DrumBeat: April 25, 2007

Fuel-Efficient Cars Dent States' Road Budgets

Cars and trucks are getting more fuel-efficient, and that's good news for drivers. But it's a headache for state highway officials, who depend on gasoline taxes to build and maintain roads.

The Federal Highway Administration estimates that by 2009 the tax receipts that make up most of the federal highway trust fund will be $21 billion shy of what's needed just to maintain existing roads, much less build new roads or add capacity.

Thomas Homer-Dixon: Terror in the Weather Forecast

Evidence is fast accumulating that, within our children’s lifetimes, severe droughts, storms and heat waves caused by climate change could rip apart societies from one side of the planet to the other. Climate stress may well represent a challenge to international security just as dangerous — and more intractable — than the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union during the cold war or the proliferation of nuclear weapons among rogue states today.

Five Geopolitical Feedback-Loops in Peak Oil

It is quite common to hear “experts” explain that the current tight oil markets are due to “above-ground factors,” and not a result of a global peaking in oil production. In reality, geological peaking is driving the geopolitical events that constitute the most significant “above-ground factors” such as the chaos in Iraq and Nigeria, the nationalization in Venezuela and Bolivia, etc. Geological peaking spawns positive feedback loops within the geopolitical system. Critically, these loops are not separable from the geological events—they are part of the broader “system” of Peak Oil.

Gas use down: No reward as state's drivers consume less

"If it takes a 15 percent price increase to make us cut back less than 1 percent, I think we're still in trouble," [UC Davis economist Christopher] Knittel said. If the price of any other commodity rose 15 percent, "we would see much larger changes."

Gloom descends on oil patch ahead of Ottawa's emissions plan

Forget about carbon dioxide emissions - the rising levels of angst emanating from Alberta's oil and gas industry is expected to skyrocket after the Conservative government's unveiling of reduction targets.

Iraqi Oil: More Plentiful Than Thought

Last week a Colorado energy consultancy firm, IHS, stunned some of Iraq's politicians and oil engineers by declaring that the country's oil reserves were about 215 billion barrels — about double the estimates that have held for Iraq for years. That would make Iraq a giant oil power, second only to Saudi Arabia. If the estimates prove true, Iraq's potential would outstrip its other neighbor Iran, which sits atop about 136 billion barrels of oil. The IHS engineers examined 438 undrilled fields and used new technology to recalculate old reservoirs.

Gas shortage tops up Petrocan's profit

"Consumers will find it galling that Petro-Canada is trumpeting higher profits when Ontario was looking over the abyss of running out of fuel," said Jane Savage, chief executive officer of the Canadian Independent Petroleum Marketers Association.

Mexico's state oil company requests massive investment

Mexico's state-run energy giant has requested some 33 billion U.S. dollars in investment to maintain its production after the sharp decline in a main oil field, according to a study published Tuesday.

Exxon Mobil drills world's longest well

Exxon Mobil Corp. on Tuesday said it has drilled the world's longest oil well, boring seven miles through the sea floor offshore eastern Russia.

Asset sales help ConocoPhillips profit

ConocoPhillips' first-quarter profit rose as one-time gains from asset sales outweighed lower crude oil prices, the third-largest U.S. oil company said on Wednesday.

Global oil and gas industry seen performing well in 2007

In 2006, prices for crude oil, natural gas, and refined products remained at price levels well above historical averages.

'We see relative stability in this sector. Refining prices remain high, and those high prices have helped credit quality,' said David Lundberg, S&P's O&G analyst.

Venezuela Govt Disputes Value of Orinoco Heavy Oil Projects

Venezuela is currently disputing the value of four oil projects that will come under state control on May 1, an issue that could determine if western oil majors remain in the country as minority partners.

Big Oil's money machine

Profits keep on rolling, though maybe not as robust as quarters past. Will some cash flow back to you and me?

UK's Darling Calls for Legal Certainty Regarding Investment in Russia

The UK's Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling has called for openness and legal certainty for companies investing in Russia.

"We need legal certainty. Legal certainty is a vital ingredient for ensuring a positive investment climate," he said at the 10th Annual Russian Economic Forum in London.

Global axis of oil and gas

Russia, officially listed as holder of 27% of the world's proven natural-gas reserves, but soon to be upgraded to 35%, and Iran hold more than 51% of the world's reserves. When Algeria, Qatar and Indonesia, the world's leaders in the export of liquefied natural gas (LNG), and the rest of the 16-member group comprising the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) are added in, then the grouping accounts for more than three-fourths of the world's reserves and at least 60% of world production.

That is a profoundly disturbing set of facts for the West, as the five dominant countries share a deepening political affinity and a similar geopolitical alignment. And they are increasingly intolerant of what they see as excessive US global power and aggressiveness. Evidence strongly indicates they are already in the process of moving, largely in stealth, to exert their mounting control in a collective yet largely undeclared and informal fashion.

Energy and global politics

In the wake of the unleashing of energy forces, the global balances of political power are undergoing tectonic shifts. The whopping spike in oil prices is going to make a striking transformation in the realms of politics as well as economies. The OPEC's revenue has tripled from $200 billion in 2002 to abut $600 billion in 2006. There are enough straws in the wind to indicate that power is rushing to the oil-producing countries.

The cold facts and stark realities of the energy market have reduced the influence of the US and its allies as about two thirds of remaining oil reserves lie in the Middle East and the majority of natural gas reserves are owned by Russia, Iran and Qatar. At this time, the US counts on imported oil for 60 percent of its consumption needs and it uses 25 per cent of the world's oil. America's policy of treading carefully now while pressing for or advocating democracy in the Middle East testifies to the ground reality of its diminishing influence.

H2CAR could fuel entire U.S. transportation sector

In a recent study, scientists have demonstrated that a hybrid system of hydrogen and carbon can produce a sufficient amount of liquid hydrocarbon fuels to power the entire U.S. transportation sector. Using biomass to produce the carbon, and solar energy to produce hydrogen, the process requires only a fraction of the land area needed by other proposed methods.

How Does Energy Efficiency Relate to Renewable Energy?

There is a lot happening in renewable energy right now, which is great and what we need. But what about conservation? ... Are there any studies showing how much we could save and at what cost if we insulated all the uninsulated houses and double-paned all the windows and sealed all the air leaks? In the same vein what about solar thermal? It's much more cost effective than solar electricity but not pushed nearly so hard, or so it seems.

Chinese scientist cashes in on 'clean energy'

Shi is the leader of an emerging group of Chinese entrepreneurs who are striking it rich by m

Germany mulls energy rules for buildings

The German government has proposed a system of energy efficiency ratings for buildings as the EU pushes its Energy Efficiency Action Plan to help meet its ambitious target to cut greenhouse emissions by 20 per cent by 2020.

South Africa: Biofuels vs Food Crops?

While South Africa is planning on increasing biofuels production some experts warn the move may hurt subsistence farmers and cause more hunger in impoverished areas of the country.

Use the sun to cool down our planet

Solar power is just now finally recovering from an image problem three decades in the making. During the energy crisis of the 1970s, President Carter put solar panels on the roof of the White House, but the panels were too costly for all but the super rich back then.

Commissioners hear more about wind farms

Bob Pleas of Rutland Township said he did a review on the Internet and, based on what he read, “the cons outweigh the pros.”

“They generate cash for some people but not much energy,” he said.

Analysis: Small wind market takes off

Increasing numbers of homeowners, small businesses and farms are installing wind turbines to generate electricity.

Gail the Actuary - Our world is finite: Is this a problem?

We all know the world is finite. The number of atoms is finite, and these atoms combine to form a finite number of molecules. The mix of molecules may change over time, but in total, the number of molecules is also finite.

We also know that growth is central to our way of life. Businesses are expected to grow. Every day new businesses are formed and new products are developed. The world population is also growing, so all this adds up to a huge utilization of resources.

Selling Survival Part I: Where to look for opportunity

How do you survive in an economic system that is threatening your and its own survival. Answer: You sell survival. That’s right, the game is changing to one of selling survival.

Cheap milk costs dear

Strategic planners can see that the threat from global warming and peak oil means there will be fights over land use sooner rather than later - will we use it for growing food or fuel? How we feed ourselves as a nation may soon become as urgent a question as it did during the second world war.

Saudi to Raise Refining Capacity by 62 Percent by 2012

Saudi Arabia's refining capacity will reach 3.4 million barrels per day (bpd) by the start of 2012, up 61.9 percent from its level in 2006, the country's investment authority said on Tuesday.

Energy security is a shared responsibility

The energy supply and demand debate comes down to who should bear the responsibility, says Ibrahim Mishari, Saudi Aramco's vice president of marketing and supply planning.

Speaking at the Middle East Petroleum and Gas Conference, Mishari said co-operation between all parties was the only way to ensure adequate, reliable energy supplies and to allow economic growth to continue unhindered.

More Important Than MPG

The key word, then, is CARPOOL. Share the ride. The benefits are obvious—cleaner air, longer-lasting roads and automobiles, lighter traffic, lower demand and price for petroleum, and greater energy security. These are all desirable outcomes, for individuals and governments alike.

Oil May Reach $70 as China Imports Rise on Stockpile, CLSA Says

Oil may reach $70 a barrel as China starts filling its emergency crude storage tanks, boosting the nation's imports to a record in March, CLSA Ltd. said.

China may begin pumping oil into a storage facility in Huangdao in eastern China's Shandong province in late April, Gordon Kwan, head of China oil and gas research wrote in a note today. The nation imported a record 13.86 million metric tons (3.3 million barrels a day) of crude last month, China's customs data showed on April 10.

China, the world's second-biggest energy consumer, is building storage tanks along its coast to protect against international price fluctuations and supply disruptions. The nation's strategic oil reserves will have an equivalent of 30 days of imports by 2010, Chen Deming, vice chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, said April 20.

Non-Opec output 'to peak by 2015'

Countering doomsday “peak oil” theorists who believe global oil production may be reaching its limits, Wood Mackenzie said research based on its database of field-by-field global data showed supplies should keep expanding for at least 20 years.

Scotland’s tough choices as oil cash falls

An independent Scotland would have to choose between raising taxes and cutting public spending within a decade, as oil revenues dwindle alongside production in the North Sea.

Opec told to hike oil output

REDUCED production by Opec oil exporters risks causing another damaging oil price spike this year, an influential energy consultancy warned on Monday.

The Centre for Global Energy Studies (CGES) urged the 12-member Opec cartel to raise production to help lower prices and avoid another shock on the oil market during the northern hemisphere summer.

Gazprom`s Uncertainty of Supply Due to Underinvestment

Russian gas giant Gazprom could find itself unable to meet demand down the line due to persistent underinvestment in exploration and extraction, said European Commission Director Christian Cleutinx, the European Union`s point man for energy contacts with Russia.

Egypt targets 800,000 bpd oil output in 2008

Egypt plans to hike its oil output by 100,000 barrels per day to 800,000 bpd in 2008, the petroleum ministry said Wednesday.

"A programme was set up for developing some recent discoveries in the Gulf of Suez and the western Sahara, with the aim of hiking production by 100,000 bpd," a statement said.

China condemns Ethiopia attack amid oil security fears

China on Wednesday strongly condemned the slaying of nine Chinese oil workers in Ethiopia, an attack that underscores risks associated with China's increasing dependence on shipments from sometimes unstable regions.

...Even before the attacks, a top Chinese energy official warned that the rapidly growing industrial economy faced dangers as it pushes abroad for oil, the China Securities Journal reported.

"The sources of China's oil imports are excessively concentrated in geo-politically complex and changeable regions," Xu Dingming, director-general of the Energy Bureau at the National Development and Reform Commission, told an energy forum.

Farmers eye oilseed plants for biodiesel

California farmers are hoping to strike oil — vegetable oil, that is — with a series of experimental trials involving crops that can be processed into biodiesel.

Some of the efforts to produce the sought-after fuel call for growing hearty crops such as canola on unproductive land that can't support higher-value produce.

Other farmers are eyeing oilseed plants as a cover crop that might improve soil quality between more profitable plantings of berries or leafy greens.

Surging crude palm oil prices: Malaysian biodiesel plans in jeopardy

Surging crude palm oil prices have put a dent in Malaysian ventures to manufacture biodiesel, with licencees dragging their feet to set up factories, officials and a report said Tuesday.

Bad news for biodiesel

A new study suggests that biodiesel could increase rather than reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to petrol diesel.

Special Report: The Truth About Plug-in Hybrid Cars

Garage tinkerers have been turning hybrids into plug-ins for years, but somehow no one paid attention. Other clean-car alternatives (like those below) got all the love. But, really—hydrogen? Maybe, someday. Now, the carmakers say plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) are coming, if the engineers can get the batteries right. They will. Because it's hard to argue with 100 mpg.

Mock metal group Spinal Tap to reunite

Spinal Tap is back, and this time the band wants to help save the world from global warming.

EPA won't specify global warming plans

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency repeatedly refused to say Tuesday how soon he will comply with a Supreme Court ruling and decide whether to regulate carbon dioxide, the leading gas linked to global warming.

Denmark tells Europe, Asia to speed up clean technologies

"It is possible to have economic growth and a sustainable social development while at the same time making substantial cuts in global emissions," Environment Minister Connie Hedegaard said at the opening of the third Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) of environment ministers in Copenhagen.

"In Denmark, we have experienced a 70 percent increase in economic performance over the last 25 years without increasing energy consumption," Hedegaard said.

More Swedes would lower living standard to help climate: poll

Four out of 10 Swedes are willing to lower their standard of living to help stop global warming, while seven out of 10 say they are worried about climate change, a study published on Tuesday showed.

REDUCED production by Opec oil exporters risks causing another damaging oil price spike this year, an influential energy consultancy warned on Monday.

The Centre for Global Energy Studies (CGES) urged the 12-member Opec cartel to raise production to help lower prices and avoid another shock on the oil market during the northern hemisphere summer.

Nansen ??????

He's not answering me... you go find him.

More and more we seem to be hearing desperate cries for increased production as well as more emotional reassurances in the form of attacks on "peak oil doomsdayers". Don't be the messenger to tell the king the battle was lost.

I wish we could afford the life we are living.


Peak oil theory is garbage.

I agree; it's not a "theory"

Peak Oil is an observation, not a "theory".

Actually, it's a natural phenomena, not an observation :)

Oh, I just have to disagree. "Natural" means something of nature, does it not? As opposed to something done by man, which is regarded as "artificial". Now I know some argue that man is part of nature, therefore everything we do is "natural", but that is a semantic argument which is meaningless, as most semantic arguments are (ref: philosophy).
So my point is that resource depletion is caused by man, and is therefore artificial, not natural. "Nature" isn't depleting the oil, man is.
PO is still an observation.

No it is a natural phenomenon. Any species that comes across a huge amount of detritus, left by past life, will naturally consume it until it is all gone.

Ron Patterson

And the world is flat.

I did inhale.

Is my math ability not yet awake or is the Non-OPEC/Gulf Times/Wood McKenzie article just insane?

How can a 1.25% growth rate in non-OPEC production (a subset of total production) more than offset a 1.8% growth rate in aggregate demand, thus leading to an *increase* in spare OPEC capacity by 2015????

Not to mention the fact that *IF* McKenzie was right, and everything is great for the next 20 years, that means we have ONLY 20 years to change the infrastructure! A consumer may be able to switch his/her buying habits quickly to respond to rising energy prices by driving less, turning off the A/C when it's a decent temperature outside, or switching from central natural gas heat to an electric blanket in the bedroom, businesses take YEARS to adapt. Even if things were as rosy as McKenzie TRIES to make it seem, it still should be cause for panic by businesses. In an environment where business plans are 5, 10, and 20 yr plans, only having 20 yrs of reasonably priced oil is cause for concern, let alone the reality of the fact that we're ALREADY at peak.

I personally think that the mainstream media just wants to ensure that there isn't a panic, while those in the know slowly pull out of the markets and adapt their business models. There would be a lot of money lost by powerful people if the mainstream media truly let out how FUBAR the situation is going to be.

The guy is clearly dishonest. He doesn't mention that growth in non-OPEC supply would also have to offset decline in places like the North Sea and Cantarell. It looks to me he hopes people will think 52-47=5 when the real number of additional supply would have to be much bigger than that.
Notice how he shifts from talking 'production' in non-OPEC to talking 'capacity' in KSA, obviously he hopes that people will confuse the two (try putting 'capacity' in the tank of your car and see how far it'll go).

Gail the Actuary - Our world is finite: Is this a problem?

She lists the usual points and seems to understand population growth is a (but not "the") problem. She lists possible collapse of the monetary system as the biggest and least understood issue. But what about possible collapse of agricultural networks (could happen even without a monetary collapse)? A naive view of the oil situation would be that if production drops to 1980 or 1950 levels we could all just live like people did then. But population, environmental and topsoil damage, loss of local skills, dependence on global corporations are all greater than then. How far would agro production have to fall in the main food exporters before a critical situation were reached worldwide? The network functionality aspect is key. Are any of the modellers looking at it?

I did take that Earth Day quiz... got 2.9 if counting work-related air travel and 2.4 if not. There doesn't seem to be much of a reward for such things as producing less garbage (small) or producing no children (none). Most of the penalties are either related to distance or to meat eating. Makes me wonder about the thing. They don't seem to be very aware of the population issue. Of course, if 2.4 Earths were really correct then we're better off than I thought: overpopulated by a factor of 2.4 and not 24. I still think the population crash in this century will be larger than a factor of 2.4 though.


I agree population is an issue - but unfortunately it is not an easy-to-fix issue. I talk about population twice - once in the opening, which Leanan quoted, and also later on.

One of the points I am trying to make is that the world is finite, so we are reaching quite a few depletion issues -- oil, gas, fresh water, and soil limitations - and indirectly global warming and pollution issues. Our "solutions" often simply trade one issue for another, as we bump up against limits.

I then talk about some likely outcomes, if we cannot find technological solutions. You have seen quite a few of these outcomes somewhere before, but probably not peak real GDP and impacts on insurance and pensions. I am trying to bring various things together in one place, in a format that is readable, without hysteria and without white on black background lettering.

This is a link to The World Is Finite: Is This a Problem?

I am trying to bring various things together in one place, in a format that is readable, without hysteria and without white on black background lettering.

Yay! It looks quite good and I would have no hesitation sending co-workers to this page without them worrying about my sanity.


Bookmarked and passed on. Nice simple overview.

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

I agree population is an issue - but unfortunately it is not an easy-to-fix issue.

It's not a easy fix for the individual, but for the powers that be it's a easy thing to fix and easy to make sure /they/ are among the ones left alive.
A long war ending in a full on nuclear gift exchange.

Avoid hysteria by all means, but I think food and population deserve more prominence in your list. In 1900 the world population was 1.6 billion. If the fossil-fuelled agricultural output which allowed world population to rise to over 6.5 billion disappears over 30 years, the 75% "excess" population won't agree to draw straws and euthanase themselves peacefully.

Also, I wonder how the population only "eventually" responds to less food. What do they eat in the mean-time? There is no food margin for most people - around 30-60% of child deaths in the third-world are caused by malnutrition, depending on how you measure it.

peak real GDP and impacts on insurance and pensions

This issue is fair enough (but the article indicated monetary, not real, GDP). But if so people will live much as before: no real social insurance beyond familiar or village solidarity (if they achieve that). The food supply collapse, at least regionally, could come before that, as both yields and distributability are impacted. I also don't see much of this in most analyses. What would happen, for example, if yields in the USA dropped by 30 percent? One could say, "we'd all eat a bit less", but the marginal situation vis-a-vis all the "customers" is more stressed than that, and when/if economics of distant food trade passed a threshold some regions could be shut off rather abruptly.


Hi Bruce,

Good questions.

re: "How far would agro production have to fall in the main food exporters before a critical situation were reached worldwide? The network functionality aspect is key. Are any of the modellers looking at it?"

If you know of any leads for Q #2, could you please let us know?

[systemic effects of agro production falls] ...
If you know of any leads for Q #2, could you please let us know?

Unfortunately I haven't seen any primary literature on such things since looking a bit into demographics during student days (when in the first couple of years time permitted to behave if actually in a University and not just on a PhD project). The only things I've seen since then are in the collection on www.dieoff.org (lost of the classic older stuff is there). Not an expert, I wouldn't be able to turn theory into specifics without lots and lots of homework time my own work wouldn't permit :-)

Lots of the ecomonic talent out there, unfortunately, seems to want to talk too much about finance and not nearly enough about systems.

I've seen recent studies of electrical network or traffic flow breakdowns (nonlinear response at a threshold due to incremental damage), but nothing on resource supply.


HI Bruce,

Thanks for responding. I've been trying to think about how to approach this. I'm surprised others haven't - or aren't.

Alan, for example, mentioned freight for transporting food from the Central Valley in CA to the coast. So, there's a system. Alan knows a lot about trains system. It's linking things up (the way he does in this eg.) that we seem to need a lot more of.

So, could you keep me posted if you come across something/anything that relates?

Thanks (in advance).

Part of my list of urgent "to dos" for the US, for example:

--distributed, renewable power to transport and purify water, thus securing (to the extent possible) access to potable water.

--next, to look at food supply chains.

Big subjects. (Still, I'm surprised if someone hasn't...?)

Hi Aniya,

I've seen recent work on traffic and electrical network collapses, mainly because colleagues in plasma physics have dabbled in those fields. But I would have to hunt deep for the other stuff and time doesn't permit that now...
(this is meeting season)

If I find anything on this over the summer I'll come back to TOD about it.


Hi Bruce,

Thanks and because I don't read everything, if possible, could you just email me w. a "heads up"? aniyacafe (at) yahoo (dot) com. Much appreciated.

I'm into looking at positive mitigation paths. (And just FYI, I'm well convinced of how daunting the whole picture is. Still...)

Risk mitigation for the grid is one of the topics regularly covered at The Knowledge Problem. http://www.knowledgeproblem.com/

Hi Engineer,

Thanks very much.

Summary of Weekly Petroleum Data for the Week Ending April 20, 2007

U.S. commercial crude oil inventories (excluding those in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve) rose by 2.1 million barrels compared to the previous week. At 334.5 million barrels, U.S. crude oil inventories are in the upper half of the average range for this time of year. Total motor gasoline inventories fell by 2.8 million barrels last week, and are well below the lower end of the average range. Distillate fuel inventories remained the same, and are just below the upper end of the average range for this time of year. Heating oil inventories (high-sulfur) fell last week, but diesel fuel inventories (the sum of ultra-low and low-sulfur) inventories reported a similar gain. Propane/ propylene inventories decreased by 0.1 million barrels last week. Total commercial petroleum inventories inched lower by 0.2 million barrels last week, and are in the middle of the average range for this time of year.

Hmm, not exactly an encouraging report. Here's the updated US gasoline table I posted last week:

U.S. Gasoline Data 2006 vs 2007
Capacity Prodn Imports Stocks Stock Chnge
W/E 2006 2007 2006 2007 2006 2007 2006 2007 2006 2007
Mar 31 85.9 87.0 8.1 8.8 1.1 1.0 211.8 205.2 -4.4 -5.0
Apr 7 85.6 88.4 7.9 8.5 1.1 0.95 207.9 199.7 -3.9 -5.5
Apr 14 86.2 90.4 8.1 8.7 0.9 1.0 202.5 197.0 -5.4 -2.7
Apr 21 88.2 87.8 8.5 8.5 1.3 1.2 200.6 194.2 -1.9 -2.8
Apr 28 88.8 8.6 1.0 202.7 +2.1
May 5 90.2 8.9 1.6 205.1 +2.4
May 12 89.8 9.2 1.45 206.4 +1.3
May 19 89.7 9.2 1.6 208.5 +2.1
May 26 91.4 9.2 1.6 209.3 +0.8
Jun 2 91.0 9.1 1.4 210.3 +1.0

[Week ending dates are for 2006 (2007 is a day less). Capacity is %. Imports and production are million barrels per day. Stocks are millions of barrels)

A few comments:

  • The stock figure is marginally better than it looks because ethanol isn't included in the EIA's gasoline inventory numbers (it's included in the 'other oils' category).
  • The three highest weeks ever of US gasoline imports were those you can see on the table for May 5, May 19, and May 26 last year (1.649 mbd, 1.626 mbd and 1.552 mbd respectively). The highest ever weekly gasoline production figure is 9.369 mbd. So, as you can see from the table, in May last year record imports and close to record production only moved stocks up a few million barrels. Unless demand falters it looks like we're going to need some new records - and soon.
  • The low refinery capacity percentage is a real worry. We know that BP's Whiting, Indiana, refinery is going to be down until mid-June. Although the table shows operable refinery capacity has been running ahead of last year, the recent figures are still lower than normal. Historically refineries are usually running at 90%-95% in April and 94%-96% capacity in May.
  • Keep your fingers crossed for a mild hurricane season...

FTX: Should be interesting. The invisible hand/free market theory assumes price will rise to choke off demand in a bidding war but it doesn't look like there is enough time for this in the North American gasoline situation. It looks like the retailers of gasoline are treating the consumers with kid gloves- the current low prices look to be headed right for an actual shortage this year.

Sorry, should have made it clear that BP Whiting will be at half capacity, not completely down.

FTX, Thanks very much for posting your table of gasoline stocks. It's interesting to see that this week last year was a low point, but stocks turned up because of very high production and imports in May. We'll see if there is a repeat.

One question: To me, it looks like the EIA file has 208.2 for their 2006 figure, and you have a slightly lower number. What accounts for the difference?

One question: To me, it looks like the EIA file has 208.2 for their 2006 figure, and you have a slightly lower number. What accounts for the difference?


I think the difference arises because the EIA revises its figures on a monthly basis, and some of these adjustments can be quite significant

The 2006 inventory numbers in my table are taken from the EIA's U.S. Weekly Total Gasoline Ending Stocks which are the same as those shown in the corresponding weekly reports from last year.

Since I don't know the exact methodology by which the EIA adjusts the weekly figures when it has more precise data then I haven't put revised weekly numbers in my table. In any case, it's possible that there's an upward or downward reporting bias in the initial weekly figures (although the EIA used to claim there is no discernable pattern), and consequently comparing the raw weekly data may give a better comparative picture than using the revisions for last year. It wouldn't surprise me, for example, to see the latest 194.2 inventory number revised up substantially later.

In short, I don't think any of these numbers are written in stone, but hopefully they give some sort of indication of the general trend.

Is it equipment or isn't it?
(from WSJ, late yesterday)

Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) Tuesday said maintenance at 562,500 barrel-a-day Baytown refinery would be completed in June, adding that this timeframe was consistent with previous plans.

"The turnaround is on schedule to be completed in early June," said ExxonMobil spokesman Russ Roberts, who is based at the giant Houston-area plant. The work had previously been scheduled to wrap up in early June and remains on schedule, he said.

On March 15, an Exxon spokeswoman told Dow Jones that the refinery was beginning about two months of scheduled maintenance on a pipestill, or crude distillation unit, at the refinery.

Crude units "aren't shut down frequently," said ExxonMobil spokeswoman Prem Nair at the time. Nair couldn't be reached Tuesday.

A person familiar with the plant's operations said Tuesday that the turnaround had been delayed, owing primarily to concerns over equipment deliveries. Additionally, worker overtime has become problematic, the person said.

As a result, some work has been extended to relieve pressure on the refinery. The person couldn't say whether the changes would affect production.

Roberts countered that neither equipment delivery concerns nor labor problems have delayed the turnaround.

The plant is the largest in ExxonMobil's refining system, as well as the largest oil refinery in the U.S.

My guess is - Prem was logged on to TOD, reading as quickly as she can about ELP.

Here's what Dante at PO.com said about this report:

The freight train barreling down the track, that is US gasoline demand, is soon about to crash into the brick wall, static gasoline supplies. Even after falling 11 consecutive weeks, even many energy analysts still don’t have a sense of the catastrophe about to happen.

The US is two to four months away from the development of regional gasoline shortages. The good news in today’s report about gasoline is that supplies are fairly well distributed across the country, although as I stated before, the west coast is likely to feel the effects of developing shortages first. Based on events following Hurricane Katrina, it appears that an inventory level of around 190 million barrels is the minimum level necessary to avoid scattered single state supply disruptions. Due to distortions caused in how ethanol is counted, the adjusted comparable figure is about 185 million barrels. However if current demand levels don’t change, we could see inventories fall to 180 million barrels this summer.

Crude imports last week came in about expected – 10 million barrels per day – but gasoline imports exceeded mine and general expectations and came in at 1.164 million barrels a day. I am not sure if that represents a trend or is a result of one extra large tanker arriving on the east coast. There is a strong possibility of a refinery strike in Antwerp on May 9, which will affect US gasoline imports. Last week, I thought gasoline imports would be heading to around 1.1 million barrels a day by the end of the second quarter.

Summary of Weekly Petroleum Data for the Week Ending April 20, 2007

Just a general FYI, the author of This Week in Petroleum, and the guy who pulls all of these statistics together, is posting in the comments following my latest blog entry. He knows a lot about this situation, so if you have a question drop by and ask him. His name is Doug MacIntyre, and he is commenting that this situation is pretty serious. See the comments following:

This Week in Petroleum 4-25-07

His latest comment:

Inventories are very low, no one can doubt that. On a Days Supply basis, the situation is even worse. That said, there are 5 weeks until the Memorial Day weekend (the unofficial start of the peak driving season). The bottom end of the average range at the end of May is 208.6 MMB, or about 14 MMB above where we are right now. So, we would need to see an average build of 2.5-3.0 MB each week over the next 5 weeks just to get back to the bottom end of the average range. Is this possible? Yes. Is it likely? I better leave that answer to others.

SD_Scott had this to say about the refinery problems (mentioned by Dante in his comments)

A few interesting points on the BP Whiting refinery.

1. 3 hydrogen compressors for the Cat feed hydrotreater are damaged or lost. The unit will be down until August. 20% to 30% capacity loss. OUCH!

2. Currently paying a premium for light sweet as they are unable to process as much heavy sour.

3. This refinery is aproximately 115 years old. However, the equipment is not 115 years old. Lots of maintenance tho.

4. One of Canada's leaders visited recently to kick off a 3 billion dollar project to build 3 processing units to treat oil from the tar sands. GOHT's Gas Oil Hydrotreaters.

According to FTX's table the corresponding week from 2006 reported very similar numbers to the ones released today. But between then and Memorial Day 2006, gasoline imports came flooding into this country, averaging about one-half million bpd more in May than in April

This time one year later, an additional 400,000 bpd of gasoline is needed just to keep inventories from sliding even more. An additional 150,000 bpd is needed to lift inventories up to the 200 million mark by Memorial Day. Perhaps that can be arranged, but it will be hard to repeat the import "surge" that occurred last year. What are the prospects for a surge strategy in May anyway?

Nymex RBOB gasoline finished the day above $2.28.
More to come.


Any comments on power from space?

Here's one even better - making gasoline from air! We can all shut down The Oil Drum, go home and gas up the SUV. From the MIT Technology Review no less.


This month's copy includes a snippet on a "thermoelectric" material that makes electricity out of waste heat. Just came in the mail.

cfm in Gray, ME

I was working with thermoelectric materials in the early 1970s. No big deal: poor efficiency, expensive materials.

Using clean non-polluting electrical energy from space to manufacture synthetic fuels from co2 and water is one way to overcome the coming shortfall in petroleum fossil fuels.
The basic technology exists today to accomplish this.
If someone with more expertise at number/graphs would run the numbers starting with the energy content of oil/natural gas global production and then using rational numbers and effiencies of the conversion process, the losses in moving the electical energy from space to ground based manfacturing plants in the deserts to effiencies of producing electricty in space to the amount of solar energy per unit area available around planet Earth, you could calcualte how many km2 of solar relective panels and thermal generators would be necessary to allow total replacement of oil. * Note I use solar reflectors to thermal popwer plants in space to reduce the losses from the inevitable hits by micrometors that would occur with photovoltaic panels. With the km2 needed figure it is then possible to start to develop some numbers on the costs involved in such an endeavour.
I have put up postings on this general area for the last year.
But even if this is done, unless we do something to stop the growth in population it will be futile as we will hit the wall of water shortages, food shortages, excessive pollution, rising levels of violence (too many rats in the maze syndrom), raw material shortages, etc......
Because I don't think anyone will do anything about the population problem I don't have much faith in a positive future for our species. Reduce the population to sustainable levels and all of the problems listed above solve themselves.

Jon Kutz
Growth in quality is good; growth in quantity is bad!

I'm not sure about the practicality of all of your scenario. The trouble with moving stuff into and out of orbit is the huge amount of energy required. It is questionable if there is any way you can make the EROEI worth while.

However, one thing that should be considered is relocating most of the server banks into geosynchronous orbit, powered by massive PV panels. They are the nodes of our global telecom/IT network that are drawing the most power, and it would help the terrestrial electric power situation quite a bit if all of that load could be relocated off the earth's surface. Computer technology can operate just fine in a zero gravity, zero-atmosphere environment, maybe even better. Beaming data up and down is a much more efficient matter, and indeed is being done in significant volumes already; this idea would simply scale it up to the next level by moving most information processing and data exchange off-planet.

The biggest problem is repair and maintenance. Robots could be a good answer. It is easier to design robots that don't have to cope with gravity, too.

>However, one thing that should be considered is relocating most of the server banks into geosynchronous orbit, powered by massive PV panels

This would never work:

1. electronics are susceptible to radiation. Satellites use electronics that are radiation hardened. The transistor density of hardend electroncis is many orders less dense that server and telecom electronics.

2. Hard drives, power supplies fail and would need to be replaced

3. Server electronics generate enormous amounts of heat which is very difficult to dissapate in space (vacuum). Most Data Centers already face cooling problems.

4. Micro-metors can damage and destroy PV panels as well as equipment, and solar ejections can cause EMP that can destroy sentivity electronics.

The only practical use of space for energy would be to deploy cheap foil mirrors to focus sunlight to solar power plants to increase the power output per square meter. For instance, foil mirrors that are multiple miles in diameter could potentially focus gigawatts of concentrated solar light back to earth based solar power plants. Solar foil mirror material would be extremely light weight and a single large rocket could probably launch a mirror of several miles in diameter. Althought technical issues remain. For instance, the mirrors will eventually breakup in space leaving a halo of debris in orbit and could also interfere with satellite communications, since the foil would probably deflect RF signals. Perhaps a network of mirrors could be used, with large multi mile meters at the Earth-Sun Langrange point and smaller mirrors in geosyncronous orbit to steer light to specifc ground stations. These would also make nice weapons against ground targets.

>The biggest problem is repair and maintenance. Robots could be a good answer. It is easier to design robots that don't have to cope with gravity, too.

Gravity isn't the problem, its radiation micro-metors that affects both humans and machines. Not to mention the expense of lifting replacement parts into orbit.

The only practical use of space for energy would be to deploy cheap foil mirrors to focus sunlight to solar power plants to increase the power output per square meter.

Aside from messing with the diurnal and seasonal cycles of everything for hundreds of miles, this simply won't work.  Even if you made a perfect parabola and aimed the tightest possible image of the Sun at the ground, it would still be (8e5/9.3e7*2.23e5)=192 miles wide, minimum.  No mirror small enough to be practical would get a useful power density, and any useful power density would overwhelm whole states with excess heating.

Radio is coherent (can be focused very tightly) and can be converted to electricity at high efficiency.  There are reasons O'Neill & Co. made the choices they did.

This is probably moot.  Essentially none of this is feasible unless we get synchronous skyhooks, and the technology which allows them is likely to solve the problem in other ways.

Consider the reaction that occurs when a hydrocarbon is burned: CH2+O2=CO2+H2O+heat. The process can be reversed and is done by plants everyday. A cryostat is a Stirling Cycle device which if driven by another power source will absorb heat from the atmosphere fast enough to freeze carbon dioxide from the air on it surface. Water can be extracted from the air the same way. The H2O and CO2 are mixed in a pressure vessel and electrolyzed to create hydrogen and carbon monoxide. These gases are passed through a cobalt and iron oxide catalyst to produce gasoline and other hydrocarbon products. This would require a relatively large capital investment for the amount of fuel created in the form of a large wind farm which would capture about twice the energy content of the fuel output on top of the cost of the cryostats and F-T reactors. It is possible to make gasoline out of thin air.

Consider the capital expense to build it, and the energy (from what source?) to run it.  Figure the price/gallon at some reasonable amortization rate.  Then get back to us.

TSHTF! Gasoline inventories fall by another 2.8 Mb and WT's talking about space power :)

Here in the Dallas area, I have begun to wonder what the Dallas Morning News will report on first--declining world crude oil production or instances of gasoline stations running out of gasoline? My bet is on spot shortages of gasoline, before they report on Peak Oil.

World crude oil production is down by one mbpd from its 5/05 peak (EIA).

Consumption in many exporting countries is increasing--rapidly. One could reasonably infer that this is having a negative effect on exports of crude oil and refined products. The mix of crude oil that is being produced and exported is becoming progressively more sour and heavier.

I wonder if one reason for the lower refinery utilization rate is problems getting exactly the right type of crude oil to the right refineries, as the crude oil supply becomes tighter? As we have previously discussed, US crude oil inventories, relative to consumption, are way below what we used to have in the early Nineties, and we don't know what percentage of inventories consists of heavy/sour versus light/sweet.

CNBC is quoting some analysts as saying "$4 gasoline is a sure thing."

My bet is on spot shortages of gasoline, before they report on Peak Oil.

Sure, it can't be too far off. With percent of income and historical levels not yet reached on price, how is demand destruction gonna have a chance? 10 gallons and a line?

I wonder if one reason for the lower refinery utilization rate is problems getting exactly the right type of crude oil to the right refineries, as the crude oil supply becomes tighter?

Gotta be happening. Everything is supposed to be 'fixed' by this time of year isn't it?

Pickens at least put his pitch in again for Peak Oil yesterday on CNBC. It'll be a shame if this becomes the biggest story never told. As you have said skirting the real problem will likely take us down some more dead ends and away from ELP.

BTW, the big change in crude oil inventories is relative to the early Eighties, when we had about 10% more crude oil in absolute terms (April, 1983) and 45% more in terms of Days of Supply (32 days then versus about 22 now). IMO, the industry has gradually gone to a "Just In Time" system, because of the SPR.

Of course, consumers don't burn crude oil.

I wonder what the worldwide drawdown in product inventories has been in the past seven months?

Bumping around IEA everybody was pretty strong to January. U.S. had 230 Mb of gasoline before the big refinery/demand slide to this point.

Something I hadn't noticed was that Europe keeps more forward days of gasoline on hand than middle distilates (48 vs. 38 days) but lots more than the U.S.
Pacific areas run it closer to the wire all the time at around 16 days at best.

The thing that does not show is today. Did everyone else slide as much as we did in the last 3 months? Better data anyone?

Lots of great shots of people in lines with "analysis" as to where the gas went: OPEC, terrorists, hurricanes, shortages of refineries, etc.

It will take some time for PO to be the dominant story. Matt Simmons will be the key figure.

Yep, I'm sure you saw those very interesting posts from RR and Leanan upthread along these lines.

You're right we'll 'round up the usual suspects' and only if the media chooses to focus on somebody like Matt will the word get out so folks can see what they have to do.

IMHO we won't ask our leaders to make the tough choices on our behalf until we get the straight scoop. Enough with the softballs, right? Matt has presented with JHK before. We take off the rose colored glasses. Then see what people do.

"CNBC is quoting some analysts as saying "$4 gasoline is a sure thing."

Actually, $40 gasoline is a sure thing too. It is just a question of when.

These space power guys are looking for a Peak Oil speaker. I'm pretty sure what my response will be, but I just wondered if I was missing something. Somehow, I think that the prospect of turning the world into a giant microwave oven wouldn't go over real well.

I remember reading a Sci-Fi short story decades ago about microwaved power from space. The theme was about the negative effects it was having on people's health.

In regard to a different subject, a note from the Housing Bubble Blog follows. How bad does it have to get for real estate agents to start asking people to pull properties off the market? I guess the next thing that the real estate industry will be asking for is for the government to buy homes and tear them down in order to reduce the surplus.

“‘Buyers are looking for bargains, there’s no question about it,’ said David Lipstein, founder of Manasota Key Realty. ‘They are making offers that are much lower than list prices. In the past, sellers would have been insulted by such low offers and would not have responded, but now most of them want to be insulted. At least that gives them a starting point for negotiations.’”

“There were 8,376 single-family homes listed for sale in Sarasota as of April 15, according to Team DuToit at Keller-Williams Realty. The result is that Sarasota’s MLS has been left with a 110-week supply of homes at the current sales rate.”

“That makes for odd requests: ‘I’d like to make an appeal to everybody who does not need to sell to take your home off the market,’ said (realtor) Marianne Zoll.”

Microwave power from space? Used to be in the old SimCity game. That's what you used until somebody invented fusion.

Ah.. I always made artificial waterfalls and put hydro power on them. Worked like a charm. And windmills on every spare square. But hey, in the second version people didn't even produce garbage. And there still are no graveyards in the game. But they do have garbage incinerators.

After watching housing rise at over 10% on a YOY basis for so many years I enjoy hearing realators whine. To bad it will bite us all because they sure made some money on the way up.

WT, The idea of generating power in outer space for use on Earth has to be destroyed. We can't even finish the International Space Station. How can we possibly talk about giant solar cell arrays of millions of tons being lifted into orbit, assembled, rotated towards the sun, maintained and then have giant dishes shooting microwave radiation to the earth to be captured in other giant dishes (with serious loss in transmission)? Compared to this fantasy, the idea of covering the western deserts with solar cells to power America seems downright doable. Indeed, that is a goal that we should go for, but using Concentrating Solar Power, CSP, to do the job. This has been done for decades by the SEGS arrays that were built in the 80s and are still operating successfully today. Hot oil storage can be used to generate power during off-hours. Nothing ground-breaking in this CSP stuff. We could kick it off tomorrow. Heck, any of the large oil companies could, and should, do it!

People who talk about generating power in space and beaming it down to Earth are delusional, for the reasons you state.

This whole issue was debated beautifully in the mid-70's, when Gerard K. O'Neill was pushing "space colonies", with power producing "factories" one of the rationales.

There was a wonderful series of "open letters" between Stewart Brand (arch-technocornucopian) and Wendell Berry (a stalwart earthman) debating this point, in the CoEvolution Quarterly, published by Brand. Nothing has materially changed the arguments since then.

I opened and read the first page of Chapter Seven. Wireless transmission of power. A beam of power from space. I stopped, I know where this is going. Of course here its presented to you as a "salvation". uh uh depending on who the "King" is.

How about a huge "laser" in space. Thats already been patented. Heard about the large umbrella's that are suggested to be placed in space to stop the Sun (Like its something new). They can be used to make a huge laser device also. They leave that out. Its also a "weapon". so would this device.

Any comment. google Professor Judy Wood (she has here own web site now), we aren't allowed to talk about the rest here.

Westexas, You can't take this device seriously without the other "uses" coming into play. The laser is capable of being made now according to the inventor, I will leave it at that.

Since this article is here though I would suggest that people should go take a look at the Pictures prof wood has. Amazing stuff.

I;ve spoken directly to Judy. She spent a considerable amount of time with me so I could understand what she is saying. This is dangerous stuff. Here website will explain why, look for the story on her grad student.

Oh, and this is exactly why I call myself prisonerX.

Ask yourself why Politicians and the media show so much fear and refuse to look at the obvious, be it peak oil, or other.

Georgia Tech, the rambling wrecks, careful you don't get stung by a bee, have you ever been stung by a bee. Humm where are the bee's. LOL

Quid Clarius Astris
Ubi Bene ibi patria

For all you need to know about the (hysterical, hilarious, demented, uneducated, unscientific, math challenged, cartoonish, sad, pathetic) speculations of Dr. Judy Wood, just watch a few minutes of this video:



I looked,.. where is the theory that this person or the site believes caused the destruction, note I too did not say collapse. This is the whole point, Judy's point. What is their stance on the destruction (s). I missed that on the site.

Whats your theory Jules. What is yours since you have a distaste for Judy's theory. Who do you believe Joules. I think an answer to that (considering your response) is warranted. NIST, the commission, Prof Stephens, other/. Just one word Joules. What theory do you use, then lets drop it here.

Look at the photos of the cars their strange "conditions" and what could cause that, and note their location, explain the bathtub and its condition, Look the site over. and where o where is the central core Joules.

I can't defend Judy's presentation here at this site, or the obvious tactics used by the whole "crew" of the interview, including the interviewer. I noted in my time with her that she needed media training,..so to speak if she was going to go public.

As a professional in the Video/communications field, understanding the basics of the subject matter, and what she is trying to say, (explain the evidence) (not what caused it), that comes latter. Judy needs media savey. I have helped train people to do this. I bet I could turn you around in an interview on Peak oil Joules. I bet I could make you look bad too. Given complete control over the situation. An O yes, interesting camera angle they chose for Judy. Here let me explain.

The interviewer is presented in a "normal" frame. He is "higher" in the frame when viewed than Judy. This is to move the viewer in their mind that Judy is "beneath" them. The angle of her shot looking down and from the side.

The interviewer is presented in a frame that shows him as "level", perhaps eye level is just above the camera, for a little superiority. Just a a hint.

This framing was no accident most likely. The camera on Judy being at that angle is a dead give a way. At the very least it should have been the same height as the other. This angle makes Judy look "beneath" the viewer. Its from the side and compresses her also in the frame. I could go on about many other things also. Knowing this stuff is also part of "media" training and to watch out for these "instances".

That the interviewers mic is left open and his "comments" are the last to be heard. Again, manipulation of the viewer.

So is Georgia Tech just blowing smoke Joules, Do you disagree that such a device could not be made into a powerful weapon. What theory do you buy Joules.

Quid Clarius Astris
Ubi Bene ibi patria

I have no intention of engaging you in any debate on the WTC destruction. My only intent was to point out that the ideas of someone with such a poor grasp of basic physics are not worthy of consideration WRT this topic. That you feel otherwise is disappointing.

What theory Jules, what's your physics answer to the story. The fact you didn't respond. Disappointing that you can't answer your own beliefs. Where did I state I wanted debate, you seem to need to read a little better and quit telling people what to believe. Like the "swift boat" piece you failed to respond to showing their beliefs and yours also.

Yawn, so typical of those that have no reasons for their statements. Except propaganda.

Quid Clarius Astris
Ubi Bene ibi patria

Is that the idea about geosynchronous orbiting PV panels beaming their power to earth via microwaves? That idea has been around for at least 30 years now. I remember some wag back in the late 70s envisioning one of these set up to beam power to Europe and getting bumped, leading to the event which became known as "The Cooking of Provincial France".


This idea is over 30 years old. The science has been verified multiple times over and it will technically work, regardless of what any naysayer here says. But that's not the problem.

The problem is not whether the technology will work but the cost of building and operating this system. It is doable but the cost is very high. In the 1970s, it was estimated to be well over a trillion dollars, and that was in an era when the entire federal budget was a couple hundred billion dollars total. Truthfully, we can get nearly the same power outputs for far lower investment by installing solar cells all over down here and that's the main rub. We need more PV cells, yes. And we need to load balance the entire thing, yes. But the cost of ground based installation is a fraction of space based installation, even considering weather factors and differences in PV efficiency on the ground versus in space. Even if we need several times the total cells as the solar based installation, the costs of lifting, assembling, and operating the system are higher than doing it ground based.

Thus, lacking any other motivation to do so, I cannot see building these sorts of systems when we have large tracts of otherwise unused desert areas all around the world. Further, as Alan and others have noted, migrating to a DC based grid would help immensely in distributing the generated power, a problem that still has to be solved for the space based system since power is beamed to a microwave reception farm and then distributed via wire as normally.

If there were a larger gap in the efficiency of ground based solar PV cells than space based cells, one could see floating such a proposal. But rather than do this, why not simply do as one commenter to Alan's proposal thread recommended - invalidate all restrictions against solar cells and then simply install the things nationwide?

That is the question I would raise with the space based solar power people - why not install solar cells down here and avoid the overhead costs of space launches, etc.?

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

Actually if the infinite growth folks wanted to prolong the inevitable as far as energy is concerned, this technology would be the way to go AFTER the lower hanging fruit of solar power on Earth had been picked.

There is only so much sunlight that hits the Earth(granted we have not even begun to tap into it like we should), but eventually if we pursue solar power generation we will run out of desert and roof tops to line up with solar cells. So the next step if we wanted to continue increasing the available solar power at our disposal might be spaced base platforms such as this.

As for launching solar panels into space, why bother? It would be simpler and more efficient to launch factories and mining machinery into space and gather the components there and assemble and use them in space, rather than trying to launch it all from this gravity sink called Earth.

In fact, the real key to cracking the solar system wide open for resource exploitation will be when we can launch enough machinery into space to build more machinery in space or on low grav planetoids like the moon.

Ultimately, if humans were smart we'd move as much industry off world as possible, and return Earth into as biodiverse a place as possible. The rest of a solar system based civilization is going to need biologicals, and the Earth bound (and maybe Mars bound?) portions of that civilization will need industrial products. A trade arrangement providing biologicals for the spacebound and industrials for the planetbound makes the most sense in the long run.

The pollution in space has no environment to impact and if we really wanted to be extra careful you can always send undesirable material to feed that furnace we call Sol.

"As for launching solar panels into space, why bother? It would be simpler and more efficient to launch factories and mining machinery into space and gather the components there and assemble and use them in space, rather than trying to launch it all from this gravity sink called Earth."

Yes, so simple and efficient. We'll just launch factories and mining equipment instead of solar panels! WTF?

And gather components! Oh yes, components are just lying around, waiting to be gathered.

With all due respect, you don't know what you're talking about. We don't know how to do what you're suggesting. Mining, refining, smelting, etc. Handling the energy and heat loads. Finding the "components". Applying the word "simple" to it is, to put it mildly, a gross exaggeration.

This is techno-cornucopianism at its most florid.

Did I say "simple". Hrm... no I don't see where I did. I said "simpler" i.e. as in its easier to do B instead of A.

In this case launch manufacturing capability into space to handle the lions load of manufacturing for future projects afterwards instead of trying to constantly launch "finished" good from Earth forever and ever.

I didn't say it would be simple.

As for material just laying about... well actually, yeah that is kind of the case. The moon makes a good starting point, the asteroids could be next. In fact instead of mining asteroids out there and shipping refined product back, you can just hook up rockets to knock an asteroid out of orbit and into a trajectory that will bring it towards Earth or any other destination desired in the solar system where it can be fed to a stationary refining plant.

The physics is not that complex, and the technology required is not that high tech.

And as for name calling, while you call me a techno-cornicopian, you might actually take the time to bother reading some of the posts of the person you are making fun of, especially considering that I think the US is going to lose its democracy if the current course remains, that mankind is going to lose several billion people in very unpleasant ways in the coming decades if the current course remains, and that currently it looks more likely that we will blow ourselves back to the stone age than ever get the chance to try and tackle the challenges of space.

What I see before me is a fork in the road for humanity. On one fork we are royally screwed, on the other I see humanity emerging from this resource challenge stronger and more capable than ever. If that makes me a cornicopian because I believe either possibility still exists and one is worth fighting for, then so be it. At least I can say I tried and hoped for the best of mankind, and not sat around waiting for the worst.

"the technology required is not that high tech"

You are delusional. The technology required simply does not exist. No one knows how to do what you are proposing. Perhaps some day we could figure it out... many, many decades... but we don't have nearly that much time.

Do you have any concept of the (non-existent) resources of money and energy that it would require to even remotely address this engineering challenge? We have neither.

"At least I can say I tried and hoped for the best of mankind, and not sat around waiting for the worst."

That would be a noble sentiment, except that it is a monumental distraction from what has to be done to minimize the dieoff you so rightly deplore.

I have to agree with you sgage. This reminds me of the conversations with Infinite Possibilities, who was happy to say that we had no problem, since there was ample sunlight and the technology already existed to capture it.. it was just then the task of setting it up.

'In theory, theory should work like real life, but in real life, that's not often the case.'

I know Telumehtar, you didn't say we have 'no' problem, but to conflate the fact that we have 'some' experience moving things around out there with the practicalities of actually crossing all the t's and dotting the i's.. is a little extreme. Of course, others are just as dismissive of any plan that suggests that we ask one-another to simply make any kind of sacrifices and endure some discomfort to start turning the ship.

You are delusional. The technology required simply does not exist.

Can we drop the name calling? You want to debate the feasibility of something that is fine, but the auto-knee jerk hostility against anyone who says something is technically possible is unbecoming.

As for the technology not existing, I think you are willingly ignoring the feats NASA, European Space Agency, Russian Space Program, and even countries like China, Isreal, and Japan are accomplishing.

We've successfully splashed a probe into a comet moving many miles per second. We are controlling probes in the furthest reaches of our solar system. We are driving remote control robots on the surfaces of other planets.

Landing a probe with some extra rocket propellant on an asteroid in the asteroid belt is not something that is much beyond the capabilities of things we are ALREADY doing.

It does not take that much application of force to knock something out of orbit, and if figured properly we can control the trajectory of that object. We do it all the time now with our current probes.

Do you have any concept of the (non-existent) resources of money and energy that it would require to even remotely address this engineering challenge? We have neither.

You would be wrong. We are in fact at the PEAK or in otherwords maximum production of our resources. Saying we have neither is an out and out falsehood.

That being said, the amount of energy required by the space program is fraction of a percent of the total energy this country uses. Furthermore other counties were able to field rocket and space technology with less available resources, and less technology. Nazi V rocket program, Soviet Space Program, even the early American rocket and space program.

All that being said I agree that our focus should be on using this peak in resource extraction to prime ourselves to build out the needed infrastructure to sustain civilization and a high tech society without all the waste we do today. If anything however, keeping an eye on space, and applying technologies used in space to ground based problems, will help to serve in increasing our efficiency and resource usuage.

Space is a very unforgiving place when it comes to wastefulness, and as such, the designs going into space based technologies have waste control, and resource management at the very heart of their design. Everyone gram matters, every amp and volt counted, if possible nothing is left to chance when designing space going vessels/probes, and it is that type of engineering mentality that we need to be looking for going forward in our ground based problems also.

If anything you want a model of systems designed with environment in mind, look at space technology. Environment is EVERYTHING in space and it dictates the design process down to the last detail.

I just thought that some of you may wish to know that it is possible to post letters in important financial newspapers about CERA's optimistic forecasts and suchlike - there is no conspiracy of silence. Here is a recent outrageous article that I read in the Financial Times

Here it is for non-subscribers:

Iraq could have twice as much oil as estimated

By Ed Crooks in London

Published: April 19 2007 03:00 | Last updated: April 19 2007 03:00

Iraq could hold almost twice as much oil in its reserves as had been thought, according to the most comprehensive independent study of its resources since the US-led invasion in 2003.

The possibility of a further 100bn barrels in the western desert highlights the opportunity Iraq has to be one of the world's biggest oil suppliers - and its attractions for international oil companies - if the conflict in the country can be resolved.

If confirmed, Iraq would be raised from the world's third biggest source of oil reserves with 116bn barrels to second place, behind Saudi Arabia, overtaking Iran.

The study from IHS, a consultancy, also estimates that Iraq's production could be increased from its current rate of less than 2m barrels a day to 4m b/d in about five years, if international investment begins to flow.

That would put Iraq in the top five oil-producing countries in the world, at current rates.

The IHS study is based on data collected in Iraq both before and after the invasion, showing the oilfields' reserves and production history. Its estimate of a further 100bn barrels of oil in the western desert is based on analysis of geological surveys.

Production costs in Iraq are low, particularly compared to the more complex offshore developments. IHS estimates that they are less than $2 a barrel.

But the development of the industry depends on an improvement in security.

At least 166 people were killed yesterday in five co-ordinated car bomb attacks in Shia districts of Baghdad, the deadliest attacks the city has seen since US and Iraqi forces launched a security crackdown in February. The attacks came hours after Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister, said Iraqi forces would be in a position to take primary responsibility for security in all of Iraq's 18 provinces by the end of the year.

Ron Mobed of IHS said: "Obviously the security situation is very bad, but when you look at the sub-surface opportunity, there isn't anywhere else like this. Geologically, it's right up there, a gold star opportunity."

Of Iraq's 78 oilfields identified as commercial by the government, only 27 are currently producing. A further 25 are not yet developed but close to production, and 26 are not yet developed and far from production.

Iraq's government has estimated that it would need $20bn-$25bn (£10bn-£12.5bn) of investment from foreign companies to get production to full potential.

Production methods have advanced greatly in the past two decades, and methods such as horizontal drilling have yet to be deployed in Iraq.

So far, the only new contracts for developments by foreign companies are the five signed by the Kurdistan regional government in the relatively peaceful north of Iraq.

Oil production in parts of the western desert region that are attached to Sunni Arab-majority provinces could help resolve some of the differences between Iraq's sectarian political blocs.

The Sunni have until now been strongly hostile to the federalism espoused by most Kurds and some Shia, arguing that it would deprive their less well-resourced heartland in the centre of the country of resources.

Additional reporting Steve Negus, Iraq correspondent

My response is to be found here

Here it is for non-subscribers:

A warning over good news on Iraqi oil 'wealth'

By Alfred Nassim

Published: April 24 2007 03:00 | Last updated: April 24 2007 03:00

From Mr Alfred Nassim.

Sir, Your prominent report (front page, April 19), which began "Iraq could hold almost twice as much oil in its reserves as had been thought", should have been given some sort of a health warning.

Most readers don't know that IHS, the consultancy that conducted the study into Iraq's resources, owns CERA, the consultancy that has been giving optimistic forecasts of the world's oil reserves.

It forecast in 2002 that gas production in the US would increase by 15 per cent by 2010 and it has since declined by 4 per cent - most gas wells there deplete in 12 months now. Nor do most readers know that the clients of IHS are the very same people who would like to get their rigs on to Iraqi soil.

The use of language such as "oil production" is inaccurate when referring to non-renewable resources. Oil is extracted, not produced.

Advanced extraction methods such as "horizontal drilling" do not increase "production" - they merely speed up depletion and ensure that when it approaches it is sudden, and not gradual as with conventional drilling.

If in any doubt, witness what is happening with Cantarell in Mexico: the world's second most prolific oil field is declining by 20 per cent annually. Nevertheless, CERA believes Mexico's oil extraction will remain level until 2015.

The fact is that the media are being massaged by a steady drip of "good news" on the energy front. Each drop - the hydrogen economy, clean coal and, more recently, ethanol - serves merely to confuse us and to distract us from the big picture.

Alfred Nassim,

Ryde, Isle of Wight PO33 2UW

I am not saying all is well with MSM. I am simply saying that they are learning and that one must encourage this process. Let's face it, many more decision-makers read the FT than any blog.

Moqtada Al-Sadr pulls his people out of the Maliki Govt., threatening the Oil Deal. The point of contention; the Sunni's will get shafted as their part of the country is not where the oil is. Miracle upon miracle, a US-BASED ENERGY CONSULTANCY, states Iraq has 100 billion barrels of oil more than we throught right there where the Sunni's are. How convienient. This US-based energy consultancy, IHS, Just happens to be the same people that own CERA and we all know how un-biased and reality based their pronouncements are. Seems you can create a 100 billion barrels of oil convieniently located any where you want just by saying so.

I read your letter in the FT. Good job. It had Oil Drum written all over it!

Hi Alfred,

I like how you lead up, in a logical fashion, to talk about the "big picture". I also really like your use of specific examples of predictions v. reality.

I hope you'll continue to write, and reach, perhaps, an even wider audience.

Now, about those "decision-makers"...who are you thinking about?

Do you suppose they grasp the "big picture"? And, will they make decisions with the interests of others in mind, as well as their own? (Kind of rhetorical...)

I'm wondering if you have thoughts of "positive mitigation" or a positive scenario, you might share...and who is in a position to take action on it. (Bigger qs, one's I'm really interested in...) (Perhaps for a future discussion.)

Prompted by the drumbeat (Africa .. and not infinite...) :

27% of the food produced for humans in the US is thrown out as waste. link

Some even trumpet 50% link

So, it is between 10 and 45% depending on where ... What to count, how, how reliable are the measures? Maybe, about 25% - just to settle on an off-da-cuff.

About 15 to 20 % of fossil fuels used in the US go to food production. (Rough, and import/export not taken into account.)

Landfill gas emissions are a huge source of methane because of food waste.

US agriculture itself is responsible for about 9% of garbage (= Total Municipal Solid Waste) “For every ton of post-consumer waste, there is 20 tons of pre-consumer waste..”Tufts According to others, dry matter wastes from farms account for a third of total garbage, eg. manure. link

A quick whip round the EIA as an ex. shows that ‘farming’ or equivalent is not a used category. Food waste is of no concern, as expected.

A search on The FOA (food and agriculture org., UN), turns up endless articles about the use /disposal of waste, about particular kinds of ‘waste’, eg. nuclear waste, salmon waste - the specialised details, etc., but no general analysis as far as I could see. Amazing.

(These are the things that ppl read, consult.)

In the US, food waste and hunger co-exist.

Obesity, diabetes, are incredible killers.

-- That was about the US, but in much of the West aspects of a similar pattern are to be seen.

Locally, and even nationally in many cases, much effort is made to ‘reduce’ waste or ‘recycle’ waste. That is all good. Targets are set, and met or not. But waste - and particularly food waste - is not a category used in general stats.

In the West, we participate in a culture where excessive use, and waste, are symbols of strength, power, social domination of inferiors. Driving a SUV or a big car, and at a lower level, throwing out leftovers, clothes that are serviceable, etc. show that one is top of the heap, better than ppl who -gasp!- can’t drive at all, mend clothes, re use left-over food, or just eat it.. Others can starve, as they ‘don’t get it,’ are dumb, violent, backward, disorganized, not politically aware, etc.

Our unwillingness to examine waste (not just unnecessary, inappropriate, or badly organized USE of energy), to examine the outputs of the system is disturbing.

Apparently, there is no relation between ‘growth’ and ‘waste’ - or not one that is analysed and spoken about in any consistent way.

LOL, imagine a zero waste no-manure cow.

cfm in Gray, ME

Is it time to raise gas taxes?

So how high should gas prices be? "A doubling of where we are today is what we need," Kammen said. "It would do the country a world of good."

In real terms gasoline taxes have been falling during the last few years as prices increased. Here in Iowa we have a 20 cent state gas tax. When gas was $1 it was 20% of the selling price. At $2.00 it was 10% of the selling price. And at $3 it will be 6.6% of the selling price. Combined local and state sales tax here is usually 7%. If gas which is currently about $2.60 here goes to $3 again, the state gas tax will be less than sales taxes paid on items such as clothing. This phenomenon of falling real taxes on a finite commodity seems to be ignored by all, although I suspect purchasers of gas guzzlers have it figured out. If gas taxes were just held steady as a percent of the selling price, as with clothing for example, a lot of the political stress of increasing the tax could be avoided. But I don't have much hope for change. The Department of Transportation would love it of course. They are always starved for road building funds.

Here in Michigan we pay 35.2 per gallon PLUS the normal 6% sales tax.

Rick D.

If higher gas taxes are just going to go for more roads, then perhaps the benefit of such a tax, lower consumption (maybe) would be canceled out by the more funds that would just go to more happy motoring.

Impose a $1 dollar extra tax that will be raised by $1 every year until we cut gas consumption by 50%. Does anyone have any idea how high that would be. The degree of inelasticity of demand makes me think we would have to reach at least $15 per gallon before we would reduce consumption by 50%.

My suggestion was 5¢/month for 5 years.

The problem with "cut consumption 50%" is that it takes no account of the means or consequences.  We could cut consumption 50% right now by just cutting deliveries 50%.  It would also collapse a large part of the economy, as people couldn't get to work.  Cutting 50% over 10 years or more is a completely different proposition.

My proposal could take ten years; if I told you your gas prices would be higher by $5 in five years, etc., at what point might you start to make different arrangements? Or would you just sit tight, wake up one morning in ten years and say, gee, I can't get to work. The idea in any event it to telegraph the change in prices. People move about every five years, anyway, so this gives people time to adjust.

Well, some people would just sit tight and bury their heads in the sand. We can't please or serve everyone.

One alternative, which we are currently doing, is to do nothing. In ten years, the situation will be even more untenable, assuming peak oil doesn't drive these prices to astronomical heights, anyway, in the mean time.

We can find extremes, but there are still millions of people out there that continue to make choices based on the assumption of cheap gas. And these aren't hardship cases; these are people that want that 3400 square foot home over the 2400 square foot home, etc. They will not be forced into hardship; they will be incentivized to reassess their housing plans. Housing size has gone up astronomically and a major factor is building them cheap as far away as possible.

The Upside of Recession?

by Robert J. Samuelson
Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Almost everyone dreads another one. We've been conditioned to think of recessions as automatically undesirable. The labeling is simplistic.

Hardly anyone likes what happens in a recession. Unemployment rises, production falls, profits weaken, stocks retreat. But the obvious drawbacks blind us to collateral benefits. Downturns check inflation -- it's harder to increase wages and prices -- and low inflation has proved crucial to long-term prosperity. Downturns also punish and deter wasteful speculation. When people begin to believe that an economic boom won't ever end, they start to take foolish risks. Partly, that explains the high-tech and stock bubbles of the late 1990s and, possibly, the recent housing bubble.


IIRC, Dan Ackroyd did a great comic turn as Jimmy Carter giving us the new slogan, "Inflation is Our Friend," an admission that he couldn't do anything about it.

H2CAR could fuel entire U.S. transportation sector

Engineer-Poet, Robert Rapier, did you read the H2CAR link of Leanan's? Any comments?

Yeah we covered it here: http://www.theoildrum.com/tag/h2car

Sound theory but the production of hydrogen from renewable sources was pretty much worked over by EP.

There are synergies with our research however.

Thanks Syntec; just finished reading the link - yes, H2 from renewables is the problem.

I tried to direct folks to the analysis here, but the Technology Review site only allows one account per IP address (idiots!) and somebody else using the corporate web proxy must have one already.

Fuel-Efficient Cars Dent States' Road Budgets

Lead link today.

*I* *H*A*V*E* *A* *S*O*L*U*T*I*O*N* !!!

Raise gas taxes.

Best Hopes for Rational Planning,


Raising gas taxes only hurts poor people. Rich people won't care. And isn't this one of the problems in this country??
Instead of raising gas taxes we should be increasing CAFE standards, establishing a 55 MPH speed limit, and eventually impose rationing when that becomes necessary. All of these will substantially reduce comsumption without penalizing the poor even further.

"increasing CAFE standards, establishing a 55 MPH speed limit, and eventually impose rationing"

- all good ideas, but as far as worrying about gasoline taxes and the poor, read this.

The storm clouds of a looming national energy crisis are gathering in an America that still thinks a minimum wage of $5.15 an hour is good enough for the working poor. Yes, higher gasoline and related taxes will hurt them, certainly in the short term, and most definitely if Congress does nothing to increase the minimum wage.

But if there is no interventionist policy to weaken our overdependence on oil and if there are fuel shortages as a result, what do you think will happen to the poor then?

You can do do more than raise CAFE efficiency standards.

I recommend: put on a fee-bate on low and high-efficiency vehicles.

I.e. you tax new purchases of gas guzzlers, and pay the money back to people who buy efficient cars. A bunch of money.

The point is to improve the actual fleet efficiency of vehicles on the road, as soon as possible.

Taxing gas is the slow way to do it. We need something fast and immediate.

Poor people can't afford expensive gas, and they can't afford new cars. But if the fleet of new cars suddenly has better efficiency (which it will under a taxation scheme where a Honda Civic is $13,000 instead of $18,000, and an Aveo is $6000...), then the used cars they'll be able to get in three years will be substantially more efficient.

Otherwise if you just raise the gas taxes now what happens?

Efficient used cars get MORE expensive for people who need them the most. Since changing a car is still expensive they end up still driving their low efficiency vehicle, and paying expensive gas and just getting punished.

Again the top 20% of income buys at least 80% of new vehicles, hence the distribution of what is made new is governed by the desires of the wealthy. They can afford significantly higher fuel taxes, but the rest of the people can't.

You have to make everybody be able and willing to contribute to better efficiency.

Also, there's the issue of "rational expectations" theory. People will intuitively know that a suddenly imposed high gasoline tax has good chance of being lowered back in the future due to populist political pressure. Hence the effect on new car buying (which is the only thing that matters for actual consumption other than distance) will be small.

By contrast, lots of psychological economic theory shows that people are more willing to take a short-term "benefit now" rather than compute a hidden but theoretically superior benefit for the future. One big fat hunk of cash now---to get a car which, no matter what the future politicians do, will be nearly as efficient 10 years from now---is far more potent and reliable at achieving the goal.

When the average fleet efficiency of US cars matches that of Europe, and the real life usefuleness and availability of public transportation matches as well, then maybe a gas tax on the size of Europe's is acceptable.

Right now it's just 90% regressive punitive tax, 10% oil mitigation.

I believe that the proposal to increase gas taxes is in response to taxes by charging a tax based on miles driven. The theory seems to be that a tax based on miles driven is a way to match damage to the road system with funds to repair the damage.

There is no science behind this assumption. The damage done to a road system by driving on it is caused by a number of factors, principally including the weight and size of the vehicle and distance driven.

A gas tax is an imperfect method of matching road damage to tax collected, but it is far better than simply using distance driven. Distance driven in a light, fuel efficient vehicle causes far less damage than a similar distance driven in a heavy, short wheel-based gravel truck.

An increase in the gas tax seems to be the best, most practical solution for raising road building funds.

At present, we aren't just rich and poor, we are mostly working and/or middle class, and because we are so numerous and consume so much, we in the middle classes are the ones causing the problem. Penalizing the rich or sparing the poor might make us feel better, but it won't really address the situation as well as changing the behavior of the middle classes.

The reason the poor are penalized is because they have not been provided with reasonable and inexpensive mass transit alternatives. Europe is able to get away with motor fuel that is more than double the total price per galon/litre compared to the US because they have good mass transit in place. Of course, they also have unemployment rates in the 5-10% range, and generous social welfare safety nets, so a large number of poor people just stay home rather than commuting to work. In Europe, poor people don't HAVE to drive, so they don't get hurt by higher gas taxes.

In the US we have made public policy choices to:

a) Discourage urban mass transit and interurban passenger rail systems, in order to require reliance upon private passenger cars;

b) Encourage land use patterns that guarantee suburban sprawl, low population densities, and large commuting distances between residential areas and workplaces;

c) Provide an absolutely minimum (and really not even that) social safety net in order to force people to work in the marketplace, even if their paychecks net of commuting costs provide for only a third-world standard of living.

Our leaders have also chosen to stick their heads in the sand (or even darker places) and have refused to recognize the obvious consequences of these policy choices, or to take even the most rudimentary steps to mediate them. It is politically easier to just blame the poor for their plight (the "red state" rhetoric), or to cite their plight as an excuse for changing nothing (the "blue state" rhetoric).

Meanwhile, that light at the end of the tunnel keeps getting brighter, and the sound of an oncoming locomotive grows louder.

There are other ways too, for example, issue everyone a book of tickets good for X gallons without tax. [Later it will be for X gallons period; we're getting there.] Encourage people to sell and trade them. Burying tax credits in tax code forces people into "coin of the realm" and won't work too well when things get shaky. Nor is it immediate.

But public transportation - for everyone - is first.

cfm in Gray, ME

About Europes' unemployment....are you aware that our own employment numbers have been fiddled with to the point we no longer count people as unemployed if they are too discourage to look? In addition how beneficial to a country is it when you've got PHd's flipping burgers?

We've got a lot of people who are simply overqualified for their positions and that's buried in the numbers too. I bet real unemployment is closer to 10% than it is to 5%. I can't speak on Europe's methodologies to computre their numbers, but do to the socialist bent throughout much of Europe I would surmise it's still slightly higher.

Understand both parties do not have you in mind, they have their own interests in mind. How can they go wrong so long as they both do basically the same things? I remember basic things like Dem's promising a return to a full work week. I haven't checked in a while since by the third full week in session they had yet to work a Friday. It's so tough working those Mon's and Fri's. It's a waste of energy to believe they are representing anyone but themselves. When a person occupies a position within the core of power, how often do you believe he/she isn't going to help a friend/family member if they are able?

I can only speak for sweden regarding Europe. In Sweden the official unemploymentrate is 4-5%. While the actual rate is about 20%. The numbers are hidden in sickpensions, workprograms etc. The number 20% is from economists from he swedish laborunion.

We also have the worlds heaviest taxburden, this bodes not well when the economy contracts with PO and a large poor muslim immigrant population.


EDIT: I believe that the european socialistic wellfare states could collapse when the economys contracts year after year in a post peak enviroment. How this will spell out i do not know, but it could be ugly.

Raising gas taxes only hurts poor people.

In a word, Good.

I'm actually having this exact debate with CrystalRadio over in the RR's subsidies thread.


The short of it is, the poor are screwed either way. Either a fuel tax is used to curb driving and the proceeds go towards a more efficient alternative(rail transit?) that can help the poor and everyone else getting off the car addiction, OR we "stay the course" and let gas prices sky rocket as supply diminishes which leaves the poor without their cars and mass transit.

The question now is how badly do we want to screw the poor, and for that matter, the middle class as well cause its not like they are just sitting so pretty as to avoid this gas crunch forever either.

The point is a Gas Tax now which is fully under our control in terms of how painful we wish to make it can make the slight pain now, pay off with an avoidance of BIG pain later.

Not taxing fuel usage just means we keep on chugging for the brick wall at full speed, at which point gas prices will be beyond our control and the poor are going to be in a WHOLE lot more deep.

Or offset higher energy taxes by cutting or eliminating the highly regressive Payroll (Social Security + Medicare) Tax.

Personally I think we need to ditch income tax in its various forms as well.

The flat tax proposal I thought was close but not quite, but I've been reading more about the Fair Tax and am intrigued by some of its ideas. First and formost is that it would be progressive in that everyone (rich, poor, or otherwise) would be given a tax credit(pre-bate) for the first X amount of dollars spent where X is the poverty line.

This would help to shield the poor, while at the same time allow those who are working their way out of poverty and on up the economic ladder to shoulder a steadily increasing load as they go up in spending.

Further it would make all those Tax shelters useless, as the money is not taxed at earning but rather spending. Want to put your money in an off shore account... go ahead! When you pull the money from that account to by that new car, you'll pay taxes on it just like anyone else.

This also would promote a certain level of savings(another major problem in our country) as money is not taxed until it is spent.

Of course its that saving part that puts the infinite growth people's panties in a bunch. An effort of savings in this country would almost surely slam the breaks on this behemoth economy that is faltering along.

And before someone slams the idea that a sales tax is just not tenable to running our country on, I would kindly point them to the several states that already run on sales tax with no income tax.

And before someone slams the idea that a sales tax is just not tenable to running our country on, I would kindly point them to the several states that already run on sales tax with no income tax.

IME, states with no income tax make it up with higher property taxes.

True enough, however, even property taxes allow more choices for citizens than income tax. Choose to rent, choose to live in a low property tax area. The point is you got choice and in a sense a vote with your wallet as to where and how you will live, not so with Income Tax.

If a city wants to encourage people to come there they can lower property taxes, if they want to deter growth they can up them. Again, not so with Income Taxes.

All taxes other than income tax are regressive in the sense that they have a disproportionate impact on less wealthy and poor. Remember that even unemployed or under-employed people have to pay sales, gasoline & property taxes. But only those who are very well employed pay significant amount in income taxes. And that is the way it should be (earn more -> pay more in taxes).

Did you not even go read the Fair Tax proposal? ALL citizens would be given a prebate up to the amount of the poverty line to cover taxes in that range of spending. The poor would be shielded up to the point of the poverty line. In fact EVERYONE would be shielded up to the point of the poverty line.

If a guy with a 1 million dollar income who decided only to spend 10K(or whatever the poverty line is in a given year) that year would be completely shielded from taxes just like the guy who made/spent exactly 10K. Even better for those who borrow money to spend more than they can make, they will get taxed on that borrowing also. It would encourage saving for things rather than borrowing for things.

However given that millionaires tend to spend more than 10K a year, they will still in fact shoulder more of the tax burden in absolute terms than the poor guy who spent only 10K, as well as more of the tax burden as a percentage of income because the guy making/spending 10K will net 0% on taxes while the guy spending 100K would get 90K of it taxed at whatever the going rate is.

But to address your moral argument:

But only those who are very well employed pay significant amount in income taxes. And that is the way it should be (earn more -> pay more in taxes).

Why? Because you say so? Since when is that "the way it should be"?

If we were to look at history I would say you are completely off your rocker, as traditionally it was the rich who enjoyed an easier tax burden in relation to the poor as it was the rich who got to make the rules throughout most of human history. Might makes right and all that. It really all comes down to the point of view one takes. In the olden days of monarchs it could be said that it was every citizen's duty to ensure that the king was well off and not bothered by Earthly concerns because he had a divine right to rule so as to ensure we were a country favored by God or Gods, or Nature, or whatever the religion of the region was.

My how fleeting that view was when Democracy and Republicism broke out in a Western civilization which found itself awash in a new land full of natural resources to be exploited by its citizens. Citizens which all of sudden found themselves beyond the grasp of the rule of a certain Monarch. Citizens who because they had pulled themselves up from the bootstraps out of poverty and into prosperty for a century and a half under democratic rule had this notion that the poor should be treated progressively. Never did it enter into their mind that perhaps it wasn't democracy, and "inalienable right" that lead to their success and upward mobility but rather the sheer abundance of resources at their disposal.

And my how fleeting the notion will be that we need to be progressive to the poor, when democracy is in its death throes strangled by an ever decreasing resource pool and choking on the overpopulation of human bodies.

Democracy, charity, the value of human life... All of those are LUXARIES of a resource rich era which is about to come to an end unless we take some painful steps to mitigate the worst of it. And Yes, unfortunately that means the poor are going to get nailed, raped, and pillaged, because unfortunately for them, they happen to make up the largest demographic of the human population, and its population that is killing us. Or have you not been paying attention to the fact that there are just a few too many monkeys running around lately.

Don't get me wrong, I'd rather live in a Democratic Republic full of citizens concerned about the welfare of the poor and how they can help the poor get ahead, but given the fact that I'm quickly coming to the belief that the reason Democracies are an aberration in history is linked directly to the fact that humanity has generally lived under resource constrained circumstances, I really don't hold out much hope that the governments of the US, or various European nations are going to hold out much longer without some VERY serious changes into the way we are handling things, and even then, I'm not sure it can be saved. Autocratic rule has been the norm throughout human history for a reason, and I fear that reason is resource constrained civilizations could find no other simpler/efficient solution to that problem.

To coin a phrase from a Sci-fi universe that is a favorite of mine and that I think will aptly describe this century if current trends continue, "In the 21st century, life is cheap."

Hi Tele,

Thanks for your thoughts.

re: "Democracy, charity, the value of human life... All of those are LUXARIES of a resource rich era which is about to come to an end unless we take some painful steps to mitigate the worst of it."

These are values that must have been cherished by many humans for much of human history, as things like the Rig Veda and (later) Lao Tsu talk about them. There are parts of the Rig Veda that sound laughably contemporary.

People need love (attachment to nurturing figures) from infancy, and suffer tremendously and endlessly when they don't get it. This seems to be true throughout time. It's how the lack works out that changes.

In other words, I'd argue these are values and desires, sometimes (perhaps, even, often? I'm not sure...) fulfilled, regardless of the resources of the era.

In any case, I'd like to ask:

What are some of your ideas for "least painful" most positive mitigation paths and/or strategies?

I agree sales taxes are regressive. However, many European countries have VATs, and it doesn't seem at all controversial there. I assume they must have measures in place to protect low-income citizens.

And if we want to discourage consumption...which most us here probably do...a sales tax would do it.

OTOH, I could easily see it becoming a nightmare of complexity. A lot of people do their transactions under the table now; a rise in sales tax would make it even worse. Congress won't be able to resist tinkering with it. No sales tax on food or clothing or medicine, say. Sounds like a good idea. But then you have people arguing that some food - junk food, restaurant food, gourmet food - should be taxed. Same with clothing. Don't want to tax a poor child's winter coat, but what about a $10,000 haute couture gown for the debutante ball?

In fact, the idea that was found to "protect" low-income citizens is that the VAT for several basic consumption itmes like bread, milk etc is lower.

There's still some people here (me in particular) thinking VAT is not fair because it applies the same for everybody, regardless to the income level.

You don't really think renting lets you avoid property taxes, do you? You may not pay them directly, but you pay them.

I'd say property taxes give you as much choice as income taxes. You can choose where you want to work, and, within limits, how much you earn, as easily as where you want to live. Governments, local and federal, can change the income tax as easily as the property tax.

I would actually be in favor of a flat tax, if only for simplicity's sake. I would pay more than I do now, but it would be worth it for me, to be able to file my returns on a postcard. And closing the loopholes the wealthy take advantage of would help compliance, IMO. People feel like everyone else is gaming the system, if not outright cheating, and it makes them feel they should be doing it, too.

But it's not going to happen. Tax law is a huge cash cow for congress critters and other politicians. Whenever a tax law is proposed, the money pours in, from PACs for and against.

That is why Reagan failed in his attempt to simplify the tax code. Congress cannot resist messing with it. It's far too profitable.

AMEN! I like a sales tax too. It catches at least some tax money from illegal aliens and the drug culture plus all the other service industry types. Oh yeah and tourists as well.
Canada has the GST. Drop Income tax and add a sales tax, I agree 100%.

>The flat tax proposal I thought was close but not quite, but I've been reading more about the Fair Tax and am intrigued by some of its ideas.

The Top %1 pay 29% of all Federal Taxes
The Top 5% pay 50% of all Federal Taxes.

State taxes are usually even worse. In my state, 3000 people pay better than 90% of all state taxes.

I doubt a flat tax would work, as tax burden on the poor and middle class would drastically change.

>Want to put your money in an off shore account... go ahead! When you pull the money from that account to by that new car, you'll pay taxes on it just like anyone else.

It already works this way. In order for an individual or business to spend money saved in a tax shelter it has to be removed from the shelter and thus is subject to tax.

>This also would promote a certain level of savings(another major problem in our country) as money is not taxed until it is spent.

The Tax code is specifically designed to promote consumption. Businesses (and in some cases individuals) can recieve tax deductions on consumption. (ie the more they spend, the less taxes they pay) The gov't wants people to spend not save. Widespread saving leads to declining ecomonic activity and to deflation. Every time the US enters a recession, interest rates are cut in order to persuade businesses and consumers to stop saving and spend. If the gov't wanted to encourage saving, all they need to do is raise interest rates. Much higher interest rates would also cut global consumption, unlike the other proposals (ie raise gas taxes)

>And before someone slams the idea that a sales tax is just not tenable to running our country on, I would kindly point them to the several states that already run on sales tax with no income tax.

All states recieve federal dollars to suppliment state spending. These states also tax property and still tax corporate income. They also have a small population and do have the same level of spending in other states that tax income.

Before any new major tax codes changes are applied, the US gov't would need to get its finances in order. Federal spending needs to be cut by at least a third. Currently the Federal gov't spends a third more that it takes in. Pretty soon Federal budgets are going get real serious. There is a very large number of boomers that will be elegiable for retirement entitlements. When they retire it will act like a double-edge sword: increased outlays for benefits, and decreased revenue as retirees stop working and paying taxes to support the system. Starting next year, taxes revenues will start to decline and outlay will increase. Somewhere between 2012 and 2014, SS + Medicare outlays exceed income revenue. Couple this with declining energy resources (aka Peak Oil), huge deficits and an unravialing housing bubble spells the perfect financial storm.

I doubt a flat tax would work, as tax burden on the poor and middle class would drastically change.

I'm not arguing for a purely flat tax, I'm arguing for the Fair Tax, and while similar in some respects it also has quite a few differences, many of which are meant to make Sales Taxation more progressive. See the link in my above post for their site.

The Tax code is specifically designed to promote consumption.

The current Tax code does, yes, and that is a problem that I think Fair Tax could help address. We want to DECREASE consumption which means we need to look at our financial institutions to see how this can be done in a way that can allow us to turn what is about to be a freefall in our economy, into a control glide (hopefully).

Increasing savings and promoting purchasing with earned as opposed to borrowed money is a good thing!

They also have a small population and do have the same level of spending in other states that tax income.

Firstly I'm assuming you meant to say "don't have the same level of spending" instead of "do".

And secondly, since when does Texas have a small population? Or have reduced spending compared to other states? Or how about Florida also if memory serves me correctly? Neither of those state have an income tax last I checked.

Want to try misrepresenting that point again?

>And secondly, since when does Texas have a small population? Or have reduced spending compared to other states? Or how about Florida also if memory serves me correctly? Neither of those state have an income tax last I checked.

Texas and Florida both have corporate income tax.

>Increasing savings and promoting purchasing with earned as opposed to borrowed money is a good thing

The gov't does not want this happen. Any tax code changes that promote savings would lead to deflation, which the gov't wants to avoid at all costs.

>We want to DECREASE consumption which means we need to look at our financial institutions to see how this can be done in a way that can allow us to turn what is about to be a freefall in our economy, into a control glide (hopefully).

You can't have decreased consumption and economic growth. The Fed, State, local gov'ts, consumers, and businesses all need growth in order to finance debts. If you kick off a cycle of decreased consumption it would cause job loss and people, business will forced into bankruptcy. Nothing is going to change, until the system breaks.

As it stands the gov't has gone into overdrive to prevent deflation, by reducing interest rates to ridiculous lows and rapidly expanding the money supply. Your idea of modifying the tax code is putting the cart before the horse. The first change should be to stop credit expansion that is fueling today's excessive consumption.

You are really reaching for straws.

Texas is one of the largest states in the nation. And when people talk about "no income tax" they generally refer to personal income tax. Texas has no personal income tax. The fact that they have a corporate income tax is a minor quibble.

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

The Top %1 pay 29% of all Federal Taxes
The Top 5% pay 50% of all Federal Taxes.

There is a simple solution. They can get rid of their money/assets and then they won't pay all of that taxes.

Making welfare payments of $5000 a year keep people out of $30,000 a year jail - and tends to keep the poor from eating the rich.

The Tax code is specifically designed to promote consumption.

And this consumption (much of it without thought) is going to be helpful?

Before any new major tax codes changes are applied, the US gov't would need to get its finances in order

But where to start? Many people make credible arguments that starting with the exchange medium (money) needs a good fix'n.

How about transparency in the government? How about "rule of law"?

You miss TechGuy's point, eric. That point is that because that small number of people pay such a large proportion of taxes the rest of the population pays an unduly LOW share of taxes. Any scheme to change this would end up INCREASING taxes on the majority of taxpayers.

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

Again, the arguments/proposals seem to center on things that will make large metro areas sustainable without any thought to the millions of people who live in rural areas and for whom the only alternative to a car - more likely a truck - is a horse and buggy. Mass transit just doesn't work in so-called "fly-over" country, unless you're bringing in a lot of transient labor from a city at harvest. Take a look out the window next time you're at 42k.

And hence the the country folk I hate to say are being triaged out of the picture unless they can come up with some other solution themselves.

Mass Transit in areas of high density serve the most people.

Everyone's (myself included) kneejerk reaction is how can we save everyone/everyone's lifestyle. I got news for folks... some people/lifestyles are not going to be saved.

So either we start focusing our efforts on those things that can be saved, and sacrifice the others or we ALL go down and lose more of everything.

Suburbia, exurbia and farm living on Fossil fuels is going to be a tenuous if not impossible feat to manage. so either folks figure out how to live in those areas without fossil fuels, or else maybe they need to leave those areas and come to where there are solutions being created to serve the most people possible.

Welcome to the emergency room, we need help in triaging these problems over here please. The grim reality is sometimes the only thing you can do for a mortally wounded person is let them die, and hopefully do so in as dignified a way possible. As that applied to society, that might mean people don't live out in the country in the numbers they do today, and instead must accept a life in the city.

For general information: A triage process divides casualties into three groups: (1) Those who will die, even with prompt medical care; (2) Those who will survive, even without prompt medical care; (3) Those who will survive, with prompt medical care. Of course, medical care is focused on the third group.

Published on 21 Aug 2006 by GraphOilogy / Energy Bulletin. Archived on 21 Aug 2006.
Net Oil Exports Revisited

by Jeffrey J. Brown

A Proposed Triage Plan

I believe that vast expanses of American Suburbia are going to become virtually abandoned in the years ahead. Alan Drake has noted that a good deal of suburbia was so poorly constructed that a lot of it is biodegradable. Alan has outlined how we can go back to what we used to have: electric trolley cars connected to electric light rail lines.

CBS Sunday Morning, on 8/20/06, had a segment on "tiny houses." They profiled a home designer and builder who specialized in building very small functional homes of about 100 square feet. You can find more information on his website.

What this builder has realized, and what millions of Americans are just beginning to also realize, is that anything over 100 square feet or so per person is not a necessity; it is optional consumption, a want, instead of a need.

The US is not Switzerland, but Alan Drake has described how Swiss per capita oil consumption in the Second World War was about 0.25% of current US per capita oil consumption. They did it primarily by electrifying their transportation system.

I propose a sort of triage operation: "tiny" homes and multifamily housing along electric mass transit lines. In my opinion, it is the only way that we can preserve some semblance of a civilized society. The suburbs are, by and large, a lost cause.

Here's a reality check for anyone who thinks they will impose a 100sqft/person limit on folks. Especially folks in the country. You better come well armed. Cause there will be a fight.

The more cities that adopt mass transit, the longer rural areas will have cheap fuel (supply/demand and all that). The rural areas should be using their political advantage (in the US) to *push* the cities into using mass transit.

It isn't a question of anyone *imposing* a limit. Collapsing food prices and rising fuel/fertilizer costs will do the job for the rural communities. People will be rushing into 100sq/foot homes because they are all they can afford.

How far back do you have to go before rural communities were built out of sod with dirt floors?

I have been wondering how we are going to house all the organic farm labor we are going to need (as the industrialization price dynamic reverses) and people flood back out to the country. The government could offer 100 sq/foot houses in the tiny towns already located on the existing rail lines. The house could be free if the family agrees to relocate. And perhaps a small stipend while the population shift happens.

Life experience in New Orleans shows that people can be quite happy with slightly over 400 sq ft.

Build a duplex to share a common wall (reduced cost of contruction & reduced cost to heat/cool) or

a 2 story 4 plex (more efficient but costs more/sq ft) or

a triplex with the third unit tacked onto the back (lowest cost to build and more common walls). Or some other forms (camelbacks are common here).

Foot thick or more insulated walls and small, efficient windows with real shutters.

Once area gets much below 300 sq ft, it begins to wear on people and does NOT work for couples. So I really do not see too many 10' x 10' "homes". 35' x 12' homes sharing common walls, yes. The "shotgun" house is classic New Orleans architecture.

In rural areas, the hired help may be the reason to go with multifamily housing. Or multi-generational living arrangements.

Best Hopes,


I live in a rural community that has many 5000 sqft and up homes that were built 200 years ago or more. They are not sod. They are fine quality, well built homes designed from the ground up to house multiple generations for centuries. Unlike today's crackerboxes, and McMansions.

People will not be rushing into 100sqft homes. They will fight for as much as they can, and they will defend what they have. Don't think otherwise. And don't think it will be fought in the courts either. It will be fought in backyards with guns.

And if you grow enough wood close enough to heat them (and young enough to cut & haul the # of cords required), so be it. But if they are heated by propane or electricity, then many rooms will be shut down for the winter months and become what was once known as "summer rooms".

You are somehow envisioning a miltary or police group torching old homes and herding people into newly built boxes.

It will be economics, not the police, forcing change.

Best Hopes,


"And if you grow enough wood close enough to heat them (and young enough to cut & haul the # of cords required), so be it."

Well, I must say, you put your finger on it right there. I grow plenty of wood, plenty close enough, right here on the ol' homestead. Cutting, no problem. Hauling, no problem (I've got a horse). But... splitting with a maul and/or sledge and wedge gets to be a bit of a challenge - a real shock to the system, from arms to back. I am quite sore today from a day's woods work yesterday. For the first time ever, I am considering renting a splitter this year :-( Must learn how to pace myself...

Best hopes for our bodies holding up for the duration...

- Steve

I think that there are such things as hand operated hydraulic log splitters. You might want to get one while the getting is good.

Not military or police. Gangs of displaced city dwellers looking for food, etc. when the big metro areas implode.

Come on, there will be no marauding hordes of hungry city dwellers. It's not like there will be a countdown: "3..2..1.Ok people, we're collapsing! Start the riots!"

Population will be reduced in the coming century, but chiefly by disease, suicide, drug abuse, and a dropping birth rate.

I don't think the birth rate will necessarily be dropping. I think it's more likely to be the opposite.

A lot of factors that led to falling birthrates may be reversed in the post-carbon age. Urbanization, sanitation, health care, education.

Higher death rates generally lead to higher birth rates. And if things are as bad all that, birth control may be unavailable (or simply not a priority) to the majority of the population.

Those large rural houses were built to shelter a large workforce necessary to tend labor-intensive farms. If the substitution of fossil-fueled mechaniziation for labor is reversed, then farms are going to need more laborers. Given that commuting will be too expensive, they are going to have to provide on-site lodging for their farm hands (and farms will need hired hands -- farm families are considerably smaller than they used to be). At the same time, with increasing foreclosure and unemployment rates, increasing commuting costs, increasing food costs, etc., working on a farm with food and lodging provided will be an attractive opportunity for plenty of people.

One of my closest friends has THE toughest job in New Orleans; she is doing her residency as a psychiatrist here.

Do not underestimate the mental health crisis that will come post-Peak Oil, especially in the first few years. People are much more than economic creatures looking for the best available option. Communal living by farm laborers, all dispossessed city dwellers, will likely not be stable.

According to her, the very high (almost uniquely so) social contact in New Orleans has been one of the supporting features. People can simply talk to others (I have lost count of those I have talked with, with tears in their eyes).

I assume that refugees from sterile social contact areas (like Phoenix in my experience) will have less support and even more mental health issues. Suicides will thin the numbers to deal with significantly though.

Best Hopes for Social Contact,


Spending time each day at the bus/streetcar/rail stop can become a social ritual, with conversations continuing aboard.

Not to mention it's naive in the extreme that it's a simple matter of 'going back to the way it used to be'
The situation is different. we are not resource rich as we once were. there are MANY more people. Worse yet most of them if not all of them think /this/ way of life is a entitlement.

This could be driven as much by water shortages as by energy. Climate scientists now think that the southwest will be getting much dryer due to global warming. All of those suburban developments that have gone up in places like Arizona are unsustainable. No water plus no air conditioning equals no Arizonans. I suspect that we could well indeed see entire communities abandonded in places like Arizona. It will not be the first time that ghost towns have appeared there. Look for a large population movement from the southwest, mainly to the southeast.

There is a very thin silver lining in all of this. There will be an opportunity for entrepreneurs to get into the business of salvaging building materials from abandoned communities. A lot of the materials in abandoned housing will be too valuable to just let it all decay in the desert (recycled materials will cost considerably less than newly manufactured materials, if they are even available). I can envision work teams being bused into an abandonded community, bringing their own water supply, power supply, food and shelter with them, and tearing down entire communities over the course of a few weeks, then moving on to the next one. This will be necessary, because local governments will be left holding all of the properties for back taxes, will then go bankrupt, and their creditors will then insist on the salvage operation to at least recover a few cents on the dollar. This will be an employment opportunity for a few people -- keep it in mind.

There already is a perfectly good English language word for your 100sf "tiny house" -- it is known as a "shack"

I think that shacks are going to be a pretty tough sell. Reuse of otherwise useless "recreational vehicles" is one exception. I do expect to see a lot of those recycled as affordable housing for some people. They do have the advantage of being able to be placed close to workplaces or mass transit nodes, if the land to park them is available and the snob zoning can be amended to allow them.

High densities can only be achieved by multi-family housing. That is where the future of housing will be for all urban areas globally.

Guess who has horses and buggies? and knows how to grow food, and get water without any fossil fuel? I reckon we'll see who and what gets triaged. I doubt it will be pretty.

Guess who has horses and buggies?

Well then why are you pissing and moaning that these people won't get their fossil fuel fix.

Either they have a transportation problem or they don't. Now pick which one its going to be and stop dancing.

Or are you really just pissed because the city folk will get something the country folk won't? My I think I'd call that envy and jealousy. How unbecoming of those genteel country folk.

No not pissed. Just trying to see where the lines will be drawn. Looks like I've found out. Thanks.

In 2006, the first of three phases of new trams opened in Mulhouse France. Population 111,300. Planned extensions go in several direction to small villages in the area.

There is a step by step progression in France, serving ever smaller communities. The French (with their smaller population but "Can Do" attitude) are building as much Urban Rail as the US. After over 20 years of work, they are "getting there". The electrified Inter-City rail (their Amtrak) goes into lots of small communities, few over 10,000 are not served and many less than 10K are served.


MUCH more information (and photos) on the French site than on the English language version>

The 2011 plan is at:


I suggest magnifying the map.

Red opened in 2006, Blue by 2011 (some sooner). Solid yellow line is the 2010 regional train with stops every few km. Also note the dashed yellow lines for after 2011 plans.

Just after the turn of the century (1899-1900), San Angelo Texas built a 3 mile streetcar line. Pop 1910 (from memory) 18,000.

Truely rural farmers can do as they once did, visit "town" on Friday night (or every other Friday night) when the weather was good. And "town" might (if the US ever gets it's act together and DOES something !) have a passenger rail stop.

However, France started with the larger cities first and has worked their way down the list. A decade ago the smallest French city with a tram system (from vague memory) was Grenoble (pop about 250,000).

Of course, we all know that the United States is incapable of doing anything that the French can do. I live in New Orleans and the difference between recovery efforts from Paris and those from Washington DC are night and day.

Viva La France !

Best Hopes,


There are two basic types of rural people.

The traditional full time farmer and ranchers (a definite minority in large parts of the countryside today). And what my grandfather once called "Toy farmers". Those that commute 20 or 50 miles a day to a job, and come home and "farm" their 5 (or 40) acres on the weekend.

The second group is going to go. Perhaps by giving up the paycheck and going to highly labor intensive forms of agriculture (after they buy or rent some more acreage) or they will just move close to their work.

The current countryside will change and likely have fewer people living there.

Heating (let alone cooling) many farmhouses standing today may be a problem in coming years. Propane is *NOT* going to get cheaper ! So economic forces will change rural housing. I can guess but I do not know exactly how.

Tankless, on demand propane water heaters get a $300 tax credit today and I see that as a near certain change.

Best Hopes,


Red diesel, baby. I mean, given A. the disproportionate political power of rural areas, a phenomena common to US, Japan, & Europe and B. enormous challenges of food production and distribution in post-peak environment, it would seem to be inevitable that ICE's will continue to be subsidized for 'agricultural purposes' for as long as humans have appetites. And red diesel will more abused than 'medical marijuana' or the 'business lunch'.

You forgot a bicycle (or even an adult sized tricycle) perhaps with an electric assist.

Swede (a poster here) lives in a VERY low density area of Sweden close to the Artic Circle. From memory, he regularly goes to the nearest small town 20 km (12 miles) away) with his electric assist bicycle unless the weather is terrible. And he is in his 60s.

Best Hopes,


Yes that´s right. My wife is going to retire also in six months time. We both have an electric assisted bike plus a bikewagon which you can attach to the bike if you are going to transport some goods.

If really TSHTF, then we need only 50 liter gasoline/year to make a trip to town every tenth day in the arctic winter, when it mostly is too cold for biking.(very small car)And then it does´nt matter much what the price for gasoline is.

We live in a 65 sqm house(600 sqft?) and heat it with a woodstove, then we have a clean river outside the house with lots of fish, so i recon we will survive a while.(Boat with electric outboardmotor)

When you live in a small house like us, you also need about the same area in cold warehouses for all the stuff you need when living in the countryside.

Best Kenneth

EDIT: I believe that it wears on a couple if you have much smaller house than this. But you should not have a house much bigger than this either, because than it will take too much wood to heat it. We need 8 kubicmeter wood/winter, and that amount you can handle even if you are elderly, but you need electric wood splitter and saw, if you can´t buy the wood cut and splitted.

Hi Kenneth :-)

60 m2 = 645 ft2. I just multiple by 10.

What insulation do you have ? And I assume that you have very good windows, triple glazed, gsa filled and all that ? And small window area ?

Do you have two doors, one to tge outside into a "boot room" and another from ther into inside the house ?

A basement ? I assume a one story house ?

I was just wondering about the details.

Best Hopes,


Hi again ALAN
We have a standard swedish isolation with a kind of yellow wool only 12 cm thick (this was a vacation house before we bought it) New swedish houses usually have doubly thick insulation. But we have a very thick isolation over the roof, and that is very important.

New super triple glass windows with a very great window area located to southwest wherefrom the sun comes. From middle of march the windows take in solarheating during the day, so in sunny days even with minus 10-15 degree celsius we don´t have to use the stove daytime. I believe theese superwindows isolate as good as the walls or better. They have a special coating that lets the sunrays to come through, but stops the longwave warmth rays to go out(or so i am told, i am no expert on theese matters).

No we have no bootroom, but two doors, one main door and one to the altan(superisolated).

No basement, one story house.

We have also a air heat pump, which we use when it´s 0 degrees or warmer. But if TSHTF we can manage without electricity(have a gasolkitchen for emergency use)

The stove is a new supereffective swedish ironstove, which burns the smoke gases tvice and with a chamber at the top where you fill in special stones, which heats up and keeps the warmth during the night, when you are at sleep and can´t put in moore wood. When you awake in the morning it is of course a little cooler, but then you light the stove again.

Best Kenneth

Today the ice is braking up in the river, and i am today going to take out my little floatplane, which i have very much use of in the mountains(like in canada or Alaska). This is the the thing that worries me most with PO. How long can i get gasoline to the airplane?

Best Kenneth

According to my calculation through google search, that's 699.65 square feet.

Farm equipment is (or could be) mostly fueld by diesel. Those pickup trucks are available in diesel as well. If you've got farm land, why not grow sunflowers, harvest them, and press the seeds yourself to create your own biodiesel? It may take some tinkering to make this all work, but it is theoretically within the realm of possibility.

And yes, there are horses for the shorter distance & lighter load tasks. Obviously, hay & feed grains can be grown on the farm as well.

I should point out that all of the manure from the farm animals could go into a digester to produce all of the methane that you could possibly use to heat the house and outbuildings, with plenty left over to sell. Add in a few PV panels on the roof and a wind generator or two, and there is no reason why just about every farm in America should not be a net energy exporter.

Of course, coming up with the investment capital to make this all happen is the tough nut to crack. The best bet is to wait until energy prices just start to make their steep run-up, but loan money is still available from a still intact banking system. There may be a narrow window of oportunity for farmers to pull this all off.

Another possibility: There might be economic refugees from the cities that have money, but are looking for a safe rural retreat with secure food and energy supplies. There may be people that would be willing to enter into a long term lease to live on a farm in exchange for an up-front investment to fund the renewable energy implementations needed.

Raising gas taxes only hurts poor people.

Europe's gasoline taxes are huge, and the poor over there are a lot better off than the poor over here in the States.

Gasoline taxes should at least fully pay for road maintenance and construction.

Including city streets !!

In most locales, property taxes pay for city streets. It upsets me that the $2/month that I pay in gas taxes is mostly on city streets, yet the monies are directed towards highways and projects that I will rarely if ever use.

Cut property taxes, raise gas taxes for city streets. (The poor, few of whom own cars in New Orleans pre-K, pay property taxes in their rent).

Best Hopes,


Hmm . . . I was looking at California 'Green' Governor Schwarzenegger's proposed budget for the Transportation Department and saw $11.3 billion for highways and only $874 million for 'mass transit'.

Over here, the Governator proposed that the High-Speed Rail Authority's project be 'deferred' indefinitely. Apparently, he still wants us to think that our energy problems are going to be solved with 800hp biodiesel low-riders and hydrogen Hummers.

In developing the Strategic Growth Plan, it has become clear that setting aside enough bonding authority for this project would preclude bonds for virtually all other purposes. While high-speed rail could eventually be shown to be a cost-effective piece of the state's long distance travel system, the benefits are not sufficient to outweigh the immediate needs included in the Strategic Growth Plan. Therefore, the Administration is proposing to defer the High-Speed Rail bonds indefinitely and is willing to explore other project delivery approaches for the longer term.

Ah, yes, more highways. What better way to cut energy use by 80%? The governator is really the delusionator.

>Europe's gasoline taxes are huge, and the poor over there are a lot better off than the poor over here in the States.

Europe subsidizes the poor with vast entitlement and wealthfare programs. Most of Europe is also dependant on Exports to meet ends.

Europe is also has a huge entitlement problem that is barely able to stay afloat today. Since Europe faces an aging workforce, it will soon be facing a crisis soon. Despite all of the talk that Europe is in better shape it is clearly flat out wrong. Europe is dependant on massive unsustainable entitlement and wealthfare programs, and well as exports to the US and other western nations that are not sustainable when energy is no longer cheap.

If a higher birthrate or more immigration would have supplied more people we wouldn't be better off. Europe is overpopulated, so a declining population is good, regardless of the mid-term problems that it causes.

A rapidly decreasing workforce and many people relying on handouts are two problems that might cancel each other out.
Giving people a handout is a better solution to keep them off streets than putting them in jail, don't you think? As long as society is based on fossil labor, it won't hurt give everyone a free lunch, instead of only the rich ten free lunches.

The internal division of wealth isn't a problem. The reliance on imported resources is.

>Giving people a handout is a better solution to keep them off streets than putting them in jail, don't you think?

No, because it leaves the population vulernable in the future. It sets up a chain of diminishing returns as less people are willing to work and more choose to live off wealthfare. What is the insentive for people to continue to work (be that on a farm or a factory) and not simply sit on their ass and collect a wealthfare check? Over time, as the taxes go up and the entitlements go up, less and less people are willing to work. Because few people are working, the taxes on those that remain working go up. Eventually it gets to point where store shelves go bare and an all out crisis begins.

Whats Plan B when the system breaks? Do all these people living off wealthfare with no potential job skills have a chance to survive when there are too few workers to support them? Socialism leads to totalarism as the population because they become completely dependant on gov't services to survive.

>As long as society is based on fossil labor, it won't hurt give everyone a free lunch, instead of only the rich ten free lunches.

There are significantly less days of fossil labor remaining, than days gone by. Whats Plan B when exporters stop shipping oil and natural gas to Europe? I'll tell what it will be: Another Hitler or Stalin and forced labor camps.

Mostly, we hear about the impacts on the poor when people talk about raising taxes. The rest of the time, you don't hear much about impacts on the poor. Again, the problem with the poor is that they don't have enough money. If one is truly concerned about the poor, raise taxes on the rich and give the money to the poor. We cannot and should not base energy and environmental policy with respect to its impact on the poor. That is a sure recipe for failure. Again, the poor's problem is lack of money. Give them more money or vouchers for gasoline.

Just the other day on my way to the Post office, I passed a DOT crew painting left turn lines on the main intersection near my place. Counted 5 trucks, and 14 people, most of whom were standing around watching 2 guys who were actually painting. For this I'm expected to pay higher taxes? Oy Vay!

What a stupid idea! What if you live near the state line and spend about half your time driving in a neighboring state. You would be charged for miles not driven on the roads of your state.

Also, who is footing the bill to add all the extra crap in the car, gps and milage meter thing?

Whats more, how many tax dollars are these morons wasting just looking into this stupid idea?

Here's a better idea: Fire about 70% of the useless baggage in the Hiway Depts.

There was a commercial about three guys watching another guy work on the street. In an office above, three white collar guys are watching out the window wall, drinking coffee and complaining that only one guy is working. While they thump about how hard they work, one woman nearby is actually completing their group task.

Not to make excuses for anyone but, having worked construction for a while, I found that the harder the work, the more frequent the breaks. I could measure, cut and screw gypsum board for hours, but fifteen minutes of swinging a sledge hammer left me sitting on a scaffold in a puddle of sweat.

I've seen the commercial, and I know it's not unique to road crews. I've also done my share and more of manual labor and have a bad back to show for it. That wasn't the point however. The point is the excessive waste that is prevalent in the system at taxpayer expense.

I've got to be careful with my back myself. :-(
Swimming helps a lot; walking around a lot seems to work, too.

I looked over alternatives to public system by privatization – and it does not work.

The simple problem is the first thing a company does when they get a government contract is to use the money it to buy the influence of the politician via donations (just like the unions) – anyone who pulls from an elected official and that official needs money to run there campaigns and presto – no matter what they call it (ie Blackwater) its still being a civil servant.

If you haven't lost bone mass or utterly trashed discs you can go back to good as new. If you have lost bone mass you can still improve to where you will not experience "bad back" until you get much older.
Get into therapy now, you are not getting any younger. When TSHTF therapy options will be sharply limited and strong backs will be at a premium.
I don't want to criticize or devalue whatever you've done to cope thus far but I do personally know many formerly hopeless cases who are completely asymptomatic and the not getting younger thing is a truism. Good health becomes ever more valuable as PO approaches. The only sure investment.

Thanks, and I've been in therapy for a couple years - exercise and the occasional shot. A great deal of my exercise is a result of tending to 40 acres of tree farm, small garden, and my one man woodworking shop. I can generally do most anything and otherwise am in excellent health for a 60 something.

Actually, I'm not particularly worried about PO, or any of the other potential catastrophe's that seem to occupy folks these days. I can get by just fine without electricity, oil, etc. Done it before, and I can do it again. What tickles me is how some folks get all worked up about their favorite disaster, and neglect to see that there are many other things going on in the world. I think the latest is the unaccountable disappearance of large numbers of bees. There goes y'alls biofuel plans.

Prediction is dangerous, especially if it concerns the future.

You do all that with a bad back? Darn. You would be scary with a good back.
Take care.

6ft, 195lbs, retired Marine. I was scary once upon a time.

That WSJ article mentions *some* of the arguments against the *insane* idea promoted in Oregon (tax by the mile rather than by the gallon). But it never mentions the following:

* The main reason road maintenance budgets are broken is not the minor (if any?) decline in gasoline taxes collected, but the major rise in road maintenance costs. The latter are due to three things mainly: rise in energy costs, rise in material (asphalt) costs due to rise in energy costs, and deferred maintenance becoming impossible to put off any longer.

* The damage done to roads by the vehicles driving on them is *much* higher for heavier vehicles - it increases far faster than linearly with vehicle weight. Since fuel consumption is roughly proportional to vehicle weight, the existing by-the-gallon tax already represents a subsidy paid by drivers of smaller vehicles to support drivers of larger ones.

* The gasoline taxes (both federal and state) are a fixed number of cents per gallon (the federal tax of about 18 cents/gallon unchanged in 14 years). The obvious solution: make it a *percentage* of the price of gasoline, although that will still leave in place the distortion mentioned in the bullet above.

It is now apparent that there are increasing refrences in the MSM about peak oil. The phrase 'peak oil' is even being used.

As many may have noticed most of the stories seem like 'plants' with no solid and credible basis for the statements made; the Wood Mackenzie article being a prime example.

A common thread in most of these new breed of article is the refrence to us 'peak oilers' 'doomsayers' etc...SO my question is what peak oil source are they trying to discredit? Who do they read? Which web source is it? My last question is important to understand as it may point the finger squarely at this site.

Is there a way to find out which 'peak oil' website gets the most hits?

If the answer is this site then you can be sure the the people doing the misinformation/propaganda plants on the MSM stories are most likely reading every word on this site.

My message to Wood Mackenzie would then be. "Show us your analysis and put your money where your mouth is you cowardly sack of Sh*t so we can rip your c**p to shreds"


Now Now, Relax.
There at least 3 explanations for SA pumping 16mbpd
If thats true then I forecast that Saudi Arabia will be
a)Using smaller barrels (15 gallons per barrel)
b) Supplying oil with the water cut still inside since water is getting more precious
c) claim that the bulk of that (read 14 million barrels) is being used domestically to power their camel fleet

See we all agree.

The article "Five Geopolitical Feedback-Loops in Peak Oil" should be required reading for Danny Boy "Jerkin'" Yergin.

Critically, these loops are not separable from the geological events—they are part of the broader “system” of Peak Oil.

Some anal-retentive types seem to think we live in a petri dish where all variables can be controlled or precisely defined. They'll always have their "woulda, coulda, shoulda" to fall back on later.

Whether it's Oil production or PV panels or CF bulbs, they'll never live up to expectations because there are too many "above ground factors" ("outside-the-lab" factors) in the real world .

I would like to point out that both electrified intercity RRs (99% freight today) and Urban Rail have demonstrated positive feedlack loops with post-Peak Oil.

Demand for both will increase as a function of oil price (some disagreement on ratios, but a case can be made that demand for non-oil transportation will increase faster than the price of oil over time as structural adjustments are made).

And capacity increases are economically efficient "within limits".

Double tracking (rules of thumb) increases capacity by x4 for intercity "freight" RRs. Electrification increases capacity by 20% to 25% by speeding acceleration & braking, allowing closer spacing of trains.

The recently built Minneapolis light rail line can increase capacity by 50% for 15% add-on to the original cost (buy 50% more LRVs). In this case, latent demand is already there for such an increase.

Best Hopes,


Having friends in Mpls, they would concur with your assessment. Some outlying suburbs now want it whereas before it was sniffed at.

There is a small breeze of change blowing. This article, States Work to Ease Freight appeared in the local paper this weekend. While TDOT has a newly found interest in rail transportation, the GDOT representative had a most interesting statement that Georgia takes a hands-off approach with railroads because they are ‘privately owned, along with the cargo shipped on them.” I always thought that trucking companies were ‘privately owned, along with the cargo shipped on them” also even though they get a break with the public sector building their roads; who knew?
There are some other interesting things about TDOT that I have learned recently as a result of looking into a proposed major 4-lane expansion of US64 through the Cherokee National Forest. TDOT studied this proposal about 18 months ago and came up with a $1.5 billion estimate on cost-to-construct and therefore dropped the project. However it is again being pushed by several local business and government entities. One of the proponents told me that TDOT had vastly overestimated the cost and that he had been assured by a road building contractor that it could be done for half that and the state would only have to come up with 20% as there is federal funding already available for the rest. Also TDOT only does projects for which it has the money. Other states float bonds for road construction which is what the proponents of this highway want to happen.
I first learned about the TDOT interest in rail transportation at a public meeting on this project which had a TDOT representative from the newly formed rail transportation group. I am of the opinion that the poor rural county that this project is supposed to help would be better served by spending major transportation monies already allocated at the federal level to upgrade the railroad which runs parallel to US 64 through the Cherokee National Forest currently used for excursion trains in the summer months for freight offloading of US64.

Hi TnGranny,

I'm glad to see you back (or, perhaps you've been posting and I've missed it.)

I hope you can find a way to have your opinions heard.

re: "I am of the opinion that the poor rural county that this project is supposed to help would be better served by spending major transportation monies already allocated at the federal level to upgrade the railroad which runs parallel to US 64 through the Cherokee National Forest currently used for excursion trains in the summer months for freight offloading of US64."

Or, have you already?

Haven't been posting much lately. I have been keeping up with the regular posts but not watching the comments very closely. Due to a great influx of outsiders into my area these days there are a great many usage issues relating to public lands arising. I manage to get my complaints heard, but don't know if I am especially effective in changing the course of development. Local representative (VERY pro-development) made a statement about 'environmentalists importing people from Timbutu to fight this project' but I know everyone at the meetings who was against the project and all are from the area. Most are like me with a multigeneration pedigree in the area, but not from the 'rich side of the tracks'.

Hi TnGran,

Good to hear more.

This is so frustrating

re: "...but don't know if I am especially effective in changing the course of development."

This seems to be a really crucial issue. I tried and gave up (to re-group and think what else might work.) It's really sad to see land just paved over. Where I live, it happens, even for a "worthy cause" - a non-profit wants a beautiful new building to do their good works in. "Yes! But you'll need the ag land more - sooner than you think!"
How to get this across?

It seems to me unless each person hears someone like Matt Simmons or Richard Heinberg speak, they just don't/won't get it. (And might not, even then.)

I'm wondering if anything else might work at all.

What have you found to be most successful? (If anything?) Are you doing specific "peak oil" outreach of any kind? (Just curious.)

There's got to be a way.

Hey WT...

Thought you might like this...

Oil exports nosedive; imports up
By Wang Yu (China)
Updated: 2007-04-25 07:10

China witnessed an astonishing 83.2-percent year-on-year slump in crude exports in March, according to the General Administration of Customs.

Crude oil imports last month, on the other hand, reached 13.9 million tons, up 8.8 percent year-on-year.

The trade pattern is set to continue for the rest of the year, said Han Xuegong, a senior consultant with China National Petroleum Company (CNPC).


I thought China stopped exporting crude oil in 1992.

They became a net importer.

Heck, even the US still exports oil. We just import a lot more than we export.

There is some spam [hh] to remove on the 'short takes' thread. What with the time for my pigeon to fly the Atlantic, you may have done it before this post appears.

Relax, it'll be OK, or not:

On 4/26/06 Franc asked: My question concerns what economists predict will happen after world oil production peaks, ie. Hubbert Curve. I have read alot of speculation of doom and gloom, and would like to hear the economists point of view.

Frankly Franc, peak oil is nonsense. There is no reason to fear the peak, or the decline. All of my economic training tells me that prices will force us to adapt as needed. We might be better off or worse off, but we'll get by. Either that, or we're screwed and I'm wasting my time.

"From the Answer Desk" (Haab & Whitehead)
http://www.env-econ.net/2007/04/from_the_answer.html , second item.


Before China's arrival, Sudan was a net oil importer. China helped in building wells, refineries and a huge oil pipeline. Now, Sudan exports oil, mostly to China.

Thought I'd post this link as it is a little too off-topic to get picked up automatically. Summary - China does business differently. My interpretation - they won't necesarily have to pay market prices for oil, because they can provide kickbacks and special services to the rulers of various oil producing countries.
Which implies that they will be sheltered from demand destruction (to a degree) as prices rise, while themselves having a huge role in boosting demand.

Saudi Aramco has changed their website


and there is an interesting article in their Spring 2007 Dimensions publication about their megaprojects


Hi ace,

Thanks. I looked at the website and couldn't decide whether to laugh or to cry.

Could you offer your take on the megaprojects article?