DrumBeat: July 28, 2007

Hydrogen Hype: Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Are No Panacea

I'm going to make a prediction today: you will never drive a hydrogen fueled car.

Although hydrogen does indeed have some benefits in certain applications, it's my task today to separate the reality of useful fuel cells from the hydrogen hype.

That may seem like a bold statement to you now, but by the end of this article, you'll understand why.

Juicing down for global warming

As it is, utilities can't keep up with rising demand. One projection shows a 19 percent rise in peak-time electricity usage over the next decade while only a 6 percent growth in power capacity.

Something's got to give. And it may be consumer lifestyles.

A three-year experiment in California with 2,500 customers showed they reduced their average electricity demand by 13 percent during peak summer hours when they had to pay five times the normal cost. Users with the kind of "smart" thermostats that adjust appliance use cut back by 27 percent.

Oil Profits Show Signs of Aging

Exxon Mobil Corp.'s disappointing second-quarter results highlight a new reality for the oil business: Increasing profitability amid today's high prices is increasingly difficult.

A federal energy policy: can it happen here?

What makes the United States singularly incapable of producing a coherent energy policy aimed at cutting energy consumption and using low-carbon alternatives to fossil fuels? I believe there are three factors explaining this lamentable state of affairs. The first is that your average American citizen has the energy IQ of beach sand, and, in this regard, your average Member of Congress is the mirror image of his or her constituents. For proof, I would direct your attention to Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, who regularly appears on news programs to suggest that gasoline is overpriced at $3.00 per gallon and that motorists are being fleeced by dastardly oil companies.

ExxonMobil Loses Alaska Pipeline Case

A federal appeals court on Friday rejected an effort by Exxon Mobil Corp. to overturn rules governing access to a potential multibillion-dollar pipeline that would transport natural gas from Alaska to the Lower 48 states.

Climate change escalates Darfur crisis

Less rainfall on the fringes of the Sahara Desert is putting more of a strain on resources than ever before.

Mexican insurgents try out new tactics

A successful bomb attack by a resurgent revolutionary army has forced the Calderon administration into a dual-front battle to maintain security and, maybe, economic well being.

Did Guerrillas Strike at the Heart of Mexico's Oil Industry?

Although the Mexican government refrained from using the T-word, it was definitely in the air. "EPR ALLIANCE WITH AL QAEDA!" whooped the headlines on newspapers hanging from the kiosks. Indeed, a purported Al Qaeda document emerged in 2006 encouraging attacks against U.S. allies that supply Washington with oil - Mexico exports 1.6 million barrels of petroleum to the U.S. daily, without which George Bush would be hard pressed to wage war in Iraq.

Energy Diplomacy and the Crossroads in South American Unification

It's possible to postulate that these days the integration of the countries of South America finds itself at a crossroads. Different strategies have converged to the point where the large trade blocs find themselves at a standstill and turn into political forums. The new attempts are centered on energy, and from there new proposals arise. Brazil has sought to lead by consensus but has not been willing to pay the economic and political price of this position, while Venezuela is exploring another avenue by sharing energy projects and resources with other countries.

Venezuela Takes Over Two Maersk Rig Contracts

Venezuelan state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela, or PdVSA, has taken over two contracts this month to operate drilling rigs from Danish oil services firm Maersk Oil & Gas.

Should Canadian farmers cash in on biofuel boom?

Soybeans supply 40 per cent of Brazil's biodiesel -- and NASA observers have linked an increase in their market price with the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.

Brazil is also the largest producer of sugarcane in the world -- it makes 60 per cent of the globe's total sugar ethanol, and uses 13 per cent of its total herbicide load growing the crop.

"Brazil has a huge ethanol industry," Holt-Giménez said. "The environmental costs are tremendous, and the returns so paltry."

Feeding Billions, A Grain at a Time

As development and climate change imperil rice yields, scientists seek new Green Revolution

The corn gamble: It's the crop of the year -- but will it make it?

The corn soars head-high on Ripp's Dairy Valley here north of Madison.

Green leaves flutter in the breeze as dairyman Chuck Ripp surveys his fields on a humid July morning.

But looks don't tell the story. A lack of significant rain this month -- Thursday and Friday's was spotty -- has farmers worrying.

"The corn is really tall but that's kind of deceiving," said Ripp. "We're getting into a real critical time."

Analysis: Oil part of large Iraq conundrum

Iraq's government is in the eye of a storm of deadlines and benchmarks and pressure from within and abroad. At some level, it's all about the oil.

Gas stations have generators now, but will they have gas after a Big One?

Jim Smith, president of the Florida Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association, said state and local officials have worked with the industry to help station owners comply. But, he said, he's not sure it will solve the fuel shortage problem Florida often sees after hurricanes because there still may not be gas to pump.

"Most inventories are going to be depleted during evacuation," Smith said. "There will not be an opportunity to get resupply into those retail facilities, so a lot of them that have capabilities with transfer switches won't have the availability of petroleum to pump, so it's not going to change a whole lot."

India: Coal supply woes threaten NALCO's Angul unit

A shortage of coal is threatening power supplies to the only aluminium smelter run by National Aluminium Co. Ltd. (NALCO), a company source told Reuters on Friday.

Ghana: LPG gas shortage grounds commercial cars

Most commercial drivers in Tema have for the past 10 days parked their vehicles because of the shortage of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) in the system.

The situation has compelled domestic users of gas to resort to charcoal and its price has suddenly increased from GH¢8 to GH¢ 12 per maxi bag.

Hydrogen can replace gasoline, scientist contends

Stanford Ovshinsky, founder and chief scientist of Energy Conversion Devices Inc. in Rochester Hills, told the Flint Rotary Club on Friday that the world has to convert to alternative forms of energy.

He said the scientific community predicts that if we do nothing, the planet's climate will be irreversibly changed in 20 to 25 years.

Ovshinsky said hydrogen can be used in place of other fuels.

"Anything that burns can be replaced by hydrogen now," he said.

"If you only have 20 more years to save the planet, you've got to do it now."

And with hydrogen, he said, "There's no war over oil."

Sprott's Peak Oil Watch

While browsing the web this morning, I came across a very interesting section on Peak Oil on Sprott Asset Management's website (best viewed with Explorer). Sprott Asset Management is a Toronto-based boutique investment management company that I consider, for lack of a better term, pretty cool. They have taken some relatively unorthodox commodities bets in the past and have often won them. For instance, they spotted the bull market in uranium very early on and did well as a result (PDF document).

Albania: Energy crisis cuts working hours

The Albanian cabinet has decided to cut the working hours of public employees amid a national energy shortage.

Beginning 30 July, government offices will be open only five hours a day “because of the energy crisis that the country is facing,” government spokesman Grid Rroji said Friday.

Finally, we get the message on fuel economy

Droughts in the Southwest and Mid-Atlantic United States. Floods in Texas, Southern England, China, Pakistan, Colombia and, of all places, Sudan. Watch global weather reports and, to paraphrase Bob Dylan, you don't need a weatherman to know which way global warming is blowing. It's blowing your way, and fast.

Energy conservation is key

When Barack Obama came to Detroit in May 2007, he proceeded to tell the experienced auto manufacturers how to make cars so that we can all “escape the tyranny of oil.” He got up that morning like you and I, probably brushed his teeth with a toothbrush made out of petroleum products, put on his clothes made out of petroleum products, traveled to the Detroit Economic Club function in his car made out of petroleum products, and walked up to the podium on a rug made out of petroleum products, only to give his questionable advice to a group of experts and deface a commodity that put the clothes on his back.

Does he realize that we all need this precious commodity with or without high-cost subsidized alternate fuels?

Airlines struggle to contain costs

U.S. airline stocks dropped Thursday as carriers continued to struggle with high fuel prices and maintenance, though AirTran Holdings Inc. increased second-quarter profits by cutting costs in other areas.

Current Japanese car craze is tiny

After first pioneering the gas-sipping compact, then subcompact, the country's auto companies are scoring again with another downsizing -- the so-called "minicar."

Tiny, cheap and super fuel-efficient, minicars are essentially motorcycle-sized engines on four wheels. But demand for these runty runabouts is anything but petite. Last year, minicars racked record sales in Japan and now account for more than a third of all new cars sold annually here.

The most dangerous metaphor

Metaphorically speaking, the end of Moore's Law would be quite a shock. Moore's Law inspires the kind of techno-utopianism that believes, almost as an act of faith, that humanity can innovate itself out of the messes it creates by sheer cleverness. Peak oil? Don't worry about it - once Moore's Law starts working its magic on solar power, we'll have all the energy we need. World hunger in an era of drought and devastating climate change? No problem. Moore's Law applied to biotechnology tells us that we will keep redesigning plants to deliver ever greater yields under ever more drastic conditions.

China oil thieves sentenced to death

Two men were sentenced to death for masterminding a plan to steal oil from an underwater pipeline, a botched plot that caused tens of millions of dollars in damages, China's state news agency reported Saturday.

Canada to face oil pipeline shortage: regulator

Canada's crude-oil pipelines may have to ration space as early as this autumn because of a surge of new oil production from the Alberta oil sands, the country's energy regulator said on Friday.

The National Energy Board said the pipeline industry may face a capacity crunch as oil output this year rises to 2.9 million barrels a day, 9 percent more than in 2006.

Europeans reluctant to give up cars despite environmental concerns

A majority of citizens believe that the use of less polluting vehicles and public transport should be promoted, but one in five would refuse to use their car less in exchange for better public transport, according to an EU opinion poll.

Tiny Tuvalu Fights for Its Literal Survival

The second smallest nation on Earth hopes to turn itself into an example of sustainable development that others can emulate.

But the South Pacific island nation of Tuvalu and its 10,500 people may only have 50 years or less to set that example before it is swept away by rising sea levels due to climate change.

"It's how cats stalk their prey, if you've noticed. They don't hide. They move up so slow and hold still so long that their prey gets used to them and thinks, well it hasn't harmed me so far. And then all at once they pounce, no warning at all. Except there's been plenty of warning, iffen that poor bird or mouse had had the brains to just get up and move."

Alvin Maker,
The Crystal City by Orson Scott Card

I thought this was a good alternative to the boiling frog quote that comes up here so often.

Cats can sometimes sneak to within 5 angstroms of their prey before pouncing. Moores law will continue to work fine for humans, untill it doesnt work anymore. shrub may be only a few angstroms from pouncing...but I have seen no one moving, no flight, no hopping, no real protest, just apathy. Increases in population will at some point beg the question: Is there a place to get up and move to? A place that has potable water, productive soil, relative peace? Americas clamp down on her borders reminded me of a bit I read in 'The Coming Anarchy.'

'The more fictitious the actual sovereignty, the more severe border authorities seem to be in trying to prove otherwise. Getting visas for these states can be as hard as crossing their borders. The Washington embassies of Sierra Leone and Guinea--the two poorest nations on earth, according to a 1993 United Nations report on "human development"--asked for letters from my bank (in lieu of prepaid round-trip tickets) and also personal references, in order to prove that I had sufficient means to sustain myself during my visits. I was reminded of my visa and currency hassles while traveling to the communist states of Eastern Europe, particularly East Germany and Czechoslovakia, before those states collapsed.' Robert Kaplan

Yes having to have a visa just to go to Canada now basically 'closes the border' for the average individual who won't or can't cough up the cash for it. I grew up on the US Canadian border, and it used to be commonplace to go across the river for a beer. Not any more. (except for those with boats)

That sounded unbelievable, so I checked the Canadian Citizenship and Immigration website, and found that US citizens do not need a visa to go to Canada. Perhaps you meant passport? I've heard that a lot of Americans don't have one.

My old one expired, I'm just waiting for the backlog to be worked down before applying for a new one. Canada? We may soon need one to get into the next county at the rate things are going!

America is large enough to travel quite a bit without a passport. I managed to visit Jamaica, Hawaii, St Croix, Mexico and Canada before needing passports to visit Europe. I probably couldn't do that today.

That said, I worked with fellows who had never traveled outside Pennsylvania, and never even made it to Pittsburgh or Philly.

Jussi: It is my understanding that the requirement comes from the US government, not Canadian, i.e. as a US citizen you will have trouble getting back into your own country. They might have delayed this change, but it is the US government behind the increased bureaucracy.

yeppers. the USA wants passports for people flying in from canada as of jan 2007. As of jan 2008 they want them for people driving across the boarder.

The same goes for USA citizens going out and coming back in.

pretty much a police state now. im heading down to california to visit my friend. it's not going to be easy going, i have to have a bunch of ridiculous stuff together just to prove im not stealing yeeer jeebs, when im travelling for pleasure and some school shopping.

Yes it is delayed again. The passport requirement was first due to phase in at the beginning of 07, but delayed one year by popular demand.

At present you must have either a passport or birth certificate (copies don't count) to get back into the U.S. from Canada or Mexico.

I recently applied for a passport only to have the State Department take posession of my Birth Certificate during the process. The copy of the application form plus receipt are good to get me back into the country until I get my passport. Assuming I have been a good boy and they give me a passport, lol. Oh yea, and my cert back...

As an aside, I have crossed into Canada and back around 200 or so times in the last year and been asked for proof of citizenship exactly 2 times so far by a U.S. customs agent.

Same goes for Canadian customs, 2 times, there is one lady agent that has taken it upon herself to be sure we can get back into the U.S. Never mind that by the time you get to the Canadian customs booths you have left the U.S. anyway, lol.


You only need a passport if your FLYING back into the US. You can still drive and boat in just like you always could, at least until 2009...

You must provide proof of citizenship if asked no matter how you are traveling when re-entering the U.S.. In 2009 you will need a passport, unless postponed again.

I can confirm this as a cat owner(or more likely owned by cats). If you play with them using a object to mimic prey, the more you move it the less they are interested in it to a point. they will still watch it but to get them to pounce on it you have to make the object seem like it doesn't notice the cat. This is generally done by keeping it still for a little wile after moving it about to first draw their interest.

Its only a good alternative if you don't like the flavor of frog and dumplings.
Bob Ebersole

Perhaps seen here earlier, but an interesting example from Thailand:


State Railway of Thailand to undertake ambitious development project.

The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) is on the verge of an ambitious THB16.5 billion (USD511 million) development project that will take the country's rail infrastructure into the 21st century and set it up for gradual privatisation.


He says: "Right now in Thailand, 88 per cent of all freight transport is by road - freight rail transport accounts for only 2.8 per cent. And the high increase in oil prices has caused everyone to think about how to shift the mode of transport to rail from road. So we have a target from the government: we need to increase freight rail by [sic] 15 per cent in five years - that's more than five times what it is now. At SRT, we have to make this possible."

Another significant factor in Thailand's decision to modernise its railways is the proportionally high rate of energy being used on Thailand's roads - 38 per cent of all Thailand's fuel goes into cars, which is nearly double the comparative figure for the US.

That is a pretty explicit example of oil prices affecting national policy.

I was wondering when the Thais would get around to doing that. A couple of years ago they committed to a massive Urban Rail program. Whilst they were debating about which line got built where (normal politics), they agreed to build three subway/elevated Rapid rail lines in Bangkok just to get going !

Thailand is also promoting biogas on farms and biogas SMALL tractors.

No nation is doing enough pre(?)-Peak Oil, but Thailand is on the short list of nations doing something significant.

Their Finance Minister also warned industry to diversify beyond exports to the USA.

Best Hopes for Those Trying to Prepare,


Well, as they are run by a junta so decisions are not fought in open politics...

Have you been to Thailand? Gorgeous place for photo-ops. Yes, the elevated rail is fairly popular:
(You can guess what the favorite color of the Thai is...) However, the lines run above the most busy streets, and the air is almost unbreathable outside due to all the fumes coming from below. The subway I found much nicer but very limited. Again though, walking to the subway station one nearly chokes on the polluted air.

The Bangkok elevated rail uses Siemens cars (which I didn't really care for), and given Thailand's close relationship with Japan I had hoped they would have used Japanese cars. The biggest limitation I discovered is that the lines ended too soon. The system really only services the hotel areas and a bit of main part of Bangkok. While you and I would find the fares to be quite low, I was told that for many Thai it is still too expensive.

I visited one of the standard rail stations too... fascinating place, it really felt like a 1930's station one sees pictured in old films.

I hope for my Thai friends that they can indeed both clean up the air in Bangkok and be able to continue on with less oil.

The decision as what lines to build where was done before the coup d'etat, when normal political discourse prevailed.

I remember that they budgeted several % of GNP to the program, but do not have the details readily available.

Still, I was impressed that they agreed to start building the highest priority new lines (none of which are yet open) almost immediately while debating the rest.

BTW, was waiting on the platform difficult because of the pollution below or was the air a bit cleaner above ?

I found the breezes on the Miami elevated platforms quite nice (a bit cooler and it seemed cleaner).

Best Hopes for a Maximum Effort,


There were a couple of times while waiting on the platform that I had a little difficulty breathing - the air was really that bad. At least as bad as LA ever got in the dirty old days. Worse really because the humidity was also so high. It was the worst city air I have ever breathed.

One afternoon I visited an out of the way temple and took tuk-tuk across Rattanakosin... what a disaster. Must have took 2 months off my life! My lungs hurt all night. Maybe I'm just a wimp, but the Japanese was so very much cleaner.

Because of all of the pollution perhaps it is all the better that Thailand won't be able to afford to up oil imports. To rapidly build out Bangkok's rail is probably a double win for them.

It is interesting that Thailand is also one of the few countries in that sweet spot where their ecological footprint hasn't let exceeded max sustainability (or at least not by very much yet), but where they have nevertheless achieved a pretty decent level of human development. See article by Francois Cellier, in particular my exchange with him:


Unfortunately the quoted 16.5 Billion Baht will not be bring the Thai rail infrastructure into the 21st century. Outside the Bangkok metropolitan area the rail network is in deplorable condition, the rail beds are often washed out and when in working order, the rail bed is anything but level. A very small percentage of the rail system is double track, the mentioned plans above amount to less than 130 km of new double track to the existing 4135km of the metregauge network.

The SRT is looking for 200 billion Baht to make a more extensive upgrade of the rail network, but I do not believe this includes electrifying network.

To quote Alan, Best hopes for massive investment in Rail here too.

China finds use for Foreign Currency Reserves

Also from that link:

An announcement was made during the Chinese premier's recent visit to Thailand that $US 4 billion would be made available to Thailand for infrastructure development including rail. The deal could also include a counter trade element Although the details of this deal are not yet public, it is likely to include a rail link to China via Laos and the resurrection of the Hopewell project

China makes friends, reduces oil demand by a competitor, gets better access to the Middle East & Africa, and ...

Best Hopes for Strategic Thinking,


more likely china plans on taking over a shitton of countries and wants rail for logistical support.

>1 trillion in foreign currency reserves can buy a lot of countries. A LOT.

remember logistics wins wars.

China has created an entire department in government to figure out ways to get the most bang for their $s. China is also doing development projects in African countries with their dollar deposits.

Everything you say is true. But they've been talking about upgrading the rail system for over a decade now. Long before the oil crisis hit.

Thailand is blessed by having probably the most intelligent and genuinely concerned monarchs in the world today. People from the West often don't understand, but the King of Thailand is one of the best examples of a human being alive, and he has been educating the public on sufficiency and energy solutions since the 1970's. You would think that people would have been paying more attention.

Still you get comments like this from the Democratic party, preparing for the upcoming election:


The coup was probably the best thing that has happened to the country in the last 5 years. Too bad it can't stay this way. Thailand will soon be reintroducing "democracy" back into the equation, and all the ridiculous politics and stupid policies that go with it.

Between the West and Thailand, I'd still choose Thailand. I wouldn't be here if I thought otherwise, but don't give them too much credit. Without the King they'd be driving themselves right into the gutter just like the rest of the world.

They still might. We'll have to wait and see...and hope.

Tom In Thailand

great perspective
When no-one around you understands
start your own revolution
and cut out the middle man

My goodness TiT - you have really bought the whole "divine wisdom of the monarch" thing in Thailand, haven't you? Hook line and sinker it seems. Ideology working at its best - democracy is just such a pain in the arse, isn't it ...

Re: Moore's Law

If it applied to cars and people, we'd be about the size of viruses now and drive around on roads the width of spiderweb.

Unfortunately the miniaturization of people hasn't kept pace.

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

I went to get gas this morning, and found the gas station I usually go to was dry. All sixteen pumps had yellow plastic bags over the nozzles. That's the first time I've ever seen that.

I should have stopped and asked them what happened, but I was kind of in a rush.

Leanan, If you dont mind saying...what part of the country are you in? Thanks.

I'm in the northeast. It's a Mobil station.

Hopefully you do not live in Boston below sea level.


I figure the area I'm in is good for at least another hundred years or so, even in the worst-case scenario. I could end up being a lot closer to the beach than I am now, though!

In any case, I'm not sure I'm staying here. My family is all elsewhere, so I don't really have roots here. The way I figure it, peak oil and climate change have the potential for generating so much chaos that the best preparation is to be ready to move.

I love Boston - my sister used to live there - but it's doomed. The Big Dig is going to prove a monumental waste of money.

What's the elevation in Nawleans where you live Alan?

About 300 feet below the elevation where I live. ;-)

At street level, about +1 foot (I rent the "basement". i.e. ground floor). The rental house I own a % of (my % pays for my rent + utilities) five blocks away is +1.5 feet at street level and it is elevated an extra 3 feet above that.

Best Hopes for No More Federal floods,


I noticed a really annoying practice by gas stations after Katrina.

At first they were removing the price from their signs to show they were out.

Then they switched to the plastic bag. So you usually had to drive into the station to see they were out.

In the end they stopped posting any notice at all. The pumps just wouldn't work.

I suspect this has to do with them trying to generate foot traffic for their stores.

It was bad enough having to drive all over town for gas, but stopping and getting out of the car at every station started to really piss me off.

Thursday there was no regular or mid-grade at the discount chain here in north Florida. The delivery truck showed up Friday night, though.

Several of my relatives just headed out for a three week drive, PA to Seattle and back. I told them that gasoline might be a problem, drought might be a problem, but they just shrugged it off.

My daughter, son-in-law, and two kids just returned from a trip out west. They flew into Reno, rented a van and drove around Nevada, and especially the national parks in Utah and Idaho, turned in the van in Vegas. They had no problems finding gas.

Coincidentally, the BP station in my neighborhood had all pumps "bagged" except for two. Not sure if it was a maintenance issue or they had drained some tanks, but not all.

Hello Leanan,

During the 70s energy crunch: the gas-station operator would just put out a board stating No GAS, and/or would just padlock the unusable pumps. Today, we are even more wasteful: plastic bags being used to cover pump handles. What the hell? Do pump handles need body bags?

Somebody needs to invent an alternative--hopefully with an appropriate message. Padlock the handle to a bicycle? Hang a potted plant from the nozzle? A black cloth sack covering the nozzle head, with bold white lettering saying,"Stop torturing yourself". Pour slaughterhouse cows' blood in front and around the unusable pump to symbolize Blood for Oil?

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

I saw the yellow bagged pump handles where Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas come together. Wasn't all pumps and this is likely a place fed by that flooded refinery in Oklahoma.

All sixteen pumps had yellow plastic bags over the nozzles.

I wonder how long it will be before the bags are imprinted with the following: Support Our Troops

Has this link been posted before? Crude – The Incredible Journey of Oil I apologize if it has but I would have thought it would have generated a storm of posts if it had. And since I have not seen any posts concerning it, I am a little shocked. You will need high speed internet to view the film clips, three of them at about half an hour each. Perhaps that is the problem, not enough people can watch it to cause much of a stir.

But it is so good it would be worth getting DSL or a cable hookup to view the clips. At any rate, it is a little shocking. It explains exactly how, and why, oil was formed. And, most shocking of oil, it explains why such a time may soon be approaching again.

But it probably has already been posted before and I just missed it. But even in that case I would like to post the link again, for those folks, like me, who somehow missed it when it was posted. It is just too good to miss.

Ron Patterson

It's a very snazzy show with visceral special effects and sharp overall focus and not an overdose of talking heads. However, they do kind of glide over the other fossil fuels, as if nothing were in the carbon capture-and-release cycle except oil.

Well, the real subject of the film was the conditions that caused the algae blooms that created the oil. Coal was not created under the same conditions. Coal seams usually are much older. Most of them, but certainly not all, were formed during the Carboniferous era 354 to 290 Million Years Ago.

The conditions that caused the huge algae blooms and the sulfur dioxide lower in the oceans happened in the Jurassic and Cretaceous and they were caused by CO2 and sulfur being dumped into the atmosphere by volcunism.

The question is, are we about to eneter such a period again, a period when the weather was so warm you could swim at the poles.

Ron Patterson

Yes, I thought it was scary that while we were releasing the carbon from the oil to go back to the superwarm oil-forming conditions, we were also releasing carbon from coal that had not even been involved in the first exchange at all.

The intelligent raccoons of the future will thank us for maximizing their fossil fuel reserves.


One thing about CC with respect to a meltdown of Greenland's and Antarctica's ice caps and volcunism that hasn't been given much consideration is how the release of such weight may well likely result in tectonic movement and probable increase in volcanic eruptions and earthquakes as well.

Perhaps to counter balance this we'll all just move ourselves to Greenland and Antarctica.

I'll be extinct by then.

"The question is, are we about to eneter such a period again, a period when the weather was so warm you could swim at the poles."

- I heard a story on NPR a few days ago, they interviewed a guy who recently went for a swim at the North Pole. It was cold, he said, but liquid, and he did it to publicize CC.

And this guy who did this publicity stunt got to the North Pole how?

By burning fossil fuels one presumes.


Er, just a point. We have been in an Ice Age for the past 2 million years or so (we are in an inter-glacial period now), so it would have to get A LOT warmer to create conditions different from anything seen in the last 50 million years. The poles have been covered in vegetation before, but at CO2 levels many times (well 4 or 5x) higher than now. None of this detracts from the fact that we should minimise our influence on climate change. Feed back loops may indeed lead us to such extreme conditions again.


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

We have been in an Ice Age for the past 2 million years or so (we are in an inter-glacial period now), so it would have to get A LOT warmer to create conditions different from anything seen in the last 50 million years.

This is meaningless, the glacial/inter-glacial alternation isn't clockwork it's chaotic.
You cannot predict long or medium term tendencies from the history alone but you can very well predict the short term risk from observed factors and similar conditions in the past.
So, a short term overheating is not certain but highly probable and even if your long term "prediction" is right what good would it be if we revert to ice age a few hundred or a few thousand years after having been toasted?

"This is meaningless, the glacial/inter-glacial alternation isn't clockwork it's chaotic."

That is meaningless. I never implied it was like clock-work. In fact I am well aware that recently we came out of a glacial period and then swung abraptly back into a glacial for a further 1000 years and that previous periods have been variable and sometimes considered chaotic. Regualrity has nothing to do with what I was talking about.

"You cannot predict long or medium term tendencies from the history alone but you can very well predict the short term risk from observed factors and similar conditions in the past."

That was the basis for my point. The comparison wasn't with similar conditions in the past. Despite the likely heating that we are now facing, a comparsion to periods more than 50 million years ago is not likely to yield accurate comparisons as the CO2 levels then were at times much higher (4 or 5x) than now - as much as 2000ppm as opposed to our 380-400ppm.

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

Good movies, the pieces of data look really familiar but the presentation seems new.

Microprocessors really haven't changed the global economy or our standards of living in any tremendously significant way. Far more significant was the shipping container that allowed manufactured goods to travel around the world at a minimum of cost. (The vast majority of shipping cost prior to containers was human labor in loading and offloading together with laborer pilfering on the docks.)

Best Wishes Hoping For A New Techonology That Will Save Us : )


"Microprocessors really haven't changed the global economy or our standards of living in any tremendously significant"

Typed the guy on a blog. In a media format that has only existed for a few years. In a world where smart bombs can fly through windows. Where someone can easily communicate with any other location on earth.

Yeah you are right microproccors have changed nothing when compared to steel shipping containers. Just the other day I was hiking and I used my steel shipping container to get my coordinates. After work I always like to sit down infront of a shipping container and watch it.


I love my GPS, and it sure has gotten me out of the wilderness after dark a few times when the batteries in my headlamp have died, trust me. But does that really improve the quality of a hike in the wilderness? The quality of the wilderness area is 99.5%, the GPS is .5% if that; probably the quality of your boots is the .5% and the quality of the GPS is .01%.

I love an MP3 that can hold 6 gigs of music and audio books, but is the impact "tremendously significant?" Compared to all the items that have been manufactured in distant parts of the world (clothing, furniture, building supplies, pre-Intel electronics, tools, toys, etc.) the impact on my standard of living is minimal. Likewise, for those doing the manufactuing the impact is tremendous. I'm not a huge fan of globalization, but a stupid metal box has revolutionized our world and has increased living standards worldwide, just as the railways and highway systems did in the West.


A STOOPID metal box with bar codes all over the sides that funnel into an inconceivably complexity of computation that gets all those stupid boxes to the right places at the right times.

You have a very limited concept of what computers do in this world. You may hold forth on how little they do to improve the "quality of life" - whatever vague thing that may mean to you - but the computational web, while invisible to most of us, is almost our total environment now.

Point taken, but the intermodal shipping container has nevertheless been revolutionary in its own way -- something not often appreciated by many, as most of only catch an occasional glimpse of them.

Yeah you are right microproccors have changed nothing

You are confusing the "entertainement value" and the life/growth/survival impact.
For something even more life changing than the shipping container try Haber Bosch process.

more life changing try Haber Bosch process.

Yea, being dead *IS* quite life changing. Haber Bosch let the munitions industry grow and grow. Oh and plants for man and beast to eat too.

Haber Bosch let the munitions industry grow and grow.

May be you didn't read the link (or not close enough).
In spite of the use of ammonia for munitions the population growth allowed by fertilisers has been more "explosive".
Munitions didn't compensate :->

Population is the problem!


(You seem to miss the part where this was for the war effort. Peace time use was not why it happened.)

I am not talking about the "why" but about the "what".

"Munitions didn't compensate" means that the net effect of nitrogen availability was population growth thru use of fertilisers not population reduction from war casualties.

i would have to disagree with them changing the economy... without them we would not have the ability to have instant real-time tracking and inventory control. Nor would funds be able to be transferred around the world instantly as they are. Microprocessors are so pervasive in everything humans touch now, that while individually they don't make a huge difference, taken as a whole, they've revolutionized modern products and the economy.

The standard of living argument is much more subjective...

I think the end result of your examples is greater instability. It is well known to electronic engineers that putting faster transistors in a feedback controlled system can often allow it to become unstable at high rates of change, basically because other slower parts cannot 'keep up'.

You don't even have to be an electric engineer for an example. Just take a shower where the water heater is a long way from the stall and try to get the temperature right. Twiddling the knobs makes the problem worse.

You have to be smarter than the shower to get the temperature right. The knobs that control the shower water are in the shower, not on the hot water heater. Turn the shower water mixture knobs to a position hotter than you want your shower water, go pick out what you want to wear after showering, come back to the shower and lower the temperature of the water to the desired level...If you are a typical American you will ignore these directions. Dont let me down.

I take cold or cool showers, I wash my clothes in cold water. The only thing that gets the hot water are dishes, or for hand washing. In the summer time I get luke warm water from the cold tap anyway.

Sorry some of us americans aren't the norm.

If you are a typical European, you don't take showers at all. That's why they invented perfume.

OK you passed the feedback course.

Making the adjustment nearer to the output would be called reducing the loop delay or phase shift [fairly obvious], and altering the output based on what you know will happen with a particular input - eg water temp, is 'feedforward'.

Now collect your certificate and go forth and multiply renewable micro generation...

As a scientist, the microprocessor has dramatically decreased the number of man hours required to complete a project.

Just having a calculator was an enormous advantage. Inside the span of my career, it has automated data collection, computation and presented us with an almost god like power to look behind the curtain of nature itself. While automating laboratory functions that use to require a building full of technicians.

To fully understand its impact you must first understand how all the products in your home were conceived and manufactured.

Microprocessors really haven't changed the global economy or our standards of living in any tremendously significant way.


Oh Sorry.

Hahahahah! Ok, now really.

Microprocessors of the 4 and 8 bit types are all over. Digital Signal Processors are part of most anything with a battery.

Without microprocessors, cars would be getting far poorer mileage (vs weight), battery chargers would be grinding batteries into uselessness due to overcharging (or make a good charger FAR more expensive.) The whole digital infrastructure would be lacking, thus electronics would be taking up more power to run.

Far more significant was the shipping container that allowed manufactured goods to travel around the world at a minimum of cost.

One VS the other - I'll take Microprocessors. Energy savings being one reason.

Besides, with shipping containers it is harder for the Mafia to make money with others buying stuff 'that fell offa a truck' - shipping containers means less discounted items for connected consumers.[/toungecheek]

Without microprocessors the DOW would never have been able to drop 3000 points in a day!

(Oh, sorry, that was supposed to be next week's post...)

Without microprocessors, cars would be getting far poorer mileage (vs weight), battery chargers would be grinding batteries into uselessness due to overcharging (or make a good charger FAR more expensive.)

This is so true. Computers allow for very advanced, very precise fuel/air/ignition control and exhaust monitoring.

A couple of $10 sensors and some software go a long way.

I must remember to pickup some $10 Lambda sensors next time I visit and save myself $150 back in the UK...

Export Land: At Peak Exports, What Percentage of Future Exports Would Be Exported?

Some more Export Land Model (ELM) numbers, for a hypothetical country, with URR of 38 Gb, that peaked at 55% of URR, with peak production (Year Zero) at 2.0 mbpd, consumption at 1.0 mbpd, exports at 1.0 mbpd. Production declines at 5.0% per year, consumption increases at 2.5% per year. Note that consumption as a percentage of production has a significant effect on future exports, after production starts declining.


I previously estimated that only about 10% of future production would be exported, once production started declining.

If we look at exports during the peak production and peak export year (Year Zero), exports during the peak year would represent about 18%--close to one-fifth--of all future exports.

I have previously noted that the export decline rate tends to accelerate with time. Following are the initial year over year declines in exports (exports decline by 50% in 4.5 years):

Year One: -12.5%
Year Two: -13.0%
Year Three: -15.5%
Year Four: -16.7%
Year Five: -20.6%

I have suggested that the Phase One decline (cash flow from export sales increases, because of higher oil prices) would be peak to 50% down. Phase Two (cash flow from export sales declines) would be the second half of the decline. Note that the decline rate accelerated to 20% plus, after crossing the 50% of peak exports line.

Just a thought...

Did the United States continue net exporting until its production peak? Or were we a net importer even as our production increased?

You mention of "year zero" for your hypothetical country as the point of both peak production and peak exports made me think of it.

The US might have been an exception, being not only a large producer and (at one time) large exporter, but an enormous consumer.

The US became a net importer right around 1950, 20 years before we peaked.

So, if the US were the sole source of crude oil worldwide, net oil exports worldwide would have ceased around 1950.

Ovshinsky worked on the General Motors EV1 electric car and appeared in the movie, "Who Killed the Electric Car?"

He said current internal-combustion engines in cars and trucks can be converted to run on hydrogen.

With hydrogen, he said, there's no pollution, no climate-change issues.

"All you need for fuel is water," he said


Stanford R. Ovshinsky, advocates solar powered photovoltaic electrolysis. I'm sure he's aware of the loss when splitting h2o, re: 1st law of thermodynamics. I'm guessing he's advocating policy that would help his employer.

I just can't help but think that H2 is never going to amount to much in a succesful move away from oil. The electric car has this advantage over the H2 car. Another advantage is that electric cars are now, at least in the form of the plug in hybrid, additionally the electric cars have an existing grid to allow easy charging, vs H2 which would need to significant modification to the gasoline infrastructure to accomodate H2.

I guess I have a very separate vision compared to Stanford's.

I am anxiously waiting for the return of the 84 year old electric cars 2.5 blocks from my home !

Promised in GWB's infamous Jackson Square speech.

Best Hopes for Proven Technology,


I love salmon six ways from sunday but I was sad to read this;

Oregon’s Largest Dam Removal Starts


Located about 40 miles east of Portland, the structure was built in 1913 to power a trolley that carried city dwellers out to the countryside and was rebuilt in 1989 after a flood. At 22 megawatts, Bull Run is one of PGE’s smallest generating facilities, and its power has already been replaced with environmentally friendly wind power and other sources.

I saw the film footage of the blasting. I wonder how soon they will look back and wish they hadn't done that. 2yrs? 5 yrs?
Given that the ODFW gets its funding from tag sales sport fishing must go on. I think catch and release is fish torture (try doing that with a hotdog on a hook in a dog pound and see how long until you are arrested)
and yes, I'm a fisherman....
Do we have an energy policy?

Souperman2 -

As I heard it, (without having paid too much attention), the issue was that the COST of maintaining this thing going forward was signifigantly GREATER than any benefit derived.

Therefore there will be no regret. Helping salmon was really secondary in their minds, though primary in others.

BTW, if the world as we make it is incapable of allowing other species to exist, is that really OK?

It was also a poorly written headline. It IS NOT Oregon's largest dam, it's really a wimpy little thing, but with lots of salmon habitat behind it.

you really have to wonder if Bush has ever, ever, actually done something when he promised to do so. Maybe the stop drinking thing, but I am not so sure about that.

He just changed drinks.

Power is MUCH more intoxicating and addictive anyway.


Thanks for your response to my question in yesterday's Drumbeat about guided buses. From the Wikipedia article, they can run in mixed traffic. One additional disadvantage is that, since they run in precisely the same path on each run, they tend to create a pair of ruts in the road.

The reason I asked was I was looking at the long-range transportation planning for my hometown. It doesn't rely entirely on roads - there are plans to increase bus service and extend bus service to nearby communities - but it lists using an existing rail line for commuter rail as an unfunded project, and includes bus rapid transit. I'm curious about what information is out there to make the case for more robust, less oil-dependent solutions.

Hey speaking of Gadgetbahn, check out the toy I saw during a visit to Jacksonville:



For the money they spent on that thing, they could have a real light rail system that could move hundreds of people at a time instead of two dozen.

The Navy had a problem with planes landing on exactly the same spot of an aircraft carrier when they tried out an automated landing system. They solved the problem by putting in a small randomization calculation for the flight corrections. The pilots hated handing over control to a computer, so I don't know if they still use the auto lander.

- Scott
"Try sour grapes; you might like them."

At street level, about +1 foot (I rent the "basement". i.e. ground floor). The rental house I own a % of (my % pays for my rent + utilities) five blocks away is 1.5 feet at street level and it is elevated an extra 3 feet above that.

Best Hopes for No More Federal floods,


It would depend on where and how you get the hydrogen. Storing and transporting hydrogen can be a problem. Generating it the fueling station would mean starting with natural gas and reforming or electrolyzing water. Since natural gas supplies are limited, that leaves electrolyzing water using LOTS of electricity.

If you took the natural gas at 100+ octane and ran it in a small engine with the turbocharger, you could get good efficiency, especially if it is a series hybrid like the proposed GM Volt.

If you took that same natural gas and ran a power plant turbine with it, you might be the same level of efficiency, however now you have to electrolyze the water and compress the hydrogen. This leaves you with less efficiency than the first method. It seems like Stan is going for what can work now, with little modification and I would agree on that basis.

Hydrogen Embrittles the metal containers used to store it.
compressing hydrogen takes energy.
expanding hydrogen in a controlled manner takes energy.
creating hydrogen takes energy.
burning hydrogen makes energy!

the worst bit is that hydrogen gas is small enough to diffuse out of most metal containers....(the dislocations in the metal structure cause the embrittlement)

Stanford R. Ovshinsky, advocates solar powered photovoltaic electrolysis. I'm sure he's aware of the loss when splitting h2o, re: 1st law of thermodynamics. I'm guessing he's advocating policy that would help his employer.

That last bit amused me ... Stan O is the employer.



I have been aware of his career for decades. A maverick solid-state physicist, he has spent a lifetime investigating the properties of amorphous semiconductors while the rest of the industry relentlessly pursued the perfect silicon crystal. Materials like selenium were known as semiconductors long before silicon became so popular.

But yes obviously, he is selling his wares, which include hydrogen storage, battery technology, and solar shingles.

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

I am worried about one thing, i look at his site, he makes mention of upgrading the Michigan location from 50MW solar a year to 300MW solar a year, but since that announcement nothing has happened.


if someone has some info on what is going on with that 300MW solar plant, lemmi know.


You are referring to this. Not a solar plant but a foundry of solar grade silicon.

He's definitely not refering to your link, which has nothing to do with this company. ENERGY CONVERSION DEVICES, is not a foundry and doesn't even use polycrystalline silicon. Get a clue!

Wow, you've really got that wrong. They had one 28MW plant in 2005, the 2nd was completed in late 2006, for a total plant capacity of 60MW. Right now two very large 60 MW plants are under construction, one will be online late this year!... the other will be online in 2008.

They have taken their PV manufacturing capacity from 28MW in 2005 to what will be 120 at the end of this year, and 180MW in 2008. This is a 6 fold increase, which isn't nothing!


Oops. You are actually referring to this. Ovonics is now a subsidary of Energy Conversion Devices (ECD).

DIYer, isnt Ovshinsky the scientist that invented the battery for the GM EV1 and then sold the patent to a conglomerate owned jointly by the auto companies to get the battery off the market?

Oh, you're talking about this story:

I think the Ovshinskys meant well in 1994. They were scientists, but not cynical enough to be effective politicians. ...

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

Stanford R. Ovshinsky, advocates solar powered photovoltaic electrolysis.

The gent has done alot with Hydrogen chemistry, but his track record on solar 'predictions' is lacking.

Why are his sputter coating PV tech more expensive, consistently? It WAS supposed to be in the $1 a watt by now.

I just can't help but think that H2 is never going to amount to much in a succesful move away from oil.

Oil is Hydrogen in a matrix. Whatever the 'next' "fuel" is, it too will be in a matrix. I believe his more recent patents are attempts to have Hydrogen in a metal matrix.

"Oil is Hydrogen in a matrix."

Are we forgetting Mr. Carbon!? Carbon has a wee bit to do with the incredible utility and energy density of petroleum.

Are we forgetting Mr. Carbon!?

Not forgetting, just ignoring because we have our "hydrogen economy" glasses on.

To avoid the storage issues of 'pure' H2, placing it in a martix will address almost every storage issue of H2.

I don't know if we have ever discussed these guys:


Millennium Cell has developed and publicly demonstrated systems (known as Hydrogen on Demand® or HOD™ systems) utilizing sodium borohydride (NaBH4) as a hydrogen storage medium at power levels ranging from as low as 2 W up to 65 kW.

These systems are light, do not require purifiers, complicated fuel processors or high temperatures; they start quickly and do not emit greenhouse gasses.

They have reformatted their site since the last time I read it, so I'm not sure what all they currently have there. Basically, they store hydrogen as sodium borohydride, then run it over a catalyst to release sodium borohydrate and molecular hydrogen, which is then piped to a fuel cell. I remember them claiming that the solution had a similar energy density to gasoline.

Nice high-tech gadget, not a scam at least and currently working it seems.
But it is an energy carrier not an energy source.

Usual questions:

- Where does the primary energy comes from?
- EROEI of total fuel cycle?
- Availability of the source materials, boron for the fuel, catalysts for the cell?
- Cost and time span of large scale deployment?

if this storage medium has energy densities above 11Mj/kg it can surpass gasoline. Gasoline, factoring for inefficiency, only counts for ~10Mj/kg of work.

- Where does the primary energy comes from?

Why, the Sodium Borohydride mines, of course! Or just buy it at Borohydrides-R-Us.

At least they aren't planning to use rare, expensive Gallium to generate the hydrogen, eh.

You ain't kidding, DIYer. I just invested my entire life savings in a great Sodium Borohydride mine play. Nowhere but up, baby, and I'm gonna get my share! I'm serious - it said so right in the e-mail! Evidently there are some really big Sodium Borohydride deposits in Nigeria.

Gallium is so, like, last year.


Steve Andrews was interviewed on the Financial Sense webcast this weekend:

Hydrogen can replace gasoline, scientist contends

Reminds me of the old saw...

If we had ham, we could have ham and eggs -- if we had eggs.


With hydrogen, he said, there's no pollution, no climate-change issues.

"All you need for fuel is water," he said "You don't need the Mideast."

I am having trouble believing that anything this clueless could have come from Ovshinsky (though it's all too believable that it could come from a clueless reporter's mis-quote or fabrication).  He has to know that hydrogen isn't the fuel, it's the transmission medium; the fuel (primary source of energy) is something else, and those certainly do pose pollution and climate-change issues.

Yes, Engineer-Poet

Ovshinsky surely knows the 1st law of thermodynamics.

You will notice that this guy is the founder and chief scientist of Energy Conversion Devices Inc. Which means he is in the business and probably looking for a government grant of some kind or another along with investors in his business. He should have to refute every claim made in The Hydrogen Hoax before he gets any grant or any investors in his business. Of course he could not do that and that would be the end of Energy Conversion Devices Inc.

Ron Patterson

Darwinian, good point, I made a similar one upthread

"Which means he is in the business "

And acting as an advocate for his business......

He should have to refute every claim made in The Hydrogen Hoax before he gets any grant or any investors in his business.

My memory says Texaco was a large shareholder.....

And, lets see him address the concerns of Don Lancaster:

A professor here was recently quoted in a MSM Peak Oil article saying that when she worked in the US on the viability of a hydrogen economy she and her colleagues lied to themselves to get positive results, simply because they WANTED it to work. She now admits it is not a viable option. Very telling...

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

Re: Current Japanese car craze is tiny

For those of old enough to remember, Japan has always had some really small cars. I remember a fellow that owned a Honda back in 1966 that was a 2 seater sporty thing with chain drive. Honda's small car preceding the Civic had an engine size of about 600 cc. There was a 360 cc class in Japan and the first Subaru sold in California was one of those. They didn't do too well on the freeways at 65 mph.

Japan wasn't the only country with small cars, as Fiat made a 600 cc and an 850 cc sedan. The original MG Mini from Britain was an 850, as I recall. I owned a MG 1100, which was almost identical to the Austin America. It died at about 65,000 miles, as I tried to do regular commuting on the freeway with it and it lost a rod bearing. Part of the problem with those was the fact that they used a common sump for the engine and transmission, which probably worked well in Britain, where it was said the average driver went 5k miles/year, which made valve jobs at 25k seem reasonable.

Of course, by now, the Japanese have learned how to build a vehicle that will last a long time. I think the VW 1 Litre will also be a contender as well. When Peak Oil becomes a reality in the mind of the consumer, she will probably run out and buy those cute little cars, just as she did after 1974. The American automobile industry will still be trying to meet the mandated 35 mpg requirement by 2018. That is, if they aren't already road kill by then.

E. Swanson

hi black dog - I noticed this one as well

- and US public, car- and policymakers should pay attention here, this is the path for mitigation .. to have the US getting used to certain new ideas and realities
- The final solution is ultimately without petrol at all.

My vision is that "the rest oil" should be used for recyclable petrochemichal products only.

The faster we can grasp this - the more and cheaper there will be left of the "black gold" to make stuff ...

Personally I'd rather have 1000 kg of "black-plastic-gold" put into various shapes and utilities - than 1000 kg of golden gold - in 100 years !

what would U ?

I am not a car lover, the car only gets used about 3 (rainy) days a week. But when I drive, I drive a 659cc kei car: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daihatsu_Copen

Unfortunately, the export model has now been "upgraded" to 1.3 litre. The only place you can buy the 659cc version is in Japan.

Perhaps if the government would lower the speed limit on freeways to 55 MPH those small cars will last even longer..

How small can you go? http://www.microcarmuseum.com/

The Honda you're referring to was the S500 and S600. They were actually pretty zippy because they were light and the engines were revvy like nuts - dual overhead cams and all.

Edit: Was browsing the site and ran across the two you mentioned



The vehicle situation in the USA is fundamentally different from Japan. With the current average "light" vehicle now weighing in at more than 4000 pounds and many vehicles featuring a high ride height and battering-ram construction, small and light vehicles are perceived as "death traps." Also, our roads allow for greater speeds than what is common in Japan, which makes crashes that much more deadly. Any safety features that can be added to small vehicles can also be added to huge vehicles for even better safety to the owner of the huge vehicle.

As has been mentioned many times on this website and others, if everyone drove a small and light vehicle, the overall safety would be better than the situation where everyone drives a huge and heavy vehicle. How can we make this happen? Perhaps we can't because we can't easily undo the past and current misguided safety standards.

Here's what should have been done decades ago when the truck craze first started... Instead of mandates that a vehicle have certain protections to the occupants of the crashing vehicle, there should be mandates that a vehicle protect the occupants of any other vehicle it hits. Each consumer has a vested interest in protecting their own life, but only the government can force people to protect the lives of others. It's a matter of offense verses defense; reducing the offense is more effective and lower cost than increasing the defense. For example, vehicles driving on public roads should have a bumper height and center of gravity that is low and compatible with small cars; a dual-purpose vehicle would be held to this standard while on road, but (at the owner's expense) could have a suspension that could be adjusted for off-road or deep-snow situations. Vehicles that are designed to carry a heavy load would be required to prove their crash safety with other vehicles when they are carrying that load; they would probably need exceptional crash-absorbing crumple zones.

hi SunnyvaleCA

...Tiny cars are "death traps" you say

-today maybe, but after a/the paradigm shift, if there is at all time and enough oil to bother...all cars will become small and cute. The problem is the transition process - I will sit in a bigone till the last day of transition.

Such a transitiontime should favour tiny-cars as per traffic rules, and harsh knockdown on heavy cars (the drvers that is) if not complying 100% to new trafficrules and very low speedlimits for them...

The shift HAS TO COME(!), just the few of us actually know this - isnt that exiting?

Japanese typically are courteous and respectful to everyone, not just their immediate circle of acquaintances.

In Europe, I didn't find Japanese tourists to be any more courteous than anyone else.

I suppose you need to live in Japan for some time then, it never occurred to me to specifically observe Japanese while living in Europe.

Maybe we should just limit momentum per vehicle; A 1000-lb vehicle would be allowed to go 60mph, a 2000-lb vehicle 30, a 4000-lb vehicle 15, etc.

Speeding would be a felony.

works for me.

Until the SUVs and trucks are gone, the best strategy for those trying to save energy would be:

1) Take passenger rail for long-distance trips if possible, & rent a small car at the destination. If no rail, then consider air travel.

2) If you can't get there by rail or air, then drive, but avoid the interstate highways. In may cases there are US highways that parallel the interstates, with max speed limits of 55mph and far less traffic. As far as local travel goes, there are only a very few spots in the US where an interstate must be taken, local roads and streets are usually available as viable, slower alternatives.

3) If you absolutely must take an interstate, stay in the slow lane, and exit as soon as you can. Try to plan your trip to avoid the worst traffic if you can.

The time will eventually come when the interstates are superfluous and will become places where we can erect massive numbers of PV panels. Prior to that, we are going to go through a period of increasing craziness as maniacs in ever-bigger cars turn the interstates more and more into a demolition derby. Best to just stay out of the way and let "demand destruction" take its literal course.

Last time I took Amtrack to Chicago from Mattoon the train was an hour and a half behind schedule. Regular riders stated this was normal, and sometimes delays are up to two hours. Until Amtrack can get its' delays at a maximum of 15 minutes barring extraordinary circumstances, I will not depend on it for transportation - as much as I would love to do so.

You made the mistake of trying to get to your actual destination via Amtrak. I think you are supposed to just take the two or three routes that are actually reasonably functional and ignore the rest. Fortunately for a few of us, the Milwaukee <-> Chicago train is generally pretty close to on-time and runs an amazingly (for the USA) frequent 7 times per day, though not, alas, at anything that could be considered night. But between huge freight-related delays on most routes and the just minimal level of service that puts scheduled times for fairly large cities (Tuscon, for example) at midnight three days a week, a lot of the service is pretty close to useless. My European friends bitch endlessly about levels of service that sound unimaginably good to me.

The first Honda Civics in the US (mid 1970s) were truly tiny things -- not much more than a 4-wheel motorcycle with a shell.

The first Honda Civics had 1300cc motors. They were larger than the small 600cc or 360cc class vehicles and were much better suited to the conditions of American freeways than the earlier small cars. Recall also that the first Accord had a 1600 cc motor and was smaller than recent Civics. Here's a picture of the pre-Civic 1970 Honda 600cc:


These cars were not like the motorcycles from Asia either, unless you think a Harley was a good motorcycle...

Perhaps you missed the reference to the Microcar Musem:


E. Swanson

Hello TODers,

The Red Mosque in Pakistan was repainted yellow after the bloody battle there a short time ago between jihadis and Pakistani military. Now it appears it is being repainted once again with red blood:

Violence erupts in Pakistan at Red Mosque
Militants battle police and set off bomb, killing 13
My earlier posting predicted two years before widespread civil war due to Overshoot ramifications and FF-shortages. Too optimistic?

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

Tontoneila, the Afgan/Pakistan border is another boundary that was drawn to devide a people, in this case the Pashtun, much as the boundries of Iran/Syria/Turkey/Iraq divide the Kurds. When looking at the borders of the ME counties it is hard not to believe that they were drawn to insure a continuing state of unrest exists. I believe Churchill commented on this rational. In the long run water will be more important to the ME than oil and if you look at a map of the ME that includes the rivers it is easy to see who will be in control of the water...unless states fail and boundries are erased. The fight for water is going to be more ferocious than the fight for oil imho.

Hello River,

Excellent points, but the same problem exists stateside here at home. The following two links show the 1. Colorado Watershed overlain the State boundaries, 2. Water allocation %'s/State:



Obviously, CA geographically contributes hardly any gravity fed rain/snowmelt, but takes an inordinate % of the water: perfect prescription for massive conflict as the water behind the dams drops ever lower, and the aquifers deplete.

As mentioned previously in many postings on sequential building of biosolar habatats: the effective and manageable social boundaries would follow the watershed boundaries, and the water can only be used internal to the watershed, not exported OUTSIDE the watershed hundreds of miles by canal & pipeline sytems.

Canals are just as vulnerable to earthquake and bomb damage as FF-pipelines, maybe even more so, because the force of the escaping water quickly widens the gap.

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

I think you may still be right. This doesn't quite add up to a civil war...yet. What continues to amaze me is how many people are willing to strap a bomb to their chest and detonate it. I would have thought you'd run out of volunteers before too long. Then again, if you have a bunch of young men who can't get work or a woman, maybe blowing themselves up isn't so bad.

- Scott
"Try sour grapes; you might like them."

That's if you believe that every report of a "suicide bomber" is accurate.

David Strahan on the mainstreaming of peak oil


Former BBC journalist David Strahan talks to GPM's Julian Darley about the sudden attention to peak oil from the media, the NPC, the IEA, Goldman Sachs and CIBC. Strahan also recounts his experience with the UK's new All Party Parliamentary Group on Peak Oil and Gas (APPGOPO).

His "Interactive oil depletion atlas" at his website is way cool if you have not already played with it.

P.S. I have always really appreciated Sprott's analysis. Well worth the read.

Sometime back, someone here recommended reading books by Masanobu Fukuoka, which I am currently doing. Last night, I was reading "The Natural Way of Farming" (c1985) and thoroughly enjoying the book, his writing style, his philosophy on life and farming, his proposal of the "do-nothing movement", shunning of science and technology, embracing the natural world, anti-industrial farming and genetic engineering sentiments, discussions of oil's influence on farming, and his focus on rice fields being depleted of nutrients and becoming unsustainable in production.
Then, this AM, I open the WSJ and the front page story is Feeding Billions, a Grain at a Time, a story about how rice fields around the world have become depleted because of industrialization and there are rice shortages, but technology needs to save us by engineering the seeds, etc. The article assumes growth in production is the only option, and never mentions the limits to growth or population as being the problem.

Maybe some prophecies do actually come true!

gmo's will probably never work well in the wild over the long term (50-100 years).

a stable genotype with stable genetic makeup is too easy to manipulate by other bugs. And the cost in remaking seeds every year and testing them is wayyyy toooo high.

FWIW...I have been to IRRI, the International Rice Research Institute mentioned in the article. I believe I've mentioned before that my dad is an agronomist who specializes in international agriculture. He used to work with them (and still has quite a bit of contact with them, though he is no longer in the Philippines).

Believe me, those scientists are very, very aware of the population issue. They know, probably more than anyone else in the world, that population is the problem.

One of my dad's favorite sayings is, "Malthus was wrong only in his timing," and IME, that is the general consensus among international ag types.

What I took away from the story about rice yields was that they were still growing by 1% a year...hence effectively allowing the population to keep growing by 1% a year. Surely we should be aiming for 0 growth in food yields.


this could be interesting.

How so? I'm genuinely a little perplexed why there is concern that yields are "only" increasing by 1% a year.
Keeping yields steady such that they require less water and ideally less fertilizers and pesticides would seem to be the ultimate long-term goal (and a quite challenging enough one, I would think).

How can one ever become a good farmer if one shuns scientific thinking and stop thinking about the result of the work and avoid experimenting and theorizing about why something worked well or went bad. It works even better if you look for litterature and exchange ideas that others can try out and promote if they work well. If there are some communication on line or printed you will probably end up with the suggestions being commented by trusted peers who have a good track record for sorting fertilizer from bullshit...

I find that diusturbing too. Population is so rarely considered a problem... it's almost always about solving current issues in order to support more demand.

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

The Future of Water
The Aspen Institute - Aspen, CO

The Future of Water with Peter Gleick and J. Carl Ganter speaking at the 2007 Aspen Ideas Festival.


Leanan posted this link a couple of days ago; “WATER TABLES FALLING AND RIVERS RUNNING DRY”

I found it shocking. Water is being pumped, for irrigation in China, from 1,000 feet down. And many of such wells in China and India are being shut down because it cost more to pump the water from that depth than the benefit they gain. But I found this passage a real shocker:

Although this mining of underground water is taking a toll on U.S. grain production, irrigated land accounts for only one fifth of the U.S. grain harvest, compared with close to three fifths of the harvest in India and four fifths in China.

Four fifths! I had no idea! And the water tables and river levels are dropping by meters per year. This proves that the earth is dramatically into overshoot. We cannot feed the people we have now, for very long anyway, even if we never run out of fossil fuel. When the water is gone, soon, there will be much less food and much more starvation. Overshoot is overshoot and nine tenths of the world has its head in the sand concerning the population problem.

Ron Patterson

Ron - I agree.

I am begining to think that Peak Water will be easier to percieve for the general Q public than peak oil, or I should say it might be more palatable.

Then it might not be too difficult to say " oh, by the way FF are peaking also folks". Bada Bing & Whammmmo

W.A.S.S. UP (we are so screwed up)


You're such a worry-wart! You are forgetting about our ace in the hole. You know, technology!

[edited to add a "sarcanol" tag. I actually put one in as a faux-html markup tag, but the TOD software tried to interpret it as a real tag]

Four fifths! I had no idea!

Why do you think Agenda 21 (Chapt 18) exists?

Places like RBN/GCN and Alex Jones exist because they are able to to take items like Agenda 21 combined with how bureaucracies (government or private) or groups of individuals have worked to 'shaft' other humans for their own benefit.

Overshoot is overshoot and nine tenths of the world has its head in the sand concerning the population problem.

Yes, well how does one position themselves so they don't end up being one of the buried alive in all of the shifting sand when 9/10th of the world removes their head from the sand?

Much of that irrigation is with renewable# surface water. Paddy rice has been grown that way for thousands of years.

# However, the decline of glaciers and general snow cover will likely change the river flows. More water in fall and winter, less in spring & summer.



I highly recommend 'Pillar of Sand' by Sandra Postel. She elucidates both modern and ancient irrigation, the role of 'renewable' and pumped sources, and the little understood aspect of salinization. Believe me when I say that water limits have not only been reached but are very quickly declining throughout all major growing regions across the face of the earth.

Take Egypt and the challenges it faces from Ethiopia and Sudan; Israel, Jordan and Syria; Mexico, California, Arizona and Nevada; The American Midwest; The central Asian Steppe; The plains of China; The Indus Valley but to name a few. All these regions are currently experiencing upheaval between water users, some are even in arms.

Rain will not solve these problems.


Australia remains a major food and fibre exporter. However the extent of salinisation of cropland is truly scary - the removal of millions of trees for the planting of crops has led to the rise of salt from ancient seabeds. Much of this land (and the few rivers that flow through it) are considered permanently ruined. Water (both aquifer and rainwater) are both becoming critical as well. Water management and water rights are reaching the very top of the political agenda. It does not bode well.

You say it doesn't bode well, and I agree there are substantial challenges ahead, but at least there is recognition at the highest levels of a serious problem, and a genuine effort to do something about it. And even having after 10 years of the worst drought in history (which may or may not be breaking), and the recent frosts and massive floods, the supermarkets and greengrocers all have their shelves fully stocked with locally grown produce (some of it at higher prices, but not yet high enough to affect our weekly grocery budget anyway). I'm actually somewhat curious who does get shorted when produce yields are down.

Ron, I lived in Japan about 4 years while still in grammar school. I rode my bicycle to school most of the time and would take all the short cuts through the rice paddies. Growing rice is fascinating to watch. The fields are flooded prior to the planting and are dried by harvest, so the rice looks very similar to other cereal grains when harvested. When I was Japan the rice fields were still fertilized with human waste and the topsoil was many feet thick, there was no problem with leached soils.

There's a book called Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations...

NUMEROUS ancient civilisations crashed when their soils turned to dust under sustained cultivation. Not China. The Chinese have been farming their fields intensively for 4000 years. What did they do right?

The answer is night soil, says David Montgomery. They recycled the soil's nutrients by spreading their excrement liberally across the land. After good harvests, farming communities deliberately stuffed themselves with extra helpings of rice in order to "reinvest in their stock of natural capital" and replenish the soil.

The Chinese have been farming their fields intensively for 4000 years. What did they do right?

The answer is night soil, says David Montgomery.

Yes, but that was yesterday. Now there is another story in China. China's dust bowl is growing at an alarming rate.

In the past China’s population was much smaller. They did not have to overgraze their land and did people in the Mediterranean Basin. And they did not have to over plow their land as other peoples did.

With a population of almost 1.35 billion people, things are a lot different in China, their water tables are falling, their rivers are drying up and their land is blowing away. It’s a different world in China and night soil cannot save them. In fact, in China the night soil is about to hit the fan.

Ron Patterson

The classic book about Chinese sustainable agricultural practices is Farmers of Forty Centuries. Get it here:


When I was Japan the rice fields were still fertilized with human waste and the topsoil was many feet thick, there was no problem with leached soils.

Just wanted to point out the incongruity of labeling a completely natural product of our bodies, which has been used *for centuries* to maintain soil fertility, as "waste".

How much more obvious could it be that we are indeed dumber than shit! ;-)

The "waste" is in using good water to flush away good fertilizer.

I love the idea of cycling nutrients and preventing wastage. But the people in Walkerton, Canada might not agree.


I passed through rural Ontario a few years later and many people were still talking about a new process of composting sewage and spreading it on farm fields. Supposedly this practice started a year or so before the Walkerton outbreak and similar (but smaller) outbreaks popped up in various areas.

If people start spreading human manure they have to start being very careful about boiling water for drinking, and being cautious about bathing water too.

According to your linked file on the Walkerton water contamination outbreak the problems had nothing to do with either sewage composting or any use of such farm field enhancement material (neither of which is mentioned in the linked file).

The outbreak was linked to a variety of other factors, primarily: "seepage of animal waste into groundwater" as well as "a period of heavy rain in May that allowed contaminated rainwater to enter the wells"; and immediately goes on to outline a subset of other contributing factors.

Among these were the "particular techniques of animal waste management that resulted in the contamination, or the particular density of animal population, or the particular charecteristics of soil composition, global warming, and so on." Italicized emphasis mine and I will let them speak for themselves.

Yet, the main point of the article revolved around the very next sentence following the last one quoted above: "In complex systems the dynamic interaction between different subsystems can allow many small events in some subsystems to result in major events in others."

The article goes on to describe how, in an effort to "simplify" or streamline the oversight of town's water supply system this also contributed to the outbreak, precisely because our "Attempts to simplify complex systems like the safe water supply can increase the risk of disasters, because the simplification process often ignores events that might stabilize or destabilize the system." [Italicized emphasis original.]

This quotation, not the Walkerton water disease outbreak or it's cause, is the core point of the article. And it is one which I think needs no further comment by me here. It speaks for itself and is one I already understand and fully concur with, as I do believe many here would too.

I do wish to shed some thought on other issues left hanging about this issue as it relates to composting humanure.

Although I am in favor of such ideas, this is not to suggest I am at all advocating for "spreading human manure" or "nightsoil" directly on our soils. Far from it. That people have done it, or even continue to do so, is a practice I am in no position to find fault with. Mostly they are extremely poor with no viable other alternative to either the extravagance of a bathroom as we are accostumed to or our extravagant fertilizers derived from fossil fuels.

Of course the dangers inherent in doing it so are plain, but whether because of their circumstances, or long standing cultural tradition, or both, such practices has contributed to soil fertility and land use of long duration that is otherwise commendable and worth learning from.

In any event, composting our *sewage* and using it as fertilizer is another step in the right direction, even if it is step that adds to the complexity of our *waste disposal* system, rather than the simplicity we ultimately seek. But if you think this is a new process you are mistaken.

A very large percentage of our *sewage waste*, after it is "treated" at sewage facilities and "dewatered," is shipped off either to landfills, farms for fertilization, or composting sites. All of this is government allowed and regulated. I personally spoke with someone in the US Environmental Protection Agency who worked in this oversight division, and confirmed what I am relaying here.

The composting of dewatered sewage sludge also allows for such material to be packaged and sold as garden supply store compost. I believe it is mixed in with other suitable material to make the compost, but sewage sludge can be part of the ingredients to make it. To borrow a phrase, 'Compost doesn't grow on trees'.

Nor does all our sewage sludge just go away. It eventually ends up somewhere else, perhaps in the farm field where the summer corn you had for supper came from. Now there's some food for thought!

Still, when done well and correctly composting sewage does have its merits and uses, and in such a fashion is unlikely to result in such a calamity as that which befell Walkerton. Yet it depends on the abilities of the whole water supply and sewage treatment system to not fail in its responsibilities. In otherwords, the large scales and complexity of the two whole systems are its greatest weakness. But that is what we have and that is what we must live with.

The real complication arises from our insistance on using water as the primary disposal method of moving our humanure along to its alotted destinations. So long as we continue with this practice we must shoulder the burdens it brings. And they are many, most of which are obvious.

For anyone so inclined and in a position to do so, directly capturing one's humanure without the use of water and treating it in a compost pile mixed with green garden and kitchen refuse (as explained in The Humanure Handbook) is as close to simplicity and perfection as we will ever attain in responsibly resolving this issue.

I apologize for the length of this post but this humanure and compost topic has been surfacing of late, and synchroGENized post only muddied the waters. I thought it worthwhile to try and offer a clearly articulated response.

There are huge amounts of waste sludge spread over US (and other) farms. This sludge is full of heavy metals and other toxic chemicals though, as the processing is typically industrial.


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

Although the linked article is from 1995 I do not know of good reason to believe that much of what it reveals has changed.

Just to be clear about my position, I am adamently opposed to this farm spreading practice of *uncomposted* sewage sludge, as we all should be.

*Composted* sewage sludge is a distinction worth making about this subject as I conceive and refer to such a thing.

Whether it is worthy of application to our farm fields is entirely dependent upon how it's composted and the degree of rigorous oversight attendant upon this process.

The only person I trust in such matters is myself, which is why I deal with this responsibility on my own.

There is a process that eliminates the heavy metals problem. I gather the key is the type of bacteria you use to break down the waste.

Our modern sewage waste has a lot of crap (in addition to feces) in it which makes it impossible to use for just about anything. Back in the 1930's there were a number of communities which set up sewage treatment plants which took the raw sewage and cooked it to dryness using ordinary household waste for fuel. Elmira New York was one of these, where I lived. The cooked dry sewage sludge was then sold as fertilizer. One drawback was that if you used it before a rain without mixing it in the soil, it really stunk. The project had to be stopped after the war because of "better living through chemistry'; plastics in the household waste used as fuel, and various household chemicals which began to be flushed down the toilets, simply caused too much pollution. I remember that there many thermal electricity plants in Europe in the 30's also which used household waste as fuel, and they had to stop because they ran into the same problem of pollution from burning plastics. Maybe with a greatly simplified life style, we could make some of these old ideas work again. Less oil = less plastics and toxic household chemicals.

Perhaps if I were crude I would have used the word that you used instead of 'waste,' alternatively, we could settle on the word feces. If you wish to label yourself 'dumber than feces,' please feel free to do so, but leave me unlabeled. Thanks.

My intent was not directed at you personally. I'm sorry you took it that way.

From The Total Perspective Vortex

In 1988, psychologists Shelly Taylor and Jonathon Brown published an article making the somewhat disturbing claim that positive self-deception is a normal and beneficial part of most people’s everyday outlook. They suggested that average people hold cognitive biases in three key areas: a) viewing themselves in unrealistically positive terms; b) believing they have more control over their environment than they actually do; and c) holding views about the future that are more positive than the evidence can justify. The typical person, it seems, depends on these happy delusions for the self-esteem needed to function through a normal day. It’s when the fantasies start to unravel that problems arise.

Studies into clinical depression have yielded similar findings, leading to the development of an intriguing, but still controversial, concept known as depressive realism. This theory puts forward the notion that depressed individuals actually have more realistic perceptions of their own image, importance, and abilities than the average person. While it’s still generally accepted that depressed people can be negatively biased in their interpretation of events and information, depressive realism suggests that they are often merely responding rationally to realities that the average person cheerfully denies.

GeDa: Taylor and Brown, like a lot of academics, see the trees but not the forest. Your actions affect your future reality in unpredictable ways. Just because you are convinced you cannot do or accomplish something does not make it a reality. Your perceptions could be flawed. Optimistic people have a far greater chance at realizing their potential in any area of life. Reality is fluid, not static.

Just because you are convinced you cannot do or accomplish something does not make it a reality.

It may entice you to look for realistic endeavours and solutions instead of wasting time and ressources in "pie in the sky" projects.

Your perceptions could be flawed.

You mean, like the pornucopians perceptions?

Optimistic people have a far greater chance at realizing their potential in any area of life.

But may be not at surviving a "squeeze" in ressources and opportunities, in such circumstances they are more likely good prospects for Darwin Awards.

This is something that I experience all the time as a teacher of sustainability concepts, ecology, energy, etc.

Students bring up putative solutions to this or that problem that they've seen in the media, and I explain why they can't possibly work, based on either the laws of thermodynamics or simple arithmetic.

So I get labeled as a doomer, wet blanket, etc. What I'm trying to do is focus on things that might have a possibility of being useful. We do not need our resources of capital and attention being wasted on nonsensical scams.

Guys: I wasn't referring to running pornocopian scams. My point was just that "depressive realism" is usually just discouragement (cowardice). Putting a fancy label on it doesn't change anything. In the context of peak oil, the bottom line is- what do you do to get what you want-everything else is BS.

"My point was just that "depressive realism" is usually just discouragement (cowardice)."

With all due respect, I call bullshit. The reality we are face with is fairly depressing, and admitting that it is both realistic and also step one to doing anything about it.

This is not the same as rolling over and giving up.

Equating discouragement and cowardice is also nonsensical. These are discouraging times on many levels.

It seems to me that denying the enormity of the pickle we're in is cowardice. Facing it head on, contrary to every aspect of modern social conditioning, and not succumbing to the seductive blandishments of the techno-cornucopians takes some courage.

Sgage: You are debating yourself. You evidently see only two options: 1. "depressive realism" or 2. succumbing to seductive blandishments of techno-cornocopians. Good luck.

BrianT: No I am not. I was debating you. I realize there is a spectrum of reactions to the status quo.

I just think that equating discouragement with cowardice is blatant nonsense.

Good luck.

Hello Sgage,

Your quote: "It seems to me that denying the enormity of the pickle we're in is cowardice. Facing it head on, contrary to every aspect of modern social conditioning, and not succumbing to the seductive blandishments of the techno-cornucopians takes some courage."

I gotta agree, thus my ceaseless efforts at Peakoil Outreach for optimizing our decline. Continuing Cowardice in the face of Overshoot troubles will inevitably require the global machete' moshpit. Or the final insult of the real and final 'courage' to consume human flesh at the rock bottom survival level.


I would rather GOOGLE put the "I'm Feeling Unlucky" Dieoff.com button up sooner, rather than later, to help jumpstart positive change. IMO, it will be far too late if finally being able to click on this button only brings up a bunch of grilling recipes. =(

Dieoff opening quote: "If a path to the better there be, it begins with a full look at the worst."-- Thomas Hardy

From Jay's Requiem: "If there is any hope at all, it is that people will come to understand the key systems in their world and then find the courage to make the hard decisions necessary for survival. We must find political means to abandon the competitive, consumptive social system -- or we shall perish."


I wish the whole world could read this website on the Thermo/Gene Collision: the result would be billions of voices shouting, "Not on my watch! Let's optimize the Bottleneck Squeeze for the youngsters to come."

Time will tell.

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

"...optimizing our decline."

Beautiful way of putting it - that's what it's all about. We can do this with some semblance of skill, creativity and grace, or we can be dragged kicking and screaming.

But we're going to have to power down to a significant extent, and it's up to us how we handle it.

I hate to say this, but I don't think there are any examples of human societies gracefully shrinking. How will Americans handle this? Look at how we deny the process of death, right up until the very last moment.

I like the cannibalism link - makes me want to stock up on Heinz 57 sauce.

Tainter points to the Byzantine Empire. They voluntarily simplified, but the cost was high. They lost a lot of their central government, and became a more rural society, with the government consisting of military officers who were given farmland rather than a salary, and were expected to support themselves and defend their land. They lost a lot of their literacy and literature, as education was cut back. What literature remained was religious in nature.

There are more historic examples of empires breaking (or being broken) apart. The constitutent units outlive the empire, for the most part. The only real value for a smaller unit like a city-state to belong to an empire is lower risk of invasion. In other words, empire is a protection racket. Once the empire can't do the job well enough to protect the constitutent units, then the whole reason for being in an empire ceases to exist, and remaining in the empire is more costly than it is worth.

I mention this in order to point out something that I think is not discussed too often here on TOD. We do a lot of discussion regarding the future outlook for the USA as an intact entity. That future does not look very good -- for the USA in the aggregate. However, it is my no means certain that the USA must or will remain intact. Empires and federations have broken apart before, even ones with constitutions. Americans have been essentially brainwashed by TPTB into believing that civil war permanently decided that the union was "indivisible" and that there is now no possible way that the US can ever devolve into 50 sovereign and independent states.

Cow Cookies!

As I have mentioned in repeated posts, the US constitution, article 5, contains provisions for the states to convene a constitutional convention to propose amendments, and to submit those amendments to the states for ratification. This all can be done directly by the states with no need to ask the Congress, White House, or Supremes for permission. Said amendments could include an effective termination of the constitution itself. There already is a precedent -- the constitutional convention that was convened to amend the articles of confederation, and ended up with the present constitution that replaced them. This very fact is why the provisions of article 5 were included - it was their clear intent that the states be empowered to do it again.

Should the overhead of the federal government ever become too useless and burdensome to maintain, the states still have it in their power to shut it down.

Should the US devolve into the fifty states (and then possibly futher subdivide, as many states are artificial constructs that would not hold together absent the federal government), it is likely that their future prospects would diverge considerably. Even if it is unlikely that the US as a whole could transition to a lower sustainable plateau, it is quite possible that at least some of its constituent subdivisions could. I would even venture to suggest that all subdivisions may find their way toward sustainability eased by getting the obstacles and overburdens of the federal government out of the way.

I am not saying that the US will break up, or that it should, only that it can and might do so.

I find it very likely the there will be a schism here in the U.S. Some places are obviously going to fail dramatically, like the desert Southwest, while other places with rural populations and sufficient rainfall will probably continue. The Great Lakes basin seems best, followed by the Pacific Northwest and the upper Midwest.

My ex wife came into about two million dollars a few weeks ago when her mother died. I just tried to have "the talk" with her about considering a few acres near where I'm settling. I'm "stupid and reactionary". I hope she is right, but there isn't a lick of evidence to support her conclusion ... I might just be a wee bit early on timing, but its better to be getting ready a decade too soon than an hour to late.

ok, this is getting rather silly here, as of course no-one wishes to have their courage called into question and no-ones has been tested yet. Everyone on this board has an understanding of the seriousness of our situation and to some extent has internalized the implications. How we individually decide to respond to the crisis situations looming on the horizon will be in part dictated by decisions that we are individually making today. I invoked the quality of 'courage' in a response to Alan the other day because I wanted to recognize his and highlight that aspect of men that causes them to stand and fight for civil society in the face of overwhelming odds, rather than turn tail and head for their rural redoubts to save their own asses. I suppose you could commend the judgement of someone who has determined that his position is hopeless and he needs to retreat, but how that could get conflated with 'courage' is pure sophistry. We all stand on the shoulders of giants and we shouldn't be so quick to surrender our common heritage. We were a progressive enlightened civilized nation before FF and we will remain so post-peak if we can collectively recall the meaning of archaic terms like 'duty','character', 'courage'.


I am not sure where I fit into this matrix.

I see reality all too clearly in New Orleans (yesterday brought back from hospital elderly gentleman for whom I rebuilt his house. Tentative diagnosis is cancer (confirmed next week). If true, I doubt he will last a month).

Leaving for another house rebuild effort in a hour or so in the deep flooded area. I know that I will have fun & laugh with the guys.

I know the details of the mental health crisis here.

I see a wide range of potential effects post-Peak Oil on our economy & society (ranging from bad to worse), and try to make contingency plans to make it slightly better than it would have otherwise been. Likewise Global Warming.

When I started my electrified rail efforts, I saw that no one else was pushing it and gave myself 2% to 3% probability of having ANY impact on public policy (now about 10% if I give a good speech @ ASPO-Houston).

I have always thought that one of my traits was to face reality.

Yet I am quite happy and relatively optimistic !

There is a class or group of about 1,000 people in New Orleans that are fully engaged in helping otehrs as best we can. We are almost uniformly quite happy and enjoying ourselves, despite the "in your face" misery we too often deal with.

Best Hopes for Realistic Optimists ?


Best Hopes for Realistic Optimists ?

Not if they insist to stay in New Orleans.

It is quite understandable that you are hooked on the NO "good life" but this is just a foolish as the SUV addiction.
Are you old enough to expect to be dead when the flood will come?

You are an inspiration. It sounds to me that there is a direct link between your optimism and your steady contact with other people, working hard to make things work.

There is a way that pessimists get to claim that theirs is the 'Realistic' view, while optimism is branded as fantasy.. as if the successes we've had and WILL have are less real than our failures, our miraculous and well-loved births don't get considered in the formula, only our inevitable death.

If it is at all possible, I hope you have a way to videotape your presentation at Houston. I am not politically astute as my fellow Mainer Dryki seems to be, but I am trying to assemble tools and messages that will help Maine and New England grow ready to invest in Rail again.

Best Hopes!
Bob Fiske

Thanks Bob !

ASPO videotapes the entire conference and sells complete sets. Perhaps they could also sell some outtakes. If it goes well, I may ask for a copy and edit in my PowerPoint slides.

Personal contact is part of what by being, but I could not do what I do without being in New Orleans. It is hard to explain. As Jazz could ONLY have been invented in New Orleans, I can only aim for the nearly impossible from here.

The best explanation that I can give is that New Orleans has no social pressure to conform, you can be who you are, who you want to be and still be socially accepted in all parts of society :-)

I can follow my own path, "Do My Thing", be my nerdy engineer self, and still have friends of all types.

And I can walk out the door and enjoy beauty at any time, day or night. Refresh my soul with sights, sounds or tastebuds :-)

Part of Compassion is accepting the pain of the "other" and seeing their humanity. I find that easy and natural here and more difficult elsewhere. Our tradition of talking to each other, of judging character more than surface characteristics, of acceptance may be why.

Best Hopes for Joy from Struggle,


Good god. I am truly amazed by your stamina. I sincerely hope that, against all odds, New Orleans will recover and once again become the amazing city we Europeans have always wanted to visit.

And I also hope that your presentation at Houston will go down well. I hope I'll be able to come there.

Stop by in New Orleans after ASPO, I will show you around :-0

We need your euros !

Best Hopes,


The part about "realizing their potential" may be true, but they are also more likely to screw up and cause a disaster.


I recently received a couple of youngsters to train as my replacements at work. It is interesting watching them optimistically wander around like a bull in a china shop. Then to have them come back and say, "Wow that is a lot more complicated then I though." No matter how many times they fail, they always assume their optimism is valid on the next task.

I keep going back to that quote that rolls through at the top of the TOD page, about those who persistently take on the fight that they are unlikely to win, compared with those who only engage in a sure thing.

Like with so many things, you will need both optimism and pessimism pulling on you, to keep balanced on the razor's edge..

about those who persistently take on the fight that they are unlikely to win

Your comment does not seem relevant to what Bitteroldcoot said about the youngsters.

It's not that they optimistically "take on the fight" on things they deem "unlikely to win" (or just hard) it's that they dont see the difficulty, "wander around like a bull in a china shop" and "No matter how many times they fail" don't even learn that "Wow that is a lot more complicated then I though."


You seem to have missed the point.

Your concern seems to be with "academics" and not with what the article actually says.

It all makes perfect sense and in some ways you are merely repeating what it says.

If we all believed that the bad thing would always happen, we would never do anything, we'd never get out of bed.

Society changes significantly because of optimists. How that change affects us is up in the air. Pessimists hold back change and, again, how that non-change affects us is up in the air. But, I wish to stress here that both change and not-change are not inherently good or bad.

Cherenkov, that goes back to the fact that we can never do just 'one thing.' Whatever we do is going to effect something else. When we throw a rock in the water it makes concentric, spreading, wavelets. Some people are aware of the 'one thing' principle and some are not. Some fools rush in where others tred more cautiously.

Yeah, I've heard this before. Fascinating stuff.

Maybe depressed people are depressed because they're surrounded by so many Pollyannas! ;-)

This also explains why 75% of people think they are more attractive than average, and 90% of people think they are better drivers than average.

"Maybe depressed people are depressed because they're surrounded by so many Pollyannas! ;-)"

I nominate this for Quote of the Day! :-)

I get depressed because I know these Pollyannas are going to expect me to bail them out when things don't go according to their unrealistic expectations.

I like to think of it as "Realists" vs. "Idealists".

That was an interesting link. Damn interesting blog too! Thanks. The article on discounting is also good...


Yes, hyperbolic discounting is the real bitch but it seems that we will never get rid of it.
For short, trying to use "willpower" to act rationally is fraught with other dangers, it doesn't really make you more rational and may even turn you nuts (see other articles from George Ainslie).

This has been floating around out there for a while. The version of it I heard is that it is very easy to treat depressed people, because they are not far removed from reality (maybe less than most "non-disturbed" people). On the other hand, it is VERY difficult to treat people with personality disorders, because they do tend to be very far removed from reality.

Very few depressed people make it into positions of influence and authority, but LOTS of people with personality disorders sure do.

He got up that morning like you and I, probably brushed his teeth with a toothbrush made out of petroleum products, put on his clothes made out of petroleum products,

The way it used to be done:
The toothbrush might have been made from the hair off of a pig and the clothes would have been plant fibers - hemp or cotton.

If he had a hat, Beaver.

Farms no longer have the extra 'fibers based' income. %20-%40 of the income on farms used to be 'fibers based' (so my memory tells me.)

One of the best fibers grown on farms was from the marajuana plant. It was a large cash crop at one time. A lot of the line and rope was made from the fibers of marajuana but I dont think it can be grown legally now and has been replaced by dacron, nylon, etc...all oil based.

In colonial times, the growing of hemp on farms was mandatory.

I think you mean hemp. Marijuana is a different strain.


Please, the correct nomenclature is cannabis. But as a crop, it is usually referred to as "hemp" containing no THC thus making it harmless as an alleged madness inducing naturally occurring substance (although heavy genetic engineering over recent history of psychoactive older cultivars that originate in the lower Himalayas has produced some insane shit). The DEA's policy on wide scale hemp cultivation is essentially to make it illegal for the reason that farmers could "sneak in" drug strains into their large non-THC hemp plots, thereby obfuscating detection and making a killing on the black market for pot caused by prohibition (not to mention an awesome waste of law enforcement man power). So, don't hope to get your hopes up to see hemp grown commercially on a free market any time soon (save the breakdown of the Federal government to enforce unconstitutional powers to supposedly protect our freedumbs.) Anslinger was married to Dupont's daughter. There are a lot of lobbies against it. Big T, Big A, prison lobby. Really though, it is a conservative principle brought about by, ironically, the most liberal Republican president in the last half century, Nixon. My hunch is that decriminalization of arguably a much less harmful drug than alcohol is just another thing that the ideological "conservative" mind frame can't shake. Plus, like always, it is another diversion from things that really matter (we humans love doing that). Who knows though maybe with small p "progressive" Hillary the US my get a little more libertarian (hah!), that is, before it turns into a dystopian police state and collapses. (Please, that was heavily drench in sarcasm--I hope.)

Is not Wikipedia fun?

Off to enjoy a Mostly Sunny day...

Alas, damnit, someone else beat me to it... =[

Just remember to TELL YOUR CHILDREN!!

No self respecting cannabis grower would ever grow among hemp plants. The hemp pollen would fertilize the cannabis strains and give you heavily seeded buds which in turn could contain the hemp genetics and water down both the potency of your stock and hurt the finishing period (guerilla growers depend on a fast maturing varieties to finish quickly in northern latitudes before bad climate sets in and reduce the possibility of detection by getting the harvest in as fast as possible).

BFC, you are absolutely right. That's what they trot out. I'm just sketching the "official storyline" here with hemp... As usual, it makes no sense.

It takes a lot of energy to make a car. If you trade in your existing car for a more fuel efficient one, will the energy savings ever make up for the energy used in construction?

(I don't own a car, this is just of academic interest)

I've heard figures of oil input equal to 60,000 of driving; might have been K's or miles, and of course the fuel economy to weight ratio would vary somewhat. Regardless, the point is that driving an existing 20 mpg car another 100k is equivalent to getting 30 mpg on a new one.

Considering that the lowly clawhammer, powerdrill, blender, jointer, etc haven't Necessarily changed in a half century - the changes have been for manufacturing cost or styling or whatever - there is no reason why a car, another tool, couldn't soon be optimized in a standardized design and refurbished and recycled at low energy input for very long periods of time. But it won't happen.

Chromoly tubing, Kevlar/epoxy bodywork, modular construction, all these have the potential to basically displace the centralized assembly line concept of disposable automotives completely. However, in future the automobile will be seen as a luxury because we will be scrambling so hard just to house and feed ourselves. We will get very good at energy optimization very soon or go away. Kunstler is right; the automobile is low on the list of survival priorities. Plus, the eggs might not be worth the strain on the chickens.

the automobile is low on the list of survival priorities.

As the scale drops on cars, so will the 'economies of scale' associated with cars.

Watch the airplane industry for the prices on planes as volume drops.


I have not thanked you recently for the
great service that you preform here every
day. So, thank you.

She does rock, doesn't she? :)

Ecco, it is quite extraordinary to be able to get all this various and global info in a few clicks.

How do you do it, Leanan?
Do you read all them articles (to assure they are relevant) before you link them, if so you have become one very resoursefull person - cheers and all the best!

What if the corn harvest is way down, say 40%? I’d guess the ethanol replacement of MTBE has to be met but shortage would drive up the price of E10 and higher blends. A corn crop failure would expose the problems of biofuels to even diehard supporters. The first big wake up call would be the problem of using food crops or other biomass sensitive to conditions. The second would be not finding other ways to reduce fuel use so biofuels only have to fill a niche.

If the corn harvest was down 40%, a lot of Mexicans will starve. In NorteAmericano same old same old. A lot of SUV drivers will be pissed E10 gas went up by a quarter a gallon. It's those Big Oil companies raping us again.

the worst bit about it for me is that the 5% that use 25% of the energy do not understand how their lives are sustained. It should not be such a large problem for a person to understand how banks/gov/military/math/oil works!

but few if any really care. this lack of effort tells me everyone is already disillusioned, and that a die-off will occur.

Oh, they'll care plenty when their toys don't work anymore. Too late then, though.

Of course we know. The Big Oil companies buy out all the patents for cars that run on water and magnets so they can make outrageous profits selling gasoline for three bucks. After including the buck fifty in taxes, a gallon of gas should really cost a buck. If it wasn't for the sheer greed of the oil company executives who make billions. Gasoline shortages are due to Big Oil manipulating the price by planting explosives in their own refineries.

Mexico es en norteamericano si?

Hello Boof,

Funny you should ask:

Scott’s Thoughts:

Crop ratings failed to show the “expected” improvement in the past week, helping corn futures to begin the process of building a possible price floor. This seems to be one of those years where traders have a hard time remembering to look at actual weather instead of just weather forecasts. And while lots of acres have received great weather in recent weeks, there is still a sizable drought area in the western Corn Belt. Rains have been “forecast” for this dry area repeatedly, but actual moisture has fallen short of forecast. Is it enough acres to slash the national average yield? Not at this time, but if drought expands or intensifies, it could cut yield expectations and command a risk premium in futures as we move into the August crop report.

Our Corn Verdict: The plunge in corn futures has attracted excellent demand. With actual crop potential still very uncertain, this growing demand base should lift the floor of support under futures.
Corn Market
Weekly export sales were nothing to write home about. Overnight rainfall in the western Midwest was a bit better than expected. More and more traders are developing the mindset that as each day goes by more and more of the US corn crop is being “made”. My guess is maybe 50% or so.

Basis levels don’t do much, maybe a touch soft. Flat price futures (December) manages to hold the lows we saw on Tuesday. If we can see some strength elsewhere (wheat or beans) it may allow the flat price to stand in for the near term. We know it’s supposed to get hot and dry next week, but after what we saw this past week in terms of weather this is almost old news. If wheat and soybeans can sustain some new strength, that will allow the corn market to sustain current levels. Failure from outside influences will allow the corn market to move lower as the trading funds continue to liquidate. First level resistance for December corn is $3.45-$3.49.
Hard for me to semantically parse this out [plus I know nothing on futures trading]: is he saying drought and/or too heavy rainfall at the wrong time will result in a 50% corn harvest [plus Heartland fuel shortages, farmworker shortages]? Does being 'made' mean record profits for traders that go long early on massive anticipated shortages?

The year of 2007 is going to be long remembered for how strange the weather pattern has been. Talking with Oklahoma Congressman, Frank Lucas, he said: "No one has ever seen a year like this and no one knows anyone who has seen a year like this." It has been wet where it should be dry and dryer than normal where rain is essential for midsummer crop growth. The best part, for those of us in corn country, is that the extremely dry forecast seems to have been overstated. Overnight, grain prices plunge as the weather premium is dialed out.

Rain has an enormous impact on agriculture. No other variable can dictate the yield, profitability, and even the mood of the industry. Rain makes grain, yet rain makes floods, as those in the Plains are realizing this year. Drought and flood have pretty much the same effect. The only hope is that the extremes of nature are not realized too often.

Also, the latest from F. Willam Engdahl:

The Hidden Agenda behind the Bush Administration's Bio-Fuel Plan
Buy Feed Corn: They’re about to stop making it…

Lester Brown recently noted, "We’re looking at competition in the global market between 800 million automobiles and the world’s two billion poorest people for the same commodity, the same grains. We are now in a new economic era where oil and food are interchangeable commodities because we can convert grain, sugar cane, soybeans—anything—into fuel for cars. In effect the price of oil is beginning to set the price of food."

In the mid-1970’s Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, a protégé of the Rockefeller family and of its institutions stated,

"Control the oil and you control entire nations; control the food and you control the people."

The same cast of characters who brought the world the Iraq war, the global scramble to control oil, who brought us patented genetically manipulated seeds and now Terminator suicide seeds, and who cry about the "problem of world over-population," are now backing conversion of global grain production to burn as fuel at a time of declining global grain reserves. That alone should give pause for thought. As the popular saying goes, "Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you."
Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Hello Bob,

When they talk about the corn crop being 'made', they're saying that a good yield is being assured. July is a critical month for the corn crop in that timely rains are needed for pollination and subsequent kernel development. 50% made at this point doesn't sound too good to me, since after about another week, rain won't help the crop much in drier areas. But keep in mind that record acreage was planted to corn this year.


WE ARE AT STAGE 2 for depletion now.

stage one is increasing profits with increasing prices.

stage 2 is decreasing profits with increasing prices. (the increased energy demand to process refine has cut into the margins)

It's officially down hill from here folks.

nice knowing you all.

Thanks for pointing this out. For those who don't quite get it, the high profits come from installations already paid for but competing with the newer and harder to get stuff. As the actual cost of 'new' oil is factored in, the profit margin drops back down. I'm somewhat invested in oil and gas and have been waiting for this indicator to emerge.

Way back at The Year 2000 - notice how we have all been programmed to say 'The Year' 2000 as opposed to just 2000 - a vast unannotated takeover of small cap oil companies in Canada took place. Listings droppped to about a third as many as big guys like Duke and Anadarko bought every little guy they could. They knew that you couldn't buy new holes for the price of the stock.

This problem makes investing in oil stocks very risky. On one hand you have the value of existing resources going up but also depleting, and the capital cost of replacement may outstrip the current oil profit margins. To be sure, any good prospect from an EROEI point of view is going to be profitable eventually, but eventually doesn't count for as much as now in the stock market.

Compounding this is the problem of pipeline access and such. Who wants to build a pipeline to a marginal or dying field? Small deposits will remain stranded until the price to infrastructure costs are worthwhile. Thus, part of the EROEI costing has to include the costs of getting it to the consumer and for small deposits, the proportion is higher.

As I said earlier, we will become intimately aware of the energy calculation starting about now. Or go away.

By the way, nobody seems all that anxious to fund the proposed Mackenzie Valley Pipeline - unless the Canadian government underwrites the loans. When the prices go way up and yet the industry starts asking for 'socialism' , you know the jig is up.

One thing is for sure; the downslope won't look at all like the upslope.

On the "Reckoning" begins for prophet of doom....linked by PigglyWiggly

Interesting (well, actually not, but I had to open the sentence some way) but of course has nothing to do with oil (in fact, a real oddity in that it predicts doom with no reference to peak oil! Astounding!...

I like the way he takes the long view of things too:

You could easily dismiss the guy as too apocalyptic, and perhaps you'd be right. On the other hand, while your portfolio was getting savaged, his fund, which is short-selling "everything we can get our hands on" related to the U.S. lending industry, went up 10 per cent this week.

Wow, a one week track record....I'm convinced!

Remember, we are only one cubic mile from freedom

I found the "Reckoning" story disgusting.

He could become anything instead he became a greedy grifter, gambler, usurer.

he could have become like his Sister and be the head of a huge multinational corp that rapes the natural resources of other countries to rake in huge profit while spewing toxic waste, causing the death and deformity of thousands. He missed his calling.

The fact that an individual like this is revered at all instead of reviled tells the story of what this great country of ours has become.

Sounds to like a classic case of “ If you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em”. F that.

Someone talked about having the courage to stand up for social justice and civility even in the face of overwhelming odds such as with Alan in the Big Easy. That is what should be revered.

I am so sick of people like him and all the grifters. They make me sick. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAArggggg!!!!!!!!

There's doom, and then there's doom.

I'm reminded of Connie Willis' short story, "Daisy, In the Sun." It's about a 15-year-old girl who is facing TEOTWAWKI. Literally - the sun is going nova, and is about the destroy the earth. But that's not what worries Daisy. She's far more upset about the terrors of going through puberty, but none of her family understands.

Willis said she was inspired by something Murrow wrote about WWII:

During the London Blitz, Edward R. Murrow was startled to see a fire engine racing past. It was the middle of the day, the sirens had not gone, and he hadn't heard any bombers. He could not imagine where a fire engine would be going. It came to him, after much though, that it was going to an ordinary house fire, and that that seemed somehow impossible, as if all ordinary disasters should be suspended for the duration of this great Disaster that was facing London and commanding everyone's attention. But of course houses caught fire and burned down for reasons that had nothing to do with the Blitz, and even in the face of Armageddon, there are still private armageddons to be faced.

Me, I've always enjoyed the Gary Larson cartoon about the dogs' take on the panic surrounding nuclear war....

I have no idea how to reference it other than that...

Hello TODers,

Islamists retake Pakistan mosque, paint walls red

Also, it looks like Pres. Mugabe of Zimbabwe will soon be doing his best Ben Bernanke imitation of spewing cash everywhere:

"Where money for projects has not been found, we will print it," Mugabe was quoted as saying.
Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?


Hydrogen Hype/Hype. The author has masterfully stated the obvious and old arguments concerning hydrogen as a possible fuel replacement for gasoline. It seems when ever anyone considers the hydrogen argument, it inevitably concludes in the same manner in which this author has reached his conclusions. Many on-going projects are consistently proving the viability of building, albeit, slowly building a hydrogen fuel infrastructure. There will never be another source as powerful as oil, not without investment and sound energy policy by our WDC leaders. There are many sources technologically available today that can provide us with the electricity to seperate hydrogen from water if only the politicians would wake up. Hydrogen storage need not be in compressed or liquid form, it can be stored in sufficient density by chemically combining it in metal hydride tanks and there is on going research to store it by chemically combining it with other materials. Companies such as Honda and the lesser known United Nuclear, have systems that will allow conversion of an internal combustion engine powered vehicle to burn hydrogen supplied from a home hydrogen generation system. Some of these 'home' refueling systems would use natural gas, as the author alluded to, which would be an energy inefficiency in the long run but, there are systems that would use household current to seperate the hydrogen from tap water. The argument is of course that this would place a huge demand on domestic electrical and water supplies. The domestic electrical supply shortage can be easily remedied with nuclear power and clean coal power plants if our politicians would wake up to reality. The demand on domestic water is an invalid argument. Matter can not be created or destroyed, only changed. The water that goes into making the hydrogen will be re-introduced to the atmosphere as the only by product thus returning it to the atmosphere and the water cycle. It wil eventually come back to the water system as rain. Lets not forget the recent revelation from the Purdue University chemical engineer about the aluminum/gallium alloy he created that acts as a catylist to seperate hydrogen from water. Of course, the valid argument is that there is not enough gallium in existence to make it a useful thing. The thing is, it is the aluminum that is consumed/converted in the process, not the gallium. Both metals could potentially be recovered and recycled in the process. It just takes investment. I'm not suggesting the aluminum/gallium is the panacea. It makes one think about the possibilites. I hope anyone reading this will understand that the author of hydrogen hype has made many valid points in his article but, as in most pointed arguments, his is pointed almost entirely in the typical direction of those who always say " it can not be done".

Hydrogen from Tap Water.

First of all, if we are going to replenish the electric grid with nuclear power, we might as well use nuclear power to thermally decompose water in the first place. Anyways, I ran the numbers for decomposing water in my backyard with my own solar electricity for somebody else so I might as well repeat them here.

The Gibbs free energy for coverting one mole of water into a mole of hydrogen and half a mole of oxygen is 237kJ. Say the electrolysis is 70% efficient, then that requires 338kJ or an eleventh of a kilowatt hour.

A gallon of gas masses 3 kilograms. Hydrogen has twice the energy by mass than gasoline and we can make a hydrogen car more efficient than a gasoline one, either by using a fuel cell or a ICE with higher compression ratio. Let's say twice as efficient as gasoline. So we need 750 grams or 375 moles of hydrogen to do what a gallon of gas does. Or 34kWh.

Say the solar panel is in the Mojave desert and a watt generates 2kWh/year. Then 17 watts solar is necessary to generate the hydrogen equivalent of one gallon of gas per year. Say $5 a watt for solar some time in the future. So by investing $85 in solar, you can get $3 worth of car fuel. A return of 3.5% on your money.

But the only thing I paid for is the electricity. Not the electrolysis tank. Not storing, transporting, compressing or liquifying or metal hydriding the hydrogen. Not the fuel cell. And if I wish to go into business selling hydrogen, I'll have sales and general administration costs. The gas station cashier doesn't work for free.

TTursk Yes of course nuclear could be used to decompose the water in the first place. As could tidal powered energy plants and a myriad of other technically possible but environmentally hard to get things. There are many ways and many possibilities. We can compare part of this quest to prove what works in hydrogen to the difference between on the grid and off the grid housing, i.e. do you want to be able to buy a system to create your own energy or do you want it supplied by an industrial sized supplier? Do we need a large logistical infrastructure or do we want a product for home energy creation? What is possible and which would be the better way to go if we can even get there? If hydrogen delivery is ultimately deemed to be impossible on the same scale with which we deliver oil or natural gas, can we apply hydrogen use to the coastal areas, where the sea water is and leave the other fuels for the heartland? A hundred thousand questions and very few are trying to answer when most simply say " it can not be done". We build huge aircraft carriers and oil tankers. Perhaps some huge sea going vessels could be built to 'farm' hydrogen from sea water, then combine it in hydrides or other yet to be found modes of storing hydrogen in high density and ship it to destinations. Perhaps if we build enough nuclear and clean coal power generation in this country we could just convert to 100 percent electric power for personal vehicles. Nothing will ever get done by simply giving in and saying it can't be done. Hydrogen possibilities are many and varied and many obsticles exist as with any technology in development. perhaps there is another alloy yet to be discovered that can act as a catylist to seperate hydrogen from water as in the case of the aluminum/gallium discovery. people with vision and money are stepping up and seeing what can be done instead of pushing it aside because they think it can not be done. We are facing a real energy crisis in the world and our leaders have not uttered a word asking for people to conserve. They are the blinded ones who by virtue of being thrust into their political cubby holes think they have been tapped on the head with some inner circle magic wand and given all of the answers simply because they now reside in centers of power. They have no answers just destractive rhetoric. We have to stop listening to these self absorbed political welfare cases and begin to move these problems toward solutions. When the government interferes to impede progress as in the ethanol mandate,ethanol is a setback in the big picture, not a help, it has to become a loud public debate. I find it interesting that Bush pushed for ethanol to help the poor farmer and now he will do his best to kill all farm subsidies. and the farmers were so proud to get his support from mandated ethanol use. Just goes to show there is a tit for every tat on every two faced, fork tongued, one headed politician in WDC. We marched on WDC to protest wars. We may need to march on WDC to protest their lack of moving us toward a real sound energy policy, before it is too late and energy is rationed. Energy rationing will happen within the next ten years if policies are not changed within the next two years. Hydrogen may not be the final answer but, it has a lot of promise to provide future energy needs on the scale that oil has, like no other element we have. If we can tame hydrogen to do our energy bidding, it can be sustainable into the unknown future like nothing else could. It is worthy of much more research, development and practicle experimentation. Thank goodness for projects like the hydrogen highway projects, out there everyday proving what will work and what won't and to what scale, instead of saying, "it just can't be done." Sometimes building things and testing them in the real world regardless of what someone has calculated on paper is what gives us the true answer.


When the reason I'm saying "it just can't be done" is because it violates the conservation of energy, that's a big clue to look elsewhere. It takes 237kJ to get a mole of hydrogen from a mole of water and it doesn't matter if the reaction is catalyzed with aluminum/gallium or any thing else. The only thing catalysts do is increase the rate that a reaction proceeds.

I got solar panels on my roof. I got an electric motor on my bike. I took a natural gas powered bus to work when I had work. Do I sound like I'm pimping for the man? All of us here on TOD are looking for a better way. We know the problems. We know our current way of life is unsustainable. But some of us have a science backround.


Hydrogen is an energy CARRIER, NOT an energy source !

My preferred energy carrier is a copper or aluminum wire.

Know proven technology with all the details worked out and in use world wide.

With current technology and a different way fo life (see Cheney and "non-negotiable American Way of Life"), 90% of the oil used for transportation and home heating (about 3/4s of USA oil use) could be replaced by copper wire technology ON THE MARKET TODAY !

Of course, much of Suburbia and almost all of Exurbia would be abandoned, but the USA used gov't policies to abandon virtually all the prime commercial real estate (aka downtowns) as of 1950 and many established pre-WW II neighborhoods. We did it once, we can do it again !

No to hydrogen, we just do not need it !


We need it to make ammonia and diesel fuel from air or limestone when all the coal is gone.

In itself... Erm... What are the big uses for molecular hydrogen today? I mean that aren't process oriented.

An intresting use of hydrogen and hydrogen fuel cells being tested in Sweden is as backup power for cellular phone nodes. They are reliable enough to replace the accumulators and powerfull enough to avoid using diesel generators.

It could be cheaper and more reliable then providing each cell phone tower with its own emergeny diesel. Now most of them share a pool of mobile emergency generators but that is only useful as long as you can move them by road wich wont work after a severe storm.

By far the largest use of hydrogen today is oil refining, with petrochemical uses as well.


Yeah, but thats process oriented.

Some points you really need to go over:

  1. The Al-Ga concept has been analyzed, and doesn't pass the most cursory tests of desirability.  As Robert McLeod says, it is "a terrible idea without any redeeming qualities".
  2. You need to learn about elementary aspects of English writing such as paragraph structure.

Hydrogen is already worse than today's batteries, and its inherent losses in conversion mean that it always will be.  It is a dead-end distraction.

TTursk I guess there are hundreds of people with 'science' backgrounds working on the current hydrogen highway projects. As for using paragraph structure, we aren't writing novels here and i guess you read my comments without too much problem. you should keep your anger in a box and not worry about correcting the worlds grammar in a place where content is what counts. If you are more concerned with sentence and paragraph structure than content maybe you should go teach english in korea.

There are hundreds of people with science backrounds who have no problem taking Mr. Schwartzenegger's money. There's a million farmers taking federal money for converting fossil fuel into automobile fuel with no increase in energy.

I didn't read your comments.  I read the first half-dozen lines and skimmed the rest for links.  If you can't be bothered to write for the sake of the readers, the readers have no obligation to pay attention to you; if you are writing only for yourself, don't post it on TOD.

My initial attempt was to displace the pessimism offered by the original article. perhaps you should read back and realize those of you who adamantly support the authors theory immediately came to his defense without even a nod to the possibility that he may be wrong. This type of behaviour is commonly referred to as 'Intellectual Conceit'. Sometimes very smart people get so wrapped up in their own convictions that they can not accept any contrarian ideas. If they did, their heads would explode. Now, as a matter of fact, there are many on-going hydrogen projects in the world, not just California and not just the 'grant hungry' people of california who suck up to the governor. There is a huge project in the Scandanavian countries, one in British Columbia, there are projects in Michigan and many other places around the globe. There are tons of hydrogen refueling stations around the world. Hydrogen as a fuel has been on going for many years on small scales. It has been done, it is being done and it can be expanded. The proof is in the pudding my friends, not the theory. Expand your horizons, think about the possibilities, not the pessimism of those who pound the table insisting that it can't be done. Tursk.