DrumBeat: January 17, 2007

The Truth about Oil, Part 3

According to the U.S. Department of Energy's special report, the world will face "peak oil" by 2015. But many of the world's best informed professionals think the end is much closer than that. Some, like Matthew Simmons, think that it has already passed as far back as 25 years ago. And their reasoning is disconcertingly solid.

Over in the Middle East the oil fields are already using water-flooding, a version of advanced oil recovery, to get out what oil they have left. That is a major sign that they have passed their peak of easily extractable oil.

This is especially true in Saudi Arabia.

Venezuela's Cerro Negro confirms force majeure

Heavy crude upgrader Cerro Negro, a joint venture between Exxon Mobil, BP, and Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA, on Tuesday confirmed it has declared force majeure as a result of OPEC production cuts ordered by Venezuelan authorities.

Venezuela to go for 60% minimum in Orinoco

Venezuela will take at least 60% stakes in four extra-heavy crude projects in the country's Orinoco river basin, said the country's oil minister on Tuesday.

A Depression in Natural Gas Prices May Prove Bullish For China

Flynn believes a winter which some forecasters are predicting could challenge the high gas storage levels. He said: “We have well above the five-year average of storage levels.” And should the weather compare to some of those past winter nightmares? “If we get a good old-fashioned winter, then we might find those storage levels are not as comfortable as we thought.” Flynn also observed, “then, we’ll find out how adequate those gas supplies really are.”

More power; more heat; more problems: Power leakage means new chips waste more energy, analyst says

"If you have an increase in computing demand for business requirements, you're going to (quickly) come to a point where there won't be enough space in your data center. You can also run out of cooling capacity," Garbani says.

$US50 within reach for oil

WHAT a difference a year makes. At this time last year the oil price was rocketing and everybody was talking about peak oil. Now, prices have plunged.

Oil prices to remain around USD 50 per barrel till mid 2007

A specialized oil report expected that oil prices would remain at the vicinity of USD 50 per barrel until mid 2007 due to adequate oil supplies and new oil strategies of many countries.

Peak Oil Talk on Wednesday: Energy Expert Matthew Simmons Comes to UCSB on January 17

Blackout leaves most of Victoria in the dark

A MASSIVE power failure - triggered by bushfires - has blacked out large swathes of Victoria, causing chaos around the state and forcing organisers of the Australian Open to switch on generators.

Power Failures in Melbourne… Bush Fires or Energy Crisis?

Is it time to enter the dark world of the conspiracy theorist? Was yesterday in Melbourne a sign of the future? Have we witnessed the first signs of the Energy Crisis? Was it really the fault of bushfires, or was it perfect cover for the power suppliers to ‘turn the lights off’ for a few hours to get some practice for when the real event occurs?

Rival Reports Breakthrough in Oil Sands Technology

Rival Technologies Inc. announced that it has received and analyzed additional data from tests conducted last month. The Company said that it now owns an extremely valuable formula that represents a breakthrough for upgrading oil sands bitumen and heavy oil.

Gazprom in dispute with Polish gas pipeline operator

The Russian natural gas giant Gazprom is partly suspending cooperation with the operator of the Polish segment of a major pipeline after its request for lower transit fees was rebuffed, Poland's state-owned gas monopoly said Tuesday.

Gazprom seeks PR makeover

Gazprom is in talks with public relations companies over a multi-million dollar campaign aimed at improving the image of the Russian state-controlled gas monopoly in Europe and the US, after it was badly dented by “gas wars” with former Soviet republics.

U.S. House Ready to Vote on Oil Tax, Royalty Plan

The stage is set for the first major energy policy vote of the 110th Congress this week with the House expected to debate and likely ratify a Democratic bill that would repeal oil industry tax breaks and ensure royalty payments on deep water Gulf of Mexico production.

World Bank ok with blood for oil

It has been a year since the horror of the bloodshed in Sudan’s Darfur region--with over 200,000 dead in three years--began leaking across the border into Chad. It has also been a year since a simmering conflict boiled over into a full-scale confrontation between World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz and Chadian President Idriss Deby. Are the two connected? In a word, yes. Here’s how.

Banks are urged not to finance coal power

A coalition of environmental groups is demanding that banks reject loan requests for projects that emit high rates of greenhouse gases, which contribute to global warming. The groups say they have won commitments from more than a dozen banks in the last few weeks to turn away from supporting coal-fired electric plants.

Millions switch to cheaper gas

LONDON - Millions of households abandoned their old suppliers in search of cheaper energy last year, leaving former monopoly British Gas with less than half of the gas market, energy regulator Ofgem said.

Ethanol demands squeeze hunting grounds

As the price of corn jumps, farmers may be tempted to plow up pheasant habitats.

Wagoner calls for U.S. to focus on alternative fuel

General Motors Corp. Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner said Washington should not slack off on efforts to develop alternative energy sources now that oil prices have fallen.

Can market handle ethanol boom?

The rush to build ethanol plants is raising concerns about whether drivers will buy all that biofuel.

Commission tough on national CO2 emission plans

The Commission has told Belgium and the Netherlands to cut the number of permits that they give to industry to release CO2 into the atmosphere.

Bush readies speech on climate change

U.S. President George W. Bush's annual speech to Congress next week is likely to call for a massive increase in U.S. ethanol usage and tweak climate change policy while stopping short of mandatory emissions caps, sources familiar with White House plans said on Tuesday.

U.S. needs more incentives to use ethanol: industry

The idea of U.S. energy independence is now a myth, but could become a reality if U.S. lawmakers find ways to expand demand for fuels blended from home-grown sources like corn and give automakers incentives to make cars that burn on them, a top U.S. ethanol industry trade official said on Tuesday.

Refinery-blast report savages BP

BBC business editor Robert Peston called the report very meticulous and extremely savage.

He went on to add that the panel's criticism against BP was very serious and went right to the top of the company.

Nuaimi:Saudi spare capacity three million bpd

Oil falls to 20-month low, eyes key $50 mark

Oil fell to a 20-month low on Wednesday, within striking distance of the psychologically key $50 mark, as top exporter Saudi Arabia saw no reason to worry over the market's 18 percent slide so far this month.

Cost of gas at lowest point in five weeks: Average cost-per-gallon at $2.23; $2 is possible government says

Russia May Ship Oil Around Belarus

Now that oil is flowing again, Russia wants to find routes to Europe that avoid the disputed Druzhba pipeline through Belarus. Shipping oil across the Baltic is one option under consideration.

Airlines climb out of the red

U.S. airlines today begin a series of earning reports that will put behind them their longest and deepest losing streak ever: a collective $35 billion loss over the five years ended in 2005.

...Meanwhile, 2007 is starting off with a bang for the airlines, thanks to sharply lower fuel prices, continued strong demand from travelers and industry restraint in adding seats.

When Being Green Raises the Heat

CARBON DIOXIDE is heating up the Earth. Ice caps are melting, ocean levels are rising, hurricanes are intensifying, tropical diseases are spreading and the threat of droughts, floods and famines looms large. Can planting a tree help stop all this from happening?

Stern upbeat over climate action

Economist Sir Nicholas Stern has told MPs he is encouraged by the progress being made around the world to tackle climate change.

India and China had to be persuaded to do more but the scientific arguments were gaining ground in the US.

Vt. lawmakers hear new warming approach

An author and entrepreneur urged Vermont lawmakers Tuesday to consider capping carbon emissions by selling permits for discharges to oil companies and some fuel dealers and then returning the proceeds to citizens, all in a bid to reduce the state's role in global warming.

Sweden's tree line moving at fastest rate for 7,000 years

"The tree line has moved by up to 200 metres (656 feet) in some places. Trees have not grown at such high levels for around 7,000 years," Leif Kullman, a professor at Umeaa University's department of ecology and environmental science, told AFP Tuesday.

It gets better every day.....

U.S. commanders push for troop increase in Afghanistan

U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday that U.S. commanders in Afghanistan have recommended an increase in U.S. force levels, in part to deal with an expected upsurge in Taliban violence this year[.]

The prospect of a troop increase, at the same time Mr. Bush is ordering 21,500 more troops into Iraq, raises new questions about the military's ability to sustain its pace of war-fighting on two major fronts. There now are about 24,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, which Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry said is the highest since the war began in October, 2001.

America's imperial ambitions will be its undoing. Even if we don't get thrown out of the Middle East and South Asia -- and at this point, it could go either way -- the resources needed to support our global network of 750 military posts will eventually bleed the country dry. In an increasingly over-populated world where resources will only become more scarce with time, we simply can't win. Entropy will prevail. Pity the white man and his awful burden.

The burden of military spending during the Cold War was a far higher percentage of U.S. GDP than is current spending. With the exception of the stagflation of the seventies, the Cold War era was one of growth and prosperity for the U.S. Thus, my reading of the numbers suggests that the U.S. could afford at least double its current level of military spending with little or no strain.

Yes, I understand your point. A recent article in the Christian Science Monitor compared military expenditures during WWII, Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan/Iraq and reported that current expenditures were roughly 1% of GDP (as compared to 30% during WWII, if my memory is correct). But, then this only accounts for Afghanistan/Iraq and is not included in the $420 billion spent by the US military 2005.

Of course, the CSM article also pointed out that the cost of the current wars is being financed by borrowing. During WWII, US citizens supplied at least some of the needed savings by buying bonds. Now, we expect the Japanese and Chinese to loan us the money.

So, we might have some "fat" to burn in our campaign to rid the world of evil-doers. But in the long term, the thermodynamics are against us.

"Now, we expect the Japanese and Chinese to loan us the money."

Ahhh....so THIS is the "Coalition of the Willing"!!! They are paying for our military services by funding our debt. That is why they can't pull out of the USD$. It is a quid pro quo situation.

Makes sense.

Selling bonds is borrowing money.

During WWII US citizens were buying bonds, now foriegn governments are buying bonds. The only differenec is that it is easier to default or deflate out of foriegn debt than domestic.

The US wasn't almost $10 trillion in debt during the Cold War.

The US Dollar was the world's premier currency during the Cold War. This is slipping badly.

Sometimes History applies, sometimes not. The future is not necessarily a linear extension of the past. Things change.

During the cold war our forests still stood -- at least, in the Pacific Northwest -- and our oil fields were still full. Our giant aquifers still had a full charge, and the rivers ran free.

Now, most everything is used up, and a lot of what is left is mortgaged to the Japanese, the Chinese and the British and Dutch aristocracy.

Oh, and I forgot those coal and uranium and copper mines that no longer are productive.

Or, as Mark Twain said "History may not repeat itself but it does rhyme"

I've heard this stated several times before.

However, I have some doubts as to whether the ratio of military spending to GDP tells the whole story about the economic impact of that military spending.

First off, wasn't US military spending during the Fifties and part of the Sixties mostly pay-as-you-go and mostly taken directly out of taxes? This clearly started to change as the war in Vietnam grew and grew and LBJ started to pay more and more of it with plastic. In our current situation the war in Iraq is completely paid for with debt. This has to make a big difference.

Though it may not have a huge effect on the absolute size of the GDP, I think it's well to remember that a not insignificant fraction of the GDP includes military spending itself. So, to some extent an increase in military spending increases both the numerator and denominator of the military spending/GDP ratio (though of course not by the same proportion). The war in Iraq actually increases our GDP, and I'm sure some economists would find that beneficial. Do you?

While I can't point to any concrete evidence and I make no claims of expertise in this sort of thing, I just have a gut feel that the nature of the entities that comprised the US GDP in say 1956 were of a much more substantive and generally healthier nature than the entities that comprise the GDP today. The structural differences between an economy largely based on domestic manufacturing then vs the debt-ridden service economy and financial shananigans we have now surely must count for something. Or maybe it doesn't?

Do you really think the US economy right now could absorb the cost of another $500 billion+ Iraq war without dire consequences?

Agree that the whole economy is quite different now, and not in a good way for the U.S. We were still on the upslope of Hubbert's Peak. We were still making stuff other nations wanted to buy.

Something like 30%-40% of tax revenue came from corporations. Now they are all incorporated overseas, leaving individuals to foot the bill. Only 7% of revenue comes from corporate taxes now.

Today's NYT:

What $1.2 Trillion Can Buy

The human mind isn’t very well equipped to make sense of a figure like $1.2 trillion. We don’t deal with a trillion of anything in our daily lives, and so when we come across such a big number, it is hard to distinguish it from any other big number. Millions, billions, a trillion — they all start to sound the same.

The way to come to grips with $1.2 trillion is to forget about the number itself and think instead about what you could buy with the money. When you do that, a trillion stops sounding anything like millions or billions.

For starters, $1.2 trillion would pay for an unprecedented public health campaign — a doubling of cancer research funding, treatment for every American whose diabetes or heart disease is now going unmanaged and a global immunization campaign to save millions of children’s lives.

Combined, the cost of running those programs for a decade wouldn’t use up even half our money pot. So we could then turn to poverty and education, starting with universal preschool for every 3- and 4-year-old child across the country. The city of New Orleans could also receive a huge increase in reconstruction funds.

The final big chunk of the money could go to national security. The recommendations of the 9/11 Commission that have not been put in place — better baggage and cargo screening, stronger measures against nuclear proliferation — could be enacted. Financing for the war in Afghanistan could be increased to beat back the Taliban’s recent gains, and a peacekeeping force could put a stop to the genocide in Darfur.

All that would be one way to spend $1.2 trillion. Here would be another:

The war in Iraq.

You forgot to add the cost of a wholly retrofitted private auto fleet with an eye for a changeover to primarily plug in diesel-electric hybrids running on biodiesel. I daresay that 1.2 trillion would still have enough left over for at least a part of that project.

Yes, I think the U.S. economy right now could absorb the cost of another $500 billion+ Iraq war without dire consequences. Note that the consequences of the Iraq war have been mainly beneficial for the economy as a whole. Why? Because the increased spending had a multiplier effect (just like Econ 101!) and stimulated the economy to the point where unemployment is near a forty-year low.

The U.S. economy is huge. In the very very long run, being a colonial power is a drain, as ancient Rome found out. But the expansion of Rome went on for hundreds of years, and its "decline" also took hundreds of years.

Thus I think it is a big mistake to look to concepts such as entropy for elucidation of current issues in U.S. military spending--which is low by standards of the past sixty years.

I ran across an interesting little stat a while ago. If you add up our military expenses since WW2 it is almost exactly equal to the national debt, around $10 trillion. So it seems reasonable to me to say that of all the money we've spent on the military, we haven't paid for one red cent of it. (and we never will)

Well if you add up all the interest paid since 1946 it is much more than ten trillion. Like my Granddaughter, if you keep it up the intrest will soon be greater than your income.

Yes but in the high tech twenty first century every year is a decade, or even more than a decade. Entropy is exponentially faster, and empires look almost like claymation compared to ancient Rome.

A would also add that in 1956(say) when the Military bought something, chances were that it was MADE by an American who took that paycheck home to support his Not-working wife and spent it in HIS community.

I wonder what percentage of the military spending is on something MFG'ed out of the country?

" the war in Iraq is completely paid for with debt."

Actually, not really. The current nominal federal deficit is about $250B. If you subtract about $200B for inflation's effects on our outstanding debt (2% inflation and $10T in debt) you have a net, real deficit of only $50B, or less than 1% of GDP, and maybe 9% of military spending. That may have a lot to do with the current economic slowdown, BTW.

Actually, Japan has a much larger government deficit, as a % of their GDP.

Key difference is that Japans government borrows from it own people whereas the US is mostly borrowing overseas today. So it is likely less sustainable. Given the state of the Japan economy over the last 2 decades I really think that if you have bring them up as a comparison you are in a bit of trouble.

"Given the state of the Japan economy over the last 2 decades I really think that if you have bring them up as a comparison you are in a bit of trouble."

But that’s just the point: we’re not doing so badly compared to the Japanese. Their economy has stagnated for a long time due to excessive savings, while the US economy has grown perhaps 50% ( albeit while accumulating excessive foreign debt).

Time will tell.

Oh, heck, I'm not saying things will go perfectly smoothly for the US. I'm just not sure that the US compares badly to the Japanese, who among other things are about 90% dependent on FF imports for energy(they use oil for most electricity generation!), while the US is only about 30% dependent overall.


about 18% of electricity generation (TWhr) in Japan is oil fired, according to the above.


about 60% of all electricity from thermal generation, including coal and gas. They are expanding their nuclear sector quite rapidly.

Energy efficiency is a priority in the Japanese economy. They are the most energy efficient large economy, which is particularly interesting given they have a harsh climate, and are the most industrialised of the advanced industrial states (other than South Korea).

They are certainly ahead of the US in securing contracts for, and building infrastructure for, long term LNG imports.

It would be a gross oversimplification to say the problem with the Japanese economy is it has 'too much savings'. Actually Japanese consumers (now) have very low savings rates: a little heralded transformation from the late 80s.

What you have in Japan was a broken system for investing capital: the banking system was not making efficient loans, nor were companies investing efficiently.

There are significant signs the same thing has occurred in the US housing finance market (although not on the scale of the Japanese bubble of the 1980s). It will be interesting to see how it plays out.


This is part of the reason I post: learning new things.

So the Japanese only save about 3% now. Wow.

Only 40% of generation from oil & gas? That's not too bad. Of course, it's all imported.

They're pursuing solar (and nuclear) pretty aggressively. OTOH, they don't know what to with wind, what with small disconnected grids that make balancing load & demand hard.

Anyway, my point was that we shouldn't make simplistic comparisons with other countries. The US has problems, but other countries do too.

Thus, my reading of the numbers suggests that the U.S. could afford at least double its current level of military spending with little or no strain.

Wouldn't this ability to greatly increase military spending be somewhat dependent on the dollar maintaining its role as the world's reserve currency?
With the threat of new petrocurrencies and the world looking to move away from the dollar the ability to borrow may be greatly curtailed in the next few years.

I wonder when it will become apparent to the general public that guns are going to increasingly come at the expense of butter. So far we have been able to have both, but that can't last forever.

Nothing lasts forever.

However the U.S. has plenty of "butter." Most of our GDP is stuff that we could really do without--meaningless legal services, medical services for people in their last year of life, psychological services for unhappy (Desperate!) housewives, snowmobiles, gambling, porn, overpowered boats, etc. Because so much of our output is not very useful, we could give it up with small loss.

Our ability to increase both agricultural output and manufactured goods is huge. It might take a few years, but the U.S. could fairly easily go back to a 1955-85 style economy with heavy military spending.

We still know how to build airplanes and tanks, not to mention other munitions of all kinds.

every one of those "useless" things is a job for someone.

Don Sailorman on January 17, 2007 - 11:35am ^

Yes, I think the U.S. economy right now could absorb the cost of another $500 billion+ Iraq war without dire consequences. Note that the consequences of the Iraq war have been mainly beneficial for the economy as a whole. Why? Because the increased spending had a multiplier effect (just like Econ 101!) and stimulated the economy to the point where unemployment is near a forty-year low.

Throwing the "multiplier effect" out with the butter...

Most of our GDP is stuff that we could really do without--meaningless legal services, medical services for people in their last year of life, psychological services for unhappy (Desperate!) housewives, snowmobiles, gambling, porn, overpowered boats, etc. Because so much of our output is not very useful, we could give it up with small loss.

Don, this is precisely why we should be worried. The US economy is increasingly reliant upon appeals to personal vanity to keep us all employed (and fed, clothed and sheltered). What happens when our "mad money" dries up?

Also, I might want to argue with you over our ability to increase our agricultural output substantially. Our best farmland is already in production and what remains out in CRP, etc. are "marginal" lands -- not very productive. We made huge gains during the "Green Revolution" but those gains, as we know, were possible only because energy was cheap. Organic, Conventional -- any way you cut it, growing a 250 bu./ac corn crop takes a lot of resources and energy. Will GM organisms be our salvation? They may lead to a better returns per unit of input, but the big gains in ag yields have already occurred.

Now,if you want to talk about producing calories in a strictly controlled laboratory environment -- there you could make some gains. Soylent Green anyone?

In Minnesota (and I suspect elsewhere in the Midwest) huge tracts that used to grow corn are now in pasture. It wouldn't be much of a trick to plow up land that is good for corn (and now in pasture or growing alfalfa for hay) and increase output greatly.

We have been paying farmers billions upon tens of billions of dollars a year NOT to produce. To increase agricultural output, all we'd have to do is to reverse present policy--which goes back seventy-five years--that tries to minimize surpluses. When you pay farmers not to grow corn, they won't grow so much of it. When corn gets up to a reasonable price such as five or six dollars a bushel (moderate in inflation-adjusted historical terms), then you'll see a quick and very substantial increase in corn production.

Well, I have no doubt that as the bushel price of corn or beans (or switchgrass, for that matter) climbs, we're going to see a lot of idle land put into production. We just shouldn't fool ourselves into thinking that that won't create its own set of problems.

That's true, but in order to achieve Bush's reported target of 60 billion gallons/year there would need to be approximately 130 million acres devoted to corn production (assuming 2.8 gallons of ethanol produced per bushel and average yields of 165 bushels per acre). According to Iowa State University, about 79 million acres were planted to corn in 2006. That's a big shift no matter how you look at it.


We have been paying farmers billions upon tens of billions of dollars a year NOT to produce.

10's of BILLONS of Dollars per year you say?

The department of Ag gets 19.7 billion in 2007. So you are claiming that most of that money goes so farmers WON'T actually produce?

The consevation program gets under a billion.

Where exactly is the '10's of billions' you claim coming from?

My distinct impression, from various sources including 'The Omnivores Dilemma,' is that the policy of paying farmers to leave land fallow, especially for corn, was phased out by Earl Butz and that now farmers are encouraged to plant every available acre. This is a big reason for the (rapidly diminishing) corn glut.

Farmers have not planted "fence post to fence post" for many years. The price of corn has been so ludicrously low for so very many years that much land has been put to growing hay or left in pasture--or in some cases left completely idle. What few people outside the Corn Belt seem to appreciate is that the low prices for corn of recent years were not only ridiculous but also unsustainable.

You sir, are 100% correct! Ethanol opponents like to conveniently leave out such 'minor' inconsistencies from their diatribes. You know, the little things such as:

- the fact that the price of corn vis-a-vis production has probably never been economically sustainable
- the fact that there is and has been a glut of meat on the market for years, the results of which have sacked producer margins if not the outright existence of the smaller, individual rancher
- the fact that millions of $$$ in corn farming subsidies will be eliminated this year because the farmgate price of corn has actually risen to realistic levels
- the fact that 1/3 of all the corn used can be returned as a high-protein feed, the amounts of which may impact the market so much, that cause for concern has been raised by lower-protein feed providers

Syntec, there is no doubt that trying to grow and market corn hasn't been much of a business. There are a number of reasons for that, most of which can be traced to the development of an agricultural system that is very efficient at converting non-renewable resources (fossil fuels, fertilizer deposits, topsoil) into corn. It has been, in fact, so damned efficient that the family farmer -- always a "price taker" as an ag econ prof used to remind us -- has put himself out of business.

I don't hold myself up as an expert (I have a BS in agronomy and an MS in soil science) but know enough about agricultural systems to know that current corn-growing methods are unsustainable. In fact, the higher corn prices go, the more quickly corn farming as we know it will collapse because higher prices will bring a lot of marginal land into production. And marginal land, by definition, is land which returns lower yields per unit of input. This is a gold rush and gold rushes always end the same way: A few folks get fabulously wealthy; a larger number of people lose what little they had and hang themselves; and the landscape is dotted with a new crop of slag piles.

So, I see your "benefits" and I can only say I'm happy to see the farmer finally getting something for what he/she grows (though, as always ADM, DuPont, Dow, Monsanto, and Cargill will be the big winners). But unless you can learn to grow 200 bu/ac corn without depleting what are non-renewable resources -- fertilizers, petroleum and topsoil -- you won't be in the ethanol business for long.

Which is why I support an organic corn ethanol mandate.

And you'd never guess in a million years who has my 'back' on this one...

"First and foremost, we found that corn and soybean yields were the same across the three systems," said Pimentel, who noted that although organic corn yields were about one-third lower during the first four years of the study, over time the organic systems produced higher yields, especially under drought conditions. The reason was that wind and water erosion degraded the soil on the conventional farm while the soil on the organic farms steadily improved in organic matter, moisture, microbial activity and other soil quality indicators.

Adding "organic" on a non working concept's name does not make it into a working concept. At best it allows you to scam people for a little while longer. As far as I can tell you are either among the scammers or the scammees. I can't tell which one it is. Not that I or very many other people who understand the problem will likely care.

"As far as I can tell you are either among the scammers or the scammees."

Well in consideration of the fact that you're the NOOB here, I guess I'll just have to cut you some slack.

I don't remember your slack selling for much these days. Maybe you need to advertise better?

And you'd never guess in a million years who has my 'back' on this one... said Pimentel, who noted that although organic corn yields were about one-third lower during the first four years of the study, over time the organic systems produced higher yields,

Sorry Syntec, but I am going to need a reference on that one. A URL would be nice. I simply do not believe you can produce as much corn from organic growing as you can by using massive amounts of nitrogen fertilizer. I grew up on a farm where we grew corn with two row planters and bag fertilizer. We got about one third or less the yeilds farmers are getting today.

And I cannot figure out why you did not post your source in the first place. That is always the thing to do you know. A URL or book source always tells people you are not bullshitting us. And you left us guessing.

Ron Patterson

Ron, I suspect that Syntec was referring to a recent report (Organic and Conventional Farming Systems: Environmental and Economic Issues) of which Pimentel was lead author. You can find this PDF here.

It is possible that some organic farmers are competing yield-wise with conventional farmers. A number of years ago, I heard Dick Thompson, an Iowa farmer give a talk at a sustainable ag conference. He showed some slides of his farm in Boone and it was obvious that he and his wife had a beautiful and elegant operation. I just did a quick search for information about him and I found this. There looks to be a lot more out there about him and others that are doing much the same sorts of things.

Hope this is helpful.

I will point out though that Pimentel still feels that ethanol is a loser. Read what he says here. Perhaps Syntec has had some more in-depth communications with Pimentel but, at least in this article, he seems to be saying "No way, no how!"

There is nothing organic about the way ethanol is made from corn or any other source. It involves fermenters, distillation columns and lots and lots of external energy sources. To put the term "organic" on the corn production process changes nothing about the very low, if not even negative EROEI. Anyone who thinks otherwise is either uninformed or tries to spin the story. In either case, the term is useless for any adult discussion of corn ethanol production yields.

Wrong again there IP.

Organic is in refence to the feedstock, in this case corn. I didn't put organic on the production path - you did.

You're wrong about the EROEI of corn ethanol - it's positive.

And low and behold, you are also wrong re: the impact that organic corn would have on the EROEI of corn ethanol, as fertilizer, herbicide and pesticide usage is collectively one of the largest sources of total fossil fuel inputs (30%) in the corn->ethanol production path.

Sorry missed the URL. Tarzan found it though.

Farmers have not planted "fence post to fence post" for many years.

Why should they, when they can get 10's of billions in money to NOT plant...right?

Farmers have not planted "fence post to fence post" for many years.
Don, this is simply NOT true. Everytime I drive through the rural areas, I see more trees bulldozed for extra corn acres, more wetlands converted. The fence lines are all sterile, farmed to within inches of the fences. Farmers tell me they do this because they have to pay high property taxes on their land, so they need to farm every square inch. Also, by pastures you refer to above, I assume you mean CRP land. And if you read the Market to Market link I posted here on Sunday, you will see that the ag experts expect the CRP program acres to be utilized by '08 to grow corn for ethanol.

Farmers tell me they have not been planting corn because of ridiculously low prices for corn, and I believe them. Much land that is not CRP sits idle, much more is in hay.

Time will tell, and if corn prices move up to a reasonable range in the four to six dollar a bushel range, I think you will see a prodigeous increase in both U.S. corn output--and also in corn output in other parts of the world.

Why would a farmer want to lose money by planting more corn at absurdly low corn prices? Makes no sense at all.

and if corn prices move up to a reasonable range in the four to six dollar a bushel range...

Do you know what the price of corn is today? $4.05/bushel

Do you know how low $4 is by historical standards (correcting for inflation)? The four to six dollar range is moderate and reasonable; I'd say anything much above six dollars a bushel would be "high."

"Soylent Green is PEOPLE"

According to the official White House, CBO and GAO web sites, the Fiscal Year 2007 DOD budget will be $440 billion, plus $50 billion in a pending supplemental request for Iraq. Another supplemental is expected later this year for at least the same amount. The Department of Energy will spend about $16 billion for building, inspecting, dismantling and disposing of nuclear reactors for the Navy and the research, development, storage and disposal of nuclear weapons. Total defense spending will therefore be at least $556 billion, about 5% of GDP. This does not include money for Veterans Affairs or money funneled to DOD through the Department of Homeland Security.

For that money we get about 1.4 million full-time active duty (ACDU) service personnel and 2.7 million part-time reserve and national guard personnel (RESNG). Assuming a constant ratio of spending for personnel, adding $500 billion in DOD expenditures could result in about 1.2 million more ACDU troops and 2.3 million RESNG troops.

One might worry about the effect on the domestic economy of moving 1.2 million full-time jobs from civilian production to military consumption. However, apparently the solution would be to have someone identify which civilian jobs are meaningless. Then we simply do not allow people to go into those jobs. Certainly any and every aspiring fingernail technician or insurance paperwork processor is mentally, medically and morally qualified for military service.

The inflationary pressures from added consumption of desirable products like bullets, bombs, boondockers and bandages could be handled by improving the efficiency of the current producers and by moving more workers in meaningless jobs into desirable jobs. Certainly any auto detailer or lawn technician could easily convert to a communications system engineer or jet engine mechanic.

We would still need to find ways to offset the costs of moving 1.2 million fully taxable incomes to reduced tax status, outbidding the civilian sector for those new troops and the increased long term obligations for veteran's care and benefits. And, there is likely to be costs deriving from the temptation to use the troops simply because we have them. Fortunately, we should have plenty of time to figure out how to deal with those issues.

The new SECDEF plans to increase the size of the military by 91,000 active duty troops over five years. Why five years? Because that is about the fastest we can recruit, train, equip and then assimilate the new troops without going on wartime footing. We're talking 1.2 million here, so we should have plenty of time to figure out how to get that many more people in uniform without distorting the economy and having to offer enlistment bonuses in the six figures (versus the mid-5 figures being offered to some now).

Of course, we could spend more without adding all those troops. Buy lots more jets and tanks and trucks and ships and fuel and bombs and such. But, then we have to actually use them or we'll need more warehouses and aircraft parking ramps and piers. "Sailor, drive that ship somewhere!" "Soldier, shoot something!"

BTW, in 1945 our 30% spending on defense bought us 8.3 million active duty troops (all services) or about 5.5% of the 150 million US population. The same percentage of today's 300 million Americans would mean 16.5 million active duty troops, an increase of 15 million.

For active duty forces alone, the current total cost (pay, operating expenses, maintenance, etc) is well over $400 billion per year for 1.5 million troops. If the troops to spending ratio held, it would take and additional $4 trillion to add 15 million active duty troops. Total active duty expenditures would then be over $4.4 trillion, or

my reading of the numbers

Do 'your numbers' include 2.1 trillion in 'items we can't account for' per a press conference of the Sec. of Defense? How about how, for a large part of the 'cold war' the US was a net exporter of oil?

to say "double its current level of military spending" is all very fine a good, but 64% of current spending (at 632 billion) doubling that would exceed the 983 billion in hte discretionary budget.


Don, with all due respect, you should know better than to focus on a single variable, especially one that is of arguably dubious value (GDP), and make such an arm-waving pronouncement. It is similar to arm-waving claims that we (our society) can get along on solar PV energy-- no problemo!-- based on the fact of however many gigawatt hrs of sunlight hit the earth. Just a few minor details might be left out.

"Just a few minor details might be left out."

Solar PV is still much more expensive, at about 25 cents/kwh, than oil, gas & wind, but even at that price it's still cheap enough to run an economy on if you had to (as proved in Japan). Of course, you won't have to, as the cost is plummeting (though not the price, due to skyrocketing demand).

Any other details left out you'd like more info on?

"Any other details left out you'd like more info on?"

Don't confuse him with details. His mind is set!

Mindset is like sunset, just darker and there are no known cases of mindrise.

My yearly price check has PV power, residential system, amortized for 30yr lifespan + grid-tie-in charge + conservative amt for possible maintenance in my OR region at about 5x what the local power co. can deliver which makes it roughly $0.40/kWH

In case you are wondering, I know what it is like to live without electricity. Been there, done that. I can adapt to much lower energy lifestyle than I have (which is already less than 1/2 the typical American).

Also, I am completely rooting for PV energy generation to get to the needed tipping point at which it will actually work on a large scale basis. It just simply is not there yet.

Oh... I forgot, my mind is set, ignore all that and don't confuse me with details.

ET, a few thoughts.

First, the way you phrased your first post made you sound excessively skeptical about PV. That's what I was responding to. I agree that PV is too expensive, given the alternatives, especially wind.

2nd, don't forget the difference between cost & price. PV prices are inflated right now because of the polysilicon shortage.

3rd, I'm curious: what are the specific costs you found? Can you break them into panels, installation, & operating costs? I'm especially curious about "grid-tie-in charge + conservative amt for possible maintenance", and your assumptions on capacity factor.

Hi Nick,
First of all, thanks for being reasonable and courteous, unlike IP to whom my jibe was aimed.

I am skeptical about PV. Whether excessively or not, we will see in time.

I usually use Mr. Solar as a reference, although I have cross-checked prices with a local PV installer and prices jibe pretty closely. A grid-tied system delivering an average of ~540 kWH/mo will cost me around $33,000. This amortizes to about $197/mo for 30 years at 6% interest. My grid tie in would be about $15/mo and I would figure about $10/mo maintenance, although this is just a SWAG. Doing the math gives me roughly $0.40/kWH. We have relatively cheap $0.08/kWH here with a large % of hydro power.

RE polysilicon shortage causing high PV prices. This may be so, but it is also true that manufacturing processes are dependent on fossil fuels which are likely to be in short supply in the future as well. I may be wrong on this, but I anticipate that PV components will rise in price along with fossil fuel prices. I don't think anyone can prove one way or another at the moment and we will have to wait and see.

I have been keeping an eye on the Aussie co. Green & Gold with their concentrator system. They advertise systems that come out to less than half what I've quoted here per kWH. Unfortunately they are a recent start up, giving one pause in terms of how reliable are their claims, and they don't distribute in the US.

Altogether, I'm still in a wait-and-see mode for PV. My feeling is that if in 5 years, PV is not yet cost-competitive, it never will be. At that point, installing PV (or wind) may be a matter of being willing to pay the price to have electricity at all (off grid).

In my location, a theoretically ideal system would probably include a small wind turbine because winters are notoriouslly cloudy--and windier. This does make for a much more expensive system though.

Another thought is that if we move to Electric vehicles, the monthly kWH load would increase somewhat.

"First of all, thanks for being reasonable and courteous, unlike IP to whom my jibe was aimed."

Your welcome. It just makes life easier and nicer....

"A grid-tied system delivering an average of ~540 kWH/mo will cost me around $33,000. "

What is it's peak kw rating? I suspect you're dealing with a relatively low capacity factor. Though I think IP (in the next post) overstates the problems for solar in northern climes, he does have a point: insolation where you are may be 40% lower than in southern CA. Solar will take much longer to become economic, as you go further north. In fact, PV can compete now in certain parts of S CA, where insolation is high, and grid electricity prices are even higher (over 25 cents after a certain consumption level), and in Japan where grid rates are high (20 cents) and interest rates very low.

"Manufacturing processes are dependent on fossil fuels which are likely to be in short supply in the future as well. I may be wrong on this, but I anticipate that PV components will rise in price along with fossil fuel prices. north."

I call this "the garbageman error": at one point in New York City there was a sanitation worker's strike, and one slogan was along the line of "without us NYC shuts down: we're vital to the city, so we deserve as much or more pay as anyone". Garbage pickup may be essential (like a lot of other things) but that doesn't make it important in any other way.

So, manufacturing is dependent on fossil fuels at the moment, but that doesn't mean they're a big % of manufacturing cost. In fact, energy costs over 5% in manufacturing are unusual (you see them in places like aluminum and steel smelting, or commodity plastic items), and for PV they're roughly 3% of overall costs. So, if energy costs triple, PV cost would only rise 6%. And, of course, it's output would become 3x more valuable.

This is the whole idea of E-ROI. PV has a good E-ROI, at least 20 (see the earlier TOD article by Professor Cutler Cleveland), and so by definition energy costs are a small % of it's costs, and if energy costs rise it will only become more valuable.

Another thing to keep in mind is that at the moment framing and installation (Balance of System) costs are about 50% of PV costs. PV is really a cottage industry of retrofits, astonishly immature as an industry despite it's astronomic growth rate and size ($10B in 2005). BOS costs will plummet as PV becomes integrated into building construction, especially in new construction but also in re-roofing.

You might want to check out Nanosolar.com. They promise to reduce the costs of PV cells by about 75% in 2007, and they look likely to succeed.

RE: system energy rating
If I take the ideal insolation value from their chart, I still get $0.32/kWH or 4x what I'm paying now. These figures jibe with what folks who actually have systems are getting.

RE: Fossil-fuel 'subsidy'. Everything in the economy that is dependent on fossil fuel-- which is virtually everything-- will be more expensive, so just an energy percentage figure doesn't tell the story.

I agree that PV is still immature, this is why I am in a wait-and-see mode. With all due respect, you do what many proponents of a given technology do, take absolute best-case scenarios all through the process and come up with an overly optimistic picture. I will always take real-world figures as being more representative of what a technology can do. The back of the envelope can be very deceiving.

For the past 6 years I have run this excercise to see comparative costs of PV vs grid and I don't think PV has gotten appreciably cheaper in that time period. The bottom line always has to be how many dollars I take out of my pocket for a given amount of energy, and what the future holds nobody can predict.

"If I take the ideal insolation value from their chart, I still get $0.32/kWH or 4x what I'm paying now."

From what you're saying, you only have 25% penalty for lower insolation, which doesn't surprise me. People overestimate the impact of a northern climate on solar.

"These figures jibe with what folks who actually have systems are getting."

I'm not questioning that. I'm just curious what the actual values are.

"Everything in the economy that is dependent on fossil fuel-- which is virtually everything-- will be more expensive, so just an energy percentage figure doesn't tell the story."

I've seen this idea before in Peak Oil writings, and I believe it's entirely incorrect. It seems to be based on a vague idea that energy in general, and oil in particular, are much more important than they really are. What did you think of my "garbageman's error"? Consider that the price of oil tripled over the course of a couple years recently, and yet inflation only went from 1.5% to roughly 3.5%. Oil is essential, but it's not that big a part of our costs. A tripling of oil costs will be more than sufficient to reduce demand to meet oil depletion, but it won't change most manufacturing costs that much.

"absolute best-case scenarios all through the process and come up with an overly optimistic picture."

No, it comes from having a fairly detailed knowledge of the industry, and having watched the industry successfully meet it's projections for the last 30 years.

"For the past 6 years I have run this excercise to see comparative costs of PV vs grid and I don't think PV has gotten appreciably cheaper in that time period. "

Again, costs have fallen but prices haven't.

"what the future holds nobody can predict."

Not really true. You can look at the polysilicon plants that are in construction, and project accurately how that will change supply in 2 years. You can look at installation methods and accurately estimate how changes will change the costs. Professional engineers do this all the time, and it works.

If the local power company uses nuclear plants to produce their electricity, in all likelyhood you have forgotten to add the taxes you paid for federal support of nuclear technology and the completely unresolved end-of-life costs into the equation.

It is also likely that you live in a region where solar energy is not really a useful technology. There is quite a difference between a desert location where a good panel can return 40-50W/m^2 on average and a poorly suited area in the Northeast where it probably barely manages 15W/m^2 in a good year. You might want to do a comparison of solar water heating with rising oil/natural gas prices. I bet you will come out much better, if not even positive. And if you happen to live in a colder reagion and don't have it, yet, insulation will buy you way more for your money. Solar technology is not a solution to any and all local generation problems everywhere on the planet. Just like there are no large scale hydro-electric plants in the plains, there will never be much return on solar in the North.

Solar energy can be made to work on a large scale but it is also problematic to find investors for large scale plants because there are plenty of easier and faster ways for those investors to make money. One of them is to invest into solar startups which have 2-3 year exit opportunities into the markets. Why wait 40 years to make a few percent a year if you can triple your money in three?

Finally, the absolute price of energy is not as critical a factor as most people think. Germany has a large scale renwables program going on that to most Americans would look unprofitable. However, germany is currently getting close to producing 10% of its energy from renewables. There are several reasons for this trend which go far beyond simple economics of day tading prices:

1) Energy imports are expensive and uncertain. There is a strong economic and political need for the country to reduce its dependence on imports because the only rational bet is that in the future imports will become far more expensive or even dry up completely.

2) Renewables create jobs. Germany's most important economic and socio-political problem is unemployment. To employ people in a growing energy sector is far better than to pay them unemployment insurance.

3) Education. Germans have been brought up with a very positive moral attitude towards the environment. They do not judge a technology primarily by its cost but by how well it preserves the environment. This makes it relatively easy for politics to push (and pay for) technologies like wind and solar energy. There is a relative consensus among the young, tax paying population that they want to leave a better world for their children than they inherited from their parents.

Americans generally lack all three of these incentives and have a far more short sighted vision. It stands to reason that long term effects like those of PO are outside of America's current intellectual horizon and are thus being largely ignored. That is not a universal phenomenon, though.

The GDP concept and related measures was developed in large measure to help the U.S. and Britain mobilize resources to fight World War Two as effectively as possible. It served well in that regard, and the fact that the Allies had GDP data--and the Germans did not--helped the Allied economies to function much more efficiently than Germany's did until Speer took over in 1944, which, of course, was much too late to do the Germans any good.

GDP is not "just another number." On the contrary, it is a compilation and summary of a great many other numbers. It is NOT a measure of human happiness. Maximization of GDP does NOT necessarily maximize human welfare. However, having said all that, to evaluate the burden of military spending and estimate how much civilian production could be diverted to military use (and what would be the consequences of such diversion), GDP data are the sine qua non.

The U.S. economy is big, and to realize just how big it is and whether it is growing or not, we have to look at GDP and related numbers. Otherwise we're just blowing smoke.

No need to be entirely patronizing.
I'll just leave it at that and hope fervently that we never have opportunity to find out if you are right.

If you think the US Treasury can come up with another trillion or two to finance a much larger military, fine, you're the economist.
With that would go a much larger standing army. Do you really think it's possible to double recruiting? To institute a draft that would double the size of the Army?
This ain't Sparta.

This ain't Sparta.

Precisely! Apparently the Army and the Marines already have trouble making the numbers, and this is on the basis of bribery, lies, and letting any old illiterate criminal into the military.

But as you say, it ain't Sparta. The Spartans were, of course, famous for being good at fighting, something that doesn't pertain to the US except in the realm of myth. Whether or not the Chinese and the Japanese are dumb enough and/or unprincipled enough to lend the money (and let's face it, that's the way it's been so far), we have to face the essential uselessness of the US military for its advertised task.

The secret is that force often does not work very well. The greatest military of modern times, the Wehrmacht, still got thrashed. Those people were actually good at war. And they still lost. So we may safely say that there is no way a bunch of incompetents are going to succeed at ruling the world through force of arms when even the Germans couldn't manage it. The US has really got by on soft power for fifty years, and now that is being squandered in favour of strategic blunders and stupid military posturing. The nation will learn the hard way just how pointless all this has been.

sailorman, your post puzzles me, increased military spending would be increased debt spending and i guess i have to ask how high does the debt have to go before it becomes a "strain". ie do you see a limit to keynsian economics ?

memo to taxpayers: gwb has run up a $ 3 trillion debt on YOUR credit card

You ask an excellent question to which there is no brief and satisfactory answer. The best answers I think are to be found by looking at historical cases where governments borrowed "too much" and got into serious trouble from such activities. Almost invariably we see cases of third-world governments (e.g. Argentina or Mexico) that borrowed and printed money to finance spending for political popularity--or, on the other hand, advanced economies, such as that of Britain, that borrowed prodigeously during both World Wars with very severe consequences after the wars.

If debt is growing faster than nominal GDP, then you know something: That cannot go on indefinitely. As a percentage of GDP our current debt levels are manageable, but what is worrisome is the large deficits that increase debt as a percent of GDP.

Of the three kinds of U.S. debt--consumer, business, and governmental, I think the most dangerous kind is consumer debt, the second most dangerous is business debt, and the federal debt (while a matter of legitimate concern) is least dangerous of the three kinds.

Note that as a last resort, the Federal Reserve System can monetize the U.S. government debt; it has done so in the past and stands ready to do so in the future if necessary to avoid debt deflation caused by financial collapses.

Growth in consumer debt is the crack cocaine type of addiction that has fueled U.S. economic growth for the past twenty years. I predict this addiction will not last another twenty years--and detox will be nasty.

sailorman, thank you for the response and i do value your opinions and insights. but i am wondering exactly what you mean by monetizing the debt. i have heard the term monetizing used in various contexts, one such refers to the government buying it's own debt.

Here is how "monetizing the debt" works:
1. The government (say, U.S. government) runs huge budget deficits.

2. The central bank (the Fed) buys U.S. government debt aggresively and with no limit.

3. This purchase of U.S. Government securities greatly increases bank reserves.

4. Banks use their greatly increased reserves to buy up the U.S. Government debt--i.e. lend money without limit to the U.S. government. They can also make more loans to consumers and businesses.

5. Whenever the Fed buys U.S. government securities it has the potential to create new money: Thus when the Fed does this flat out it is called monetizing the debt.

Note that in effect this is printing money--but is slightly more complicated. Monetization of debt is prerequisite to runaway inflation.

ok thank you again i thought the treasury was "buying" its own debt indirectly via phoney offshore accounts (carabian bank accounts) and i still think this is a possibility

Oh boy. A 3.5% rise (as a % of gdp) in US Federal Government spending?

Or put it another way, a 1/5th rise in the total tax take of the US government. Everyone takes their current tax bill, and increases it by 1/5th *and* the US finds new taxes to extract an equivalent amount by other means.

The US government has not spent 7% of GDP on defence since the end of the Vietnam War. In the meantime, the burden of Medicare and other health care related expenditures has risen dramatically (despite all the horror stories, Social Security is actually in pretty good shape).

Even under Ronald Reagan, at the bottom of the worst recession since the war, military spending was less than 6% of GDP.

I don't think the US is in any position to increase defence spending by the amount you suggest. The taxpayer won't stand for it, and the impact on the overall economy would be huge.

In addition, the US already spends more on defence than the next 20 countries combined: put it another way, half of the world's spending on defence is by the US government.

What exactly would the US spend it on? More fighter planes to fight air to air battles with non-existent opponents?

Or as Robert de Niro put it so aptly in Wag the Dog: 'what , a 2 ocean war? With Togo and Sweden?'.

If the US say wanted to double the number of soldiers in uniform (Army and Marines), it could only do so with a draft. There aren't enough 18-21 year olds who could be recruited by any inducement-- not to produce 600,000 new bodies. Once again, a complete political nonstarter.

America's imperial ambitions will be its undoing.

Not sure that's the right order. The country's financial situation might be the bigger factor in the economic and overall social demise. And send us to war too. That's what rulers do to take people's attention away from domestic trouble. In this case, there's the added necessity to go out and get resources.

We should however realize that if we don't go get those resources, someone else will, and that's not necessarily better for us, to put it mildly.

The largest misunderstanding is that most Americans still think their leaders go to war to keep the US as-is afloat, and the economy going. Those ambitions are long gone, though. US citizens have become a liabilty for their leaders. Why feed and heat people who can't produce, and are too indebted to consume? Why waste scarce oil on them?

.... our global network of 750 military posts will eventually bleed the country dry.

There are good studies on the impact of over-sized standing armies on empires in their waning days, with the Romans as a prime example.

Not sure that's the right order. The country's financial situation might be the bigger factor in the economic and overall social demise.

Fly, I see America's imperial ambitions and its financial flabbiness as part and parcel of the same thing: Big Capital's drive to scour the world for the cheapest resources. You are right -- capital no longer needs American natural resources or the American middle class. Both are long-in-the-tooth and American workers are increasingly a liability to investors (e.g. auto and airlines). Sure, American companies have seen huge gains in productivity over the last decade, but most of those gains have come about through off-shoring.

The downside of off-shoring is that you have an ever-larger field of play that you need to maintain control over. This is where the "imperial" part comes in.

Well, at least the White Man ought to pay for his war.

I propose a $5/gal excise tax on road fuel, proceeds to pay for the war.

Cut Medicare benefits 30%, with savings devoted to Vets Hospitals to pay for rehab of wounded soldiers.

Excise tax on all food products that in any way use petroleum in production, especially those that are discretionary, such as strawberries in January.

Any takers?

Now, there's a platform you could run on.

Move over Barack!

People are clamoring for me to run for Congress, so popular is my platform.

People are clamoring for me to run for Congress, so popular is my platform.

You've got my vote.

Good doomer entry. Carry on.

Most of the US military is oversized and ill-designed for its future as an anti-terror task force. We could cut the cost in half and be just as effective (another word for being just as ineffective). And then there is the little fact of Bush tax cuts which essentially have taken the burden off the mega rich to pay for the society that gave them their riches. These can be repealed as soon as chimp is out of office. After these changes are made the finances of the US will be rock-solid, even in a post PO world.

What you call entropy, I call waste.

Most of the US military is oversized and ill-designed for its future as an anti-terror task force. We could cut the cost in half and be just as effective.

IP, you are scaring me. You sound like Don Rumsfeld.

I'm not going to argue that a significant portion of our military expenditures aren't wasted. But that is the nature of pork and beauracracies and why our troubles in this department are only going to grow.

Tell me honestly: America has been "at War" since 1941. As a result, a signifcant portion of the population now derives its income, directly or indirectly, from the "defense" industry. Do you forsee a day when the military budget shrinks and we return to a peace-time economy?

"You sound like Don Rumsfeld."

With a little difference: good ol' Rummy wanted to make war for less, I want to make peace for less. He failed and we still haven't tried my suggestion.

"But that is the nature of pork and beauracracies and why our troubles in this department are only going to grow."

And I won't argue with that. It is right down the line of what I see happening.

"Tell me honestly: America has been "at War" since 1941. As a result, a signifcant portion of the population now derives its income, directly or indirectly, from the "defense" industry."

Absolutely. And that is part of the problem. Every time the DOD wants to shut a useless base down, the community that lives off the soldiers cries murder. It does not have to be this way, but it would take significant political efforts to divert the money we are spending on the military to useful civil programs. I am not saying that the government should spend less money but that they should waste less. Military spending has a tiny economic multiplier in comparison to civilian projects. How much does it cost to make a screw they sell to the military for $500? 5 cents, like for any other screw. But then there is $499.95 worth of buerocracy around that 5 cent manufacturing process. For the same price you can make 10000 civilian screws.

I have been on a NASA project for a little while that suffered from exactly the same problem because they were using very similar purchasing methods and requirements. There I have learned that the fact that the Russians and Chinese can launch a man into orbit for ten percent of the cost in the US is a simple breakdown of buerocracy and economics or government, not one of fundamentally different physics. People like to think that we are getting better quality from the military industrial complex, but that is not true. Few of the electronics products made for the military would survive the quality requirements that are standard in the telecom industry. Even the people who are in the quality control departments of the military (and NASA) acknowledge that. But old habits die hard, especially if so many useless jobs are on the line.

"Do you forsee a day when the military budget shrinks and we return to a peace-time economy?"

Not any time soon. Unless America is coming to its senses about what its role in the world is, it will not change its spending. The current megalomaniacal streak that runs through both the political leadership and a large fraction of the population has to wear out first. PO and the emergence of China as the new economic super power will probably come before the essential learning process has taken place.

From The Huffington Post:
Chris Kelly: A Weirdo Has Snatched Your Sons

Last week there were two big stories. A St. Louis man was caught kidnapping a second boy to go with the one he'd been holding for four years, and the President announced he was sending more troops to Iraq.

Kinda weird, isn't it? That the same week this twisted tub o' lard in Missouri gets caught abducting a new kid for his menagerie, Bush says he needs more teenage corpses to stuff in national crawlspace? The President and the Pizza Dispatcher. One is a psychopathic moron whose motives are known only to himself, and the other is Michael Devlin.

And every day Americans lose a little bit more of their privacy, civil liberty, and representation in government.

Patriot Acts, Military Commissions Act, John Warner Defense Act of 2007, increasingly draconian travel restrictions, RFID in passports, military surveillance of civilian financial transactions, military jurisdiction over civilian contractors, and now governors lose control of the national guard.

Thanks for that link, Southpaw.

This remains under the radar mostly, but the net effect is that the federal government has acquired the power to mobilize large scale troop concentrations domestically. Even if the Posse Comitatus changes would in theory authorize the deployment of the army at home, that's not much use if the army is not home, but abroad. Enter the National Guard.

Ever look into what happens if (when??) the terror "traffic light" goes to red? It's Martial Law time! The gov't claims the right to confiscate everything, including everything you own. Your car, food, home. Probably you, too. With the stroke of a pen all of our "rights" disappear. And the mechanism for doing this is in place and ready to go, a few explosions somewhere is all it'll take.

Drink up, last call. Don't worry about turning out the lights, they'll go out by themselves...

I would assume that we will get rid of our useless color codes as soon as the chimp riddance is complete. No big deal. Not that the government really needs Martial Law to confiscate what you own. They already have the IRS. Way more effective, way better organized that way. The fiscal trouble the US is in, right now, is actually a result of the IRS not collecting enough. We need higher taxes on millionaires and gas. They will come. Just wait and drink up. :-)

As reported in the article:

Congress changed the Insurrection Act to list "natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident" as conditions under which the president can deploy U.S. armed forces and federalize state Guard troops if he determines that "authorities of the state or possession are incapable of maintaining public order."

As written in the Act:

Sec. 333. Major public emergencies; interference with State and Federal law

`(a) USE OF ARMED FORCES IN MAJOR PUBLIC EMERGENCIES- (1) The President may employ the armed forces, including the National Guard in Federal service, to--

`(A) restore public order and enforce the laws of the United States when, as a result of a natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition in any State or possession of the United States, the President determines that--

`(i) domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of maintaining public order; and

`(ii) such violence results in a condition described in paragraph (2); or

`(B) suppress, in a State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy if such insurrection, violation, combination, or conspiracy results in a condition described in paragraph (2).

`(2) A condition described in this paragraph is a condition that--

`(A) so hinders the execution of the laws of a State or possession, as applicable, and of the United States within that State or possession, that any part or class of its people is deprived of a right, privilege, immunity, or protection named in the Constitution and secured by law, and the constituted authorities of that State or possession are unable, fail, or refuse to protect that right, privilege, or immunity, or to give that protection; or

`(B) opposes or obstructs the execution of the laws of the United States or impedes the course of justice under those laws.

`(3) In any situation covered by paragraph (1)(B), the State shall be considered to have denied the equal protection of the laws secured by the Constitution. (emphasis added)

It is amazing the difference a couple of words can make. I wonder why they left that little bit out.

Thanks for posting this. The terms enumerated are incredibly broad, no doubt deliberately so. They could conceivably cover almost any situation. It's unseasonably cold here in Texas, but this gives me an extra chill.

Now factor in that $385 million contract KBR got last year to build a string of detention camps in the USA. Stir in a Cantarell-driven implosion of the Mexican economy and a bit of Global Warming in Mexico driving a flood of migrants northward. A tweak to Posse Comitatus, and hey presto! Instant martial law...

Homeland Security Contracts for Vast New Detention Camps

I hate the idea of being branded a conspiracy theorist, but there sure are a lot of ducks in that row.

"I hate the idea of being branded a conspiracy theorist, but there sure are a lot of ducks in that row."

That kind of branding can be easily circumvented by avoiding conspiracy theories altogether. I don't think you need them. Everything the Bush administration has done so far can be consistently summerized in one term: "idiocy". I don't need a conspiracy theory to see that these people are absolutely clueless. Every single one of their endless chain of failures is a clear mark that we are simply dealing with a flock of doofus.

1. i don't really think bush is behind it. he is too dumb to be anything but the figurehead that can be cast aside once his usefulness is over.

2. these things make little to no sense otherwise.

I like to think of our president as the 10 year old boy taken on by a street gang as a mascot. They encourage him to think that he is in charge.

RFID in passports ... at last something in relating to conspiracty theories where a little tin foil or [more likely aluminum foil] would be extremely effective. :<)

re: Bush speach: And we think the price of tortilla is high now?

It is hard to believe that we are about to go down this road. First tortillas go thru the roof in Mexico, now what... do meat, and all the substitute feed-stocks: soy, wheat, barley follow? And what if the weather doesn't cooperate?

Arragh... it's bad enough to suck all the oil from the ground. Must we destroy the soils that feed us? Suck the aquifers dry?

To go back to RR's argument... if ethanol is 1.3 units of energy out for 1 unit in and .3 of the output units are mash residues that we feed to animals... we get nothing from this in terms of transportation benefit. NOTHING!!!

Huh? What do you mean we get nothing out of this? Of course we do! It was government pork all along. Some business people get rich, some farmers stay in business. Local politicians get the votes. Washington wastes your tax dollars on another vote purchase. That is EXACTLY what this was meant to do and it has achieved its goals formidably. Of course, if you EVER thought the goal was to gain energy independence... shame on you.

IP... I can deal with gov't pork. What I can't deal with is ethanol. The silliness of it drives me crazy. Not in the most far-fetched science fiction did man power his world with corn mash.


Ethanol, like many bad ideas, will have to run its course. It will die, eventually. After it has burnt the farm down and the fox has guarded the chicken coop.

Care to back up this assertion with a date? Lets make it easier. How about giving us a general timeframe of when you think ethanol is set to die?

"How about giving us a general timeframe of when you think ethanol is set to die?"

About the same time people will come to realize that corn is used to make their tortilla chips and that 1 gallon worth of ethanol contains as much energy as is needed to feed 12 people. So if your daily intake of tortilla chips is 1/20th of your diet (I and your cardiologist sincerely hope that you don't eat more of that stuff than that), every gallon of fuel ethanol is equivalent to the tortilla chip consumption of 240 Americans. Filling an SUV up with E85 ONCE is therefor equivalent to the daily consumption of 4080 Americans.

You should keep that in mind when you buy a bag next time and it is more expensive than it was last month. And keep voting. You might just change a thing or two in Washington.


This is such a fun numbers game... 1 SUV tank equals 4080 tortilla munching days for Americans. So one SUV filled up once a week equals 52 tank fillings in 356 days or 581 Americans buying chips in total. You can figure out how many Americans will be out of tortilla chips when all SUVs are fueled all the time on E85. The answer, of course, is: ALL of us... unless we raise the price for corn to the point where SUV drivers can't afford E85 any longer.


And there's how much corn in a bag of tortilla chips? 1 cent? And next month my tortillas are going to cost me what, 1 cent more? Maybe 2 cents?

Here's a better example.

The amount of subsidized GM corn it takes to make a gallon of ethanol is roughly the same amount as that needed to make 2 16oz T-bones. Thus, according to your logic, every time someone eats a steak, 5 people starve.

Perhaps that's something you should keep in mind.

"According to your logic, every time someone eats a steak, 10 people starve."

That is not so according to my logic but according to the energetics of animal farming. Indeed, if some of us ate less steak, none of us would have to starve.

You do realize that some people in this world are starving, don't you?

And you do realize that YOU could stop that, if YOU wanted to, don't you?

At least I hope you do. To acknowledge the reality of their misery is the least amount of decency you can show to those who are starving. But maybe some of us are simply better off living in denial?

Take a deep breath... and relax there IP. Your patronizing remarks do nothing to support your position that ethanol is going to die or that corn ethanol starves people anymore than meat production does.

And your ideas about the primary motives for ethanol production do nothing to increase its very poor EROEI.


Care to back up this assertion with a date? Lets make it easier. How about giving us a general timeframe of when you think ethanol is set to die?

1-when corn costs $5/bushel, that's when it becomes unprofitable (unless our politicians decide to raise the subsidy to keep that Iowa caucus healthy)!
2-when people start protesting about the high cost of their food
3-when we establish an accepted trajectory towards electric cars

Yes, please do go back to Robert's argument about ethanol and ask him again, "What is -in his opinion- the most important question concerning ethanol production"?

And for your consideration... There are many ways to make ethanol from many sources, not just corn. IP of course doesn't want to tell you this nor does he wish to admit that a lot of the 'pork' funding he rails about, has been allocated to further development of 2nd and 3rd gen ethanol production paths.

IP wishes to tell you that the bare energy that goes into one gallon of gas (36MJ) worth of ethanol can feed roughly four people for a day (one person = 2000kCal = 8.4MJ). And this does NOT take any of the inefficiencies of the ethanol production process into account at all. It is a lower estimate that no production process can beat unless it violates the energy conservation law (good luck with that one).

Realistically we are looking at converting the food source for a dozen people into fuel with current technology.

Filling up 20 gallon SUV tanks with E85 once therefor costs as much as the food starch for some 100-200 people.

Good luck feeding your children AND driving your SUVs on ethanol.


Apparently the latest inflation numbers show some very high food price increases: Peak Oil + Peak Food + Peak Debt. Cut thy spending and get thee to the non-discretionary side of the economy.

WT, I posted to you a couple of days ago on an old thread you probably didn't see.

This is a byline of a poster on another energy board.

Our pending energy supply contraction
= no economic growth
= no debt service
= chaos.

I find it useful to go back and re-read "The Rainwater Prophecy" from the 12/05 issue of Fortune every few months. The link is posted down the thread. An excerpt follows:

What concerns him most is the conflict that he thinks an oil shortage will precipitate. What happens when people get blindsided by prices rocketing past any level they have contemplated—especially when you factor in other challenges America faces? "We've got a lot of things going on simultaneously," he says. "The world as we know it is unwinding with respect to Social Security, pensions, Medicare. We're going to have dramatically increased taxes in the U.S. I believe we're going into a world where there's going to be more hostility. More people are going to be asking, 'Why did God do this to us?' Whatever God they worship. Alfred Sloan said it a long time ago at General Motors, that we're giving these things during good times. What happens in bad times? We're going to have to take them back, and then everybody will riot.' And he's right."

A 14% increase in the price of tortillas does not a roof smashing metaphor make, nor for that matter, is the ethanol industry to blame for Mexico's state of corn production.

this seems as good a place as any to drop my two cents.
for years it's been u.s. subsidized corn dumped on the mexican ( and other) markets that has driven down there production. Mexico is more than able to meet there own grain needs and probably produce enough to start exporting to the u.s. That's right, the u.s a grain importer to meet ethanol requirements.
that said, I think trying to drive our top soil is the single worst experiment in our age

Here are two interesting features of USA trade policy :

* The USA is allowed to have tariff barriers to keep out Brazilian ethanol. Heck, without that, there could be no domestic ethanol production from corn! Energy independence for the USA is a goal which justifies trade barriers.

* Mexico is not allowed to have tariff barriers to keep out US corn. Food independence for Mexico is not a legitimate goal.

Whether KSA has that spare capacity is obviously an ongoing topic on TOD. I am wondering why the Saudis seem to have reversed 180 deg. on the issue of price support. One possibility is that they need the cash flow at any price and don't want to cut more. They may be so afraid of a world recession that they now believe that they need the short term pain to avoid that possibility. The second could be that they do have a coordinated effort with the USA vis a vis Iran. The aim would be the often stated theory that they want to economically weaken Iran with low oil prices. It does seem that the latest US explanation of Iraqi insurgency is that it is mostly due to Iranian support and supply of the Shia fighters. The "surg" strategy seems to be to turn most of Baghdad into a green zone since that is where most of the sectarian violence is taking place and take control of the Iranian border. The first should reduce all casualities and help politically at home, the second placates the Saudi royal family by showing that the Suni minority will be protected. It also puts US troops into forward positions to pressure Iran pending any action against the nuclear facilities. Perhaps the hope is that by economically weakening Iran over the next few months that an attack will not be necessary. This would be very attractive option to the KSA and other gulf states instead of the war option that might close the gulf to oil shipments for a significan time. That situation would really hit their cash flow.
I am sure there are other theories to explain the Saudi position that I havent thought of, but I fnd their latest position very strange.
Whatever the mechanism actually driving prices down, conspiratorial or simply market movements, if these prices persist and go lower many expensive E&P and enhanced recovery projects will be postponed, some perhaps forever. Perhaps those doing the calculations need to watch this as it migh move the peak for non-conventional oil a bit closer.

If the substantial decline in KSA production to this point is voluntary, that rules out this bizarre idea of a scheme to starve Iran.

I agree .. but IF is a big word .. obviously none of us are privy to any behind the scenes activity so it is all speculation .. but has there actually been a reduction in Saudi output?

No one knows. Dante, PO.com's Poster of the Year, has been keeping an eye on it. According to him, Oil Movements says Saudi is cheating, and producing more than their quota. But Petrologistics says the opposite: that production is falling, and the promised cut in production has been accomplished.

Just goes to show...no one can even say for sure how much oil is produced, let alone how much is left.

If you ran the two scenarios of OPEC cheating vs. advertised production cuts being implemented succesfully, how much would you think will that move the geological peak oil date? A few weeks? A few months? Just curious... I don't think it actually matters at all in the real world.

Where's our "insider" Down Under when you need him most?

Hit the enter key now and then to

Start a new paragraph

For easier reading



imo sa is, as happened in 98, unhappy that others are not meeting the nov cuts, not least venezuela. The latter has been most vocal calling for an emergency meeting... note that the companies working there have announced force majeure, and that cuts will be retroactive to jan 1, imo in response to the sa announcement. Perhaps a meeting will, after all, be held this month.

Monster Bunnies For North Korea

An east German pensioner who breeds rabbits the size of dogs has been asked by North Korea to help set up a big bunny farm to alleviate food shortages in the communist country.

Does this make me think of Jurassic Park, or it is something else?

i see chickens the size of apartments buildings, sheep the size of parking lots, cows the size of small towns.

Maybe it's Godzilla i was thinking of.

cows the size of small towns.

Plug a discharge gas pipe into the rear end of those small town sized ruminants and voila - an inexhaustible supply of cheap energy. The meta-suburbs fuel themselves!! Peak Oil solved!!

Actually, cow farts aren't the issue, it's cow burps. They burp out on average 270 liters of methane a day. You'd have to put face masks on all of them....

I heard this about cows and GW gases.

I wonder

How much CO2 6 billion people breathing put out per day?

"How much CO2 6 billion people breathing put out per day?"

Pretty much the same amount our agriculture recaptures from the atmosphere since people are not eating much of fossilized carbon from oil wells but plants that got all their carbon through photosynthesis. It is called the carbon cycle...

In other words: humans do not contribute to GW by breathing. We cause it by burning coal, oil, natural gas and by destroying ecosystems.

You're thinking of 'Food of the Gods,' b-movie based on story by HG Wells...

'At first it was all 'Ooh and Aah', then it was all running and screaming..'

Didn't Nick Park do a Doc on this bunny last year?


I just hope that Alan Grant can keep this Hare from slipping over to Australia.. the poor Kanga's have suffered enough.. and that Rabbit Proof Fence will never hold these Coneys!

I swear that picture looks photoshopped. Actually, I suspect a wide-angle lens to make the bunny look larger than it really is. Look at the size of the man's hand in comparison to the size of his face, for example, and then use the size of the hand as an indication of the size of the bunny.

As for North Korea, the bunnys may well taste good, but maybe they ought to be talking to the Cubans instead about how to live in a world with little oil. Of course the North Koreans have a bigger problem - a kooky leader.

the North Koreans have a bigger problem - a kooky leader

Yes, I am aware of how much trouble a kooky leader can get a nation into :-(


It was a wide-angle lens, but those bunnies can get large. We have a French Lop pet in our house that weighs 15 lbs. and people ohh and ahh at its size, but it is a whimp compared to those Continental Giants. It would be interesting to have a 23 lb. bunny-rabbit jumping up on the kitchen counter!

Here's a photo of a Continental Giant photographed by an American rabbit breeder who brought some over last year from England to introduce them to this country

And a couple of Youtube videos, Slow-motion Giant running around, Another Giant on a workbench. I'd get one myself if they were readily available in the US.
According this article, "These rabbits originated in Gent near Antwerp where secret societies met in the 19th Century every week. They bred their rabbits for weight above all else and had weigh ins at every meeting. Breeders were fined for no shows. Pubs still exist with links to these clubs."

..........an American rabbit breeder who brought some over last year from England to introduce them to this country.

Yeah, bring giant rabbits over here, great idea. Rabbits do only two things, and they do them both well. The first is eat.

CNN headline June 30, 2008:

Invasive species eats entire US biofuel crop

Ever heard of the Rabbit proof fence?


This is what happens when you introduce a non-native species.

It's not always a problem.

The European Hare was introduced to North America a century ago (accidentally).

Now, unlike in Australia, they are just part of the local wildlife mix.


It is a bit of trick photography using a short focal length making the object in the foreground appear larger than it really is. The rabbit in the picture does weigh 23 lb. I'm not sure why this is news-worthy. 15 to 20 lb rabbits are par for the course at our local county fair. These large breeds look even bigger than they are bc/ their coat is so thick.

Actually breeding rabbits for meat isn't such a bad idea if you're a meat eater. They are very efficient in turning food into meat- far more so than beef, and at least for now they are still raised the old-fashioned way without the disgusting economy of scale farming that puts beef and chicken in our grocery stores.

Rabbit poop also makes great fertilizer for the garden.

It's a Jack-a-lope!
Not sure where I got that from, Bloom County?

Boone Pickens was interviewed by phone on CNBC this morning. He stood by his 11/06 prediction that we would be back to $70 oil before $50 this year, although it's getting very close.

He said he was not surprised at the downturn in oil prices, given the lack--until recently--of a winter, but he said that he was surprised that oil prices have fallen this much.

And so the spin begins!!! Looks like we, and I mean that collectively, are going to start coming up with excuse after excuse to 'explain away' the anomaly of oil prices declining. Tell me WT, if oil hits $45 or even $40, in the next 6 months, is that still because of the warm weather?

Tell me WT, if oil hits $45 or even $40, in the next 6 months, is that still because of the warm weather?

It depends. What is interesting is what we are not seeing--higher crude oil production.

As you may know, Boone Pickens and Richard Rainwater have pretty good reputations for business acumen. These two gentlemen are explicitly warning about the dangers posed by Peak Oil. Rainwater called it the first scenario that made him concerned about the "survival of mankind."

I found it particularly interesting that someone like Rainwater, with essentially a flawless investment track record, is increasing his ability to grow his own food and integrating himself into small town life in the Carolinas. In effect, he is implementing ELP for billionaires.

Just curious as to what you recommend? MMM?

Maximize your spending?

Maximize your commute?

Maximize your consumption?

Maximize your delusion!

Ridiculous. I'm a penny pusher when it comes to buying things. Very rarely do I splurge on anything, as I usually wait until something is broken or about to break to replace anything. The last 2 years I've driven a combined total of 6000 miles, granted all in a SUV I purchased for moving purposes when I was in college, and unaware of the consequences. On average, I bet I use about 1/3rd the energy that my fellow average joe americans use.

How about you Veganmaster ~_~

I added up our energy use the other day: we need 350kWh of electricity at home per month (that is for two people!). This amount of power can be generated with 25m^2 of PV which fit easily on our useful roof area. The two of us use roughly the same amount of electricity at work. Makes another 25m^2 on top of the buildings we work in. My combined office/lab space has a area larger than that and all the buildings I work in have ideal roof structures and are exposed to sun most of the year. We would need another 30m^2 of area to power a first generation EV to be energy neutral for our commute - that's less than the combined parking lot areas we have for our car. Similar arguments can be made for solar heating and the roof areas that are not suitable for PV. I could end up with a positive energy budget for that as well.

And I would think that the existing hydro and nuclear plants together with wind etc. are enough to provide us with food and the other essential services without having to import large amounts of oil and natural gas and without burning large amounts of coal.

Putting it all together, the essentials of life can be covered. There are luxuries like intercontinental flights. We might have to cut back on that a little. I assume we could do that.

In other words: I see absolutely no reason why I personally can't be close to being energy neutral. I live very well, by the way.

I see absolutely no reason why I personally can't be close to being energy neutral.


IP, the only time in your life that you are going to be "energy neutral" is that nano-second of time between the moment when your heart stops and the moment when the worms begin to eat you.

Like I said... I made a spreadsheet with my MEASURED energy consumption and I came out fairly well. I can estimate the total investment needed to become energy neutral over the course of the next twenty years to be around $2000 a year. Roughly half of that cost would have to be paid by myself and roughly half of it would be paid by my employer (for the energy I use to do my job). And that cost is based on PV, alone, thus not even taking advantage of much cheaper wind energy!

In any case we are talking about a few percent increase in the cost of living and producing. This is certainly nothing that will kill us. It would not even set the economy back because most of these investments go into industrial products like insulation, triple glazed windows, water heaters, solar cells, new vehicles etc.. And since most of these could be produced in the US, they would greatly reduce our foreign trade deficit and decrease unemployment.

You can argue with me about this, if you want to. I am certain that my numbers are quite realistic since I know my electricity bill and I know how much I spend on gas, natural gas, to pay for my commute etc.. None of this is rocket science. It's more like home economy.

I am planning to order an electric power meter tonight and measure how much energy we could still save on the refrigerator and the other appliances if we optimized their use a bit (the fridge is probably set too cold right now but I want to see if it makes much of a difference). Our next car (purchase due in 2009 or 2010 latest) is certainly going to be much more efficient than our current car, so that is going to help a lot. And better insulation for the windows is in the works, which should get us 10-20% down on the heating bill next year.

Sadly enough, I am maxed out on CFLs and LED based high efficiency lights are not quite there, yet.

As you can see... it is fun to minimize ones energy footprint. And not that hard, after all.

I added up our energy use the other day: we need 350kWh of electricity...

Your enegry use is 'just' electricity? Oh, how did you make all the energy you use become JUST electricity?

This amount of power can be generated with 25m^2 of PV which fit easily on our useful roof area. The two of us use roughly the same amount of electricity at work. Makes another 25m^2 on top of the buildings we work in.

Ok... they are your numbers.

In other words: I see absolutely no reason why I personally can't be close to being energy neutral. I live very well, by the way.

If you never have to buy a KWH from the local power monopoly, you still arn't energy neutral. Alot of energy you use is via the breaking of chemical bonds....not just your power bill.

Not to mention all the people who go into making things amd providing services to you....how many of them own land and can afford some PV panels?

The end of cheap energy isn't just a you problem.

"Your enegry use is 'just' electricity? Oh, how did you make all the energy you use become JUST electricity?"

No. My directly measured energy use is for electricity, natural gas for heating, gas for the car. Indirectly I am also using andvpaying for energy that goes into the food I eat and the goods I buy, etc.. And while I do not have direct measurements for that energy, I can estimate it from statistics the US government prepares for me.

"Ok... they are your numbers."

Yes. They are my numbers. Everyone else can just as easily look at theirs and then come up with ways to reduce them. Just like I did by installing more efficient lights, appliances etc.. Per person our home uses less than 175kWh/month when averaged over the year. That is around 6kWh per day and thus 250W of power on average. With PV we get roughly 20W/m^2 where we live, resulting in a 12.5m^2 system requirement per person. And I am not even claiming this is good. I bet a lot of people are doing MUCH better! I would love to hear how well they are doing and how they are doing it.

"If you never have to buy a KWH from the local power monopoly, you still aren't energy neutral."

What I said was that I could become energy neutral on my electricity and heating bill at home with the roof area I have available locally. My employer could do the same at my workplace (actually, it turns out that he could generate way more electricity than we use for the company). Similarly, the energy for my commute can be generated using the areas that are already developed to let me park the car and board the bus and trains. As for the food: farms have enormous areas of land that are unused for agricultural production (e.g. the barn roof) and solar as well as wind fit right in there. Many people "bemoan" the methane problem that stems from farming animals, yet, few farms have methane reactors. I could go on to enumerate the potential to generate energy and offset my needs Watt by Watt.

"Not to mention all the people who go into making things amd providing services to you....how many of them own land and can afford some PV panels?"

Like I said... I don't own much area useful for PV. On our house it is porbably not more than 30-40m^2. But I was positively surprised that it was actually enough, even with currently available low efficiency cells.

Even if you don't own land or a house, you have to live somewhere. All my previous rental apartments had copious amounts of roof space to develop for PV. There are already companies which rent roof spaces from building owners and install solar modules in return for fixed pricing schemes on solar energy. I expect to see much more of that in the future and I expect a lot of rental apartments to participate.

And please don't get me wrong: PV is by no means the cheapest way to generate electricity from renewable sources. Wind is far cheaper. Which is only one reason why most utilities which offer green energy invest in wind more than they invest in solar. As far as PG&E goes, they probably spend most of their green energy income on their CFL program right now (I would have to check) because for now a 20$ contribution can buy half a dozen CFLs which can save much more energy than can be generated for the same amount with PV... It makes sense to spend on conservation as long as it is cheaper than new generation capacity. I don't think we have nearly exhausted that potential, yet.

"The end of cheap energy isn't just a you problem."

You are right. It is not just my problem. But if I don't start to conserve and replace, who will? As far as I can tell somebody has to pick up the tab and in the end it will always be you and me. So if I can do something to make that tab smaller, I make a contribution.

Now, you will say, how about the guy who drives an SUV, how about China? To be perfectly honest with you, I don't care shit about the guy with the SUV and China. The guy is an adult and has the right to waste his money any way he likes. And China is a sovereign country and I have no way of telling them what they should do. I certainly can't start a war over this issue. And I don't think I would have to. China has its own problems and they will solve them their own way. I will, at the same time, solve my problems MY WAY. And I don't want them to tell me what to do, either.

My way of solving my energy problems starts with accounting for my energy use QUANTITATIVELY. And then I take measures to reduce it and to create generation capcity which does not suffer from PO and does not generate copious amount of GHG. Some of what I did in the past was more succesful than I hoped for. I will have to do better in the future.

Solar panels are not as cheap as you seem to think that they are. You seem to be looking for 80 m2 of solar panels. 200w panels will cost you $50,000 for the panels alone. Of course, this is 10kw peak. Kinda a lot. You want trackers for these? Probably another $25,000. Inverters? Batteries so you can store a couple days worth of power for cloudy days?(holy crap, batteries are expensive if you want to store a lot of power) Don't forget all of the copper you will need to get that 200A(48v) of sunlight to your inverters. I hope you are doing all of the labor yourself.

What percentage of the population do you think will also have $200,000 to put into solar panels? And you say you have ALREADY reduced your consumption as much as possible?

How expensive does electricity have to be for you to post a 24 hr guard to prevent your less fortunate neighbors from liberating your panels?

Please return to reality InfinitePossibilities. We are waiting for you.

{Edited price of PV panels because I typed in the wrong number}

We got a good deal and I mounted the panels but a professional installer did all the wiring/inverter/electrical work. We put them in 2 years ago for about 20,000 (just under 10,000 after rebate) and we get the 350 kWh/mo he's wanting for his home. Triple the system would have been 60,000. If I didn't do the work, add perhaps 10%. Anyway, nowhere near 200,000. They are costly, but he was powering home, office and car for 30-40 years in his proposal. How much gas would a person buy over that time in an SUV?

Please keep in mind that we already have renwables in our energy mix. Hydroelectric dams will not go away. Neither will we shut down nuclear power plants and coal fired plants for a long time to come. The challenge of solar and wind is therefor not to replace 100% of the energy mix in a short term but to provide a long term change in the way we generate energy.

We need to stop the escalation of our demand, increase efficiency of what we use and SLOWLY turn finite sources into renewables. The timescales we are talking about are measured in decades. Germany, for example, wants to be energy independent by 2050. That is still 43 years from now!

So why would I need 10kW of peak capacity on my roof? That would be 1.6kW of continuous power generation capacity at my location, probably somewhat more. But I only use about 500W at home!

What do I need batteries for? I do not intend to become independent of the grid but only to offset my energy use. The grid is not just an energy transport mechanism but for all practical purposes also a storage device. What I can't generate one day, I can give back the other. The net savings in peak load and burned coal are still real.

"Don't forget all of the copper you will need to get that 200A(48v) of sunlight to your inverters."

That would be a few ten feet of AWG8 or AWG6 per panel. The total retail cost of the wire will come to $5 for a $500-$1000 panel or less. What are you trying to say? That you don't know how electrical installations work?

"What percentage of the population do you think will also have $200,000 to put into solar panels? "

A few tenths of a percent - the techno geeks with more money than brains. Most everyone else will buy systems that will offset 25-85% of their average consumption and these will cost on the order of $1500-3000 per year for capital cost and maintenance. People will get as much as they can afford. And the ones who don't get panels themselves will pay for solar energy with their electricity bill. In CA the current solar program raises the cost of electricity by a fraction of a cent per kWh. In return we don't have to build several new power plants. We call that a success.

"How expensive does electricity have to be for you to post a 24 hr guard to prevent your less fortunate neighbors from liberating your panels?"

Unlike you I live in a good neighborhood whithout any known events of burglary for at least the past decade. I guess living on the right side of the tracks helps to have a sane relationship to reality.


Richard Rainwater is only 'concerned for the survival of the human race' in the sense of looking at the best and worst case scenarios that we face. At worst, our survival might be at stake. Don't try to spin one of his outlooks to support your views.

Don't try to spin one of his outlooks to support your views.


Could you educate us as to how my views differ from Mr. Rainwater's views?

Published on 12 Dec 2005 by Fortune. Archived on 13 Dec 2005.
The Rainwater Prophecy
by Oliver Ryan

The next blowup, however, looms so large that it scares and confuses him. For the past few months he's been holed up in hard-core research mode—reading books, academic studies, and, yes, blogs. Every morning he rises before dawn at one of his houses in Texas or South Carolina or California (he actually owns a piece of Pebble Beach Resorts) and spends four or five hours reading sites like LifeAftertheOilCrash.net or DieOff.org, obsessively following links and sifting through data. How worried is he? He has some $500 million of his $2.5 billion fortune in cash, more than ever before. "I'm long oil and I'm liquid," he says. "I've put myself in a position that if the end of the world came tomorrow I'd kind of be prepared." He's also ready to move fast if he spots an opening.

His instincts tell him that another enormous moneymaking opportunity is about to present itself, what he calls a "slow pitch down the middle." But, at 61, wealthier and happier than ever before, Rainwater finds himself reacting differently this time. He's focused more on staying rich than on getting richer. But there's something else too: a sort of billionaire-style civic duty he feels to get a conversation started. Why couldn't energy prices skyrocket, with grave repercussions, not just economic but political? As industry analysts debate whether the world's oil production is destined to decline, the prospect makes him itchy.

"This is a nonrecurring event," he says. "The 100-year flood in Houston real estate was one, the ability to buy oil and gas really cheap was another, and now there's the opportunity to do something based on a shortage of natural resources. Can you make money? Well, yeah. One way is to just stay long domestic oil. But there may be something more important than making money. This is the first scenario I've seen where I question the survivability of mankind. I don't want the world to wake up one day and say, 'How come some doofus billionaire in Texas made all this money by being aware of this, and why didn't someone tell us?'"

Rainwater sides with the imminent peak crowd, and can rattle off facts to back up his argument. "In 1988 there were 15 million barrels a day of shut-in production"—meaning surplus that could be tapped—"and the world was using about 55 million barrels of oil. Today the world is using over 80 million, and there's no shut-in production left. We've used it up, through the combination of depletion and growth." In other words, the spigot can't be opened any wider.

What concerns him most is the conflict that he thinks an oil shortage will precipitate. What happens when people get blindsided by prices rocketing past any level they have contemplated—especially when you factor in other challenges America faces? "We've got a lot of things going on simultaneously," he says. "The world as we know it is unwinding with respect to Social Security, pensions, Medicare. We're going to have dramatically increased taxes in the U.S. I believe we're going into a world where there's going to be more hostility. More people are going to be asking, 'Why did God do this to us?' Whatever God they worship. Alfred Sloan said it a long time ago at General Motors, that we're giving these things during good times. What happens in bad times? We're going to have to take them back, and then everybody will riot.' And he's right."

. . . He pauses. "I just want people to look out. 'Cause it could be bad."

I am very glad to see how concerned we are about our billionaires. It's not like this dying breed could take care of itself. They do need our constant attention and conservation measures to stay wealthy. And in return of our steady efforts, they philosophize for us about the things we need and will miss to the point of starting deadly riots: SUVs and low taxes for billionaires.



Rainwater is a very savvy investor, and has made a lot of money with good timing. That doesn't mean he can't make mistakes. If he was obsessively reading dieoff.org, then he was being badly misled. Remember, he wasn't finished doing research at the time of this article. He has been very quiet lately. That could be a desire for privacy, or perhaps it's embarrassment....

Thank you Nick, you took the words right out of my mouth :)

I'm waiting for your imminent rebuttal, WT.

Based on a recent conversation with him, his views on Peak Oil have not changed, but the Fortune article was a one shot deal. He is seeking less publicity, not more.


On the one hand, he can answer the old question:"if you're so smart, how come you're not rich?"

On the other hand, he was reading dieoff.org, kunstler, and LATOC, all hotbeds of misinformation.

I'm reminded of the Hunt brothers, who lost it all in the 80's speculating on peak silver.

On the 3rd hand, my personal estimate is that we face roughly a 10% chance of a catastrophic cutoff of imported oil causing a depression("any economic downturn where real GDP declines by more than 10 percent"), and roughly a 20% chance of a oil depletion rate that will be quite painful, causing a significant recession. So, I may not be far from his thinking.

Heck, G Bush has a ranch that's relatively energy independent...

"If you're so smart, how come you're not rich?"

Interesting framing of a question, Nick.

(Yes, I know you're saying the opposite about Rainwater --that he is "rich" and semi-famous and thus no one will question whether he is "smart"-- ... but on the fourth hand, how did you grow a 3rd hand and how do you manage so many appendages?)

We humans make many strange noises: "smart" (versus "stupid") and "rich" (versus "poor" and or un-famous?).

Do we even understand that many of these noises project imagery that is completely out of whack with physical reality? This morning I was watching the Governor of Kansas (what's wrong with them?) talking about "sources" of energy and mouthing off about bio-deisel and ethanol. What is a "source"? If I store money in a bank, does that make the bank a "source" of money? If I store jam in a glass jar, does that make the jar a "source" of jam? Sheesh.

Back to the "smart" thing, though. There are many types of cognition.

Some people are "socially smart" in that they understand group dynamics.

Some people are mathematically smart in that they know how to manipulate mathematical concepts and yet they may be blind and clueless about group dynamics --they might be "nerds".

And so on.

Some people are "capitalist smart" --they know how to turn a "profit" over and over again to the point that their "wealth" piles up on itself. But does that make them "smart" in any other areas?

Are we "smart" to believe that every rich guy is a genius?

The "smart" guys got us into this mess --then they were smart enough to "re-deploy" themselves to some other place.

Well, on the 4th hand(!) Rainwater made a lot of his money speculating on oil, so he's not a bad authority.

On the 5th hand(!!), he could have been lucky, or he could have been right once, and wrong now.

I give his opinion some weight, but ultimately I have to ignore him, because he's unwilling to talk about it, and I have to trust my own judgement. He seems to not have access to info we don't have. An authority is only helpful if he's willing to explain his opinion.

An authority is only helpful if he's willing to explain his opinion.


What tells you about Rainwater is that Warren Buffett and Bill Gates have chosen to use their billions to try to solve some of the problems they see.

So has George Soros, who has spent literally billions promoting democracy and human rights in former communist countries, and has spoken publicly against the anti democratic tendencies of the current US Administration.

For a fraction of Rainwater's wealth, he could alert the world to the dangers of global warming and of peak oil-- $100 million would buy a lot of air time on cable tv. Instead, he hunkers down and imagines that whatever government takes over in the US of A, it will allow him to keep his wealth and his lands.

Go back to other crisis periods in US history such as the Revolutionary War and the Reconstruction. I think the central case is that the state governments and their militias become increasingly powerful, and run quasi-socialistic regimes to assume control of key resources. The US has always awarded strong powers to the regional governments, and even more so post Reconstruction.

Maybe Rainwater's game is that he will be able to be one of these feudal overlords in a quasi-militaristic state (think modern Pakistan) able to influence what goes on to his benefit. Such has usually been the case with strong land owners (think the historic political culture of West Virginia or Mississippi).

But Rainwater tells Forbes it is an amazing thing how God has given him this power to foresee this, and to make ready.

I suspect God has an ironic twist in mind for Mr. Rainwater. If you read your Bible, he usually does for those who claim to understand his purpose ;-).


The price of oil does not change the geology of the planet.

But the geology of the planet can change the price of oil.

I never thought , for one minute that the price would be a straight line graph increasing with time.

Life and the price of oil is going to go through a roller coaster ride over the next few years.

Predicting exact pricing along with predicting the precise date of PO is a mugs game.

Dont worry , unless there are 5 new and virgin KSA's out there (somewhere) then PO is an inevitability. A half-decade here or there is neither here nor there.

punters like wt are just trying their best to guess when peak comes... it seems logical that if oil production plateaus and the world continues growing prices will rise. Of course, high prices reached last year naturally encourage efficiency, and other things, not least weather, affect consumption and price.

So, price is even harder to predict than production. Regarding the latter, imo production was flat 06/05, surprising all of freddy's punters, presumably because, while new production came on line as expected, old field declines, esp in sa, were more than expected in spite of very substantial new investment.

I remain betting on prices turning up - had a fabulous 05, now down 20% from 06 highs. Frankly, I see energy investments as a prudent hedge against a likely, albeit not certain, energy poor future. Indeed, I see jan 06 as an excellent entry point... US all liquids commercial stocks are down to normal after the mid oct peak; winter may be turning a bit colder; opec is naturally pissed and may be getting its act together; world growth continues very healthy; old giant fields are one year older than last year and the water level is rising fast; terrorists still can't sleep as they try to figure out how to stop persian gulf oil from reaching the west; and, a second carrier battle group is headed for the persian gulf, the same number we used for the iraq invasion.

Of course, no one, neither wt or freddy, can see the future. Production might go up, sa might be successful, for a while, in increasing production on account of the huge rig increase, the weather might remain mild, world growth might go south, bush might even go rational. Nevertheless, IMO the chances of oil going much higher is much better than much lower from this point... place your bets, or place no bets; everybody looks at the available evidence and takes their best shot.

I think that at the cusp of peak oil (nowish), the ability of the oil producing nations to just turn on the taps on demand fail. At this time, above ground effects are amplified and these effects can be manifested in a more volatile price regime.

They can go up or down.

Hidden beneath the waves, and not yet truly manifest is multiple- region depletion (ME, Mexico, North Sea etc).

So the true impact of depletion is hidden. At least at the start.

Above ground effects (or lack of at any given time), such as warm winters,terrorism, hijackings, demand destruction in the poorest nations etc will have great impact and cause swings in price.

As we go further into peak, and unless new streams from yet-to-be-discovered supergiants or completely new regions are discovered, then the masking effect on price of the above ground considerations will give way to a uniform ramping up of price. As inexorably, regional depletion takes over.

Remember. Campbell and all the old prophets were warning us about PO when oil was circa 15 US/bbl...

The Geology has not changed.
Technology cannot find oil where oil there is not.

The next few years will be a volatile roller coaster.

At least this will be the case until it is patently obvious to all sides of the argument that flows cannot be sustained or improved upon - However benign the above ground considerations are at the time.

To sustain or improve on current flows, then we will need to discover more KSA / Kuwait /Daqing / Cantarell sized fields.

Essentially, this means discovering hitherto unknown Geological provences and regions, not just new fields in a known region.

Over the last few years, we have been scrabbling around in some pretty bleak locations, for example: Falklands / South Atlantic. IMO we are getting desparate, and have been for some time.

A worrying trend is when an announcement is made that a 'major' field has been found and it is actually less than 1 billion barrels! Jack is classic.

Propaganda for 'home consumption' only.

It is time to consider that the Earth is pretty well explored. Oil is found under a fairly tight set circumstances and that though the earth is large, oil is geologically confined.

Sure, the odd billion barrel find will occur.
Who knows , even the North Sea may have a couple of surprises left.

But. The overarching problem is: Where are the Ghawars and the Cantarells? - The fields that can deliver 1 million bbls / day + ?

We are still in the early stages of this problem.

One swallow a summer does not make.

Ultimately prices will go up as the true nature of the problem reveals itself.

I think that at the cusp of peak oil (nowish)

This reminded me of the quote by someone that went something like;

The Future is Already Here, It's Just Not Uniformly Distributed Yet

To sustain or improve on current flows, then we will need to discover more KSA / Kuwait /Daqing / Cantarell sized fields.


I don't know how Anyone can get past the graph of Discoveries by itself, or vs Production. or The fact that consumption has been 4-6ish greater than the dicovery rate.(ie Oil to Oil consume/find replacement)should be all that is needed to know that we have a problem.

Of course I would also say as soon as one understood population growth and it's consumption rates(like; Bartlett's pop. math progressions) you also know we are in way past trouble.

I look at the financial sphere and see liquidity growing at the same rates. Growth Can't go on.

I picture the volume of leveraged money notation growing up like a wave moving towards a coastline. In our case the slope of the hill is the physical economy and so the top of the volume of the wave OVERRUNS the lower levels and we have a crest and crashing on the shoreline.

Hothgor - the price is a function of supply AND demand. The concept of peak oil is only concerned with the supply side. People who look to the price as a confirmation or rebuttal of peak oil are mistaken. You need to look at the actual supply of oil for confirmation or rebuttal of peak oil and the jury is still out. But don't delude yourself that because prices have dropped that we can't possibly be at peak oil.

I disagree. In a Pre-peak marketplace, one can deflate prices by increased supply and refinery infrastructure. Surplus capacity. However in a demand driven environment post-peak, we will eventually have a ton of surplus capacity that will not assist pricing.

Prices will find a balance betw recession causing highs and reversal of demand destruction troughing; but the trend will be up. IMHO. Having said that, strong regional technical economic Recessions or one region having a Severe Recession could dampen global demand to the extent that it brings in a temporary new trough cycle.

Currently, we know that acquisition pricing of $55 seems to be the tipping point for significant demand destruction. Void of significant g-20 Recessions, it is likely that oil will rise a buck a quarter with the background of rising per capita income in non-oecd nations gnawing as a demand component.

Winter is not over yet. From A Depression in Natural Gas Prices May Prove Bullish For China:

But less than ten days ago, AccuWeather’s Chief Long-Range Forecaster Joe Bastardi wrote: “This winter could parallel severe winters of the past.” For the energy bears, Bastardi warned: “Those who think that winter 2006-2007 is going to remain mild are in for a shock.”

That shock came this past week and this may not be the last of it. Bastardi believes the current weather pattern could mimic the cold and stormy winters of 1965-66 and 1957-58. “A worst-case scenario would be if this winter plays out as did the winter of 1977-1978.”

Yeek. I rather hope it doesn't get that bad. I didn't live through it, but people who did are still talking about it, thirty years later. From Boston to Buffalo, people were trapped in their houses by snow, for two weeks or more. They used their second story windows to get out of the house, the drifts were so high. Snowmobiles distributed groceries because the roads were impassable.

I read Bastardi's comments last week, and I had the same reaction you did.

I'm beginning to wonder about food supplies in some smaller towns in the "Ice Belt."

I remember well the winter of '78. We all still talk about the Big Blizzard here in New England, but most forget what happened before that storm. Around two weeks before then Boston had a huge storm that dumped almost two feet, a record that was, I believe, only recently broken. Then a week later we had a big rainstorm which made a real mess of things. I was skating in a "pond" that developed in the field across the street. THEN, we got the Big Blizzard. And you've heard those stories...
One thing to consider, though, is that we are more prepared to deal with big snowfalls. Bigger and more reliable smowplows than we had in the 70's. But, as we're seeing, the ice storm is another problem entirely. And another one is coming...
I know I just mentioned this, but it bears repeating that one of the predictions of the effects of Global Warming is an increased chance of ice storms. Ice storms are caused by warm air overrunning cold air. In order for that to happen, you need warm air.

Same here. I was in London, Ontario for that one and the city was totally shut down for most of a week. The drifts were solid, two-thirds of the way up my front door. XC skis and snowmobiles were the only means of transportation. A tracked Army APC ran over a VW bug that was buried in a drift, didn't realize it, and just kept on going.

Yesirree Bob, back in my day we had real winters, sonny! Not these namby-pamby Global Warming winters you youngsters get nowadays!

London is in the snow belt between lakes Huron and Erie, and always gets dumped on pretty hard. Since they're already relatively far south a bit more warm weather added to the mix would change the complexion of winter significantly - ice storms are going become a common feature. Too bad, because I have my eye on a post-peak refuge there.

Hello GliderGuider,

Forgive me, but The Asphalt Wonderland doesn't get icestorms, yet I am fascinated by the effects. Are there tree-scientists that monitor these effects?

For example: does the avg. icestorm generally just trim off tree-branches, or does it kill most of the trees? I see pictures on the WeatherChannel of tree-trunks split in pieces, but I don't know if that exception or the rule. Does the urban 'heat island' help protect urban trees, or does this flip-flop during the winter to help increase the likelihood of urban ice-storms?

Is most of the down branches & trees harvested for firewood, or is most just shipped to the landfill? Or chipped into compost? How quickly do the trees rebound to full leaf-cover & oxygen generation, or is the pollution plus ice-storms actually leading to urban denudation of tree cover?

With the power down from icestorms, do most people resort to running generators and burning firewood? Does the pollution level jump to dangerous levels during these periods until the power is restored? Phx gets winter thermal inversions: the govt. declares no-burn days to stem air-pollution. But since it doesn't get really cold here, most people can accept this; fireplaces are just used to create ambience, not heating; adjusting a thermostat is much easier that feeding a fire. Different situation for a more northerly town without heat or light from an ice-storm. Thxs for any reply from you or other TODers.

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?


I lived through a major ice storm here in January, 1998 that took out the power from east of Montreal almost to Kingston (a swath of 200 miles or so). Wikipedia has a story on it.

A part of Montreal was without all power for 3 weeks. I was in a lucky neighbourhood here in Ottawa that only lost power for 6 hours. A block away they were down for 4 days. The point is that the effects are really variable depending on what happens to your electrical infrastructure. The urban heat island doesn't help, because the thermal mass of the ice and air simply brushes it aside.

The tree damage depends on the tree types and the degree of icing. Most trees lose branches, and these are the main source of local power outages. Larger outages are caused by line icing, or pylon collapses (the region lost 1000 electrical pylons and 35,000 wooden utility poles in the storm). Larger trees with forks in the trunk can split, especially if they have dense branches above the fork that accumulate a big ice load. Even now, there are sections of woodland near here that show damaged - trees whose tops were snapped off, or tall poplars that are bent all the way over to the ground in a big inverted U. We didn't see many entire trees down, because there was little wind and the vertical load of icing doesn't push the trees over.

A friend whose power was out for four days in a modern suburban village tried to stay in his home and keep it going by feeding the fireplace (he had electric heat, the town had no NG feed). He discovered that the average suburban fireplace is for shit when it comes to that task. His stove was down because it was electric and his water pump didn't work, so he lasted a total of two days and then pulled out to stay with us in the city.

There was a huge run on diesel generators. Lots of people used them, and we had quite a few deaths from CO poisoning - people ran the generators and even charcoal BBQs in their garages. A friend in downtown Ottawa had his power go out while the power on the other side of the street stayed up. Everybody ran long extension cords from homes across the street and plugged them into their gas furnace circuits to keep the heat on. Light came from candles, and there were a number of house fires as a result. Pollution went down because it was too dangerous and pointless to drive anywhere.

For cleanup, all the small stuff gets chipped. There was lots of free mulch that spring. The big stuff gets sliced up, hauled away and sold for firewood. The maple sugar bushes took the biggest pounding, and it took two years for them to recover economically. As I said above there is still damage visible 10 years later, but the foliage overall took maybe a 10% hit the following spring - not enough to make a difference.

It was an experience that solidified my respect for Mother Nature (so to speak). Between going through that storm as well as the very widespread 3-day grid failure here in the summer of 2003, I've become a believer in part of the Olduvai Gorge theory - a failure of the electrical grid is one of the most damaging things that can happen to an industrial society, no matter what season it happens in. We are unbelievably vulnerable to electricity loss.

One thing re wood heating.

A modern, airtight wood stove is a thing of amazing efficiency and beauty. In its wood furnace version it can easily heat an entire home. Even sitting in the kitchen it can meet all your cooking needs.


5 times more efficient than a fireplace according to the above.


A fireplace is entirely decorative (you can get better ones with glass panelling though). In fact, it may cool your house more than it heats it because it sucks in cold air through the windows and cracks and sends the hot air up the chimney.

Other than insulating your home/ replacing your windows, an airtight wooden stove is one of the best energy investments you can make.

an airtight wooden stove is one of the best energy investments you can make

That depends upon the local climate :-)

Low of 38 F the last few days.

Best Hopes,


Some of my family was caught in this one.

Quebec is a place where people pride themselves on knowing what to do about winter and how to tackle it.

But that one even overwhelmed Hydro Quebec and all the other safety infrastructure that had been built up.

Agree with you re electricity loss, and why I am no fan of unrestricted deregulation in the electricity sector. The cost of a service failure to the customers is so great, compared to any cost savings on the way, that you want an overengineered, bureaucratic system.

I'm not GliderGuider, but I'll take a go at some of your questions. For the record, I am a forest ecologist in New England, where we had a whopper of an ice storm in '98.

"For example: does the avg. icestorm generally just trim off tree-branches, or does it kill most of the trees?"

Mostly trim branches. "Trim" might be too pretty a word, but it doesn't actually kill most trees - just makes 'em look peculiar. What it does is allow a lot of sunlight to hit the forest floor, so there is an explosion of growth of seedlings and brush and such. In terms of net carbon, I suspect it's a wash, though I've not seen an analysis.

"Is most of the down branches & trees harvested for firewood, or is most just shipped to the landfill?"

If it's by a road, it probably gets utilized one way or the other. In the middle of the woods, it just lands on the ground and goes back into the soil. Around here, probably zero goes to a landfill.

"How quickly do the trees rebound to full leaf-cover & oxygen generation, or is the pollution plus ice-storms actually leading to urban denudation of tree cover?"

The trees recover remarkably quickly. After the '98 storm, it looked pretty awful, but the next year all was green. A couple-three years later, you could tell something happened, but the canopy was closed again But this is New England, where you really have to work pretty hard to stop the land from saying "FOREST!". I say this from personal experience, having cleared the same piece of land several times. (I finally wised up and put sheep on it :-)

"With the power down from icestorms, do most people resort to running generators and burning firewood?"

In rural areas (which is most of Vermont/New Hampshire/Maine), a lot of folks burn wood anyway (I do - I harvest it from my own woodlot), but it seems more and more people do have generators these days. I don't bother - I just make sure I have lots of water bottled up, and candles. Our power goes out frequently for short periods, for one reason or the other, so we have it down to a science. A good hot shower is the only thing I ever really miss in a power outage. This last ice storm it wasn't so much wires coming down from the ice as cars slamming into utility poles!

Never noticed an air quality issue locally, but I live in a relatively sparsely populated area.

Bob, you can check the effects here, at the CBC TV site, which has much more on the '98 ice storm:

Video 1 (city streets)

Video 2 (helicopter overview)

I was in Montreal in Jan 1998, and it was something else. There were, as I recall, 6 main power lines leading on to the island, and 5 were gone. The ice broke the pylons like they were matchsticks, see the first video. 4-5 inches of ice will do that. Imagine the trees.

The most impressive TV images were of helicopters flying above the main power lines coming from the north, where the pylons are 400-500 feet high, and people dropping big logs from the choppers down on the lines to break the ice off.

On average people on the island lost power for 4-5 days, but it took 6 weeks to get power restored in some areas south of the main island, and with dropping temperatures, 10's of thousands lived in shelters. 95% of all heating in Montreal is from electricity.

I think Forestry Québec said that 1.2 million square kilometers of forest was severely damaged. Montreal lost a lot of trees, you can still see the effects now.

Ahh but on the upside... Quebec had one of the largest baby booms on record 9 months later =]

GG, i remember the Hwy401 rescue convoys! Having travelled most of canada, most folks don't know about the ontario snow belt. Bucking snowdrifts. Whiteouts. Their idea of blizzards is a joke. I'm from Woodstock and that whole region gets about 160cm of winter snow. But drive towards Lake Huron in winters when it doesn't freeze and the communities get well over their 350cm (12') normals for the season.

The HadleyIII GCM has been used in Great Lakes area. I didn't pay alotta attn but with later lake freezing, could be much more snow on the way in latter season.

Great memories of those Squalls & "Streamers", eh.

Upon coming West to the Whistler Sea-to-Sky Corridor, i learned it's not latitude, its "elevation".

Upon coming to the Yukon, it's all about "ACCUMULATION". Same snow drop here as SW Ontario, but everything coming down after Remembrance Day is still here by Easter. That's why there's almost always two feet on the ground by this time of year. But u can't make snowballs. It's all powder. The best mushing race in the world starts in a few days. 1000 miles to Fairbanks Alaska.

Ontario is still a good (and a bad) place in the world we are imagining.

- high energy lifestyle. Second only to Americans and Australians in this regard

- underinvested infrastructure: roads, higher education, healthcare, power grid and production

- no natural energy resources other than hydropower (ironically, Petrolia Ontario was one of the first places in the world to produce commercial oil-- they still do, a few barrels/day)

- industrial base is under threat from China


- long history of stable government both provincially and federally. High degree of respect for law and order (Michael Moore is exaggerating, but there is something to what he put in Bowling for Columbine)

- educated population. Successful history of immigration (that may be changing). No entrenched history of racial conflict (except with the Indians).

- probably net net a beneficiary of global warming (at least for the first 40 years or so). There will probably be more tornadoes, and more droughts (for which Ontario is emphatically not ready!)

- civic infrastructure is in place. So services like public transport tend to be better than US cities. The slums aren't anything as bad.

- some of the electricity issues are being tackled. The nuclear legacy has been painful and expensive, but it does leave a secure power baseload for the next 20 years or so (then some tough decisions need to be taken).

- there are pluses and minuses to state healthcare, but fundamentally the system doesn't bankrupt individuals the way the American one is capable of doing. If they will treat it, it is covered.

- lots of other natural resources: trees, fresh water, minerals (to a point)

I would put Ontario in that category with (perhaps) New Hampshire, Vermont, perhaps Massachussets. Not a lot of indigenous resources, but a historic record of its people and government buckling down and making do.

If you are really worried about peak oil, Alberta is the place to be-- enough oil to keep mining for another 100 years. Far lower taxes. A climate which will be a net beneficiary of global warming (longer growing season) although drought will be a significant problem.

And bragging rights: The Ontario car industry has outproduced Michigan in 2005 & 2006!

The guy is a Bloomberg blowhard, his predictions not worth the breath used to ventilate them. I don't say any of those similarities in regional wether patterns around the world.

see, weather

Talk about blowhards ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

Siberia and the Yukon are proof that u are a complete idiot that should have his mother take the keyboard away from:

Vancouver is having the worst winter storms in half a century etc etc etc along with other parts of canada.

And that's just part of the side effects of an el nino event. Wait 'til the tornados start!


What was that, proven liar?

Auto execs see soaring gas prices

U.S. auto executives are bracing for gas prices to more than double over the next decade and for sharply higher U.S. fuel economy standards - a step the industry has long resisted, according to an academic survey released Tuesday.

Gas prices will average slightly more than $4 a gallon by 2015 and just over $5 a gallon by 2020, according to the survey conducted by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI).

Similar to this story: End of the road for the US gas guzzler

Are we all ready to put away the words "denial" and "delusion?"

;-), and will TOD adjust to being part of the mainstream?

Are we all ready to put away the words "denial" and "delusion?"

No. $4 a gallon by 2015 is still denial and delusion.

Amusing as a hit and run, but I don't think anyone rational will stand on that.

I say that as someone who does not like single point predictions, like $4 a gallon by 2015, without qualifiers. Just the same, even if my wild-assed guess would be somewhat higher than that, I don't really know how to exclude $4. That value might even be consistent with the Hersch Report. After all, it doesn't require that production be up from 2007, just that the market find $4 to be an acceptable price for the quantities on hand.

And besides, what the heck are we going to call "denial and delusion" when that wail starts to include people who see big changes? I calculate $4 by 2015, from $2.20 now, to be 7.8% annual increase.

And the past does not show us the future. We are in uncharted territory. High gasoline prices did not stem usa demand. Our new graph: http://trendlines.ca/energy.htm#gasoline

Yeah, that's what I mean by qualifiers. My eyeball-estimate based on the 3 year chart at GasBuddy is that gas will hit $3.60 (California) this summer, but the qualifier is that's if my eye is right, and if recent trends continue. There is no reason that trends have to continue. You can have the trend right, and then a new trend can emerge.

That's no big deal, as long as you don't become attached to any particular prediction. When they lose their utility, chuck 'em.

I calculate $4 by 2015, from $2.20 now, to be 7.8% annual increase.

Which would be less than the historical increase from eight years ago. In January of 1999, gas was about 90 cents a gallon. So it's more than doubled in eight years. But they don't expect it to more than double eight years hence.

IOW...this is not a change. They're expecting more of the same. Heck, less of more of the same. Even though a billion people in China now want to drive cars.

I'm not saying that they may not be right. What I'm saying is that this not a real change. They are not taking peak oil or peak lite into account.

According to this chart we haven't seen 90 cents, in today's dollars, in a few decades:


We did spend a long time bobbing around $1.50, with essentially zero growth from mid 80's to late 90's, and then a dip and the post 2000 run-up.

I'm not saying that they may not be right. What I'm saying is that this not a real change. They are not taking peak oil or peak lite into account.

People can pick a period and then decide if it is a change or a continuation. But really that shows how futile it is. And how futile it is to call one prediction "deluded" and another not.

As far as I'm concerned the only "deluded" predictions are the ones made too firmly, without the possibility that prices will actually be half, or twice, your prediction.

"U.S. auto executives are bracing for gas prices to more than double over the next decade and for sharply higher U.S. fuel economy standards"

key word = "bracing" WTF does that mean more lobbying? I can get a 100% this year tax write off ONLY IF THE VECHILE I BUY WEIGHS MORE THAN 6,000 LBS. I look at the nat'l geo. pictures of our mangled troops coming home and think of these ass hole exec's sitting smugly in thier offices lobbying for low MPG rigs to help them.

I bet they support the war in Iraq and Iran so they san continue selling large cars....what are a few more dead kids compared to thier bottom line? A: not enough.

Who made the decision on the pinto gas tank? (The Exploding Pinto) Was it cheaper to settle the lawsuits for all the burn victims than it was to fix the gas tank for $10.00 a tank!

"who killed the electric car". I watched that movie 4 days ago and I'm still pissed off....

They killed the electric trolley cars too...

We (voters) need to get our heads out of our asses on this one.

These guys are ass holes. They are very happy to leave us with a screwed country. Just look...

I like Obama and all, but he is just as clueless as the rest on the biofuels issue. From one of the links above:

One bill introduced by Sen. Barack Obama, D.-Ill., a possible presidential candidate, would create a new tax credit to cut the price of E85.

Even where the fuel is available, getting motorists to buy it can be a challenge because of the sharply reduced mileage. A bill introduced by Obama would provide a tax credit of up to 35 cents per gallon to lower the price of the fuel.

There is already a $0.51/gallon federal subsidy, and Obama thinks it would be a good idea to tack on a bit more. Yet ethanol producers keep telling me that they can make ethanol cheaper than we can make gasoline. Something doesn't add up.

Everything adds up. Everything always adds up if you know where to find the numbers;-)

Obama is Senator from Illinois--a major corn-growing state.


By the way, prices of four or five dollars for a bushel of corn are by no means excessive in historical terms; even six dollars a bushel is pretty cheap, once you correct for inflation.

No greater joy comes to the farm belt than news of rising corn prices. Happy Days Are Here Again!

Obama is also supporting CTL.


The Democratic senator from Illinois gets stellar marks from greens. Just a few months ago he was calling global warming "real," saying: "It is here. . . . We couldn't just keep burning fossil fuels and contribute to the changing atmosphere without consequence."

So why then, environmentalists ask, is Obama backing a law supporting the expanded use of coal, whose emissions are cooking the globe? It seems the answer is twofold: his interest in energy independence -- and his interest in downstate Illinois, where the senator's green tinge makes the coal industry queasy.

The coal industry praises Obama's reintroduction, with Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), of the Coal-to-Liquid Fuel Promotion Act of 2007 last week, which would provide incentives for research and plant construction. The industry says the technology, which converts coal into diesel engine fuel, would reduce America's dependence on foreign oil through a new, home-mined fuel that burns as cleanly as gasoline.

That young man needs a good smack upside the haid.

Illinois produces coal too.
Obama listens to some very traditional machine-style advisors.

The coal truth and nothing but the truth:

You want to know what our coal based future will look like?
Then just take a visit to this Chinese city as CNN has done:

Dirtiest City on Earth

Robert, the country is just going to have to see, first hand, the consequences of trying to run 200,000 cars on moonshine. Until they do, they won't get it.

I agree with that. I think we will look back on this some day as a fiasco. Some of us can tell from here that it will be a fiasco; some will require the fiasco to happen before they can appreciate the consequences. I have no doubt that most people pushing biofuels have their hearts in the right place, but most of them just haven't really studied the reality of the situation.

Take going into Iraq. I argued before we ever went in that this was a mistake; that Hussein was certainly a bad guy and all, but he was holding the country together. But no, we were going to be greeted as liberators and the oil revenues from Iraq would pay the costs of the war, which some estimated might be in the $2 billion range. But when people don't really do some serious analyses of what can go wrong and what some of the worst case scenarios might be, we shoot from the hip and try to clean up the mess later. The fact is, there are far too many idiots in government and this is the sort of fallout we have to deal with as a result.

far too many idiots in government

Still in government. Still making decisions. Still generating future fallout. What happened to government of the people, by the people, for the people?

The people preferred watching TV.

Not so much idiots, as greedy, corrupt mofos:

In November of 2002, Stephen J. Hadley, deputy national security advisor, asked Bruce Jackson to meet with him in the White House. They met in Hadley's office on the ground floor of the West Wing, not far from the offices of Vice President Dick Cheney and then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. Hadley had an exterior office with windows, an overt indicator of his importance within the West Wing hierarchy.

This was months before Secretary of State Colin Powell would go to the United Nations to make the administration's case for the invasion of Iraq, touting the subsequently discredited evidence of weapons of mass destruction. But according to Jackson, Hadley told him that "they were going to war and were struggling with a rationale" to justify it. Jackson, recalling the meeting, reports that Hadley said they were "still working out" a cause, too, but asked that he, Jackson, "set up something like the Committee on NATO" to come up with a rationale.


What Bruce Jackson came up with for Hadley this time, in 2002, was the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. The mission statement of the committee says it was "formed to promote regional peace, political freedom and international security by replacing the Saddam Hussein regime with a democratic government that respects the rights of the Iraqi people and ceases to threaten the community of nations." The pressure group began pushing for regime change -- that is, military action to remove Hussein -- in the usual Washington ways, lobbying members of congress, working the media and throwing money around. The committee's pitch, or rationale as Hadley would call it, was that Saddam was a monster -- routinely violating human rights -- and a general menace in the Middle East.


Bush couldn't go into Iraq without a major ally and Lockheed knew it. To sweeten the pot for Blair, Lockheed dragged BAE Systems (British Aerospace) into the F-35 deal. When BAE still struggled prior to the war (Goldman Sachs reported that BAE would have to cut its dividend), Lockheed began renegotiating the contract -- with the new version unveiled in 2005, giving BAE billions more to be paid "as needed." This put BAE back on its feet, able to build the Typhoon jet fighter for sale to Saudi Arabia in a $70 billion deal, saving 10,000 BAE jobs and 4,000 Rolls-Royce jet engine building jobs.

  • http://www.playboy.com/magazine/features/lockheed/index.html
  • I can't visit that link at work, but Andrew Card even said regarding the timing of the war:"From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August."

    Oooooh... Playboy.com... Nope, can't go there...can't go there. Nope. Well... maybe just for a quick peek...

    ...that Hussein was certainly a bad guy and all, but he was holding the country together

    With the No Fly Zones we had, he wasn't as much the Ruler of the Country as he was the Mayor of Bagdad

    The fact that ethanol is too expensive for consumers to want to purchase may be just a tiny clue from the market that it makes no absolutely no sense to purchase this crap. Consumers are dumb, but there is a limit. Maybe when the mass and not so mass media get over praising Obama for how new, fresh, articulate, and smart he is, they can focus just a teeny tiny bit on how clueless he is when it comes to energy.

    I listened to "hardball" last night talk about Obama. There was not one second of discussion about what his stands were on the issues besides Iraq. The media is completely incapable of having a discussion about anything substantive.

    "I listened to "hardball" last night talk about Obama. There was not one second of discussion about what his stands were on the issues besides Iraq. The media is completely incapable of having a discussion about anything substantive."

    You can say exactly the same about last night's interview with the president. The good thing is: once PO hits, it will blow the Iraq war off the front page just like that. Instead we will have endless pundit interviews about how to save gas, heating oil, natural gas and electricity. It will be fun. Not. But I bet the wood burning oven industry will have a great time. Wood burning oven futures will go through the roof any day now.


    The rest as in elected reps? Sure, I'll go with that. Just don't think for a second that those further down the bureaucratic ladder aren't well versed on the topic.

    It's one thing to rearrange the deck chairs of the Titanic; quite another to try and steer her to safety.

    The real question is whether he is open to good data that challenges his prior beliefs.

    Foreclosure rates up big in December

    "The combination of slower home sales and rising interest rates on ARMs continues to drive foreclosures at significantly higher numbers than a year ago," said James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac.

    Other factors are involved. One is that the housing market turned, removing one avenue of escape for some homeowners facing foreclosure. "People would be reselling their homes if they got into trouble," says Rick Sharga, VP of marketing for RealtyTrac.

    They have a chart with state-by-state numbers. Looks like real estate in Arizona is going to be getting a lot cheaper. And what the heck happened in Rhode Island?

    It still feels small compared to the 70's. Has anyone seen a decades-long graph to put these in persepective?

    I can't find my very old stuff. sorry. But here's a guide: During the 1992 Recession effects, foreclosures hit a high of 0.27% (yes, quarter of one percent). As the economy got better, it lowered to 0.07% in 1998, then dipped in 2001Q3 usa recession to 0.44%. In 2005Q4, a recent record low of .06 was set. Today it is 0.11 ... that's one tenth on one percent.

    In short, don't believe the tabloid journalism headlines. Your instints were correct. No story here. And it is consistent with the graph i posted on Loan Defaults a couple of months back.

    These stories persist due to the nihilists (i used to say idiots) that proclaim we're back in Recession every month.


    Quick! Somebody do a Tainter interview ... oil and housing aren't scary enough on their own!

    Your data ref looks quarterly. So, a quarter of one percent for a whole year would be 1% of all households (correct?). Didn't Pimco recently say that regional housing downturns last 2.5 to 4 years or something. So that could be 2.5% to 4% of all involved.

    That would seem pretty significant to me -- "1 out of 40" people to "1 out of 25" people losing their homes. That's for a nationwide all-out bubble-crashy type fallout. 4,000,000 foreclosures!? Permits got over 2,000,000 annual at the frothy part of 2004/2005. That would be one heck of a housing hangover -- an extra mil units per year to eat. Wowee zowee!

    dbl post

    FRB: "...are measured net of recoveries as a percentage of average loans and annualized."

    IOW: a tenth of one percent is a tenth of one percent

    Most other stats are based on loans to specific borrower groups ... not the universe. It makes the ratio "seem" large and significant to attract the attention of those searching for bad news.

    Defaults measured NET OF RECOVERIES dramatically understates the rate of defaults and hides the magnitude of the problems. VERY deceptive !

    0.11% (per month, per quarter, per year Which is it ?) can be an alarming rate.

    In a rising market, losses might be 5% or 8% of loan value on average. In a falling market, those same defaults could easily be 20% or more of the loan value.

    Same # of defaults, much higher rate NET OF RECOVERIES !

    If losses average 5%, then 0.11% x 20 = 2.2% mortgage holders default as an example.

    Foreclosed upon households either move in with family or friends or into small apartments, reducing demand for housing stock.


    Good god! Can someone PLEASE explain to me why we are predominately displaying The Truth About Oil part 3? Did anyone even actually read the article? Its so full of blunders that I can imagine my grandfathers 5th grade English teacher rolling in her grave. For starters:

    According to the U.S. Department of Energy's special report, the world will face "peak oil" by 2015. But many of the world's best informed professionals think the end is much closer than that. Some, like Matthew Simmons, think that it has already passed as far back as 25 years ago. And their reasoning is disconcertingly solid.

    Your kidding me write? How dreary and misleading can we possibly be. The world peaked 25 years ago? Where did this happen? Was it in one hemisphere? One continent? One region? One country? I must say that makes for the ultimate doomer title. The world really peaked 25 years ago, we just didn't realize it :P

    Since its discovery, Ghawar has produced more than 55,000 million barrels of the black goopy stuff. And there's still more to be found deep under the earth. But no one is sure exactly how much crude the Ghawar oil field still contains. Like I mentioned before, there's a lot of evidence that suggests the official oil reserve numbers put out by the Saudi Arabian government have been fudged on purpose. So it's quite likely that there's not as much oil at Ghawar as the Saudis say. In fact, there's probably a lot less. And for the oil-starved economies of the world, that's seriously bad news.

    Ghawar, as of last year, has produced around 62 Gb of oil. Apparently this guy is using facts that were correct back in 2003, but seemingly forgot to update them for 4 years later...

    And at the Offshore Technology Conference a few months ago, experts claimed that Ghawar was producing about 55% water, that is, more than half the fluid brought up the well!

    Seeing the track record used so far on this illustrious article, I can safely assume that his 55% water cut is similarly misquoted and should in fact be closer to 35% water cut, as it was reported last year by literally hundreds of analyst and market 'insiders', not to mention the Saudis themselves.

    In April 2006, a Saudi Aramco spokesman admitted that its mature fields are now declining at a rate of 8% per year, implying that Ghawar may have peaked.

    You read that right . . . it's likely that Ghawar has peaked!

    Ghawar 'peaked' in 1981. Lets leave the sensationalism out of it please.

    And of course, the coup de gras:

    And if Ghawar has peaked, Saudi Arabia has peaked. And if Saudi Arabia has peaked, the world has peaked!

    I can hear the ecstatic grunts of every doomer on the planet. It's an orgy of pleasure at this pronouncement!

    Too bad we now have 26 years after Ghawar's 'peak' to show that Their production has in fact not plummeted. In fact, at their present 8.8 mbpd, they have over 3 million bpd of reserve capacity to draw upon, which miraculously enough, is exactly how much we need to offset Iranian production.

    Now I normally don't like to rant on the articles themselves, but this one just annoyed me. Lets show a little more restraint on what our headline articles, please.

    As Robert pointed out, Ghawar is the last of the 14 fields that are, or were, producing one mbpd that does not have a confirmed decline (from recent production levels).

    Or, if Ghawar is in decline, every current super giant field that is, or was, capable of producing one mbpd or more, is in decline or crashing. (The only new one mbpd or larger field on the horizon, Kashagan, won't--at best--hit the one mbpd mark until the 2020 time frame.)

    A question for you. Could you provide us with a list of the regions showing increasing production after their 10 largest producing fields started declining?

    Manifa (Munifa) in Saudi Arabia is capable of 1 million b/day per reports. Good geology (unlike other shut-in KSA fields) but bad oil.

    Manifa has extremely high levels of vanadium, which poison the platinum group catalysts of modern oil refining. Also heavy sour oil. Produced in 1970s and then shut in.

    Manifa should be in full production by 2011 as KSA builds two refineries to process this "special" oil and China builds a 165,000 b/day refinery.

    Simmons missed Manifa (one sentence in Twilght in the Desert).

    An extra 1 million b/day will not change the world, but it needs to be noted IMHO.

    Best Hopes,


    I'll rephrase:

    All 14 super giant fields that are, or were, producing one mbpd or more are in decline or crashing, if--as Ron and I and others believe--Ghawar is declining from recent production levels.

    There are two possible one mbpd and larger fields on the horizon--the problematic Kashagan and Manifa Fields. I would note that there appears to be no proof that either field will produce one mbpd or more.

    Heading Out's comments on Manifa, with some links:

    One interesting point: apparently the Saudis decided to try to produce this field just a few months before the Saudis started their--so far--18 month long series of "voluntary" production cutbacks, while dramatically increasing their rig count. And the production cutbacks were because they couldn't find buyers for all of their oil?

    I had been wondering if they meant they could not find buyers for their vanadian oil... it is true that nobody would want it... but, this might mean they weren't technically lying, kind of like saying nobody wants to buy our oil impregnated shale. It would certainly make sense for them to build refineries to handle it... even if on time, too late to affect po.

    BTW, the Oil & Gas Journal article on new 100,000 bpd and larger fields only lists one field in the (possible) one mbpd and larger category: Kashagan.

    How much is Manifa listed for ? Although it is not a new field (having been discovered in the 1950s and produced in the 1970s) and may not be "new". Just shut-in for 30+ years.

    Refining high vanadium oil should be fairly simple, use no catalysts, do 1930's era distillation and upgrade the gas oils into higher value products. Produce a lot of high vanadium asphalt (vanadium is not toxic). There may be better methods but what I described will "work".

    Best Hopes,


    I'll see if I can find the article.

    Just a small correction: Manifa was found as early as 1951, explored (and then shut again) 1957.

    Hothgor, I posted a comment on this thread below, then when it came up I saw that you also brought our attention to it. I would not have posted had I saw you had already opeaned a thread on it. Sorry.

    That being said, I must comment on your take on the situation. Yes, there is a blunder in the article. Simmons has never said we peaked 25 years ago. I have no idea where that guy came up with that. And yes, Ghawar may have peaked in 1981 as far a barrels per day goes. However that is just the year Ghawar produced the most oil. If Saudi had not cut back production, due to the Iran-Iraqi war and the subsequent tanker wars, it is highly likely that Saudi and Ghawar would produced more oil for some time.

    1980 is the year that Saudi produced the most oil, 9.9 mb/d. However it is very unlikely that they had produced 50% of their oil by that time. They choked of most of their production for another decade before they opeaned their taps again. The peak in Saudi oil, that is their 50% mark, was likely passed in the last five years, not in 1980 or 1981.

    And anyone who thinks Saudi has 3 mb/d of "reserve capacity" is truly living in a dream world.

    Ron Patterson

    Yes, there is a blunder in the article. Simmons has never said we peaked 25 years ago.

    I bet the Misquote is that DISCOVERIES peaked 25+ ago.

    Don't worry, I'm not going to 'pounce' on you as it was suggested earlier.

    However, I'm still confused s to why this article is STILL being predominately displayed as the introduction to todays Drumbeat. Its consistency is equaled only by that of swiss cheese.

    So you think you're a doomer? Relax.....

    Doomsday Clock moved two minutes closer to midnight

    The keepers of the so-called Doomsday Clock, which counts down to Armageddon, today moved its hands closer to midnight for the first time in four years to reflect the growing threats to mankind from nuclear proliferation and climate change.

    In a ceremony hosted by the British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, the minute hand was moved forwards by two minutes to stand at five minutes to midnight - the closest it has come to midnight since the Cold War arms race of the 1980s.

    The decision by the directors of the Bulletin of the the Atomic Scientists was made in consultation with the Bulletin's Board of Sponsors, which includes 18 Nobel laureates.

    Since 1947 the clock, with midnight representing nuclear apocalypse, has appeared on the cover of the Bulletin magazine, which was founded by University of Chicago physicists alarmed about the dangers of the nuclear age.
    The minute hand was last moved in February 2002, when it was pushed forward by two minutes,

    And to think, for awhile there was talk of retiring the Doomsday Clock, because peace was breaking out all over.

    Hey folks, this link, posted by Leanan this morning is very interesting.

    The Truth about Oil, Part 3

    Saudi Aramco, the national oil company of Saudi Arabia and Ghawar's operator, is currently injecting a staggering 7 million barrels of sea water per day back into the Ghawar field in order to prop up pressure.

    And at the Offshore Technology Conference a few months ago, experts claimed that Ghawar was producing about 55% water, that is, more than half the fluid brought up the well!

    In April 2006, a Saudi Aramco spokesman admitted that its mature fields are now declining at a rate of 8% per year, implying that Ghawar may have peaked.

    You read that right . . . it's likely that Ghawar has peaked!

    Ron Patterson

    Uh-oh. Now Hothgor's gonna come over and beat you up, you grunting doomer!

    I actually agree with Hoth that the number of mistakes in the article kind of dilute its credibility, but it does its bit at getting the message out to the investment crowd that Something Is Going On. I sure hope he's right about oil sands companies still being undervalued...

    Thanks again to all those who provided book recommendations for me last week. I have the first of those recommendations now in hand: Charles C. Mann's 1491.

    Speaking of books, has anyone read "Nature's End" by Strieber and Kunetka? I just received it in the mail from a used book dealer. But it is fiction and I don't read much fiction. Is it worth my while?

    Ron Patterson

    I read it back in the '80's and thought of recommending it.
    Granted that was almost 20 years ago but it was one of the first
    books I read on GW and how we are denuding the earth. It really
    got me thinking at the time.

    I believe they collaborated on a previous book "War Day". While
    it is a bit dated now (Soviet Union nuclear attack) the scenario
    which unfolds afterward would still hold up IMO.

    Pick up BLINK


    Two books I think you will really like.


    Great book! A real eye opener.
    (edit) I was referring to 1491.

    The Warming of Greenland

    A penisula long thought to be part of Greenland's mainland turned out to be an island when a glacier retreated.
    All over Greenland and the Arctic, rising temperatures are not simply melting ice; they are changing the very geography of coastlines. Nunataks — “lonely mountains” in Inuit — that were encased in the margins of Greenland’s ice sheet are being freed of their age-old bonds, exposing a new chain of islands, and a new opportunity for Arctic explorers to write their names on the landscape.

    I see it now! The retreating ice will expose an alien spacecraft that crashed millions of years ago. With a magic energy crystal as a power source. We're saved!!!

    I really should start a website, bet I could get lots of advertisers and make a bundle.

    Except the aliens are still there, and they're intent on colonizing the earth and killing off all the humans...

    Actually, the article is a lot scarier than anything on The X-Files.

    “Suddenly I saw an island with glacial ice on it,” he said. “I looked at the map and it should have been a nunatak, but the present ice margin was about 10 kilometers away. So I can say that within the last five years the ice margin had retreated at least 10 kilometers.”

    The abrupt acceleration of melting in Greenland has taken climate scientists by surprise. Tidewater glaciers, which discharge ice into the oceans as they break up in the process called calving, have doubled and tripled in speed all over Greenland. Ice shelves are breaking up, and summertime “glacial earthquakes” have been detected within the ice sheet.

    “The general thinking until very recently was that ice sheets don’t react very quickly to climate,” said Martin Truffer, a glaciologist at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks. “But that thinking is changing right now, because we’re seeing things that people have thought are impossible.”

    ...There is no consensus on how much Greenland’s ice will melt in the near future, Dr. Alley said, and no computer model that can accurately predict the future of the ice sheet. Yet given the acceleration of tidewater-glacier melting, a sea-level rise of a foot or two in the coming decades is entirely possible, he said. That bodes ill for island nations and those who live near the coast.

    “Even a foot rise is a pretty horrible scenario,” said Stephen P. Leatherman, director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University in Miami.

    On low-lying and gently sloping land like coastal river deltas, a sea-level rise of just one foot would send water thousands of feet inland. Hundreds of millions of people worldwide make their homes in such deltas; virtually all of coastal Bangladesh lies in the delta of the Ganges River. Over the long term, much larger sea-level rises would render the world’s coastlines unrecognizable, creating a whole new series of islands.

    The abrupt acceleration of melting in Greenland has taken climate scientists by surprise.

    I pointed this out a few days ago, the word acceleration pops up in half of all articles on warming. A majority of scientists work with faulty models. As a rule, all reliable data come from out in the field and are worse than models predict.

    The article below is from The Guardian, August 30, 2006, and is quite clear. Not that many people, including scientists, seem to have paid attention.

    Global meltdown

    Scientists fear that global warming will bring climatic turbulence, with changes coming in big jumps rather than gradually

    Richard Alley's eyes glint as we sit in his office in the University of Pennsylvania discussing how fast global warming could cause sea levels to rise. The scientist sums up the state of knowledge: "We used to think that it would take 10,000 years for melting at the surface of an ice sheet to penetrate down to the bottom. Now we know it doesn't take 10,000 years; it takes 10 seconds."

    That quote highlights most vividly why scientists are getting panicky about the sheer speed and violence with which climate change could take hold. They are realising that their old ideas about gradual change - the smooth lines on graphs showing warming and sea level rise and gradually shifting weather patterns - simply do not represent how the world's climate system works.

    Yes. As Jared Diamond points out, we humans have a tendency to assume that if something hasn't changed in our lifetimes, it never will. So we settled the west during an unusually wet period, and think of its return to more normal patterns as a drought. We settled the Gulf Coast during an usually calm period for hurricanes, and are paying the price now. Earthquakes happen every few years on the west coast, so there, people plan for them. They happen every 150 years or so in the East, so even though they tend to be much more destructive when they do happen, we don't plan for them.

    From NASA scientist Jim Hanson:

    Building an ice sheet takes a long time, because it is limited by snowfall. But destroying it can be explosively rapid.

    How fast can this go? Right now, I think our best measure is what happened in the past. We know that, for instance, 14,000 years ago sea levels rose by 20m in 400 years - that is five metres in a century. This was towards the end of the last ice age, so there was more ice around. But, on the other hand, temperatures were not warming as fast as today.

    How far can it go? The last time the world was three degrees warmer than today - which is what we expect later this century - sea levels were 25m higher. So that is what we can look forward to if we don't act soon. None of the current climate and ice models predict this. But I prefer the evidence from the Earth's history and my own eyes. I think sea-level rise is going to be the big issue soon, more even than warming itself.

    The singularity may be coming, and I'm not talking about a miracle of technology.

    "The singularity may be coming, and I'm not talking about a miracle of technology"

    Is this a knock on Ray Kurzweil's "The Singularity Is Near"? I love it! I am in a mini-debate about technology with a friend who is an IT guy and a huge Kurzweil fan.

    I think the comment by Dimity Orlov to an article by Jan Lundberg at: culturechange.org is appropriate -- the last paragraph, most of all.

    [Response from Dmitry Orlov:

    My feeling is that climate change cannot be stopped. Even if extractive industries, manufacturing, transportation, and industrial agriculture were completely shut down tomorrow, climate change would continue for centuries. Most of the change we have seen so far has resulted from carbon emissions which occurred decades ago. The positive feedbacks that have been unleashed may overwhelm the effect of anthropogenic emissions. Scientific efforts to characterize these effects and political efforts express them in policy are the modern-day example of fiddling while Rome burns.
    Secondly, my feeling is that it will not be stopped, because nothing will be done. The reason is rather intricate, and involves the difference between committing physical suicide and committing professional and political suicide; strangely, most people prefer the former. This appears to be a fixed element in human psychology that transcends culture, but it needs some exploring. I don't think it's a cultural invariant, because it is so maladaptive, but it needs some careful investigation. I think it is a property of hierarchically structured societies, but "death before dishonor" may be characteristic of other groups as well. Perhaps all human societies are rigged to eventually self-destruct, because this is the only way they can evolve, but now they have evolved so far that the self-destruction will be global.

    Lastly, I do feel that people need to work together, but not to try to develop or implement policies, because that's futile (see previous point). Instead, people need to work together to develop an autonomous sense of ethics in relation to nature and to each other, one that prioritizes the welfare of the natural world above all else, and that leads to collective inaction - not consuming, not driving, not procreating, not destroying - but ignoring and tuning out the human-made world, and concentrating on quietly enjoying and cherishing what still remains of the natural world.


    The Only Hope Is Unity

    It could take too much valuable time for the false leadership of economic growth and exploitation, i.e., the dominant voices of capitalist society, to unwed themselves from nonstop profit-taking, in order to "save us."

    This is enough to show how little Lundberg knows about what he's trying to address. Orlov is a lot sharper. It's not about a certain view or tendency, like hope vs despair. It's about understanding.

    Without nonstop profit there is no economic growth, and the whole economic system collapses. Yes, it's a crazy and doomed system, but economic collapse is not your typical savior.

    I agree. I also found the elegiac tone of Dimitry's response to be ominously different from the practical and witty articles he has written about societal collapse scenarios.

    Anyone have any ideas the ramifications of the transfer of weight from one location to another with the melting?

    Greenland having a huge weight lifted off it, and the oceans having more, etc?

    Any thoughts on earthquake potential?

    From Nasa:

    Retreating Glaciers Spur Alaskan Earthquakes

    There's much more, Google earthquake and glacier.


    I checked out the pictures of the Muir Glacier retreat. Amazing.

    I work at a Marina on the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia. Tropical storm Ernesto put the docks underwater. As did the following 3 Nor'Easters.

    I asked the owner why he built the docks so low.

    He is in his late 60's, and said that he had lived in the area all of his life, and not seen such high tides during storms like we were experiencing. Hmmm.

    isostatic realignment:


    I would not have thought the earthquakes would be of a great magnitude though.

    BUT: Massive and Unstable sections of mountainous coastline slumping in to the sea from hitherto ice-buried areas could cause tsu-namis.

    We are in uncharted waters.

    Actually, I wanna see some Wooly Mammoths liberated...that would be awesome.

    Did you see the movie "Smilla's Sense of Snow" ?

    Last week a delegation from Greenland was in Iceland, asking for technical help in designing hydroelectric dams for aluminum production and negotiating with the aluminum companies.

    Landsvirkjun earlier built a 9 MW hydroelectric dam in Greenland (replacing diesel) and has excellent relations with the Greenlanders.

    Several 100 MW size dams would be needed and they have the aites on the West Coast. Decades of melting glaciers will increase output.

    Best Hopes,



    Did you catch the line in the "Truth about Oil, Part 3" about the 55% water cut at Ghawar?

    I thought it was about 35%.

    Is everyone guessing, or is the field watering out quicker than expected?


    Please forgive me if this is stupid, but in the article it states that Ghawar produces 5 million a day. It states 7 million of water is pumped in to maintain pressure. Given on a broad scale that we maintain pressure with 7 mdb, and water is close to incompressible we should be able to guess that 7 mbd of liquid is coming out, 5 of which is oil. That means the water cut would be something like (7-5)/7 = 29%. This seems very simplistic and the numbers are very inprecise. I am sure someone else has a more accurate way of determining the numbers.

    Does anyone have a better equation?

    Natural gas is highly compressable. As a rule of thumb, water injections > oil + water produced. Each reservior is a unique problem though.

    The more worrisome issue is that horizontal wells should be drilled (to the best of their ability) in the plane where water & gas will one day meet as oil is exhausted.

    In the perfect Petroleum Engineering world (and Aramco can afford the best) very little water should be produced until the very near the end IN THAT AREA. (I capitalize that because Ghawar is SO big that one can exhaust one end and have decades left in other parts of the field).

    Best Hopes for Ghawar,


    I think that the author of the article was referencing comments by Craig Morton--that he had heard rumors at an SPE convention that the water cut was as high as 55%.

    In any case, what Saudi Aramco admits to--about one barrel of water for every two barrels of oil--is not very encouraging since they already went to horizontal wells because the vertical wells were watering out. There have also been comments by Aramco managers that the field was becoming "very expensive" to operate, which implies, as one would expect, rising water cuts.

    It's been in the 30-35% range for almost ten years now. As long as we stay roughly in that range there's no reason to panic or expect a sudden decline. If in fact the water cut has suddenly risen to 55% then that would definitely be sign that production is collapsing.

    Hello TODers,

    The cold weather damage is expected to ratchet up food prices:


    Combined with growing farm labor shortages, also expected to help ratchet up food prices:

    King and others say efforts to replace foreign-born workers have come up empty, with most Americans simply unwilling to do the hard manual labor.

    "When farmers say they have a difficult time getting local workers to do the job, that is true to a great extent," said Thomas Maloney, a senior extension associate in applied economics and management at Cornell University. "Some of these jobs are difficult, labor intensive jobs."

    The American Farm Bureau Federation has warned labor shortages could cause $5 billion in losses to the agriculture industry. The Farm Credit Associations of New York, in a statement supporting immigration reform, said New York could lose more than 900 farms over the next two years because of the labor shortages.

    Now, Bush expects the US to plant every possible acre to support Biofuel production, but if nobody is willing to do farm labor at the current wages, and immigration is severely repressed-- how much of this acreage can realistically be planted, tended, harvested, then processed? How high do food prices have to go to jumpstart a huge American labor shift to food & biofuel production? Recall the recent link that suggested, due to high and growing biofuel burn rates, that only 3 weeks of grain reserves will be in storage before the next fall harvest-- seems to me that we will be cutting it awful close to true disaster if drought & labor shortages kick in over the next year. I sure hope some smart economists are looking at this situation and accounting for all the lagging effects to prevent a crisis. Starving people have a tough time doing physical labor.

    Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

    ". . . if . . . immigration is severely repressed--"

    That is a mighty big "if."

    IMO, if more agricultural labor is needed, it will come from Mexico and Central America--no shortage of labor there, people who will do almost anything to get into the U.S. and where they find wages and working conditions far far better than in Latin America.

    Our farms are huge magnets for people able and willing to work the land. I think the chance that labor shortages will restrict farm output is remote indeed.

    Hello Don Sailorman,

    Thxs for responding. My guess is that economists studying labor statistics are using increasingly more inaccurate data because illegals don't seek out the US Census Bureau and other data-gathering agencies; it is difficult to ascertain relevant farm labor statistics to see if optimum labor to maximize harvest yields is being achieved. I have posted before links that illustrate crops rotting in the fields from labor shortages--that senseless waste of highly perishable foodstuffs must really frustrate farmers!

    The seasonality of farming cycles is a big impediment to getting and retaining workers; requires a mobile workforce to move from field to field as the numerous crops require varying labor inputs across their planting, growing, then harvesting lifecycles. No wonder they seek urban work as soon as possible: mowing lawns and trimming hedges, or washing cars or floors, is a reliable income with short commutes.

    The building of the Border Wall, the Minutemen and National Guard being stationed along the border, and the increasing crackdown on hiring illegals is good, IMO, to help prevent a two-tiered society from forming in America. I hope the expansion of temporary worker permits continues so that these people from Latin America will be treated fairly, can be tracked by the system, and be included in the labor stats to optimize labor productivity and equity. Medical exams should be included too so that disease outbreaks can be minimized and worker help optimized.

    I think the govt should withhold a percentage of their wages so that if labor conditions changes, say from a recession, or weather related structural farming change, these people can be automatically sent back to visit their families with cash till conditions improve versus these people being abandoned, then forced to commit crimes to survive. The other benefit of withholding some of their wages is that they could count on having a guaranteed week of vacation time to visit their families, then an easy flight and/or busride back to employment, versus the present system of not seeing their families for years and constantly hiding from INS cops, or being caught, then being dumped with no money far from home. I have posted links before of how unscrupulous cops & smugglers in Mexico and elsewhere have taken advantage of these people trying to move North.

    The net effect of all this is that hiring legal migrants will become more expensive, but more fair and humane. This rising cost will trickle through our economy forcing more Americans to adopt farm labor and relocalized permaculture helping jumpstart the 60-75% labor shift of postPeak biosolar agriculture. The strict hiring controls at the Border will help force Mexico, and other latin countries to jumpstart their biosolar programs too versus globalization forcing them to send their poor on practically a deathmarch to America.

    Maybe some other TODers have better ideas on matching migrant labor to US markets that allows for optimal Detritus Powerdown & Biosolar Powerup as we go postPeak. Being a fast-crash doomer--I can think of all kinds of much worse scenarios from civil war here in the US to declaring war on Mexico. I would prefer careful planning to mandatory free market attendence at a North American Machete' Moshpit.

    Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

    A very well thought out approach !

    Congrats !

    Best Hopes,


    Farm labor,

    before this issue about farm labor goes into silly cycles with Infantile Protuberances(IP) and Phelgm(fleanm-flam) doing the chicken dance let me give one observation on it then I will shut up...since I do sometimes work as a farmhand.

    I know a guy(farmer) up the road who farms about 1,000 acres. He does it with just basically ONE farmhand who is part time and himself. He does all of it except the truck hauling. Plus he grows one hell of a huge garden. His wife to my knowledge does NOTHING to help him.

    Another friend does about 3,000 acres and with about 3 farmhands of which only 2 are mostly fulltime.

    I know a family that does like 4 or 4 1/2 thousand acres and the old man, his son and the son's two boys plus one part time hired hand does everybit and that includes two semis hauling the grain and running 3 combines.

    So I think for most corn,wheat and soybeans farmers its likely 1 hand per 1,000 acres.

    Its really very seasonal and when its raining or the fields are not workable? You are not doing much of anything.

    One guy can run one planter and get in 1,500 acres IMO. The farmer.

    Its costly to have to pay hands for sitting on their asses. Insurance takes a toll as well. Many boys and men around will work but they don't all prefer full time. Many stop by the shop and ask for work. Problem is that none are very reliable. Yet when the work is there and needs to be done? They toe the line. If they dont' then their rep proceeds them. Many won't hire another mans workers either. At least not in the same county.

    Mexicans? No many. The do the tobacco when called. Most work in chicken factories. That is work no one wants to do. The pay is very lousy and thats why. Understand that the corporations are not union and they pay garbage for wages. So the best deal is live low on the hog, in cheap housing and work as you need to and hunt the rest of the time or whatever.

    Around here we have no labor shortage in farm work. Thats what I see.

    Now IP will have some words to refute this I am sure. As well as the perennial fleam. Something someone wrote on PeakOil.Com or elsewhere who just pulled it out of their ass.

    Anyone else is free to refute what I see and observe. Other regions and states may vary. This is not central Ky and its not eastern Ky.

    We farm a lot here. Its how we live since we have very little industry, basically none.

    I think the situation is different for grain crops than for fruits and vegatables. Picking apples, grapes, spinach(!) is still very labor intensive. Here in agricultual California there are swarms of illegals and semi-legals doing this work. And last fall there were headlines as farmers destroyed tons of rotting fruit because there were no pickers when needed.

    I agree. Just like tobacco. Very labor intensive. Used to be that the whole family helped with the tobacco crop. That went by the wayside some time ago.

    Today you might be sent to jail for even daring to ask your kids to help you.
    The wifes must find it more entertaining to stroll the malls rather than the rows. Strip tobacco? Hah.

    Solar/Hydrogen in New Jersey:

    Solar power eliminates utility bills in U.S. home

    His conventional-looking family home in the pinewoods of western New Jersey is the first in the United States to show that a combination of solar and hydrogen power can generate all the electricity needed for a home.

    German researchers have done this 20 years ago (google "Hysolar"). Anyone who is seriously willing to invest into energy independence can do it. The problem is that few people are willing and that it will take federal and state incentives to increase these investments. CA and other states in the West are taking this seriously (people have finally noticed that the sun shines long and hard around here).

    And please note that the Saudis have invested in this research decades ago. I don't know how much they are investing now. But if they are any smart (and I think they are), they will be interested in looking beyond oil.

    Beyond oil is swiss bank accounts.

    Edited to fix link.

    Thanks for the fixed link!

    The article underscored my intuition about this project. Like the German Hysolar house this is a masterpiece of extreme engineering and just like the Hysolar house it is completely out of proportions economically as well as ecologically. Hydrogen is not the way to go to store energy on a single family home scale. Neither are batteries. For an investment of $500,000, they could have saved ten times more energy by insulating half a dozen homes, buying wind generation capacity or by installing almost 100kW (peak) worth of solar panels for themselves and the neighbours. And honestly, giving 150,000 CFLs or 15 Prius away would have been even better!

    Thank you. I've just begun to use HTML.

    I'm not sure if it's been mentioned here (Google didn't have it) but I'd like to recommend a TV show that I think many readers would enjoy: Living with Ed on the cable HGTV channel.

    It's about actor Ed Begley, Jr. and his wife Rachelle. Begley is a successful actor but rather than living in Beverly Hills he continues to live in a modest home in Studio City. His money goes into environmental improvements: the entire roof is a forest of solar cells, he has an electric car and a hybrid for longer trips, and the entire household is solar powered. In the morning he gets up and rides his stationary bike for half an hour to generate electricity for his breakfast toast.

    The "hook" for the show is a Green Acres gimmick: his wife Rachelle would prefer the glamorous Hollywood lifestyle and constantly fights with Ed over their cramped living conditions and his un-aesthetic "improvements". However they've been married and living in that house for something like ten years so I imagine that they are exaggerating Rachelle's intolerance for the benefit of the cameras.

    Anyway I have really enjoyed the show and it's interesting to see how the self-sufficient lifestyle can work. Of course what they leave out is the cost of Ed's solar system and other improvements - he must have put close to $100,000 into the house. So it's not like everybody else can just do like Ed. But it is good to see a concrete example of someone living the lifestyle they preach.

    Drummers of all flavors:

    flat-crash doomers, cornucopians, slow-squeezers and geologic geezers might all be interested in a new funky tool that Google has made available.


    Should help us in our analyses.

    One economics blog named it "Best. Chart. Ever".


    We just need to get them to include some energy data.

    Nice chart.

    I'm not too keen on that "drummer" moniker, though. To me, Drummer is a gay leather magazine. Er, not that there's anything wrong with that...

    A "drumbeater" is "one that supports a cause, especially vehemently."

    --American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language.

    Beat the drum and have no fear
    And kiss the camp follower!
    That is the whole of science,
    That is the deepest of books' meaning.

    -- Heinrich Heine, Doktrin

    New Fed fear: Lower oil

    Some economists even argue that the Fed will have to be even more vigilant for inflation pressures now that oil is falling. That's because lower oil prices could actually give a boost to consumer spending and the economy, which flagged in the second half of last year under the weight of higher oil prices and the series of rate hikes from the Fed that ended last summer.

    It may seem counter-intuitive, but just as higher oil helped slow the economy in 2006 and let the Fed end its course of rate hikes, if oil stays low it could wash way the chance of rate cuts.

    I was reading old issues of The Economist from 2005 last night (looking for back articles on oil) and, coincidentally came across that argument in the context of rising oil prices.

    From their Aug 27 2005 issue:

    The rising price of oil is thus taking some of the job of constraining the world economy away from higher interest rates. From this point of view, a high oil price is quite healthy, a way of helping to prevent the global economy from overheating. A much more efficient solution would be tighter global monetary conditions. But tighter money now risks pushing the housing and borrowing booms into reverse, tippings economies into recession.

    Of course, since then the FED has pushed rates higher, housing suffered and oil prices moved even higher, then the desired slowdown has occurred and oil has backed off.

    "Of course, since then the FED has pushed rates higher, housing suffered and oil prices moved even higher, then the desired slowdown has occurred and oil has backed off."

    You forgot to add: "...then the desired slowdown has occurred and oil has backed off... while housing ontinues to suffer and becomes simply unaffordable for low and medium income families with children. As a consequence these families will have to continue to rent, can not accumulate wealth and will be hard pressed to send their children to college or university. The resulting ill educated adults will be earning low salaries in dead end jobs when entering the next cycle of economic dependence, while at the same time being forced to support their aging parents on their own, making it even harder to break the cycle and provide a better future to their own kids."

    Brave new world... has finally arrived. The betas, gammas and deltas have been defined.

    From the WSJ's market blog ($$$):

    As a result, David Rosenberg, chief North American economist at Merrill Lynch, estimates the decline is worth about three interest-rate cuts, and will add about 0.75 percentage point to GDP growth in the first quarter, noting that “prices at the pump are now falling faster than at any other time since September – and are down 4% already this year.” He quipped, “Who needs the Fed?”

    ...will add .75% to GDP growth.

    That is not chump change. Somebody was saying above that the war is running 1% of GDP (seems a little low). If true, the idea of mideast ops being essentially self-financing if they keep the oil flowing briskly, is not as outlandish as I once thought.

    A wondeful argument except that there is less oil flowing than before the war!

    Just imagine how much less oil will be flowing if Saudi Arabia gets involved in the conflict and Iran will default to sabotage KSA's oil facilities... just because the homegrown Saudi terrorists have been unsuccesful, so far, does not mean Iran's experts won't have a great Turkey Shoot.


    GDP may well rise, but in won't be due to Rosenberg's poorly thought out suggestion. Yes, GDP rises. I use a formula of 0.25% per $5/barrel move. But the effect takes 24 months for full pass thru. The contract price has decreased $20 (the spot price changes mean dick all). Thus a 1% change in GDP is in order ... but over two years ... not his Q1 suggestion.

    Further, the economy is still absorbing the oil price changes over the last 8 quarters that are still going thru the system ... $30 dollars worth (1.5%). Right conceptually. Wrong application.

    It always amuses me how the people in the US buy the myth that by controlling a single economic quantity half a dozen key variables of the US economy can be balanced perfectly. It is even more amazing how the one quantity that can actually moderate the changes in energy prices (and yes, I am talking about the gas tax!) is completely demonized at the same time. So you don't mind paying $300 more for your home mortgage a month when paying $30 more at the pump could get the job done better... WHAT A JOKE! (and yes, people, that joke is on you)

    The use of short term interest rates to manage the economy has been used successfully for a generation. It is not perfect, as u identified, but it takes out the amplitude of the cycles. Less harsh inflation at the peaks of the business cycle. Less unemployment at the trough.

    Almost all the g-20 central bankers have adopted it. The low rates promote the housing and auto sectors to heat up the economy. Home purchases are encouraged 'cuz of the multiplier effect (appliances, furniture, landscaping, renovations). When critical mass is acheived, the brakes are put on by increasing the rates. Presently, lower oil prices are working against the increased rates. The usa is within months or weeks of the cycle top.

    An increase in the layoff rate and a sustained Rising unemployment Rate will be the signal of "Peak."

    Using interest rates is acknowledged as being hard on some sectors (real estate agents!) but is the lesser evil of options in the Fed's toolbox.

    I don't have a problem with the basic idea of short term interest rates as a regulator of economic growth. It works, within its limits, just fine. My beef is with it having become a religion of its own (although it has replaced its fabulous high priest Greenspan with a boring guy "What's his name" in a suit).

    What is missing in the US is the willingness of the federal and state governments to regulate early and effectively where regulation is necessary. The dreadful energy dependence of the US is a great example for the failure of the system to employ effective regulation mechanisms that have led Europe and Japan to much higher energy efficiency, although not much better energy independence. However, the latter is the result of European and Japanese geophysics, not the result of the failure of the political regulation. Without it both regions would probably have gone bankrupt a long time. With it they will avoid total economic failure, albeit only by a very narrow margin and at an extraordinary cost. The US, on the other hand, let every single chance to become almost independent pass by for sake of its cheapshot industrial interests.

    So the decision point is not between the fed interest and detailed consumption taxation. You can do both and reap the advantages of both. That it is not being done has much more to do with political ideology than with solid economics theory.

    IP, sometimes it's a fine line betw planned economies (socialism) and a free enterprise gov't that has an economic or industrial strategy. Long term planning in democracies are stymied by that irritating phenom call ELECTIONS. Sometimes good but hard decisions are deferred 'til "after".

    Govt's are supposed to bite the bullet on important issues early in their mandate to let the public cool off. Doesn't work well tho due to the need for public input and outreach measures eating precious time.

    Albeit not perfect, in the long term the free enterprise and capitalist models have shown to be superior to the inefficiencies and deterioration of the work ethic within the socialist model.

    The kind of planning one finds in Europe is not even close to anything called "socialism". It is also by no means close to anything called "truly rational", but it does have a few components that make Europe the more intelligent player in many fields. Public transportation, energy infrastructure, urban planning are certainly far better organized and the result can be seen on any visit of London, Paris, Berlin or Madrid.

    I do not expect the US to get anywhere close to the level of control European nations and the EU exercize and I don't think it has to. But I would expect US politicians to step up to the plate a couple of years before everyone is standing in front of the burning house and the first shy fingers go up pointing at the flames bursting from the roof. I will be dissapointed, it seems.

    DOE-Funded Microhole Drilling Rig Demonstrated Successfully; Technology Could Tap Bypassed Oil and Gas

    A specially designed hybrid microhole coiled tubing rig recently concluded the drilling of 25 test wells to penetrate a particularly intractable natural gas formation called the Niobrara in western Kansas and eastern Colorado. The effort delivered cost savings of 25-35% per well drilled compared with conventional drilling equipment.

    As a result, about 1 trillion cubic feet of shallow gas that had been bypassed by conventional drilling has now been made economic. That volume equates to about 5% of America’s annual natural gas consumption. The research project was funded by the US Department of Energy (DOE).

    More quotes...

    "The commercial Niobrara drilling program—in which 3,000-foot wells were drilled in as little as 19 hours, from rig move-in to move-out followed a Department of Energy-funded research project..."

    "Microhole coiled tubing drilling technology could be applied to bypassed resources in thousands of oil and natural gas reservoirs across the US, particularly for shallow reservoirs in mature or even apparently depleted fields. The Energy Department estimates the volume of bypassed oil in US oilfields at less than 5,000 feet subsurface at more than 218 billion barrels. Recovering just 10 percent of this targeted untapped resource equates to an amount equal to 10 years of OPEC oil imports at current rates.

    Cannot resist one more quote...

    "The results far exceeded expectations, with drilling cost savings averaging 38%."

    Wake me when they manage to turn the decline of US production around. No, seriously. Give me a buzz. My phone number is 1-800-TOO-GOOD-TOBETRUE.


    One more quote from the DOE to sleep on...

    "game-changing potential"

    I used to work for DOE. They love to put those big words on anything in their press releases. The dog farts in the bosses office... and they discovered a new energy source.


    does that article mention on how long it would take to extract this oil / what an expected extraction rate is?
    <opinion> It sounds like they can get now holes drilled quite quickly with this technology, so it should be relatively quick but against that its only 10 years of oil, but could be enough to cover the US for a significant fraction of the PO decline in the rest of the world.</opinion>


    This may or may not be what you are looking for...

    The rig has been operating for approximately 1 year drilling shallow gas wells in western Kansas and eastern Colorado. Rig operations have improved to the point where it now drills 3,100-ft (945.5-m) wells in a single day. Cost savings of approximately 30% over conventional rotary well drilling have been documented. Well performance is improved because of less formation damage as a result of minimizing formation exposure to drilling fluid through fast drilling.

    Here is the source article at the DOE

    DOE-Funded 'Microhole' Drilling Rig Demonstrated Successfully in Midcontinent

    I can now see the "bumpy plateau" on the horizon boys...this could be a contango killer.

    This spells BIG trouble...

    Chevron and Shell delay natural gas projects, sending prices higher

    Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell are delaying construction projects from Australia to Nigeria, threatening to drive natural gas prices higher for years to come.

    None of the world's biggest energy companies approved developments last year to increase production of liquefied natural gas, or LNG, which helps to heat homes and run power plants from Tokyo to Boston. The main reason is that the cost to build such plants has tripled in six years, according to Bechtel Group, the biggest U.S. contractor.

    Natural gas prices are three times as high as in the 1990s, and consumption of the fuel will outpace the 1.6 percent annual gain in energy demand for the next 25 years, according to the International Energy Agency. Natural gas also is becoming more popular because it emits 29 percent less carbon dioxide than oil and 45 percent less than coal burned in power stations.
    "Costs are going up, and they're going up far faster than anybody expected," said Andy Flower, a consultant in Britain to the industry and a former BP executive. He forecast that a world liquefied natural gas shortage would last until at least 2011.

    Natural gas traded in New York has soared from an average of $2 per million British thermal units in the 1990s as consumption increased, oil costs rose and domestic supplies diminished. U.S. gas production peaked in 1973, and demand since then has held steady, increasing the need for imports.
    Natural gas for February delivery rose 0.037 percent to $6.638 per million British thermal units Monday on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
    On Dec. 13, 2005, the futures reached a record of $15.78.

    Gas may become more important than oil in the next 50 years because crude supplies are running out faster, according to the IEA in Paris. Global oil and natural gas reserves were about the same at the end of 2005, equal to 1.2 trillion barrels of crude, according to data compiled by BP. But oil reserves are being burned almost twice as quickly as gas.

    Record gas prices will not fall for "years to come," said Ari Soemarno, president of the Indonesian state energy company Pertamina, which until 2005 was the world's largest exporter of liquefied natural gas.

    OPEC has a sub $50 basket!! Today was the fifth day. OPEC will not drop quota 'til the quota cheaters come on board, so the trend will continue thru january. A new low of $48.57 yesterday:

    Just a dumb question - what is in an Opec basket - is it the spot prices for the different grades, or is it the average contract price, or something else? I.e. what does a basket of $48.95 mean?

    Never mind - I got it:

    The new OPEC Reference Basket (ORB), implemented as of 16 June 2005, is made up of the following: Saharan Blend (Algeria), Minas (Indonesia), Iran Heavy (Islamic Republic of Iran), Basra Light (Iraq), Kuwait Export (Kuwait), Es Sider (Libya), Bonny Light (Nigeria), Qatar Marine (Qatar), Arab Light (Saudi Arabia), Murban (UAE) and BCF 17 (Venezuela).

    The new OPEC Reference Basket (ORB), implemented as of 16 June 2005, is made up of the following: Saharan Blend (Algeria), Minas (Indonesia), Iran Heavy (Islamic Republic of Iran), Basra Light (Iraq), Kuwait Export (Kuwait), Es Sider (Libya), Bonny Light (Nigeria), Qatar Marine (Qatar), Arab Light (Saudi Arabia), Murban (UAE) and BCF 17 (Venezuela).

    An update on capacity ventures which will yield 6-mbd increase over 4 years:

    Why did crude capacity drop in 2003?

    I would assume Iraq2 war. Iraq capacity partially diminished.

    Wal-Mart is being outed for fraud in its organic efforts by a sustainable farming advocacy named--get this--the Cornucopia Institute.

    I don't think this has been posted already.

    A cool idea reported via Wired

    A new unit of measure 1CMO cubic mile of oil. The amount of oil we use every year.

    Its equivalent to
    104 Coal power plants (500 megawatts) running for 50 years or
    4 Three gorges damns (18 Gigawatts) running for 50 years or
    3280 wind turbines (1.65 megawatts) running for 50 years or
    52 nuke stations (1.1 gigawatts) running for 50 years or
    91250000 solar panels (2.1 kilowatts) running for 50 years

    Staggering isn't it?

    Granted we use only a fraction of the energy content of liquid fuels but that's still a tremendous amount of energy.

    Dec figures from IEA:
    Globe: 85.4-mbd (up from 85.3)
    OPEC: 28.8-mbd (down from 28.955)
    non-OPEC: 51.9-mbd (up from 51.7)
    NGL: 4.7-mbd

    inferred Q4: 85.4-mbd (down 0.1)
    inferred 2006: 85.3-mbd (up 0.8-mbd)
    Year 2005: 84.5-mbd
    Year 2004: 83.2-mbd

    inferred record month: July 2006 86.13-mbd
    inferred record quarter: 2006/Q3 85.50-mbd
    inferred record year: 2006 85.30-mbd

    OECD Inventory 2.712 Mb (up 41-Mb from Dec 2005) = 54 days stock

    The inferred global stock change is -0.5-mbd for Q4 (demand exceeded supply). Demand in Q4 was approx a record 85.9-mbd!

    Final 2006 Supply effect on Bakhtiari WOCAP Model = 4.3-mbd error: