In California, some of the least profitable and old wells —- so-called “stripper” wells —- are clustered in a dense urban environment, tucked between malls, gas stations and homes. They are the legacy of a turn-of-the-century oil boom that quickly faded with the discovery of oil in Texas and the depletion of the easiest reserves.
But the move to boost production on these aging oil fields has also inspired bitter protests from some homeowners, some of whom live just a few dozen feet from active wells. Many do not own the mineral rights under their land or moved in long after the original well was built.
If I had a lot of free time on my hands, and still lived back in California, I would probably write a book on California’s oil history. It’s an interesting topic, but I can’t imagine it would be much of a bestseller. At least my parents would buy a few copies.
Some of these entries in the Washington Post peeps diorama contest are hilarious. I especially loved Thrilla in Manila (photo #5).
I had completely forgotten that the WP was holding this contest. If I had any artistic skill whatsoever, I would have submitted a There Will Be Blood diorama involving peeps. I would probably recreate the well blowout scene, with a popsicle stick oil derrick on fire and bunch of half melted peeps running around.
The quagga mussel invasion is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous communist plot we have ever had to face
Local water authorities have begun closing some of the state’s prime fishing lakes in an effort to keep an infestation of tiny quagga mussels from fouling drinking water supplies for nearly 375,000 residents and threatening fish populations.
And where did these invasive species come from? The Soviet Union, in the 1980s:
Native to Russia and Ukraine, the mussel migrated to the Great Lakes region in the 1980s, probably in the ballast of ocean freighters. They hitchhike on boats and trailers, and quickly form new colonies in bodies of water. They are virtually impossible to eradicate, potentially adding hundreds of millions of dollars in maintenance costs to pumps, pipes and other infrastructure across the state, water district officials say.
I am convinced this is not an accident, but rather a long dormant communist plot finally coming to fruition.
First, the mussels…
…and then the ground forces.
I think this is my favorite Putin quote to date:
“You can build a pipeline or even two, three, or five. The question is what fuel you put through it and where do you get that fuel. If someone wants to dig into the ground and bury metal there in the form of a pipeline, please do so, we don’t object.” Sarcastically, Putin dismissed the notion of a competition between Nabucco and South Stream: “There can be no competition when one project has the gas and the other does not” (Interfax, February 28; Rossiiskaya gazeta, February 29).
More awesome Putin quotes can be found here. We can only hope that Medvedev will be equally as entertaining (although I’m not counting on it).
Last week, a proposal to enact a severance tax on California oil production (remember Proposition 87?) that would fund public schools failed in the California Assembly. The initiative was spearheaded by outgoing Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (D-Los Angeles), who explained the reasoning behind the initiative as such:
“While California is facing billions in cuts to schools, big oil companies are raking in record profits — without paying for the oil they take from California. If red states like Texas, Colorado, and Montana tax oil production to fund the services they value, then so should we.”
AB 9xxx would set a 6 percent severance tax on oil extracted in California. The revenue would be used to mitigate teacher layoffs from the Governor’s proposed cuts. AB 9xxx also responds to overall petroleum industry profiteering by placing a 2 percent windfall profits tax on oil companies.
The bill would generate $1.2 billion in yearly revenue for the state, making sure California gets its fair share from record oil company profits. Oil production is one of the most profitable industries in the world, and all 21 other oil producing states in America already levy a severance oil tax at rates ranging from 2 percent to 15 percent on oil producers. Most of those states spend more per pupil on education than California.
After reading Nuñez’s press release, you’d probably come away with the impression that oil companies are just sucking all of the oil out of our state without paying a dime to the State Treasurer. While, yes, it’s true that California does not impose a severance tax on oil extracted from reservoirs located in the state, the oil companies still pay a corporate income tax on profits earned within the state, as well as various regulatory fees, all of which add up to a much higher overall tax rate for California oil companies when compared to those operating in Texas, Colorado, and other states. Still, it’s much easier for Nuñez and his cohorts to ignore this fact and instead stage an outlandish press conference outside an elementary school, claiming that oil companies aren’t paying their fair share of taxes.
“Oil companies in this state aren’t conducting bake sales so they can get by,” said Assemblyman Paul Krekorian (D-Burbank). “Our schools are.”
Dude, do you have any idea how many cupcakes Chevron would have to sell at a bake sale to pay those daily $300,000 rental fees for an offshore rig? That’s just crazy!
In international news, Russia and Ukraine finally ended their standoff over natural gas supplies, eliminating the middlemen RosUkrEnergo and UkrGasEnergo, while granting Gazprom direct access to Ukrainian industrial customers. Starting in 2009, Gazprom will now pay “European prices” for gas from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, which the company resells in order to meet its supply commitments to its European customers:
Although it could result in lower revenues for Gazprom, experts say Russia has effectively bought control of Central Asian exports.
“Russia will maintain its control on gas supplies even though its profit will go down,” says Sergey Smirnov, energy expert from the Expert Kazakhstan journal. “All other alternative routes that are on paper today become unreal.”
Still, it is it is questionable that Gazprom will be able to meet its European commitments while satisfying the growing demand for gas at home:
But even as it notches up victories, the good times may not last. The company, which supplies 25 per cent of Europe’s gas needs, has not had to make investments in bringing big fields onstream recently. But as production declines rapidly at its Soviet-era supergiant fields, the company may soon be unable to produce enough gas to meet demand in Europe and at home, experts fear.
Indeed, Gazprom is facing the biggest challenge in its history. Its next big sources of gas are locked on the Yamal Peninsula and off the Arctic coast in the Shtokman gas field. The first is a logistical nightmare because of high winds, bad soil, and icy conditions. The second is an enormous technical challenge: Shtokman is located more than 500km offshore and icebergs abound.
The estimates on how big the gas production deficit could be by 2015 vary from a few billion cubic metres to 100bcm. Calculating the potential deficit is complex and depends on how quickly demand rises in Europe and at home, how much gas Gazprom takes from independent producers and how quickly it completes export pipeline projects such as South Stream.
If Gazprom were to complete all its export projects including North and South Stream to Europe and a proposed pipeline to China, the deficit could reach 100bcm, says Vladimir Milov, a former deputy energy minister who is now head of the independent Institute of Energy Policy.