Responding to violence intelligently

The often-excellent NPR Planet Money podcast (which ran an earlier episode about “Freeway” Rick) had two notably engaging recent segments.

One included an interesting account of the data-analysis-decision-action cycle in intelligence work, specifically when deciding if an assailant is an enemy counterintelligence agent or drug-addled mugger.

The other discussed policy and incentive problems in the area of kidnapping and ransom, including Canada’s supposed policy of not paying ransoms and prohibiting families from doing so.

Each is well worth a listen.

Elena Cherney and Steve Paiken on pipelines and bitumen sands

They stress the unknown future production levels from U.S. oil fracking as important for determining the future size of Canada’s oil industry.

They mention this Jeff Rubin report: Evaluating the Need for Pipelines: A False Narrative for the Canadian Economy


The claim that additional pipeline capacity to tidewater will unlock significantly higher prices for bitumen is not corroborated by either past or current market conditions. Recent international commitments to reduce global carbon emissions over the next three decades will significantly reduce the size of future oil markets. Only the lowest-cost producers will remain commercially viable while high-cost producers will be forced to exit the market. The National Energy Board should consider a rapidly decarbonizing global economy when assessing the need and commercial viability of further pipelines in the country and use Western Canadian Select as the price benchmark when evaluating the economic viability of any new oil sands projects. Pension plans need to stress test their long-term investments in the oil sands in the context of a decarbonizing global economy.


Open thread: peak oil

Peak oil and climate change

Fracking and peak oil

Fatih Birol on peak oil

Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller

Export industries, shipping, and the price of oil

Is there an alternative to extracting the bitumen sands?

Justin Trudeau’s depressing perspective on the oil sands

‘Shut down the oil sands’ is not an extreme position

Two things Canada’s oil industry needs to understand

Canada should phase-out fossil fuel exports

The oil sands can’t be sustainable

The magnitude of GHG emissions from the oil sands

Blocking in the oil sands

Canada does not have the right to develop the oil sands

Oil sands buyers and sellers

Leadership lacking

The Bagehot column on the U.K. in this week’s Economist contains some of the harshest language I have seen them use, about the Theresa May government trying to implement Brexit, saying: “Britain is ruled by an incestuous clique of frenemies who delight in turning even the most serious issues into melodramas”.

It’s worrisome that so many of the world’s most important countries seem to be badly led at present. Likewise, at a time when we need to be thinking beyond narrow national interests and building an equitable low-carbon global energy system, instead people are defining their allegiances more and more narrowly and expending their energy on unworthy causes and petty conflicts.

Fourth rule of the internet

A somewhat obvious rule of internet security to add to the first three:

  1. Against a sophisticated attacker, nothing connected to the internet is secure.
  2. Everything is internet now.
  3. You should probably worry more about being attacked online by your own government than by any other organization.
  4. Sensitive data about you is largely on the computers of other people who care little about your security.

Equifax is getting lots of attention right now, but consider also Deloitte, Adobe, Stratfor, Blizzard, LinkedIn, DropBox, Ashley Madison,, Snapchat, Adult Friend Finder, Patreon, Forbes, Yahoo, and countless others.

As Bruce Schneier points out, the only plausible path to reduce such breaches is for governments to make them far more painful and costly for corporations.

Burning up the planet to stay cool

Sticky with humidity after 9pm, electricity demand in Toronto must be crazy right now.

The Independent Electricity System Operator has data for the whole province:

Back in April 2005, province-wide electricity use was 14,890 megawatts: 62% nuclear, 19.3% hydro, 13.5% wind, 4.6% gas.

This connects to lots of climate change questions. Can we really afford not to build new nuclear infrastructure, if we are at all serious about cutting emissions? Can renewables get big enough fast enough to make a difference, or will we be relying on gas with all of its climate problems?

Will the world stay rich enough and electricity cheap enough to keep using air conditioning to stay comfortable? Will places like Phoenix and Texas remain habitable? Also, remember that all the air conditioned cars and trucks are cooling themselves by burning gasoline, not relying on the electricity grid.