DrumBeat: January 29, 2007

Mexico's Oil Output Cools

Daily output at Mexico's biggest oil field tumbled by half a million barrels last year, according to figures released Friday by the Mexican government. The ongoing decline at the Cantarell field could pressure prices on the global oil market, complicate U.S. efforts to diversify its oil imports away from the Middle East, and threaten Mexico's financial stability.

The virtual collapse at Cantarell -- the world's second-biggest oil field in terms of output at the start of last year -- is unfolding much faster than projections from Mexico's state-run oil giant Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex. Cantarell's daily output fell to 1.5 million barrels in December compared to 1.99 million barrels in January, according to figures from the Mexican Energy Ministry.

US may become corn importer

The United States could shift from the world’s largest exporter of corn to a net importer as its burgeoning ethanol industry continues to expand, but in the meantime sales abroad are poised to rise as farmers boost acreage to cash in on decade-high prices.

...The demand for corn-based ethanol could be so strong that the United States might one day become a net importer of corn, said Jose Rasco, investment strategist at Merrill Lynch.

"If the US becomes a net importer of corn, it could drastically affect the global corn industry," he said. "Our ability to export corn will probably be diminished by the increased demand domestically from the energy side."

Energy: Hot topic for America

Gas prices may be lower right now, but most Americans seem to understand that energy is going to be everybody's problem in the long run. So what policies should this nation follow to get us to where we ought to be - a measure of "energy independence," reasonable costs, alternatives to fossil fuels, conservation and efficiency - in the coming decades?

More to the point, what are you willing to support - and do yourself - to make it happen?

Melting glaciers show climate change speeding up, say UN, scientists

New data has shown that the melting of mountain glaciers worldwide is accelerating, a clear sign that climate change is also picking up, the UN environmental agency and scientists said.

Indonesia could lose 2,000 islands with rise in sea level, finds study

Hedging Climate Bets

So one logical approach is to ask exactly what the prices of various assets are telling us about disinterested opinion concerning CO2 theory. Granted, the market is very noisy, and prices reflect possible government mandates and subsidies, the U.S. interest in energy independence for security and foreign policy reasons, and the peak oil issue. But buried somewhere in the haystack is valuable information about what some of the world's smartest investors really think about CO2, and it would behoove those in the "skeptic" community to find it and feed it back into the political debate. Who ya gonna believe -- Al Gore or an Indonesian billionaire with real money on the line and access to some of the best expertise in the world?

N.Y. firm pumped about Russian oil

The United States is sitting on an energy land mine, said David Zaikin, the founder, chairman and chief executive of Siberian Energy Group Inc. of New York. The firm owns seven oil assets as part of a joint venture covering 1 million acres in western Siberia and 90% of the gas assets in the Russian region.

“Some traders and oil companies suggest that if Iran withdraws half of its oil deliveries, price per barrel will jump to $160,” Mr. Zaikin said. “All major oil and gas companies can bridge the gap for a very short period of time, but after that, the price is in free territory.”

Bulgaria's PM Visits Plunged-in-Blackout Albania

The impact of Bulgaria's nuclear units closure is one of the main topics to be discussed during the official visit of Bulgaria's prime minister in Albania.

Albania is suffering from electricity-supply restrictions in the wake of the shut down of Bulgaria's nuke units 3 and 4 at the end of last year. The energy crisis provoked protests all over the country some weeks ago.

Germany: Breakthrough Deal May Eliminate German Coal Subsidies

After months of negotiations, politicians and leaders from the coal industry reached a breakthrough Sunday night. Government subsidies -- not jobs -- are to be cut back drastically and may be history as early as 2018.

Expanded Biofuel Production Expected to Drive Up Food Prices

Canadian consumers can expect to pay more for pork and other red meats and poultry down the road as North American livestock producers adjust to increased competition for grains that have traditionally been used to feed livestock, writes Bruce Cochrane.

Green Groups Insist Biofuel Can't Cure All Energy Ills

Biofuel has been heralded as the answer to air pollution and energy dependency while creating jobs, but German environmental groups say it's not necessarily the panacea some portray it as.

In Europe the bell tolls for energy

Europe has taken action as the result of increasing energy demand, the Gazprom Empire – which became known during the Ukrainian crisis – and the much feared global warming. Experts are seeking a magical solution that will both satisfy the growing demand and slow down global warming.

Oil prices still likely to fuel global slowdown

Compared to forecasts of US$100, oil is today selling at about half-price, a true bargain. But this perception runs the risk of exaggerating estimates of the economic impact of the decline.

Iran in $10bn initial gas deal with Repsol, Shell

Getting Serious About Alternative Energy

First, let's be clear: Oil is different from other products. If the French offend me, I can buy wine from Australia instead. If the price of beef goes up, I can dine on lamb. But oil enjoys a kind of monopoly: If you drive a car, you have no choice but to buy fuels refined from petroleum, a resource most abundant in countries where hostility toward Americans runs high. Currently, we spend about $150 million a day on oil from the Persian Gulf and more than $70 million a day on oil from Venezuela.

Bernanke, Trichet May Find Cheaper Oil Raises Inflation Risks

The same lower energy bills that are removing a source of inflation are also stoking the world economy at a time when it is already growing briskly. That may be enough to force interest rates higher in Europe, and keep them from coming down in the U.S.

Recent Trends & Year Ahead for Oil Market

The story of oil prices last year was all too familiar and well documented — a strong and sustained run up in oil prices, due to unforeseen demand in China and India, and a risk premium associated with global tensions (as high as $10 per barrel), followed by a drop. Continued growth in oil demand in China, India and the US and supply shocks combined to raise oil prices to a new record. US light crude (WTI) smashed through its previous year peak of $70.86 to rise to $78.40 per barrel on July 14. Since then, oil prices have been on a downward path, reaching below the $50 a barrel level for the first time in over 19 months in mid-January.

China's Fuel Shortages May Ease as Rail, Grid Expand

China's fuel shortages may ease this year as the world's second-biggest energy user expands railway and grid networks to facilitate supplies to factories in the southeast, the nation's top economic planner said.

Iceberg the size of London threatens rigs

An enormous iceberg the size of central London is causing alarm among scientists, who predict that it could be on the move in a matter of months, posing a potential threat to shipping and oil rigs in Arctic waters.

West looks to bypass Russia for energy

Obscure republics of the former Soviet Union have taken centre stage in the new Cold War: the struggle to secure supplies of oil and natural gas.

Lithium surge lacks staying power

The excitement around new battery technology is understandable, given that energy storage is one of the biggest bottlenecks of innovation facing the planet. What's not as justified is the fixation on lithium-ion batteries.

Just ask William Tahil, research director with Meridian International Research, a technology consultancy based in France. Tahil recently authored a paper titled, "The Trouble With Lithium," in which he concludes that the rapid embrace of lithium-ion batteries is misguided and bound to backfire.

U.S. consumers, companies feeling green

It took a war, a deadly hurricane season and an unusually mild winter, but U.S. consumers seem ready to cut back on energy usage for good.

Vietnam Leader Urges State Oil Company to Halt Slump in Output

Vietnam Oil & Gas Group, known as PetroVietnam, should move urgently to open new fields and halt a drop in output from Southeast Asia's third-biggest oil producer, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said.

Vietnamese crude oil production totaled 17.3 million tons last year, or about 355,000 barrels a day, down 8 percent from output of 18.8 million tons, or about 386,000 barrels a day in 2005, according to figures provided by PetroVietnam. The decline marked the second consecutive drop in production after a near- tripling of output within a decade.

Oil sands woes will be resolved, energy board says

With roughly $100-billion of work planned for the region over the next decade, problems are everywhere in Fort McMurray, from a severe housing shortage that has made the remote city one of Canada's most expensive to extremely stressed health care facilities.

The Politics of Cheap Oil

Oil prices may be falling, but hold off the cheering. Yes, cheaper oil leads to cheaper gasoline, and that's good for America. At least, that's the common wisdom, particularly among the neoconservatives. But there is plenty of downside to cheaper oil and those deleterious effects rarely get discussed.

Food Prices in Iran & Mexico Increasing Due to Demand for Oil & Grain

From Iran come reports of great disaffection amongst the less affluent classes with the governance of a certain Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he of the stem-winding anti-U.S. speeches that incidentally promise the destruction of Israel. Apparently Mr. Ahmadinejad can spend his nation’s oil money running a nuclear weapons program, but he cannot keep the price of food from rising, much to the consternation of the people who inhabit the land of ancient Persia. The Mullahs, we are told, are not pleased.

Coal is cheap in short run, but it will prove costly in end

Anyone who thinks "liberal propaganda" when they hear that assertion needs to read Joseph Romm's just-out book, "Hell and High Water." It's well-documented, hard to refute and scary.

Superstorms on a scale of Katrina or worse. Suffocating hot spells in warmer climates that will last for months. Extinction of dozens of animal species. Inundation of coastal cities and low-lying countries. And more, making parts of the planet all but uninhabitable.

Nigeria militants claim to free leader

The main militant group in Nigeria's restive, oil-rich south said dozens of its heavily armed forces raided a prison Sunday and freed one of their leaders.

Officials in the oil-industry center of Port Harcourt confirmed there was a prison break, but did not say who escaped. Officials said one passer-by died when the militants exploded dynamite to break through the prison walls.

Climate change hitting developing countries worst, says UN

Climate change is having an increasing impact around the world, with developing countries the worst hit and least capable of defending themselves, a top UN climate change official has said.

New climate report too rosy, experts say

Later this week in Paris, climate scientists will issue a dire forecast for the planet that warns of slowly rising sea levels and higher temperatures. But that may be the sugarcoated version.

Couldn’t decide whether the oil prices are high or low?

With the mild weather and OPEC members’ reluctancy to hold promises for production cuts, OPEC’s basket price has seen $48 a barrel. But oil prices are on the rise again.

For peak oil camp, the production peak has already been arrived or is about to arrive. So the price catastrophy is very close. We should get ready to see high prices.

Hungry for oil

Dwindling oil stocks could cause the UK to be vulnerable to food shortages for the first time since the second world war.

For anyone who has read Kunstler, the following link adds very little new - http://www.orionmagazine.org/pages/om/07-1om/Kunstler.html On the other hand, for anyone wanting a fairly short introduction to his current thinking, this should fit the bill perfectly.

Opinions certainly vary about him, and I am certain that he would be preferred to be called a realist, and not someone sprouting doom and gloom. In the time he has been writing about the coming problems facing suburbia, America has done little but build more suburbia. His main points concerning the collision of the reality of peak oil with the American Dream seem to be difficult to refute rationally, though as always, he is not a prophet. (Well, in a way he is, but of the sort which calls down the wrath of god on the heathens who live lives of sin worshipping at false altars - yes, pretty tedious if you don't agree.)

I like this line from Kunstler's "clustercoitus" today:

Martha may be lucky to avoid getting eaten, along with a long list of other celebrity porkchops that an angry and grievance-filled public will turn on.

I wonder if Dannyboy "Jerkin" Yergin might not also be "eaten" by the people who got sucked into his delusion.

And as for "celebrity porkchops" - imagine the backlash against the "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous"-types, and/or the "Simpleton Life" porn-queens in Hollywood.

The flaunting of wealth is likely again to be considered VULGAR if not dangerous in the not-too-distant future.

A future bumper sticker?
(ok, Bike Sticker?):

Eat the Rich


Eat the Banksters

Alas Babylon

The "Peak Lithium" theory is typical for the most common fallacy of all peak theories - lack of imagination.

Oceans alone contain billions tons of lithium - the concentration is around 0.18 grams/tonne - this multiplied by 1,340 mln.km3 equals to practically indefinite supply of lithium. Whether we will start recovering it from the oceans is just a question of how much we want to, but one day we will certainly do that if neccessary.

The bridge between imagination and reality has to be built on sound science. We can all easily imagine spaceships zipping around the galaxy at many times the speed of light, but it will never happen.

Just google "extracting lithium from seawater". I did not want to go into technical discussions but I am not talking about science fiction here.

So maybe it's easy to extract mountains of Lithium. Not really my point. You state that what is lacking out there is imagination, and I completely disagree. I think the opposite is the case: I see nothing but imagination, or what I call Fantasy. I'm totally in favor of whatever works. But when I can't get any gasoline to put in my car - and if things go the way I think they will in the ME then that should be this year, maybe even this spring - it won't help my situation at all to know that there's plenty of Lithium in the oceans.
Anyway, batteries are just a storage medium. Still have to generate that electricity somehow...

But sorting out "scientific imagination" from "science fiction imagination" is the whole purpose of our discussions here. In this case I knew there are feasible methods to extract Li from seawater which I had accepted with a good degree of certainty will be working for us.

The lack of imagination I find in the way the picture was described by the article. It basically assumed we will continue extracting and using Li the way we used to and did not allow for innovation at all. In contrast I am allowing innovation, being more or less agnostic on it - it may or may not work. But this is not the point - the point is that this is not the time to tell whether potential innovations will work or not. This is what the article was leading us to the end - kill all Li batteries, because you see Li is will run out.

How energy-intensive is the extraction process? That is the question that needs to be asked in order to make imagination connect with reality.

That's a major problem with many of the Faithful of the godz of Technology and Science.

They usually have the same tendency as the CERA crowd to overestimate the positives "on paper" but neglect the "above ground" limitations such as geopolitical and physical constraints (such as infrastructure buildout etc), international competition and current technical limits to their proposed solution.

Many if not all of the techno solutions may come into play but it may be long after we've suffered through much of the growing pains of the Transition away from Fossil Fuels.

Let's compare the two sides of the story:
1) "Let us not do it because we will run out of this or that resource"
2) "Let's do it because we'll find ways to better extract the resources, find their substitutes and/or use them more efficiently"

At first glance it looks that the first claim is the more responsible one. Hell it's so tempting to just sit around and do nothing while the world around you is going to the waste bin. But if you just applied that same principle to all decisions made by humans throughout their history we would be back to the caves, or even to the trees. None of the things we humans did has ever been indefinately "renewable" or "sustainable". Even the bow and arrows are limited to the amount of wood you can cut to master them. And wind turbines or solar panels do not magically appear off the ground by themselves.

It all comes down to trial and errors and evolution of one technology to another. As long as lithium batteries are the best way to reduce fossil fuels usage available, I will support them until they are proven to fail in practice. Predictions by some fake prophets of doom, persuading us to not even try are hardly of any interest.

Here's what I need:

1. A car with a 200 mile range minimum.
2. Electricity
3. Heat
4. Food

When Lithium batteries can provide some of that I'll be interested. Go, try it, show me something useful! I want it and I'll take it - if, of course, I can afford it...

why do you NEED #1 ?

If you are a rural large animal veterinarian I can understand the "need".

Odd that you do not NEED "#5. Shelter", although perhaps that is covered in #1. Or "#6. Human Contact and Society" with medical care included in #6 or a #7.

Best Hopes for NOT needing cars with 200 mile range.


Well, my current reality is that I live 45 miles from work, so I need a car. I know, move closer to work. But I live in a small town that might fare better post-crash. And I work in a high-tech industry that consumes mucho electricity. So moving closer to a job that will likely go away soon seems like a bad idea.
Sure, I need those other things too. It wasn't meant to be a complete list, just my major energy needs.
Certainly if there was alternate transportation available I would consider it. At least my (purchased used) Corolla gets 36 MPG. But I'm not holding my breath for light rail between Weare NH and Tyngsboro Mass. I'm all for it, though!

I need to stop paying taxes to subsidize your absurd lifestyle.
No reason at all to suppose Weare will do well post-crash. Can't employ you now.

You are right, it is absurd. People like myself and Sunspot say that every morning as we roll out of bed. The problem is that a quick solution to the problem would mean that I lose a good bit of what I have invested in my rural home -- bought, I should add before I was fully aware of the consequences of buying such a property.

The problem is compounded by the fact that where I live, there is no broadband service so that precludes "telecommuting" (don't even say the word "dial-up." I'm lucky to get a stable 21k connection).

But I hear you. I know I'm only contributing to our current mess. I think about it every hour of the day.

OK. I'll try to focus on the absurdity and not the person. Still. Choices.

You make a very good point concerning 99.999% of the American public.

By the time they wake up to the crisis they will find themselve trapped in unsustainable living situations with very few alternatives available.

And they will not be as rational and calm as you are now when it happens.

Try a satellite modem.
Also if you have some tech savvy friends and hills around you can set up some
nice line of site communications using readily available equipment.

I'd suggest you get very friendly with local employees of the phone and cable companies


Generally if your tech savvy you can cobble together linux boxes to roll
your own network.

Laser links are cool and not that hard just they suffer from rain.

Finally high speed wireless from mobile providers is becoming common.

Last but not least check into buying a T1 or other fixed connection from your local provider or consider multiple pots lines with a linux load balancer.

A lot of times you can buy a 10 line business plan pretty cheap and get aggregate bandwidth thats not bad.

And of course get you lines checked and isolate the noise thats killing your connection.

Thanks, memmel. I periodically re-evaluate what I ought to do. I was very close to signing on with a regional provider of satellite internet service when I discovered that they were no longer taking customers (they promised a return to enrollment in the near future, but I haven't taken the time to check back).

This is the sort of service I get from the phone company (won't say the name but it begins with a "V" and rhymes with "horizon"): This past fall, our phone line had become so static-y that it was unusable even for local calls, so I called the phone co. and asked them to come out and have a look. I wasn't there when they came to do the repair but the tech told my wife that "the cups on the pole are installed upside down and they fill up with water when you get an extended period of rain." I assumed that he had corrected this, but the next time we had a hard rain, the static returned. We're the last house on a dead-end road, so there's nothing in it for the phone company to fix the problem. I'm sure our neck of the woods was without phone and electric for much of the twentieth century and I expect to be one of the first to be cut off when things get tight. Like oldhippie said, "Choices."

Thanks for you suggestions though. I'm going to write them down.

I am not a strong believer in telecommuting. But the broadband situation could most likely be fixed with a little bit of wireless equipment. My parents live in a village close to the middle of nowhere in Europe and they don't even have landlines for phones. The local telecom was dragging their feet about offering anything but cell-phone service and a few kbits/s for internet. A year and a half ago a small but rapidly growing company moved in, put a few antennas on a nearby tower and since then my parents have boradband for less than what I am paying for DSL. We use an IP phone application for free and have even a webcam going for less than what I would be paying for phone cards from the US to Europe.

If you have a line of sight to a nearby place with DSL, you should be able to get broadband. It wouldn't work in the middle of the forest, though...

Thanks, IP. Problem is I don't. Hilly terrain, no cable, no DSL within 4 miles.

That sucks... technologically speaking... since you seem to have a landline, in theory one can operate ADSL with line repeaters/loop extenders (bidirectional amplifiers) in the middle of the line over longer distances but I know that the phone companies are not keen on putting those in for customers. Not sure if there is any way of actually making them do it. Probably not... monopolists hardly ever move unless they are being forced by the government.

For what it's worth, if you haven't seen this, yet, here is what such a device looks like:


4 miles is at the limits of what these things can do, but they are, at least in theory, available.

Have you seen this (you would have to be somewhat desperate)?


I know your problem with DSL, cable etc. in rural hilly land To get around "dialup" with its peak speed of 18k for me, I went satelite. Which isn't as good as its cracked up to be. #1 is price-you have to pay for a new modem and a dish, plus installation. Some firms wave part of it. But often a big chunk-300 to 500 depending. Next is spotty transmission-forget it when it rains, or is foggy, or snowing. Then there's price again-monthly charges 3x dialup, for basic service, charges upped quickly if you use more bandwidth than min. Plus they want a credit card, and I liked my old local ISP-pay each month by mail or stopping in.

Still looking? I found Radioshack to be a satelite carrier/jobber for me.

Can you get ISDN service? I know its 'obsolete' technology, but 3x faster than a dial-up is not all that bad. It was all I had for a year in my rural location until DSL came available much sooner than I had anticipated. Want to buy an ISDN modem - cheap?


I think small towns will fare worse post-crash.

Why? For the obvious reason that they're far from places with money, resources and power, and supplying them is petroleum intensive.

Electricity will not be going away, and in high tech at least there is now significant empahsis on using new technology for electric power efficiency.

High tech typically generates a fair amount of economic value per unit input petroleum.

I would think it's a good idea live in a district with a public utility with a modern nuclear power plant and a high standard of maintenance.

LevinK, I agree with most of what you said here. I did not mean to imply this is not an area to be explored - lithium batteries for storage could be a very valuable and technically realistic part of one of the solutions.

My point is that in general, when it comes to the various alternatives to fossil fuels, so many of the proposed technical solutions do not take into account the various real-world factors that might limit their usefulness. And in some cases pursuit of unrealistic technical solutions will be a drain on efforts to mitigate the effects of peak oil, or may even make the symptoms of peak oil worse (e.g. food vs fuel).

I would love to see advances in robust, reliable and affordable storage systems like lithium batteries.

There's a lot of uranium in the oceans as well, but we will never even attempt to get it out, because it's crystal clear that would use way more energy than it delivers. There's a fortune in gold too, same story, but now in money. Why would lithium be different?

Because it's concentrations is hundreds and thousand times higher than both U and Au, making lithium extraction much easier. And I suggest you better never say never.

Sure there's an almost inexhaustable supply of lithium in the ocean, just like there's probably enough gold in the ocean to make everyone in the US a millionaire. But how would you do that: pump the the entire volume of the world's oceans through some mega ion exchange column the size of Delaware?

Total global abundance of a particular resource, in and of itself, is a practically meaningless number. For example, titanium is one of the more abundance elements in the earth's crust, yet it is a very expensive metal simply because it is very difficult and expensive to separate metallic titanium from the TiO2 ore. The technology of resource extraction cannot be view separately from the economics of resource extraction. The two have been and always will be inextricably intertwined.

If indeed there's 0.18 g of lithium per tonne of sea water, you'd need to process 5,500 tons of sea water for every kg of lithium recovered. To me this doesn't sound like a terribly promising way of producing lithium.

I think a process based on a enzyme like concept may work. We can create a protein or protein like complex with a high affinity for lithium.

This can be attached to a net or web like structure and simply dragged through the ocean or placed in a region with a reasonable current. Periodically it can be raise and passed through a bath that has conditions which cause the complex to release its lithium.

Rinse and repeat. So its basically a ion specific exchange membrane.

With this type of technology we would be able to extract any ion we wish from sea water at minimal cost.

Another similar approach but a bit more sophisticated is to use membrane based ion channels that do active exchange based with selection based on ion channel size.

We could build this today. Mother nature makes plenty of sea shells with similar technology.

Further out we could even farm plankton that were bio engineered to concentrate certain metal salts in their shells. I'd be uneasy releasing something like this in the wild though.

We do use plants now to extract and concentrate heavy metals.

Titanium is not really that expensive. See e.g.


The problem with it is that even once you have the raw metal (titanium sponge), it is a dog to work with. You need vacuum melting and high temperature machining processes because the cold metal is not ductile enough and wears out expensive tools in no time. It's use outside of high tech equipment like planes and bikes is limited by economic concerns.

"If indeed there's 0.18 g of lithium per tonne of sea water, you'd need to process 5,500 tons of sea water for every kg of lithium recovered. To me this doesn't sound like a terribly promising way of producing lithium."

A ton of sea water contains some 35kg of salt. The lithium is in there. Usually the first step to concentrate the salt is done using solar energy in salt ponds. It might be possible to go from the saturated brine to a concentrated lithium solution more easily than from seawater itself.

But, of course, you are correct. The solar energy needed to concentrate the brine solution in the first place is probably worth more than the lithium itself...

Titanium uses lots of electricity at every stage of processing. Biggest user of Ti is still paint - it's titanium dioxide that makes it white. Good paint has about 3# titanium dioxide to the gallon. Lots of processing to get from ore to white.

"Titanium uses lots of electricity at every stage of processing."

Same for aluminum and ferrous metals where electric ovens are being used. But even electricity can be made in enormous quantities from the sun. We just haven't gotten started, yet. But I don't believe that car manufacturing will profit that greatly from using titanium. It seems more to me that the titanium industry is looking for a new market.

LevinK, let me ask you about this because I hear this sort of response a lot when someone proposes that we are approaching some resource limit. Isn't this more a question of economics or of the cost of the energy required to extract the mineral (Li in this case, but it could just as well apply to any other geologic deposit) than it is a "failure of imagination?"

When I read the Li-ion battery article, I get the impression that the playa deposits in South America are considered as the likely future source and I can only assume that this is because these deposits are the most economical from which to recover Li. I don't doubt that huge quantities of the element are present in seawater, but it isn't like you could strain seawater through a piece of cheese cloth and pull the Li out of it.

When I was an undergraduate, studing agriculture, I learned that "modern" agricultural systems are highly dependent upon fossil phosphorus deposits that occur in relatively few places on the planet. Intrigued by this, I decided to write a paper on the subject and it was while researching the topic that I came across a paper by a mining engineer -- his last name was Emigh, as I recall -- who proposed that this was of no concern because background levels of P in the earth's crust could always be mined if we really needed the stuff. As I recall, this would require mining a mere cubic kilometer or two of the earth's crust every year -- a virtually unlimited supply in the author's view.

What am I not getting?

What you are missing is that historically we have picked fossil deposits and scaled them up, because they were much easier to exploit - the low hanging fruit. With time we became so efficient in exploiting only such stuff that we never thought of using phosphate rocks to do the same thing. And I expect this will continue long after it has become more practical to mine rocks... and this is the whole problem indeed - we have a huge embedded inertia in the system, in the form of lack of experience with new technologies, vested interests in the old technology etc.

IMHO, in the case of fossil fuels the inertia is such that it has the potential to smack us full-speed into the wall, but I don't think that such is the case with many of the alternatives - including lithium batterries, nuclear etc. The impact on such technologies (whatever they say) is so minimal that we'll be able to develop them for centuries if needed.

Well, maybe I'm just being pig-headed but the key ingredient in picking the fruit that is out of our reach still seems to be energy. The Inca of South America apparently built great palaces of stone without the benefits of oxen or the wheel. I can only imagine that meant that huge numbers of low-wage workers toiled long and hard to place those huge stones.

As concerns these more diffuse resource deposits, I see their exploitation as being contingent upon one of two scenarios:

  • A process is worked out that requires little energy and is not dependent upon other rare resources to exploit the target resource. Under this scenario, it is plausible that exploitation of the resource will have widespread benefits to average people.
  • No such process is found in which case the resource is available to a privileged few and its exploitation is reliant upon a huge number of low-wage workers who toil long and hard to exploit the resource.
  • Well, maybe I'm just being pig-headed but the key ingredient in picking the fruit that is out of our reach still seems to be energy.

    I think the last 150 years of resource extraction would agree with you. Ever since Savary and the Cornwall tin mines we have been using increasing amounts of energy in order to permit extraction of needed resources from lower grade ores.

    Seawater may indeed contain a variety of resources but the enegry costs of extraction do not look promising given the anticipated future energy contraints.

    "The "Peak Lithium" theory is typical for the most common fallacy of all peak theories - lack of imagination."

    I don't want to burst you bubble, but Peak Lithium can't happen, unless we use lithium in future fusion reactors. The simple facts are that lithium in a battery does not get used up at all. It can be chemically recycled. Oil, in contrast, can only be used once. Thus... PO is a reality. To talk about Peak Lithium, at this point, is simply a logical error.

    Your argument, while technically correct and economically most likely useless, is not required. We are not facing a lithium crisis. On the other hand, if this was a back handed attack on PO, it failed miserably because you don't even seem to understand the trivial differences between a recyclable material and one that gets burnt to CO2.

    On the other hand, if this was a back handed attack on PO, it failed miserably...

    That wasn't LevinK's intent. He's very PO aware.

    "That wasn't LevinK's intent. He's very PO aware."

    In which case I am apologizing for having had that thought.

    I don't know how many people realize that PO is an almost unique scenario (Peak Helium, of course, is closely related, albeit with a serious recycling factor except for the party balloon industry and so is Peak Uranium) that does not fundamentally apply to non-radioactive chemical elements. If we rapidly lose elements of low abundance to thermodynamically very hard to reverse dilution, it is because of our own fault ways of handling them. They could all be recycled in close to perfect closed industrial systems. The emphasize is probably on "could", in practice we are wasting a lot of hard to replace elements, too (especially the catalysts of the platinum group).

    One thing he is right about, though, by pointing out the alternatives in the article, is that lithium battery technology is only one out of a number of alternatives. It might or might not become the technology of choice for the electric car of the second generation, although it will probably play an important role for the first.

    It is also not clear to me why the second or third generation of hybrids could not revisit flywheel technology or, in case of busses, use hydraulic/pneumatic energy storage or use next generation ultracapacitors for short power bursts. Neither system has significant disadvantages over batteries for that particular application. It will be interesting to see which technologies can penetrate the market.

    This seems to be a muddled statement:

    I don't know how many people realize that PO is an almost unique scenario (Peak Helium, of course, is closely related, albeit with a serious recycling factor except for the party balloon industry and so is Peak Uranium) that does not fundamentally apply to non-radioactive chemical elements.

    Your point seems to be that oil is a fuel, so when we extract energy from it (burn it), we need to go find some more. Non-fuel minerals allow for the possibility of recycling, since the constituent elements are not destroyed and need not be dissipated.

    Peak Helium is not related to Peak Oil in this sense. It isn't a fuel, and it doesn't burn (its inertness is part of its charm). As you noted, it can be recycled, and can be captured and reused if we don't allow it to dissipate. Granted, once in the atmosphere, helium is practically lost, eventually escaping Earth's gravity well. Because helium is accumulated in many of the same geological formations that trap oil and natural gas, there is a forced correlation between Peak Helium and Peak Oil and Gas (extracting the oil and gas releases the helium, unless we are careful, which we should be, as it is handy stuff).

    Uranium is a mineral fuel, but uranium and oil are so different that saying their peaks are closely related is a very weak statement at best. The geology, extraction, and mining economics differ so much for uranium and oil that many of the arguments we use to support Peak Oil are difficult to transform to arguments for Peak Uranium. For example, uranium can be "burned" in several ways. Currently, with light water reactors, we burn about 1% of the uranium, the easiest part to burn, and toss the remaining 99% away as troublesome waste. If we were willing to accept a tripling of cost for nuclear-generated electricity, we could burn that 99% that is now waste, effectively expanding the uranium reserves 100 times. It is very unlikely that a tripling of the cost of oil-based fuels would expand oil reserves 100 times.

    On a slight tangent, the most likely form of commercial fusion is a user and consumer of lithium. The deuterium + tritium reaction requires large amounts of tritium, which will most likely be created by reacting neutrons with lithium-6. Unfortunately, the reaction of neutrons with both lithium-6 and 7 result in the loss of the lithium. Fusion reactors will require large reserves of lithium, so if fusion is to take off, lithium is unlikely to be available for inexpensive battery technologies.

    "Granted, once in the atmosphere, helium is practically lost, eventually escaping the atmosphere."

    That was my point. Helium recycling is taken seriously at places like research labs because in those quantities that stuff is expensive. But when you buy a balloon for your kids or when someone goes on a balloon ride, that helium is lost forever. Not to mention the helium we lose because we don't even collect it...

    Uranium, once used in a reactor that is not at the same time a breeder, is lost. Actually... one should say more acurately that we lose the neutrons... by converting them to radioactive stuff we don't want, but I leave it to a nuclear physicist to philosophize about that. I get your point... we are not using most of it but just dig a new hole in the ground and put it in there.

    "If we were willing to accept a tripling of cost for nuclear-generated electricity, we could burn that 99% that is now waste, effectively expanding the uranium reserves 100 times."

    Or, at that price we could just build more solar cells... they are cheaper and they can't be exploded to "satisfy" religious and ethnic hate.

    Fusion, in my view, will never take off. It is a great idea on paper and a lousy one once you are trying to build it. I wouldn't be concerned about the lithium loss due to fusion.

    I am not concerned about lithium not being available for vehicle batteries. Even if we ran into production shortages, sodium could work well in vehicles where it does not matter that the battery has to be kept at 300 degrees C. Not to mention flywheels, capacitors etc.. I am not a true believer in the true EV, yet. We will see...

    I took the tour of the local large-scale research lab during their educational open house, and got to talking to one of the scientists there about the finite nature of helium supplies. This place uses a lot of helium. Anyway, I nodded in approval toward the clearly labled "Helium Recovery" lines that terminated in each laboratory. He laughed, and told me that the building contractor had built them before consulting with the scientists - all out of schedule 80 pvc - which helium apparently goes through quite easily. Now that the building was complete, no one had come up with the money to replace the lines.

    I don't know where you were. The labs where I worked with helium took recyling very seriously. The monthly and weekly statistics were posted on every floor and everyone was careful because the money to replace the lost helium came out of the shared research budget.

    If you go to CERN, you will find large plastic bladders floating in nets under the ceiling of some of the buildings. These are part of the gas recovery system for some of the experiments. The bladders are huge, so that in case of a magnet quench (or a thermal failure of the detectors) the large volumes of gas can be safely collected.

    Contractors who build research labs in Germany are specialized firms who do not build rental properties one day and an industrial building the next. These people have detailed requirements and they are executed in detail. Having said that, that is how Germany does it - today. That is how all countries which have leading edge research facilities do it - today. But many US laboratories suffer from being built on top of old infrastructure (often WWII/Manhatten Project/Cold War era projects) which have seen several uprades rather than having been built to a modern standard. That does not mean people are not trying hard to do their best in those environments. But it sometimes means that shit happens. And, trust me, in government labs a lot of shit happens. I don't know where that particular snafu happened but it is certainly not the norm I am used to.

    That was my point. Helium recycling is taken seriously at places like research labs because in those quantities that stuff is expensive.

    1) It is (or was, when I was involved with physics) the same price as scotch.

    2) It's not just because of cost. The head of my local cyclotron back in the day lamented that future generations would look back on us as squandering an irreplaceable resource for frivolities - liquid helium is necessary for low-temperature research, and can't effectively be replaced.

    I work at a facility that produces infrared detector arrays, and we use lots of liquid helium for cooling every day. There is no effort whatsoever to recover the helium. Everything here is driven by cost. From time to time some of us have proposed initiatives to reduce waste, or save time, and management doesn't seem to care. They only care about immediate costs. Asking them to recover helium when there would be added costs and minimal savings, if any, would be a waste of time.

    How much energy does it cost to recycle the lithium from a battery? And in relation to the capacity of the battery?

    "How much energy does it cost to recycle the lithium from a battery?"

    Based on basic chemistry, I would say that the lower physical limit for that energy is a single charge of the battery, roughly the same amount of energy it takes to make the lithium from its natural salts in the first place. The difference is that it might be done in an electrolysis cell rather than the battery itself. But it might not even be necessary to remove all of the lithium in its metalic state. Here is how I imagine a realistic recycling plant might operate (keep in mind, I am making this up, I did not even take the time to read up on this!):

    Most likely the battery recycler will start by discharging the battery, cutting them open and then flushing the electrolyte out with a solvent. The liquid can be filtered and chemically treated to produce the new electrolyte for a new battery without ever going through a metalic state. They will also dissasemble the electrodes and probably grind them up to dissolve the remaining lithium in them. The remaining materials, stainless steel housings, organic/graphite/ceramic electrodes and other materials are then being treated one by one. I would think that the steel can go directly into the usual recycling cycle for ferrous metals and the rest might be discarded (graphite and organics can be burnt, but ceramics are relatively useless, unless they contain other rare elements).

    "And in relation to the capacity of the battery?"

    It does not matter much because a vehicle battery gets charged/discharged thousands of times. So even if it takes 10 times as much energy to recycle the lithium (or to produce it from salt) as is contained in a single charge, the battery will store hundreds, if not thousands of times more energy over its lifetime than what went into its production. If a single charge/discharge cycle saves only 10% of its total energy in a hybrid in comparison to a non-hybrid (a more realistic estimate might be 50%), the "EROEI" of the battery is still on the order of 100:1.

    Please keep in mind that these are storage devices, not energy sources. They have a huge cylce number advantage.

    And exactly what is the value of your post? Do you think that Tahil doen't know about the existence of Li in the oceans? Or perhaps he's ignoring it? Unless you're an expert on something, stop trying to act like one.

    Do you think that Tahil doen't know about the existence of Li in the oceans?

    Do you have any evidence he does?

    If there exists a very large supply of lithium (which there does) and a reasonably efficient way of obtaining it (which LevinK's link suggests there is), then dire warnings about a lack of lithium may be misplaced. Not every consultant knows everything, you know; they can make mistakes...even when they agree with you.

    Unless you're an expert on something, stop trying to act like one.

    He's offered more hard information than you have. Feel free to change that.

    This whole site is mostly nonsense, since we know where there is well over three trillion barrels of oil; one trillion [or thereabouts] that hasn't been extracted yet in the normal fashion, and two trillion that is leftover from the extraction in the normal fashion [assuming 33% extraction effectiveness]. So all we have to do is extract it! Oh gee, it's hard. Well since no one has tried yet, how do we know it's that hard?
    Levink says that it's easy to extract Li from the ocean. Really? Well, maybe it's easy to extract anything from the ocean [I don't know] but the real question is what is the energy cost of extracting useful amounts. Personally, I would bet on mining the remnants from oil wells as more useful than extracting large amount of anything from the ocean, and that includes hydrocarbons.

    And what hard information has he supplied?

    Well... that's not what I said. I said there is enough Li in the seas and I said I'm sure we'll be able to extract it eventually at reasonable cost. Take it as a provocation to a debate.

    Levink says that it's easy to extract Li from the ocean. Really?

    No, not really; he said it is possible to extract it from the ocean, and that it may even be be possible to extract it in an efficient manner, since it's present at a relatively high concentration.

    That is not the same as "easy".

    And what hard information has he supplied?

    That there is a large quantity of lithium available due to its relatively high concentration in seawater (I get 0.17 mg/l, but close enough), making it categorically different than oil in terms of being a resource. He also provided a link to a discussion of an empirically proven (and apparently low-energy) method of obtaining metals from seawater.

    And your contribution?

    This whole site is mostly nonsense

    Some of us are trying to make it otherwise. Please join us.

    Pitt the Elder, I am amazed that on a website supposedly devoted to fossil fuels, my statement about the known whereabouts of over three trillion barrels of oil is ignored, while you defend Levink's Li in the ocean comment.

    I originally believed that the commentary might have something to do with fossil fuels, oil and gas, and not go wandering off into discussions of extraction of metals from the oceans - there was a similar statement a few days ago about the amount of Ur that could be extracted from the seas, and before that somebody suggested that strip mining the earth is a good way of providing Ur. All these methods of course are possible but are they economically or energetically useful? I doubt it, and what exactly do they have to with FF, other than requiring large amounts of FF to power the processes?

    As to why I read this site:

    1. Leanan does a very good job of selecting interesting stories;
    2. Occasionally, there is a good posting providing background material on some related subject;
    3. I like the occasional good flame war.
    4. I always hope that people will think before posting and realize that what they are writing is not useful.
    5. I'm bored.

    I am amazed that on a website supposedly devoted to fossil fuels, my statement about the known whereabouts of over three trillion barrels of oil is ignored, while you defend Levink's Li in the ocean comment.

    You appear to be easily amazed, then.

    I'm ignoring your comment about oil because it's unsubstantiated, it's irrelevant (presence vs. extraction), and it's prefaced by you moaning about "mostly nonsense", suggesting you're being facetious.

    I'm defending LevinK's comment about lithium extraction because it's substantiated by evidence, it's relevant to future energy possibilities, and it's frankly more interesting than anything you've said.

    I originally believed that the commentary might have something to do with fossil fuels, oil and gas

    And possibilities for replacing them, yes.

    All these methods of course are possible but are they economically or energetically useful?

    An excellent question, and one that you would have information on if you'd read the provided link.

    4. I always hope that people will think before posting and realize that what they are writing is not useful.

    Perhaps you could provide us with an inspiring example.

    Why are you spending time at a site that is mostly nonsense? Surely there are other sites where the nonsense concentration is a bit lower.

    To tell you the truth I wanted to spark a debate about where the boundery of reasonable vs unresonable optimism lies... and I'm happy I did.

    Tahil's article struck me as one-sided on not even trying to examine the alternatives (which I knew there are), and announcing Peak Lithium within sight. He just assumed we'll mine it as usual and eventually we'll be unable to make batteries for those 60mln.plug-ins. The truth is that there we'll be many decades until we start producing 60mln. of those and claiming that everything will simply stay the same in the meantime is simply not reasonable.

    The "Peak Lithium" theory ...

    LevinK, I read the article. Then I looked up the battery technology he's selling in Wikipedia. It's a molten salt/sodium design. Just try selling them in Canada, eh! If it freezes you have to heat it up above 150°C, which can take up to 2 days, just to get it going again! As for safety, did you ever play around with molten sodium in the lab? Yeah, that.

    As for the Lithium, it's not the commonest element, but isn't particularly rare, either (as you said). And it doesn't take all that much of it to build a Li-ion secondary cell.

    A modern Li battery traps the metal in a solid state matrix, so the potential for catastrophe is much reduced -- of course the more energy you have stored in something, the more potential there is for unintended discharge. But on the whole, I'd take the Lithium battery over the molten-salt design every time.

    There is a peak oil article, by the Green MEP Caroline Lucas, in the 'Comment is free' section of today's Guardian website. See 'Hungry for oil' .

    It's our pal Khosla again:

    President Bush set broad goals last week for the adoption of alternative energy. Hoping to take on the role of filling in the details is an unlikely group: Silicon Valley’s technology investors.

    Isn't that one of those 10 mpg E85 Chevy Tahoes that he's posing proudly in front of?

    Relax. Ethanol will save us. The happy motoring lifestyle will continue forever, as Moore's Law applies to biofuels as surely as it does to silicon chips.

    I would be much more inclined to hear what the "biofuels will save us" camp had to say if their advocacy was tempered with the caveat that none of this would likely work unless we learned to CONSERVE, CONSERVE, CONSERVE... But I'm not hearing that from Khosla. Not at all. I have never heard him even mention the "C" word.

    Can someone set me straight?

    "Mooroils Law" - "You get to drive half as far or it will cost you twice as much every 4 years"

    "Cantarell's Postulate" - "Declining per capita oil production must equal emigration to maintain the status quo"

    That is seriously funny!


    Khosla's vision thing is not that ethanol alone will save us, but together with changes in fuel efficiency. He envisions a Prius like plug in running on an ethanol or bio diesel backup engine. This configuration should be able to get about 100mpg. Using the current consumption of oil with the fleet on the road now will not allow ethanol to "save us". However high mileage plug in type cars would reduce the amount of ethanol required. These super efficient cars are not available now of course, so all he can buy is the type of vehicle he's pictured with. To him the cost of the SUV and the ethanol to run it is chump change. We have many farmers here is Iowa that look at it the same way. When you spend $40K on a truck, what's the difference if the E-85 to run it costs more than gas? It's all deductible as a business expense. When you grow the corn and own shares in a ethanol plant, as many farmers do, the cost of E-85 doesn't mean much. Just remember, the more ethanol Khosla uses, the more fossil fuel is left for the ethanol haters here at TOD.

    And I thought Khosla's vision was how to make Khosla even richer...

    Silly me! The man is trying to save humanity!

    /sarcasm off

    I went back and skimmed the Wired magazine article and, yes, Khosla does mention lighter and more fuel-efficient vehicles. Still, no explicit mention in a four-page article of any need to conserve.

    I looked up E85 compatible-vehicles and, with few exceptions, they are light trucks and SUVs, many equipped with V-8 engines. If Khosla and others are serious about making any of this succeed, they'd better hope to make the average Joe comfortable with living a little less "large."

    This, BTW, is my bio-fuels nightmare: Biofuels Serfdom

    "Speaking at the 2007 World Economic Forum, Lula suggested that rich countries should finance such kind of projects in countries in development, as a form of reducing inequality in the world."

    "Biodiesel generates employments, generates income, generates development. Our biofuels program could be an example to be financed by rich nations to poorer nations of Africa and Central America”- said the Brazilian president.

    Is Lula nuts? The only farmers that have ever been anything other than "dirt poor" are those that have had the resources -- the land, the money, the machinery, the marketing savvy, etc -- to make sure that a good portion of the $$$ generated flowed back to them. Lula needs to go to the fields once in awhile and see who the vast majority of agricultural workers are. The ones making the bucks aren't the ones down on their hands and knees. This guy is a "friend of the poor?"

    What a sexy dude. I personally would like to see him drive down a poor street in Mexico running on a tankful of corn ethanol. He could paint "Tortilla Powered" on the side.

    LOL! That combined with Mooroil's Law and the Cantarell Postulate (Delusional's post above)...

    It's a good day for zingers.


    Concerning the "tortilla crisis" in Mexico — the price of food containing corn going up as it is diverted to ethanol production — does anyone think this is how peak oil is actually manifesting itself?

    Perhaps First-world people will never have to pay $10 a gallon for fuel, because the food for most of the world's people will instead be converted into biofuel and ethanol.

    Is that why prices for fuel have suddenly stopped going up? Are all these new ethanol plants cutting demand for crude?

    The tortilla crisis in Mexico is illustrative of the pressing need for the Peak Oil-aware to begin fervently advocating the following ethical imperative:

    The use of the world's agricultural land SOLELY for purposes of food production MUST be regarded as ethically sacrosanct. NO diversion of agricultural capacity for energy production WHATSOEVER is to be ethically tolerated.

    And yes, I would insist that this ethical maxim needs to apply even in places that seem at present to be uniquely exempt, such as Brazil.

    At present, the world is experiencing effects of Peak Oil that are very mild in comparison to what is right around the corner in coming decades - and already there is intense suffering among the poor of the planet because of the diversion of agricultural capacity to energy production for the world's affluent. How could the present trajectory lead to anything other than a die-off among the world's poor in the coming decades - one that the world's affluent are unfortunately perfectly capable of shielding themselves from even being aware of, much less experiencing real suffering therefrom, as the catastrophe unfolds?

    TOD's beloved Bob Shaw famously asks all the time, "Are humans smarter than yeast?" I would claim that the present tendency to shift agricultural capacity from food to energy production constitutes significant evidence in favor of a negative answer.

    It seems to me, that some of you get into a kind of panic mood reg. this so called tortilla crisis.

    Food prices have been on a steady uptrend for around 5 months so far. And sure they will keep rising. But just to blame ethanol for this development is way too easy. The by far most important point for higher grain (corn/wheat) prices is the fact, that the world ending stocks are on a historic low level. This is the main driver. Why are they so low?

    1. DROUGHTS all over the world got much severe amid GLOBAL WARMING: 2003 Europe, 2006 Australia only to mention only the worst ones. please check http://www.uswheat.org/supplyDemand/doc/22D9B0D884347B8F8525726100783E2D... for a comprehensive summary

    2. CHINA / INDIA: Dramatic falling water tables (bye bye "green revolution") amid irrigation combined with hunderds of square miles of land loss each year through the ever closer approaching desert (mainly Gobi)and urbanisation.

    Also to keep in mind: Grain prices have been in a disastrous bear market for more than 25 years. Corn and wheat are still trading 70% below their peak prices (1975), and that's without adjusting for inflation. Do that, and they're trading at around 10% OF THEIR PEAK PRICES !!

    So I take the opposite stance: Food has become incredible cheap, way to cheap. These dirt cheap food had to main consequences:

    1. Massive direct subsidies to the farmers had to be introduced, funded by the tax payer.

    2. Serious health problems caused by overweight (mainly in the US with about 50% of the population regarded to be moderate to extremly fat)

    A final point:
    It is in my view not the task of the US to feed people abroad through massivly - paid by the US taxpayer - subsided grains.
    Grain should, whenever possible, be planted where it is consumed. And they will start to plant only if the price has a certain level.

    Sorry for the bad english... it's not my motherlanguage.

    It seems either the site has been down, or my server is blinking. I intended to post this hours ago.

    I agree with your major thesis-food is much too cheap. But you are quite off in grain prices.

    "Also to keep in mind: Grain prices have been in a disastrous bear market for more than 25 years. Corn and wheat are still trading 70% below their peak prices (1975), and that's without adjusting for inflation. Do that, and they're trading at around 10% OF THEIR PEAK PRICES !!"

    The 1975 corn monthly average high price was $3.07 per bushel in Jan. It rose to $3.36 in June of 1984. Corn rose again to $4.43 in Jul, 1996, then fell back to a $1.70 to $2.00 low swing for several years. This morning contract future price holds at $4.03.

    Wheat prices show the same pattern. Highest monthly average price for 1975 was $4.11 per bushel in Jan and Sept. In 1996, monthly average price peaked in May at $5.11 per bushel. Today's current contract futures price stands at $4.56.


    They are above their 1975 prices, and not near 10% of peak. but compare to 1975 oil at about 10.50 OPEC to today's 50, and you wonder how long it can continue.

    All I get from the farmdoc site is an endless string of error messages.
    Those are actual, non-inflation adjusted prices?

    Correct, non adjusted US farm average prices recieved.

    The site allows you to pick the crop and the range of years desired. If that posted link did not work, try this one:


    And my upthread comment should have put oil at 55, but even with the low end of current swing, the difference is huge.

    That one works. Thanks.
    Price received rather than daily CBOT price an interesting concept.
    Need some time to digest. Very interesting.

    I think that a die off of the world's poor is a given in the minds of TPTB.

    I'm not sure anyone can avert a massive die off of humans at this point.

    Read E.O. Wilson's "The Creation" for a glimpse of how one secular humanist (who was raised in Alabama, USA, as a southern Baptist) sees our chances. Not real good.

    The only chance we have for a peaceful powerdown is that people of many religions join with those who are engaged in science and work to care for "The Creation."

    Slim chance. Doesn't sell well on Wall Street or in DC.

    My guess is that TPTB are trying to manage the die off of the poor while maintaining their own security and positions of power in the "developed world."

    To manage the die-off, the farmers are going to have to hire Blackwater to secure perimeters around all the ethanol plants.

    As well as the railroads that haul the corn to the plants.

    This could get expensive.

    Read "Blood and Thunder" Kit Carson (under orders) literally starves the Navaho indians into giving up. Brutal but obviously effective, even more so that guns, to get them to capitulate.

    Throughout the ages people have used agricultural products do fulfill a large variety of wishes: Clothing, shelter, goods, food, beverages, embellishment, etc. The problem is not a misallocation of resources, the problem is population growth. Instead of trying to solve the problem with yet another supply-side tinkering, it would be far more effective to limite the demand (i.e. stop breeding like rabbits and/or swallowing like pigs).

    'The use of the world's agricultural land SOLELY for purposes of food production MUST be regarded as ethically sacrosanct. NO diversion of agricultural capacity for energy production WHATSOEVER is to be ethically tolerated.'

    I think this is pretty broad - German/Dutch policy is for farmers to produce enough biofuel (primarily rapeseed) to power all the equipment used for farming - obviously, this may fit into the idea of food production, but at the same time, the tractors are certainly used to haul the harvest to local storage facilities, etc. And if the trucks are also running on biodiesel, then you have replaced oil while hopefully running a sustainable system.

    Sometimes, I think that it is hard for people to understand how unique the U.S. is in its attitudes and ideas - at least around here, I think most people would heartily approve of replacing imported diesel on a farm with locally grown fuel - and this would be considered a very ethical attitude. Of course, these are the same people who are used to walking or riding their bicycle to the town farmers markets a couple of times a week, with their own garden plot. And the EU seems to have some fairly strict regulations concerning biofuel imports, which is why they are trying to develop a local system which works without imports which divert food production.

    Certainly, trying to support what Americans consider 'normal' by using food as fuel is insane - but blanket statements can cover far too much.

    'The use of the world's agricultural land SOLELY for purposes of food production MUST be regarded as ethically sacrosanct. NO diversion of agricultural capacity for energy production WHATSOEVER is to be ethically tolerated.'

    So what about other controversial uses of land such as growing inputs to alcohol and tobacco consumption? Is clothing intolerable? Isn't production of sugar, beef and highly processed foods just as bad because of ther level of weaste involved?

    Relax. I know a hundred plus people who can afford to buy a stack of tortillas for $10. Since that stack is equivalent to the filling of one SUV gas tank in terms of corn, the SUV driver is competing against $75/gallon (yes, I mean per gallon, not per barrel!) gas prices if there is a serious food crisis at any time. The people in the developing world will go hungry, but here, at home, the need for food will easily price SUVs out of existence.

    Yeah, but the people in the developing countries might start blowing up pipelines or highjacking the global transportation system if they get angry about having to go hungry.

    They might not take die-off all that well.

    You missed the point. Corn ethanol is a political porking vehicle. It was introduced so that ADM etc. can make a quick buck with your tax dollars. That works quite well as long as nobody notices that something is not right here. Once food becomes more expensive because corn ethanol is using every free acre of land, everybody will notice and corn ethanol will become a political liability. At which point the pork will dry up and the ethanol industry will close shop because without subsidies it is not economically feasible.

    We are getting closer to the point where people will start to notice. Watch the smarter politicians in Washington run for the hills when the news breaks. My best guess is that we will see corn ethanol go out with the Bush administration a couple of years from now. And if Senator Obama isn't careful, corn ethanol will take him down, too. He's in a nice little pickle there.

    Now, even if the politicians will stand by it, corn ethanol does nothing to save oil, natural gas or coal. It will become more and more expensive as oil, natural gas and coal become more expensive. At some point the total expenses will swamp even the highest possible porking dollar and that is where the industry itself will pull the plug. Porking is only fun as long as you make money on it. Once you start losing money despite subsidies, the fun stops. E85 will not be fun for anyone. Not the buyer, not the producer and not the politician who voted for it.

    Mexico would seem to be hosed. With Cantarell crashing and crop prices increasing basic food costs due to the lure of Ethanol money, they would seem to be on the road to extreme crisis. Now, other places in the world have people in crisis, but Mexico is on our border and this is likely to come to a head as a major border issue if/when Mexicans really start becoming more like refugees and fleeing into Texas, Arizon, California etc. Its starting to make me rethink my liberal open border stance cause it could get pretty ugly.

    Here's my scenario that addresses this. It's about to get very ugly, and a lot faster than anyone realizes.

    Although the decline in Mexico's oil production is bad for Mexico, I think that generally this type of decline may be worse for the consumer (the U.S.) than the producer. Mexico produces about 3 million barrels a day, or about $150 million worth of oil a day. That's a little more than $1 per day for every Mexican. The U.S. consumes about 20 million barrels of oil a day, or $1 billion worth of oil per day. That's about $3.50 per day for every American. The numbers aren't so great in dollar terms. If all Americans had to do without $3.50 a day and all Mexicans had to lose $1 a day, the loss would not be so great for either country.

    However, if we consider what would happen really if the oil was just not there - well, the Mexicans would be out $1 per day, and the Americans, with no oil, would face a complete breakdown of the economy. I realize this is an oversimplification in several ways, but still think it has some validity in indicating that the Cantarell crash may be worse for us (the U.S.) than for Mexico.

    Less net energy available and supplier and consumer will feel the pain for sure. Not sure what a "complete breakdown of the economy" entails, but probably isn't good. Mexicans, on the other hand will probably starve to death - also not good. But, probably not before the desperately try to refugee into the US - also not good. I just don't see any upside to declining oil supply :(

    As long as sellers take dollars, dollar holding us residents will be better off than peso holding mexicans when they become an importer, a transition apparently due in five years.

    I don't think there's enough food-related biomass in the world to act as a substitute for the amounts of transport fuels currently used. Then even so, what would the rich eat--each other?

    Food-related biomass fuels ought to only be used to power essential infrastructure support vehicles like fire trucks, ambulances, tractors, etc.

    The rich would, as they have always done symbolically, eat us. :-)

    Soylent Green can also be used as a biofuel.

    I've wondered if the time will come when the elites will decide that a certain portion of the population is of no economic interest to them. They won't need them as neither employees nor customers much like how parts of Africa are now treated. The elites will stay in their gated communities with their factories clustered around the few operating oil fields or coal mines while their mercenaries kill any unauthorised intruders.
    Very dystopic isn't it? But is there a certain minimum number of employees and customers that the elites need to maintain their priviliged lifestyles.

    1 tortilla at the local supermarket has ~100 calories ==> 25 g of carb - i.e. corn-meal. That is conservative for corn meal since part of the calories also come from "fats - e.g. vegetable based" that are used to make the tortilla. However, let is assume that all the calories are from cornmeal.

    ==> 1000/25 = 40 tortillas per kg of corn.

    As per the link below from the University of North Carolina

    there are 56 lbs = 56/2.2 kg = 25.45 kg of corn in a bushel.

    At $5/bushel (25% > the current price of corn)
    the cost is ~20 cents/kg_corn

    ==> corn cost for 40 tortillas is 20 cents which is up perhaps from 15 cents.

    40 tortillas is a lot of tortillas and could conceivably feed a man with a decent appetite for a few days.

    5 cents more per 40 tortillas equates to 1/2 a cent per 4 tortillas. Four tortillas sounds about reasonable for the number of tortillas consumed in a meal - at least at the local Mexican restaurant that I have sometimes frequented.

    Mexico is poor - BUT it is about 3 times richer than India per capita on a "purchasing power parity" basis, and even richer on a straight conversion-dollar basis.


    I know about India and 1/2 c extra for a meal is not a big deal there for the poorest manual laborer. Actually even 10c is pretty worthless there and most shopkeepers will round off that amount +/- when making change.

    Perhaps it is in the making and distribution of tortillas that the price inflation has occurred (if any). It may then pay to buy corn meal and make the tortilla at home - though that would involve more time and effort.

    FWIW - the article about meat prices in Canada has a broken link. It takes you to a site "www.thepigsite.com", but the article isn't found....

    The good news from all of this is that people will start to challenge all of the rah-rah biofuel hype as food prices skyrocket.

    Curious. It works fine for me.

    Yeah, it works for me now too. I guess the site was down earlier today or something.

    Worked fine for me also.

    From article:

    “Number one, especially in the U.S., they’re concerned about being reliant on imported oil. Number two there is the promise of reduced greenhouse gases emissions and the third, and maybe the most important, is that U.S. politicians see this as a way that they can get U.S farmers off of the old type subsidies that they were using for quite awhile.”

    Number 3 is the comment that grabbed my attention. Probably alot more truth to this than any of the news stories have mentioned. With the current farm commodity price supports set to expire before the election(2008) I thought the continuation was a slam dunk. This enables the bill to be continued, or dropped, without the fanfare in either direction.

    Given the vagaries of field crop production, I'm guessing that we are headed for a period of high volatility in both food and fuel prices. This is fertile ground for continued price supports -- the problem being that the pressure to continue such supports will be great when so much capital has been invested in farm equipment, processing plants, etc.

    Well, we know that no one is going to argue for less money for themselves or their interest group. Those price supports won't die easily.

    And I'm not sure if the supports should die.

    With etoh, all the discussion is about effiency, energy return, food production to fuel production shifts, security effects, or pols caving in to big bussiness once again. I would agree with the author above that for many politicians, the benefits of etoh production easing the problems of the price supports was major factor in their position.

    China doubles investment in Railroads in one year

    from the article linked by Leanan in the header

    China spent 164.9 billion yuan ($21 billion) on railways in the first 11 months of last year, almost double the amount a year earlier, the railway ministry said in a statement on Dec. 15. The government will spend 60 billion yuan to buy train cars to transport passengers and coal, the official Xinhua News Agency said on Jan. 15

    Transporting coal in particular. They have been building coal-burning plants at a breakneck speed, and my understanding is that they are having supply chain problems.

    I think we also have supply-chain problems for coal in the US.

    Odd how our current Politician president failed so miserably to do anything useful on the home front. He is an oilman, he had advisors like Matt Simons - he knew damn well we were about to hit the wall on world oil production. Yet he proposed a no-go "Hydrogen economy" to placate the electorate, and now the no-go ethanol debacle.

    His only real efforts to adjust for Peak Oil included geopolitical muscling and using the military to try and secure the market's oil supplies.

    Bush had a chance to be an effective leader at this most critical time in Homo Sap history and he has failed miserably.

    More than just coal on Chinese railroads.

    from another list:

    China's railway transport makes up a quarter of world's total
    Updated: 2007-01-28 09:18

    China saw its railway transportation volume account for a quarter of the world's total last year, with only 6 percent of global operational railway mileage, the Ministry of Railways (MOR) has said.

    China beat all other countries in passenger and cargo traffic by railway last year, with its passenger turnover hitting 662.2 billion person-kilometres and freight turnover reaching 2.87 billion ton-kilometres, MOR spokesperson Wang Yongping said on Friday.

    The general railway turnover also topped the world with a total of 2.86 trillion ton-kilometres, 130 billion ton-kilometres more than that of the United States and one and a half times that of Russia.

    Meanwhile, the country has only 76,600 kilometres of railways in operation, making the density of its railway transportation the largest in the world.

    "Although China's railways have the highest efficiency of transport, they still lag far behind the nation's economic and social development," said Wang.

    The country can provide more than 2.42 million seats for railway travellers every day, only half the number of daily passenger traffic during the peak season of the Spring Festival, China's traditional New Year Festival.

    In 40 days starting from February 3, more than 156 million passengers will travel by train, according to the ministry's estimation.

    But even before the busiest period, Beijing's largest railway station was already hit by its first peak of passenger traffic.

    The Beijing West Railway Station is expected to see 110,000 passengers depart on Saturday, most of them college students going home for winter vacation, said the station's spokesperson Saturday.

    While millions of Chinese, the bulk of them students and migrant workers, travel home by train to spend the Spring Festival with their families.

    During the Spring Festival, the MOR will strictly regulate ticket sale, crack down on scalpers and improve services aboard like food, water supply and hygiene, said Liu Zhijun, MOR Minister.

    "With an extreme shortage in railway transportation capacity, we'll face even bigger pressure for this Spring Festival," said Liu.

    He urged the railway departments to ensure the safety of travellers and get fully prepared for emergencies

    Best Hopes,


    Apparently rail supply problems.


    From the Schlumberger (world's leading oilfield service company) 4th quarter earnings announcement and conference call:

    Short-term declines in commodity prices inevitably produce varying activity growth rates if they are sustained long enough. However, maintaining the production base for both oil and natural gas in the face of accelerating decline rates, poorer quality or more difficult reservoirs and eroding reserve replacement ratios will mean that any moderation in activity will be short-lived and self-correcting. While we remain of the opinion that there is no overall shortage of oil and gas reserves, the world is realizing that the period of cheap hydrocarbon energy has ended and new and higher sustained levels of investment are necessary to meet demand and guarantee future supplies.

    Hello TODers,

    Please read Leanan's RIGZONE toplink called, "Mexico's Oil Output Cools" by David Luhnow. IMO, reads exactly like 'cut & paste plagiarism' of much earlier postings by our own TODer Westexas.

    Poor Mexico is headed for a world of hurt, yet I bet they spent more money on IPods, videogames, and other such nonsense last year than they spent on wheelbarrows, bicycles, and other essential biosolar goods.

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

    Thanks for the kind words, but just to clarify, I started really hammering the "Two Warning Beacons" theme after the first WSJ article on Cantarell came out last year. Note that the Rigzone article is the same story that the WSJ published on Saturday. I was literally shocked at the numbers in the first WSJ article--the remaining oil column at Cantarell of about 800' was thinning at about 300' per year.

    In any case, IMO, the primary difference between Saudi Aramco and Pemex is that Pemex has--grudgingly--admitted to the decline/crash of its largest oil field.

    One amazing thing to me, or perhaps not so amazing given my "Iron Triangle" thesis, is how outlets like CNBC are, as best I can tell, ignoring the Cantarell story. Notice how they hyped the Jack Two story, a small hugely expensive discovery, that probably at best won't start producing for years, while they ignore the crash of the second largest producing field in the world?

    Hype the "good" news on oil--ignore the bad news.

    "Iron Triangle" thesis? Got a link for a previous discussion? I did a search but got nothing--literally nothing. The search function didn't seem to work.

    Published on 19 Apr 2006 by Energy Bulletin. Archived on 19 Apr 2006.
    What the mainstream media are not telling you about the run up in oil prices
    by Jeffrey J. Brown

    We are deeply concerned that the world is probably facing an imminent and catastrophic collapse in net oil export capacity because of declining production and increasing domestic consumption in the top exporting countries.

    Consider the simple math. If Deffeyes is correct that the world oil production peaked in December, 2005, then we will use--at our current rate of consumption--more than 10% of all remaining conventional crude + condensate reserves in the next four years.

    Why Aren’t the MSM Discussing the Import Situation?

    I think that we are seeing an "Iron Triangle" of sorts defending the status quo concept of ever expanding energy supplies: (1) most housing, auto, financing and related companies; (2) Most MSM companies that are selling advertising to Group #1 and (3) some major oil companies, major oil exporters and energy analysts that are working for the major oil companies and exporters.

    The housing/auto group wants to keep selling and financing large homes and SUV's.

    The MSM wants to keep selling advertising to the housing/auto group.

    In my opinion, some major oil companies are afraid of punitive taxation, and some exporters are afraid of military takeovers. This group of oil companies, exporters and their analysts provide the intellectual ammunition for the other two groups, i.e., promising trillions and trillions of barrels of conventional and nonconventional oil reserves.

    MSM are not the only way to get information. Actually, as far as I remember, simple, yet perfectly proven things like calculus are never being discussed there. You are supposed to learn them in school or university. PO can and should be made part of the high school curriculum. If I were a math or science teacher today, I would use PO as an example in math class (talking about exponential functions) or discuss it in science class under a suitable topic like volume or energy content in chemical reactions or photosynthesis and the carbon cycle or... insert your own ideas here.

    Oh... that's right... I am not a science teacher and many of the people who are have not much clue about science becaused they did not major in it.


    Man, Americans are being screwed even in school...


    Obiously that includes/included you.

    I did not go to school in the US. I actually got a good education.


    Are you Russian, by chance?

    I have a couple of russian friends, guys I know quite well: math and computer science majors. A few times when reading your posts, I thought I detected some similarities. Just a guess. Not meant to offend.

    Natural gas, I am learning on Internet, has a lot to do with oil refining. And coal production too.

    I also read on Internet that natural gas production in the US peaked in 2001.

    Then there is MSM

    Think of deficient education as the basis for these problems whether lawyer or liberal arts educated bureaucrat, media person

    Do not fear the enemy, for your enemy can only take your life. It is far better that you fear the media, for they will steal your HONOR. That awful power, the public opinion of a nation, is created in America by a horde of ignorant, self-complacent simpletons who failed at ditching and shoemaking and fetched up in journalism on their way to the poorhouse.
    Mark Twain

    In America half the population doesn't read the paper. Clearly, they are the intelligent half. Gore Vidal
    or politician.

    Looks like very serious problems ahead.

    From Post, Texas on essential non-gas-wasting travel to Austin to deliver 1995 Honda civic [39.50 mpg from abq to post] to reduce current fleet of 4 cars to three.

    IIRC, Adam Porter first broke the Cantarell story on the much missed Oilcast podcast. I think Adam lurks here occasionally, so if you're out there in internet land, Adam, thanks.

    Not to detract from WT's prescience though - the Rigzone article reads like a WT post, complete with a mention of the "Export Land" effect of increasing Mexican oil consumption.

    Hello TODers,

    I was hoping to join the discussion earlier today, but we just got the water bill and usage had really skyrocketed to 15,000 gallons! We normally use less than 100 gal/day. Therefore, I had a subsurface leak to quickly locate in the front yard. After about 15 feet of digging, I believe I am now within a few feet of finding the exact leakage point, but I had to stop because of darkness, and too much sloppy mud. So here I am exhausted, but I am now 'finely attuned' to our water infrastructure.

    As anyone quickly realizes from the simple act of carrying a five-gallon water jug any distance: the energy and resources dedicated to the current system of the very convenient human water-usage cycle is astounding. We can expect Mexico to have tremendous difficulty just maintaining their poor infrastructure [much less expanding it] as they go postPeak.

    I have posted links before on many of Mexico's numerous water and sewage problems: from beaches closed from raw sewage, to their world-class high reliance on bottled water because they don't trust the purity of tap water sourced from local streams and wells, to rapid acquifer depletion, to the looming collapse of Mexico City's water & sewage infrastructure.

    Calderon, if he understands the potential postPeak problems ahead, and how he will have ever-decreasing public funds to address these problems: needs to proactively make this essential infrastructure much more energy efficient and less destructive to the habitat to avoid repeating the ZIMBABWE SYNDROME [See my previous Zimbabwe posts].

    Calderon should be moving full force into Peakoil Outreach and Humanure Recycling because not pooping in your drinking water is the best way to quickly save energy, protect public health, and reduce stream and beach pollution. Over time this should greatly reduce the public fear of tapwater and decrease the bottled water delivery system--saving even much more energy and plastic bottle waste.

    Composting toilets are cheap to build relative to the costs of flush toilets and the associated sewage-processing infrastructure, and should be preferred to outhouses dotting the landscape and their subsequent leaching into streams and acquifers. A nationwide program to reverse Mexico's world-leading deforestation rate should begin by the replanting of trees and shrubs to provide this future source of humanure sawdust. It could provide many jobs to those who will soon lose their present employment from Pemex's collapse.

    Those areas where sewage currently flows untreated into streams and rivers, and where no future financial prospects of ever building modern treatment systems is likely to occur, must shutdown those homeowners and business with flush toilets. A huge industry of supplying and rigorously emptying Porta-Johns emplaced in all areas should commence immediately. This alone could save billions of gallons of water daily.

    Washing laundry in streams need to cease too. Building solar hotwater neighborhood laundry and shower facilities should be started on a massive scale thereby insuring at least minimal soap recapture and filtration before the grey water is released. The hotwater alone should be sufficent incentive for most Mexicans.

    Okay, that should be enough to get the TODer thinking caps going on ideas to help Mexico optimize their decline and avoid the worst of the Zimbabwe Syndrome. I gotta clean up my act, eat, and rest my aching bones--more digging tomorrow [too bad for me that a mere household waterpipe will never qualify for my SpiderWebRider System]!

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

    dont they have backhoes in phoenix ?

    Hello Elwoodelmore,

    LOL--Thxs for responding. After rereading my post--I could see how you might have thought I was digging 15 ft straight down, thus the backhoe reference but actually, water lines are not deepy buried at all, because we don't have to worry about the ground freezing.

    My problem was I had no idea of the actual buried pipeline route [house 33 years old], and there was no surface wetspot because of the topcoating of decorative gravel and the plastic sheet underlayment. Basically the leak was somewhere under this plastic sheeting just soaking the soil to the tune of approx. 500 gallons/day since the watermeter was last read.

    So I was forced to start at the water meter and work my way back to the house. After first shoveling off the 6-8 inches of decorative redrock gravel for about 3 feet laterally, then carefully pulling back the sheeting, then I am only digging about a foot deep in packed soil to uncover the waterline. If the leak is not found, repeat the process again in the best-guess direction of the pipeline direction.

    Fortunately, I have only needed to dig fifteen feet horizontally before I noticed the soil starting to get really damp and soaked in my process of trying to pinpoint where the leak is actually occurring.
    Just before darkness set in: I uncovered an area where I thought I could see water coming up. So I shut off the city water valve that is just before the meter to help drain the mudbog for tomorrow's digging. I don't think it will take me too long to narrow down the precise area, then I will underdig the pipe, then turn the water back on momentarily to verify the leak.

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

    I'm sure we're all looking forward to the next exciting installment of your adventures with the water pipes. Truly riveting stuff. You just can't find this anywhere else.

    Where is your water meter located? Assuming the meter is inside the house and the water line enters via the front wall a leak under the front yard between the house and the street would not show up on the bill as the water would escape prior to passing through the meter.

    Hello John Milton,

    Thxs for responding. The water meter is right by the sidewalk/street, and the house is about 60-75 feet further back from the street. The shutoff valve for the house is right by the front door and utility room [where the hotwater heater is located]. A leak past the watermeter is the homeowner's responsibility, a leak before the water meter is the city's responsibility.

    The avg. deductible on Homeowners Insurance is probably more than the repair cost for a leak in the yard like mine [if the Ins Cos. even cover this kind of damage]. But since I am capable of doing the work myself, have the tools, and enjoy the repair challenge--I can save big by doing it myself vs contracting it out.

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

    O.K. now it makes sense, it's just a different location for the meter compared to the "norm" here in Canada. Happy digging :)

    yes in my area insurance co.s are busy raising rates. any, repeat, any claim will be held againt the homeowner in one way or another (if you shop for new insurance for example). i have an experience with a tree and an old garage i could tell about, however the bottom line is i am now carrying a $ 5000 deductible (check with your mortgage company before trying this at home).

    "The virtual collapse at Cantarell -- the world's second-biggest oil field in terms of output at the start of last year -- is unfolding much faster than projections from Mexico's state-run oil giant Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex."

    Am I correct that the decline of Mexico and Cantarell is right on target and proceeding exactly as predicted by HL and that it could have been predicted?

    Mexico's Ability to Export Oil
    By: Khebab
    Monday, March 13, 2006

    In order to model future production, I applied the SBM-PF method and the Hubbert Linearization technique. The results are shown on Figure 3 and 4. Both methods give similar result for the future production profile which is predicted to decline from 2006 with a decline rate between 7% and 8%.

    Both methods give similar result for the future production profile which is predicted to decline from 2006 with a decline rate between 7% and 8%.

    And the actual was what, 11 or 12%?

    That's the problem with HL. Too damned pornucopian. ;-)

    That's the problem with HL. Too damned pornucopian. ;-)

    Precisely the point I made down below.


    Potential Impact of Cantarell's Decline on Mexico's Oil Production

    BTW, I have a story coming out this week on Cantarell.

    This chart looks to be right on the money with production already under 3 mbpd. But the HL from your article looks to be too optimistic, not predicting Mexico to fall under 3 mbpd until 2015 or so (which was the point of your srticle).

    In the TOD article above, I tried to compare a standard HL and a two-stages HL (i.e. HL for Cantarell + HL for the rest of the production). The first approach is more conservative as the recent drop in production is seen as an outlier whereas the two stages approach is much more pessimistic.

    Several points:

    (1) Pemex has not been investing enough cash in looking for new production, because they don't have the money, instead they have been trying maximize production from existing fields, especially Cantarell. But even at "only" an 8% decline rate, production would drop by 50% in about nine years, and they would cease to be a net exporter before then. The latest data are suggesting about a 15% per year decline rate for Mexico. Remember, they have already started suspending and cutting crude oil deliveries to Gulf Coast refineries. Mexico is our second largest supplier of imported crude oil.

    (2) They are hugely dependent on one field. When that field starts watering out, they are going to see large declines (much like Saudi Arabia and Ghawar).

    (3) Note that the HL model was too optimistic.


    Mexico started declining at about the same point that the Lower 48 and the North Sea started declining, based on their respective HL plots (crude + condenate for the Lower 48 and North Sea). Note that it took constant drilling to keep the net decline rate for the Lower 48 at 2% per year and at about 5% per year for the North Sea, and neither of these two regions were dependent on one field for more than half of their production.

    The Lower 48 decline was predicted by Hubbert.

    The North Sea decline was an observation.

    The Mexico decline was predicted by Khebab.

    And, the world crude production decline was predicted by Deffeyes.

    That's indeed something new to my knowledge - usually the Hubbert linearization is too pessimistic and therefore not able to accurately predict (e.g. whole USA in 1975 or Britain after it's first peak). Or does anybody know of other examples where the Hubbert model was too optimistic?

    Note that Hubbert said, it later interviews, that his prediction applied to the Lower 48.

    In regard to the UK, the "early linearization" required a P/Q intercept of about 30%. I am am not aware of a single case of a large producing region showing a long term P/Q intercept anywhere close to this. In other words, it was just too early to do the HL analysis

    What this exercise does illustrate, IMO, is what happens to a region past the 50% mark, if they are not reinvesting their cash flow in new fields. Of course, one could argue that it is in the long term interest of Mexico not to drill up their fields as fast as possible.

    Basically, I think that the first half is the "easy" oil. The second half will consist of smaller and/or much more difficult and expensive to produce fields.

    I have been wondering for some time about the "Ghawar/Cantarell" effect. The decline/crash of both fields may be so large that Saudi Arabia and Mexico will be able to actually increase their total production at some point, albeit at a rate much lower than their 2005 peak production.

    Are you sure it's lack of investment that's the problem? Someone posted a graph somewhere, showing the Pemex drilling per year, and they're drilling like crazy, with little to show for it.

    And the North Sea is also suffering double-digit decline rates. Didn't Simmons say it's underwater production that suffers this kind of steep decline? Because of the high cost of production, it's in the producer's interest to pump it out as quickly as possible, even if the total recovery suffers a bit.

    (1) I'm no expert on Mexico, but my impression is that they have primarily been focusing on developmental drilling--putting more straws into rapidly thinning oil columns.

    (2) The UK has had close to a double digit decline rate (C+C), about 9.3% per year since 1999, but the overall North Sea decline rate has been about 5%. Note that the "Rule of 72" appears to work going backwards as well as forwards.

    Approximate time to see a 50% reduction in production, based on various decline rates:

    5%, 14 years (e.g., overall North Sea)

    10%, 7 years (e.g., UK)

    15%, 5 years (e.g., Mexico)

    As I have repeatedly pointed out, net exports will fall much faster.

    Edit: note that the 15% number is based on 12/05 to 12/08, using David Shields' prediction. Using annual averages would result in a somewhat lower number, probably about 12%. The UK and North Sea are based on average annual numbers.

    I hope Robert publishes his error analysis of the HL method soon.
    I'd like to see how it changes around the peak.

    Given that it would be cool to see if we can do a combined analysis using different
    methods to get a high probability intersection with less error than each individual

    1.) HL
    2.) Bottom up production and field development
    3.) Geologic analysis i.e. basin geology
    4.) ???

    A combination of these with a good error analysis should result in a high probability
    island of overlapping predictions.

    Speaking of bottom up...what did Skrebowski predict for Cantarell's decline? Wasn't it something like 5%? That's looking really pornucopian now...

    I think your right. But recall his method does not address decline rates well just production rates. Its a nice counter point to HL.

    What I'm looking for is overlapping probabilities. Given independent analysis even if the results differ they do have a convergence region with a error term.

    For example the HL method has large error terms when applied early but it converges.

    The fact it converges means in a sense that its more accurate than snapshot error analysis would imply. I'm not sure what the right method is but a simulated annealing approach would probably give a nice set of bounds for HL. Especially if data from known regions is used to parameterize the equations. In short we should be able to extract constants from known regions that can reduce the error terms when we apply HL to unkown regions even if a simple HL approach has a high error term.

    Multiple independent estimates would further constrain the error.

    A good estimate of error is sorely needed.

    The HL is too optimistic when the production curve is negative-skewed. DuncanK produced a nice example:


    This is the case for the Yibal field:

    Laherrere's Yibal production plot

    Note that Yibal is Matt Simmons' favorite model for Ghawar--same reservoir, both fields redeveloped with horizontal wells.

    Everything was peachy at Yibal, and Shell was expanding their surface facilities to handle an expected flood of new oil, when a flood of new water hit.

    I think that Ghawar is at about the same stage of depletion at which Yibal started crashing.

    Take a look at Laherrere's plot and imagine that this is the combined production from Ghawar and Cantarell, which at one time accounted for about 10% of world crude oil production. Thus, my description of Ghawar and Cantarell as "Two Warning Beacons."

    BTW, I assume that "M" on his graph means million.

    Where the heck is Hothgort? These wild claims cry out for scientific repudiation. Frauddy?

    Play nice! We really want more light than heat, even on open threads, right?


    Contrary to popular belief, I don't wait with baited breath every day to see what WT posts just to pounce on it. That being said.

    Lets ignore history and project only the bad news.

    If production drops by 50% for the next nine years, Mexico will be still in the money because oil prices are bound to rise 200% over the same period of time. After that they might pull themselves out of the dirt by selling solar energy to the US. Mexico has tons of resources. They just don't have the leadership to use them. That's another thing they share with the US...

    Worried about the clash between observed declining oil production and observed increasing world population? No worries! Solar powered condoms are coming to save the day! Oh, and they are very effective. Too bad Mexico is mainly Catholic and therefore won't have the leadership to use them.

    If production drops by 50% for the next nine years, Mexico will no longer be able to export oil, and will be hard pressed to find cash to pay for oil imports.

    We've got more than enough sunny deserts North of the border for solar energy.

    I've got a bad feeling about this.

    "We've got more than enough sunny deserts North of the border for solar energy."

    That does not preclude people with sharp pencils to conclude that they can build solar power plants much cheaper and with less buerocratic headache south of the border. And the US will take that energy, too. I am not worried about that. If Mexico is politically any smart, they are going to go for it. I would be more worried about the smart part than the technological challenge.

    Why is logistic total greater than logistic cantarell + logistic OF? Or, why isn't logistic total the same as cant + OF?
    Thanks, and also thanks for all the work you do - your charts are always interesting and informative.

    Based on a 1.9Mb/d consumption from wt above link and the orange curve, they will stop exporting oil in five years, say 2012... but, this would cut gov revenue around 7%/year, presumably reducing in reduced growth and oil consumption.

    As an aside, it would be interesting to see what those predicting peak post 2010 are assuming for sa and mexico production over the next three years.

    If oil prices rise as expected, revenues won't drop as fast as you think.

    For world production as a whole, future export streams are being bought up in the form of bilateral contracts of the type China and Japan, for example, have been consumating as of late. This factor needs to be added to incresing domestic consumption when determining the amnout of oil likely available on the open (spot) market. For example, a newly discovered field in Madagascar won't add any additional oil to the market if 100% of its production is contracted for by Lithuania.

    The 7% drop is just a 1/5 avg reduction in revenues based on oil income representing 37% of mexico revenues and exports dropping to zero in five years. True, the first year or so the drop would not be so great if prices rise, but falling exports will catch up to rising prices. Meanwhile, prices and production are dropping together...

    Re: Why is logistic total greater than logistic cantarell + logistic OF? Or, why isn't logistic total the same as cant + OF?

    The HL is not additive (i.e. the sum of the HLs is not the HL of the sum). Total production was split in two contributions:

    Total Prod.= Cantarell + Other Fields

    Then the HL was performed on each of above terms, "logistic total" comes from the logistic curve derived from the HL on the Total Prod. but Cant+OF is the sum of the HL on Cantarell and the HL on "Other Fields".

    Hello Khebab,

    Looking forward to your Cantarell posting, and when does Dave Cohen's promised posting on Demand Destruction come out? It is the TopTODers' specific keyposts that make this forum so great to me!

    EDIT: changed singular TopTODer's to plural TopTODers'

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

    I would really like to see a topic from an editor about "Connecting the Dots to Peak Oil".

    The news coming out of Mexico cannot be overstated. VooDoo KSA production capability and a subsequent Cheney visit. USA involvement in the middle east. Burgan's decline. GM going full tilt on the VOLT concept vehicle. Etc, Etc, etc.

    Now, President Bush is ramping up the rhetoric about cutting imports and the whole ethanol issue. I am feeling a sense of ergency.

    I guess that is why I read this site daily, to put it all together myself. I think I see [heavy] smoke on the horizon.

    I was counting on a 2012-15 peak timeframe, but know I am not so sure. I will however move up some "adjustments" in the vein of ELP, just in case.

    Are others trying to "Connect the Dots" for themselves?

    P.S. I even read Freddy's stuff just to keep an objective balance.

    While Robert and I obviously disagree on the timing of the world peak, he is 100% on board with the ELP recommendations. As I repeatedly said, if I am wrong, you will have less (or no) debt, more money in the bank and a lower stress way of life. "Cheap is the new chic."

    Just as I was thinking that I managed to not post for one day (planning to drastically curtail my TOD presence.)


    Regarding ELP:


    I want to state for the record that I also fully support the ELP model that WT coined. We're so wasteful as it is right now :/

    Thank you for the reply Jeffrey. I read everything you post carefully.

    Regarding ELP, I am 100% debt free, with a large reserve.

    I doubled the size of the garden last year, and will go ahead and double again this year. (This is really not easy)

    I will move up the timefrime for solar water heat to next year, not 3 years.

    I will plant a berry garden this year. (Blueberry, blackberry, raspberry)

    I already made the switch to a job that is 3 miles away, not 38.

    Will increase my firewood reserve from 1 year to 3 years.

    I have been slowing preparing for about 5 years now. I sleep well, have little stress, am in good shape, and postive. More than I can say about my friends with 7 figure debts and high blood pressure!


    rumors goin round
    in that texas town
    bout that shack outside la grange

    and you know what im talkin bout
    just lemme know if you wanna go
    to that home out on the range
    they gotta a lotta nice girls

    I'm beginning to believe that the powers that be know the real oil situation.
    Their actions seem to indicate that have access to data/analysis that is not being made public.

    I have to believe that CIA has full knowledge of KSA oil production and probably a good handle on Iran. Although Iran has been pretty transparent on the state of their oil fields. And I'm sure they know Russia's status as well.

    The only piece of data we are really missing is KSA. Watching the rhetoric seems to indicate that important information is not being made public. Similar the WMD crap.

    What really bothers me is if it turns out that they knew or know about key problems with oil production and did not report them we have a pretty crappy democracy.

    If indeed ,the CIA,FBI, the Prez, the vice prez and God knows who else is in the "know," WHY hasn't the market shown it?

    Thats what I find a bit disturbing.

    If its really good knews i.e. KSA actually has all the oil they claim I don't see why they don't open up the books so to speak. Peak Oil and high oil prices are public enough along with calls for transparency for it to be a good political move for them.

    So I have to assume that their real situation is less promising then some of the outlandish claims they have made.

    They may well have a lot more oil then HL indicates but less than they claim.

    Or they may have a lot less and WT is right.

    The actions of our great glorious leader from the hydrogen economy on seem to indicate that the real situation is closer to WT claims.

    The fact that we now have GWB calling for a 20% reduction in fuel usage and KSA claiming they can topple Iran with cheap oil points too someone lying.
    GWB may not say peak oil but actions speak louder than words.

    I don't believe anything KSA says they have lied too many times.
    I'd love better info on them but it would have to come from a independent credible source.

    Someone inside KSA needs to stand up and present the truth.
    Ghawar's real status has to be known by quite a few people.

    The fact that we now have GWB calling for a 20% reduction in fuel usage and KSA claiming they can topple Iran with cheap oil points too someone lying.

    Absolutely. These two things completely contradict one another. And for once, I'm listening to Bush to try and get a sense of the "big picture."

    If its really good knews i.e. KSA actually has all the oil they claim I don't see why they don't open up the books

    Why would they? What benefit do you expect them to obtain from it? "Good political move"? Couldn't they get effectively that by showing select parts of "the books" to a few key world leaders?

    By keeping their oil position murky, they command substantial attention, power, and prestige as someone on whom the world depends, with whom the world can't do without, and about whom the world can't make calculations because there isn't enough information.

    Frankly, for a shady regime that's more interested in power and control than in global prosperity, it makes great sense to be a little cagey about the world's largest oil production and reserves. If nobody knows the limits of your power, that in itself tends to increase it.

    I don't believe anything KSA says they have lied too many times.

    Such as?

    You may well be right, and KSA certainly isn't a poster boy for enlightened government, but it's not clear what their extensive oil-related lies are that you're referring to. Could you provide links?


    The fact that we now have GWB calling for a 20% reduction in fuel usage and KSA claiming they can topple Iran with cheap oil points too someone lying.

    That's not the only explanation. For example, a very simple explanation is that Iran is alarming both its neighbours (SA) and the US, and so both are taking steps to undercut its economy and prevent it from becoming a regional power. The US has been talking about reducing its dependence on oil from hostile places for ages, and Saudi Arabia is not only the current regional power, but is Sunni to Iran's Shia, and the two are likely to butt heads to some extent in Iraq.

    It's possible you're right, but there are certainly plenty of alternative explanations that don't involve assuming everyone's lying.

    What we're seeing is a drawn out game of musical chairs - the music has yet to stop, while more and more chairs are slowly and silently being removed.

    Hi Ludanjack,

    re: Why hasn't the market shown it?
    (My knowledge of how "the market" works is limited; those who know may fill in something); just some possibilities that come to mind:
    1) Who are the players who would make the moves ("go long"?), as Rainwater said. http://www.energybulletin.net/11695.html.
    3) "'I'm long oil and I'm liquid,' he says." How many players doing what exactly, would cause... a jump in price (?) or (?) If Richard is "long", what does this actually translate to?
    4) I thought the market has shown increased volatility? (I can't find the TOD reference.) If we take a scenario of increased volatility, (as predicted by Deffeyes), is it easy or difficult to make winning "moves" as the overall price rises?
    5) Do said "players" imagine their moves might precipitate a crises?(They want to play the game, not destroy it.)
    5a) "They" all know and yet don't know - i.e., don't deal with it emotionally.
    5b) "They" know, and yet have different views of the implications. For example, according to poster Nick, some analysts believe a transition (to renewables) is possible, just needs to be done quickly. He puts Simmons in this category.
    6) Memmel writes: "What really bothers me is if it turns out that they knew or know about key problems with oil production and did not report them we have a pretty crappy democracy."
    This brings to mind Dick Cheney's speech at the Institute of Petroleum, http://www.energybulletin.net/559.html
    "I know I am pleased with the leadership provided by Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Venezuela and in the long run I think the world will be best served, and the consumer best served as well as producers, by stable prices at reasonable levels."

    How could they not know? The Hirsch report, etc., etc.
    I like WT's iron triangle theory. I would add that we let politicians accept PAC money. They are being led by the money they need to get elected. We have great constitution, but the founding fathers had no vision that included TV, radio, CNN, you name it - mass marketing applied to politics and the cash needed to be on TV.

    "I'm beginning to believe that the powers that be know the real oil situation.
    Their actions seem to indicate that have access to data/analysis that is not being made public."

    I believe Hubbert published a close to perfect first order model some fifty years ago (a lot of accepted physics theories have way less to go by!). What else, I am asking you, do you need? Does knowing that PO happens on mm/dd/yyyy:17:35:16.937846 UTC change ANYTHING about the situation? Would ANY knowledge in government/science/industry change anything about anyones decision to buy that SUV or that hybrid?

    Highly doubtful.

    The argument that "they knew but deliberately did not tell us" is simply a cheap excuse so you can feel better about your own actions or inactions.

    PO is as little a democracy problem as obesity is. They can tell you a thousand times to eat less, exercize more and stay healthy. If you are the average Joe, you won't listen.

    Hi memmel,

    I am coming to the same conclusion as you.

    The energy issue seems to be moving to the foreground of the Presidents agenda. Politics aside, it would appear to be a paradigm shift of the administration.

    Guess we will have to wait for published memoirs or declassified documents to learn the truth.... years from now (and maybe after the fact).

    But I am going to er on the side of caution. The stakes are too high.

    How's this for connecting the dots?

    Our president "acts" like we are in an energy crisis, yet he doesn't call it an energy crisis. Watch what he does, and not what he says.

    Recently, he passed an Executive Order to cut energy consumption at all government agencies. Why is he in such a hurry to push ethanol, hydrogen, and engage enemies that just happen to have a sh*tload of black gold underfoot?

    Those are all the dots I need to know that there IS a crisis of some kind, but no one is calling it a crisis.

    Today's Boston Globe has an article following up a recently released MIT study that touts geothermal energy not only for heating buildings but for power generation. According to the article the study concludes that:

    Heat mining could generate enough energy by 2050 to replace the coal-fired and nuclear power plants that are likely to be retired over the next several decades.

    This seems potentially significant but so far does not appear to have been discussed at TOD.

    Oh, the article also makes the point that this technology would be attractive for its very low environmental impact.

    With heat mining, engineers tap the massive amounts of heat energy stored in this deep rock, away from natural hydrothermal sites. In theory, this is straightforward. Engineers drill a deep well into hot rock. They pump down water under very high pressure to expand cracks in the rock, creating a chamber where water can flow and absorb the rock's heat. Finally, they drill another well to tap the superheated water.

    An interesting concept, for sure, but I wonder about the quantities of water that would be needed. I don't have the time or the numbers in front of me to make the calculation. Maybe someone could give us a quick estimate of what sort of volume of water would be required to do something like this?

    They need only minute quantities of water after the initial injection. Some water is lost every time, from seepage and losses in transition, but its very water friendly in terms of how much is needed over the lifetime of the plant. Furthermore, there is little to no environmental impact, and no risk of water contamination.

    That being said, I do not think this kind of plant will get off the ground any time soon. They tried using this approach in Sweden, and caused a few 2.6 magnitude tremors. Granted they tried applying this on a fault line, but thats probably enough to scare people for another 10-20 years. :rolls eyes:

    Like the Curates Egg, Geothermal Energy is good in parts.

    Drilling into Hard rock is not cheap.
    Water flushing between well bores that have (hopefully) fissured actually cools the surrounding mass of hot rock thereby reducing available energy with time. Sometimes fast , sometimes slow. Circulating water can ofter bring up some pretty unpleasant contaminents such as Cadmium, Arsenic, Lead etc.

    It works in New Zealand, and now perhaps other locations on the Pacific Rim and of course, in Iceland on an upwelling of hot magma on a constructive margin. Could work in Yellowstone perhaps. Who knows.

    It is a local solution to local conditions and not a pancea.

    Commenting on a project in Switzerland (which may be what you mean), the quakes were 3+ magnitude as reported on the local radio (we didn't feel the tremors, they happened maybe a hundred miles south near Basel), and currently, no one seems to know why they are occurring, though the correlation between water injection and tremors seems to be beyond the rational scientific debate you seem to favor when looking at reality. And since the cause remains unknown, no one knows what could trigger a larger tremor - especially as the tremors have continued after the water injection was halted.

    Of course, as such magnitude quakes are not all that uncommon around here, it isn't as easily dismissed as you make it - every few years, an earthquake serious enough to damage building occurs, though generally 4-5 on the Richter scale.

    A definite difference between America and European attitudes - Europeans tend to think 'why should my house be damaged for someone else's profit?,' while Americans seem to think that what they do will always affect someone else, and never themselves.

    It's called universal geothermal, and I have mentioned it probably a dozen times in the past 3 months alone. Trust me when I say this: they don't want to hear any good news!

    Why do the hairs on the back of my neck rise when somebody says 'trust me'...

    Well, hopefully the facts about the Swiss experience in this area posted above, which is regional news around here, especially after another 3+ tremor, is not weighted as good or bad news, but merely as data, when having a rational scientific debate about costs and benefits.

    As a matter of fact, the news about tremors in your neighborhood is so thrilling, that property prices have skyrocketed among those who like a little rock and roll excitement in their lives, yet more good news being suppressed. Call me for exciting investment opportunities - get in on the ground floor of a truly earth shaking new paradigm. Energy in truly ground breaking amounts which will leave you trembling.

    However, in all fairness - geothermal energy is being explored pretty seriously throughout the Alps/Black Forest, but at this point, water injection in the Swiss mode is being reconsidered - and investigated, to try to determine why it happened. The other projects have not been halted, just the one causing tremors.

    Geothermal heat flux average over the Earths's crust: 16kW/km^2.

    That's right... it is 16mW/m^2. That's roughly 16000 times less than solar radiation. So if you ever thought that solar was crappy... how good do you feel about this one?

    I am glad that you introduced the basic concept of heat flux into this discussion on geothermal energy.

    There seems to be a mistaken notion out there that if you just drill a hole in the ground and pump some water down there and back, you will be able to satisfy the heating needs for a substantial building. In reality, what happens is that the water pumped down cools the rock in its immediate vicinity as it itself is being heated. In a relativley short period of time a sort of equilibrium is reached in which only a certain amount of heat is capable of being transferred to the water and no more. This is where the flux comes in.

    To get more heat transfered to the water you either have to increase the exposed surface area of the original well or drill another well some distance away from the first one. It gets very expensive to drill deep, large-diameter wells, so this is not a very promising approach for the average homeowner (unless your home is in a place like Iceland with abundant shallow geothermal energy).

    There was once a time when even I believed in geothermal energy... until I read up on geology a little bit. Rocks have an awfully low thermal conductivity... it takes centuries for heat to travel a couple of yards in granite. Luckily, this can be used to measure what the climate was like centuries ago by drilling a hole in a rock and putting a very sensitive thermometer in. On the downside, one can't get a whole lot of geothermal heat out of a single drill hole. It is a little bit like with oil wells, I guess, when the layers are not porous enough... some oil comes out, everything else stays in there until kingdom come. And just like with oil many poorly chosen geothermal sites just release heat stored in the stone that has been accumulated over centuries or millenia. Once that locally stored heat is gone, the plants remaining generation capacity is negligible.

    Overall, given that there are only relatively few sites on the planet with the right natural conditions for geothermal plants, I don't see much use for it, in terms of total capacity. The hard core technologists love them, though. I suppose that's because they already have the solutions in place to tap into the energy of steam if they have it: just attach a heat exchanger, a turbine and a generator and you are done. It looks simple, is cheap and performs well for a while. Until the temperature in the holes goes down, of course. The Germans poured a lot of money into this research until they realised that there is a big differece between the sites on Iceland and the ones at home. The topic, like the stones it used to drill into, has cooled considerably after that.

    I like others was guilty of assuming the geothermal game dealt a free lunch once you drilled the hole and set up your infrastructure. But as you pointed out Depletion is a real concern in the process. Even in Geothermal hot spots where the below linked company's projects are located the implication is that these spots can be heat mined for hot water for a fairly finite time period. Net result is you can draw some analogies towards drilling for oil in that the play plays out over time and Depletion sets in.


    Kansas Crude.

    Thanks. That was an inretesting article. They say:

    Hot geothermal water has been located in fractured and faulted zones, in fractured basement rock and sedimentary aquifers overlying the basement complex. Water flow within the reservoir is structurally controlled.


    The geothermal water appears to be moving vertically upward through deep fractured basement structures. Vertical and lateral flow of hot water moving out from these deep structures disperses outward into faults, which act as highly permeable conduits for the hot water. Additional high permeability zones occur along bedding planes and along brecciated zones at the alluvial-basement contact.


    Geothermal Energy and Power Generation
    Geothermal energy is a renewable resource, that is, using modern scientific and engineering techniques, geothermal systems may be sustained commercially for decades. The Geysers (California) and Wairakei (New Zealand) have produced electric power continuously for 40 years. The pioneering Larderello field in Italy has been productive since 1904. In fact, not a single geothermal field has been exhausted to date,


    although reservoir pressures and temperatures have declined slowly in response to production. (WHAT I SAY...)

    The heat source for geothermal energy comes primarily from large, magmatic systems deep in the earths crust. These are still partially molten or crystallized, but are hot igneous intrusions that yield their heat gradually over hundreds of thousands of years. As the earth cools over time, there is a constant movement of thermal energy that travels outward through highly permeable fracture zones to the surface. It is a system such as this that feeds the Raft River geothermal field.

    There are two main systems currently utilized for electric power generation. The first, and rarest, are vapor-dominated systems that yield nearly pure high-temperature steam (>235°C or 455°F). The Geysers in California is an example of this type system where steam is typically found at depths of 3,250 to 13,000 feet. The second type system is dominated by hot water and operates in the temperature range from 100°C to 300°C (212°F-700°




    Except abiotic heat is real !

    Iceland cycles between well bores, and heat recovers in "depleted" wells (rate varies by site).

    Water is often a limiting factor as well; steam removed is not quickly replaced at most sites.


    joule, i understand what you are saying, however if the well is in contact with a pourous water bearing formation, the water will transmits heat very effectively. ground based geothermal heating certainly is able to extract heat from the earth.
    i dont know if such a project is economically feasable, it would need to be done on a large scale, certainly not feasible for your average homeowner. but the geothermal gradient is not constant everywhere, in some areas (ne colorado for example) the gradient is 0.02 deg F/ft. it might be feasible there. i know from experience that drilling mud circulated in the drilling of a well will cool the rock measurably.

    In the 28-Jan Drumbeat was the article announcing an Executive Order to slash Federal Agency Energy Consumption. It contained an interesting nugget.

    Bush said federal agencies would start buying new plug-in hybrid vehicles "as soon as they hit the market."

    Do my eyes deceive me? Could it be our President is getting serious on energy policy? If this can't get the car companies motivated, I don't know what will.

    Call me a pessimist (or a realist), but my take was that they are keenly aware of the ongoing decline in world net oil export capacity.

    Just a reminder, with slight exaggeration, that if the Army has soldier that can pull a trigger, they are on their way to the Middle East, if the Air Force has a plane that will fly, it is on its way to the ME and if the Navy has a vessel that will float, it is on its way to the ME.

    Can't comment on what "they" know or don't know. The point is that there is now a huge buyer of (American-made) automobiles that is now stating plug-ins are to be purchased over other types of vehicles. Last time I looked, NO company is making them.

    Personally, I have wanted a PHEV ever since I heard about them. It represents a remarkably efficient way to reduce oil dependence. The implications for future energy policy are huge. The grid becomes significantly more important.

    There is all this verbiage here regarding ethanol and its ramifications. The move to plug-ins is huge!

    A plug-in vehicle needs significant amounts of electricity to recharge. Since there are any numbers of people here who keep complaining about power outages due to overloaded power grids ooperating a few percent away from their physical limits, I wonder where the juice for those vehicles will come from? Are you going to buy solar panels to charge your new PHEV and only use it in electric mode on sunny days?

    The grid is only taxed to its limit during the middle of hot days. The obvious time to recharge is during the night.

    Shifting our transportation energy needs away from petroleum dependency and to the grid is critical... and effective. We'd be better off if we took all the petroleum we import and burn it in electrical generator plants instead of burning it in ICEs (Internal Combustion Engines). Your car engine is about 12% efficient because it wastes most of the heat energy produced when your burn the gaoline.

    "Shifting our transportation energy needs away from petroleum dependency and to the grid is critical... and effective. "

    I can not but agree that this is going to be the long term future. What I don't agree with is the childlike belief of many that all they need to do is to get a PHEV or a real EV and the problem goes magically away. It doesn't. The energy, less, but still significant amounts, has to come from somewhere. If you happen to build a 40% efficient natural gas fired power plant to satisfy the peak demand for EV charging, you can as well burn gas in a hybrid. The overall thermodynamic efficiency is roughly the same. So you either need nuclear or solar and wind with storage for at least weeks at a time! Neither are simple or will come cheap.

    "Your car engine is about 12% efficient because it wastes most of the heat energy produced when your burn the gaoline."

    A car engine is inefficient because it is sized for a wide range of loads and rpms. Build the same engine for close to constant load and constant rpm and downsize it to average load conditions (i.e. by a factor of 4 for an SUV sized vehicle) and you are getting close to 30+% thermodynamic efficiency. That is not any worse than what you get from a power plant, 200 miles of power grid, a bunch of transformers and an 80% efficient battery/charge system.

    The key to saving serious amounts of energy is to get vehicle weight down, i.e. to get rid of SUVs and semi-trucks.

    "The grid is only taxed to its limit during the middle of hot days. The obvious time to recharge is during the night."

    A lot of people will need EVs that can be recharged on the company parking lot. This will happen in the middle of hot summer days and tax grids way more than some might think. To put a dozen 10kW loads on a grid on the parking lot of a medium sized company will add a peak load equivalent, if not larger than that of the building the people work in. The infrastructure for that is simply not there. Neither will your pole mount residential transformers support you and your neigbours charging your cars at night simultaneously. If we want to get twice the peak out of power grids, we will need four times the copper OR, double the grid voltages. That alone is a huge infrastructure change.

    Consider this: one gallon of gas is worth 36kWh worth of energy. At the gas station one can pump roughly 5 gallons/minute, i.e. 180kWh of energy get transfered per minute. That is equivalent to a power of 10.8MW.

    A car engine that is
    "getting close to 30+% thermodynamic efficiency. That is not any worse than what you get from a power plant, 200 miles of power grid, a bunch of transformers and an 80% efficient battery/charge system."

    You would have to be referring to a diesel engine, as the thermal efficiency of a gasoline engine is only 23 to 25% efficient. Diesels are 30 to 32% efficient in turning the chemical energy in fuel to rotating kinetic energy (foot lbs. or newton meters of torque). Count in drivetrain losses and other loads on the engine for electrical power or AC and you get maybe 28% overall efficency for a diesel powered car.

    The thermal efficiency of combined cycle gas fired (or gasified coal fired) power plants is 60 to 63%. Conventional power plants that use a factory or city steam loop (cogeneration) as part of their condensing system also obtain higher efficiencies than 40%, but these are not common installations. IMO the plug in hybrid is more efficient than a standard gasoline powered car, but not a whole lot better. The main objective of PHEV is to reduce oil consumption, not reduce overall energy consumtion by large amounts.

    Best way to reduce transport energy demands is to ride a bike, take public transport, carpool, or work from home. Best place for government investment is trains & tracks. Worst place for government investment is highways to suburbia. Many states like Texas are continuing the latter, as I witnessed the Chief Administrator of the Texas Dept. of Trans. say last Friday that TX will need hundreds of miles of new highway lanes to keep pace with the rapid growth in auto and truck traffic over the next 20 years. Tens of billions of dollars will be spent in this effort.

    Attitude in Texas: Peak Oil? Don't spoil our fiesta with your doom & gloom talk of Cantarell crashing!

    mbnewtrain, I'm generally in agreement with what you have written (much more so than with IPs....just what did you mean, IP, by "childish"? Do you care to back that up with a quote from somewhere?)

    Yes, the main objective of PHEV is diversification, but hey! Given where we are, isn't that an absolutely amazing thing that GWB has actually done something to promote that? I am quite aghast at the lack of attention this has gotten.

    With respect to the energy consumption, well, PHEV is at least in the direction of sustainability. Yes, there are issues but it seems to me better than where we are now which is NO COMMERCIAL PRODUCTION OF PHEVs presently.

    With regards to the grid, the most effective way for PHEVs to work is overnight charging (when, by the way, prices sometimes actually go to zero!), but to do that, we will need a sea-change in the metering services.

    Personally, I look forward to the day that PHEVs are starting to cause load disruptions, for when that happens, the need to go to smart metering will be apparent, and then we are really talking efficiency increases.

    Last summer here in New England, energy prices went to $1/kwh in the wholesale market, the present price limit. If customers were charged a day-ahead rate instead of the standard fixed rate, how many would be willing and able to reduce their load during those peak hours? I'm guessing the 10 percent reduction in demand that was needed to get back to $.1 - .2/kwh wholesale price range would have come rather readily.

    "...IMO the plug in hybrid is more efficient than a standard gasoline powered car, but not a whole lot better. The main objective of PHEV is to reduce oil consumption, not reduce overall energy consumtion by large amounts."

    You have to multiply the power generation efficiency with 80% battery and charger losses and then you are back into the 32% realm even with a PHEV.

    There is no free lunch here. The main savings come from regenertive breaking and that the overall vehicle mass is much smaller for a well designed hybrid or EV while the gas guzzler is more of a design freeform exersize that is lead by the advertising department.

    I agree: fewer vehicles, more mass transit, that's where the real savings are. But the tricky part is that the time it will take to establish those systems (except for busses) is way beyond the peak.

    My understanding, and I can't claim a definitive source is that a plug in Hybrid is twice as efficient as an internal combustion engine. That calculation would account for the losses through the electrical grid and the battery charging process. Obviously, it is a big deal if we could HALF our transportation energy requirement by transitioning to plug-ins.

    I'd love to see a definative source substantiate this claim. So far I've had to read a lot of tea leaves.

    Nevertheless, transitioning to the grid has its advantages. Electricity can be derived from any number of sources; petroleum, natural gas, coal, but also wind, tides, geothermal, and hydro. Once we make that transition we are agnostic. We can create electricity however we judge best.

    Twice as efficient in what respect? These are apples to dump trucks comparisons here. One uses gasoline and the other uses electricity. You have to go through capital intensive infrastructure for both, but you arent using close to the same thing...

    Now if you were using the same thing it would be something along the lines of electricity generated from a diesel generator or synfuel made from coal liquefaction...

    You care to back up your numbers? Every study I've seen shows significant efficiency savings. The difficulty is that the savings depends upon the local electric source, the particular car, etc, so one number is difficult to grasp. That doesn't mean the issue isn't clear-cut.

    One can compare the electric-only vehicles that ran in California to the gas-equivalent vehicle to get an idea. The plug-in would be somewhere inbetween the two. Here are the numbers from pluginamerica.org

    Q: Aren’t electric cars inefficient?
    A: EVs are the most effcient cars on the road:
    Toyota RAV4 EV: 887 BTU/mile
    Toyota Prius: 2250 BTU/mile
    Toyota RAV4 Gas: 4423 BTU/mile
    RAV4 EV rated 112 MPG equivalent.

    The data come from fueleconomy.gov and are actual numbers. Where you getting yours, IP? Out of your arse?

    Switching freight from 18 wheelers to electrified trains is trading (roughly) 1 electricity BTU for 20 diesel BTUs.

    Urban Rail computations are more complex, but when the long term changes to a more energy efficient urban form are considered, it to can approach a 20:1 energy gain over private cars.

    Best Hopes,


    BTW, Combined cycle NG plants are about 60% efficient.

    "If this can't get the car companies motivated, I don't know what will."

    Bankruptcy AKA Chapter 11. It get's your attention way faster than POTUS HOKUS POKUS.

    I like this image from Canterells plunge in production. This is just perfect peak oil. Why is the world's second biggest oil field crashing whereas the owners of the biggest and third biggest oilfields, the Saudis (Ghawar) and the Kuwaitis (Burgan) keep telling us nothing is wrong? Although Ghawar as well as Burgan startet production around 1946, not like Canterell (and prudhoe bay) in 1979??

    What did the guys in Mexico wrong? What did the US with the declining Prudhoe bay wrong?

    For me, the fish starts stinking.

    Kuwait has admitted that Burgan is in a long term terminal decline, and overall they are right at the 50% of Qt mark. I am not aware of any recent production data on Burgan.

    Alaska managed to produce one mbpd or more for about 21 years, because of Prudhoe Bay. Prudhoe Bay is the largest oil field in North America (at least so far). But this gives you how short the peak production period is for even super giant oil fields producing one mbpd or more.

    Every super giant oil field is crashing, Mexico and KSA are in steep decline, KSA is reducing oil supply to Asian oil refinaries, Mexico is reducing oil supply to some US oil refinaries, and we still have oil at $54/barrel. What is going on? Why isn't oil skyrocketing higher? How are the Asian and US refinaries that got less oil from KSA and Mexico respectively, coping? Shouldn't they be buying oil in the spot market to cover the shortfall? Shouldn't that cause the price of oil to go up?

    Not so fast, take in account that this is geology related site, and "crashing" means a few percent a year (especially when corrected by new production). Take it as a slow motion:)

    I have rocks in my front garden rockery that are just shy of a billion years old.

    I swear they just nod, smile and then titter amongst themselves when I leave to go to work...

    Dorme Bien

    "Shouldn't that cause the price of oil to go up?"

    Not if the rest of the world can't afford oil at $54/barrel. What you are looking at is the first wave survivor price. The American SUV driver at this point only competes with himself and the richest of the Chinese, Europeans etc.. Everyone else has put the brakes on and keeps conserving. Don't forget, the Europeans have a huge gas tax, so they are effectively already paying for the equivalent of $100/barrel oil!

    The next wave of oil prices will start to pinch the American SUV driver. We have heard that there was pain at the $75/barrel level. The next time it goes there it will go even higher. At $80-$100, a lot of US drivers will have to start making changes to their consumption. At $120/barrel and more, even people with economy cars will feel the pinch. The question is always: at what price do significant numbers of buyers drop out of the game and make long lasting changes to their demand (by buying a lower consumption car, switching over to public transportation etc.). We have seen the rest of the world make some changes. The next time it is our turn.

    One important question is, how much does the global oil production have to drop before oil gets to $80 or $100 or $120 per barrel?
    Another important question is, how long will it take to get there?

    Mexican oil production is dropping at the rate of 400,000 bpd/year.
    KSA oil production dropping at the rate of 800,000 bpd/year.

    Assuming that the rest of the world is able to maintain constant production, a year from now the world will produce 1.2 million bpd less. With this much oil taken off the world market, I think the price should be around $70 per barrel.

    The question of price is economic and thus is inherently complex (even with stable production the price could rise because of raising demand), the spot market is not a total oil market, market behaviour is strongly non-linear (a lot of people are trying to predict what prices will be thus affecting this same market), etc...

    "One important question is, how much does the global oil production have to drop before oil gets to $80 or $100 or $120 per barrel?"

    A ten percent drop in production will be plenty to make the ten percent of the population who can afford any price to pay that much. Don't forget, you all have to pay as much as the richest few percent can afford... What simply happens is that the bottom ten percent of users drop out of the race and everyone in the middle struggles to keep up with the rich guys.

    "Another important question is, how long will it take to get there?"

    A few years at 5% decline.

    We don't have to wait for long before we are going to see the next step in the bidding war. And every time the price will go up, then come down when someone has dropped out, but it will stay up higher and longer than the time before.

    Cantarell is crashing. IMO, Ghawar is either crashing or declining, but Saudi Aramco has not confirmed this.

    Prudhoe Bay, producing about 400,000 bpd with a 75% water cut, and Daqing, producing around 950,000 bpd with a 90% water cut, are good examples of some of the fields that were producing one mbpd or more.

    IMO, all of the current and former super giants are on their way to where East Texas is now, a 99% water cut.

    As PT pointed out, we do have new fields coming on line, but our problem is trying to replace the declining production from the super giants and other large old fields, with production from new, smaller fields. Historically, it has not worked at around the 50% of Qt mark, which historically has led to the observed post-50% of Qt declines that we have seen in so many areas.

    I would expect to see about a 2% net long term annual decline in conventional world crude production. However, in the short term it good be sharper, depending on what is really going on at Ghawar.

    I would expect to see about a 2% net long term annual decline in conventional world crude production. However, in the short term it good be sharper, depending on what is really going on at Ghawar.

    A 2% decline seems manageable. Can we not easily reduce our oil consumption by 2% per year every year for the forseeable future? Just driving less aggressively will improve mileage by 10%. Then why the doom & gloom in the forum? Peak oil seems to be a non event except for those who live in really poor countries.

    Then why the doom & gloom in the forum? Peak oil seems to be a non event except for those who live in really poor countries.

    Well. . . I have this theory about exports. . .

    The problem is that the top exporters are much more depleted than the world is overall, and their domestic consumption, in most cases, is growing quite rapidly. The UK is a perfect example. It went from exporting one mbpd in 1999 to being a net importer in 2005.

    Depending on what happens to domestic Mexican consumption, Mexico will probably go from being the second largest supplier of imported crude to the US, in 2005, to a net importer sometime between 2008 and 2010.

    Hi suyog,

    "Can we not easily reduce our oil consumption by 2% per year every year for the forseeable future?"
    This seems to be *the* question. (Together w. a similar question using the "Export Land" model's higher percentages.)

    Some Qs, then:
    1. Is the 2% decline replaced by any other source of fuel?
    2. If so, what? How? and at what cost?
    3. If 2% is "easily" doable "for the forseeable future", what about 3, 4, 5, 6...? percents. (Just in case there are other factors that multiply the predicted decline rate.)
    4. If the decline is not replaced by any other fuel source, at what point will the lack actually inhibit some essential economic activity?
    5. Does this 2% decline match a decline in petro-goods?
    6. Does this 2% decline mean the economy as a whole has to decline/shrink? So, the world economy shrinks?
    7. If so, how does that work, exactly?

    and so forth...

    1. No
    2. Get a more fuel efficient car, drive less aggressively, find a
    job closer to home, combine errands, etc.
    3. The higher the rate of decline, the harder it is going to be to
    cope with it.
    4. Hopefully never if we can buy 20 years with conservation and
    replace our fleet with electric vehicles by that time.
    5. Yes, we will have to learn to live without plastic Santa Clauses
    and will have to reuse grocery bags instead of using
    and discarding plastic bags.
    6. No, except perhaps some sectors like tourism.
    7. See above. Conservation buys time; use that time to transition
    transportation away from oil. We will always need some oil for
    non-transportation uses. Get it from coal and tar sands if
    conventional sources don't produce enough.

    Hi Suyog,

    Thanks for responding. I was trying to say, I imagine the questions I asked require a fair amount of analysis and then some number-crunching before we can really get a sense of the answers. For example, if we have electric vehicles, how does this impact the electric-generating capacity of different regions? Much generation is currently done using natural gas as the fuel input.


    Example of plastic. Well, how much plastic is used for toys and how much for medical applications? (Syringes, IV drip lines, etc.). It seems that an unremitting decline has many implications.

    What did the guys in Mexico (do) wrong? What did the US with the declining Prudhoe bay (do) wrong?

    Quad, what makes you think they did anything wrong? There is only so much oil in a reservoir and there is absolutely nothing you can do to change that amount. A field starts to decline when it gets past 50 or 60 percent depletion. That is a simple fact of geology and there is nothing one can do "right" to change that very simple fact.

    Prudhoe Bay and Cantarell are declining because the oil is almost gone. Is that a really difficult concept to understand? It seems glaringly simple to me!

    Ron Patterson

    When you say "almost" it makes it sound like no more oil next week.

    They've only just recently passed 50% Qt, right?

    That means half the oil is still there ...

    No, they have not recently past the 50% Qt. Take a look at slide 51 of this Simmons PDF file:

    As you can see Prudhoe Bay as at least 90% gone. I expect Cantarell is about at that point also. Cantarell would have an entire different profile from Prudhoe Bay however. It plateaued out for several years at 1 million barrels per day. Then they started nitrogen injection and it peaked at about 2 million barrels for a couple of years before starting the present catastrophic decline.

    No, both Prudhoe Bay and Cantarell are way, way past the 50% mark. They will both still be producing for years but at only a trickle of their former glory.

    Ron Patterson

    Safety problems at Swedish nuclear plant

    The Forsmark nuclear power station has blotted its copybook by means of insufficient safety precautions, staff working under the influence of alcohol and incidents that are described as "potentially fatal" in a new internal report.

    The report was written in October of last year but has been kept secret until now, SVT's news programme Aktuellt reports.

    No way - as constantly repeated by various proponents of nuclear power, nuclear plants are immune from human error, and Murphy isn't ever allowed through the front gate.

    As for secrecy - you would be surprised how secret some things are kept, when someone's job requires that it be kept secret, to paraphrase an old muckraker.

    Times are changing. Following is a post by Bill McKenzie, a conservative editorial columnist at the Dallas Morning News, who has lots of contacts in GOP circles and in the White House:


    Gas tax update

    I got a call from a friend in D.C. who had read a Rod (Dreher) posting about the environment. That led to a discussion about energy taxes that kind of tracked the one the ed board had this morning. My pal, Bob Walker of Get America Working, said there are several ideas percolating about using gas/energy taxes to achieve goals.

    His group is working on a plan to raise the gas tax but lower the payroll tax. He argues the shift would discourage pollution and reward job creation. This gets to the objection Mitchell raised this morning about higher gas taxes hurting workers.

    Another idea is to link gas taxes to various energy goals, such as encouraging mass transit construction. This is Mike's idea, and I'm more in this camp than in the gas tax for payroll tax reduction camp.

    The question there is, who calls the shots? You could see a big, giant bureaucratic mess if Washington starts running mass transit programs. And Washington would have a right to intervene if it supplies the funds.

    What's interesting is the gas tax idea is on the table in Washington. And there are liberals and conservatives alike talking about this.

    That includes Bush's former Council of Economic Advisers member Greg Manikow. He would raise the tax to encourage conservation and bail out Social Security and Medicare, which was the angle John Anderson, the candidate Bob and I worked for in 1980, took in his presidential bid.

    There are other conservatives, such as Irwin Seltzer of the Hudson Institute and Boone Pickens, who are talking about raising the tax.

    Don't know where all this leads, but the idea has some momentum.

    You can find a link to Bob's proposal here: http://www.getamericaworking.org/

    4:28 PM | William McKenzie

    What is new here? This is all about LOWERING the payroll tax and finding a great excuse to let the employees pay for it on the ultraconvrepub side. The good Will then throws an even worse idea into the discussion to deflect from the fact how bad the first one was. By building a set of increasingly worse alternatives, they are trying to make the payroll tax scam look favorable. Haven't we seen this before...

    What is really sad about it: there are plenty of people who will swallow any bait, no matter how little it resembles a worm or a fly.

    I would abolish the Payroll Tax and tax energy consumption to fund Social Security/Medicare.

    Then how would You tax Microsoft? or Hollywood:)

    no change to income tax

    Microsoft and Hollywood would pay their tax like everybody else. Whenever they feel the urge to drive around, or when they leave the lights on...

    Hi WT, Jeffrey,

    Thanks and I may have missed it (apologies), but how exactly would a tax on energy consumption work? How do you measure the consumption, if it's done on an individual's consumption? Or, is it more like a sales tax? (Anonymous, in the sense that each individual's profile no longer matters, whereas w. income tax or payroll tax, it did?) So, would this be then, a tax on...let's see...gasoline, fuel products...how do industries pay..? Or is it only on the final goods?
    ie., at what point in the "energy consumption" cycle would the tax show up? Could you give a specific example, using one type of good or service, or, say...how about food?

    (Or, should this all be obvious to me and I just don't quite get it?
    Which may also be the case.) So, it's really an expanded sales tax, with the seller as the tax collector?

    The devil is in the details. The gas tax portion is easy, but I would also tax electricity, natural gas consumption etc. IMO, it's hard to come up with a bad energy consumption tax. The math is simple, we can kill energy consumption now with higher taxes--and use the money to offset taxes elsewhere--or just wait for all of the higher prices to flow to the energy producers.

    October eia data shows 07 production running a paltry 39k/d over last year, and this only because of strong july/aug production, happily reported by freddy as the highest q ever... but sep/oct was already back nearly to 05 avg ... and sa/mexico/malaysia (-18%) were declining fast even before the opec cuts. Recent rumors are that sa is down a lot more... imo 05 will be higher than 06, contrary to every one of freddy's punters. Maybe some are having another think...

    I searched for "Iran" on this page. Lots of hits.



    Years ago I worked in such a research lab. We had 25-liter containers of liquid helium that could be delivered to us, but when we used it, we let the gas vent to the atmosphere.

    There was a re-liquification plant on campus, and a 2nd one in the building we were in - these were generally used with giant superconducting magnets.

    I know others who worked at different universities where they did make a decent effort to recapture and re-liquify the gasses.