DrumBeat: April 23, 2007

Farther, faster? Not anymore - Progress in transportation is stalling as technology lags and suburban sprawl ties things up.

This is progress?

The morning train ride from Chestnut Hill to Center City takes 34 minutes today. Fifty years ago, it took 28 minutes.

Today, a United Airlines flight from Philadelphia to Los Angeles takes 6 hours, 1 minute. Forty years ago, the trip took 5 hours, 5 minutes.

...After centuries of ever-faster travel, the triumph of technology over time seems to have stalled. The expectation that each generation will be not only more upwardly mobile, but also more rapidly mobile, has died, apparently of congestion of the arteries.

UK Treasury Committee concerned about falling UK North Sea oil revenues

The UK's Treasury Committee said it is concerned about the 'very significant' downward revision of forecast North Sea oil revenues in this year's budget, and warned this could pose a risk to overall future tax revenues.

Crunch time for Hitler's fuel

Supporters of 'liquid coal' tout homegrown benefits as Congress weighs energy bills, but questions remain.

Ethanol is a waste of energy

Despite mounting evidence that ethanol is about as useful as a flux capacitor, Gov. Bill Ritter is ensuring that Colorado will become dependent on this "alternative" energy.

No need for debate. No need to heed the market. No need to explore viability or consequences.

Executive orders will do the trick.

You Are What You Grow

A few years ago, an obesity researcher at the University of Washington named Adam Drewnowski ventured into the supermarket to solve a mystery. He wanted to figure out why it is that the most reliable predictor of obesity in America today is a person’s wealth. For most of history, after all, the poor have typically suffered from a shortage of calories, not a surfeit. So how is it that today the people with the least amount of money to spend on food are the ones most likely to be overweight?

Drewnowski gave himself a hypothetical dollar to spend, using it to purchase as many calories as he possibly could. He discovered that he could buy the most calories per dollar in the middle aisles of the supermarket, among the towering canyons of processed food and soft drink. (In the typical American supermarket, the fresh foods — dairy, meat, fish and produce — line the perimeter walls, while the imperishable packaged goods dominate the center.) Drewnowski found that a dollar could buy 1,200 calories of cookies or potato chips but only 250 calories of carrots. Looking for something to wash down those chips, he discovered that his dollar bought 875 calories of soda but only 170 calories of orange juice.

Oil industry problems could affect gas prices

The oil market is as tight as it has been in a long time and it does not have any wiggle room, either on the crude oil supply, which provides the raw material for gasoline, or the refining side, which actually produces and distributes gasoline.

"We are driving a car with worn out shock absorbers and we are feeling every bump," said Anne Korin, co-director for the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, a think tank that focuses on energy, at the conference.

Four Futures for the Earth

The four future scenarios are:

       ● Dodging a Bullet
       ● Teaching the World to Sing
       ● Geoengineering 101: Pass/Fail
       ● Say Goodnight

Fuelled by the oil sands, a new rift over royalties

Alberta's budget painted a bleak outlook for the future of the province's oil and natural gas royalties. Specifically, the province's take from its massive oil sands was projected to fall by half within three years, even as production is surging and energy companies are booking their best-ever profits.

OIL DATA: China Confirms March Crude Imports 13.9 Tons, +8.8%

Imported volumes of crude were 8.8% higher than in the corresponding month of 2006, the data showed.

China's crude exports slumped in March - down 83.2% at 218,988 tons.

Nigeria: Militants Brace For War In Rivers

DESPITE the heightened security activities in Rivers State, one of Nigeria's major oil and gas-producing states in the Niger Delta region, ahead of this Saturday's presidential polls, there is still an air of uncertainties in the state.Militants on Thursday said they can no longer guarantee the safety of electoral officials in the state.

India to keep energy demand growth below GDP pace

India expects its energy demand to remain strong, but increased energy efficiency may keep the pace of consumption growth below economic expansion, a senior government official said on Monday.

GM's New Fuel-Cell Car

The flexible electric car platform is innovative, but the fuel-cell version is freighted with hydrogen's flaws.

Sainsbury's delivers a greener van fleet

The supermarket chain has ordered an initial eight Edison electric vans for its Sainsbury's Online fleet. This is part of a green commitment, which aims to switch 20pc of urban deliveries to electric vehicles by September 2008.

Indian solar energy project wins world award

The prestigious Energy Globe award for promoting sustainability energy has been won by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) for for helping 100,000 people in 18,000 Indian villages finance the purchase domestic solar systems.

We can't go on living like this

The fundamental cause of the big global problems threatening us now is simply over-consumption. The rate at which we in rich countries are using up resources is grossly unsustainable. It’s far beyond levels that can be kept up for long or that could be spread to all people. Yet most people totally fail to grasp the magnitude of the over-shoot.

Consume Like There’s No Tomorrow

Would someone please tell the Sierra Club Exec Board that the idea of an “environmentally friendly car” makes as much sense as a “non-violent death penalty?” While the vast majority of those concerned with global warming consider reduction of unneeded production to be at the core of a sane policy, the Sierra Club has endorsed a plan that includes virtually no role for conservation.

China Says Global Warming Threatens Development

Global warming could devastate China's development, the nation's first official survey of climate change warns, while insisting economic growth must come before greenhouse gas cuts.

Running on E: Industry reflects on Ontario fuel capacity

The crackspread -- the difference between the rack-wholesale price and the price of crude (and where oil companies' profit margins lie) -- is at all time high, explains Rosnak. "So do they get on the bandwagon and build a refinery or do they say to themselves 'what happens if there are too many refineries? We're enjoying a crackspread we haven't seen before.'"

Project Energy: How Far We've Come

The United States is going through one of the most rapid makeovers in its history. It seems everyone is talking about energy, efficiency and the environment.

Monday marked a full year of "Project Energy" reports on WCCO-TV, with a pledge to keep telling the story of the fast-changing global landscape.

Private Sector's Role in Saudi Arabia's Mega Projects Close to 70%

Private sector role in mega economic, industrial and infrastructure projects across the Kingdom is expanding year after year, lessening the burden on the government, a recent report issued by the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry (CSCCI) said.

Biodiesel will be the answer

The problem, Tilman says, is that the fossil fuel energy required to produce one gallon of corn ethanol only yields 20 percent new energy. For soy bean biodiesel, the new energy yield is only slightly better at 48 percent. And the energy expelled to create those marginal numbers contaminates the air.

Using prairie plants, however, furnishes a 190 percent new energy gain, he says.

Abe, Bush to work on post-Kyoto strategy

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US President George W Bush are set to agree in their summit next week to boost cooperation to fight global warming beyond the 2012 timeframe set under the Kyoto Protocol, Japanese government sources say.

India: Global warming will devastate coast

Towns and cities along India’s eastern coast will be devastated with global warming intensifying cyclones and rising sea levels eroding vast stretches of the shoreline, a climate official said yesterday.

Experts warn that as temperatures rise, the Indian subcontinent - home to about one-sixth of humanity - will be badly hit with more frequent and more severe natural disasters such as floods and storms and more disease and hunger.

Gasoline at $4 Coming to a Pump Near You, Unfazed by Rising Tab

Whether it's $50 to fill up your Prius or $130 for the Ford Expedition, $4-a-gallon gasoline is coming to a pump near you.

Fuel prices are rising at a pace not seen since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita knocked out a third of the U.S. oil refining industry in 2005. Gasoline consumption is climbing twice as fast as last year and will accelerate when summer travel begins late next month.

"What we're surprised by is the increased demand," said James Mulva, chief executive officer at ConocoPhillips, whose refineries from California to New Jersey produce 56 million gallons of gas a day, enough to meet 14 percent of the country's needs. "Even though the price of gasoline is up, the demand is up," he said in an April 12 interview in Houston.

Another article on that "We're preparing for a crisis" peak oil game:
A world without oil, in a game - A San Jose designer is trying to solve a crisis before it can happen.

In a matter of days, gas prices will skyrocket, a dwindling food supply will rot, and the oil crisis will literally stop Americans in their tracks.

How can you and your loved ones survive a crippling breakdown?

(And yes, it is getting federal funding. It's being produced, at least partially, by PBS.)

The answer isn't oil, either

Retired petroleum engineer Michael Kasnick ("The answer isn't ethanol," April 5) seems to think the best way to address possible gas shortages is to provide more sweetheart deals to the oil companies, what he calls "increase[d] access to our domestic oil and gas resources." Since oil companies are free to drill on private land at any time, he can only be referring to lands owned by the public. Perhaps he missed the December 2006 report from our own Interior Department -- withheld for more than a year -- showing that:

● Massive subsidies to oil companies for drilling in public waters are yielding almost no results

● Even if they did succeed, these efforts would produce oil costing approximately $80 per barrel.

Building a wall around oil

Two news reports from Iraq caught attention this week with ominous consequences. First, we learned that American military units were building a three-mile-long wall to separate one of Baghdad's Sunni enclaves from surrounding Shiite neighbourhoods, ostensibly to provide for sorely needed security. Second, a scientific study concluded that Iraq's oil reserves could be twice as large as previously estimated, with the new reserves mostly in Al Anbar province.

Russian Economic Forum opens under boycott cloud

Gazprom's dramatic entry into the giant Sakhalin-2 energy project has raised serious questions about the safety of foreign investments in Russia, analysts contend.

They believe that the state mounted a campaign to force Anglo-Dutch energy giant Royal Dutch Shell to relinquish its grip on Sakhalin-2, using a series of tough environmental checks as a negotiating weapon.

Why I'm Bullish On Coal Stocks

As prices for crude oil, natural gas and even uranium have risen more than 100% in the last year, coal and coal stocks have not been part of this rally. However, I think that coal and coal stocks will not have to wait much longer for their turn to run.

Chinese automakers showcase eco-cars

One experimental clean-energy car runs on natural gas. Another uses ethanol distilled from corn. A third has a zero-emissions electric motor powered by a hydrogen fuel cell.

These alternative vehicles were created not by a global automaker but by China's small but ambitious car companies, which displayed them Sunday alongside gasoline-powered sedans and sport utility vehicles at the start of the Shanghai Auto Show.

Global warming imperils Himalayan glaciers

"If the rate of temperature rises does not change, glaciers on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau will rapidly shrink, perhaps from 500,000 square kilometres in 1995 to 100,000 square kilometres in 2030," Wu Shaohong of the Chinese Academy of Sciences told a news conference.

Glaciers across the Himalayas and the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau are a major source for key rivers, such as the Yangtze in China, the Mekong in Indochina and the Ganges in India.

India, Japan sign pact on global warming

Japan signed a deal Monday to help fast-growing India fight global warming as the two countries look ahead to a framework after the landmark Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

Under the agreement, Japan will invest in India's energy industry and transfer energy-saving technology.

McCain: Energy, warming are twin threats

Republican presidential hopeful John McCain is calling the United States' foreign-oil reliance and global warming twin threats the country must aggressively confront.

"National security depends on energy security," the Arizona senator says in a speech he is to give Monday in which he suggests the country can't achieve either if it remains dependent on oil-rich Middle Eastern nations linked to terrorists.

Pricey oil won't hurt Asia

Despite the current high oil prices, Asian economies will continue to book high growth and drive the world's economy with their massive resources, according to experts attending the Boao Forum for Asia here.

Is There Really an Energy Crisis?

The world is not about to run out of oil, but the price is likely to remain where the Saudis and other oil producing nations want it, knowing that too high a price retards the billions that must be invested to find new reserves and then extract, transport and refine it. They know that the world is growing hungrier for oil as nations like China and India industrialize and become major economic centers.

Iran needs several years to make nuclear fuel

"We have reached the industrial stage, but we need several years to create an industrial unit capable of producing fuel for our power stations."

China is finding it hard to get enough uranium to fuel nuclear plants

China is finding it hard to obtain enough uranium to fuel the nuclear power reactors it plans to build, according to the country's top energy official.

The comments by Chen Deming, a vice chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, came just months after China signed a deal with Australia giving it access to yellowcake from Australia, which has about 40 percent of the world's recoverable uranium reserves.

"Where are the materials? I still have no answer now and am searching for materials in other countries, including Australia," Chen said Saturday at the annual Boao Forum for Asia on the southern island of Hainan.

Growing nuclear club

BEHIND the heightened tension with Iran lies a wider problem that world leaders must swiftly and substantively grasp. The Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), drawn up in 1968, needs to be re-written to make it both workable and acceptable to nations who view it as outdated and unfair.

Over the next generation, as the scramble for energy gathers pace, many more governments will announce plans to build uranium-enrichment facilities. Some will be friendly to US interests, some hostile. Some may switch alliances with time.

NewsWeek Letter to the Editor

Kudos for your excellent cover articles on climate-change issues and options ("Save the Planet—Or Else," April 16). Missing in your coverage of solutions was the potential for expansion of rail services in this country. This would slash CO2 emissions in the transportation sector through high efficiency and electrification.

Urban rail gets several thousand passenger miles per gallon, but the Bush administration has cut federal matching levels significantly for most urban-rail projects, and has attempted to eliminate funding for Amtrak. Several bills before Congress could help, but funding is still grossly inadequate. Americans are increasingly willing to use rail and other forms of public transportation, with more than 10 billion passenger trips in 2006.
Arthur Smith
Selden, N.Y.

This letter came from the "Energize America" debate on High Speed InterCity Rail (I am a doubter and question if that is our highest priority. I prefer semi-HSR with 100 mph freight & 110-125 mph passenger service instead of high speed passenger only rail).

I was the one that pointed out the Strickland data on Urban Rail efficiency to the group.

The original letter mentioned cutting funding from 80% federal to about 1/3rd federal funding during the Bush Administration. Despite 3 multi-billion examples of 1/3rd FTA funding (and one 20% and one 8% FTA funding), they edited the funding phrase down.

Best Hopes,


I'm a regular traveler on Amtrak. I'd be delighted with even quasi<?>-high speed rail -- 50mph average would be a treat. And instead of cutting service, it needs to be extended. Major routes, like Portland to Denver have been cut.

Alan -- can you tell me how many passenger miles per gallon it is possible to get with ordinary locomotives -- Amtrak style? And how many equivalent passenger miles/gallon with electrified rail? -- Or is that conversion even meaningful?

How does that compare with Greyhound buses and 737's?

Last time I calculated (a couple of years ago), diesel Amtrak (outside NEC) was getting ~85 pax mpg. Sleepers & 58% (memory) load factor hurt the #s. Electrification improves BTU efficiency (trade diesel for electricity) by x2.5 on plains and x3 in mountains and built up urban areas (industry rule of thumb).

Southwest Airlines got about 54 pax-mpg in 2006 (also memory).

Greyhound ?? I do not know real world load factors.

Best Hopes,


The U.S. Department of Energy publishes a Transportation Energy Data Book.

It contains a tremendous amount of useful energy information on motorized transportation modes (passenger and freight) in the U.S.

For the passenger modes, Tables 2.11 and 2.12 (in Chapter 2) list the general BTUs per passenger mile as:

Mode BTUs/passenger mile (2003)
Cars 3,549
Light Truck 7,004
Bus (Transit) 4,160
Bus (Intercity) 932 (for 2000)
Air (Commercial) 3,587
Air (General Aviation) 10,384 (for 2001)
Rail (Intercity - Amtrak) 2,935
Rail (Transit) 3,228
Rail (Commuter) 2,751

As always, the devil's in the details. Tables 2.11 and 2.12 strongly warn that "Great care should be taken when comparing modal energy intensity data among modes. Because of the inherent
differences between the transportation modes in the nature of services, routes available, and many additional
factors, it is not possible to obtain truly comparable national energy intensities among modes." I have not yet looked into the various assumptions that went into the computation of the above numbers.

Those statistics ahve been roundly criticized for unrealistic assumptions (# of pax/car as one example). "Bush data manipulation" has been one allegation I have heard (no comment lacking facts myself).

I prefer private data in this case.


He takes real world and generally representative examples instead of "global averages" more subject to manipulation.

In any case, the changes in Urban form over time due to TOD effects save more energy than direct energy savings via substitution.

Best Hopes,


Thank you for the positive reference, Alan. I would just like to add that if anyone has references to the real numbers for a particular Amtrak service I would be happy to add it to the table. Right now the data I have for diesel-electric locomotive-hauled trains is not the greatest. I have information from one trial service for the Colorado railcar+trailer (392 passenger-mpg if all seats taken), and one data point taken from the fact that commuter rail trains (which I've seen with my own two eyeballs :-) ) can be 10 bi-level cars long with only one 3000 hp locomotive, which apparently burns 761 L/100 km. Knowing the seating capacity of each car yields the number I calculated - 421 passenger-mpg with all seats filled. Amtrak single-level trains are likely to have less than half the seating capacity but not significantly different mass (less dense seating, a restaurant and baggage car perhaps) and if they're on average half full then you would expect something on the order of 1/4 the efficiency overall.

This is too much handwaving for my liking - I'd like to nail a more exact number down. The difficulty of finding such information continues to astound me - surely the energy efficiency of transportation service should be an important factor in public policy.

Maybe I'll try some more searching. I've started looking through the academic literature and there is a stunning paucity of data there as well. Maybe I'm just not searching in the right place - anyone have any ideas?

I have been wanting to (time available) to get the annual #s for Long Island Railroad (some small % freight) as a valuable addition for you directly from LIRR. LIRR is, of course, electrified.

Best Hopes,


thanks to all. Some great leads.

Obviously, there is no simple answer. Especially if people want to keep moving around, and apparently, they do.

Someone might fix the html tag that I typed wrong at the start of this thread, though obviously it doesn't impair readability-- it's just inelegant

Yeah, I'm going to guess there's a fairly sulphurous devil lurking in the details. Rolling coefficient of friction for rail is only around 0.3%, more than an order of magnitude less than for a car, and wind resistance will be divided up among the passengers. Rail-car-plus locomotive weight per passenger can be surprisingly high, but at reasonable loading should still be less than for a car. So unless there are only two or three passengers per rail car, which rarely happens on any overall average because it's unsustainably expensive, this just doesn't seem physically reasonable - and especially not for multiple-unit electric transit trains, which need no locomotive weight. For very high speed trains it may be a different story, but there are none of those in the USA for the DOE to keep tabs on.

Semi-HSR is a concept borrowed from SBB (SwissRail).

They plan to mix High speed (160 kph) speciality freight trains mixed with 200 & 240 kph pax trains. The "extra kph" to true HSR is not worth the cost of losing freight in the US.

Much time sensitive freight (fish, perishable veggies, JIT inventory, electronics, etc.) could be shifted from truck and air to rail and this could save as much oil as pax service.

At night, a different mix of medium density, non-stream lined cargo (containers et al) could operate at 90-110 kph with the streamlined 160 kph freight trains.

For the metrically challenged.

200 kph = 123 mph
160 kph = 100 mph
100 kph = 62 mph

NOT TGV, but faster than driving. And more energy efficient.

Best Hopes,


This is a concept that I have developed over time.

I suppose this semi-HSR has been developed in Switzerland because of the impossibility to reach the real high speeds in such a small territory (not flat furthermore).

I agree however with you that this use of the infrastructure is the most rational, esp. taking account the fact that it doesn't cost too much to refit the old lines to bear higher speeds.

The new Gotthard tunnel is flat (0.25 % maximum grade from memory) and almost straight for 56 km ! With 20 km and shorter tunnels as well; it will be a flat, almost straight run from Zurich to Milan when finished :-)

Best Hopes for SBB,


The prosperity of Switzerland started with the collecting of the taxes for the crossing of the alps, so we can say that this way is very important for us..

Hello Alan,

I need your translation skills again : what does Kudos means?

Thx in advance.

Were you to be transformed from the resident TOD rail transport expert to Transit Czar USA, how would you prioritize the mass transit projects we desperately need. HSR (or even semi-HSR) between major eastern and midwestern cities (and their airports) could eliminate short-haul air travel, offering energy savings and freeing air/runway space for cross-country/international travel. Light rail in major cities enhancers air quality, saves time, energy, etc.. We as a country seem to be reluctant to begin more than a few of these projects at one time--successful ventures (such as light rail in Salt Lake City) bring more converts; disasters (Amtrak using Union Pacific rail between LA and San Francisco) push us back to more highways.
What would be your top-ten projects in this country--bang-for-the-buck-wise (i.e. energy efficiency) and p.r.-wise?

Interesting, I took a while to think this over.

My #1 would be built out the Miami 103 miles of elevated "subway" type rail (20 open, 3 under construction) *IF* Miami agrees to TOD (they are the national leader today) AND promote bicycling (stop lights have a green for bike a few seconds before a car green, like Copenhagen) and take car lanes for bike lanes. Using preTOD population; 90% of population will be within 3 miles of a station and over 1/2 within 2 miles.


Show how a major American city can be transformed !

Build out New Orleans 35 mile plan (mine :-) and show how, on a different scale (and MUCH cheaper) a city can also be transformed.

The "Big 3" mega-projects by convential cost-benefit would be the 2nd Avenue subway in NYC, the Red Line subway in LA (perhaps only a couple of stops past UCLA instead of all the way to the Sea as an economy measure "for now"; I am unsure if those last few miles will have a great payback). And the downtown Inter-connector in LA as well (allows much better connections between all of the light rail line & Union Pax station).

That's 5.

Connect North Station and South Station in Boston. To save $, take some lanes from the rubber tires in the "Big Dig". This allows commuter rail to serve all of the city and lets the Northeast Corridor continue up to Maine. It will also help, indirectly, to connect ths subways together better.

Redo the California HSR into semi-HSR (saving $$$), extend to Phoenix & Tuscon and make express freight an equal priority to pax (ship veggies not only to SF, LA & PHX but allow connections for "high ball" express freight service (at, say 65 mph) to Chicago, etc. A demonstration of concept proposal.

Salt Lake City's 90 mile plan; a lessor transformation but still a useful example for people to see & believe in.

Add extra TransBay tunnels in SF. Existing ones have uncertain life span (OOPS if they are shut down before new ones can be built) and are near capacity today. Post-Peak Oil they will be maxxed out !

A tenth one is my concept for Portland. Run a subway from the Eastside (before Convention Center) under the river with a station underneath Pioneer Square. Elevators up and escalators exiting 2 blocks away from Pioneer Square in all 4 directions. Continue in subway till merging back with the Blue line in the tunnel.

Avoiding downtown will allow longer trains to be used AND express service to the heart of downtown. Faster for downtown users AND it connects East Portland (airport, etc.) with "west of the mountain" on the Blue Line. Right now it takes almost 20 minutes to crawl through downtown Portland, limiting "through" traffic.

Add subway link at right angles to Pioneer Square subway station to Portland State Univ. Maybe just one tunnel with a passing track in the center.

This will add significant value to ALL of the rest of the Portland system (Blue, Red, Yellow & Green lines, streetcar and commuter rail + future plans).

And if the 100+ year old "Steel Bridge" fails (only Light Rail accross Willamette River), it will not be a complete disaster for Portland (see SF TransBay risk above). The subway can take the load.

Hope this helps explain WHY as well as just "What"

IMHO "systems" are more valuable than isolated lines. And I want to demonstrate how a comprehensive system can radically change a city. And I want to build redundancy where a single line can cause a major bottleneck or even a disaster.

Best Hopes,


WOW! Thanks for the quick reply. You are a gentleman and a scholar. If I remember correctly the "BIG DIG" was originally supposed to include the North Station-South Station link. That was the selling point for a variety of transit lobbyists (such as the Natl Assoc. of RR Passengers) as it could have extended the Eastern Corridor to northern New England. Twenty years and twenty billion later and we are just further from functional transit.

Hi Alan,
and thanks for the Q, as well as for the A.

What about fixing Amtrak? So that it runs even approximately on time, w. some contingency planning for delays, rail service (not bus service), etc.

(I just had yet one more conversation with a person who wants to take Amtrak on frequent trips in CA, but cannot afford to be stranded at odd, late hours, etc.)

My "focus group" (of individual, anecdotal conversations) says fixing the "Coast Starlight" would attract many riders.

What is required for this to happen? Agreements with the ROW/rail owners? Freight lines? How much money? Or is it a lack of something else, in addition?

The biggest issue is infrastructure.

The second is freight RR attitude. UP is seen as VERY bad in that area.

The new Amtrak President has an interesting proposal. He wants $1 billion/year that Amtrak can give as grants to freight RR to improve their infrastructure.

So, if UP (and BN-SF) want $$$ for Cajun Pass in CA (a shared mountain pass in CA with BN-SF that is a major bottleneck), they have an incentive to be nicer to Amtrak elsewhere on their system. Or the $$$ may go to another bottleneck elsewhere (Chicago needs work !).

Personally, I like the "backdoor" subsidy for freight RR.

A group of RRs paid for a Kansas City improvement recently that removed a major bottleneck. They built a double track overpass (almost 10,000' long bridge) so the E-W trains could go over N-S trains without an at grade crossing. Simple concept, NOT cheap.

On-going RR improvements ARE helping ! UP is double tracking between LA & El Paso. 55% to 60% done today. Amtrak Sunset Ltd had a SLOW schedule and was often late for that ! Things have significantly improved according to a transit advocate (editor of Light Rail Now where I publish my series of srticles) even with the work only half done.

CA has a rail system designed for a much smaller state. MAJOR improvements are needed. The freights are doing what pencils out for them (and that they can afford). But the social & economic benefits of improvements go beyond the Return on Investment calcs for UP and BN&SF.

Best Hopes,


Thanks again, Alan,

So what move could citizens make to bring about major improvements?

As far as I can tell, Energize America is working only on HSR? Is there any movement or group working on CA rail (for eg.)? (Who is BN-SF?)

So, you like what the new Amtrak Pres is doing, then? Do you think he'll get the money?

BN-SF is Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railroad. They share a duopoly with Union Pacific over most of the Western US.

Energyize America is changing their focus (in part due to my efforts).

The fired Amtrak President, David Gunn, was their best one EVER ! The new guy (my read) is a pure politican who tells everybody what they want to hear. Perhaps an essential skill for a gov't RR. He also appears to be smart.

Time will tell.

Best Hopes,


I've worked on my peak oil soundtrack:

*Only So Much Oil In the Ground - Tower Of Power
*Welcome to the Machine - Pink Floyd
*Subdivisions - Rush
*North Sea Oil - Jethro Tull
*Working in the Coal Mine - Devo
*Running On Empty - Jackson Browne
*Don't Kill The Whale - Yes
*Industrial Disease - Dire Straits
*City Of New Orleans - Arlo Guthrie
*Youngstown - Bruce Springsteen
*Dust Bowl - 10,000 Maniacs
*Russians - Sting
*Riders On The Storm - The Doors
*Hell In A Bucket - Grateful Dead
*(Don't Fear) The Reaper - Blue Oyster Cult
*Goodbye Blue Sky - Pink Floyd
*Dun Ringill - Jethro Tull
*(Nothing But) Flowers - Talking Heads
*(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding - Elvis Costello & The Attractions
*Imagine - John Lennon

Most picked because of topic, others picked because of esoteric things like title or mood. The songs are ordered topically and also for listenability.


Depening on your mood you could also throw in:

RUSH - Distant Early Warning

Europe - Final Countdown

REM - End of the world

Pink Floyd - The dogs of war

The Doors - Apocalypse Now - The End

And to complete the mix

Enigma - Return to Innocence

The lights went out (The last fuse blew).
The clocks all stopped (It can't be true).
The program's wrong (What can we do?).
The printout's blocked (It relied on you).

The turbine cracked up.
The buildings froze up.
The system choked up.
What can we do?

The screen shut down (There's no reply).
The lifts all fall (A siren cries).
And the radar fades (A pilot sighs).
As the countdowns stall (The readout lies).

The black box failed (The codes got crossed).
And the jails decayed (The keys got lost).
Everyone kissed (We breathe exhaust).
In the new arcade (Of the holocaust).

We stood still.
We all stood still.
Still stood still.
We're standing still.

lyrics from Ultravox "We Stood Still"
resonate more clearly now

"Traffic Jam" by James Taylor

I used to think that I was cool,
Driving around on fossil fuel,
Until I saw what I was doin',
Drivin' down the road to ruin.

and..and...AND...Do you remember the lone person clapping? That is the most significant part of the song NOBODY WANTS TO LISTEN...


"Burma Shave" Tom Waits
"Rusty Old American Dream" David Wilcox

'I am a Tail-fin Ro-Locomotive,
From the days, of Cheap Gasoline,
Sitting here - by the side of the road, going nowhere..
a Rusty old American Dream..'

Then you can pop in
"Through Being Cool" by Devo
to get your Doomer/Post-Apocalypse Fix!

"Bye bye miss American Pie
Drove my chevy to the levy but the levy was dry.
Them good old boys were drinkin' whisky and rye
Singin' this'll be the day that I die.

This'll be the day that I ... die."

Here is my main man for the apocalypse: Tom Waites with a ditty about how 'I Don't Want to Grow Up'


Let's keep it breezy folks you only turn turtle once.

See if this link works here, but you may have to copy and paste into your browser.

And now you can add "Springtime for Hitler"

"Crunch Time for Hitler's Fuel"

Let's not forget "A Gallon Of Gas" by the Kinks

"There's no more left to buy and sell
there's no more oil left in the well
a gallon of gas can't be purchased anywhere
for any amount of cash."

i mostly prefer music without lyrics.
here are my choices.

'A Cruel World' by Sato Naoki from Eureka seveN OST 1 Disc 1
'Alone In The Wasteland' by Sato Naoki from Eureka seveN OST 1 Disc 2
'Dewey Novak' by Sato Naoki from Eureka seveN OST 2
'A Fleeting Dream' by Sato Naoki from Eureka seveN OST 2
'Fool's Paradise' by Tsuneo Imahori from Trigun: The First Donuts
'ELM' from cowboy bebop ost disc 2
'Kei' by Ooshima Michiru from Full Metal Alchemist Original Soundtrack 3
'Kyoudai' by Ooshima Michiru from Full Metal Alchemist Original Soundtrack 3
'reminiscence' by Eguchi Takihito from Trinity Blood OST

these are the best ones that fit imho from my collection of music.

Hey maybe you can answer a question for me-there is a song from cowboy bebop when Spike and his brother are fighting, it shows a rose dropping into a puddle...there is a womans voice on it.
Any idea what this is?

there are two songs that play when spike fights his brother vicious.
the first one is 'rain' the ost has a male and female voiced one.
and the other one is called 'green bird'

I follow with amazement all the horror stories in USA about the pain at the pump, if the price goes over 3 dollar or up to 4 dollar/gallon.
I presume, that most of you know, that we europeans already pay about 7 dollar/gallon. Not much complaint over that.
And Europe rolls along fine with that price(of cource we have smaller cars, so the price per mile should be about equal).

I think gasoline is incredibly cheap. I would have no problems with 20 dollars/gallon.

Myself i have an Hynduai Atos which drinks 5 litre/100 km. If the gasoline price was 20 dollar/gallon= 5.2 dollar/litre, then i can drive 20 km(about twelve miles) for 5,2 dollar. Compare that with pushing the car yourself those 20 km. Then i am sure that you think that 20 dollar/gallon is still cheap.


Thanks for pegging the dollar for a couple paragraphs, Kenneth. I enjoyed a momentary respite from the Euro currency onslaught!

Yes the Europeans do pay more at the pump, due to tax. This tax helps provide you with free health care and other social services.

Not here in the US> Add in a month of health premiums to the gas tank bill and see what a gallon costs then, just for one person, then think about a family.

in the US the two biggest expenses are

Health care premiums and enery expenses. Health care premiums probably can be more for many family's.

Quid Clarius Astris
Ubi Bene ibi patria

And if you think the premiums are high, wait til you try to actually use that health insurance...you'll discover why health care bills are a major reason people in the US go bankrupt.

BAnkrupt under the current rules in the US for an individual is not Bankruptcy. You still owe the money. Notice how the banks had the law changed (wrote it really) that changed bankruptcy a couple years back. Another part of a puzzle piece.

Quid Clarius Astris
Ubi Bene ibi patria

Does anyone of you TODers believe, that gasoline will not possibly cost 15-20 dollar/gallon in the not so distant future?
The solution is West Texas ELP model, especially the E-part by downscaling.
I have done it. We live in a very small energyefficient house, and drive a very small fuelefficient car.

That is why 20 dollar/gallon is no big deal for me.

But of course, if you live in a macmansion and drive a gasguzzling SUV which drinks three to four times more gasoline/mile than my car, THEN 20 dollar/gallon is a horror story.


>I think gasoline is incredibly cheap. I would have no >problems with 20 dollars/gallon.

The shock over here would be the ripple effect that it has on everything else. Certainly, if I ignore ripples I would not care if gasoline prices doubled to $2 Cdn/L or even to $3/L.
Why? Because the major costs of my car are:
1) Purchase
2) insurance and maintaince

Only after that does fuel cost figure in.

My house is worse - it costs about $5k/year of which less than $1k is energy.

My gut says that receeding horizions applies to fuel costs - a 50% increase in fuel will bump up my taxes, food and other living costs by an equal amount so that energy costs, over here, will always be cheap in comparison.

That's primarily why I think that the the 2nd and 3rd world are screwed. We can afford to pay a lot more and for us it's just for convience - but for them it's their lives.

It's time that we in the first world turned towards sustainability and fairness and justice. Fair-trade, not free-trade (aka rape) and a more equitable distrubution of wealth. No more tax cuts for billionaires.

What's interesting will be when you go to a gas station and they just don't have any gas to sell, regardless of price. Paying $10/gallon for gas for our Prius wouldn't affect our monthly budget at all. ($50 a month to $200). But not reliably finding gasoline when the car runs low - that's a whole different matter. Even without the $10/gallon price, that will be a shock to the flawed American auto-centric system.

We are blinded and just assume that our water will always work, our electricity, our natural gas to heat the home...even our internet connection should never go down.

When that happens, the market's broken, either by government anti-gouging rules or by PR concerns from corporate.

There is some positive price elasticity in gasoline, as with all products. The only way to have a shortage in an unregulated competitive market is if the people setting the prices do not have a good grasp of demand.

We saw it in Katrina-afflicted areas - suddenly the gas station saw 10x the normal load leaving the pump, without the capacity to put it into their tanks at that rate, so it raised prices. And raised prices. And raised prices. The last gas station in town with gasoline (the 'market price') was the one with the highest prices.

If and when the Iranians block the Straights of Hormuz, we can all take comfort in 'The only way to have a shortage in an unregulated competitive market is if the people setting the prices do not have a good grasp of demand.'

Or would the unavailability of roughly 20% percent of the world's oil actually be the sort of problem that 'an unregulated competitive market' would not quite be able to master?

The market doesn't put oil in the ground, and it doesn't magically create oil either. But essentially all transportion requires oil to run - so, I guess the market would also be able to just wave its invisible hands to keep the trucks running - maybe by pushing?

We could, of course, talk about prioritizing the use of oil to ensure essential services - but the invisible hand would have to disappear. After all, in America, the invisible hand tends to feel that essential is measured by money - if you can't pay for the ambulance, it is your fault anyways - you should have moved to a gated community.

If tomorrow ALL US oil imports were cut off permanently:

Eventually(after temporary measures like the SPR were exhausted, and people got a good enough grasp of things to set prices), a price equilibrium would come into existence which cuts out the 60-70% of demand that we currently import to satisfy, that can't hack it at x dollars per gallon. That may be $10, $20, $50 a gallon, I don't know. People, businesses, and more broadly, uses that are not viable at that price level will die. But there will be oil at that price level.

I'm not arguing that such an event wouldn't be a big deal, but it will happen as long as a fluid, unregulated, competitive enough market exists. Such a market ('invisible handwaving', whatever) is fundamentally amoral. If the market is superior to the government, then the people will always be able to dip into the market for oil when it needs it most (such as emergency services). If the government is superior to the market, and it attempts to pretend that the 60-70% of oil that was lost is still here, then there will be longterm shortages. Rationing. Artificial constraints to reduce 100 gallons of use to 35 gallons of use, rather than more flexible(if less equal) economic restraints.

Not me in New Orleans !

Details later.

Best Hopes for Reliable Utiltiies,


This rising gasoline demand remains not quite explainable.

In most parts of the world, the price increases, and the amount purchased goes down. Perfectly rational behavior, fitting into classical economic thinking.

There is the interesting economic paradox of raising a price on a cheaper good, such as bread, leading to less of an even higher priced item such as meat being purchased, even as more bread is bought. Since bread is cheaper than meat, when the price of bread rises, it forces someone with a fixed purchasing budget to compensate by cutting back on the more expensive item, this leading to increased demand for the now higher priced but still less expensive product (that is, bread itself becomes the substitute for higher priced bread) but this 'paradox' doesn't seem to apply either.

Any ideas are welcome.

Personally, I favor the idea that the U.S. has gone insane, but that is only because 'insane' is shorthand for behavior that is not comprehensible to others.

Expat: Possibilities: 1. US population increase is being underreported due to increased illegal immigration 2. A continuing migration of the population to the sprawling sunbelt.

3. Ethanol only has 70% of the energy content of regular gasoline, so greater volume is required to drive the same number of miles. I estimate that incremental ethanol demand as a result of phasing out MTBE is at least 50 kbpd.

EROEI isn't what it used to be. The rise in US refined product use could well be explained by the mandated use of ethanol in gasoline: lower gasoline fuel efficiency and increased use of diesel for ethanol production.

Let them eat cake.

The current average total price of driving a car in the US is about 52 cents per mile.

If we assume 12,000 miles per year, the total cost of driving is currently $6,240 per year. This stat was probably done when gasoline was about $2.50 per gallon. Let's assume 20 miles per gallon (600 gallons per year)

So, every 50 cent per gallon increase in gasoline prices would increase the total cost per mile by 2.5 cents/mile, relative to $2.50 per gallon:

At $3, 54.5 cents/mile, $300 annual increase, 4.8% increase

At $4, 59.5 cents/mile, $900 annual increase, 14.4% increase

At $5, 64.5 cents/mile, $1,500 annual increase, 24% increase

This assumes no other changes, in driving distance, depreciation, etc. So, a 100% increase in gasoline, relative to $2.50, results in a 24% increase in the total annual cost of driving an average car in the US.

Note that the older and smaller the car is, the more impact, percentage wise, that rising gasoline prices have. As usual, the poorest get hit hardest, which is what we saw last year in Africa. As I have predicted several times, I expect to see forced energy conservation moving up the food chain.

My thought is that many working poor in the USA keep driving as much as they need to. For many there are few options.

I do believe that spring biking in Minneapolis is picking up at record speed.

The wealthy won't really care much about the price of gas, as Westexas has indicated, or will continue to buy even while grousing.

I think that the idea of a market auction is spot on.

Ah, but if we had already been paying a $2.00/gallon gas tax and applying that to transit and other real energy policy work, would we see the rise in gas prices that we do today?

Would we be impacted as much by such rises in gas price?

Something to think about when deciding policy for the future.

Once again, with feeling ... Gas Tax dedicated to mitigating Peak Oil and Global Climate change problems!

I have been having thoughts on the relative impact of oil price increases linked to the weakening US $ in the currency markets. If the USD price of oil rises say 5% but the USD declines 5% against the Euro / UKP / Yen etc then only the US will see a price signal. For everyone else the price remains unchanged. Then look at the tax impact at the pump. In the US the pump price has little tax content. Please correct me but for the sake of easy math I'll say 10% of pump price. In Europe the equivalent figure is 60-70% depending on where you are. Thus if there is a price increase in Euro it only affects 30-40% of the pump price. Thus a 5% increase translates to about 2% at the pump. In the US a 5% increase translates to 4.5% at the pump. Thus unless the USD rises against other currencies both a USD increase in oil and a decline in the USD:Others exchange rate means a rise in US pump prices at a greater rate than elsewhere. Logically therefore when the supply squeeze reaches the developed world the US motorist will be hit harder and faster than others unless the dollar stops slipping. It is easy to say that is how it should be as US gas is cheapest but everyones budget is geared to their personal current reality and a sudden shock will produce unfortunate results. Even if the US economy is not AS important world wide as it was it still IS important and a major pull back by US consumers will not have a beneficial effect elsewhere in the world economy.

This is why I maintain that the OIL SHOCKS will generate much higher prices than currently.

$100/bbl - is reasonable in 2007 (and not really that painful yet)

$200/bb - is a real possibility (Simmons bet)

And G*D help us if EVELYN GARRISS(March 3, 2007) is correct:

So we're going to see a lot of warm water, and a lot of storms aimed towards the gulf. I wouldn't be surprised if we have at least two hits in the Gulf oil producing area. I'm not saying two hits both in the American area because Mexico has a lot of production in the Gulf, but I expect at least two hurricanes in the Gulf oil production area.

She has been Eerily accurate the last couple years.

You're implying that a small, older car like my (40+ mpg)1991 civic gets the same mileage as a new, huge 14 mpg suv or truck. Better reexamine your assumptions.

My car cost would increase 1.25 cents/mile
The SUV would increase 3.57 cents/mile

Far less impact relative to my budget, which is what really counts.

And my costs to run my bicycle increase infinitesimally to around 0.00 cents/mile.

Sorry to be crass, but I'm really proud that I don't have to pay attention to the price of gasoline.

Tom A-B

I agree - bike is better!

Here in the central Willamette valley Oregon we have tons of bike trails and lanes. bikeable weather 300+ days a year. I only missed 6 days this winter.
typical SUV round here is a tandum bike with a tagalong and a trailer, see them all the time.

You're implying that a small, older car like my (40+ mpg)1991 civic gets the same mileage as a new, huge 14 mpg suv or truck. Better reexamine your assumptions.

My point was that the depreciation is lower on older, smaller cars, so the cost of gasoline relative to the total cost tends to be higher. For example, the depreciation on a 10 year old Corolla is next to nothing. The cost of driving the car is insurance, maintenance and fuel.

Compare that to the heavy depreciation cost on a large, new SUV, where you have depreciation + maintenance + insurance + fuel. It probably costs as much as a dollar a mile to drive some very large luxury SUV's. Now as gasoline prices go up, the depreciation on large SUV's will accelerate.

The current average total price of driving a car in the US is about 52 cents per mile.

What does this total include?

depreciation + maintenance + insurance + fuel

Yahoo has a total cost calculator. It looks like the total cost per mile for a new H2 Hummer (12,000 miles per year) is about $1.32 per mile over a five year period.

A Honda Civic is right around 50 cents per mile--probably about 60 cents per mile at $5 gasoline.

So, a H2 Hummer owner, assuming he can find a victim to take the thing off his hands, who downsizes to a Civic at $5 per gallon gasoline would probably pay less than half of what his total cost per mile of driving was in a H2 Hummer--at $2.5 per gallon.

All of which suggests that the mortgage meltdown will be followed by the auto loan meltdown (especially higher end ultra large SUV's).

Have I mentioned lately that ELP is a good idea?

Probably as they become affordable people who have always wanted one will get their turn.
Yes , you don't have to push out too many years with that Hummer to see that the total cost of ownership will get to $200k or perhaps much more. Today's 80mph rolling status symbol will tomorrow line the byways of America with 'For Sale' or 'trade for Metro' showing in the window.
Among other forseeable outcomes, monuments to sudden ELP in action.

To your eternal credit, yes.

About those meltdowns, I can't find the link now, but a few days ago I was reading an article by some mortgage market pro who phrased it so: "a hard landing for the lending markets has now been avoided,... the only plausible scenario going forward is a crash". (or words to that effect)

Economists call it inelasticity of demand. As the news stories indicate, a price increase from $2.50/gal to $3 or $3.50 or even $4 isn't going to make all that much difference in demand. People will just order the medium fries and soft drink with their hamburger instead of super-sizing it to make up the difference (or they will just increase the balance they are carrying on their gas credit card). At $20/gal demand will indeed be elastic - the cross-country vacation trip is canceled in favor of something close to home, people switch to mass transit or carpooling to commute, the SUV gets traded in on a Prius, etc. I'm not sure if anyone really knows for sure at what point the demand curve becomes seriously elastic. My guess is $5/gal, but that is only a guess.

Unfortunately, these gradual increases in price tend to be a little bit along the line of the frog in the pot with the slowly increasing temperature underneath. In some ways, a sudden price shock like the 1970s oil embargo would actually be a favor, for it would alert people that serious changes need to be made now. Too many people apparently think this is just a temporary thing, and most of the media are feeding them this line.

I am a chimney sweep in New England and I have to drive my van to service my customers. I end up raising my prices as gas goes up. I try to eliminate fossil fuels as much as possible from my life, but until I get a mule and figure out how to feed it on a 2 acre plot along with my own food, I have to keep using a vehicle large enough to carry my equipment. I still think a nicely painted wagon would be a plus though...

BMC, I am a handyperson and "sustainable household helper" in Minneapolis. I ride Organicengines SUV's. This limits my service area to within a few miles of home, but there are plenty of potential customers in range.

Many jobs I cannot do because I cannot haul all the equipment and supplies needed. My upper capacity for cargo weight is about 800 pounds, but I normally carry 200-300 pounds.

I agree that the horsedrawn wagon would look swell and be lots of fun ... except the realities of keeping the horse would be a possible drag.

We need more of us exploring more alternatives, for sure!

Not explainable? Swede just delved into it above. But, to recapitulate and add on:

Population is still swelling. No one really knows how fast, it's all SWAG. Immigration is still entirely out of control.

Distances are still rising. Despite the big problems with subprime real estate, owning a house is still a big deal, still highly profitable in many markets. And the only way for most to own (rather than rent) is still to "drive until you qualify." Plus, no one in their right mind wants to send their kids to violent, gang-infested urban schools if they can help it.

Public transit is still mostly icky, slow, and unreliable - and sometimes gang-infested. And diesel buses are the ickiest, slowest, most erratic - and most common - version around. Even if every project in Alan's lists gets built, that will still reach only an immeasurably small fraction of the total population. And it will reach virtually no one in the outermost suburbs that are the only places where ownership remains semi-affordable.

The other main modes of transportation - walking and bicycling - are supplementary-only almost everywhere. Europeans, especially, seem to have no concept whatsoever of how bad the weather is in most of North America. Walking and bicycling are both hazardous when it is below freezing, which it is for months on end in northern parts of the country, and when it is thundery, which happens for months on end in the moister parts of the country. And summer days routinely reach 35-40C almost everywhere, so, for months on end, walkers and cyclists will arrive at work places and social events smelling unacceptably like something that's not a rose.

And of course, at 40mpg, $4US a gallon is only 10 cents a mile. This is trivial, only 20% of the 50 cents or so a mile total cost of driving - and the increase relative to, say, a $1.50 benchmark, is even less. Even at 20mpg it's not so bad. Relative to the awful, time-wasting alternatives, it's a bargain. And since most people are still keeping up their cable TV subscriptions, still driving eight-year-old kids hundreds of miles a semester to play "sports", I guess most are not in dire straits yet. (If a few are, it's not enough to move the statistics.)

So I see no mystery at all in the very inelastic demand, especially in the short to medium term (i.e. out to some years.) I suppose we should re-visit this when there is an obvious physical shortage, or maybe when the gasoline price is high enough (in the $10-$30/gal range) to double the cost of driving, which might be more noticeable. Of course, by then, enough other things will have changed to require starting the analysis over from scratch...

Even if every project in Alan's lists gets built, that will still reach only an immeasurably small fraction of the total population

My "Phase I" (of several phases, "I" is only on-the shelf projects) will improve access for at least 15% (perhaps over 20%) of the US population.

Expanding the local rail network improves it's value to everyone close to an existing station, since they can go more places. This is shown by the ridership statistics on existing lines when a ne wline is opened.

Add Phases II, III and IV and the %s get impressive.

Some examples,

Almost all of the greater Boston area is within a few miles of a station,


Building a link between North & South Stations would benefit almost everyone in the Boston Metro area even though zero new stations are built. Add other detailed expansions that are "on the shelf" for Boston and the value of the SYSTEM increases dramatically.

The Lexington Avenue subway line in NYC is over capacity at ~600,000 pax/day. This discourages ridership. Build all of the 2nd Avenue subway line and a massive bottleneck is removed. Likewise another tunnel under the Hudson Ocean. etc. All of the NYC metro area would beenfit from the listed projects.

The Red Line "Subway to the Sea" in Los Angeles would directly serve over 1 million people and increase ridership on every line it connects with.

The Miami Metro plans would place 90% of the population within 3 miles of a station (and about half within 2 miles).


Dark brown lines are post-2015 plans that would be "fast tracked".

Etc. Etc.

Best Hopes,


Alan, I appreciate your efforts and hate to be a wet blanket, but I'm not so optimistic about Miami metrorail.

1) Pretty much all the metrorail and tri-rail North of downtowm runs thru depressed "inner city" areas. I haven't been involved in local transit, but it's my impression that this was planned on the assumption that it would be attractive only to people who can't afford a car. Or maybe right-of-way is just cheaper in depressed areas. Even if that wasn't the governing assumption, the reality is that it really doesn't connect any areas of appreciable economic activity. Upper-middle class folks derisively call it "metrofail" and "metrosnail".

2) The existing metrorail system is elevated on insanely massive concrete structures that looks like interstate overpasses. I'm sure they are so massive because of hurricane winds; I'll conjecture they are elevated to keep people away from the electrified rails. In any case, they probably represent more embedded energy than will ever be saved by them. I'll guess future extensions would have to be ground-level with overhead power in order to have a positive EROEI.

In any case, even the expanded system is no where near my residence (15 yrs same neighborhood) nor my workplace (same place 13 yrs so I'm not likely to relocate until forced to). My current contingency planning thoughts are running to a 275cc motorcycle.

Best of luck to us all,

Errol in Miami

AFAIK, the north of downtown route was selected after the riots as a concession to that area. For 20+ years, Miami was seen as a disappointment by the "transit community", (some argued in the 1990s that it should never have been built), but that has since changed. Ridership is growing steadily and TOD is evident now.

Of all the construction I saw near Metrorail stations, only one ~10 story building (next to an older 10 story building) in a former Park & Ride lot was being built north of downtown in 2004.

The North route (next to be built) will go into somewhat better areas and stop a few hundred years from Ft. lauderdale (massive commuter Park & Ride).

You are wrong about EROEI. That concrete should last 100+/- years. Metrorail should be getting the equilavent of 500+ mpg. Ridership is steadily increasing.

Just out of curiousity, have far will you be from a brown line at home and at work ? (See link above). Many will not be close to the 2015 system; but most will be within 3 miles of the finsished system (about when you retire ?)

Best Hopes,


BTW, take a Sunday "end to end" ride if you can and tell me what TOD is doing today in Miami. In 2004, 15 of 23 construction cranes were within 3 blocks of a Metro (rail or Mover) station.

Alan, thank you for your thoughtful reply. A couple of points in reply:

Yes, it's true that I would be only 1 block W of the Biscayne Blvd brown line at NE 183 ST. And it's also true that I work about 2 blocks W of the North Corridor extension at NW 183 ST. However, I took my ruler to my paper map; to make that treck by future Metrorail would require me to go S to downtown and then back N on NW 27 AV, turning my 5 mile commmute by car into a 19 mile ride on Metrorail. Allowing for schedule dischronicity, my 20-min commmute would probably take 1-1/2 hours by Metrorail.

In my defense, I drive a 4 cylinder car, do errands on the way home, and live about as close as I can without being in a very rough neighborhood.

As for the projected service life of the Metrorail concrete raised roadbed, you are probably right at 100 years+. However, my place is 8' above mean high tide. We are currently in a drought; the Water Mgt Distict has institued phase II water restrictions. Why is this relevant? They are trying to prevent saltwater intrusion into the aquifer that provides Miami with fresh water. It won't take much sea level rise to doom Miami. Miami is unsustainable. NOLA probably should be abandoned as well.

As you pointed out, 2015 would be my nominal retirement year. Even though I have a gov't job that will be one of the last to go, I very much doubt I'll still be employed or living in Miami by 2015.

I will take your suggestion and take a Sunday "end to end" ride, if you will tell me what TOD stands for (other than The Oil Drum, that is : )

Best of luck to us all,

Errol in Miami

TOD = Transit Orientated Development

Basically built within a 1/4 mile of a station, expecting Metro service to be a major amenity. Usually within 3 blocks.

Extreme TOD at Bricknell Station, condos with 3rd story walkway over street to station platform (their very own ticket machine as well). Under construction in 2004.

I noticed that there appeared to be a future "bypass" of downtown centered around the MIC (next to the airport, under construction "red line" terminates there). But I take it that you are close to the coast in the Northeast and this shortcut will not apply ?

Streetcar feeders between lines would be the next step IMHO for Miami. Collecting people along the way and also "short circuiting" "V" travel routes.

Also, IMHO, every station where lines join will become VERY hot properties for employment & high densities becasuse they will be at the apex of those "V"s and easier to access from multiple lines.

Eight years till utter disaster in Miami ?

I think not.

20% chance of a Cat 4 or 5 ? Yep.

Best Hopes,



There is still something irrational and psychologically complicated in the very inelastic demand seen for passenger vehicle fuels.

Yes, your observations concerning distance and weather in the USA are correct.

But why is it that when the weather is nice (in Houston this weekend it was lovely), and when the vehicle operator only has to go a short distance (to get some cash out of the ATM, or to make some photocopies at the local print shop) they still never choose to take a bicycle, even though they have bikes in their garage?

They complain and complain about the price of fuel, but they never make the substitution. They are able to (I do so), but 99.7% of my neighbors don't (0.3% in Houston are regular bicycle commuters).

This is a mystery to me. They absolutely have no Plan B. They are going to have to go to some kind of Plan B when they have no choices left, I am afraid. And for some, Plan B may mean being immobile, rather than give up The Beloved (Car).

Peter Wang
Texas Registered Professional Geophysicist
Cycling Instructor

I don't know about Houston, but here in Tulsa there's a tremendous dearth of bike lanes which makes it difficult to safely reach most parts of town. According to this video:


we have one. One bike lane. I've never even seen it. It makes commuting an adventure. Most sprawling, southern/western cities treat their bicyclists the same way: like we're mutants who should get off the road.

Used to have Kevlar liners in my tires to keep from getting flats in the Honolulu bike lanes.
Now in rural western Massachusetts there are an awful lot of hills, just like in the area in rural NH I used to live in. I have lived in rural areas for 3 decades and would rather be here when TSHTF where I don't depend on urban infrastructure to provide me with the basic amenities. It'll be hard enough without dealing with no water or sanitation. Here I can concentrate on food production and keeping warm when I am no longer able to move about.
As a silent reminder of older wisdom overcome by more recent folly there is a defunct trolley track which stretches all the way to the nearest town as a sort of straight-line modern esker.


Suburban Houston where I live and Tulsa are about the same in terms of infrastructure, on average.

But I'm not talking about "on average". I'm talking about a short, flat, easy ride on quiet neighborhood streets to our local grocery store on a pleasant Spring afternoon.

Why don't they do it???

Peter Wang

You're correct in that biking or walking somewhere isn't even in the dropdown list for most people, but there are a lot of reasons why this mindset develops. For example, neighborhood streets are bikeable if they are laid out on a grid, but often in developments all local streets dump out onto one thoroughfare with heavy traffic, no bike lanes, and often no sidewalks--and that's the only way to get to the store.

That describes most of the newer areas of Michigan perfectly. The one-mile grid of formerly farm-to-market roads, expanded to four or six lanes of heavy traffic. Oftentimes, two side-by-side right-turn lanes at the intersections, making it fatal to use the crosswalk, because the driver in the left-hand right-turn lane simply cannot see you through the panel van to his or her right. And no connections of any kind interior to the mile-square "blocks", just high fences, because everyone wants peace and quiet.

But for most people most of the time, at 15 cents/mile for gas, it's just not a problem.

My sons reading teacher passed us in her toyota four runner on Sunday as we walked to the grocery store to grab some food to cook for breakfast. We live 2 blocks away, she lives 3. It was a picture perfect day here in Florida. I had the same question-WHY? Starting up the car twice and driving a half mile probably uses close to a gallon of gas.
Is it the mindset that walking anywhere is just too slow, wanting to be in the big SUV, or not wanting to be seen walking?
I dunno.

Aren't the people in Houston amongst the fattest in the nation? This would be both a cause and an effect. Where I grew up, Oklahoma City, another rediculous place, there were no sidewalks where I lived. Walking, I guess, was considered a crime. Bicyling was only for children. For all I know, children don't even ride bicycles anymore. Here, in Boulder County, Colorado, things are a lot different but still not good enough with all the commuters in their SUVs.


Heck if I know. Before I started biking, I spent several months using our bus system (still do, in fact), and endured all sorts of abuse while quietly standing at the bus stop. People hurled obscenities, threw trash, and sprayed me with water as they drove by with surprising regularity. This never occurred on the less affluent side of town, however. I know this doesn't answer your question, but it seems as if people are so far removed from the idea of going somewhere without a car that they almost feel threatened by someone who does. So I guess that's my answer - people are so used to taking a car, even for short trips, that it doesn't occur to them that there might be an alternative. Remember - most people think of bicycles as things to be used for exercise, not transportation (and apparently believe that the two should never mix).

...people are so far removed from the idea of going somewhere without a car that they almost feel threatened by someone who does.

Bada bing! You get the prize. But it's not just almost. Years ago, I sometimes biked a route that took me past a neigborhood populated by folks from the local meat-packing plant and other smaller industrial plants. And let's just say that Peak Blue Collar Real Wages had long since passed. So, among other things, one day, an apoplectic guy in a pickup truck yelled, "what do you think this is, Red China?" I felt certain (and still do) that he felt threatened by anyone he saw moving from Point A to Point B in any manner less expensive than he was (1) accustomed to, and (2) becoming steadily less able to afford.

And this is a university city. I was also egged one time in a neighborhood near the U, so it's not entirely limited to the industrial areas. And these days it's actually less of a problem than it used to be.

P.S. one suggestion about the bus stops. If there are the typical bus shelters, try and get your city to turn them away from the street, if they haven't already. My city did it a decade or two ago. It was a great idea WRT trash-throwing, drivers deliberately coming right up to the curb to splash water from the gutter, and other shenanigans. (Alan, are you listening?)


Remember Tulsa does have a growing trail system. It is possible today to commute by bike from Jenks, Skiatook, Sand Springs, and Sperry to downtown on dedicated trails. The Jenks (Riverside) trail will be "double-tracked" soon to seperate joggers/walkers from the bikers. And Tulsa Transit now accomodates bikes on the bus.


Oh, I know. I use the Riverparks system to commute to work, as it makes it easy to reach downtown. What the trail system doesn't do is enable one to travel from say, Cherry Street to Gardner's Used Books at 51st and Mingo (once voted America's Ugliest Street in part due to its utter lack of walkability). While I strongly support the expansion of the trails system, I find it frustrating that none of the city's street-widening projects (Brookside, 71st, Yale) have included bike lanes.

Hello Kf5nd,

Welcome to TOD. As you are a geophysicist, I would be interested in your analysis of Ghawar--see prior keyposts by Stuart Staniford, with comments by TODer Fractional_Flow or F_F, Euan Mearns, and other technical TODers.

Do you know any other experts you could bring to TOD? Also, do you have any new info on the quantity of production flow waterflood problems that Discrete Fracture Networks [DFNs] are causing Aramco?


Warning--540 page PDF:


Thxs for any reply.

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

In North America esp. there is huge "baggage" around the car for many people, as you know I'm sure. Getting the first car is about as close as we come to a right of passage into adulthood...

You really get an understanding of it when faced with the task of trying to get a sick / elderly family member who is no longer a safe driver to "give up the keys" and use taxis etc, even if they can afford it and actually drive very few miles...

Been their, done that. After we took the keys for the car from my grandfather, he just drove to lawn tractor to the store. I took the battery out of the tractor, it was easier than another battle over the keys.

...the outermost suburbs that are the only places where ownership remains semi-affordable

It depends on what you need/want to afford. Outside of Manhatten & San Francisco, 400 to 500 sq ft condos & apartments close to transit stations are still "semi-affordable" (i.e, probably cost less than an average 2,485 sq ft. mini-McMansion (sq ft is memory of recent average new US home).

Laurence Auerbach quoted some surveys that toughly 1/3rd of Americans would prefer a TOD lifestyle (% varies by phrasing of questions, population samples, etc.) Why not give those that WANT this an opportunity to live it ? Let the others migrate out to exurbia and let economics and time "change behavior".

The world situation with respect to oil supplies and the US $ can change *MUCH* faster than we can build viable alternatives. The rest of the developed world already has well developed non-oil transportation alternatives (only Melbourne in Australia) if TSHTF. The US has 90 or so days in the SPR.

France just opened last year Phase I of three phases of trams in Mulhouse. Population ? 111,300.

Best Hopes,


Indeed, which takes us to some big sociopolitical barriers.

People with kids aren't (usually) going to spring for this, because of (1) the lack of space in those small condos, (2) the lousy, gang-infested, unreformable urban schools, and possibly (3) the constant noise and racket causing sleepless, whiny kids. So basically, as in my area, it's primarily for students and old folks. And it's highly segregated because the students are (often) noisy - and the old folks don't like that and Federal law gives them a unique right to segregate themselves. The trouble is, if people are overlooking the downsides of crowded living as they answer surveys, their answers will be out of touch with reality. We know this from stacks and stacks of articles and papers about the puzzlingly yawning gap between survey results and real-world behavior.

Another barrier will be that condos are (usually) notoriously unprofitable compared to suburban houses, since much of real-estate profit is a one-shot deal arising from appreciation in the value of land. Buildings, after all, are money sinks that deteriorate continuously and expensively. In many other developed countries, where land-conversion profit is less available, far more people just rent.

A third barrier will be - already is - lack of support for transit projects from the vast majority of folks, who are footing the bill for nearly free rides for the transit users, and getting nothing in return. (The numerical balance may differ in France, where a one-fourth of the national population is crammed into large multi-unit buildings that are often crime-infested dives in the cités/banlieues.) This support issue possibly could be fixed by adopting honest billing throughout the transportation sector. If the non-users weren't paying, they wouldn't have good grounds to object to the projects. But then again, never, ever let it be said that any red-blooded American ought to pay for what he or she uses!

Such as pay for city streets entirely from gas taxes and just sidewalks from property taxes ? (in most areas, gas taxes pay ZERO towards city streets). (Hint: Zero maintenance required for wear & tear from bicycles & shoe leather).

And have a "pay as we go" for the Iraq War at the gas pump ?

And a special gas tax to repay the social security trust fund for disability claims coming from auto accidents (including peds & bicyclists hit by gas burners) AND another gas tax for auto related hospital bills (inlcuding asthma as well as accidents) ?

I could go on with other costs foisted by car drivers on the rest of society.

How many billions/trillions for Global Warming ? That should add up to a few $/gallon at the pump.

And don't forget the lost property taxes on highways. Tax their ROW (via tolls or gas taxes) just like Railroad ROWs are taxed.

Yes, let auto users stop being subsidized by the rest of society and even the playing field.

Auto use is MASSIVELY subsidized in this country.

Best Hopes for full costing,


This sort of thing is a huge problem with the entire transportation and "tourism" sector. Everything is so lavishly and opaquely subsidized that we have a Soviet-style economy utterly lacking price signals. "Ethanol" pales utterly in comparison. Oh, and it works like a Soviet-style economy - complete with huge queues, incredibly vast wastage of time and resources, and interminable waits for traffic that doesn't move, and planes, trains, and busses that often don't even arrive.

But, it's free, so why not schlep protoplasm back and forth incessantly, all across the world, when much of the time one could just exchange information at immensely less cost? Should we be surprised that less energy- and time-consuming alternatives such as teleconferencing or even just large emails, don't get any real foothold? Or that people regularly fly their children all the way across the country to visit museums that have abandoned real exhibits in favor of videos that could as well be watched at home?

Such as pay for city streets entirely from gas taxes...
And don't forget the lost property taxes on highways...

Oh, my...you don't have snow in NOLA, do you. No, I didn't think so.

Fuhgeddabout property taxes on R.O.W. - you may not know the half of it. Up here in the Great White North, not only does gas tax contribute nothing towards city streets (except for heavy construction - not maintenance - on some State or US numbered highways), it even contributes nothing towards plowing the Interstate when it snows. AFAIK, this is an unfunded Federal mandate. When it snows, it matters not a whit that somebody on a county road might need an ambulance - the Interstate gets first dibs on the county plows, and, again AFAIK, the county property taxpayers pick up the entire tab.

That's not how it works in the northeast. Usually, cities, counties, states, etc., each have their own plows, maintenance crews, and facilities. The state is not responsible for plowing county roads, and vice-versa.

Interstates are plowed by the state, and much of their funding is through the federal government.

Maintenance is often an issue with sidewalks. The state (read: federal money) will pay to build sidewalks, but not maintain them. Plowing the walks is often assigned to the property owner. Property owners often hate this. A family with young kids may want a sidewalk, but a little old lady with no kids and little ability or willingness to shovel snow will be against it.

We do to have snow !

About every 40 years.

Christmas 2004 was first white Christmas ever, (records back to 1716). Gone by 2 PM.

And the Mardi Gras of 1899 was held in a blizzard !

And 1964.

And ...

Best Hopes for one more before GW kicks into higher gear,


The compilation of surveys is here: The Market for Mixed Use & Walkability.

Some additional statistics that are interesting:

80 percent of Americans live on 20 percent of US land area, at a density of 320 per sq mi. That's greater than the density of France, which is 293 per square mile.

60 percent of Americans (181 million people) live on 10 percent of US land area, at a density greater than 500 per sq mi. That is the lower limit of what the Census Bureau considers urbanized.

And from Nelson and Lang's The Next 100 Million:

As the U.S. marches toward a population of 400 million, Americans' household profile will change. A much smaller percentage of households will have children, and far more will be single-person households. The suburban planning template designed to meet the needs of a society dominated by child-rearing households will not be in synch with a society dominated by childless and single-person households. Up to 35 million of the 40 million new housing units needed to meet the demand of the next 100 million people will likely be built for childless occupants. That group is already helping to fuel the resurgence of in-town living, high demand in many transportation oriented developments, unprecedented demand for central city and close-in suburban infill and redevelopment, and greater stability of housing prices closer in than in more distant suburbs.

We know, too, that the volume of new nonresidential development in the next few decades will exceed all such development that now exists. About 100 billion square feet of space will be constructed. Of that, about 70 percent will involve the reuse or redevelopment of existing space — mostly in the suburbs.

For planners, the combination of changing demographics with associated demand for greater variety in housing types and density, plus redevelopment of the already built environment, will present an unprecedented opportunity to reshape the U.S., especially the suburbs.

Central cities and first tier (pre-1950) suburbs are likely to see historically high levels of development, but they will house only one-third of the nation's next 100 million people — maybe less. Two-thirds or more of the next 100 million people and associated jobs are likely to locate in existing second tier (1950–2000) suburbs.

As an urbanite, I fear those violent, gang-infested suburban and exurban schools. Hmmmmm.....

But Expat;

Oil isn't like bread. Americans are used to eating processed crap, and will eat cheaper and MORE processed crap if they want that food bill to go down.

There are 3-loaves of bread that your car will eat, 87%, 93% and 97% (or whatever those octanes are) and it is all you've got as a choice to get to work, and the kids to school. Unless you decide to be one of those freaks who actually questions the system, finds a house close to work, put the kids into whatever school is close to that and 'make the best of it'..

Sure, you can call it insanity, but the life-changes that are necessary are each of them so stressful, that a population which is already killing the pain of a dislocated, dissociated and indebted lifestyle with Every Addiction from TV and Alcohol, to Cigs, Coffee, Blogging (my 2) jogging, sex or collecting Comic Books and Video Games has been set up with few or no tools and disciplines to make the changes necessary.

Ben Franklin's 'A penny saved is a penny earned' has a hard time fighting with, 'Skimping is for Losers' that we get in so many ways today..

as Charlie Brown said so well.. Good Grief!

Just to clarify, is your addiction coffee/blogging or jogging/sex? Either way is good :)

Jogging, blech!

Ok, make it 3 addictions..

The rise in gasoline demand is consistent with my hypothesis about the attractiveness of SUV's: I don't think most SUV buyers like them for any functional reason--rather, their main purpose is to show that the driver has resources to waste, thus enhancing his status and attractiveness to the opposite sex. Rapidly rising fuel prices scare people away from gas guzzlers, but sustained and relatively stable high prices make these displays of excess consumption seem worth the risk for those with something to prove.

The Hummer H2 & H3 were designed to appeal to the "reptilian brain" with the aid of a psychiatrist.

When one looks at it as an exoskelton designed to intimidate, it makes sense. *U*G*L*Y* tall, hooks and stuff all over, etc.

Best Hopes,


wow, really? where did you learn that?

Google "Hummer Reptile Brain"



Sorry, a psychologist.

Best Hopes for Mammal Brain functioning,


Go here to watch the video (it's #4):


Man that's depressing. I hiss in your general di-rection.

I prefer the small d**k theory. When females catch on, watch out for the efficacy of the status symbol.

There's been some interesting research done that suggests women aren't impressed with the things men think they are impressed with.

What women are impressed with: men who impress other men.

So it may be male tastes that have to change, not female.

Oh, so women are essentially as clueless as men. Great.

I used to pay attention to that sort of talk until I got an amusing antique car. 1967 Austin FX-4, aka London taxi. Women just get in (the doors have no locks, never did). More than a few get in and request being serviced.
Have a friend with a 1964 XKE. Meek and mild, balding, portly, stammers, impresses other men not at all. Same deal, women get in the car.
Don't ask me what it means, I don't know.

Yeah Leanan, wouldn't argue the point..
But not to forget that then it's just those Other Men who are the ones who get to be impressed with his Package, or with His Hummer, with his Shop Tools, his Corner Office, Gulf Swing, Sense of Humor.. It makes the computation one event more complex, in a break from the supposed unsubtlety of the Male's computing abilities, but the sum works out just the same.

God, I'm sounding like the Trunk-monkey now! (AMPOD)

Well, it sure would explain why men look at crotches, while women don't. And why study after study has shown that size really doesn't matter to women...but somehow, it seems to have been selected for in men.

Some interesting points. The ethanol one comes closest to what I find mysterious - the amount of gasoline measured in gallons sold keeps rising, but I cannot honestly imagine that Americans are driving so much more, especially as there are other indicators (Walmart sales, foreclosures, credit card debt, etc) that seem to indicate that for many people, driving more is no longer really an option. Driving less is another question, and one that ties into the point about 'inelastic demand,' countered by a bicycle rider, being the sort of thing meant by calling this rising demand incomprehensible or 'insane.'

None of the Germans I have known that have travelled to the U.S. in the last 5 to 10 years can grasp why Americans seem to drive everywhere, when it just isn't necessary. Or sit in an idling car with the air conditioning on for 15 minutes. Or why it isn't really possible to walk anywhere - and so on.

This perception that demand is inelastic is about to hit the reality that supply isn't inelastic either. At some point, the French and Germans, to give an example, will have cut their driving to the point they find no longer comfortable, and they will begin bidding again against American drivers - and considering how much gasoline per day comes from Europe to America, this is not a trivial point. I think both the price and the amount of gasoline available to American drivers will suffer from some very unanticipated impacts in the next several years. To put it into different terms - the Rotterdam price may be much more important than any WTI benchmark in price terms that American drivers understand in the near future.

None of the Germans I have known that have travelled to the U.S. in the last 5 to 10 years can grasp why Americans seem to drive everywhere, when it just isn't necessary. Or sit in an idling car with the air conditioning on for 15 minutes...

Can you please expand on this a little, because I'm unsure of the sense?

Usually, visiting foreigners I've known have had no trouble observing the distances, and they've had sense enough to rent cars. Outside Manhattan, Brooklyn, and San Francisco, the USA is obviously different from (tourist) Europe's environment of wall-to-wall people, wall-to-wall everything. Nor do they have that much trouble understanding the idling air-conditioned car once they encounter 35C with 25C dewpoint - routine US summer weather from the Mississippi Valley eastwards, "awful, like Africa", as one French visitor put it. We forget how much of Europe is at latitudes well to the north of even the northern tier of States.

Now visitors are sometimes astonished that the fine details of life may be less micromanaged by arrogant government (or quango) fiat. After all, they are used to Big Brother telling them when they must sweep the basement steps, telling them that they must have certification papers to set foot on a golf course for crying out loud, and myriad other such Kafkaesque nightmares wafting out of the stifling miasma that arises from millennia of metastasizing bureaucracy. But that's a slightly different matter, perhaps (specifically to the matters at hand) the degree of land-use regulation.

35 C with 25 C dewpoint would be extraordinarily fine summer day in New Orleans. Yet local ridership on the UNAIRCONDITIONED St. Charles streetcar hardly suffers in July & August. And per capita driving miles by residents (pre-K) were in a statistical tie with NYC.

It is NOT an "objective reality" that Americans must drive "or else". It is the result of a series of gov't policies post-WW II that can be reversed with another set of gov't policies.

Just do ~1950 to 1970 in reverse (including destroying many limited access highways, tilting gov't mortgage policies towards TOD). Just do what was done before (except how does one reverse engineer racist driven "white flight" from desegregation ?)

Best Hopes,


I grew up in Northern Virginia - 35C with a 25C dewpoint sounds like a very pleasant August day - it is the 35C days with a 35C dewpoint that really wear, or the 85F nights with 100 percent humidity that really grate. And yes, I did live there for years without A/C. And I rode a motorcycle with a leather jacket in such weather too.

Some of the people I know who have recently visited America from Germany - one woman who spends a few weeks each year in southern India (her mother is Indian), and another woman who lived for a while in Puerto Rico with her boyfriend. Others include a long distance runner/biker, a number of exchange students (high school), neighbors, and co-workers. Germans love to travel, though they do have their problems with fingerprinting visitors, or torture, or invading other countries - seems to have something to do with their recent shameful history, and the lessons they learned from it - which means that a lot of Germans are not very interested in visiting the U.S. anymore.

But I don't think that my ability to inform will help very much - with text like 'myriad other such Kafkaesque nightmares wafting out of the stifling miasma that arises from millennia of metastasizing bureaucracy.' I'm pretty sure that describing my daily experiences just won't make much sense.

Let me put it this way - living here for a few months might just be a good thing. It might also give you a real feel for what life is like outside of stereotypes.

Oh, by the way - 40C is considered notably hot where I live in Germany, not 35C.

myriad other such Kafkaesque nightmares wafting out of the stifling miasma that arises from millennia of metastasizing bureaucracy.

That line is a work of art.

The sitting in the idling car is commonly done here in Vermont too, even on the nice spring and fall days when neither AC nor heating is needed at all.

And not all distances are prohibitive. I routinely get annoyed by drivers from side streets who trip the traffic lights of the main artery street just to get off on the next side street, not only causing congestion on the main street, but also taking longer to reach their own destination than they could accomplish with a 5-minute walk. (I am talking about situations when I think I know the trip endpoints, such as a local college and its dorms...)

Regarding land use regulations, here in the USA we are hobbled by endless regulations that enforce unwalkable sprawl, such as requirements for parking, setback from street, prohibitions on mixed use, prohibitions on sharing a house between families, etc etc, down to prohibitions on hanging clothes on a rope to dry.

Here's another datapoint that helps explain things:

• Recent RV shipments. 390,500 RVs were shipped in 2006, the best annual total in the past 30 years. Total RV shipments in 2006 were 1.6 percent higher than 2005 — the fifth consecutive year shipments grew. 2006 was the best year for conventional travel trailer shipments since 1972, and the second best year for fifth wheel trailers ever.

from the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association.

I think that's an argument for liquid fuel as a giffen-like good. If prices rise for gas, people respond by cutting back on other goods, since they see the gas expenditure as necessary for income ("I have to get to work!"). One of the goods they cut back on is travel expenses, but they can still take the vacation if they find a cheaper way to travel. Since the price of gas and diesel are still so low, some cut back on plane trips and hotel stays and switch to RVs. (The EIA predicts aircraft fuel demand will be the same 2Q07 as 2Q06, but gasoline demand is expected to be up 320,000 bpd 2Q07 over 2Q06 from the "Energy Information Administration/Short-Term Energy Outlook April 2007", and particularly "Table 5a. U.S. Petroleum Supply and Demand: Base Case") As the baby-boomers retire, they are also expected to contribute to strong sales of RVs:

U.S. ownership of recreation vehicles (RVs) has reached record levels, reveals a newly released study by the University of Michigan's Survey Research Center.

Today nearly 8 million U.S. households own at least one RV—a 15 percent increase over the past four years and a stunning 58 percent rise since 1980, according to the study. One in 12 U.S. vehicle-owning households now own at least one RV.

A leading force behind RV ownership's upswing is the enormous baby boomer generation, supported by strong ownership gains among both younger and older buyers. In fact, high RV ownership rates now extend across a 40-year span from age 35 to 75, the study found.

Among other key demographic findings:

* More RVs are owned by 35-to-54 year olds than any other age group.
* The typical RV owner is age 49, married, owns a home and has an annual household income of $68,000.


I said something similar to a question on PeakOil.com a few weeks ago. My family uses our one car for recreation only; my wife and I bike to work and we walk our kids to work. If fuel prices rise, we might decide to scrap a trip by plane, but we'll still travel - probably by road trip. It's much cheaper for us to load up the car and go camping, even if it increases the amount of gas we use.

WSJ article on WTI:

The mighty Texas crude-oil benchmark — the per-barrel price watched obsessively by the markets and quoted by the media — has diverged so drastically from prices of other grades of crude in recent weeks that some market participants are calling it a “broken benchmark.”

The average monthly Brent spot price in the 20 months prior to 5/05 was $38 per barrel--which was also Daniel Yergin's predicted long term oil price.

Brent is currently around $67 (about 75% higher than Yergin's predicted long term benchmark), having traded in a range from $54 to $74 on a monthly basis since 5/05.

They plan to expand capacity at Cushing by October. That should collapse the spread between Brent and WTI.The Dec 07 is trading at a huge premium to current prices. It is in fact in line with dec 07 brent prices ( I have to verify this..).

I probably missed it, but I haven’t seen the point made that the decrease in the value of the dollar means that China (and others) are only paying $40US/barrel. A quote from:
“Pricey oil won't hurt Asia”.

"Fu Chengyu, president of Chinese state-owned oil firm CNOOC, agreed, saying that the current price of some US$60 per barrel of oil was still affordable for countries like China.

Oil prices at this level, he said, would not stall the growth of many economies in Asia, as many of the oil price increases in the past five years had been contributed to not only by rising demand, but also the depreciation of the U.S. dollar and inflation.

He noted that if depreciation of the U.S. dollar and inflation were taken into account, the current price of oil was equal to $40 per barrel five years ago."

Indeed, I can’t see why the depreciation of the US dollar doesn’t explain the recent gap between the price of west Texas crude (US benchmark) and the price of Brent (European benchmark). Even if barrels are still priced in dollars, Europeans must convert fewer Euros to dollar with current exchange rates.

How would we develop a "standard energy exchange" currency? It would be very helpful in considering how the pricing of a single barrel changes as well as the mega-projects on the receeding horizon. If we here in US have seen prices ramp up to $70 and the prices in EU have not changed anywhere near so much, I'd like to see it.

What was that machine called, that modelled a geocentric solar system mechanically with layers of interlocking rotating circles? That's what looking at the price of oil in dollars seems like to me. We're fitting to the wrong measure. We need a different baseline, probably BTU based. Suggestions?

cfm in Gray, ME

You are thinking of epicycles.

Oil should be priced in physical gold. Having said that, a BTU-based currency would be better, if you can find a way for individuals to trade it amongst themselves without involving some sort of "bank" that issues claim slips (aka currency) that can be manipulated and inflated.

I would argue we have been a Petrol based dollar for many years...

Not really. One dollar does not entitle you to so much petrol. It is true that the dollar is supported by the fact that users have to pay in dollars to get oil, but support it and basing it is two different things.

How about a currency based on rights, such as the right to buy alcohol on Sunday morning, the right to drive after 9pm, etc. The currency would thus have "value".

If we base a currency on any physical thing then we could experience monetary problems if something comes along to alter the physical supply or demand too quickly.

¿would make sense to price currencies in energy?

And let us go metric all in one sweep. I declare the unit of value to be the Joule.

The EIA Energy Calculator says that the average barrel of oil used in the USA is 6.12e9 Joules. Conflating this "average barrel" with WTI, at 63$/barrel, So the dollar is worth 97 MJ in Texas oil.

it could be used to compare that to the price of the dollar in a California wind farm, or the price of the euro in Algerian gas or Portuguese wave joules.

But what would really make sense is to measure this in real world currency: the Coke can (the coke gram having many, ehem, extraeconomical costs), the water liter, the McDonalds hamburger.

Referring back to a piece done by Larry Niven, it may be time to switch to a uranium currency standard. A uranium coin about the size of a half dollar would be about a barrel of oil equivalent of energy, given our current once-through reactor infrastructure.
Uranium coins would have advantages over gold. They would have an actual value as an energy source. Consumers would be unlikely to hoard them, so the velocity of money would be greater. Certain phrases, like "That money is burning a hole in your pocket" and "I had a hot streak at the roulette table last night" would take on a new meaning.... ;-)

'Hole in your Pocket'

Yeah, it could even help in pre-fading your genes!

You could read a lot more into the US money inflation problem.

1) KSA (OPEC) likes ~60 US a barrel...but in actual terms they still have a ways to go.

2) The real energy crisis is not yet here...oil has not increased significantly in real cost. Heck, you could even say it is hovering around the CERA $38 mark, inflation adjusted.

3) Oil is still PENNIES a glass. at 40, its only 6 cents a cup. at 65, its only 9.5 cents a cup. Think about that the next time you buy your $4.00 latte.

4) The current REAL crisis is the US economy...everything else will just aggravate and accelerate its demise.

5) China increasing imports at 8.8%, is huge and makes any cutbacks in the US demand irrelevant(but definitely not unnecessary or voluntary).

6) Finally, we will likely see the collapse/depression of the US economy and world oil exporters switching to another petrocurrency at nearly the same time, and what looks to be not to far in the future.

Agree. "The current REAL crisis is the US economy...everything else will just aggravate and accelerate its demise."

Pricing energy in units of energy will get you a constant "price", but that's meaningless as a measure of affordability. Pricing it in a floating currency is also confusing. Moreover, my conclusion from the inflation/deflation debates was that it's arbitrary, the central banks may be able to push it in either direction (and they'll probably choose inflation). So how are we to "measure" what's going on?

As far as energy availability, measure exactly that: barrels. Ignore the monetary part. But:

As far as the economic impacts, measure how much energy the typical (median?) person, or a typical person in each of several subgroups of society, can afford. Since in the USA incomes of typical people are rising very slowly, if at all, in US dollars, and since the prices of most things,especially food, are rising (in US dollars), then energy is becoming less affordable to the typical person in the USA. (And not so much to the typical European.) It is still hard to see this in the aggregate stats for reasons mentioned above, e.g., population increase, and also still-increasing debt. It'll become more noticable in a few months?

Indeed, I can’t see why the depreciation of the US dollar doesn’t explain the recent gap between the price of west Texas crude (US benchmark) and the price of Brent (European benchmark). Even if barrels are still priced in dollars, Europeans must convert fewer Euros to dollar with current exchange rates.

That doesn't make any sense at all. If Brent is higher than WTI, then Europeans must convert more Euros to Dollars to buy that barrel of Brent. The price of Brent right now is about 5.5 percent higher than WTI. And it is still 5.5 percent higher no matter what currency you are using to buy that barrel of Brent.

The current Brent price represents the the price per barrel at the current exchange rate.

The falling dollar means that inflation rate in the US is rising faster than inflation rate in Europe.

Ron Patterson

Okay, I hear you, a dollar exchanged is a dollar exchanged.

First Issue. I believe it is widely accepted that a substantial portion of the dollars relative value is a premium that arises from its value as a safe haven and the currency of common exchange. Some of its recent loses are often attributed to a loss of stature in these regards not simply inflation.

Second Issue. So if non-inflationary reasons are behind the drop in the dollars exchange rate, lets say a 10% drop, then it would follow that Europeans are in fact not paying the full 3-fold runup in the Oil price that has occurred in the US over the last 3 years. Certainly seems like this will work against the US ability to import oil and will be reflected in higher real (inflation adjusted) dollars per barrel in the US. This may not relate to the transatlantic benchmark price discrepancy, but it is certainly an issue as indicated by the president of CNOOC above.

In the short run technical factors can affect the level one currency trades against another. By technical factors I mean the charts, swings, tops, bottoms, heads and sholders and all that crap. Human emotion, as well as other factors, can play a very larg part in the short term swings of any currency.

In the long run however, there are only three things that affect the level of one currency against another. Those three things are inflation, inflation, and inflation. If nation A's currency is inflating at the rate of 2% per year while nation B's currency is inflating at 4% per year, then Nation A's currency will appreciate at a rate of 2% per year over nation B's currency, year after year after year.

Ron Patterson

Yep. I was in Cushing in January and there were several new tanks (Semcrude?) under construction. Also there appeared to be a new tank farm north of town at one of the old refinery sites.


Malaysian Tapis (Asian benchmark crude) is already trading at around $74 a barrel.

Recently it has traded over $76 a barrel.

Asia Pacific is already dealing with paying for crude oil.

Currency appreciation in Asia has helped soften the pain of prices.

J. Bradford DeLong an Economist with a widely read blog indirectly picks up on an Oil Drum post via the Econobrowser.

Post your 2cents to Brad. He has a diverse readership.

Ran into a quote from the Economist which stated, "Iraq has the dubious distinction of having the lowest production/reserves ratio...". I suppose squirrels' behavior in autumn would be similarly derided. The word economy comes from the Greek meaning household management. You'd think they would have a handle on their handle so to speak. Distinction, yes; dubious, not necessarily.

Resource nationalism, manifest destiny, continental energy policy - all part of the dictum that everything is for sale, and if not, line up the gunboats. I know, Iraq needs to sell its oil to support its people. Quite how they survived for over three millenia without oil revenues is somehow overlooked.

I actually subscribed to the Economist for many years, but in the present century they have been so unapologetically wrong and self contradictory on so many major fronts that it isn't worth reading anymore. Paying money to be disinformed without an apology doesn't cut it for me.

It isn't at all curious that they run an article about the newly upgraded reserves estimates for Iraq after - well almost after - the new law on PSAs goes through. You'd think they'd wait til May when the thing actually gets enacted before publicly licking their chops, but I guess it's a 'done deal' - the new buzzword for starting with a backroom agreement and laundering it through the democratic system at gunpoint.

As oil scarcity mounts, we can expect that the already low standards of international behavior will get lower still. Necessity may be the mother of invention, but desperation doesn't have time for that.

So by forcing them to keep their oil in the ground, we're really doing the Iraqis a favor? Better not let Karl Rove hear about THAT one!

I actually subscribed to the Economist for many years, but in the present century they have been so unapologetically wrong and self contradictory on so many major fronts that it isn't worth reading anymore. Paying money to be disinformed without an apology doesn't cut it for me.

Have you considered why this might be? I'd be interested in getting your take on this as I think it points to a larger issue.

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

Because the believe in Infinite growth in a finite world?
because they believe economists are better at finding oil than geologists?
Because they believe that since we are increasing the supply of carbon in the atmosphere at such a low cost eventually demand will rise?

Because they believe that since we are increasing the supply of carbon in the atmosphere at such a low cost eventually demand will rise?

LOFL- fireangel, I studied econ at ucla, too, or were you at cal?

history shows again and again how nature points out the folly of men

Hey that seems to be the consensus right?
Never took Econ. Microbiology major.

I think the answer you are looking for is that the Economist articles by and large promotes and justifies Keynesian economics, and by implication, the role of central banks in our society. The reason they are "so unapologetically wrong and self-contradictory" is that their underlying economic philosphy is flawed.

Contrast this with Austrian Economics, (von Mises) for a theory of economics that makes a lot more sense at the gut level, and "coincidentally" dont require central banking.

When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it."

--Frederic Bastiat, 18??

For those of you of the cynical bent, here is a recent article by Douglas Gnazzo

I too subscribed for many years. A gentler way to look at both the Economist and economist commodity views is the well established history of commodity boom and bust cycles; prices rise, encouraging new production, economizing and substitutes, bringing about a fall in prices, repeat. A typical, and not completely irrational, response by an economist to the statement 'this time is different' is, 'that has been said many times before.'

While I believe oil has/is peaking, and prices will soon surge again, some (eg africa) are economizing and substitutes have already begun to appear, even if most at tod think they are not sustainable, and major new efforts are ongoing to produce more, eg sa/kazakhstan/angola.

Economists generate theories based on the past; if the past fails to predict the future, they will generate new theories.

Economists generate theories based on the past; if the past fails to predict the future, they will generate new theories.

In my experience, they simply repeat the first failed assertion and claim we need to do it over again. Lose money on every sale? OK, make it up in the volume.

Here's a consensus economist in Maine arguing on Earth Day that to be sustainable, we need more.

cfm in Gray, ME

I read the Economist for many years as well. I remember some articles that were excellent...Independently of its ‘economic’ position it became, at a certain point, too sneering, shrill, and disjointed.

They seemed to be publishing a bit of everything for everyone, while trying to maintain an overall, consistent ‘tone’. Contradictions cropped up everywhere - I guess the idea was readers would skim and cherry pick what pleased them. Probably that is what then happened. I also noticed that some of their graphs and charts became shoddy, lackadaisical, and that the main point made in the text did not correspond to the graph, etc. They also became more dependent on the ‘news cycle’, in effect ignoring the ‘past’ - the real past and their own past articles or pontificating - giving up, in a way, memory to sensationalism, or in their terms, the week’s vibes. All on the moment, you know? That kind of distracts from serious analysis.

As I recall the editor of The Economist was replaced not long ago apparently because the support for the Iraq war, the doom predictions related to housing bubbles (Australia, UK, Spain, US), and their dollar crash scenarios all went against their predictions.

I think it points to many other and larger issues, not the least of which involves 100,000 acres in Paraguay.

"Iraq has the dubious distinction of having the lowest production/reserves ratio...".

The biggest disconnect from reality is that the author assumes the official reserves number has got anything to do with reality. The real figure is probably about 40 billion barrels.

It could be fun to ask the author if he considered Saddam Hussein to be a truthful man, and if not, why he thinks he was telling the truth about the size of Iraq's reserves.

I love how CNBC uses the word "proved" as part of proved reserves. One must ask 1) Proved by who? 2)To Who?
I would say CERA makes a scariercase for peak oil then most of us ever could. Think about it if SA with 500 billion barrels plus of reserves and yet to find oil cannot get oil production over 8.5 MBPD then the world even with 4 trillion should manage only about 42 MBPD.

I havn't posted in awhile. Last time was in response to an Economist article. Just wanted to say that the "picture" you created with this comment is worth a thousand reserve statement lies from SA.

Then SA wins. As by my count they have more than 1000 reserve statement lies.

Eat now, pay later (or never)
Denver cafe aims to help hungry while pairing food with fellowship

DENVER // It has been six months since Brad and Libby Birky opened a small cafe on a grungy strip of Colfax Avenue. They have no idea how much money they've made. Or how much any of their customers has paid for a bowl of the chicken chili or a slice of the organic pesto pizza.

Prices, profits — those don't mean much in the SAME Cafe. The acronym stands for So All May Eat, and that philosophy is all that matters.

To make their case, the Birkys pointed to the success of the One World Cafe in Salt Lake City, which has been serving up organic food on the pay-what-you-can philosophy since 2003. Its founder, Denise Cerreta, helped the Birkys map a start-up strategy, including applying for nonprofit status and setting up a board of directors.

The cafe is tiny, just seven tables and a narrow kitchen. Behind a tangle of plants in the big bay window, the room's sunny yellow gives off a cozy feel. The Birkys hung a string of origami cranes in the kitchen and decorated every table with a bud vase of orange silk daisies.

Brad hopes eventually to pay himself to run the cafe. For now, the Birkys live off Libby's salary as a teacher of gifted elementary students and Brad's part-time work as a computer consultant.

(From the Los Angeles Times)


I doubt we'll see this as a task on the Apprentice.

Just a thought, won't they have a problem with the IRS if they have no idea how much money they are making. Doesn't even a nonprofit need to keep books?

In any event, they rock. Profit isn't the only model.

Counterpoint - side bar:

In Hong Kong, diners fined for leaving leftovers


The amount of food wasted in the rich world is staggering. The measure described in the article is an outcome of ‘fixed cost’ dinners - where you order as much as you want, pay a fixed price, and then much of the food must be thrown away because of health regulations.

"April 23 (Bloomberg) -- Petroleos Mexicanos, the state-owned oil monopoly, said crude production fell 5 percent in March from a year earlier, the eighth straight monthly decline as the company depletes its largest oil field, Cantarell.

Daily output was 3.18 million barrels last month, down from 3.35 million in March 2006 and higher than February's 3.15 million barrels, the Mexico City-based company said today in a report on its Web site."


Dont expect oil traders to pay attention. They are more concerned with the weekly inventory report and how we are up to our ears in oil.

An update to the article

"To make up for the Cantarell decline, Pemex has increased spending on exploration and production, especially at a group of offshore oilfields known as Ku-Maloob-Zaap. Production at Ku- Maloob-Zaap and other fields in the southeast marine region of the Gulf of Mexico rose 26 percent to 518,989 barrels per day in March from 410,423 barrels a year ago.

Ghawar in Saudi Arabia is the world's largest oil field, followed by Burgan in Kuwait.

Pemex, the third-largest supplier to the U.S., exported 1.78 million barrels a day in March, an 11 percent decline from the same month last year. Daily exports in March rose 0.6 percent from 1.77 million barrels in February, the company said. About 80 percent of Pemex's exports go to the U.S.

Oil export sales fell 13 percent to $2.76 billion from $3.16 billion in March last year because of lower prices."


Thanks for that update.

The Mexicans seemed to have temporarily halted the fall off in their total production, which began in earnest from June last year. In the first 5 months of 2006 they averaged about 3.35mbd (unchanged from their average 2005 production). The last 7 months saw a fall to an average of 3.19 - although this included one very poor month, December, with a mere 2.97mbd (at the time their excuse for the latter (inclement weather) sounded hollow, but with the recovery of the last 3 months one should probably give them the benefit of the doubt on this). If you take December out of the equation production seems to have stabilised at around 3.15mbd. As the piece above explains this has been made possible by opening the taps on non-Cantarell fields. If they can keep it around that for the rest of the year that would imply a year on year decline rate of 4% (for 2007 vs 2006).

In practice I think the 4% will prove the LOWEST likely decline rate.

Someone asked me about an analysis I did a couple of drumbeats ago regarding the EIA top 37 producers. In it I defined Kuwait's production as 'stable'- the comment was made that this was surprising given that Burgan has by all accounts peaked (ergo Kuwait must therefor be in decline.

Well the EIA data does not yet corroborate this; average 2006 production for Kuwait was actually somewhat higher in 2006 versus 2005 (2.535 vs 2.529).

Looking at the 2006 figures there is the merest hint of a decline if one compares 1st quarter with 4th quarter (2.56 vs 2.5), with a Jan 2007 figure that is a touch lower again. But there again Kuwait is an OPEC member and it might, just might, have cut back production a tad to fulfil its quota - it is just as likely an explanation for any slight falls (and as yet these falls are statistically insignificant).

So I would submit that there is no evidence AS YET that Kuwait has peaked, DESPITE press reports stating that its biggest field has peaked. Perhaps like the Mexicans they are making up supplies from elsewhere - or perhaps the decline in Burgan is at yet inconsequential.

Maybe they turned on the wells that were drilled into Iraq, that kicked off the first gulf war.

i would not be surprised if that is the case.
along with S.A. doing the same.

Although this is a year over year decline, 3.18 million barrels per day is their third straight monthly increase, and their highest total since September. They are doing better than I expected three months ago.

I noticed that too. Looks like they've been busy. Lots of new rigs and platforms offshore.

Platforms HA-KU-M and HA-KU-S were loaded onto their carrier barge from Keppel AmFELS on October 13, 2006 and November 29, 2006 respectively. They are due for the Ku-Maloob-Zaap (KMZ) field in the Bay of Campeche, Gulf of Mexico, for hookup and commissioning, which is expected to be completed by early-2007. Production in the KMZ is on the rise, and PEMEX is focused on increasing its output by around 100% by the end of the decade.



Mexico's state oil company Pemex has installed the country's largest offshore platform in the Sonda offshore field in Campeche state. The $250 million, 250,000 barrel-a-day capacity platform, dubbed KU-S, is part of the Ku Maloob-Zaap (KMZ) project.

The platform will increase KMZ's crude production to 800,000 barrels a day from 300,000 barrels a day, which will help offset a drop at the Cantarell field.. Pemex expects gas output at KMZ to reach 330,000 cubic feet a day.

But how long can they keep this pace up? They are running as fast as they can just to stay in place.

Nevertheless as you say they are at least standing still. Six months ago it looked as though total Mexican production was in the process of falling off a cliff. Now, with apparently a great deal of effort, they have stabilised things for the moment.

Kuwait also seems to be weathering the peak of its major field, for the moment at least.

How long both can maintain output from other fields is anyone's guess but perhaps the short term (ie 12 month) outlook for oil production in a) Mexico and b) Kuwait is not as dire as we might have thought..........

For now...

Just how many $250 million, 250,000 barrel-a-day capacity platforms do they have up their sleeves?


The virtual collapse at Cantarell -- the world's second-biggest oil field in terms of output at the start of last year -- is unfolding much faster than projections from Mexico's state-run oil giant Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex. Cantarell's daily output fell to 1.5 million barrels in December compared to 1.99 million barrels in January, according to figures from the Mexican Energy Ministry.
The field's decline is expected to continue, if not worsen, this year, according to most estimates. That will subtract valuable oil from the world market, which is under pressure from rising demand by growing economies like China and India. It also means less oil headed to the U.S. from Mexico, which has long relied on Mexico as one of its top-three oil suppliers.

"This is bad news for Mexico. The field is declining faster than even the government's pessimistic scenarios," says David Shields, an oil industry consultant in Mexico City who has been warning about Cantarell's collapse for the past two years


The post that chinese imports are up 8.8% understates the true situation; the decline in exports represents more tons, or 2.4Mt/m total, so the swing is 19% of imports. The implied y/y increase in consumption is around .55Mb/d.

Net exports again...crud. (or is it crude)

So essentially they are up ~10% net imports. Double digits...price definitely not too high for them...no wonder KSA thinks $60 is a defendable number.

Anatomy of the Great Bio-Fuels Scam

Upon my first arrival to the city of Rio de Janeiro back in June of 2002, I wanted to visit the one place every tourist wants to see: O Cristo. So on a seemingly warm and beautiful day we made our way to the top of Corcovado. There it was, the giant world famous 125-foot statue of Christ the Redeemer, overlooking much of the city and Guanabara Bay. Armed with cameras, we quickly headed to the statue’s east side vista to take personal snapshots of one of the worlds most dazzling panoramic views. Except we encountered a problem: Directly below us, the city of Rio de Janeiro had disappeared.
The entire city and surrounding waterfront seemed to be enveloped in some sort of thick yellow cloud.

“....what is that stuff? Fog?” we asked ourselves but I knew better. Fog is a whitish grey while this was almost a solid yellow. It was smog. Oddly enough, an argument soon broke out because the Brazilians I was with kept insisting it was fog and not smog. This fog/smog soon became the main topic of the local news. Much to my chagrin, even the newscasters were calling it a “strange fog”. It became so bad that the airports also had to close. Rio de Janeiro had been engulfed in a yellow cloud but everyone seemed to be at a loss trying to explain it.

I stood fast to my “smog” convictions, though. I mean, come on, Rio de Janeiro is a massive metropolis coupled with typically lax third world Co2 emissions standards. It was a no-brainer and all you have to do is look at what a place like Mexico City experiences everyday. Heck it wasn’t only a third world problem, either. Cities such as Los Angeles and Rome often suffer from the same type of auto-pollution.

Nonetheless, my first trip up to the world famous O Cristo was ruined by smog. No spectacular photos could be taken and some other trip in the future had to be planned. However, after this brief ordeal I couldn’t help but feel somewhat annoyed by the local Cariocas who kept insisting it was nothing other than a “strange fog”. What the heck was wrong with those people? Why couldn’t they see and accept the obvious?

I quickly forgot about it though and it wasn’t until very recently, that I finally understood just what really transpired that particular June day back in Rio. Yes it was indeed smog but much to my own appalling ignorance, the smog wasn’t caused by typically lax third world Co2 emission standards. It was caused by Ethanol. Once I began to understand the history of ethanol in Brazil, the bizarre reactions of the local Brazilians began to equally make much more sense to me.


Ethanol may seriously cutback on Co2 emissions but it produces ozone that in turn causes SMOG. We can only imagine what the already terrible air pollution of places such as New York City and Los Angeles will be like by 2012. By then we too will be suffering from a serious case of denial and call the stuff a “strange fog.”

The reason ethanol cuts back on CO2 is not because it produces less from the tailpipe. Contrarily, it probably produces slightly more. The magic is in the fact of producing it from current plant material rather than fossilized sources from an earlier era. In theory all that smog should go out over the canefields and rev up the next crop of biofuel. Sounds like you hit a bottleneck in the feedback loop!

CO2 is clear, so it's probably photochemical smog from oxides of nitrogen which make up the yellow part. Don't forget to count the sources of cooking fumes and airborne fecal matter which can prove to be rather large percentages of the problem.

It is quite possible that Brazil doesn't have similar standards and enforcement for catalytic converters to what you are used to, the three way version of which cuts NOx as well. The actual ethanol has a cooling effect on combustion which reduces knock and also NOx production somewhat. But diesels with their high combustion pressures have a large NOx problem, which is why the new big truck regulations have put converters on them.

Essentially, combustion pressures and temperatures can get so high that nitrogen - 80% of air - gets burnt as well. Add some sulphur to the diesel, or rather don't take it out and things can get yellow. In regard to emission quality, the US has done quite well. We just have a quantity problem.

There was some TOD discussion a few days ago on a recent Stanford U. study predicting smog increases from wide ethanol burning for transportation:


Yes and the findings from said study were:

- that ozone levels would increase in some areas and decrease in others
- that some carcinogen levels would increase while others would decrease
- that death risk due to smog may result in an increase of 79-216 deaths p/a for the entire United States
- that there would be little change in cancer risk if any and only per the contaminents analyzed i.e. particulate matter was not measured

It is also interesting to note, that well-to-wheel production analysis of both fuels was precluded in this study.

That said...

Of all the commentary I have seen to date re: Jacobson's work (and that includes Mr. Harsanyi's misleading contribution in today's Drumbeat re: Ethanol is a Waste of Energy) of all the commentary... only our very own Mr. Rapier has gotten it right ( yet again =] ) - as evidenced in his API write up from Friday.

We already have a serious ambient ozone problem in the Southern Appalachians. Many summer days the views of the distant mountains are gone, and if things keep on present trend even relatively nearby peaks will become invisible. Not very good for tourism, a mainstay of the local economy. Widespread use of E85 would only make things much worse.

Ahh... the NarcoNews.

Home to insightful analysis and deductive reasoning par-excellance.

You do realize that the author is pulling a WAG from the nether regions on this piece right? RIGHT?

We can only imagine indeed.

Since it is Monday...

The Mortgage Lender implode-o-meter is 62.

I can't help but wonder if the Fed/Treasury has a Housing plunge protection team!

Bailing out the lenders is so irrelevant. And mortgage rescue is just fraud and robbery...see Housing doom.

Millions of purchasers will be destroyed by this, as well, thousands of jobs(in the 10s ranges already will be lost these fine lending institutions.

Lost jobs, lost homes, and lost credit...means less consuming....after all the US economy is driven by 'consumers'.

Fugly Numbers


That is the percentage of homes that are sitting empty in the United States. That is, the oversupply of homes. Not the number of people who would like to sell (but can't), or anything of the kind. No, this is the number of homes that exceeds the current demand for homes in the US. By the way, in the 40 years that the Census Bureau has been tracking this number - including the last two big housing busts on the coasts - it has never exceeded 2%.

There is an even nastier number out there however, and as far as I know it has gotten very, very little press. That number is....


That's the percentage of condos unoccupied (but complete) during the 4th Quarter. This one I could have predicted - but even I wouldn't have pegged it that high. I would have guessed it was north of 5%, but eleven? Again, these are units that are sitting empty without either an owner or renter living in them.

Now here's another nice, round number - and for this one, I hope you're sitting - not standing - at your computer.


That's the percentage increase of foreclosures in the first three months of the year in California. Oh, the actual number? North of 11,000. Published by? The biggest Real Estate cheerleaders in the land - "Realtor Magazine Online." Quick! Grab the lipstick for the pig; he's gotten loose and is running around!

You want their predictions for "the top"? Four to five times that level. That would be 4,000% up from a year ago.


A case history that blew me away was a plumber and his wife in California (their combined after tax income was about $5,500 per month), stuck with two homes with a total debt load of almost a million dollars.

84 now :-o

"You can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created."
Albert Einstein

"To speak of the farm bill’s influence on the American food system does not begin to describe its full impact — on the environment, on global poverty, even on immigration. By making it possible for American farmers to sell their crops abroad for considerably less than it costs to grow them, the farm bill helps determine the price of corn in Mexico and the price of cotton in Nigeria and therefore whether farmers in those places will survive or be forced off the land, to migrate to the cities — or to the United States. The flow of immigrants north from Mexico since Nafta is inextricably linked to the flow of American corn in the opposite direction, a flood of subsidized grain that the Mexican government estimates has thrown two million Mexican farmers and other agricultural workers off the land since the mid-90s. (More recently, the ethanol boom has led to a spike in corn prices that has left that country reeling from soaring tortilla prices; linking its corn economy to ours has been an unalloyed disaster for Mexico’s eaters as well as its farmers.) You can’t fully comprehend the pressures driving immigration without comprehending what U.S. agricultural policy is doing to rural agriculture in Mexico."

This quote from the first linked article tells another tale of woe about the Farming Bills of the US. It is not the poor Mexicians that are really to blaim for coming over our borders but the US Congress and the Bills they have passed. It turns out we are our own worst enemy after all.

Okay so naw we know the problem, how do we cure it?

Just recently there has been a move for those that don't need to, to live off of the aount of money we hand out in "Food Stamps" as a way of understanding the plight of the poor. A long time ago I started a fictional account of living off of $2.00 a day, it was geared as a College Experiment taken out to a wide variety of family types. But I have since turned it into part of a wider non-fictional piece called "Recipes from the Edge".

We are just now getting a handle on the fact that we are after all our own worst enemy.

Charles E. Owens Jr.

Yet again I have to question US farm subsidies and NAFTA for the problem of tortilla prices. Nobody seems to take into account that the Mexican government had a subsidy of - as I was led to believe - 400% on tortillas. I suspect that the PAN government, when it took over from the PRI, took off the subsidy or vastly reduced it. Tortilla price problems were about long before the ethanol boom.

Nafta definitely did do in a lot of Mexican corn farmers. Tripling the population in the last half century or so didn't help the acres/mouths ratio either. However, the influx of cheap corn from Nafta didn't of itself raise tortilla prices - probably the opposite. The small farmers suffered immensely but the subsistence farmers didn't notice one way or the other.

Unless somebody shows me otherwise - and I'd love it if they did - in my opinion and to my knowledge the subsidy changes were the bigger 'issue' by far. The current high prices for corn probably just put the Mexican corn farmer back in business, or should.

Anybody out there with a really good handle on the numbers and facts of this? I just hear it reiterated as a 'fact' in article after article with no real substantiation. Is ethanol really beating up on the poor Mexicans or not?

A quick google search indicates the subsidies were dropped in '99 ... umm 8 years ago ?

Where IS that 'Theory of Everything' ?
Here it is !

I live in Mexico. I don't know where you got the information about the subsidy on tortillas - there are subsidies that vary by the region of the country - but 400% is way off the mark. It isn't anywhere near that much. At least not as a subsidy. If one of the parties down here was footing the bill at that rate, it was simple vote buying. And there isn't that much corn coming into Mexico from the US anyhow, at least not for tortillas. Mexicans traditionally prefer white corn to the yellow stuff grown in the USA. Almost all tortillas are made from the white varieties.

This is not to say that NAFTA isn't putting nails in the coffins of lots of businesses down here. It's damn close to wiping out the apple industry. From what I read it's pretty much dead already in Chihuahua state. Too bad, they grew some very tasty fruit there, but now it's getting hard to find. The US has it's 4,000 mile caesar salads, and we have 3,000 mile Washington apples, but the prices have been pretty stiff lately.

As far as the actual price we're seeing for tortillas, well, we buy ours at Wal-Mart, believe it or not. They've gone up about a peso or a peso & twenty cents over the last 14 months or so for a kilogram, which works out to about a 20-25% increase. That price is fairly representative for where I live. Yes, that would be hard - any increase is hard for the 58% of Mexicans that live in poverty.

We did see in the news that there was some heavy duty price gouging here and there around the country couple of months ago, but that got shut down almost immediately. Frankly, from down here it looked more like a put-up job by allies of the loser of the recent elections just to make the new president look bad. Then the whole thing got sensationalized (as usual) in the international press.

The 'street' price of tortillas in 1996 was 6.6 cents a pound. As the subsidies for the tortillerias was taken down by 1999 the price had, after getting as high as 32 cents, stabilized at 23 cents. Not quite 400% but close enough. Mexicans, on average consume about 120 kg or over 250 lbs of tortillas per annum. Thus, it only works out to about $40 per person. When such a change can produce such a reaction, it illustrates the marginal existence of so many there.

More recent price 'spikes' - how I love that word - only salted the wound. By the way, the cost to the treasury was about one billion dollars a year. Your figures on the rtecent price swings and how that has been exploited politically say it for me. But I stand my ground on the subsidies. Whether all the increase was directly and proportionately due to the subsidy removal was of cold comfort to the poor who saw it that way.

Hi Extra,

I like hearing firsthand experience. Do you live in a large city or...? (If you don't mind my asking.)

McCain: Energy, warming are twin threats

McCain FOR PRESIDENT (!!) - this man speaks his mind

IS there any more to add ?

He's only stated what's obvious. I think "energy" and "warming" are the new buzzwords in politics and the media. It doesn't mean he's going to suggest effective solutions.

I'm sure he'll have ideas, but they will undoubtedly include "buying more 'green' products" and spending still more of the "federally budgeted" money we don't have on programs that serve as a smokescreen to line the pockets of his buddies.

If we have any hope, we'll need McCain to go further. If his campaign message is "please stop consuming", then I'll vote for him.

Tom A-B

McCain thinks we can still win in Iraq and wants to keep the US in that bloody mess we created as long as possible.


He also sings his mind:

"Bomb, bomb, bomb,
bomb, bomb Iran.
Bomb, bomb, bomb,
bomb, bomb Iran.
Bomb Ira-a-aan,
Because we ca-a-aan,
Bomb Ira-a-aan,
We're gonna bomb 'em to the stone age
bomb 'em to the stone age, Bomb Iran."

Okay, someone write another verse and submit it to the song thread above.

My wife, a lifelong Democrat, was a McCain supporter. She said McCain was the only Republican she would vote for and would support him above any Democrat in the race.

Then McCain came out in support of Bush's position on the war. WOW! Did she turn on a dime. Now she says she would not vote for McCain under any circumstances.

I feel the same way. McCain now does not have a snowball's chance in hell of winning. The man must be a blooming idiot to support a position that goes against the position of over 65% of the American people.

Don't worry about McCain, he is not going anywhere.

Ron Patterson

In reading your comments - it looks like I have missed out on some points regarding Mr McCain - ( he sounds like one good chap from the little I have heard from him, though .. ... )

- hereby I withdraw my proposal - and as 'tandersonbrown' puts foreward "IT IS OBVIOUS" that the two issues should be treated simultaniously -

I must try to excuse myself in just being a regular europeean citizen - not following US politics that close ....

Think Progress pointed out that McCain has brought in former Energy Sec'y James Schlesinger as a campaign adviser.


and that TAP considers Schlesinger a tool of Climate Change deniers:


Seems to me that this is probably about as close to publicly accepting Climate Change that people like McCain and Schlesinger can get, given their corporate backing.

This may be a little OT, but I woudl appreciate some light help developing a mathematical formula. It occurs to me that in very simple terms, our energy future will depend on three complex variables: the rate of decline in the production of fossil fuels, the rate of conservation and the rate of substitution with alternative/renewable energy sources. I am envisioning a formula that would contain the variables, something Energy Future = . . . . Since I get lost in much of Khebeb's and others work (or at least have to read it three times over), can someone give me what they think woudl be a formula that takes these into consideration (this is more for illustration than actual calculation). Thanks in advance.

I think there are some important variables that you are leaving out:

1. The percentage of the fossil fuels that theoretically can be produced, that actually do get produced. (Perhaps part of one of your variables).

2. The percentage of fossil fuels that is available for exports, considering local usage and declining EROEI.

3. Whether or not the US can actually purchase these exports because of monetary problems.

4, In the absence of monetary problems, the share the US can be expected to claim of the exports available.

5. Also, alternatives/renewables for the most part seem to have a large fossil fuel input component. Somehow this needs to be accounted for.

I sometimes think that for the Unites States, we should make estimates primarily based on our own productive capacity is in terms of oil, natural gas, and coal. We then should look at what, if anything, we can count on in the future from other countries in terms of the various fossil fuels. We should keep the two separate, and not kid ourselves that there is any guarantee on the latter. If we include renewables/alternatives, we need to net out the fossil fuel component.

You are of course correct. Export capability (see Mexico news today) is a problem as is the energy input/cost for atlernatives. I am actually just trying to develop a mathematically correct formula that includes these primary variables. I agree that it is much more complicated but I thought that it could serve as a vehicle for illustration, not the calculation of an actual value.

Hi Gail and bigger,

Thanks and this is an interesting idea:

1) "...for the Unites States, we should make estimates primarily based on our own productive capacity is in terms of oil, natural gas, and coal."

It would be interesting to take a "bottom-up" approach to seeing what industry and ag might be maintained (for how long). And under what conditions.

2) re: Points 1, 2 and 3...it seems the problem also becomes one of "supply chain" type of dependencies. What is required for what to take place? (I don't know a more elegant way to say it.)

3) Really, we've got to switch to "doing it all" (or some min. amount we have yet to determine) - without FF.

If we don't have a transition priority, the time, which is such a crucial part of the equation, ends up not being a benefit...even if we have it.

It seems to me that at some point not too far away, fossil fuel imports will become very limited, so, like you say, we need to look at what we can do ourselves. If we assume that other imports also become very limited (perhaps because of monetary problems and lack of oil to ship things long distances), then it becomes very complicated to maintain our complex society.

For example, if we want to be independent for, say, agriculture and wind produced energy, there are a huge number of things that need to be produced:

1. Replacement parts for all agricultural machinery
2. Replacement parts for trucks transporting agricultural products
3. Material for maintaining roads to transport agricultural products, agricultural parts, and windmill parts.
4. Materials necessary to produce and main pumps for irrigating agricultural products.
5. Electricity to run irrigating pumps.
6. Everything needed for hybrid seed.
7. Fertilizer, pesticide, and insecticide.
8. Replacement parts for cranes used to maintain the windmills.
9. All the fuel for the various equipment.
10. New (or refurbished) factories to produce any of the above which had previously been manufactured abroad.
11. Computer equipment used in agriculture and with windmills.
12. Wires and other materials for maintaining the grid.

There are no doubt other items as well. If we want to continue to have coal for electricity, we need to maintain the trains and tracks. We also need to train workers do the various tasks, if the tasks were previously done abroad.

Without a planned society, it is hard to imagine how a country could undertake the massive effort required to onshore even a significant subset of what has been off-shored - especially with reduced resources. Perhaps we should be looking at this, nonetheless, to see what really is feasible.

Hi Gail,

Thanks. Points well taken.

re: "Perhaps we should be looking at this, nonetheless, to see what really is feasible."

This seems like a good idea (understatement) to me.

Is anyone doing this?

Well, not according to the GAO. Unless Robert Hirsch has started moving in this direction...

It seems to me the planning of "planned society" need not really be any different, in kind (though different in priority and direction) than what we have in the US, de facto, in the present.

http://www.energybulletin.net/23954.html. (See article on farm subsidies.)

An example of an alternate policy, due in the usual manner is Woodbury (sp) County, Iowa - subsidy for organic ag.

I'm not sure this is the best approach, but I'd be interested to see ideas. (And I'll look on EB.)

I produced a spreadsheet for a university assignment a while back which may fit some of your criteria. Its accessible here (if the link works) if you want to look at it, it was primarily designed to work out how fast we'd use up coal if we convert it to liquids, but also has options for alternate electricity scenarios. Just change the figures along the top of the main spreadsheet to play around with the variables, my oil production figures are from a basic Hubbert Linearisation, you'll have to change these manually if you want your own prediction in there.

The Nymex recently (today?) introduced 3 new long-dated crude contracts.

December 2013
December 2014
December 2015

...which takes us nicely beyond the ASPO all-liquids peak for folks inclined to place bets.

on 16th april
Ask 67.40 for 2015. If someone is shorting that assuming it is a non-commercial, he/she is gonna have to file for bankruptcy

Similarly, any die-hard peak oiler would be absolutely insane not to buy one of those babies.

Come on, ye doom-sayers and catastrophists. Ante up!!!

I am reminded of Al Pacino in "The Devil's Advocate"


Just thought it would be appropriate here. Have nothing against investing in oil futures. Better than money in the bank.

My concern about the 15's is that I would not be surprised if the oil futures market no longer exists in 7 1/2 years. The oil pits will be "nationalized" by then if the Export Land model with the current inputs manifests itself. Recall FDR and his confiscation of gold in 1932 (or was it 33?)

Nationalization of NYMEX will not put oil in govt hands as FDR's confiscation put gold in GOVT hands.

Remember the Mayan calendar ends 2012. Then it would not be so wise to by futures dated after that, would it.

This shouldn't be a problem, just sell your contracts and take your profit before 2012 (maybe before 2011 to be safe, and to have some time to enjoy the profit?).

The statement that the calendar ends in 2012 is media hype. It starts over. Its the end of "the long count". Also they can't confirm that it ends in 2012. That date is based on a date picked by people of this time period and back counted. There is other evidence the date is perhaps another year.

Quid Clarius Astris
Ubi Bene ibi patria

Yes, but why spoil a good legend??

This is interesting...

"Which brings us to the biggest beef Exxon's critics have: Why isn't the company investing in less polluting energy sources like biofuels, wind, and solar? Remembering that Exxon is above all in the profit business, we know where to look for the answer. As a place to earn knockout returns on capital, alternative energy looks wobbly. For example, the darling of the moment, ethanol, is nowhere near economically competitive with gasoline..."


Also, Stuart Staniford and The Oil Drum is mentioned...

Cohen has held a number of conference calls with bloggers on energy and climate. "I'm still fairly dubious," wrote blogger Stuart Staniford of the Oil Drum in a typical response, "but I also appreciate that they have been courteous and willing to sit through a couple of very frank exchanges of views."


Impact of exports on gasoline inventories

The dramatic recent drop in gasoline inventories made me wonder about what was going on with gasoline exports. Frequent users of EIA information know that specific gasoline export figures are reported with a significant lag, so I tried to calculate gasoline exports as finished gasoline production (a) + gasoline imports(b) - gasoline product supplied (c) +/- average change in gasoline inventories (d)

For both time periods below, there was an excess of production and imports over product supplied AND there was a decrease in gasoline inventories (which has the effect of increasing the implied volume of gasoline exports).

The inputs for the 5 weeks ending April 13, 2007 in thousands of barrels per day are:
(a) 8740
(b) 975
(c) 9310
(d) +484
producing an implied export volume of 889 thousand barrels per day

The inputs for the 4 weeks ending 3/31/06 are:
(a) 8223
(b) 1129
(c) 9081
(d) +464
producing an implied export volume of 735 thousand barrels per day

Now, that raises several questions:

The EIA's specific gasoline export figure for March 2006 is 166 thousand barrels per day. Is there an obvious reason why the quoted export figure is so materially different than that calculated using the components above?

Even assuming there is some sort of "X factor" that explains the difference between the quoted exports and the above-calculated exports, implied exports are up 154 thousand barrels per day in 2007 compared to the comparable period in 2006. Any insights/speculations on the reason for that increase?

The New Suburban Poverty

For the first time ever, more poor Americans live in the suburbs than in all our cities combined.
the gentrification of many urban neighborhoods, from Brooklyn to San Francisco to Washington, has forced many working-class residents out. In a reversal of the classic migration story, many of these displaced residents have fled to the suburbs, lured in part by the growing pool of mostly low-wage jobs there--cleaning homes, mowing lawns, staffing restaurants, strip malls and office plazas. Alan Berube, co-author of the Brookings Institution study, says the "decentralization of low-wage employment" is one of the main factors driving suburban poverty rates up.


We have discussed this before, the abandonment of the suburbs. Looks like we are seeing it in action already.

There are two vacant houses on the block of my middle class suburb of Kansas City (first time in 10 years this has happened). One has been for sale over a year now and the other was up for sale, but the sign was taken down and now just looks like the folks left.

I'm curious about other TODers neighborhoods. Same thing going on?

Dragon: The RE market in Toronto is red hot currently.

Ah...must be an influx of immigrants from down South of you?

Dragon: Mostly south of TO- India, China, Iran, Italy, Korea- you name it. Next to the Stanley Cup playoffs the biggest sporting event on TV (for the bars) isn't the Super Bowl, it's the World Cup.

Millions Face Famine As Crop Disease Rages

Scientists say millions of people face starvation following an outbreak of a deadly new strain of crop disease which is spreading across the wheat fields of Africa and Asia.

The disease, known as black stem rust, has already destroyed harvests in Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia. Now researchers report that stem rust spores have blown across the Red Sea into the Arabian peninsula and infected wheat fields in Yemen. Spores have also blown northwards into Sudan.
Experts believe the disease - Puccinia graminis - will spread to Egypt, Turkey, the Middle East and finally India and Pakistan, which would lead to the destruction of the principal source of food for more than a billion people. Some observers warn that the disease could reach Egypt, which is heavily dependent on wheat, before the end of this year.

"This thing has immense potential for social and human destruction," the international agriculture expert and Nobel prize-winner Norman Borlaug warned this month.

Black stem rust has blighted wheat production in many parts of the world for thousands of years. So pernicious were its effects that the Romans prayed to a stem rust god called Robigus.

story continues ....


well it looks like the dieoff could be at hand and this black stem rust could be a major part of it

hope for the best but prepare for the worst

Isn't this 'rust' the basic ingredient in production of ergotamine and therefore LSD?

James Gervais
Hope was the last ill to escape Pandora's box.

Comments have been blocked from the "Bad Idea" editorial today.

But here is a new creature to add as a mascot.

The TarOstich, an extinct bird that was fond of getting its head stuck in the tar sands:

Caption: "New Technologies will get me out of this bind."

Expert panel reports to California Air Resources Board on status of both battery and fuel cell vehicle technology.


Tantalizingly close, but not quite ready for prime time. That's the conclusion of the latest Independent Expert Panel report to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) on the "Status and Prospects for Zero Emission Vehicle Technology."

The original report


They conclude that PHEVs won't be mass commercial (100,000's/year) till 2015 and full performance EVs until 2030. That seems pretty reasonable to me.

China discovery of oil & gas "might in the future rival Daqing"


and also another oil discovery in Angola block 31


Hi ace,

Thanks and if you get a chance, could you possibly put these in some context (for the less literate)?