How business as usual has been pursued since 2006 by escalating fraud and environmental vandalism

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Published on The Doomstead Diner on January 2, 2019

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by Geoffrey Chia, December 2018

As the year draws to a close, it is usual to engage in some reflection. There are multitudes of bizarre, disgraceful and extreme events which took place in 2018 which warrant examination, probably the worst atrocity being the mass killing and starvation of the Yemeni people by Saudi Arabia courtesy of MBS (Mohammed "Bone Saw"), materially supported by the Fascist States of America and their psychopath in chief. Not to mention the cold blooded murders of desperate Palestinian civilians in Gaza by Israeli "Defense" Force snipers, wilfully ignored by the Fascist States of America and their psychopath in chief. However this article is a summary of oil shenanigans over the past 12 years.

Very few people have any awareness of, or interest in the relentless depletion of "easy oil" (high EROEI oil) which inexorably worsens as each day passes and threatens to trigger the irreversible collapse of global industrial society. The means by which the GIMME (government, industrial, military, media and economic) establishment have disguised this crucial reality have been quite remarkable and truly fascinating.

The key index deceiving the public has been oil price. To the public, a low oil price means that oil must be abundant. Nuff said, nothing to see here, no need to think further.

The other bogus parameter the establishment has used is the global gross "oil" output, a figure which has been twisted and fudged to hide reality in a manner akin to how "low" unemployment figures in the FSA have been distorted to hide true unemployment, underemployment and underpayment of the majority of the struggling population. So global oil output has now reached/exceeded 100 million barrels per day! Yipee! No worries here! Peak Oil is dead!

 

Real, actual, useful net oil production today versus the lies told by industry:

A prior understanding of the difference between conventional and unconventional oils, EROEI (energy returned divided by energy invested), net energy (energy returned minus energy invested) and basic economic concepts are necessary and can be achieved by doing a search on the doomstead diner site using my name and key terms. I have provided references to my assertions in previous essays and presentations, along with all the necessary graphs, diagrams and pictures.

I use approximate numbers here, which may not be perfectly precise. However numbers, even if presumed, must be used to aid conceptual understanding. The true numbers may never be known, except in retrospect, due to certain vested interests wanting to hide the current unpleasant realities of today. If more accurate figures are forthcoming in future, they can be plugged into these considerations without affecting the conceptual framework.

Brief summary:

  1. The world reached the peak of conventional oil output of around 86 million barrels per day in 2006. After that, net conventional oil output plateaued, then declined.

  2. Before, at and just after the peak, in mathematical and practical terms, EROEI and net oil output considerations were relatively unimportant, however well after peak production (ie. now) they have become vitally important.

  3. Net oil output is what enables us to do useful things. Gross oil output, particularly from low EROEI sources (unconventional fields and conventional fields well past peak) is meaningless.

  4. The flat net crude output since 2006 resulted in global economic stagnation, which is poison to the neoliberal, neoclassical capitalist economy, which requires endless growth to survive. It is now gasping on life support.

  5. Flat oil output led to the mad scramble for unconventional oils to try to forestall the decline in net oil availability. In an honest economy, those would always be regarded as money losing projects (they can NEVER self fund), hence they could only be perpetrated by fraud and hidden subsidies.

If we try to unpack the proclaimed "record breaking" current global oil production of 100 million barrels per day, the following should be borne in mind:

  1. The so-called authorities are referring to gross output of all liquid hydrocarbon fuels (much of which is NOT actually crude oil). This is very different from the net output of conventional oil back in 2006 (essentially all of which was crude oil)

  2. When true peak oil hit 12 years ago, various oil "authorities" such as the EIA then decided to add natural gas condensates to the "crude oil" total, which had not been included in previous reckonings. If, say, this amounts to 5 million barrels per day, then current proper oil output should be reduced to 100-5= 95 million barrels per day. We need to compare apples with apples.

  3. The so-called authorities also then decided to add gross output of all unconventional oils (shale oil, tar sands, heavy oil, super deep water oil, biofuels etc) to the "crude oil" total, ignoring the fact that many such oils, eg shale LTO are nothing like crude. The UC component has certainly increased substantially over the past 12 years as a result of frenzied "Red Queen" activity (running ever faster just to stay in the same place). If, say, gross UC oil production now amounts to 15 million barrels per day and if the average EROEI of unconventional oils is 3:1 (it is actually less than unity in the case of most biofuels) then the net useful amount from UC oils is actually 10 million barrels per day (because 5 million barrels is used to produce 5×3=15 million barrels and 15 minus 5 is 10). So to get the true amount of gross conventional crude oil we must subtract 10 from 95 and we get 85 million barrels per day. Is this then the actual amount of useful conventional crude we have available today? Er, no.

  4. Well past peak, the EROEI of conventional oil declines, then eventually plummets. We do not know precisely the global EROEI of conventional oil now but if we use the oft quoted figure of 10:1, this means we use 8.5 million barrels to generate 85 million barrels and our true net output of conventional oil now is (to round out) 85 minus 9 = 76 million barrels per day.

  5. Useful net oil output today is thus 76 (conventional) + 10 (unconventional) = 86 million barrels per day today which is much the same as when we hit conventional peak 12 years ago. Shades of the Red Queen!!

  6. Net oil output is poised to plummet catastrophically in the next few years.

 

How UC oil scams (shale oil in particular) have been funded:

The unconventional oil industry can never be and will never be self propagating, it requires cheaper oil input from high EROEI sources to produce this low EROEI expensive oil. Ignorant pundits claim that if only the price of oil rises again to, say, 100 dollars per barrel instead of, say, a current price of 51 dollars per barrel (WTI price as of 16 December), then UC oils would become economically viable and would start to make a profit. Hence investors must simply bide their time. The lie to this claim is exemplified by the fact that shale oil has NEVER made any net profit, even when oil price was over $100 per barrel. The money earned from UC oil has ALWAYS been less than the investment inputs required. Those ignorant pundits ignored the fact that as the overall market price of oil rises, the input costs to produce that UC oil will correspondingly also rise, making the final cost of the UC oil always higher than the overall extant market price. Always.

The real cost of production of unconventional oils has been hidden by ingenious (more accurately, disingenuous) financial sleight of hand. I had long puzzled over how and why such patently stupid activity could be pursued and posed that question to our Brisbane ASPO representative, Wallace Wight, who said to me (I paraphrase) that stupidity never stopped human beings from pursuing foolish goals. He was of course correct but the more detailed explanation is as follows:

  1. Economic stagnation over the past decade caused reserve banks to reduce interest rates on savings to virtually zero to discourage saving and to stimulate people to seek higher interest bearing investments (and hence "stimulate the economy", thus lifting us from this economic quagmire). Such higher returns were promised by the glossy brochures of UC oil prospectors, attracting numerous cashed up investors including royal suckers such as the largest mining company in the world, BHP Billiton, who knew heaps about mining ores but nothing about mining oil.

  2. Quantitative easing AKA printing money out of thin air, was the means by which governments magically conjured up bonds which they issued to reserve banks, increasing their liquidity and enabling banks to offer massive low interest loans to "high value" clients. This cheap money again was an attempt to get the private sector to invest in potential (theoretically) money making projects to stimulate the economy. This, combined with ZIRP, has been a major contributor to the current massive share market bubble.

  3. Cheap money flooding into UC oil projects funded the frenzy of UC oil extraction, causing widespread environmental devastation and markedly increasing carbon emissions.

  4. Many UC oil companies collapsed, being unable to produce significant oil flow as they failed to find the "sweet spots". Some however did show rising production figures and these continued to attract investors, even though they never showed any net profit from the oil they produced, compared with the money invested.

  5. Investments flooding into certain UC oil companies caused their share prices to rise, attracting ever more investors, even though there was no net value in their product and they have earned nothing. This is the very definition of a Ponzi scheme where the value of a share is utterly dependent on attracting ever more investors and the commodity in question eg tulips, has little or no value in itself. Bloated share prices have been further inflated by the share buybacks conducted by many companies. When the price/earnings ratios of stocks go through the roof, you know the bubble is due to burst.

  6. Sharemarket investors include many banks themselves and many retirement funds around the world (which had been on the lookout for companies with rising prices in the stockmarket, irrespective of fundamentals).

  7. When UC oil output crashes (quite soon for US shale oil), all those investments will be wiped out. People will lose their retirement nest eggs.

  8. Low oil prices at present are partly due to the mechanisms above (throwing good money after bad, or throwing good oil after bad: it is essentially massive subsidisation of expensive oil, quite apart from government subsidies) but mainly because of demand destruction occurring in a stagnant global economy, as previously explained in other essays (in brief: a "beggar thy neighbour" policy: the imposition of austerity and poverty by the strong on the weak eg German bank policy on the PIIGS countries, US Wall Street bankster policies on middle America)

 

As I have said before, the only truly valuable sources of oil we ever had and we will ever have are the conventional oilfields before, at and just after peak production, when EROEI is high. The industrial wealth of a society is heavily dependent on access to such high net energy sources. Low EROEI sources are worth little to nothing and cannot generate significant industrial wealth and are not self propagating. Furthermore they cause obscene environmental devastation.

Of the 47,500 conventional oil fields around the world, around 502 giant fields ie. little more than 1% have historically provided us with around 60% of all our oil. Hence it is the giant oil fields which are crucially important. Where are the remaining giant oil fields that still have substantial EROEI? Certainly no longer in the USA, which is now essentially tapped out. Russia, Iran and Iraq are past peak production, although not as far past as other countries. The latest, possibly the last ever giant conventional oilfield to come on line is Kashagan in the Caspian region. Iran and Iraq have had their output forcibly curtailed historically due to US sanctions and thus still have substantial remaining reserves (comparatively speaking). Since the US brought "democracy" to Iraq, the majority Shi'ites seized political power from the minority Sunni, hence Iraq has become aligned more with Shi'ite Iran, an unintended consequence of the US invasion. Russia, after more than a decade of economic slowdown after the collapse of the USSR (and hence curtailment of their oil output) have restored oil production and is now the largest oil exporter in the world, eclipsing Saudi Arabia whose exports are due to plummet due to their rising domestic consumption and rampant reproduction by a young, entitled population (around 70% being under the age of 30 as of 2016) – and women in their culture being regarded as property and breeding machines https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/17/world/middleeast/young-saudis-see-cushy-jobs-vanish-along-with-nations-oil-wealth.html ).

The FSA have no control over oil produced by Russia, Iran and the Caspian region and are losing control over Iraq, which is aligning more with Iran. The FSA historically pursued their oily global agenda by installing the megalomaniac Shah in Iran and the buffoon Yeltsin in Russia and by invading Iraq, however those ultimately all failed miserably. Such failures have not stopped the FSA more recently from attempting further regime change by depressing the price of oil (by encouraging their Saudi proxies to maximise production) and by imposing illegal sanctions on target nations (eg unilaterally reneging on JCPOA then reimposing sanctions on Iran), to try to collapse the Russian and Iranian economies and thus create fertile ground to plant puppet leaders. It will not work this time round, the world has wised up to their dirty tricks.

If and when the BRICS and oil exporting countries move away from the US petrodollar, the US fiat currency will collapse in value, the US will no longer be able to obtain cheap oil and the US economy will collapse, even as China continues to enjoy good access to the remaining high net energy oil from Russia, Iran, Iraq and the Caspian area. The loss by the FSA of their unearned, undeserved and unfairly acquired privileges, is unthinkable to the Neoconartists who, rather than retiring gracefully as the British did at the end of their empire, are more likely to provoke global thermonuclear war because of petulant sour grapes resentment and denial of their "manifest destiny". The permanent legacy of Exceptionalistan will be near term human extinction. Mass murder/suicide because of a childish tantrum. Even in the unlikely event the FSA finds the maturity to withdraw gracefully, the rest of the world will ultimately collapse anyway well before the end of this century, due to further energy depletion, climate chaos and other factors. However small pockets of humanity may still survive, particularly those deep in the Southern Hemisphere eg South Island of NZ and Southern Chile, a good stepping stone on the way to a thawing Antarctica.

So put that in your Xmas pudding and ruminate on it.

Here's wishing everyone a happy pagan summer solstice (winter in the North). Enjoy life while you can and do what you can to mitigate against impending hardships. For those in denial, may you find comfort from your imaginary being of preference.

Appendix:

Even though we have now reached the end of 2018, the best discourse on petroleum I found this year was from January. As it is quite dense and difficult to dissect for newbies, here are some accompanying notes:

 

Arthur Berman is a 40 year veteran US petroleum geologist whose analyses and predictions have historically been proven to be far more accurate than industry estimates (since 2007 in particular). http://peakoil.com/production/heinberg-chapter-3-a-treadmill-to-hell

In my opinion, this interview of Art Berman by Chris Martenson in January 2018 remains one of the most important podcasts.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gWC5SJjBdqc&feature=youtu.be

However that podcast is very information dense and may be difficult to understand by Peak Oil newbies. Accordingly I have summarised it in bullet point below and have added my own comments in green, which hopefully will enhance better understanding. The situation looks dire even before taking into consideration EROEI.

Main points:

  1. New conventional oil discoveries the past 4 years (2014 to 2017) were the worst since reliable records began.

  2. Reserve replacement ratio (the amount of discovered resources during the year relative to the amount of production of hydrocarbons in the same year globally) was just 11% in 2017 for oil and natural gas combined https://www.rystadenergy.com/newsevents/news/press-releases/all-time-low-discovered-resources-2017, compared with ~50% in 2012, the last "good" year. However "sustainability" by definition means 100% replacement occurs every year, hence even 2012 was far from a good year. Oil is an unsustainable, non-renewable resource. We are burning legacy discoveries which are not being replaced and have been doing so since the 1980s. The peak of conventional oil discoveries occurred in 1964.

  3. Such findings are entirely consistent with a post Peak Oil situation, ie the fact we are now well past Peak Oil production, on the downslope of the Hubbert curve.

  4. This is equivalent to drawing down on a savings account till there is nothing left, then we suddenly find ourselves destitute.

  5. For conventional oil fields, discovery to production lag time averages 10 years.

  6. Shale oil plays can be mobilised quicker but contain trifling amounts of oil which make little difference to global petroleum depletion eg 300K barrels of recoverable oil for a shale play in a “sweet spot” versus, say 13 billion barrels for a conventional giant oil field such as Kashagan.

  7. Shale "plays" reach peak quickly eg after 5 years (unlike conventional fields which take decades eg 35 years to peak) and diminish catastrophically after peaking (eg down by 85% three years post peak, unlike conventional fields which decline by 6% per year post peak)

  8. The above facts are prompting China to lock in contracts with conventional oil exporters, but the USA seems to believe its own propaganda about "energy independence".

  9. Complete and rapid transition to electric vehicles powered by renewable energy is delusional*

  10. Oil prices are rising again now and likely to rise much more in the near future.

  11. This will strangle any illusory and nascent "economic recovery" some pundits claim we are experiencing now.

  12. Oils ain't oils. Shale oil is NOT crude oil, it is volatile, light (LTO= light tight oil), less energy dense, has few refineries capable of processing it and has limited uses (it cannot be used to produce diesel, the main workhorse of industrial civilisation)

  13. Because of limited uses, the USA is exporting the LTO it cannot use, creating the illusion of an "oil exporter" but the USA remains a net importer of crude (since 1971) and is far from energy independent.

  14. Industry claims of massive shale oil reserves are bogus, based on cherry picked data and false assumptions. There is a huge difference between technically recoverable oil and economically recoverable oil. Berman's overall analysis from the raw data show only half that claimed by industrial propaganda.

  15. Martenson expressed confusion about the role of "nodding donkey" pumps, corrected by Berman.

  16. Nodding donkey pumps apply to conventional fields when they are depleting (not necessary at the beginning). Shale plays require very high pressure injection of fracking fluid from the very beginning.

  17. Shale LTO output is facilitated by the expansion of natural gas and when the pressure falls the game is over, no matter how much theoretical oil reserve remains in that play.

  18. All shale enterprises have been LOSING money in all their lifetimes, even when crude oil was more than $100 per barrel (reason: even if LTO sells at a higher price, the LTO extraction costs are higher when crude is dearer, hence breakeven is NEVER attainable and profit is NEVER attainable) http://www.doomsteaddiner.net/blog/2017/07/13/the-economics-of-unconventional-oils-externalities-be-damned/

  19. The Permian Basin shale estimated oil reserves (EOR) in particular have been grossly exaggerated by industry pundits. Berman calculated ~3.75 billion barrels in TOTAL, using the SAME raw data from industrial sources who, using creative accounting, have quoted more than ten times that amount from the Wolfcamp shale alone. (NB: USA consumes 5 billion barrels of oil per year)

  20. This is consistent with the lies told about the Monterey and Polish shale plays by industrial propaganda, which had to be written down by >95% after scrutiny by the USGS.

 

*Why transition to centralised renewable energy infrastructure is impossible for almost all countries:

  • Even if possible, it would take decades to transition and we face a net energy cliff in the next few years.

  • Transition requires massive amounts of fossil fuels to build brand new renewable energy infrastructure and entirely new electric vehicle fleets: we do not have enough FF in today's post peak oil situation to pursue BAU and maintain our existing infrastructure as it is, much less build new infrastructure. Even if we did have enough FF, we cannot afford to do so environmentally, because of runaway climate change

  • There is no profit incentive in our so-called "free market" economic system to transition, indeed the fossil fool corporations that control Western governments and economies have been viciously opposing such a transition. Only a command economy like China can do this. China was responsible for the massive price reduction in solar panels worldwide, not the angloamerican bogus “free” market. In theory, China, with its new nuclear power stations, huge wind and solar farms and long distance high speed electric rail, could build more renewable energy systems using their renewable energy infrastructure. In practice this will not happen because most of China will be abandoned before the end of this century due to runaway climate change and environmental devastation. Massive migration to Siberia is inevitable, the Chinese will either move or die. If Russia resists this inevitability, there will be war and mutually assured destruction. Russia's historic “acquisition” of Siberia was illegitimate invasion and colonisation anyway.

  • Renewable energy technologies have not yet solved issues of intermittency and energy storage

  • The energy density of lithium batteries is poor (less than 1/50th that of oil) hence electric vehicle range, power and endurance are pathetic compared with diesel engines.

    Untethered electric vehicles cannot be used for long distance transport or agricultural or mining purposes. Elon Musk is a conman, his fan club are scientifically illiterate fools. Also the problem of long charging times for batteries can only be “solved” by “hot swaps”, which requires manufacturing several times more spare battery capacity as there are vehicles on the road. There is insufficient lithium worldwide to do this.

  • Decentralised renewable energy systems (microgrids, individual offgrid dwellings) based on REDUCED CONSUMPTION can and do work to provide comfortable lifestyles, the key strategies being careful management of energy harvested and localisation of resource acquisition.

CONCLUSION: Unless you set up your own off-grid, self sufficient (as much as possible) community homestead in a climate resilient location right now, you will find yourself destitute in the near future.

7 Responses to How business as usual has been pursued since 2006 by escalating fraud and environmental vandalism

  • Davebee says:

    Great overview of the oil scam! Thanks Doc.

    As I keep telling my neighbours the so-called growth era ended back in the 20th century and all we are living on now are the skin and scraps of the that century. Do they geddit? Nope, but they sure geddit/believe in the happy-pants-Harry Financial Planner (We all know what the renowned thinker Prof Mike Tyson had to say about plans, don't we?) who sold them a 'Product" two years ago and keeps getting a generous fees structure each month from them.

    Just mention the outright fraud and lunacy that is being perpetrated in the sundry financial Ponzi schemes of the 21st century including disastrous EROEI numbers and they get angry and walk away. 

     

  • Sheila Chambers says:

    The decline of an essential resource like oil will also mean a decline in our ability to grow food. Most of us are renters & have no land, they will try to migrate. Even those with land will have too little to grow more than a fraction of what they need, many new developments have no actual yard front or back & the houses are close together, may as well be living in an apartment.

    Most of us don't live in areas with sufficient sunlight, those winters will really be felt & summers could become unbareable without AC & how well can roof top solar handle that demand?

    Their biggest problem in my opinion will be food, most of us cannot possibly grow enough ourselves & if enough can't be imported due to fuel shortages, people will go hungry. There are simply too many of us to survive without sufficient oil. The few people who are already living a sustainable way of life even if it's a poor one, will scarcely notice the shortages of fuel or imported food since what little they saw were luxuries. Climate change could force even these people to migrate looking for better opportunities, opportunities that won't exist, there are no more frontires.

    What about our culture, libraries, museums, music & the knowledge we gained through thousands of years of stuggling against superstition & hard work to understand ourselves, this planet & the universe? Will that too be lost?

    • RE says:

      What about our culture, libraries, museums, music & the knowledge we gained through thousands of years of stuggling against superstition & hard work to understand ourselves, this planet & the universe? Will that too be lost? ”

      In all probability, in a century’s time all the libraries and universities and museums will look more or less like Detroit.

      RE

  • SomeoneInAsia says:

    The loss by the FSA of their unearned, undeserved and unfairly acquired privileges, is unthinkable to the Neoconartists who, rather than retiring gracefully as the British did at the end of their empire, are more likely to provoke global thermonuclear war because of petulant sour grapes resentment and denial of their "manifest destiny". The permanent legacy of Exceptionalistan will be near term human extinction. Mass murder/suicide because of a childish tantrum.

    Gee, can the Neoconartists really be that mad?

    Makes you wonder about the sort of education and upbringing they received.

  • Norman Pagett says:

    only just caught up on this piece RE—I think it's probably the best I've read on the DD—

     

    well done for getting it out there

  • Change Focus says:

    Hi RE,

    Just read this piece by Geoffrey Chia on the Diner. As Norman said it's one of the best. I've been checking out your site for a couple of years now and found it very helpful and informative. I'm sorry to hear about your serious health struggles. It's a small consolation I imagine but there are I assume plenty of people out there like me who have been informed and enlightened by your work even if we haven't got around to acknowledging it.

    All the best from Ireland

    Brendan

    • RE says:

      Thank you Brendan.  It is always a pleasure to get the Postive Vibes from the readers.  It compensates for the Negative Waves I also get all the time.  lol.

      RE

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The price for rent in major cities or on the outskirts is always going to be higher. I rent and live [...]

Disagree totally, sorry..came here back in 1972 and much more affordable and less crowded . I live i [...]

Perhaps it is the scale that this group is considering changing. We know that China wants nice weath [...]

And yet Dane Wigington from the popular website http://geoengineeringwatch.org has substantial gover [...]

I happen to live in SW Florida so hi there neighbor. I've lived in FL since the late 70's [...]

Hi Steve. I recently found what I believe is a little gem, and I'm quite confident you'd a [...]

The Federal Reserve is thinking about capping yields? I don't know how long TPTB can keep this [...]

As some one who has spent years trying to figure out what the limits to growth are. let me say that [...]

Peak oil definitely happened for gods sake. Just because it isn't mad max right now is no indic [...]

@Volvo - KMO says he made some life choices he regrets. Not sure what they were. And I don't th [...]

RE Economics

Going Cashless

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Simplifying the Final Countdown

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Bond Market Collapse and the Banning of Cash

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Do Central Bankers Recognize there is NO GROWTH?

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Singularity of the Dollar

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Kurrency Kollapse: To Print or Not To Print?

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SWISSIE CAPITULATION!

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Of Heat Sinks & Debt Sinks: A Thermodynamic View of Money

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Merry Doomy Christmas

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Peak Customers: The Final Liquidation Sale

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Collapse Fiction
Useful Links
Technical Journals

The monthly averaged data time series of temperatures and rainfall without interruption of Conakry A [...]

The Himalayas are highly susceptible to the impacts of climate change, as it consequently increases [...]

Spatial hydroclimatic variability of Eastern North America’s Allegheny Mountain System (AMS) i [...]

Climate change mitigation targets have put pressure to reduce the carbon footprint of cultural herit [...]

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