DrumBeat: April 6, 2007

As work on Alberta's oil sands booms, the slide in natural gas prices has meant a retreat in the face of high costs

Companies are capitalizing on Canada's vast oil-soaked sands in northern Alberta, largely seen as a stable, long-term source of reserves in a friendly country unfettered by geopolitical uncertainty.

But natural gas prices that are half or less the level reached after 2005's devastating hurricanes and the phasing out of tax benefits of Canadian investment trusts have prompted producers to pull back.

Study: Climate change could bring new U.S. Dust Bowl

The consensus of the models was that climate in the southwestern United States and parts of northern Mexico began a transition to drier conditions late in the 20th century and is continuing the trend in this century, as climate change alters the movement of storms and moisture in the atmosphere.

The reduction in rainfall could reach levels of the 1930s Dust Bowl that ranged throughout the Midwestern United States, Seager said in a telephone interview.

Peak Oil Passnotes: Iran for All Seasons

Once again the short term and ultra-violent ambitions of a tiny number of politicians could end the lives of even more innocent people, and make the oil trading community some extra billions of dollars on the way through. We have been warned.

TXU warns it may close plants

TXU Corp. says it could be forced to shut down some of its power plants if it can't settle charges by state regulators that it manipulated the Texas wholesale electric market.

Feds Defend LNG Fast Track as Clock Starts

In an unusual burst of anger from a federal official, a U.S. Maritime Administration official lashed out against a coastal activist who had just accused his agency of rushing a decision on the BHP Billiton liquefied natural gas terminal.

Escalating project costs jeopardizing expansion of Middle East oil and petrochem sector?

Despite an increase in industry cost estimates by two times to US$22 bln, Saudi Aramco and Dow Chemical Co are determined to continue with building a large-scale refinery and petrochemicals complex in eastern Saudi Arabia. Industry estimates put the cost for the complex at US$10 billion when it was first mulled over by Aramco and at US$15 billion last July when Aramco announced that it had selected Dow to enter into exclusive negotiations on developing the project. Current estimates peg the cost of construction at as much as US$22 billion. Governments in the Middle East are spending record oil revenues on building and expanding industries and infrastructure, leading to a shortage of contractors, raw materials, equipment and qualified labor, which in turn has driven up project prices.

Nigeria: How to make 'Liquid Gold' transform lives

The changes that have taken place in the last couple of years in Nigeria's oil and gas sector have thrown up a number of economic opportunities.

Kenya: Fuel Shortage a Show of Poor Planning

Western Kenya is threatened with fuel shortages because, we are told, the market is unable to meet increased demand.

Rising fuel consumption, of course, is an indicator of a growing economy. But that should provide no excuses for any shortage because with proper planning, the marketing and distribution systems should be able to anticipate demand and plan accordingly.

An Unconventional Solution

Last time, we looked at the Government Accountability Office's (GAO) report on peak oil. More specifically, how it suggests we will increase our oil supplies. The third source for more oil it suggests is from unconventional sources--namely Canadian oil sands and the massive oil shale deposits located in Wyoming, Colorado and Utah.

Nuclear power wins a fan

[Founding member of Greenpeace Patrick] Moore, who is chairman and chief scientist of consulting firm Greenspirit Strategies and co-chair of a pro-nuclear energy group called the CASEnergy Coalition, said nuclear power could help wean the U.S. from its reliance on foreign oil and natural gas. It could also reduce the health effects of power plant emissions and save oil and gas for better uses, such as creating plastics, he said.

The missing link in Mexico's declining oil production

In a miraculous feat of journalistic legerdemain this morning, a lengthy, detailed front-page article in the Wall Street Journal reports on declining production at Mexico's giant Cantarell oil field, without once ever mentioning the words "peak oil."

Reporter David Luhnow manages to achieve this while at the same time providing a textbook illustration of precisely why peak oilers are so worried that maximum production is nigh.

Gasoline use up 2.8% since early time change

In a bid to save energy, Congress moved up daylight-saving time by three weeks this year. But so far, the change appears to have backfired after Americans last month used record amounts of gasoline as they got out to enjoy the extra hour of sunshine.

Average daily gasoline demand for the three weeks after the time change rose 2.8% from the same period a year ago and was the highest ever for the period, according to the Energy Department.

Some observers say the surge is linked to the earlier start for daylight-saving time, which began March 11 instead of the customary first Sunday in April.

Total, Shell Chief Executives Say `Easy Oil' Is Gone

The days of so-called ``easy oil'' are over, making it harder to meet demand without complicated and expensive projects, the heads of two of Europe's largest oil companies said today.

Experts: Energy security fears overblown

"Each of (the) fears about oil supplies is exaggerated, and none should be a focus of U.S. foreign or military policy," write professors Eugene Gholz and Daryl G. Press in the policy analysis from the libertarian Cato Institute in Washington.

Much of the fears are centered on the concepts of peak oil, instability among oil-producing nations, competition for a finite resource from countries such as China and India, and supply disruptions in producing countries. Those who back these theories, the writers say, support U.S. efforts to stabilize -- or, alternatively, democratize -- the politically tumultuous oil-producing regions or call for U.S. military presence to enhance stability in those regions.

OPEC defends oil production levels

The OPEC oil group faced calls for increased output to help dampen rising crude prices on Thursday, but leading members stressed that geopolitical rather than supply concerns were driving the market.

Panel: Global warming a threat to Earth

An international global warming conference approved a report Friday warning of dire threats to the Earth and to mankind — from increased hunger to the extinction of species — unless the world adapts to climate change and halts its progress.

Agreement came after an all-night session during which key sections were deleted from the draft and scientists angrily confronted government negotiators who they feared were watering down their findings.

Coping with water scarcity

In Tucson, Ariz., local consultants, small businesses, and nonprofits are leading water harvesting workshops that often have waiting lists – a healthy demand that's further boosted by a state tax credit for rainwater harvesting. The nonprofit organization that I direct, Watershed Management Group, teaches individuals how to install cisterns and shape landscape to harvest water. In dryland regions such as southern Arizona, harvested rainwater is sufficient to meet all residential landscaping needs. In a state where residents use 40 to 60 percent of their municipal water supply on outdoor uses, that's quite significant.

The politics and reality of the peak oil scare

For this reason Peak Oil Theory tends to come as part of a package which is about more than the production and consumption of oil. It also expresses fears about how society will be affected when the oil runs short. In essence, Peak Oil Theory is both about the economics of oil and a pessimistic vision of the future. In many cases Peak Oil is a theory that catastrophe is about to hit humanity. In the first half of this article, I ask if our future is inevitably pessimistic.

Rigs On The Run: Energy

The shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico, once a hotbed for natural gas exploration, are starting to look a little empty.

In recent months, dozens of jack-up drilling rigs, which sit atop retractable legs that stand on the seafloor, have shipped out of the area. Left behind is the lowest number of the rigs seen in the Gulf in 28 years.

The rigs, which generally operate in 400 feet of water or less, are leaving for more favorable contracts in the Middle East, West Africa and Latin America, where rig supplies are tight and demand is high.

Solar 'competitive with coal' by 2010

The cost of the cheapest solar power could be on par with that of electricity from coal plants by 2010, according to Photon Consulting.

The Boston, Massachusetts-based firm predicts that solar electricity will cost $0.18/kWh in Germany, $0.13 in California and $0.12/kWh in Spain by 2010 – while industry leaders will be able to bring that latter price down to $0.10/kWh, equivalent to the retail cost of electricity from a new coal-fired power plant.

Cheap, Efficient Solar Power: What’s Needed Now to Get There?

If solar power is going to play a significant role in the energy equation of the future, there must be advances in technologies to store that power and more investment by manufacturers, concludes a new federally funded study by University of Massachusetts Amherst scientist Erin Baker.

High fuel blends said crucial for ethanol

About half of the gasoline sold across the United States is blended with 10 percent ethanol, but that percentage needs to increase for ethanol to go from being merely an additive to a true alternative, said Don Endres, chairman and chief executive officer of Brookings-based VeraSun Energy Corp., one the nation's largest ethanol producers.

commenting :Solar 'competitive with coal' by 2010

"These economics could quickly result in a very large market opportunity for solar energy," the company said, estimating that, by 2010, solar electricity will cost less than the retail electricity price for 50% of residential customer in OECD countries.

Actually these news are really astonishing. It is well known, the pv-industry is growing very swiftly, but so far it was just a hope, the producing costs will go down close to the grid parity in some regions of the world. Now, that this point is reachable as close as 2010 is more than promising. "50% of residental customer in OECD countries“ is really a lot. Maybe there is a giant industry at the beginning of a very, very steep growth. Our cities and other settlements will look in future much more blue shimmering.....

It is clear, the producers will not give these prices to the customers immediately, because the market is by far bigger than the offered products. However, there are many large investments going on right now and the next years will bring even more investments in this technology. So this problem is only an economical not anymore a technological.

Just thinking. In the not too far future it will be normal for every new building to be equipped by pv panels simply because it pays of. I think this is good news....

Fortunately with recent developments in PV, the potential cost has come down significantly, as you have said. Because the cost of producing them is going down but the price offered to consumers hasn't come down as much, that means that the increased profit margins will increase new development and players into the market who desire to take a slice of that pie. At some point in time, the supply will be able to meet demand, and the prices will drop significantly.

Recently with companies such as NanoSolar have procured manufacturing space:

NanoSolar's EROEI, according to their website, is under one month. Compare this to the EROEI on Vaccum based thin-film which are 1.5-1.7 yrs or poly/monocrystaline silicon panels at 3 yrs.

I haven't seen this on their website, but I do remember an article where one of the top guys at NanoSolar was saying that they're aiming at the cost of their panels to be less than $3/watt. I don't know if that was wholesale price or retail price, however.

Right now it's at least down to $4.41 for retail, as I've seen 170 watt Evergreen Solar panels at $749 each.

I believe that with large numbers of consumers having grid tied solar systems hooked to their homes that can offset a majority of the consumption, some of the stress that is placed on the grid can be taken off. (That's just me speculating, and not something I can back up with references, since the majority of TOD people are very good about backing up their claims with references.)

I'm excited about developments in solar PV even if I'm scared about developments in PO.

At some point in time, the supply will be able to meet demand, and the prices will drop significantly.

The potential demand is huge. I just found a english version of the of the press release (pdf). Here is one important point listed....

  • At a cost of $0,25/kWh, roughly 5% to 10% of residental electricity demand in the OECD is addressable by solar power, equivalent to 150 to 300 GW of solar power

In 2006 the world market was around 2.6 GW. There is still a long way to reach the 150 GW or even the 300 GW. That's the reason why I think the market will characterized for quite a long time by a much bigger demand than supply.

The PV market is still at its beginning. Just take a look with google earth over any kind of city in the OECD. There are masses of buildings which can be equipped with solar roofs. After reaching grid parity this will be actually somehow mandatory.

Sure PV will not save us from the impacts tiggered by PO. Looking to Saudi-Arabia scares me as well. But we need to look forward and every step in this direction will help a little bit.

If these forecasts are valid, shouldn't be bet on the come now and stop all additional coal power plants or augmentations to existing power plants?

With respect to cost, I am a bit skeptical since it is not sufficient to bring down the costs of the solar panels. One must also bring down the costs of the inverters and other accessory equipment. From what I have seen at Solarbuzz, little or no progress has been made on these items. Of course, with very large solar generating facilities, perhaps these costs will be a small part of the overall cost. My main concern is with small installations put on residences.

From a personal persepective, I already pay extra in order to enable my utility to acquire more wind power as part of their mix. Would not most of us pay extra, even double, to support the phaseout of coal plants?

The TXU deal will, hopefully, be part of a trend, a relative greening of the utilities. The new owners, however, will still be building 3 additional plants. Any fossil fuel plants should just be part of the minimum necessary baseload to support wind, solar, and other renewables.

We need leaders with the courage and fortitude to move forward, leaders who will tell us that we need to move away from fossil energy even if there is a certain amount of blood, sweat, and tears. We need to move forward ahead of the economics.

The price of inverters has most certainly come down over the past 10 years. I did a few Google searches, and was unable to find a price history on inverters. However, I can tell you that from personal experience of purchasing inverters, that the price has certainly come down significantly in the past 10 years. You don't even see square-wave inverters any more (Thank goodness), modified sine wave inverters are dirt cheap (I've purchased 1.5KW sustained 3WK peak inverter for $100 USD) and pure sine wave inverters (which is what you would have to use in a grid tied environment) would have been absurdly expensive 10 years ago.

Most of that was due to the use of MOSFETs in inverter technology, which are substantially cheaper than prior tech used. I'm not an EE, however. (I just have nerds for friends and such tendancies myself.)

Even so, you're correct in stating that the inverters are a real barrier for solar penetration in the market. Inverters usually range around 1/3 of the cost of a solar installation. Hopefully further improvements will be made in this area.

Coal, along with nuclear, is a base-load power supplier. Very little of it is cycled on a daily basis to meet demand. Solar is a peaking power supplier, for it operates best noonish (or later or earlier depending upon the orientation).

To reduce coal usage, base load must come down considerably. Solar first and best replaces natural gas and to some extent the limited remaining oil-fired generators. To eat into coal, we will need more/better electrical storage capability, and even if that is available, the progression will be to replace oil, nat gas first before eating into coal.

We'll get there...it is just a question of how much pain is involved before we do.

Well one step is to redefine baseload, the present status quo utility definition is unacceptable. There's a lot to be gained from redoing our lifestyles based on when the most energy is available etc.

Moving away from fossil fuels isn't just a technological challenge, but also just as much or even more so a cultural one. But the way baseload is thrown around as some a priori fact, is not going to get us far.

"Well one step is to redefine baseload"

Good luck with that.

They have been talking about having computers in homes for years now, if you can have a digital programmable thermostat and irrigation controller why can't you have an electric meter that not only charges more for peak times but displays that somewhere (like on the digital thermostat)-the usage, cost, how much you could save if you turned the dryer off until later...
At this point it has to be right up in people's face to get them to conserve anything (most people, anyway)

re "Good Luck with that"

That's kind of the point of the whole site, isn't it?

I agree wholeheartedly with Brutus' point. We might pout and fuss that 'baseload electricity' is our non-negotiable demand to maintain this lifestyle, but any number of factors might jump in and interrupt the flow.. Uranium, Nat Gas, Coal or Oil supply 'complications', Grid failures, Weather events, Computer Glitches, etc etc.. It seems absolutely crucial that we start to find ways to handle electricity interruptions, and to be able to continue business and other parts of life, even if a grid failure occurs.

Clearly nuclear has some support to continue and try to hold the grid up.. but I don't trust the High-Finance Power Industry, the Poisonous Supply and Waste, and the Complex chain that the system depends on for massive, central power supplies, when gangable diverse technologies are available and structurally safer and more democratic.

Well goinggreen, good luck to us all, but if you really want to change the electricity system, you should challenge utility thinking once in awhile.

With respect to cost, I am a bit skeptical since it is not sufficient to bring down the costs of the solar panels. One must also bring down the costs of the inverters and other accessory equipment. From what I have seen at Solarbuzz, little or no progress has been made on these items.

I was looking into that a while back & it's definitely all that 'other stuff' that gets to be a problem as the cost of the panels come down. In an off grid system (i.e., with batteries), PV modules make up 50-60% of the total installed cost (solarbuzz numbers); installation is around 20% and the inverter is roughly 7%. The batteries & charge controller are 25%. If you deduct out the battery & charge controller cost for a grid tie system then PV modules make up 67-80% of the total cost. So cutting the cost of the PV modules dramatically (say from $5/peak watt to $1/pw) would make a nice impact on the overall cost. At that point, the installation cost gets to be the next biggest chunk.

I would encourage everyone here to pick up a copy of "Solar Revolution" by Travis Bradford (2006). Bradford evaluates solar from the financial community's perspective and concludes that the days of the solar PV boom are not 20 or 30 years from now, but right now. Some of his key points:

- The problem that many analysts make when comparing the cost of PV to that of coal or gas is to neglect the fact that PV is distributed generation located right where the user is, which eliminates distribution losses and costs. Also, PV electricity production largely occurs during times of peak demand, so its output is inherently more valuable that a base losd plant runing 24/7.

- The key indicator to watch is not portion of current generation from renewables, which is regularly trotted out to show how insignicant renewables are compared to coal, gas, and nukes. It is much more important to look at the renewable portion of each year's new capacity additions. By some measures, wind actually was the largest in terms of new capacity addition of any power type in the US in 2006. In California, PV was actually a fairly significant portion of the new capacity addition for 2006.

- When evaluating what new capacity to add, there are a lot of huge problems with gas, coal, and nukes. From the financial community's perspective, the biggest problems with all three are the extreme risks and uncertainty of costs. What are your construction costs, fuel costs, emissions compliance costs? Can you even get a permit to build? Is there even going to be any natural gas avaiable for power generation? How long will it take to finance, permit, and build?

- Solar PV is unique in the power generation world in that you know all your costs, virturally to the penny, at the start of the project. You make power for a guaranteed period of 25 years with no uncertainty or risk. It is hard to overstate the importance of this fact. When you take risks out of the equation, the financial community can do what it does best, creative financial engineering. What you are seeing now in PV are offers for Power Purchase Agreements, where a financial investor will pay 100% of the costs to install a system and sell the output to the site customer for a guaranteed discount to the utility. Financial developments like this will have a huge impact on the ability expand the PV industry.

I can tell you from personal experience that the PV industry is absolutely booming here in California. My company's business doubled in 2006 compared to 2005. Sure PV is still in early adopter phase and starting from a small base, but at the rate its been growing it won't take long. Bradford believes that in just a couple decades, wind and solar will absolutely dominate each years new capacity additions.

Solaris, who do you work for?

I'm VP of a PV design and installation company in Southern California, and I'll have to leave it at that.

Why the secrecy?

There is a limited apllicability to solar - it is only useful for a few hours IF it is not cloudy during those hours. Solar will only ever prove useful for extra power, such as recharging the batteries of an electric car, or ones in the basement. If enough people add solar to their home, the local electric utility will have another 'hole' in its delivery requirements, one that is random. What will happen is that it will demand the right to charge you for the unused electricity, thus you'll be paying twice. The reason is that they can't vary their generation quickly, and have no means of predicting what load they must supply, so they must supply the normal, which costs them money.

James Gervais

Respectfully, I don't think you know what you are talking about. Ask the people who have them if they think that those 'few hours' is proof of Solar's Unreliability, or exactly the opposite. PV actually DOES work on cloudy days.. it's just directly proportional to the (right freq's of) light available. Yes, the Sun goes down every day.. and it also comes up every day.. (Oregonians will have to just take our word here)

Any utility that tries to charge for unused KWH's will come to see how well they can convince those on the fence to start getting solar-security on their roofs, too, and commence to lose market-share. No, I suspect more utilities will start to create solar banks as part of their own generation security, since, as it has been repeatedly mentioned, those Few Hours of Sunlight are unsurprisingly also the hours of peak loads for Business and for Air Conditioning.. perfect correlation, and causation!

Make Hay while the Sun Shines.


Actually these news are really astonishing.

Not to me; free markets work. This is the most overlooked concept on this website. Peak oil believers just don't understand that people think up new ways to do things when there is a profit motive to do so.

"We can do anything now that scientists have invented magic."
- Marge Simpson

The thing about "free" "markets": everything that happens is cited as evidence that it "works."

What's a "market"? What makes it "free"? What does it mean to "work"?

Assume oil goes to $200/barrel, gasoline & heating oil & diesel spike accordingly. The rich grumble and get along. The poor starve to death in their cold "homes" (about to be foreclosed). Demand suddenly drops. Prices drop. The rich stop grumbling.

See? "Works"!

Amazing. Ingenuity and incentives can be substituted for declining oil and gas. Our problems are solved a priori.

Who'd a thunk it?

All these pin heads at TOD have been getting wrapped around an axle for, what is it now, 2 years?

I lot of us have thunk it. Opinions about the ability to conserve and substitute for declining oil and gas is what results in a continuim of opinion from the various categories of doomers through the various categories of those who believe that the problem can be mitigated or even solved. [Believers in instantaneous EOWAWKI to Cornucopians.]

My take on the matter is that we are in for a rough ride but although we are all going to die, most of us will probably die of old age ... perhaps with a sweater on, but of old age.

Silver BBs, not silver bullets. IMO improved PV technologies will probably be one of those silver BBs.

Look at the power of faith! Did you worship at the feet of mammon lately?

Ghawar Is Dying
The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function. - Dr. Albert Bartlett

A profit motive, or a Convenience Motive, or a Safety Motive, a Comfort Motive. There are a lot of motives, and a lot of ways that people innovate. Your statement sort of conflates 'Free Market' and 'Innovation' as a definitive cause/effect.

The 'Free Market' is an ideology, and it CAN make sense, but like so many other 'isms', it doesn't exist in the pure, euclidian conditions that would make it so Perfect. Like Communism or Democracy, the pure idea may be wonderful, but it has to be able to bend and allow for some dirt in the gears, some human-imposed manipulation and mistakes, etc. And markets for things like Coal will not be 'perfect' because the Market doesn't price in all the costs,like BlackLung, Mercury Related health issues in downwind regions, Global Warming.. So the Market, left on its own would tend towards a cheap raw material (and it has), while blithely ignoring the devastation that some other 'customers' are going to have to pay for. Some market advocates would look at this as 'Self-correction'.. or maybe a 'discount'?.. I don't.

What seems astonishing about this news is that Solar is finally making headway against the unfair advantages, and our unthoughtful preferences for Fossil Fuels. The fact that it's happening now, at the eleventh hour, after we've had decades to see the Political, Health, Social and Economic effects of poor energy choices is less proof that the 'Markets Work', as it is proof that they 'Work too slowly', if you choose to consider Human Quality of Life (over simple Profit Motive) as a necessary element of our decisionmaking process.

Yes, water will naturally find it's proper level, but in the meantime, you and your family may well have drowned. We have to be more dextrous and vigilant than that.

Bob Fiske

Of course markets work.  That's why I've been solidly behind a carbon tax and an extra oil tax (for terrorism abatement).  We should be capturing the external costs and monopoly rents and using them to displace other taxes and change the monetary incentives.  Those new incentives would eventually make fossil fuels irrelevant; instead, we're sending the money to people who use their wealth to perpetuate their position at the top of the heap and extend the damage.

Yes. Think of the hundreds of billions being invested in fuels which will be minimally existent in 50 years. Short term return mentality will kill us all. Give as little as possible to those bastards by minimizing fuel use.

So, Keithster, does this mean you'll be the first one on your block to go out right now, open your wallet and buy the PV array and pay to install it (along with required inverter & fuse box set up, wiring, etc.) on your roof or yard???

What's holding you back, buddy?

While the "free market/profit motive" does sort of work as you suggest, there is also the buyer end of the market at work here too. I know of people who would like to buy PV, people who have talked to me about it because I already have such equipment installed, but the problem for most of them is that they simply can not afford it. Maybe in the future.

Well, maybe too "in the future" they still won't be able to afford it. Maybe too the future of unalterable and intolerable climate change will be here now and installing PV arrays will be too late. Maybe then the "free market" and its Don't-Worry-Be-Happy-Everything-Will-Be-Fine nostrums will be kaput. Because maybe what's missing now is the political leadership linked to the willingness to get this stuff done now instead of always waiting until tomorrow for the "free market" to get the price just right.

But by then, tomorrow, as we are continually reminded by science, will soon be - if it isn't already - too late!

So please report back with your full report on how you've sent the right signal to the "free market" now -- Show it your money!


I am not an economist (geosciences) but I think there is no real free market at all. Neither in North Amercia, nor here in the EU. The surge in PV was just initiated by the in-feed law in Germany and other promoting laws especially in Japan.

It sounds simple, but just a fixed guarenteed price, which decrease every year provided a reliable foundation for investments in this technology. Not any kind of enterprise can develop without some solid conditions for the future (I aplogize this sentence, but I hope you understand what I mean).

The in-feed law was first applied for wind energy in the early nineties and later it was extended to solar, bio and geothermal generated energy. Especially the solar (pv) was just the result of a compromise in the former Red/Green government here in Berlin. I think nobody expected it to be so succesful. Today it has been adopted in many other countries worldwide and made the german renewable energy industry the world leader.

Looking at other industrial areas? Car industry, withut the massive road building programme financed by the government, this industry wouldn't have become so big. Military, almost no private person buys big weapons. Every economical activity is somehow supported by legal measures and often by money.


Another train of thought. Suppose the PV solar roof will become common. The result will be less electricity consumption from the utilities. This will certainly reduce their income. So their prices will go up?!?. Hmm, might it be possible that maybe in the end the utilities will invest as well in solar roofs and will install the arrays on our houses? Just to keep control of the supply? We can see similar things going on in the wind energy sector. There the big (german) utility companies now start to invest hundreds of millions € in offshore wind farms... But I thin the PV is too decentralized and too much small scale....to let this happen.

Just thinking even further. How will it be in 20 or 30 years. Will it pay off to build a coal fired power plant today which will not sell anymore its electricity in 20 years on account of too high prices?


I completely agree with you: "there is no real free market at all." Any such talk about one, as Keithster did, is inane.

What you tell of government instituted "in-feed [price paid] laws" is pretty much what I too think is necessary. But this stuff is not at all "free market," it's *market management* directed at achieving a particular and hopefully better outcome than one left up entirely to the vagaries of the so-called "free market."

As someone pointed out above (about coal), at present within the so-called "free market" are all sorts of hidden and subsidized costs that make a mockery of this concept, especially with respect to oil. If we were to calculate in all the costs associated with our defense budget and after care for the poor sods coming home wounded just to protect Middle East oil the price at the gas stations would accurately reflect that (never mind climate change adjustment costs). But it doesn't. (Instead, it comes out of our income taxes and the free marketers bitch about the government taxing us too much!)

It's this sort of fully transparent and accurate reflection of true end-product analysis costs that "free market" hucksters are loathe to ever acknowledge that drives me nuts.

If plug-in electrified vehicles become popular, as will happen with much more expensive oil, then the utilities will gain back demand.

This time though the demand will happen at night. Maybe the demand pattern will go back to how it was in the 19th century (pre A/C?) more at night and less in the day?

I wouldn't mind nuclear plants for the nightload and solar during the day, with wind coming when it comes.

Well said. This is a variation of my meme, which is spend those billions now on PV and wind. If you wait for the market to come up with the perfectly competitive price, it will be too damn late. If we really believe that solar will be competitive, don't wait for that day. Anything we do now to avoid the use of fossil fuels in the future is money well spend. Maybe some day, we won't need subsidies, but let's make sure there is a some day to enjoy this still beautiful planet.

It never ceases to amaze me how the free market calculation for individual or corporate profit is assumed to magically come up with a result of maximum wellbeing for mankind.

Besides, we all know that the best allocation of resources requires frictionless, accurate information. You don't need to spend a week at TOD to realize that sand is the one thing the Saudi's have more of than oil, and they pour pour tons of it into the gears of accurate resource reporting.

Mind you, I don't have a better economic strategy in mind, and even if I did, the last thing we need to do is to change the markets at the same time as peak oil, global climate change, and population pressures.* (They will change the market economy, anyway.)

Free markets do work, it's just that sometimes the work is a bit scary. Take Ford (Please). One in four workers will be handed the pink slip by the invisible hand of the free market. If you laid off 25% of the population of the United States, by pairing off states, starting with the least populated, the map of the USA would look a little different:

Ford's problems are manifold, but Occam's explanation is that their business was no longer properly configured for the market conditions.

We've just spent the 20th century configuring the whole world for cheap, abundant energy, a market condition that is literally changing under our feet.

*I was in an email discussion lately with a friend who mentioned threats to civilization in the same context as terrorism. After giving it a little thought I came to the conclusion that Peak Oil, Climate Change, and Overpopulation were the three greatest threats to civilization, and I was hard pressed to sort terrorism even close to my top three.

Not to me; free markets work. This is the most overlooked concept on this website. Peak oil believers just don't understand that people think up new ways to do things when there is a profit motive to do so.

Or, for apocalypse peak oilers, if the idea or innovation is driven by a profit motive and/or supplied by capital from the current markets (e.g. tradable stocks, private equity, hedge funds, etc) then the idea or innovation is inherently evil and should be immediately dismissed.

.. free markets work

This is purely hypothetical. Free markets may work, but we have no way of knowing; we've never seen one.

There are voices that claim the early years of the Republic came close, but I have a nagging suspicion not everyone alive in those days would agree, especially the millons of immigrants from Africa.

...capital from the current markets (e.g. tradable stocks, private equity, hedge funds, etc.

These forms of capital have themselves become innovations. The financial markets have developed so much creative thinking that none of this "money" represents any value anymore. It is now purely a belief system, and that would seem to be a fragile basis to build any ideas or innovations on.

If stocks, funds, securities and real estate fall back to the values they had 10 years ago, there will be nothing left to finance any innovations. A point that more people should consider who wish to build a future of PV, windfarms and mass transit lines. You need a working economy to see those developments through, and we don't have a working economy.

Any project that requires large capital investment in the next 10-20 years has a huge shadow hanging over it, cast by debt and credit that came from nowhere and will inevitably return to nowhere.

If prices, for instance for real estate, fall back within trendlines, they stand to lose some 50% of their present "value". It may well be more likely, however, that they will swing back down even more. If that happens, you won't just have crippled financial markets, you'll have a currency that will have a hard time surviving. And that is s lot less hypothetical than the "free market" concept.

The Revolutionary period through the 19th cent. was also a time of the greatest Land Grab in history, and people were awarded their new homesteads (At least it worked this way in New England) by killing Indians.. pretty good boost to 'create national capital', by turning hundreds of thousands of lives into Real Estate Equity..

Well, I am convinced of one thing: that the post-peak world will be ruled by the same dog-eat-dog values and run by the same cast of assholes that are running the show now. If you like the current system and you think that we are right about where we should be, I have a pretty good idea you'll love the world post peak. When people start going hungry and freezing in the dark, you're going to see a whole lot of "innovation." Only, a good bit of it won't play out by "the rules."

One other point I'd like to make about "free markets" is that those that don't have, don't count. The market will only continue to function as long as people have an excess of resources to trade with others who also have an excess of resources. If either party becomes destitute, no exchange occurs.

Nah, they'll just buy on credit. ;-)

Seriously, someone argued that in a discussion at PO.com awhile back. We were debating whether capitalism could continue without cheap energy, and someone said of course. Because people always want to borrow money. Even if they're peasants slaving in the fields, they'll want nice things like air-conditioners and electric hedge-trimmers. And they'll have to borrow money to get them.

Once again, we're like fish, trying to imagine the desert...

Re: markets

Just about my all time favorite quote, perhaps a prophylactic to the past 30 years of Public Relations work positioning the market as god...


We can begin with a simple premise: Democracy and market economics are not the same thing. Worse, the attempts to confuse and conflate them in pretended equivalence stood out at the millennium as a destructive aspect of U.S. politics. As noted, the rollbacks of democracy sketched in these chapters have accompanied the elevation of markets---the fulfillment of the North American Free Trade Agreement, the European Union (launched as a common market) and the World Trade Organization, and the ascent of the Federal Reserve Board as the protector and liquidity provider of financial and securities markets.

Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and the two Roosevelts would probably have been appalled. Politics and government down through the ages, while often brutal or grossly deficient, have been the subject matter of Plato and Aristotle, Aquinas and Machiavelli, Locke, and a few of America’s own great names. Markets, by contrast, descend from fairs of late medieval Europe, church-permitted safety valves for gambling, money-lending, and other forms of license. The idea that they have turned into a vehicle for human governance lacks any base beyond the occasional financial publication.”
---Kevin Phillips, Wealth and Democracy (New York, 2002), p 417-418.

Sounds nice, but it wouldn't be hard to convincingly argue that democracy and free markets are indeed the same thing, Siamese twins with two bodies and one brain, tied together by the fact that both exist only in theory.

The ideal state for both inevitably falls prey to the equally inevitable emergence of: one dollar, one vote.

Or in different terms: politics is economics in disguise.


Could corporate capital concentration continue where what is good for the many vs. for the few is determined by majority? Markets and democracy are both glittering generalities. The words markets and free should never be connected; something sets the trade terms, be it subsidies or prohibitions. Free + market is wonderful sounding shorthand for the prevailing economic players.

Politics is how the bottom 99% is managed by the wealthiest 1%.

Not to me; free markets work.

Ignorance is bliss eh? The tremendous growth in PV over the last five years has been confined to three places - Japan, Germany, and California. It has occurred because each place has had massive government subsidizaiton, "free markets" have had little to do with it. "Free markets," by your definition, have never had much to do with anything in the energy world, you should learn about it.

You mean like the sub-prime loan Invention?
You need to look at the wheels on every bandwagon before you jump on board.

Define free market. Yes, the market is free to respond to massive government incentives, credits, and subsidies, and it is responding. If we had just relied on the so called "free" market, solar would be in nowhere land.

For solar to be competitive, it doesn't have to compete with coal but with the marginal fuel, which is, in most areas, natural gas. As solar peaks during the summer noon and afternoon, it ties well into the summer peaking period and naturally offsets the highest-priced fuels.

To take full advantage of solar as a peaking source, the residential electrical single-rate cost structure needs to be replaced with hourly or even a shorter-time period rate structure. Power is cheapest overnight when the sun is down and demand is the lowest, and highest in the summer afternoons--primarily due to cooling loads.

Even now, in Connecticut with the 50% cost rebate, solar power cost-averaged over 20 years assuming today's prices continue is cheaper than the current single rate of $.18/kwh (the 2nd highest in the lower 48 states). If hourly rates were available, solar investment returns would go from 5-10% over buying from the grid to at least double that.

Given the current economics, what I don't understand is why the state rebate program isn't oversubscribed.

Lots of different things will do for peaking power.  I just sent a feeler out regarding one low-budget effort in the news, I hope to get more data about what they're doing and how.

"Lots of different things will do for peaking power."

May be true, but solar PV, at the present time, is naturally a peak power source. Will be interested to see what these low-budget ideas are.

Having looked at the power issue for a while now, it appears to me that the best approach is to lower demand through substitution of better technology (compact fluorescents vs. incandescents). For instance, the present air conditioning that is used on this side of the puddle is more power intensive than it needs to be. But then, you are not the person who needs this lecture.

Given the current economics, what I don't understand is why the state rebate program isn't oversubscribed.

Two big reasons:

1)Very few people pay for electricity by time of use, its averaged out over the month, so you don't see the benefits of generating at time of use, this needs to be changed.

2)People are use to having the utilities finance their electricity usage through a monthly bill. No one puts out front for 25 years of electricity, which is what you do buying solar panels. The solar industry is in desperate need of better financing deals.

(1) Even with the single rate charge, with the state rebate (that part is crucial), solar power is cheaper in CT.

(2) Yes, financing is an issue, but there are a lot of rich people with a significant portion of their wealth in Treasuries here in Fairfield county. From a rate of return analysis, solar beats treasuries here--and using the single rate structure and not time-of-day.

Part of the reason is clearly financial, I agree. Bigger issues, though, seem to be (a) lack of knowledge of the program, and (b) a hesitance to be viewed as an eco-crunchy granola-type or to be one of the early adopters. The latter reason seems to be changing. When I put my panels up, suddenly I was talking to neighbors I didn't even know I had. The interest is definitely there.

"solar power cost-averaged over 20 years"

Who the hell buys their house thinking they will be there for 20 years? You cannot sell something with a 20 year payback to people that expect to be there for 3 years.

Residential solar will work only if one of three things happen.

- Total installed cost has a 2 year payback.
- Mandated on all new construction.
- Installed for free by utilities with the same or lower rates than standard power supply.

A house contains many things older than 3 years, e.g. water tanks/heaters, boilers, air conditioners.

The only reason power isn't included in this list is that historically it has been reliably and cheaply available from a local utility that has worked hard to insure it stays that way. We'll see if that continues to hold.

There is an immediate price to be paid (discomfort) by not buying water tanks/heaters, boilers, air conditioners, etc. One can choose to spend more for efficient models, and then a similar payback time situation arises. But it is hard to ecomomically justify PV right now--IF--you believe that energy costs will remain constant.

For me, the decision on PV is one of weighing risks vs. costs:

  • How soon will energy costs skyrocket?
  • Will electricity always be available?
  • How fast will PV costs come down?

Payback time cfigures of anything other than a couple of years (or less) is sort of a meaningless number if you believe that peak oil and NG shortages loom.

Residential solar will work only if one of three things happen.

- Total installed cost has a 2 year payback.
- Mandated on all new construction.
- Installed for free by utilities with the same or lower rates than standard power supply.

Another possibility that would work for many:

- Total installed cost when added into a mortgage is at par with the system's monthly electric bill reduction & the housing market is willing to pay an appropriate premium for homes with installed PV systems.


Will you post a visual of my recently discovered 3D Ghawar oil saturation chart on SS's thread--I don't know how. Thxs!

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

It's done. Go look. :-)

Damn! You sure are fast & efficient--Big thanks!

The WSJ issued a correction to the chart printed with the Cantarell article yesterday. Anyone know what they changed?

Website says

A table accompanying this article incorrectly states figures for several of the world's highest-capacity oil fields and incorrectly labels production capacity as production.

Thanks. Helpful, those WSJ editors.

If only WSJ editors were as good as TOD editors :-)

From OPEC defends oil production levels above:

Qatari Energy Minister Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah echoed Hamili's comments by stressing that supply and demand were in balance and that political and security tensions were to blame for high prices.

"This price is not related to demand and supply at all. It is only related to geopolitics," he said.

Can someone explain to me how price can NOT be related to supply and demand? Demand can be speculative or fear-based, but it's still demand, right? Isn't the price of a commidity merely a reflection of supply and demand?


Another question: What is the relationship between the price of oil (for instance in the ticker on TOD) and the price that one would pay a producer (like SA) for actual oil?

Another question: What is the relationship between the price of oil (for instance in the ticker on TOD) and the price that one would pay a producer (like SA) for actual oil?

The answer can be found here:

Closing spot prices last Friday, all prices except WTI and Brent are estimated contract prices.


Ron Patterson


Malaysian Tapis closed on Thursday at US$75.80 a barrel. I am reliably told.

Based on the weekly EIA data the price for w/e 3/30 was $70.11 WTI for same period was $64.18.


Keep your eye on next weeks numbers.

Look at graph 2 Tapis price is looking like its heading for $76 a barrel. It got to $78 at the height of oil prices last year and its only April.


Rumors of a Good Friday attack against Iran that one can read about at places such as www.globalresearch.ca seem to be greatly exaggerated (see especially the articles posted there allegedly citing various high-level Russian military insiders to this effect). This fits the long-standing pattern of unfulfilled "rumors of war" with Iran that I recall going back as far as early 2004.

People do seem to overestimate the craziness level of the Bush Administration and the neo-cons.

Good point Phil where are the horses asses that deposit all these conspiracy road apples on Drumbeat. Probably loading up for the next plop. Ha! Unfortunately they shall soon return with a fresh stinky batch. Well I guess their malodorous diatribes are the cost of admission to the Drum. In retrospect a small price to pay.

The problem with the conspiracy theorists is that they simply paint Bush and company as 2-dimensional evil tyrants, even stupider than the "bad guys" of a grade B sci-fi movie.

The truth is far more complex than this. As I've written elsewhere, I don't think there is any plan to invade Iran directly unless current intelligence operations can spawn a revolt in the southwestern provinces. The southwestern provinces hold most of Iran's oil, a disaffected Arab minority (against the Persian majority), and are technically possible to defend against Iranian assets. This appears to be why the US is hard at work fomenting trouble inside Iran, to spark that trigger. And it is consistent with the PNAC positions from before Bush was even elected.

It also does not involve TEOTW scenarios that these folks toss about. It is a mini-1953 in Iran again and will probably end the same way but right now the US is an imperial hammer and all it sees are nails to be pounded.

Ghawar Is Dying
The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function. - Dr. Albert Bartlett

Excellent post greyzone. The "2-D Evil Bush/Neocons" really does seem to be popular and it is boring and tiresome. I think you also make a very good point about an "Attack" vs an "Invasion" on Iran.

"It also does not involve TEOTW scenarios that these folks toss about. It is a mini-1953 in Iran again and will probably end the same way"

I think that may be how Bush et. al. see it playing out, but I think in hindsight they will find once again their planZ were 'delusional' .

From what I've seen, someone posted an article that detailed what had been said by Russian intelligence agents about an imminant atack today. As well, there have been numerous reports on US military build-up in the region, both aircraft carrier strike groups and land-based concentrations.

The latter are verifiable, the former obviously is not.

What is striking in the comments here that try to ridicule postings about these issues, is that it's apparently so gratifying to do so that it's too much to ask to wait till April 6 is over.

It's 11.00 AM.

Consider this lunatic fringe idea. The best sign of an attack on Iran would be the movement of all US and British ships OUT of the Persian Gulf beyond the range of Iranian missiles but still within range of tanker refueled bombers. Another sign would be no oil tankers entering the Gulf but plenty of them leaving.

I agree after reading about the missles it would be a stupid act to leave your carriers and support structure vulnerable.

It was supposed to have been a very early morning attack - 4am local time, if I recall correctly, which would have actually placed it yesterday evening for those in North America.

Also, lest I be misunderstood, I am not heaping ridicule upon those who have been propagating these rumors. In my opinion, this type of thinking is fundamentally intellectually respectable. I am merely calling attention to the fact that they seem to be wrong in this case. Error and intellectual respectability are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

I'm sure I dropped one of them, with a link to the Russian article two weeks ago.

With everything this government has been doing, you're still complaining about the 'Theoretical' Conspiracy Stink? With the evidence of the last few years, it seems that the Theory has been pretty well proven. It's probably corpses you're smelling.

To borrow a line from the Princess Bride, I do not think you know the meaning of that word. Six years ago I thought that the Bush administration would go to war based on lies, would turn the monstrous federal surplus into an even greater federal deficit, would claim the right to hold US citizens in jail indefinitely without access to lawyers, would turn the US Justice Department into an arm of the Republican party. Oh well, never mind.

Silly! You seem to think things like Habeas Corpus is guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States of America!

“There is no expressed grant of habeas in the Constitution; there’s a prohibition against taking it away,” -Attorney General Gonzales

See, the King's Attorney General states that the Constitution doesn't grant habeas corpus.

Just do a Google search for Gonzales and Habeas Corpus. I pulled my quote from:

Honestly though, in 2000, I didn't expect things like this to come about. Sure, we can try to blame it all on King George, but our Congress passed the bills to begin with.

Disclosure: I think Republicans are Dangerous and Democrats are Useless.

"People do seem to overestimate the craziness level of the Bush Administration and the neo-cons."

I admit, I can't get calibrated to that group.

Where IS that 'Theory of Everything' ?

Where IS that 'Theory of Everything' ?

Ah, that would be Ken Wilbur.

A Theory of Everything--An Integral Vision for Politics, Science, and Spirituality



I think his concept of Holons and how they apply to our numerous systems is important.

Also, All Levels and All Quadrants concept.


The reason the story had "legs" was because of the sources and the legitimate Russian news service that ran the story. It was not a field of fancy story written by a reporter, offered, and picked up by various online, print sources. It was because it came from a legitimate news source that people paid attention to it in Russia and Europe. The media in the US didn't report on it, at all. THat should say something too.

All those stories that we knew in advance about Pearl were dismissed for years by attitudes like yours. Do you still carry that believe too.

Quid Clarius Astris
Ubi Bene ibi patria

Thanks for your thoughts. As I mentioned upthread, I do not want to be misunderstood: I take these rumors seriously. If I didn't, I wouldn't have bothered posting about this matter to begin with.

But I have been skeptical about these rumors all along - principally on the commonly argued grounds that 1) Iran would constitute a formidable opponent militarily in a way that Iraq did not; 2) that the US military is currently stretched too thin to be reasonably assured of carrying out its mission in Iran; and 3) that the current political climate in the US also militates strongly against such a step in a way that wasn't the case at the time of the Iraq invasion.

2) that the US military is currently stretched too thin to be reasonably assured of carrying out its mission in Iran

Well wouldn't that depend on what the mission in Iran would be? In fact depending on what the mission would be, it could affect all three of the factors you are presenting.

A full scale invasion of Iran may make all three reasons a problem, but a simple strike or a strike in conjunction with an embargo and special ops may not.

The assumption that many seem to have regarding Iran is that we will do what we've done before i.e. as in Afganistan and Iraq, we invaded, toppled and replaced the regimes.

What if in the case of Iran we were content to simply strike and topple a government, and let the replacement phase happen on its own and spring up whatever form of government happens. In fact if Iran is destabalizing our efforts in Afganistan and Iraq, perhaps the best thing we could do is simply cause Iran problems internally enough so that they are incapable of producing problems abroad.

There are simply too many variables at the moment to read what the administration's goals could be for Iran, and because of that a weary eye being kept on Iran and our forces should be maintained.

However I think trying to go off half cocked with conspiracy theories trying to time the invasion is a rather silly endeavor.

Skepticism is not a bad thing. This story was not a mainstream story in the US.

It was in Europe and Russia. They no longer just dislike with great vigor GW, that feeling has gone to just a normal American travelling overseas. If you have not been to Europe in the last 5 years, then you may be shocked at the attitude toward all Americans. I was warned in France to claim I was Australian or from Canada when asked by someone on the street in bar etc that I didn't know or part of the "group" I was with. In Hungary, LOL, just watch your ass. Bad feelings there from the uprising and our failure to assist when they did their tea party.

The common man in many European countries doesn't trust Americans anymore (if he didn't already know them). They don't understand how GW was re-elected even if it was voter fraud. GW is feared as a cowboy madman in Europe. Who's not to argue.

Quid Clarius Astris
Ubi Bene ibi patria

I always thought that April 6th was a red herring myself. the fact is that the full moon was April 2th, and no air war of choice is going to be launched during the most illuminated part of the lunar cycle. It is more likely that such false alarms are a type of psychological warfare.

Of note, the next new moon is April 17th. However the Nimitz group will not be on station then. Therefore the next good tactical window of opportunity for an air attack would be the new moon in mid May. Of course, this does not mean that an attack will happen in May or ever. The US military might be so exhausted that bluff, bluster, and harassment is all that it can realistically do.

Its not cheap to have two carrier groups with a rotating third steaming in and out. Fuel for all the support ships outside the carriers, jets, lots of bored nothing to do but eat marines et al the support personnel for them.

I think that if the mid terms had not turned out the way they had, we wouldn't be wondering "if" might be a very good possibility. TWO. small area, Lotta expensive bluster, but its not his money, ehhh.

Quid Clarius Astris
Ubi Bene ibi patria

Solar power breakthrough at Massey
“New solar cells developed by Massey University don't need direct sunlight to operate and use a patented range of dyes that can be impregnated in roofs, window glass and eventually even clothing to produce power.”

Thanks to http://cryptogon.com/

I've lost count of all the "breakthroughs" I've read about.

The road from lab bench to retail is littered with the bones of 99.9% of all "breakthroughs".

I'll believe it when I can buy it at Sears.

Your anchor tag lacks an address, Bigelow.

Ghawar Is Dying
The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function. - Dr. Albert Bartlett

Click on "Solar power breakthrough at Massey"

It works now because I fixed your HTML for you. You were missing a quotation mark. :-)

Thank you. I clicked it, worked for me, mysterious.

This might be a breakthrough, but one can't tell from the press release-type article.

They are working on a type of Grätzel Cell, which is a dye-sensitized TiO2 solar cell. It is named for the Swiss researcher who had the "breakthrough" with this in 1989. A dye (originally a Ruthenium complex) is adsorbed onto a nanocrystalline TiO2 thin film. The dye absorbs the photons and uses the conduction band of the TiO2 to harvest the electrons. Great idea, although why charge recombination at grain boundaries doesn't quash everything is still a mystery. Efficiencies are modest, but the cost of manufacturing should be low.

There is a lot of research going on with these, but whether or not the Kiwis have something special is not discernable from what has been described so far. But any article that has a sentence like this:

This means teenagers could one day be wearing jackets that will recharge their equivalents of cellphones, iPods and other battery- driven devices.

just means that Peak Oil is going to hit that much harder.

"... but the cost of manufacturing should be low."

Does anyone have a clue about the embodied energy in nanocrystalline TiO2 for a 1kw array? At least we're not talking about straight Ti, but I'd be suprized if refining pure TiO2 from ore were a low energy process. I wish they'd refer to energy (EROEI) costs instead of money costs.

Despite the mention that TiO2 is cheap and available, I believe the cost savings comes from the thinness of the nanoparticle film (~10-20 microns). The TiO2 particles are usually produced by hydrolysis of compounds such as titanium(IV)isopropoxide. There are also costs for the expensive dyes, conducting glass, etc.

I did find this:

Wales to host first Dye Sensitized Solar Cell plant

LONDON — A recently established renewable energy company, G24 Innovations Ltd, is planning to build the first plant to make dye sensitized solar cells (DSSC) on a commercial scale at a facility in Cardiff, Wales. The eventual investment into producing the so called 'solar foils' could be between £60 million and £75 million and the project could create 300 jobs.

"We have the funds for the first phase of the project, which is to do a pilot plant and line capable of a capacity of about 25 Megawatts as well as install a coater. That would be an investment of about £20 million and be ready by early next year. The second phase would be substantially more ambitious and have a capacity of up to 200 Megawatts, and this would be ready by 2008," Paul Turney, CEO of G24 Innovations told EE Times Europe .

This is very encouraging, but later one reads this gem of scientific reporting:

The DSSC modules are manufactured by printing a thin layer of titanium dioxide on to a layer of film and then, through the use of nanotechnology, further manipulating the film's atoms and molecules so as to generate electricity.

And then we get back to the mobile device market:

Initial target markets for the DSSC include mobile phone chargers, especially for developing countries, and as a power source for consumer products such as MP3 players, laptops and handheld game consoles. The company will also target applications such as smart textiles and as the basis for novel building-integrated products that could provide the energy source for a part of a building.

Just once I would like to read something like this:

This technology will be used to provide energy for an oil-depleted world and stave off starvation for billions of people.

Bonus: For an even more information-devoid PR release, read this one: Firms claim solar-cell breakthrough.

Nano crystalline titanium dioxide I couldn't tell you. But take a general idea from paint. Any white paint has a pound and a half of dioxide, good paint at least 2 pounds, premium house paint has about three pounds a gallon. Most of the cost does come from energy.

"Great idea, although why charge recombination at grain boundaries doesn't quash everything is still a mystery."

Could you explain what makes this a mystery ?

Where IS that 'Theory of Everything' ?

In conventional photovoltaics of semiconductors, an incident photon excites an electron from the valence band up to the empty conduction band (CB). In a single crystal semiconductor, the CB will extend through the material such that the electron can make it to a neighboring electrode where it is "harvested" as photocurrent.

With nanoparticles, each particle is a single crystal. But they are small such that an electron needs to transverse several before making it to the electrode. The places where the particles contact each other, or grain boundaries, have available energy states lower than the CB into which the electron can drop and get trapped (and eventually recombine with a hole, creating heat). Electricity doesn't happen.

This has been the stumbling block in developing cheap organic PV materials.

I think ethanol from either grain (too valuable) or cellulose (too difficult to process) is a dead end, but the money quote in the high fuel blends piece is from John Thune:

When the U.S. buys oil for $60 or $70 a barrel from countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia or Venezuela, "you're essentially paying a terrorism tax," he said.

or cellulose (too difficult to process)

Given how Fungi take hard-to-breakdown carbs and make protein for animals (straw to foodstock via oyster mushrooms) and the ability of termites to use fungi+wood for food genetic modification of fungi might just be the way out of that box canyon.


Or humans will screw that up like everything else, and unforeseen consequences will make it worse in the end. There is no better proof that humans are just kids playing around with the loaded weapon of science than genetic "shotgun it then see what happens" engineering.

Or humans will screw that up like everything else

Oh, I am in agreement. It depends on what modifications are done to the fungi. Selective breeding would be preferred by me, but I'm not in the decision loop.

The 'unforseen consequence' strikes me as taking anything that can be 'burned' as fuel and burning it.

eric blair,

Your sanguine approach to "genetic modification of fungi" needs a bit of a reality check.

How about you consider what Dr. Erwin Chargaff, one of the fathers of nucleic acid and gene research, said about such thoughts:

"If Dr. Frankenstein must go on producing his little biological monsters - and I deny the urgency and even the compulsion - why pick E. coli as the womb?... who knows what is really being implanted into the DNA of the plasmids which the bacillus will continue multiplying to the end of time?...
"Our time is cursed with the necessity for feeble men, masquerading as experts, to make enormously far-reaching decisions. Is there anything more far-reaching than new forms of life?... You can stop splitting the atom; you can stop visiting the moon; you can stop using aerosols; you may even decide not to kill entire populations by the use of a few bombs. But you cannot recall a new form of life... The hybridization of Prometheus with Herostratus is bound to give evil results...

For all you genetic engineering junkies, allow me to suggest you all fly to another planet and do as you please, but leave this planet alone with your DNA erector sets.

Your sanguine approach to "genetic modification of fungi" needs a bit of a reality check.

And yet I'm one of the posters who brings up Elaine Ingham and Klebsiella Planticola on a regular basis here.


Isolation and selective breeding is a fine plan. Genetic mapping (per the announcement) can help in isolation of mutations and breeding is a fine plan. Hopefully they will keep it in its anaerobe form.


"Selective breeding" is one thing; "genetic engineering" - as envisioned and practiced by advanced scientific means - is another thing altogether. Any attempt to conflate the two is misleading. The article under discussion leaves no doubt about how one is being used to short cut the other.

The fungus Pichia stipitis, found in the gut of insects to be a "most proficient microbial fermerter," whose genome has been sequenced and "numerous genes" identified "responsible for its fermenting... prowress" is now being put to better use than wasting away in some sorry ass insect's gut!

Lo and Behold! "Now, the power of genomics is being directed to optimize this age-old process."

Natural selection? Who needs it. That's so old fashioned and too slow to do what we mere mortals have deemed necessary. Dag nabbit, we're a busy bunch, got things to do, problems to solve, and solve them we will! I'm a genetic engineer and we're semi-gods, I tell ya! And besides, there's good government money being poured into all this scientific advancement, and a lot of commercial profit to reap too. So don't you worry, it's all under control here.

right. /sarcasm

eric, I'm glad to see that you are up on Elaine Ingham and Klebsiella Planticola. That's good and for my ignorance of this I apologize. However, with respect to any of this "genetic modification" there are still a lot of unknowns. As you note: "It depends on what modifications are done to the fungi." To which one can only properly answer: God only knows.

With this in mind I still believe your thoughts about "Isolation... [and how] Genetic mapping can help in isolation of mutations and breeding" is hinged on a mighty big if of "Hopefully..." (At least you acknowledge the issue of mutations which I emphasized in your quote above.)

Unfortunately, as I see it, once this modification makes the leap from lab to the "large-scale biofuels production process" under the management of Xethanol Corporation (per the article), there goes the isolation and the control too over any unforeseen future mutations that might occur at a for-profit operation.

Admittedly, nothing bad may happen here, but that's part of the problem too. Any success here will be touted as reason to believe nothing ever bad will happen with any of this stuff in the future, and so more genetic engineering will be done and put to profit making... until one day something bad does go wrong. And that day may well prove too late to stop it from continuing to happen 'til the end of time.

Hence my objection stands. I'm sure Dr. Erwin Chargaff would concur. For ultimately what is being wrought here is a quasi-solution to our energy problems, which will only beget more of the same. It's pure 'mop and bucket' insanity.

That Rigs on the Run: Energy story appeared in the Houston Chronicle on Thursday. It is an amazing thing to behold. The jackup count in the Gulf of Mexico is the lowest that it has been in 28 years! This is happening despite incredibly high oil prices. Most of those rigs that have gone missing are headed to the Middle East.

Ghawar Is Dying
The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function. - Dr. Albert Bartlett

Especially combined with the other Houston Chronicle story:

But natural gas prices that are half or less the level reached after 2005's devastating hurricanes and the phasing out of tax benefits of Canadian investment trusts have prompted producers to pull back.

"A lot of marginal drilling activity taking place last year is probably gone for good," Herbert said. Canadian exploration and production companies "are showing capital discipline with respect to not choosing to pursue the same level of drilling activity that they once were."

Who's gonna keep my lights on this winter, darn it!

I'm also reminded of this story from the Globe & Mail (subscription only, alas):

But there are clues that all is not well in OPEC's swing producer. The first is anecdotal evidence that the Saudis are pumping more and more water into the reserves to maintain reservoir pressure. The second is a bit more scientific -- the number of oil drilling rigs in the country is soaring. In 2004, there were about 16. The number has since tripled -- more rigs, less production, at least less production in the past year or so. "It's indicative of a problem," one leading British oil executive says. "Everything the contract drillers have is getting sucked into Saudi Arabia."

How soon can we expect all the missing rigs (in Canada and GOM) to have an impact on natural gas production?


"How soon can we expect all the missing rigs (in Canada and GOM) to have an impact on natural gas production?"

I would guess at the decline rates on NG wells now very quick, 6 months or less. Canadian drilling has been down for at least 6 months already because of the price drop. The land drillers stock price has taken hit as a result. All in all I expect the price of NG to be much higher next year even without any Gulf storms.

Rick B

As was pointed out, once you have the financial mechnaics in place to amortize costs of solar installations over a long time period, the technology is there and has been there for quite a while.

The problem is not solar and wind production but storage without large in and out losses. When we can come up with an economical to build and low percentage loss storage system, preferably on a small scale to preclude transmission losses, then it's away to the races. Generation has been overly pondered and funded and the more prosaic storage problem needed for peak buffering is still a quandary.

Anybody got a good idea? Something better than a basement full of lead and suphuric acid gassing hydrogen and a big hummer inverter? The public really wants plug and play and would prefer the hardware to be somewhere else and owned and operated somewhere else as todays big utilities are. Burning up fossil fuel gluts in line losses wasn't a big problem, but when you have to make the panels it gets to be a bigger financial commitment with a much longer payback then a hole in the ground.

Maybe that's why I find solar thermal so appealing. Use trough concentrators to heat a fluid to 1000F and store it in a large buried tank. Fill the tanks with cheap gravel and use cheap air as the transfer medium. Days and even weeks of energy can be stored and then sold as needed.

I keep hoping that the EEStore hypercapacitor technology comes through. Even if it does not work in vehicles, it could be a huge advantage for free standing homes independent of the grid.

Ghawar Is Dying
The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function. - Dr. Albert Bartlett

I've kept an eye on these guys for over a year now, hoping that they can make true with their claims at a reasonable cost. It certainly would qualify as disruptive technology in my book, assuming all that they claim can be done. :)

Really the only thing commercially available would be batteries or capacitors. People are working on flywheels, super capacitors, compressed gas, liquid gas, thermal storage, etc., but you can't buy that stuff yet. Probably the best bet for a DIY would be compressed gas, but you need a deep well or expensive steel storage.

The best energy storage mechanism I know of is water; let if flow through your turbines at a rate required to make up for the amount the sun isn't shining or the wind isn't blowing.

If there's no hydroelectric dam near enough to balance the load then pumped storage is a possibility. Heck, why couldn't you combine this with a city's drinking water supply Pump into distributed water towers/reservoirs when the surplus power is available, extract that power out as it flows to customers. With adequate storage capacity this could smooth out a lot of bumps. Why not use turbines to generate electricity, rather than pressure reducing valves?

The details I leave to engineers. :-)

MHyLab of Switzerland has developed such swapouts for Alpine villages, replacing pressure reducing valves with turbines (they did find a need for a bypass valve just after half time during soccer matches. The first village was NOT happy with no running water/water pressure 4 minutes into the halftime).

They have also developed turbines for treated sewage outfalls. Installed by helicopter, covered by snow for months, serviced once a year.


Best Hopes,


Explosion destroys West End home

Hardly of National Interest, but this is my neighbor's home, about a block away, and the Gas Explosion resulted in the house being torn down, right onto the Community Garden (foreground of the top picture) where both my Wife and my Mother have garden plots.. er, had garden plots. Mom said she's been building up that soil for 10 years, and will really miss the big compost piles, which are really a savings account for any gardener. I guess we'll strip off the now contaminated soil (Lead Paint and Vinyl Siding, etc, etc.. that make the residue unfit for growing edibles) and put on a clean layer.

The homeowner, Jo seems circumspect about it today, and is embarrassed about offers by the neighborhood to help out. She knows there are so many in Portland who don't have what she does to fall back on. But I'm glad to see how people around here come out and check in with each other when Stuff is Hitting the Fan. We had just had a surprise 8" of Snow the night before, so people were already out and dressed for 'digging out' when the gas blew her house apart. My mom said she thought a snowplow had hit her building, or a big load of snow had fallen off the roof, only to realize that it was the gas explosion a block away that she had felt.

That garden might be toast for a while, but we now have a backup plan, as we are buying into a 33acre woodlot up in the White Mts together with my mom, and will have plenty of clean soil to plant in up there, and a place to play with Housebuilding, Vertical Wind Turbines, Composted BioGas, Solar Cooking, Cooltubes, Greenhouses.. etc. ..After a 1.5hr drive. 2 steps forward, one step back.

Bob Fiske

did this house have a basement?

Yes, it did. I think the initial hypothesis is that the gas buildup started down there, tho' the FD wasn't commenting on whether it was NG or Propane, which were both present in the bldg.

You asking why they didn't push the debris down inside? Beats me.. Didn't look like there'd be room, if that was your thought.


Hi Bob,

Thanks for sharing - scary enough. (What a great decision to get out and shovel!) I'm glad everyone is okay, and sorry about your garden, (though looking forward to details on the White Mountain home).

About that natural gas/"oil" sands article up top:

Seems that "oil" sands become "viable" when the prices of conventional resources like natural gas get expensive, rendering the tar "competitive." So now there is an "incentive" to invest in this "alternative".

The problem is, when natural gas gets expensive, the cost of producing that barrel of "oil" from tar gets very expensive. Original cost estimates turn out to be, well, optimistic.

So then pissed-off investors pull out: it's no longer possible to make much of a profit on tar.

Then demand surges for conventional gas and oil, the prices rise again, and the cycle repeats itself.

Is this the definition of insanity, or not?

Is this what is meant by the phrase "markets work"?

Have I failed in my attempt to appreciate Econ 101?

Yeah, I was thinking the same thing about that headline. The tar sand project isn't working because:

  1. Natgas is too expensive;
  2. Or natgas is too cheap.

It'd be nice if they'd make up their minds :^)

The problem will solve itself.
But not in a nice way.

The Taintered Edges

Perhaps because Ive been reading about this stuff for 4 years, I internalize it too much - but I am beginning to see increasing signs of diminishing returns from complexity.

Yesterday I bought some 2x10s to build some raised beds for my family from a local saw mill - the guy had to wait 2 weeks to get the right type of lumber. When I picked it up, I asked if I could have the sawdust (for mulch) and he declined saying he doesnt have enough sawdust for bedding for his own 30 cows and is having to buy it - problem is - the downturn in the housing market is causing less lumber needed for homes so there is a scarcity of sawdust that people use for farming purposes. Asked about alternatives, he replied that the cows prefer the wood shavings....

Odd how things are linked

I can second your observation.

We get our sawdust from a little mill down the road. The guy is not able to hold onto the stuff. Someone once came and offered him lots of money to take ALL of it. He said no, he had long-time customers (like us) he was committed to. He's an old-timer, wonderful man, thinks the shit's hitting the fan about NOW. Baled shavings at the hardware store have gone up 50 cents in the last year.At the larger lumber yards, you have to get on a waiting list to get their sawdust, and if you don't pick it up on time, you lose.

On the upside, Canada and the US no longer have to worry about their long-simmering softwood lumber conflict. The market solved the problem all by itself.

The housing boom should have waited a few years, its timing was off: in British Columbia, the pine beetle devastation has grown to such proportions that many millions of trees can't find a market at all anymore, while millions more can't be cut down fast enough to preserve their market value. And since the beetle just crossed the Rockies into Alberta, there'll be a lot more soon.

The Canadian government has already decided to no longer try to get its forests recognized as carbon sinks. It is now afraid that pine beetles, thawing and forest fires will release so much carbon that the country can forget about meeting any emssions cuts standards whatsoever.

Looks like sawdust may not be the bigger problem. Plenty of that coming right up.

The hemlock woolly adelgid is threatening to eliminate the eastern hemlock.

The gypsy moth caterpillar once threatened the eastern hardwoods as it stripped trees of their foliage. There was a biological agent found to counter the threat.


The pollen research shows that a major event occurred about 5,000 years ago when hemlock trees died off. This die-off was
widespread throughout eastern North America and was likely due to a rapidly spreading disease.



One thing I have learned, forests stay in flux, although man has increased the rate of change.

Best Hopes,


I would love to think bark beetles were just a symptom of flux but haven't managed that level of optimism for a while.

If he has a sawmill, then he was waiting for logs to process into lumber.

I wonder if the wood pellet trade is affecting the availability of sawdust/shavings. I can't find any data, but note that the price of pellets is higher than it was previously.

Bingo. The end of the housing bubble may mean much higher pellet prices for those who have invested in pellet stoves. But perhaps they will make pellets out of whole trees, like they make paper. Price will still be higher. But probably lower than fossil fuels. Price of plain firewood is rising too of course, as the costs of logging rise with the price of oil...

Perhaps they can pelletize McMansions?

'Twould be nice. >:-]

Not nearly enough real wood in a McMansion.

OSB (wood fragments glued together), Particle board (glued together sawdust), Engineered wood (scraps glued together), plywood (shavings glued together), vinyl, stone (some real rock used !), concrete, gypsum board, etc.


Ah, Wal-Mart, exquisitely adapted to the cheap-oil world...

Stores struggling, Wal-Mart reshapes the top

The retailer has been trying to get its U.S. stores - which faced remodeling projects, limited opportunities for U.S. growth and problems with its clothing offerings - back on a growth track.

In addition, the low-income shoppers who patronize Wal-Mart may have less money to spend because they are feeling a squeeze from higher gas prices and mortgage problems.

Last year, Wal-Mart played down its discount roots to try to enhance its image. It stocked more upscale items such as organic food and plasma TVs, hoping wealthier consumers would spend more in its stores.

But its lower-income customers balked at some of the changes, and Wal-Mart's results suffered.

"Ah, Wal-Mart, exquisitely adapted to the cheap-oil world..."

Very insightful and beautifully stated, Leanan.

For Walmart to increase it's existing store performance, it will need to continue with items that save the customer money that they would normally be spending elsewhere. The Murphy Oil gas stations that are tied into the Walmarts is one example. Instead of letting another Energy company get profits, they work with Murphy Oil to provide lower cost gasoline to their customers. This gets more people nearby and possibly inside the Walmart, and the more $ that their customers save is more $ that they can potentiall spend at Walmart.

Some view Walmart's push on Compact Fluorescent bulbs to be in the same vein. They can sell the bulbs at the lowest possible price with the hope that customers will purchase them. A 6 pack of these bulbs will save the customer in excess of $200 in electricity over the life of the bulbs, which again is an additional $200 they can spend.... At Walmart.

However, no matter how agressive they may become in pushing their strategies, I don't believe long term they will succeed. Delay is possible, but that's all.

*laughs* Maybe Walmart should start selling home PV units.. They install a PV system on your home for free, and whatever power that gets generated by it, you pay Walmart instead of the power company. Sounds like a lovely idea.

"They install a PV system on your home for free, and whatever power that gets generated by it, you pay [them] instead of the power company."

That's the business model of CitizenRE. But in the last couple of months, following the big hashing in solar blog sites of whether they're for real, there seems to be no further news about them? In particular, have they finally started building their factory?

On the other hand, Mal*Wart pulled out of Germany because the Germans out-compteded them. Whoda thunk.

www.Pellets-boerse.de to help the World and its enviroment getting cleaner!

This is a tradeside for wooden pellets. An alternative energie?

To cheer up everyone for Easter, here is a heart-warming story, albeit a couple of months old:


"A McDonald's restaurant in a Devon (UK) town is closing because it cannot compete with local traders, say campaigners. The restaurant, which opened in 1999, will close on Saturday while Tavistock farmers' market thrives with a prestigious food award."

Tavistock is in the same English county as, and similar to, the town of Totnes which leads the way in the Transition Town movement to adapt regions to peak oil via localisation and energy reduction. There is hope: not all people are sheeple.

I did not know that McDonald's was considered a restaurant. Learn something new every day !

New Orleans has long been known as a graveyard for chains and fast food. Unfortunately, the wave of construction workers has drawn them the few familar "restaurants" we have for the tourists.

As a Kentucky National Guardsman asked me shortly after Katrina: "There seem to be a whole lot of restaurants around here, but I don't recognize ANY of them. Are they real restaurants ?"

Fast food for me is a po-boy at Zara's, my neighborhood grocery; more often when I do not want to cook lunch is the $8.95 buffet at St. Charles Tavern, open 102 years, usually 24 hours/day. Surreys when I want a good crabmeat omelette or comparable.

Best Hopes for Good Food,


Matt Simmons mentions the discussion about Ghawar that is taking place here in the hourlong interview Oil Drum in this latest Financial news hour audio. In fact this is the only website he mentions specifically in the interview .
The other alarming thing he says is Canterell could deplete completely in five years.


Just finished listening to interview. Simmons just lays it out, we are running out of time and oil.

Simmons talks about The Oil Drum

From the interview:

Simmons: Moreover there are now a growing number of oil sleuths who are plumbing through ... I don't know if you have ever gone on The Oil Drum which is the most sophisticated oil blog on the internet...[Puplava: Sure do.].. They have had some fabulous exchanges of guys who have basically gone back and lined up all the right data you can get on these new fields that came on in Saudi Arabia and the fact that they basically didn't increase production. They did come on. So what we don't know is: Where is Ghawar today? Is it basically under 4? Is it under 3? We don't have any idea. Is Saudi Arabia producing 9 or producing 8? We don't have any idea. What they say is they have 11 mbpd of productive capacity but if we have oil prices up in the 80...90... 100 $/barrel this summer because we have too high demand, they are going to look awfully silly if they basically say "Oh, we have 11 mbpd capacity but no one wants our oil".

Israel Fires Missiles into Gaza

An Israeli army spokesman told Reuters news agency the helicopters opened fired after identifying "suspicious movements" near the border fence...

Islamic Jihad said its militants and others from another group were mounting an operation near the border when Israel fired the missiles...

Israeli security sources say that Palestinian militants are trying to upgrade their weapons facilities near the border between Gaza and Israel, in order to prepare for future confrontations.

From a golden oldie favorite of mine (and apparently cids):

"I watched with glee while your kings and queens
fought for Ten Decades, for the Godz they made..."

And now to add a few more decades to the tally. Courtesy of Ahmadinejad and The Mullahs, and the US's "decades" of War-on-"Terror" to come.

Homo Sap at his finest.

The Westerner's Ignorance of Iran is amazing.

This article in Leanan's Links above shows the blindness of the media when they view All Geopolitics only through the prism of Western culture and thought.

"Peak Oil Passnotes: Iran for All Seasons

... an embattled president Ahmadinejad might find a conflict a great way of distracting the public from their obvious failures....

...Once again the short term and ultra-violent ambitions of a tiny number of politicians could end the lives of even more innocent people...

Politically correct, culturally naive, historically ignorant, the western press completely misses the perspective from Iran's leADeRz and their Historic Planz...

"Good bye Isreal, it's been nice
hope you find your, paradise...."

Dear TOD,

Must say goodbye for awhile. I have a "alot" of work ahead which I consider important. Want to say thanks, that I have learned a great deal here and modified some opinions I held, such as on the possible utility of EVs and the importance of rail. I've also really had a great peek into the world of geologists, reservoir engineers and the like and am thankful, it's better than a morning newspaper. As I have stated previously my guess is we have passed PO, though I am comfortable with the fact that I am uncertain, let's say, like the most recent consensus climate report(though PO is a minority) I am 90% certain we have passed PO.

2007 will be interesting. We should have a chance to confirm or revisit(if not dismiss) many assumptions. I don't see it as a horribly difficult year for many in "the west" and one where we still have a lot to give thanks for while looking ahead. 2008 is ... um ... contingent on 2007.

You know if we have passed peak, then very soon, HL analysis, bottom up, top down, side to side, etc won't be very interesting (It won't be able to be hidden IMO despite the remarks of some). In such case we might want to focus more intently on what can be done. There is a tremendous body of commentary on what can't work. This is fine when abundance abounds, when the wolf is at the door one might really want to look for what might sort of, kind of, possibly help. If I had time I would do a post looking at an overview of possible replacements for the organic matter which fell out of the food chain and became fossil fuel.

One note that gives me optimism is the number of posters who have noted cutting their energy usage in half or more and far from starving are happy and productive, this is a very hopeful thing. When I read TOD one idea that keeps coming back to me is (this is entirely paraphrased) the 3000 year old Old testament comment that when things improve once again you will, "plant your vineyards and grow your own gardens". This is what we miss, or at least I do.

I like capitalism because it has the redeeming grace of acknowledging we are greedy bastards and then attempts to use that for the common good. As regards the alternative of communism, to use the words, if I have them correct, of John Paul II, "the medicine was worse than the disease". Still things have changed so rapidly that I would look to abolish most advertising. In any event, it would be great to work towards a locally independent existence, not merely energy but all that is needed.

I wish you all well and hope to check back in a couple/few months.


Hello Z,

Thanks, and take care. I hope you check back, esp. with news of vineyards, gardens and/or anything else you're up to...