DrumBeat: August 1, 2007

Oil prices hit new all time record highs

Oil prices hit a new all time record high of 78.77 usd a barrel in New York after US government data showed a much larger than expected fall in US crude supplies as refiners cranked up motor fuel production.

The US Energy Information Administration said US crude stock fell by 6.5 mln barrels in the week to July 27. Analysts polled by Thomson Financial News were calling for falls of 750,000 barrels.

The rise came as refinery utilisation rates rose to 93.6 pct.

'The crude stock draw was huge, much larger than expected and refinery utilisation was up but didn't translate into much more gasoline stocks and that's what we need at this point,' said Summit Energy analyst Amanda Kurzendoerfer.

OPEC Posts Record 06 Oil Revenue; Lags Western Companies by Half

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries posted nominal record revenue of nearly $650 billion last year on high crude prices and increased oil production, although its sales were just half those of the top U.S. and European energy firms, the producer group said in a report released Tuesday.

But in an indication as to why it may be keeping a tight rope on future production capacity, the report showed OPEC's base of economically recoverable oil reserves last year was flat if new, higher estimates from troubled OPEC producer Venezuela are stripped out, the worst growth in this key metric in recent years.

There Are Dire Consequences To Continued 'Growthmania'

Earth's finite quantity of raw materials requires fossil fuels from processing to the finished products, and for plastics, petroleum provides the raw stock. Any radical transformation of the energy system in the 21st century will require a range of new technologies on a large scale using limited natural resources. For example, thin-film solar photovoltaics (PV) and battery-electric vehicles require rare metals — cobalt, gallium, germanium, indium, lead, lithium, nickel, ruthenium, etc.

As this materials run short, by 2017, “the radio ... the [cell phone, computer game and Blackberry], and the movies that we know, may just be passing fancies, and in time may go.”

Argentine Government Continues To Beat Down Fuel Pump Prices

Argentine fuel retailers have again pledged to drop any pump price increases following apparent government pressure in what is beginning to look like a game of price control "whack-a-mole."

Taiwan: Ministry tells state-run oil company to freeze gas prices

Drivers and motorcyclists can take a break from rising fuel prices, as the Ministry of Economic Affairs yesterday ordered state-run CPC Corp, Taiwan (CPC) to leave gasoline prices unchanged until an improved floating price mechanism is determined within two weeks.

Energy Bill Aids Expansion of Atomic Power

A one-sentence provision buried in the Senate’s recently passed energy bill, inserted without debate at the urging of the nuclear power industry, could make builders of new nuclear plants eligible for tens of billions of dollars in government loan guarantees.

America's nuclear revival

One thing I've learned on my 7,000 mile journey through America's nuclear past and present is that when you're driving around scouting for a power plant -- any kind of power plant -- first locate the high-voltage transmission lines. (If you stand directly under those lines, sometimes you can hear the electricity cackle and spatter like rain drops on the roof.)

Then check the lay of the land. Then follow the downward slope to the water. Could be a river you're looking for, could be a lake (natural or man-made). Could be the ocean. But here's the rule: No water, no steam; no steam, no power.

NRC agency has trouble tracking its guns

The agency tasked with sensitive investigations of the U.S. nuclear industry is having trouble keeping track of its guns, according to a new audit.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Office of Investigations was unable during a surprise inspection to produce 15 out of 17 firearms it listed as being stored at NRC headquarters in Rockville, Md. A third gun that was found at headquarters was listed as being stored in another office.

Let the Sun Shine In: Too much energy is wasted by converting it. We could cut energy use by as much as 30% in 10 years by removing some links from the energy chain

Sometimes the best solutions to the energy crisis are the simplest, and often they're right in front of our eyes. Consider the use of solar power to light a home. Even the most advanced photovoltaic solar panels convert just 20% of the available sunlight to electricity. The resulting direct current (DC) then must undergo conversion to alternating current (AC), losing another 20%. If that AC goes on to light an incandescent bulb, which is only 5% efficient, you end up using a fraction of 1% of the original sunlight as room light. (Even switching to compact florescent bulbs, which are 15% efficient, makes little difference in overall energy efficiency.) But if you were to simply leave sunlight as light—via proper skylights, window orientation, and louvers—nearly 80% of the light ends up as illumination.

Dr. Johann Wingard On Synthetic Fuels and Energy Crisis

I believe that the combination of electrified transport, bio-fuels and synfuels from coal and oil bearing minerals can eventually replace oil based fuels, which would last mankind for the next couple of centuries. I am a hydrogen skeptic, but research and development on fuel cells which use hydrogen bearing liquid fuels may provide the breakthrough, as phenomenal efficiencies are possible with fuel cells used in conjunction with unfired micro-turbines. I agree with physicist David Goodstein who said that fusion and shale oil are the energy sources of the future – “…and will always be.” Geophysicist Amos Nur of Stanford University believes that oil production will have to triple by 2060 just to cater for the world’s expanding population. Clearly that is not likely to happen, meaning that a huge conflict could be emerging during the next few decades.

$5.8 Billion More in Oil Revenues and a “New Geometry of Power” for Venezuela

Speaking from La Cabrerita in the state of Anzoátegui during his weekly program Aló Presidente, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced that Venezuela has recuperated US$5.8 billion annually through measures to introduce ‘oil sovereignty’ and elaborated on his vision for the “new geometry of power” in Venezuela.

Argentina: Changes to government energy policy unlikely despite crisis

Argentina is not expected to change its energy policies under a new Kirchner administration, sources said. As reported, the sovereign has been hit by the one-two punch of a lack of investment and governmental interference in the sector, coupled with abnormal weather patterns. The crisis has forced Argentina to cut 1200MW per day to industry from 4PM to 10PM in order to keep residential electric customers relatively unaffected by the crisis. 45% of gas demand cannot be satisfied during peak days, according to Ecolatina the consulting company founded by presidential candidate Roberto Lavagna.

Energy crisis at Turkey's doorstep

Officials say the spread of power cuts throughout the country is imminent given that the current energy production fails to meet overall public consumption. They warn power cuts will have catastrophic impacts on the country’s fragile economy.

The Philippines: Palace mulls crisis powers for Arroyo

The looming energy crisis brought about by the extended dry spell might push Malacañang to ask Congress to grant special powers to President Arroyo, ABS-CBN News reported Wednesday.

China’s Pursuit of Happiness

China today faces an immediate challenge: energy dependence. China was the eight largest importer of oil in 2000, fourth largest in 2003 after the United States, Japan and Germany and will most probably occupy second place before the end of this decade. Beijing recognizes the need for a cheap and consistent supply of energy for its continued economic growth. Hence, economic strategies are based on fulfillment of these energy needs with any other strategic advantage being treated as a by-product. China’s diplomacy revolves around the acquiring of energy assurances from resource rich countries regardless of the political, economical or security situation of the country. For this purpose, China has heavily invested its resources in Latin America, Central Asia and Africa.

Saudi Aramco Names Former Top Shell, Texaco Executives To Board

Saudi Arabian Oil Co., the world's biggest oil company by production and reserves, Wednesday said former Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSB.LN) chairman Mark Moody-Stuart and James W. Kinnear, former president and chief executive of Texaco, are joining the company's board.

EU to Use 18% Cereals Crops by 2020 for Biofuel

Europe should by 2020 divert around 18 percent of its cereals harvests, mostly maize and soft wheat, into making biofuel to meet targets for feedstock use in transport fuels, a European Commission report said on Tuesday.

British Airways fined record £121m over fixed fuel surcharges

BRITISH Airways was today fined a record £121 million after it admitted colluding to fix the prices of fuel surcharges.

Just Drill Baby

Washington politicians have been telling us we are in an "energy crisis." But America's energy challenges are far more political than substantive, says Pete du Pont, chairman of the National Center for Policy Analysis and former governor of Delaware.

Lower gas prices state's reward for new habits?

California drivers are bucking a national trend by burning less fuel. The state Board of Equalization reported Tuesday that gas use fell by nearly 1 percent in April, the most recent month for which it has statistics. That's down by 101/2 million gallons from a year ago and follows four straight quarters where Californians have used less gas than they did during the same period the year before.

Paris Woos Cyclists as Free Bike Scheme Takes Off

The "Velib" -- short for "free bike" -- programme launched in Paris this month has been a runaway success for Mayor Bertrand Delanoe, allowing thousands of Parisians and visitors to leave their cars at home to pedal to work or to the shops.

Under the sun

A growing number of people are cooking with an abundant, clean power source: nuclear fusion - or, in other words, the sun. This summer, I became one of them. Using some scrap materials and plans I found online, I built a solar oven whose temperature gets up to 240 degrees. It bakes potatoes, roasts vegetables and slow-cooks meat - all while sitting on my front lawn on a sunny day.

Turmoil at Another Progressive College

Another progressive college is in a crisis. After the Western Association of Schools and Colleges placed the college on probation in July, some at New College of California, founded in 1971 and “committed to education in support of a just, sacred, and sustainable world,” are undertaking the process of upturning the entire leadership – with supporters seeing the shake-up as their best opportunity to save the San Francisco college.

“The administration at New College and specifically the president have been needing to go for a very long time,” said Richard Heinberg, who teaches in the Culture, Ecology and Sustainable Community Program.

Could the Moon help power Earth?

We all use fossil fuels in our everyday life, but experts say they will deplete in the next 50 to 100 years. This will throw us back into the Stone Age.

Scientists are now desperately looking for an effective solution. Solar or wind energy is not expected to be sufficient to run the planet. Nuclear energy produces excess radioactive wastes.

Now some scientists are taking a closer look at the moon and see a shining new opportunity.


We have placed ourselves in a position where we are relying on sources of oil the Emerging Trends Report (ETR) simply does not believe will be available in the quantities we will require in but a few years’ time. Increased global consumption and competition for available supply is running headlong into barriers erected by production constrictions and reinforced by resource nationalization and resource mercantilism.

Why oil is the enemy of democracy

The anti-war crowd is right. It is all about oil - although perhaps not in the way it means. Consider some of the current threats to global stability: Russia's contempt for international norms, Iran's nuclear ambitions, the massacres in Darfur, the descent of South America into Leftist authoritarianism. All these crises are oil-fuelled.

The six-fold rise in the price of a barrel, and the commensurate boost it has given to the petro-kleptocracies, is the central fact of our age. Russia is ceasing to be a democracy in any meaningful sense: opposition politicians are harassed, independent media closed, journalists murdered. Almost every contiguous state has felt the force of President Putin's oil diplomacy: Estonia, Moldova, Belarus, Ukraine and, above all, Georgia, which is being asphyxiated by a semi-official blockade. Nor does it stop there. Alexander Litvinenko, let us remember, was a British subject living under the Queen's peace. At best, his murder was an act of terrorism; at worst, an act of war. Yet Vladimir Putin calculates that he can mock us because, as his defence minister cheerfully puts it: "The West keeps buying our energy."

Big Oil: Looking Both Ways

I recently described the dangers posed by declining production at many of the world's major oil fields. Now, in the past quarter, virtually all the world's major public exploration and production companies -- including ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, and ConocoPhillips -- have reported lower crude oil production, based at least in part on "normal declines" in their fields. I continue to believe that this is a far bigger problem than most people recognize. It's also one of the reasons why respected energy seer T. Boone Pickens believes that, regardless of how rapidly world crude demand rises, global productive capacity may never materially exceed today's levels.

Extraordinary oil and non-oil revenues as of September

According to the Ministry of Finance, the Venezuelan Treasury as of September will begin receiving oil and non-oil additional revenues.

The oil industry as of September is expected to deliver extraordinary oil royalties. That month Venezuelan state oil giant Pdvsa is expected to complete royalty contributions estimated in this year's budget at USD 12.16 billion.

Pipeline Politics and Turkey

Daniel Yergin in his Price discusses Sir Winston Churchill’s dilemma while deciding a great transformation in British navy; using oil as the mean of fuel instead of coal just before the World War I. If we take this great change as a milestone, since then hydrocarbon resources and having control over them have become an important issue for the Western civilizations.

As the price of oil and consequently input costs are increasing, energy issue and finding new alternatives that would decrease the dependency to hydrocarbon resources have become more pronounced by the policy makers and nongovernmental circles. On the other hand, economists blamed Asia-Pacific countries because of their increasing demand; even some discussed the peak oil theories more enthusiastically.

Concerns Mount Over Nuclear Energy After Series of Scares

Irregularities at nuclear reactors in Germany and Japan in recent weeks have rekindled safety fears and raised tough questions about nuclear energy amid increasing environmental concerns.

Australia: Iemma dumps coal power plan

THE NSW Government has indicated it is willing to use gas for its next power station, moving away from coal for the first time.

The about-turn is the Government's first response to plans for a national carbon trading regime.

Shell Pumping $27B To Oilsands

In its first major move since privatizing Shell Canada Ltd., Royal Dutch Shell PLC said yesterday it will spend up to $27-billion to build the biggest oilsands upgrader yet.

The Anglo-Dutch oil major said in a regulatory filing that it wants to build Scotford 2 in the Fort Saskatchewan area near Edmonton, beside its existing Scotford 1, where a multi-billion-dollar expansion is now underway. It will join a dozen other upgraders proposed or under construction in the region. Shell's mammoth structure will process up to 400,000 barrels a day of bitumen from its Athasca project as well as from in-situ projects in other parts of the province.

The price tag, one of the biggest spending plans in the country, reflects the scale of the oilsands business in Alberta and its rising costs. It comes on the heels of Petro-Canada's announcement last month that it will spend with its partners as much $33.4-billion on its Fort Hills project, which involves a mine in Northern Alberta and upgrading fa

Oil: $100 a barrel - or $200?

Nine of the last ten serious downturns in the world economy followed a spike in the price of oil, and we are heading for another spike, with oil back up near the peak of $78.40 a gallon that it reached almost exactly a year ago. A record number of options contracts are now being sold that entitled customers to buy oil in the future at $100 a barrel. That tells you where the inside players think the price of oil is heading, since those options will only be of value if the price were actually above $100 a barrel.

The spike at $78.40 in July, 2006 didn't cause a recession, so why should this one? Indeed, why would even $100 a barrel cause a global economic crisis, given that one hundred US dollars today is only worth about the same in most other currencies as $78.40 was a year ago?

Flush with Orders, Oil Drillers Expand

With "easy oil" on land increasingly tapped out or in the grip of national oil companies, international oil companies and some national firms are scrambling to find the next big fields offshore. To do it, they have hired virtually all of the world's available rigs capable of drilling in water over 500 feet deep, at rapidly escalating prices. With new offshore provinces opening up everywhere from India to Brazil, producers are booking deepwater rigs years in advance.


Rolling Stone is usually pretty good about printing fairly accurate stories. I'd read other articles critical of the ethanol push, but never anything that grabbed me by the throat like this Rolling Stone article does. I don't claim to be an expert on the advantages and disadvantages of ethanol, but it seems to me like there must be an "other side of the story" to this.

Weather Forecasters Watching Two Systems in Atlantic

The busiest stretch of the hurricane season starts in August, and almost right on cue, two disturbances were lurking in the Atlantic, one of which developed into a depression Monday night.

As icecaps melt, Russia races for Arctic's resources

Call it the global warming sweepstakes.

As milder temperatures make exploration of the Arctic sea floor possible for the first time, Russia's biggest-ever research expedition to the region is steaming toward the immense scientific prestige of being the first to explore the seabed of the world's crown.

U.N. climate change meeting aims at rich countries

The first U.N. special session on climate change focused on the world's rich countries on Tuesday, as policy-makers urged long-standing polluters to shoulder much of the burden for cutting greenhouse gases.

Landmark Energy Policy Study Points the Way to U.S. Energy Future without Fossil Fuels or Nuclear Power

A new study concludes that the United States could eliminate almost all of its carbon dioxide emissions by the year 2050. It also concludes that it is possible to do so without the use of nuclear power.

U.N. rejects big Kyoto project in Equatorial Guinea

An emissions-cutting project in Equatorial Guinea has become by far the biggest yet to fail a United Nations approval process under the Kyoto Protocol on global warming.

The project was meant to reduce flaring by turning natural gas into methanol. It failed to demonstrate that its proposed emissions cuts would not have happened anyway, regardless of Kyoto incentives.

This is the twenty-sixth project to be rejected so far.

I posted at Peakoil.com about PC Speech Software, which I find invaluable, especially for blogs such as TOD. Thought it might also be of use/interest to some here; with a program like ReadPlease you can weed your garden or build your bunker while listening to yack about URR, housing bubbles, and all the other fascinating chat that goes on here.

Wish it knew how to pronounce words like "wind" in their noun sense though. Voice is a bit more mechanical than your average movie robot or government bureaucrat, too. Can't have everything.

Congrats again to Robert for his mention in the Rolling Stone ethanol debunking. Pretty good rag for political coverage. A few years back I also came across an excerpt for a book called the Long Emergency that really grabbed me.

Apple's Mac OS X has good built-in text to speech support as well.
~Durandal (http://www.wtdwtshtf.com/)

The following comment on the ethanol story posted above (a response to Rolling Stone's expose) should bring a lump to everyone's throat here. If this is really our choice, then we are indeed screwed:

Posted by Jeff on Aug 1 2007 12:07AM - I’m sitting here in Iraq (Tall Afar) wondering what the heck is wrong with ethanol. Why is the American public being fed so much negative opinion on the first step in getting off big oil. I have a feeling I wouldn’t be here now if not for U.S. oil dependency. Our future energy will come of many sources and ethanol is just one of them and is a logical evolutionary step in moving away from our current dependency. By the way, we have the best farmers in the world, they can grow anything. Give ethanol a chance. Or stay hooked on big oil.........up to you......

I saw that comment just as I saw Robert mentioned in the article (Robert I think you are being just a bit optimistic with the land requirement for cellulosic ethanol).

It says something we already know...America is addicted to oil and would rather (currently) choose to starve in their cars than to deal with their problem of excessive demand. It also tels me that this soldier knows he will be stuck in Iraq for America's addiction.

As a nation we seem pre-disposed to choose between A and B. With us, against us. Democrat, Republican. Stay, Cut-and-run.

None of the Above.

Just can't ... seem ... to get ... through ... a ... summer ... without ... TOD =]

That's right TODers.. you're favorite ethanol protag has had about as much sun and surf as he can handle.

I will soon be back to torpedo this Rolling Stone garbage scow (along with all the other ships of ethanol bias found adrift in this summer's cesspool of the uninformed) with a piece I'm tentatviely calling:

The Top 10 Signs You're Reading an Ethanol Hit-Piece.

Can I get an AMEN!

This topic was discussed previously on the list.

If you try to convert the US to ethanol you might find there is not enough food in the world.

From the Earth Policy Institute:

"Converting the entire U.S. grain harvest to ethanol would satisfy only 16 percent of U.S. auto fuel needs."

I did not see comments at the end of the Rolling Stone article. Where was this comment posted ?



A suggestion for entertainment at the ASPO Conference

Tower of Power - There's Only So Much Oil in the Ground



There's only so much oil in the ground
Sooner or later there won't be much around
Tell that to your children while you're driving 'round downtown
That there's only so much oil in the ground

Can't cut loose without that juice
Can't cut loose without that juice
If we keep on like we're doing
Things for sure will not be cool
It's a fact we just ain't got sufficient fuel

There's only so much oil in the ground
Sooner or later there won't be none around
Alternate sources of power must be found
Cause there's only so much oil in the ground

There's only so much oil in the earth
It's a fact of life - for what it's worth
Something every little girl and boy should know from birth
That there's only so much oil in the earth

There's no excuse for our abuse
No excuse for our abuse
We hope that what we use
Will not exceed the oil supply
Soon enough the world will watch the wells run dry.

Talking Heads - Nothing But Flowers

Here we stand like an Adam and an Eve
Waterfalls, the Garden of Eden
Two fools in love so beautiful and strong
The birds in the trees are smiling upon them
From the age of the dinosaurs cars have run on gasoline
Where, where have they gone? Now, it's nothing but flowers

There was a factory, now there are mountains and rivers
You got it, you got it
We caught a rattlesnake, now we've got something for dinner
You got it, you got it
There was a shopping mall, now it's all covered with flowers
You got it, you got it
If this is paradise, I wish I had a lawnmower
You got it, you got it

Years ago I was an angry young man
I'd pretend that I was a building
Standing tall by the side of the road
I fell in love with a beautiful highway
This used to be real estate, now it's only fields and trees
Where, where is the town? Now, it's nothing but flowers
The highways and cars were sacrificed for agriculture
I thought that we'd start all over, but I guess I was wrong

Once there were parking lots, now it's a peaceful oasis
You got it, you got it
This was a Pizza Hut, now it's all covered with daisies
You got it, you got it
I miss the Honky Tonks, Dairy Queens and 7-Elevens
You got it, you got it
And as things fell apart, nobody payed much attention
You got it, you got it
I dream of cherry pies, candy bars and chocolate chip cookies
You got it, you got it
We used to microwave, now we just eat nuts and berries
You got it, you got it
This was a discount store, now it's turned into a cornfield
You got it, you got it
Don't leave me stranded here, I can't get used to this lifestyle

Man, once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against the absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the sport of every wind. -- Thomas Jefferson

The report from National Petroleum Council is drawing criticism. I don't know when the report came out, perhaps it has been discussed already here on TOD. But it was requested in 2005 by Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman. And I don't even have a link to the report itself. But I thought this criticism of the report was well worth reading anyhow.

Oil report is overly optimistic on foreign production increases

Simply stated, the report's key assumption is that the oil-producing nations of the Middle East will increase production to meet anticipated future demand. This actually is a dual assumption increasingly being called into question. The first part of the assumption is that Saudi Arabia and the other major producers in the Persian Gulf are willing to raise production to meet the needs of the consuming nations. And the second part of the assumption is that the claimed oil reserves of these countries are actually true and that they possess the capability to increase oil production significantly to meet future global demand.

It appears that a few oil industry analysts are starting to get the message because one stated that the NPC, with this report, has drilled “a dry hole”.

Ron Patterson

It leaked in early July, and was officially released July 18. It has been extensively discussed here and in the media. Search on NPC and a bunch of stuff should come up.

P.S. I think the "analyst" who called it a dry hole is ASPO.

From Darwinian above:

The first part of the assumption is that Saudi Arabia and the other major producers in the Persian Gulf are willing to raise production to meet the needs of the consuming nations.

Saudi Arabia willing to raise production? Hmmm...these are Aramco's scheduled crude projects until the end of 2010 from Aramco’s most recent project schedule, released in June 2007. Although this project schedule showed Khurais start-up on June 2009, a recent press release dated 25 July 2007, on Saudi Aramco’s website states that Khurais is “scheduled for the end of 2009”, which is assumed to be December 2009.

Aramco originally intended Shaybah to produce 1 mbd but their project schedule shows only 0.75 mbd peak plateau. Aramco claims Khurais will produce 1.2 mbd. If Shaybah's downgrade from 1 mbd to 0.75 mbd is any guide then Khurais will probably produce a maximum of 0.8 mbd. Matt Simmons Twilight in the Desert book, page 215,

It is puzzling to consider that Saudi Aramco would entertain spending $3 to $4 billion on Khurais, thinking that the field could produce as much as 800,000 barrels of oil a day. The odds of reaching that production goal must be relatively long.

Here is the updated list of Aramco's additional crude capacities by project until end 2010 (Manifa heavy crude is excluded from below as it is schedule for 2011)

Khursaniyah (including Abu Hadriyah, Fadhili)aka AFK
Capacity 500,000 bopd – Arab Light
December 2007 start

Capacity 100,000 bopd – Arab Super Light
December 2008 start

Shaybah Expansion
Capacity 250,000 bopd – Arab Extra Light (total Shaybah capacity 750,000 bopd, not 1,000,000 bopd)
December 2008 start

Khurais (including Abu Jifan and Mazalij)
Capacity 1,200,000 bopd – Arab Light (maybe 800,000 bopd)
December 2009 (was June 2009)

Is December a lucky month for Aramco? Every project start up is now December.

Aramco’s crude production is now 8,600,000 bopd. The capacities of the projects above will probably be only just enough to offset natural production decline from their current production.

Recent news on the AFK (Khursaniyah) project from
"State oil group Saudi Aramco has converted the largest engineering and construction contract for the Abu Hadriyah, Fadhili and... "

Anyone have a subscription to this site to get the rest of the article?

I have seen Simmons comment in print a number of times, but have never understood where he was coming from.

$5,000 per bbl at 800,000 bbls per day of long lived production -- high volume production at that -- is dirt cheap. Maybe by KSA standards this is a lot, but I have no question that if it only produces at one third the targeted rate, the KSA "royals" are either spoiled brats or will recognized that it was money well spent.

If Simmons point is 800,000 bbls per day isn't much in the big picture, I am still uncertain about what point he is trying to make. One percent of world production is nothing to scoff about.

If Simmons point is that he believes that this is the best the KSA can do, I understand that point. If this is the best the KSA can do as part of its short term package of new developments, a 12 or 15 million bbl per day sustained production rate at any time in the future is grossly implausible.

This article states that "Technip Announces Conversion of Khursaniyah Gas Plant Contract into Lumpsum Turnkey"


As the gas plant is to produce natural gas liquids (ethane, propane, butane), the article above says that "The plant is scheduled for completion in the first quarter of 2008".

Another project delay. I will assume that Khursaniyah natural gas plant liquids will start production in April 2008, instead of Dec 2007, ramping up to peak production of 290,000 bpd NGPL. I assume that Khursaniyah oil production is still scheduled for Dec 2007.

One data point: I have seen a grand total of one honeybee this summer (Western MA). In previous years, they were probably our most prevalent pollinator. I'm wondering what the effect might be on the apple crop this fall.

I live in rural New Hampshire. Earlier this summer, my lawn was a mass of beautiful sweet white clover. Just walking across it smelled like honey. And not a single bee - usually it would be humming, and you'd be worried about being stung (I walk barefoot whenever possible).

Then, about 3 weeks ago, I saw a bee. Then another. Day by day, more bees. I'm not saying it's "normal", but it sure is encouraging - I was very worried for a while.

Interestingly enough, my apple trees are completely loaded with fruit this year - more than ever before. I suspect that we must have a lot of natural pollinators.

I should add, I've been stung twice in the past couple of weeks... hurts a bit for a moment, but very reassuring. :-)

I also live in NH, same thing here. But I've also noticed a dearth of hornets this year, too. I've been here five summers now, and every year, lotsa hornets. I reluctantly went out with a hornet bomb and hit some of the more "inconvenient" nests. I do have some this year, but I'd bet the population is down by over 50%.

Anyone notice/hear anything about this?

Here's the deal - people make a lot of money raising honeybees and moving them to agricultural areas to pollinate crops.

Hornets...well, you get the picture.

It's not that anyone actually gives a crap about the bees, most of the hue and cry is because bee-keepers and agribusiness were losing money.

A half hour with a wet/dry shop vac, hose positioned near the nest entrance, is a non-chemical way to eliminate a problem nest.


Do you put a specified level of water to drown them?
Do they get beaten to death into little wasp meatballs?
Do you have to fogger them inside it?

Just about any amount of water will do - you do need to be in "wet" mode

They just drown. No chemicals needed.

Just dump the whole mess out when finished.

Actually I think that apples and other orchards are pollenated by Blue Mason Bee or orchard bees. Simple tubes in a plastic bottle with no bottom will provide a home for them.

Do a google for 'Blue Mason Bee' or 'Orchard Bee' .

Like these.




East Central Florida, no honey bees sighted this entire year. Only a handfull of carpenter (or boring) bees. Almost no dragonflies. Only a handfull of other bees. No large grasshoppers. Not a single lightning bug, and few mosquitoes. Since I walk about 3 1/2 miles several times per week through neighborhoods that have home lots covered with flowering plants, and I have been watching closely for bees since the die off was first reported, this is downright scary imo. I have heard nothing quoted in the local papers from the citrus growers nor the vegetable growers in Florida and that also seems a bit strange since they are a sizeable portion of the economy of Florida.

.Its been weird in Galveston too, no mosquitos, although its been very wet. I've seen a few lightening bugs, and the roaches seem to be thriving, at least the water bug/tree roach types that are living out doors.
Bob Ebersole

I became aware of the Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) after there were a couple of reports about the problem, such as this one in SCIENCE, 18 May 2007 316: 970-972 [DOI: 10.1126/science.316.5827.970].

I walk about twice a day with my dog and have been looking around for bees, etc. I've seen very few honey bees and almost no bumble bees. There also seems to be fewer butterflies, but that would be hard to quantify. while looking, I did see some bees that appeared to be sick, as in, unable to fly, buzzing away on the ground. I did notice some very small bees/wasps doing the pollination duty, so there are some critters still out there. The number of bees seems to be recovering a bit (I hope).

I thought it might be pesticides, since there are lots of tree farms in the area, but that's an easy target to shoot at. Since we had a hard freeze in April after a very warm March, the timing of the various plant/animal/insect interactions may have been messed up. We had a severe drought for a while too. What ever is the cause of the problem, without those honey bees, there may be a serious problem for agriculture.

E. Swanson

From Juan Cole's website (University of Michigan Professor):


Some in the Pentagon and in Israel have not given up on the hope of a Kirkuk-Haifa pipeline to bring Iraqi petroleum to Israel. (This is a link from: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=332835&contrassID=... )

This is Juan Cole:

Oh, yeah, like that is going to happen. First of all, the Iraqi government's position is that it is bound by Arab League strictures on trade with Israel. Second, Sunni Arab guerrillas would fill such a pipeline full of holes every hour of every day. Third, it almost certainly would not make economic sense even if it were possible politically. Talk about a pipe dream :-). You just worry that this crackpot idea was one of the motives for the Neoconservatives for the Iraq War. What a waste.

In the Gwynne Dyer column he says:

"A record number of options contracts are now being sold that entitled customers to buy oil in the future at $100 a barrel."

Can someone tell me who is buying futures at $100 a barrel and when are these dated?

I don't follow futures trading but had not heard anyone say anything about $100 oil. Is this a recent development?

The article speaks about options to buy oil at $100. The option gives you the right to buy the oil at this price at contract maturity, but not the obligation to do so.

The futures are different as they bound both the buyer and seller to commit the transaction at the given price at the contract date.

Thanks LevinK. I need to find a primer on options and futures trading and learn the basics.

Tarzan, it is really quite simple. Just go here to Nymex Crude oil and click on “Call” beside the particular contract you may be interested in. I could not find any options at the $100 strike price but I did find quite a few at $95.00. For instance the December 2009 contract at the $95.00 strike price is priced at $1.93. Because each contract is for 1000 barrels you must multiply that by 1000. (Stock options are multiplied by 100.)

That means that if you bought this contract it would cost you $1,930. And if you held it until expiation in late October of 2009, it would be worth $1000 for every dollar Crude oil is priced above $95. If oil was $100 a barrel, your option would be worth $5000 and you would have a $3,070 profit. If oil closed below $95 on that date, your option would be worthless and you would lose your entire investment of $1,930.

But you could sell your option at any time before expiration. If oil goes up to $90 a barrel in a few months, your option would increase in value and you could sell it for a profit then. But if the price of oil dropped by only $5 a barrel in the next couple of months, your option would be worth considerably less.

Ron Patterson

Thank you, Ron. That was helpful.

Where do you see the strike price?? or the contract price? It looks like its priced in the low 70's to me.

Korg, go here:
Then under "options" click on either "call" or "put" beside the contract you are interested in. Here is the Call for the May 2008 contract.

6000 - - - 9.10 * Jul 31, 18:16 - - - 15.78 - 2008-04-17
6400 - - - 10.38 * Jul 31, 18:14 - - - 12.77 - 2008-04-17
6450 - - - 10.06 * Jul 31, 18:16 - - - 12.41 - 2008-04-17
6500 - - - 6.58 * Jul 31, 18:16 - - - 12.06 - 2008-04-17
7050 - - - 6.30 * Jul 31, 18:14 - - - 8.48 105 2008-04-17
7100 - - - 6.63 * Jul 31, 18:15 - - - 8.18 160 2008-04-17
7200 - - - 7.05 * Jul 31, 18:14 - - - 7.60 450 2008-04-17
7300 - - - 6.52 * Jul 31, 18:14 - - - 7.07 4050 2008-04-17
7350 - - - 6.39 * Jul 31, 18:15 - - - 6.81 100 2008-04-17
7500 - - - 4.39 * Jul 31, 18:15 - - - 6.11 300 2008-04-17
8000 - - - 2.95 * Jul 31, 18:15 - - - 4.14 10 2008-04-17
8900 - - - 1.33 * Jul 31, 18:16 - - - 2.05 - 2008-04-17
9000 - - - 1.63 * Jul 31, 18:15 - - - 1.91 1100 2008-04-17

The figures to the far left is the strike price. The next figure is what that call closed at the previous day. When it closes today the price of the last trade will be under "Sett" for "Settled".

Hope this helps.

Ron Patterson

You might be confusing options with futures. www.cboe.com is a good place to get educated on both.

He's talking about an 'out of the money' call and apparently lots of people are doing it. I wanted to do it but it would have been too much of a hassle (in Canada) without plunking down a bunch of cash. The good thing about buying a naked call is that your risk is limited to your 'investment'. But options are VERY volatile bets. You can lose everything or make many multiples of your bet quickly.

Buying the underlying future could cause you to take delivery of a large quantity of oil, or to take a very large loss if you have to sell prior to expiration to avoid taking delivery, should your bet on prices go the wrong way.

Here's a link for NYMEX oil futures, the most expensive being next month's at ~$78: http://quotes.ino.com/exchanges/?r=NYMEX_CL

I don't have a link for options prices, though, and would be interested if anyone else has one handy.

Thanks, OC. Some good lunch-hour reading.

Buying the underlying future could cause you to take delivery of a large quantity of oil,...

This is a common misconception. No one is ever forced to take delivery of any oil, nor are they forced to deliver any oil. What the NYMEX does is put the buyer and seller of the contract together. They can then settle in cash. (Actually the brokerage house does this for you and either debits or credits your account for the difference in purchase and selling price of the original contract.)

Hey, just think about it. The margin for 1000 barrels of oil is about $4,000. You could not possibly buy 1000 barrels of oil for $4,000. If the intent of the NYMEX was to force purchase or delivery, then there would be no such thing as a "margin" price. The price of a contract would then equal the price of 1000 barrels of oil.

Ron Patterson

Well, I started buying $100 crude call options based on reading this website. Maybe that's where the trend is coming from...

Buying options that are out of the money makes them fairly cheap, since the conventional wisdom is that nothing much dramatic will happen to the price. I may lose my money, but I'll take these odds.

My wife likes the fact that with options you can't lose more than your initial investment. And there don't seem to be all that many traders selling naked crude calls far-out, and that may dry up further methinks. Just because you can look up a price online doesn't mean you could have gotten an option at that price....

your mileage may vary...

i worry about long into the future options, at some point govs will halt exports, and then everythign is FUBAR with the free market and all.

Yeah, you'd want to hit that 'sweet spot' between when oil initially costs a lot and when zombies rule the streets. I'm mostly in DEC 08 and DEC 09, then a bit in 2010 and one in 2011

Actually another worry is the US passing laws to penalize people who made money off speculating on oil... though I consider my few investments a hedge against a cruel world, rather like term life insurance on the world as we know it.

So how can i get in on this? If i put up $5000 that I'm willing to lose its a great deal. We all know oil will be above 100 maybe by years end. Who sells these things?

Make sure you do some reading before you throw a bunch of cash into options. There's currently no intrinsic value to a $100 call; you're paying for time and volatility. The $100 price may come ... but too late to mitigate the time decay. i.e. reaching the strike price does not mean that you will make any money. I believe there's a calculator on www.cboe.com that you can use to run some theoretical scenarios.

So how can i get in on this? If i put up $5000 that I'm willing to lose its a great deal. We all know oil will be above 100 maybe by years end. Who sells these things?

Korg, I don't know that oil bill be above $100 at years end at all. If we have a serious recession oil can drop even while supply is also dropping.

Traders just sell these things. You can sell them. If you sell an out of the money put or call and they expire out of the money, you pocket the entire price of the option.

Here is the rule. Put and Call buyers usually lose money. But they take little risk. Put and Call sellers usually make money but they take more risk. There is no magic here, it is all based on a risk-reward ratio. And you never know what will happen. If anyone did they could get filthy rich. But no option buyer or option seller is getting filthy rich. But some are making money but slightly more are loseing money. It is a zero sum game minus commissions.

Ron Patterson

Great information from Ron as always.

It is ABSOLUTELY a risk-reward deal. It's a bet.

The only difference between crude call options and playing the slots in Las Vegas is that I believe that my estimate of the odds is based on better assumptions than those taking the other side of the bet.

A good book on the general philosophy of "living statistically" is "Fooled by Randomness" by Taleb, a fun read. In it, you'll find insights on why even those who have overwhelming evidence of oil prices going up aren't placing money bets on it.

OK, so tell me what you damn game players are doing for ME and other honest toilers who actually create things that you eat, run around in, and live in?

Please justify your getting real value from real people doing real good for doing nothing but fooling around betting on each other's bets.

Like me, George Ure was astounded by the size of the revision to the Personal Saving Rate numbers:

I'd draw your attention specifically to what had been a deteriorating personal savings rate, which by the magic of revisions administered on Tuesday seems to have mysteriously turned around.

Interestingly enough, Peter Schiff, on CNBC yesterday, raised the possibility that government economic numbers are being manipulated to show more positive data.

Hey wait a minute I just checked my bank account online and I went from $24.39 yesterday to $243,900.00 today.

How did Ben manage that?

(had a shot of sarconol in my coffee this morn. sorry)

Now it's $2.43.

EIA Inventories

Crude: Down 6.5 million Barrels!

Gasoline: Up only 600,000 Barrels

6.5 mb drop in crude oil inventories--oil prices at all time record highs.

Ref. Cap. Util. up to 93.6%

NYMEX trader on CNBC: "These prices will seem very cheap to us over the next couple of years." No reaction from the commentators, of course :)

I warned the oil trader types, on 6/28/07, about what was coming--because of the strong "Yergin Buy Signal," when Danny Yergin issued a prediction for $60 oil next year.

We should also take note of the fact that Finished Motor Gasoline supplied is continuing to rise, with an increase of 1.3% over last year. And, Distillate Fuel Oil consumption is up 2.6% over last year. It would appear obvious that the EIA stock comparisons with the "average range for this time of year" (the 5 year average) don't mean much while consumption is still increasing. The point being that present pump prices aren't having much effect on the driving public as yet. With the gasoline stocks still at the low end of the average, it's likely that oil prices will remain high, especially as we are just getting into the hurricane season. There is a tropical storm in the North Atlantic, which popped up day before yesterday and there's another tropical wave moving westward toward the Caribbean Sea. There's been some disturbing weather news lately too, as there have been several days when the minimum temperature recorded at Key West, FL hit record high levels. The other day, the highest minimum temperature ever seen was recorded, 87 F! I doubt we will be lucky again, like last year...


E. Swanson

We do seem to have some interesting trends on the hurricane front, don't we ...


It's causing problems for Newfoundland already.

But, so what? Are you worried about Hiberna's ~150,000 bbls per day?

But here in France the price of petrol has been falling. €1.34 /ltr a few weeks ago to €1.24 today. Exchange rates or some other reason? US not buying European refined products?

Triumvirate of collapse - Economy, Ecosystem, Energy

The price of petrol (gasoline) is falling in the US, too.

The refineries are cranking, I guess.

I just filled up my truck for $2.78/gallon here in central New Hampshire. Been inching down for a week or so...

I don't get the disconnect between retail and crude. But I also don't understand the stock market or the housing market.

Gas prices are dropping here in the Portland, OR area too although diesel is going up after being lower (in relation to gas) for some time.

I think I read that refinery utilization was up to 93.6 so they are cranking. Presumably, that would both drive our prices down and reduce our need for imports from Europe thereby driving down their prices.

And WTI drops off a cliff by $2!

Any explanations?

Oil inventories typically fall during this time of the year. Most analyst, I'm sure, were betting on refinery utilization numbers to remain somewhat similar to last months. A big refinery utilization jump will obviously cause us to use more oil, which will increase the decline in stocks. They see this as a positive sign, the market is back to 'normal' if you will with WTI priced above Brent, etc.

*shrug* People like to blow things out of proportion: When oil goes up, everyone pats each other on the back and brags about their predictions. When oil goes down, everyone fumes and talks about how the market is insane, the traders don't know what they're doing, etc.

I think that a slowly increasing oil cost is the best possible outcome in a oil constrained world. These prices will be enough to dampen overall demand in the US again this year, and maintain the urgency to find something else to power our vehicles.

These prices will be enough to dampen overall demand in the US again this year, and maintain the urgency to find something else to power our vehicles.

Yes, we urgently need to find something else to power our vehicles.

Fred Flintstone used his feet; Kunstler might approve of that.

Funny! But I'm thinking of something more along the lines of a massive scale down of vehicles, and PEHVs + limited biofuels to fit the bill.

Profit taking.

The crude market is in backwardation which means refiners will use stocks rather than buy expensive spot crude, refinery utilization up 2% and crude stocks down as expected...

With refiners up by 2% more products are produced hence builds in products...

Todays price action was all about product builds...the market thinks with the current refining metric we will get through summer ok and so price of gasoline should fall..no shortage...

with the price of gasoline falling more than crude the refinery cracks start to suffer, gasoline lost around $2 bucks per bbl today... As we approach fall and gasoline is still comfortable stock wise and they continue to build stocks margins will continue to erode....if they do to the extent that refinery margins go negative, then the demand for crude falls off...So the person who thought $100 by the end of the year was a no brainer he/she might be disappointed...

However as the driving season ends the market focuses on heating oil for winter...if stocks are deemed low and we have a cold start to winter this will increase the price of heat therefore re create the margin and boost the demand / price for crude... alternatively if stocks continue to build it might lead overall lower prices, which may increase deamnd...etc etc etc...

In the meantime anything can happen to infrastructure, geo political risk etc etc...all of which can affect the dynamics and pricing..

In regard to the OPEC revenue numbers, I believe that Saudi revenues from export sales in 2006, at least in dollar terms, were up about 20% from 2005, while total liquids exports were down 5.3% from 2005 to 2006 (EIA).

This is what I have described as the Phase One decline in net oil exports--revenues rise, even as exports fall, because of rising oil prices, which sets up a positive feedback loop in exporting countries, presumably increasing domestic energy consumption.


Considering the precipitous decline of the US dollar, I'm not sure the Saudi revenues are more than flat.
Bob Ebersole

As I said, at least "in dollar terms."

They are up even with the slide. Also note they buy a lot of stuff in dollars still so its not quite correct to use the reduced value of the dollar.

For example 20 billion in weapons is priced in dollars.
It sounds like we are planning on subsidizing the fall of the US dollar with weapons sales. So the US dollar is backed by the gun in more than one way.

Next I'd suspect that this arms deal and more like it are in a prelude to the US pulling out of Iraq and letting the Gulf nations take control of the southern oil fields. Turkey will probably take over the north. While western oil companies with large mercenary armies will work to operate the fields. Of course it will be touted as a regional peace keeping mission maybe even under the UN. But in effect its a division of Iraq. And of course the US will probably still provide air and logistical support.

Sometimes barter beats fiat currencies esp when you pay in kind.

Whats disturbing is such a transition would take several years to pull off I'd think which begs the question how are they going to pull this off with a election in November.

It would seem that the real powers in this country are not concerned about the election since its becoming increasingly obvious to me at least that plans that cross that point are in motion now.

how are they going to pull this off with a election in November.

two possibility's

1. the plan does not include elections, they will bee called off between now and at least next year due to a 'incident' here.

2. tptb have already chosen who will win(through rigged electronic voting machines) an that person is well aware of the fact and will let it happen.

Its a bit weird right now since unless the GOP puts on a massive show they will lose. I figure 2 is the correct answer and you don't need fixed machines.

But this means the "HUGE" shift in power after eight years of GW if the democrats win as predicted is not what it seems.

In any case ...


The following is a chart of the relative dollar value of oil price vs. KSA production vs. dollar/euro. The raw data was taken from OPEC's Market Indicator Reports. I didn't have the actual export numbers to throw in, but you can see the relative value of their overall production despite the declining dollar. These are daily numbers. I'd be happy with this income stream.

February 2005 295,070,392.32
March 2005 346,854,582.69
April 2005 364,246,977.50
May 2005 351,801,591.36
June 2005 404,498,177.28
July 2005 418,242,707.19
August 2005 448,063,369.60
September 2005 450,197,122.56
October 2005 429,568,364.16
November 2005 411,807,050.97
December 2005 418,540,648.50
January 2006 452,972,056.32
February 2006 445,769,826.20
March 2006 453,007,174.62
April 2006 496,177,302.96
May 2006 467,140,094.19
June 2006 468,408,786.00
July 2006 496,276,395.44
August 2006 497,715,391.04
September 2006 423,782,306.64
October 2006 393,672,217.51
November 2006 376,786,725.00
December 2006 382,091,586.50
January 2007 338,033,521.05
February 2007 355,185,789.75
March 2007 376,643,860.20
April 2007 400,974,712.80
May 2007 406,872,335.20

Bottom line is that despite the decreased value of the dollar (about which OPEC has complained for several years), KSA is still making a lot of money. Also, the dollar has been weak for years. According to the MIR, the dollar was .746 against the Euro in December 2004 and .740 in May 2007. I understand we are now down to .73 and change, but not a huge change over that time.

Sorry about the crowdedness of the numbers. It looked a lot better before I sent it.

I found this part of the article most interesting:

But in an indication as to why it may be keeping a tight rope on future production capacity, the report showed OPEC's base of economically recoverable oil reserves last year was flat if new, higher estimates from troubled OPEC producer Venezuela are stripped out, the worst growth in this key metric in recent years.

They didn't really say what they meant by that, though. Is it an admission of peak oil? Or do they think opening up to the free market would fix it?

I think that the primary message in the article is that major oil companies can do a better job of extracting oil than national oil companies, which I think is, to some extent, accurate.

It's interesting to consider the Texas and North Sea case histories--both areas developed and managed by private companies, using the best available technology with virtually no limitations on where one can drill--and private companies have succeeded in keeping the Texas decline rate down to 4.1% and the North Sea decline rate down to 4.5% year (crude + condensate).

IMO, we tend to find the big fields first, and Peak Oil is basically the rise and fall of the big fields. In post-peak regions, we can find smaller fields and make money, but what the oil industry has not been able to do in Texas and the North Sea is to reverse the long term declines--because we can't offset the declines of the old, large oil fields.

I think that the primary message in the article is that major oil companies can do a better job of extracting oil than national oil companies, which I think is, to some extent, accurate.

And yet, we also have articles like the one from Motley Fool, warning that the big oil companies' "normal declines" will mean dropping production in the future. But few seem to connect the dots - that even if they could drill everywhere, including Hugo Chavez' front yard, those "normal declines" would eventually kick in.

Once the big fields peak, the region has probably peaked, and the function of oil companies--state owned or private--in post-peak regions is to slow the rate of decline in production.

Considering that oil usage by the oil industry itself is on par with many nations if you consider support industries how is the Oil industry going to handle a global peak.

In many ways the oil industries usage pattern is very similar to the military thus in my opinion one of the weakest points in the industrial extraction of oil is the effect of shortages and high prices on the oil industry itself.

I wish more people on the oil drum would take a look at this issue since it will have a immediate and damaging effect on daily production post peak and poses the possibility of a tight feedback loop forming. Export Land is not the only place that we have to deal with significant feed back loops caused by high prices and tight supply and I think this one is on the same order of magnitude as ELM.

The obvious response is for the oil companies both private and national to hoard supplies to support extraction and processing but this does not help ensure supplies for the myriad of support industries required for our current oil industry. You can't drill a well if supplies are not delivered because of a diesel shortage.

I'm preparing a memo to my principal operator, and to joint venture partners, that will suggest that we start stockpiling diesel. I've also wondered about doing a deal with a refinery, whereby they agree to supply diesel to us, in exchange for crude oil.

Smart man. The bottom line is that the oil industry itself is built on the assumption of cheap readily available oil.

Houston we have a problem.

IIRC there were some posts a couple of months back about a fuel purchasing/storage co-op.

I think this is one of the obvious business opportunities for the early years of fuel shortages.

Someone establishes a storage facility, takes reasonable steps to secure it (fencing, lights, cameras, security guard on premises, maybe standby generators). Buys fuel when it is available, in bulk, getting a better deal than end users buying at a retail pump, but perhaps pays a premium over the wholesale price a large filling station chain may pay in order to secure supplies. Can buy out of season and store, if that improves price or availability. Maybe hedges with futures.

Businesses and individuals have an allotment of fuel they can purchase based on their investment/contract. Their advantage is that they get fuel, though they may pay a surcharge. No waiting in gas lines, no uncertainty of supply. Invaluable for a business, very desirable for individuals.

The hoi-poloi have to cruise around to filling stations, wait in line, and may or may not get the fuel they need. They may or may not pay more than the co-op price. When they do find fuel, the best they can hope for is topping off their tank. The next week, they get to try again.

So where the heck did all that oil go??

6,500,000 barrels versus 750,000 is a big difference! Was that all drawn into the refineries? Did imports/inputs into the system suddenly not keep up with the output?

Just off the top of my head... could the bombing of the pipeline in Mexico, and the disruption in Burnaby, BC have caused a big enough shut of flow to cause this?

Just curious where it all went, there deosn't seem to be much analysis of it anywhere..

Anyone remember a certain tropical storm in the gulf of Oman about 6 weeks ago? Lots of talk about delayed shipping out of the Persian gulf at that time. Any hard data on a shipping delivery shortfall this week that could be linked to tanker delays more than a month ago?

Kind of hard to follow all these details even when you know they exist.

"Consultancy Oil Movements said last week oil in transit from OPEC producers, excluding Angola, had fallen in a surprise counter-seasonal move.
It said oil in transit had slumped 18 million barrels to 400 million barrels in the four weeks to July 14."


how much did we predict would be lost? ~18 million barrels can be assumed the amount held up in the gulf of saudi arabia over those couple days.

interesting to say the least.

so this is hurricane related definitely.

the oil was burnt up probably.

OECD stocks are just being drawn down.

watch for the losses to accelerate.

Don't forget that Venezuela has had a big decrease in exports too, and they are the 4th largest seller of oil to the US, after Canada, Mexico and Saudi Arabia. There's been a 3% rise in refinery capacity on line this week too. The net drop of 5,750,000 bbls represents about 3 % of our refinery runs of 21,000,000 bbls. a day, or 147,000,000 bbls a week by my back of the envelope calculations. I'd guess that imports are the problem.
So the question is how long is it going to take to catch back up? Thats 6 supertankers worth of oil.

That is a GREAT idea... you have got me thinking there...
When no-one around you understands
start your own revolution
and cut out the middle man

WT, Don't forget your fleet of lime green volvo's (with peace stickers) make them diesels ;-)

I actually talked about this with some oil patch guys at lunch today--general agreement all around that "Cheap is the new chic."

Take what you are describing a step further with a disruption in US and global economic stability and you have a truly frightening scenario. Today's WSJ has an article titled "High Oil-Field Costs Crimp Search for New Supplies--Inflated Gear Prices Almost Guarantee New Crude Records" by Bhushan Bahree.

A second Lehman report concluded that the industry's costs to find and develop oil in 2006 averaged about $20.40 a barrel, four times the $5 a barrel cost in 2001

Its not so much costs as it is shortages that are the real issue and can lead to a rapid breakdown of the supply chain for the oil industry. Costs will cause projects to be stopped or delayed which has more of a effect 6 months out or longer depending on the projects.

But with shortages you get headlines like this.


The oil industry is having increasing problems supplying crude and crude products as oil shortages hamper the ability of the oil industry to operate as suppliers have problems meeting orders.

However once supply chain issues have been resolved we expect a surge in oil production to follow leading to a price drop to 100 new dollars per barrel.

Meanwhile a truck loaded with badly needed drill bits sits idle in china waiting for diesel fuel.


Those are very good points, and as you rightly add: overlooked ones. We're looking at Receding Horizons in action.

I'm inclined to add a third factor: the frantic and desperate attempts to add reserves to the books, without which share values are sure to be hurt badly (which would bite further attempts to find reserves etc.). Shell knows all about that.

A good example seems to be the amount of money invested in oil sands. Leanan posts an article Shell Pumping $27B To Oilsands today, which states it will probably be twice as much even, over $50 billion. And Shell is just one player over there. Given a return of 400.000 barrels a day, those investments look insane. That's where the despair comes in. At a $10 a barrel profit, it would take close to 40 years to just pay off the initial investment.

And if you combine that with your argument of rapidly rising fuel costs for the industry itself, who knows how high the true construction costs will go?

Moreover, Shell's project includes a huge upgrader. Yes, that means natural gas. Over at TOD:Canada today, Libelle, once more, questions how much natural gas there is. The Incredible Disappearing 140 Tcf of Canadian Gas.

Natural gas pipeline projects, MacKenzie as well as Alaska, are already doubtful because costs are soaring faster than anyone had imagined. But that doesn't even include the much higher fuel costs yet.

I'm sure there is a prevailing thought that revenue will go up as prices rise, but that is doubtful in the face of rising costs. For now, Shell has wads of cash, and books in which reserves are dwindling, threatening their share price, so their choices seem to make sense. But what are the economics here?

Needless to say I found this investment in tar sands alarming.
Its a sign of desperation IMHO.

And you can see that they seem at least from the outside oblivious to the effect of shortages in NG and oil products on their plans. The tar sands development will probably be the most spectacular failure of the post peak oil industry so it bears close watching. Also deep water projects. In both cases I think we will see serious problems once shortages start developing. Also central Asia. Siberia is already one disaster after another on the logistical front.

Its like the Russian front during WWII the supply lines are long and the conditions are cruel so we can expect problems to crop up first in the remote areas I think.


Oil Soars to Exchange Record
August 1, 2007; Page C9

"There is something very strong holding this market up; it's giving very little back," said Tony Rosado at IAG Energy Brokers in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Mr. Rosado said a lot of traders are baffled at the strength of crude's move higher and how little it was dipping on its down days lately.

Cue the "Jeopardy" game show theme music.

A: Declining Oil Exports

Q: Why are oil prices so high?

There are a number of strange pricing anomolies still existing in the cash markets.

Alaskan North Slope selling at a premium to Lousiana Sweet?

I understand the full up situation at Cushing has only eased a little, but WTI and the various Mid Contenent grades are still selling at a discount. Interesting times.

If demand matches forcasts, and C+C has peaked, when in the third or fourth quarters does the fat lady sing and at what US crude oil inventory level?

A new record in solar cells

The University of Delaware has inched up the record for solar cell efficiency with a new device that can convert 42.8 percent of the light that strikes it into electricity.

That beats the old record of 40.7 percent hit in December. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, has been funding research to get efficiency up to 50 percent.

It should be understood that these cells are MJ (multi junction) and as such require solar collectors to be of best use.

Note in the article they make a positive note of the cell working under 20 times solar intensity(and indicate this is lower than typical), however in a real world situation these cells would be under 100-200 intensity. This leads me to belive that this solar cell was not tested under typical lab conditions and the actual efficiency under 100-200 suns is less than the 40.7% record.

Increased solar intensity causes the cell to heat up and work a little less efficiently. If i see testing conditions comparable to other multijunction cells, then i would be interested.

Please comment.

The cost of solar has always been large because of the aperture required to intercept the available sunlight. Traditional flat plate PV systems (with no concentration) are expensive because the PV cells are exposed to only 1x concentration and the material is very expensive per unit area. Using concentrators can cut the overall expense, as the cost of the concentrator aperture is much less than the same area of PV.

Going to 100-200x concentration offers an apparent cost advantage, however, at this level of concentration, a 2 axis concentration system is required, most likely that of a circular parabolic dish or tower with movable mirrors on the ground. The added cost of 2 axis tracking greatly reduces the cost advantage of concentrating, when compared with parabolic trough systems, which need to track in only one axis. As noted, the need to cool the PV cells becomes greater at higher levels of concentration, which is likely to cost more for high concentration systems than those with lower concentration.

As I understand this particular report, there is an unusual concentrator system involved. That device may be some form of non-tracking concentrator, such as the thermal system from the 1970's, which was named Compound Parabolic Concentrator, "CPC". Here's one recent implementation:


E. Swanson

Thanks for responding. It always makes me happy when I can learn something here from someone with more than general knowledge of myself.

Yes I am aware of concentrators, and how the cost of the cell versus aperture should be balanced. I am unaware of any solar cells which are actively cooled however.

To me a parabolic trough seems to be the best solution. It's not as sexy as full tracking, however as solar cells on earth are going to be garunteed the sun will rise at a specific location in the sky, every day, why bother with something fancy?

(If anyone was wondering why I said multijunction, it's because the maximum theoretical efficiency of a single junction is 27% or so)

and thanks for the link. I still have a really cool paper which outlines the geometry, it's very math heavy but cool none-the-less. (i'll go look for it)


Gilgamesh said:

..solar cells on earth are going to be garunteed the sun will rise at a specific location in the sky,..

Actually, the sun rises at a point on the eastern horizon that varies by 44+ degrees, solstice to solstice, so some tracking would be needed.

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

You can get active cooling of PV cells by combining them with a solar hot water system. i.e you cool the PV panel and heat your hot water tank a the same time. I have hear d of these and I am always on the lookout to find them on the web.

Carbon - Coventry UK

It seems as though the warmer places like Pakistan and Turkey are coming up short of electricity every year about now. It wouldn't be a few hundred million cheap Chinese airconditioners stuck in the windows, would it?

Solar powered airconditioning and water heating will have to be mandated either by legislation or price. Making more and more 'window shakers' by the containerload is proving to be folly.

You can't save enough with compact flourescents to power an airco.

Try these. They Work. :-)


Day 5: Kerman - Yazd.
Drive to Yazd across the desert, passing pistachio plantations and caravanserais. Yazd is one of the oldest cities in the world and the centre of Zoroastrianism. On your afternoon tour explore the old city made of sun-dried bricks with its labyrinthine alleyways and see the “badgirs” or wind towers which provide natural air-conditioning during the summer heat. Also visit the magnificent Friday Mosque. (B)


A windcatcher (Bâdgir; بادگیر) is a traditional Persian architectural device used for many centuries to create natural ventilation in buildings. It is not known who first invented the windcatcher, but it still can be seen in many countries today. Windcatchers come in various designs, such as the uni-directional, bi-directional, and multi-directional.
Contents[hide]· 1 Background · 2 Function · 3 Gallery · 4 See also · 5 External links
[edit] Background
Central Iran has a very large day-night temperature difference, ranging from cool to extremely hot, and the air tends to be very dry all day long. Most buildings are constructed of very thick ceramics with extremely high insulation values. Furthermore, towns centered on desert oases tend to be packed very closely together with high walls and ceilings relative to Western architecture, maximizing shade at ground level. The heat of direct sunlight is minimized with small windows that don't face the sun

Those are pretty interesting. In Galveston we have a very homid climate, so they wouldn't be as effective. A lot of the old houses are designed so they catch the seabreeze and funnel it up through the staircase well for a similar effect. My father grew up in a 4 story mansion on Broadway, torn down in the 1960's, and he described the arrangement to me. One of the biggest old houses, called the Bishop's palace has tours and I'd noticed how it works with the servant's staircase for that effect.
Bob Ebersole

Might they work in places like Arizona and Nevada?

BTW: There is a major road tunnel in the Netherlands under a canal just north of Amsterdam, the tunnel uses this technology for fume extraction and cooling.

Based on the same Persian method.

Swamp coolers. Same principle.

I asked in a post yesterday about the strangeness for Aramco to offer bids for the new (old mothballed) offshore field but there wasn't much reply other than from Alan. Why would the company that was so coveting with their resources suddenly choose to share?

Now we learn from the new link above that:

Saudi Aramco Names Former Top Shell, Texaco Executives To Board

Saudi Arabian Oil Co., the world's biggest oil company by production and reserves, Wednesday said former Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSB.LN) chairman Mark Moody-Stuart and James W. Kinnear, former president and chief executive of Texaco, are joining the company's board.

What is with this new found enthusiasm and move away from nationalism?


Perhaps they need some expertise in advanced extraction techniques and management?

You are joking, right?

There is absolutely nothing new going on here. Saudi has always used outside contractors to do offshore work as well as a lot of onshore work. I spent 5 years in Saudi. The first two years I worked for a contractor. The last three years I worked directly for Aramco. The three years I worked for Aramco, most of the people I worked with were contractors.

Why would the company that was so coveting with their resources suddenly choose to share?

They are not sharing anything. This is a contract to do work and the contractors will be paid for the work done. They will not get any share or percentage of the end product.

Saudi has always had former executives of other oil companies on its Board of Directors. It is likely some are retiring and are just being replaced.

What is with this new found enthusiasm and move away from nationalism?

Again, they are not moving away from nationalism. This is nothing more than business as usual.

Incidently, corntractors are required to work six days a week. Aramcons only work five days a week. Being an Aramcon is much better. And we got six weeks a year vacation and all your travel expenses paid, round trip, to your home of record. Yes, it was much better to work for Aramco than working for a contractor.

Ron Patterson

Sometimes the best solutions to the energy crisis are the simplest, and often they're right in front of our eyes. Consider the use of solar power to light a home. Even the most advanced photovoltaic solar panels convert just 20% of the available sunlight to electricity. The resulting direct current (DC) then must undergo conversion to alternating current (AC), losing another 20%. If that AC goes on to light an incandescent bulb, which is only 5% efficient, you end up using a fraction of 1% of the original sunlight as room light. (Even switching to compact florescent bulbs, which are 15% efficient, makes little difference in overall energy efficiency.) But if you were to simply leave sunlight as light—via proper skylights, window orientation, and louvers—nearly 80% of the light ends up as illumination.

Except people need to light their homes at night, not during the day.

Ever heard of a battery? Specifically NaS battery being tested in WV now, and already being used in Japan. Enjoy the read:


Yeah, but the point of the article was to avoid the inefficiencies of conversion.

The battery angle is not such a bad idea, what would be better is (and im putting a big stretch in) photonic crystals which accumulate light in negative index of refraction materials, and then by altering the index of refraction allow the light to pass out.

This is obviously rediculous currently, but it's pretty cool to think about.

This reminds me of a Bob Shaw story called Light of other days in which an invention called Slow Glass slows down light. If it slowed it down for twelve hours, it would basically capture the day's light to use at night.

Hello GeDaMo,

Just to headoff any possible confusion-->that is not I, but another Bob Shaw in Ireland, no relation AFAIK. But I am sure he is an excellent chap if he gets similar Wild & Crazy Ideas like me. =)

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

Actually, not so wild. The speed of light through a particular medium is dependent on the density of the medium, as Einstein stated. Now, we just need to find the appropriate substance(s).

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

Not being facetious - but that's a joke right?

i mean, i am sure i am not the only trained Physicist on here wondering...
When no-one around you understands
start your own revolution
and cut out the middle man

The speed of light in air is slower than in a vacuum, in water slower still.

In copper it is about 1/3rd that of a vacuum (an electromagnetic pulse ).


yeah - but 1/3 is still 10^8 m/s

how does that help us here? to store twelve hours you need an optical length of 10^14 meters... this is just a dumb line of conversation...
When no-one around you understands
start your own revolution
and cut out the middle man

A good percentage of lighting is used during daylight hours.

The biggest problem is the low R-value of windows. Letting light in also lets heat & cold in as well (with some adjustments like insulating shades and usable shutters).

< sarconol > What we need is a good light capacitor ! Some device that can capture sunlight during daylight hours and then release it is a trickle upon demand < /sarconol >

Best Hopes for simple solutions that WORK !


Along the lines of "simple solutions that work," solatube and other brands of tubular-skylights are an option worth considering. I've seen a few houses with them, and they are quite effective, even on cloudy days:

Tubular Skylights
Sun Domes

Edit: Also, they are a realistic way to modify existing buildings, instead of architectural solutions that require new construction to implement. They do work in some situations for multi-story buildings, as they can bring light in through highly-reflective tubes at a 45 degree angle, or can bypass the top story and open into a lower story.

Yep, we have three of them. Cheap, astoundingly effective, and easy to install yourself. I've been tempted to run one down to our basement somehow. The amount of light is really amazing.

Any idea on how much thermal leakage from these units ?

They would typically require cutting a hole in R-19 or R-30 (or more :-) insulation.

Reflective surfaces have some effective R-value, but not that high.

Just wondering,


BTW, they are a good idea in many cases.

There was an article linked last week about buildings using 'HelioStat' mirrors to send tracked lighting into buildings. A little bit complex, a little bit simple. I have designs to use my 3, defunct Chimney Shafts for this same purpose, where any bright or sunny day will have a constant beam aimed down such a shaft through the three residential floors and the basement, with mirrors that 'dip' into quadrants of this beam when light is required in that room, where the beam can then hit a nicely designed diffuser, or be reflected once more into a 'task light', being more directional and 'beamlike'. When it's 'off', (Mirror retracted).. more of the main beam will be hitting a 'heatsink' on the ground floor, possibly preheating water headed towards the water heater, or just providing ambient heat for the building in the seasons where it's desirable. I have also considered using the bigger 'Kitchen Chimney' to install a Solar Oven that is fed from Rooftop Heliostats.. Imagine, a solar oven that's actually IN the Kitchen!

Glass and Mirrors! Stock a few up, they could come in very handy!


helistats are not too complicated, i could probably slap together some hardware consisting of 6 small small pv cells, 2 electric motors and some general electric elements.

I would simply make the electronics want to balance the voltage from the pv cells, by using the motors to move the mirros towards the highest pv cell voltage. This would typically be the sunward face. Make it such that a minimum difference in light level is needed to trigger a move.


or you could just use a timer circuit and hook it up to a database of sun positions in the sky (seasonal as well as daily variations).

or set up the cells in an optimal configuration for noon light at the same angle as your latitude.


I tried to suggest as much by saying 'A little complex..' , since the comments I usually hear about anything tracked is how precise it has to be, how expensive ALL THOSE COMPONENTS would be... Your PV solution would work, and I've debated in my head just having a clocked system, as you also mentioned.. For anyone interested, here is one site where a few (a lot!.. of) simple circuits are offered, some with Hysteresis control, etc (which basically smoothes the 'reactivity' of the system, so the mirror/collector isn't using energy 'over-correcting and counter-correcting' all the time..)

"A simple, accurate, low cost, single axis electronic solar tracker based on using green LEDs as photovoltaic light sensors."

~of course, their assumption is that this will track a Solar PV mount, but making adjustments so it shines a mirror's beam where you like is not to tough to come up with.. and of course it elaborates a little on how you can get a PV effect from Green LEDs, in case anyone wants to do some experimental solar panel building. Personally, I'm not sure the plastic/epoxy casings on led's would handle direct solar for all that long, but I haven't tried yet, so who knows?

as my buddy Chad says.. It ain't Rocket-Surgery..


To toss in another quote from the Redrok site,

"Doc's implementation of the LED3 tracker with a Fruit Jar Weather Dome.

"Doc emailed this to me:

"The power produced from the system is run to the main house. In the house, the 120 volt service is connected to its own fuse box to run all of my 120 volt stuff. The LED3 increased the output of the 4 panel array by 50%, as compared to the output of an identical 4 panel array mounted on the roof.

"During mid-day, the power output of my system bulk charges the batteries and the C40 disconnects the solar panels to keep from over-charging the batteries. This never occurred before I installed the LED3. This is great!!"

I see these sites all the time, and think about them when people are saying 'Ingenuity and 'Can-do' spirit' are largely a myth. I know it's not going to be coming from any majority of the population, but I'd bet pretty much everybody KNOWS one of these guys/gals, or lives a couple blocks from one of them. All is not lost.. there are lots of tools available, and lots of people working out new ones.

"We have nothing to fear but fear itself"

"It is a good day to die"
-adage the Klingons gleaned from Low Dog during the battle at wounded knee ..

I see these sites all the time, and think about them when people are saying 'Ingenuity and 'Can-do' spirit' are largely a myth. I know it's not going to be coming from any majority of the population, but I'd bet pretty much everybody KNOWS one of these guys/gals, or lives a couple blocks from one of them. All is not lost.. there are lots of tools available, and lots of people working out new ones.

To talk to some of these guys visit.



remember, the solution doesnt have to be perfect, just enough so that the marginal gains outweight the costs.

some engineers overdesign, i prefer to hit that sweet spot.

100% accuracy in position is not crucial, it's the first 80% that counts for the most.

cheers, i'm off to take a look at the site.

I have been thinking about making a simple mechanical solar tracker from a mains plug timer. These timers are pulsed reluctance motors and gearboxes they rotate every 24 hours pushing on/off pins in and out. You could tilt your setup to the plane of the sun-path and move a solar collector along a 24 hour circular path provided by the timer. It would track the sun even at night (although the earth would be in the way!) Every day or two you'd have to adjust the elevation of the sun-path circle.

The probably with gizmos is that they tend to break. The device you suggest probably would have trouble with mother nature or lasting for beyond a year or two.

I have given this concept considerable thought and I think I have an idea for a sound passive system that doesn't require tracking. Imagine if you will an array of parabelic mirror reflections about the size of a car head light reflector. Each reflector terminates with a fiber optical cable (a secondary mirror directs light into the fiber cable). Rows of these reflectors are configured into arc so that each reflector will maxiumize light into the fiber optic cable at different times. For instance the first row points at a 9 o'clock and the last row at 3 o'clock, as the sun rises the row of 9 o'clock will collect the light efficienctly. Torwards sunset the row at 3 o'clock will collect light. a Row of these fiber optic cables will be bundled together and deliver light to a single output lamp. A set of columns could be used to support multiple output lamps. Periodically the array would have to be adjusted to accomidate the seasons, but it probably would only require manual adjustments once every couple of months. FWIW: I have not tried this idea, and I have no idea what the optimal reflection size would be required. The whole thing could probably be placed under a standard skylight in the attic as an effetive weather barrier (althought it will limit some of the angles). I bet that someone could construct a simple expermential device for about a $100, perhaps less with some scronging.

The advantage of the using optical fibers is that you can deliver sunlight to difficult areas, (ie basement, in a colonial style home). and you can position the output lamp where it will be the most effective. There are commerical light-transport (non-data) optical fibers and output lamps sold. A quick google search should turn up several manufacturers.

I appreciate the contribution, but think you might find that the Fiber Optics may be a bottleneck in that system, either from price, light/heat carrying capacity, or losses.. but it sounds workable.

My idea can be built largely with the availability of scrap mirrors and a 'space' to beam the stilled reflection of the sun. As a cameraman, I have used large 4' square mirrored reflectors to light scenes, and let me tell you, a patch of full sunlight that is simply trained to stay in one place throughout the day is a powerful thing. (Powerful enough to have to make fire precautions with such a setup.) These trackers on the Redrock site have gone through several redos, and I'd be willing to guess that those and a simple DC Gearmotor will be about as reliable as a bicycle, as far as Gizmo-ness is concerned. I agree that you would want the flexibility to reach all sorts of spaces throughout the house, which is why I'm glad my 1850 structure had chimneys that helped heat all the kitchens, living rooms and bathrooms in the place, since now, a beam of light blowing down one of those shafts could serve a room in each of the three units, with some spare helping out in my basement workshop. It's also encouraging to me as one of the many ways that 'legacy housing stock' can be retrofitted with new equipment to get out of the energy habits we're so accustomed to.. I am really eager to play with beams of full, direct sunlight, however, since the existing solar tubes start with a diffuser at the roof, which removes the need for a tracker, along with about 70% of the possible light intensity.. diffusion is pretty, but costly in efficiency.

Keep inventing, though, and if you do some tests on this, please post it!


Oil firms' buybacks pump up criticism

Companies spend billions to boost shares, but industry observers say money could be better spent increasing production and undertaking alternative energy projects.

The oil business has rarely been so good. Crude prices closed at a new high Tuesday and gasoline-refining profits are more than double what they were a few years ago.

It was no surprise, then, that last week's earnings reports showed that the cash had been rolling in at Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and overseas giants BP and Royal Dutch Shell.

To some, the surprise is where that cash has been going. With the world thirsty for more oil and cleaner fuels, Exxon Mobil and other oil firms have been spending billions to buy back their shares.

The top four oil companies booked a combined $57.5 billion in profits in the first half of the year and devoted $22.9 billion — 40% of their total earnings — to share repurchasing.

Moan, moan, moan.

Profit margins in the oil industry aren't wonderful and anyway there are no good projects to invest in. That's why we end up with stuff like the Shell $27 billion in the oil sands...

If these "industry observers" says there should be more investment, why don't they show us where the good projects are?

Or start their own oil companies?


i agree that the majors don't have many opportunities that are economic on their scale, but I think the opportunities are pretty good for small independents.

About the Shell $27 billion in bitumen sands-this is just my speculation, but Shell lost about 40% of their reserves in the restatement scandal a couple of years ago. By spending the $27 billion they can move tar sands to the proved reserves column on their financial statement, and therefore keep up the stock price.

Bob Ebersole


My point exactly upthread.

But it's still completely nuts from any practical point of view, even if short term investment goals may be fulfilled. How much closer can you get to pearls before swine? The article says:

The price doesn't take into account development of the upstream or production part of the expansion, which could double the final costs.

See that? $27 billion covers only part of a production process that will give them, IF ALL GOES WELL, 400.000 barrels per day.

Timeline, you asked?

Construction of the whole project is expected to take 15 to 20-plus years.

There's more nagging me too: they could have announced a $10 billion project, with the same effect on their share value. Why $54 BILLION plus?

I'm guessing they're looking for public funds.

I am not holding OR buying Shell stock. But many institutional investors, long term, are. 400.000 bpd at $54+ billion equals what?

I build scenarios to use in writing fiction, and this leads me into lots of “what if?” questions. I wonder about the upcoming fight between the President and Congress over the reported results in Iraq. I see a developing constitutional crisis going to the Supreme Court, putting the President into a real corner about the time of his State of the Union Address.

What if the President turns the tables and announces that the United States has been thrown into a terrible energy crisis because worldwide oil production has peaked, and we now have a rapidly decreasing oil supply? What if he declares it is vital that the USA maintain absolute control of the Iraqi oil supplies like he had planned, and until we have been assured of that control, he is declaring a state of emergency and instituting strict fuel rationing and travel controls. What if he says we can return our country to its former preeminence and power, but only if we continue our efforts in Iraq.

What happens when we have a lame-duck President pitching all the TOD doctrine? What will people believe?

You may say it could never happen, but when the object is to win and the end justifies the means, what choices does our President have?

Sam Penny
the Prudent RVer

Sam: I am sure Americans who have seen their loved ones lose their lives or limbs in Iraq will be quite pleased to see their fearless leader admit on TV it was necessary so that lazy soccer moms could drive their brats to McDonalds in 5000 lb SUVs.

what choices does our President have?

In a fictional scenario the President could propose tax credits for 4 cycle scooters, then he could ban all cars from the interstates during business hours. He could phase the program in with dedicated scooter lanes. GM and Ford could get into the scooter business. Guaranteed demand might save them.

Lots of ancillary business too. Winter riders would need heated suits.

In the fantasy world you can solve all manner of vexing problems quickly.

"In the fantasy world you can solve all manner of vexing problems quickly."

In fact, I think Fantasy IS where things are solved, as long as you take those dreams over to the workbench and confirm which ones are plausible. Intelligence and Imagination is the ability to combine separate ideas or Theses into new Syntheses.. the counterpoint to 'Insanity is trying the same thing and expecting new results' .. isn't a good part of our Intelligence the ability to envision and try NEW things to achieve new results?

As far as Heated Suits goes, I would fit some pedals onto those scooters. Warm up and Tone up the rider, and improve fuel efficiency. (Google "Mopeds" and see how many of them still even have pedals.. its disgusting!)


Profit margin on scooters would not replace lost margin on SUVs, guaranteed demand or not.

The big three are going on a great big diet and one little Frankenstein monster is all that will be left.

What if the President turns the tables and announces that the United States has been thrown into a terrible energy crisis because worldwide oil production has peaked, and we now have a rapidly decreasing oil supply? What if he declares it is vital that the USA maintain absolute control of the Iraqi oil supplies like he had planned, and until we have been assured of that control, he is declaring a state of emergency and instituting strict fuel rationing and travel controls.

America is not psychologically prepared for energy shortages. The media and government have been telling us to party on for decades. Barring an act of terror on US soil larger than 9/11, an admission like the one above would be political suicide. The President's approval rating would drop to historic lows and the calls for impeachment would be so loud, you'd have to wear earplugs to walk around Capital Hill.

Post 9/11, I think something like what you describe (rationing, travel restrictions, war for oil) could have been feasible. After nearly 5 years of telling us that Iraq is not about oil, it would be difficult to backtrack and not look like a complete fool.

If someone uses a nuke on a major (or even not so major) US city, all bets are off. The American public would be ready to support anything placed in front of them (loss of civil liberties, rationing, draft, more pre-emptive wars etc.)

Are there many imprudent RVer's out there?

Man, once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against the absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the sport of every wind. -- Thomas Jefferson


I agree that most Americans are unprepared for energy shortages, but a common theme in all my readings at TOD is that it is coming, and soon it will be a given. I have also concluded that GW and DC both understand very well that a period of rapid resource depletion is inevitable (just don't call it Peak Oil), and they are operating on an agenda to maximize the benefits for the United States as they see it, even if that means using deception and force to ensure our energy supply.

In the near future, the President will find himself caught between Iraq and a hard place (pun intended) with shortages becoming self-apparent. It could get to the point where political suicide, low ratings, and impeachment matter little to the man and his entourage. He will have virtually nothing left to lose.

If the choice is admitting failure or "looking like a complete fool" but staying in power, what might he do? Does someone have a suggestion of what other alternatives he might choose? BTW, my comments are meant as a heads-up on what could happen in the real world, not a fantasy world.

On your last note, yes, there are a number of imprudent RVers out on the road. They drive huge megahomes on wheels and live on the grid. Personally, I am preparing for the next phase.

Sam Penny
the Prudent RVer

Have you ever checked out peakoil.com? With all due respect, the boards there are much more amenable to doomerish fantasy scenarios. The techno geek cornucopians as well as the "end is nigh" doomers here don't like too much talk of the end of the world.

I personally do not hold much hope for business as usual continuing in perpetuity, but I also don't think society will come unraveled in the next 18 months. A major economic downturn (which I think is much more likely than major energy shortages) will ease energy demand.

I like Kunstler's title The Long Emergency, because I don't think that everyone will wake up one day and say, "Man, we're screwed! I better kill my neighbor and take his [chickens, propane, home, etc.]"

I think the decline will happen (is happening?) one home, one business, one country at a time. We have a long way to fall, IMO, it won't happen quickly.

Man, once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against the absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the sport of every wind. -- Thomas Jefferson

Your suggestions regarding audience are noted. Thanks.

One thing before I move on, my original comment was not intended as a doomerish fantasy scenario.

The use of scenario building to identify impacts of various causes and to develop more resilient contingency plans has long been a useful tool for some styles of management. The key to this process is that you consider all "possible" situations (subject to some cutoff on probability) and consider their impacts. The danger is that you fail to foresee (or deny or chose to ignore) some situation that is more probable than you thought possible.

Scenario building is a very important aspect of the TOD community. Part of the problem in getting the messages found here across to the "powers that be" is in the different scenarios the participants build and present to the board. Some are good, some are bad, some are illogical, some are fantasy because they belie the laws of physics. The ones that are doomerism are those presented by someone who says, "This shall come to pass. This is truth."

Hubbert's development of the Peak Oil Theory and Jeff Brown's Export Land Model (for examples) began as scenario building, thinking about some kind of what if question, and working out the consequences. These have been carried forward into more complete theories of cause and effect. That has been good.

But bad scenario building also happens.

IMHO, our country's situation in Iraq is the result of poor scenario building. The people who did the studies failed to foresee (or chose to deny) what some of the drivers and results would be.

Failure to consider just what might happen in the coming months as the political crisis on Iraq builds in Washington could be very painful in the future, and that would be bad. I believe it is possible (agreed with low probability) that GW could adopt Peak Oil (by some other name) in the midst of that crisis as a means to ensure his power. The questions are, what would be the result if he did, and what other options might he chose? Those questions are neither fantasy or doomerism.

Your post show that you, too, engage in scenario building. You use it to estimate what the world will be like
in the future, and how long things will take. That is good.

But the best use of scenario building is to search for those situations that can cause the course of the future to change, by mentally testing various hypotheses to see which ones might produce the best results and which ones have the greatest dangers. Then you can simulate the scenario you like in reality, and take actions that make a difference.

The key it to act, and do it continuously. I use the example of the 100-ton rocks on the hills around where I live that have been there for centuries. If I take one pebble a day from beneath the lower edge of one such rock, after a while that rock will roll down the hill to the place where I wanted it to be. You find solutions only by digging, day in and day out. Mentally, that means building scenarios and thinking about them to find the best way forward.

Sam Penny
the Prudent RVer

One thing before I move on, my original comment was not intended as a doomerish fantasy scenario.

I did not intend for you to stop posting here. I merely wanted to pointed out that at PO.COM, you might find more people willing to engage in the type of thought experiment you are conducting. I apologize for using the term "doomerish fantasy".

I also did not mean to imply that threads filled with doom laden what-if scenarios never occur here. I've been gone for a little over a week, and I just go through reviewing the Drumbeat from Jul 26th. There was a great amount of teeth gnashing that occurred that day!

Unlike many people who post regularly here, I am not a scientist, engineer, geologist, econimist or energy expert. I am a computer/network engineer, but I don't consider it to be the same as the "glass is only 50% utilized" techno-geek engineers.

My interests lay more in politics, media and sociology. Most discussions here revolve around who's calculations for one wonder process, can discredit the calculations for someone else's wonder process or what great new whiz bang process. I like this site because there a variety of informed opinions, and most posters are generally thoughtful and well-behaved. Leanan does a fantastic job in gathering together Peak Oil related stories each day. The other editors also provide well researched and informative articles.

Don't let my ravings prevent you from posting here on any topic you wish. I have no weight or influence here, I'm just another person who puts in my 2 cents once in a while.

You use it to estimate what the world will be like in the future, and how long things will take.

I read a story once where a train engineer, traveling a section of rail that he had been on many times before, came around a corner to find a derailed train from an adjacent line blocking the track. Without hesitation, he increased the train's speed and plowed through the wreckage keeping his own passenger train from derailing.

After the accident reporters wanted to know, "How did you know to speed up instead of braking?" He replied that over the years he had regular played out scenarios of "What if" while driving the train. He knew to speed up because he had already played out the scenario in him mind of what he would do if he came across something blocking the track on this particular stretch of track.

Man, once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against the absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the sport of every wind. -- Thomas Jefferson

I like Kunstler's title The Long Emergency, because I don't think that everyone will wake up one day and say, "Man, we're screwed! I better kill my neighbor and take his [chickens, propane, home, etc.]"

Nice strawman. Did you have fun knocking it down? Did it make you feel better?

"The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function." -- Dr. Albert Bartlett
Into the Grey Zone


I am not trying to downplay the seriousness of the situation we face in the future. As I have stated numerous times, I am not optimistic for the continuation of business as usual. I believe that there is a better chance of humans facing a "mad max" future than a "star trek" one.

I just don't see how civilization will unwind in a very short time period absent some giant event (nuclear war, asteroid/comet collision, supervolcano, etc). Is my interpretation of Kunstler's title incorrect? Reading that book is one of the reasons that I have come to believe a slow collapse is more likely than a rapid one.

Did you have fun knocking it down? Did it make you feel better?

That's just a jackass comment. Did your jibe make you feel better?

Man, once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against the absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the sport of every wind. -- Thomas Jefferson

Rethinking biochar

Will amending soil with charcoal make it more fertile and combat global warming?

Imagine a simple agricultural soil amendment with the ability to double or triple plant yields while at the same time reducing the need for fertilizer and therefore decreasing nitrogen- and phosphorus-laden runoff. As if that's not enough, what if this amazing ingredient also had the potential to cut greenhouse gases on a vast scale? This revolutionary substance exists, and it isn't high-tech, or even novel—the history of its use can be traced back to pre-Columbian South America.

The ingredient is charcoal, in this context called biochar or agrichar, and if a growing number of scientists, entrepreneurs, farmers, and policy makers prevail, this persistent form of carbon will be finding its way into soils around the world. "Biochar has enormous potential," says John Mathews, a professor of strategic management at Macquarie University in Australia. "When scaled up, it can take out gigatons of carbon from the atmosphere," he adds.

Agrichar's benefits flow from two properties, says Cornell University soil scientist Johannes Lehmann. It makes plants grow well and is extremely stable, persisting for hundreds if not thousands of years. "Biochar can be used to address some of the most urgent environmental problems of our time—soil degradation, food insecurity, water pollution from agrichemicals, and climate change," he says.
Fulfilling the promise is going to take more research. "We need to get reliable data on the agronomic and carbon sequestration potential of biochar," says Robert Brown, director of the Office of Biorenewables Programs at Iowa State University. "The effects are real, but these are hard to quantify at present."

Momentum appears to be building—this year has seen the first international conference on biochar, a U.S. senator's commitment to obtaining $100 million in research funds, and the scaling up of projects from the greenhouse to the field.

Wow, truly awesome story. This along with the LS9 story combined are very hopeful.


LS9 - Its good that an "aware" person posted a simple reply

1. what is the acre-yield
2. what is the EROEI
3. what is the cost
4. what are the additional pros/cons

Any bio fix would have to pass the four hoops just to get out of the gate.

Yup. How often have we seen these miracle solutions touted, only to have cold, hard reality smack them down? Sometimes it's "receding horizons." (Thermal depolymerization, now called thermal conversion, AKA the turkey parts plant.) Sometimes, it's fraud. (DeBeers' biodiesel from algae scheme.) Sometimes it's in that murky area between ignorance and fraud (Citizenre, Steorn).

I'll believe it when I see it.

But only one of them has actual research going into the matter.

But I don't know why you are 'awed' by LS9 - when
a 200-horsepower car engine the size of a suitcase could power a vehicle four times around the world on a single tank of water.
batteries the size of a briefcase to drive your car 1000 miles at highway speeds on a single charge, without gasoline.

As long as you are 'the anti doomer' - feel free to show how these promises of the past are just about to become products!

Te first and second laws of thermodynamics NEVER take a holiday on the macro scale. And until someone produces the energy balance and the entropy calculations, it seems a little like buying a box of "instant water." Just add water.

How is converting biomass violating the 2nd law? LS9 has simply stated that their enhanced bacteria can convert biomass to fuel that is 50% more dense than ethanol and can be done with 65% less energy. Even the most pessemistic people agree that the EROEI for Corn Ethanol is about 1.3. So if you increase the density of the fuel by 50% and decrease the energy used by 65% you're talking about a significantly better EROEI. I know its not cool here to talk about being part of the solution, but hey I'm not trying to be cool.

EROEI is independent of mass.

if you mean for transportation then fine, but dont' confuse people.

what is this chemical which is 50% denser? (this only improves specific energy)

a 65% decrease in energy costs is good, however if further processing is required, or the time to process the fuel goes up, we are screwed again!

Another important note about the LS9 biofuel is that it will be able to be transported by pipeline, unlike ethanol, that in of itself will be a huge energy savings.

Do you have a reason you are dodging a direct question to you?


Even the most pessemistic people agree that the EROEI for Corn Ethanol is about 1.3.

Incorrect. Some, like David Pimentel of Cornell, think the EROEI of corn ethanol less than one. IOW, it's a net energy loser.

Even the most pessemistic people agree that the EROEI for Corn Ethanol is about 1.3.

Right Leanan, and that statement does not make any sense. "1.3" does not mean anything. Perhaps you meant 1.3 to 1. I have heard that figure by ethanol optimists, not pessimists. .7 to 1, I think, is what Pimentel says.

Ron Patterson

Please everyone knows that Pimentel was using data from 30 years ago when he calculated that number. The USDA did a more comprehensive study using modern farming technologies and came up with 1.8 to 1.

Once again, incorrect. Pimentel simply disagrees with other scientists on what should be considered energy inputs (and outputs). For example, he considers the oil it takes to build tractors. Others do not.


I feel like this study pretty convincingly showed that the USDA was far more accurate that Pimentel. The guy is a biofuels hater for other reasons, so of course he skewed his data.

Look at the date on that. 2001! That's six years ago. Ancient history.

There have been more recent studies done, by Pimental and others. One as recently as this year, I believe.

If the study you linked to was "convincing," would they still be doing new studies to prove him right or wrong?

I feel like this study pretty convincingly showed that the USDA was far more accurate that Pimentel. The guy is a biofuels hater for other reasons, so of course he skewed his data.

And the USDA is of course entirely impartial.

Just some random thoughts: I can see biochar being a potentially powerful agricultural tool -- particularly in parts of the world where crop production is inhibited by accumulation of soil Al-oxides (think red soils).

But I wonder -- are we kidding ourselves about the potential value of this stuff for carbon sequestration? Are we really contemplating cutting down our forests just to burn and bury the trees? Even if we could sequester 20 --50% of the C in these trees, how many trees are we talking about harvesting annually? And what of the energy required to harvest, produce and distribute or bury the biochar?

I'm going to keep an open mind but until more research is done, I'm inclined to be a bit skeptical about some of the claims being made.

Biochar is certainly more promising than many other purported "silver bullets." But the jury's still out on how much it helps crops. There was a recent study that found that, contrary to claims, you do have to keep adding fertilizer to keep biochar-enriched soils productive.

It may be that we don't fully understand how it works in the Amazon. Maybe you need more than just biochar. (Specific types of bacteria that live on the biochar, perhaps?)

Or it may be that the claims are inflated. Scientists are very easy to fool, if you want to fool them. They tend to look for mistakes, not outright fraud.

Well, as I understand it, "wood" is pretty low in nutrients so it wouldn't make sense that the biochar itself was a significant source of fertility. Which takes you back to the benefits of adding organic matter to soils: improved water-holding capacity, aeration, cation-exhange capacity (ability to bind/release nutrients to the soil solution), increased microbial activity and binding of Al-oxides (plant toxicity), most importantly.

Many soil organic matter constituents tend to be pretty unstable and it is significant that there is evidence that this stuff is very stable -- even in a humid, tropical environment.

Since natives of the Amazon had no significant livestock, I'm going to guess that the other key piece of the biochar puzzle was nutrient-rich soil amendments -- "kitchen" scraps, vegetation, and "humanure." Lower-lying areas subject to annual flooding would also benefit from upstream nutrient inputs.

Well, as I understand it, "wood" is pretty low in nutrients so it wouldn't make sense that the biochar itself was a significant source of fertility.

The idea was supposedly that the charcoal, being absorbent, helps hold onto nutrients that would ordinarily wash away.

Since natives of the Amazon had no significant livestock, I'm going to guess that the other key piece of the biochar puzzle was nutrient-rich soil amendments -- "kitchen" scraps, vegetation, and "humanure." Lower-lying areas subject to annual flooding would also benefit from upstream nutrient inputs.

That had occurred to me. Particularly with "humanure," the farmers may not have felt it was a suitable t0pic for polite conversation with strangers.

Biochar is very porous.
Think of it as a "reef" in the soil that is the home for a wide variety of microorganisms.
It is the biological activity of the soil amended with biochar that results in its high fertility.
I have a couple test plots going this year, the biochar plots are simply amazing.

Charcoal is a form of carbon. It does not supply "fertility", i.e., the full range of plant nutrients. Finely ground and mixed with the soil, it does add "exchange capacity", the ability of a soil to hold on to nutrient ions that might otherwise be leached away. Certain kinds of clay particles in the soil do the same thing, as well as regular old "organic matter".

In the moist tropics, organic matter tends to break down very quickly due to heat and moisture, whereas charcoal is remarkably persistent. Also, the clay minerals in tropical soils are not always the "good" kind. So it makes sense that charcoal might be useful in tropical soils, and could be important in developing agricultural sustainability in some climates.

I don't see it as any kind of miracle fertilizer, which some folks are touting it as. It is charcoal. You still need the usual plant nutrients, it's just that the charcoal might help retain those nutrients on site somewhat better in those climates that don't have the ability to develop good levels of organic matter.

In more temperate zones, I don't suspect that charcoal would be any better than regular organic practices.

I think the combo of charcoal plain compost and rock dust seems useful. I'm actually working on a algae growth system thats super simple based on algae and small pebbles in a simple bottle. It seem to be able to grow algae without other additives. Latter you drain the bottles let them dry then shake or wash with high pressure watter this gives a mix of rock dust and dead algae sludge to use as a fertilizer or send to a biogas digester. I'm looking at harnessing the daily pressure build up and nightly absorption as a source of pressure and vacuum for energy production.

Need to do more testing but the pebble algae thing seems to be working well and its dead simple.

Algae growth in water is unknown amoung tropical fish keepers, and breeders. The spores, seeds, eggs for algae and for lots of other things inculding animals are very very tiny and float around in the air even inside most homes. I am not even sure the HEPA filters get them all out, because they would travel in from outside on your clothes.

Try shallow pans with clear lids to help grow more algae, it might be easier to harvest, unless you are also wanting the pressure of heat or gas build up as well.

I always wondered what the Dew Collectors of the world do with all the algae that would grow in their collection basins.

sgage, I think you're right. I live in the tropics; humus doesn't accumulate in tropical soils but gets rapidly biodegraded instead. So it's my guess that biochar will be found most useful in the tropics, to increase the water holding properties and aeration of soils.

In fact, the problem with slash-and-burn agriculture in the tropics is that the rainforest trees have almost all their roots in the leaf litter. So a couple of years post-clearing, all the organic material is gone, the torrential rain leaches out soluable nutrients, and the clay that remains bakes into laterite. Biochar might keep that cleared soil productive.

Errol in Miami

I think its critical that a source of nitrogen and minerals is available for the biochar concept its just a simple version of activated carbon.

If you think about it all you need is ash plus the char and your in business so if they burn some wood to ash and some to char the combo with the char mixed earth is sufficient.

This would mean that the natives probably simply burned fallow
biochar fields periodically. The ash is complexed with the char allowing slow release as rains fall. Thus its just a much better version of the traditional slash and burn approach.
The problem with simple slash and burn is 90% of the needed nutrients are washed away.

Biochar solves this problem.

I'd suspect the original approach was dead simple charcoal mounds were created then the excess was burned and all mixed with the soil. Later simple fallow fields and slash/burn type approaches where sufficient as long as the soil had enough charcoal to complex the ash runoff.

The trick is to start with a fairly densely wooded area and do the charcoal step.

Here's what I think is missing in the above. The cation exchange capacity in most mineral soils is fairly low. It increases for clays and for organic matter in the soil. However, greater amounts of clay result in drainage problems. Organic matter breaks down, even in temperate areas. I have to add compost to my garden plots every year, but charcoal doesn't get consumed in the same way. The nice thing about charcoal is that it doesn't cause drainage problems like clay does, and it doesn't break down nearly as fast as organic matter. In that way, it improves nutrient retention as the others do, without the problems the others have.

Besides that, the pyro gas can be used to produce fuel, and the charcoal itself is an excellent way to sequester carbon.

I don't think the pyrogas/biochar system is a silver bullet, but it sure looks like triple-ought silver buckshot to me. Put that together with improved solar and electrified transportation and we may get through this yet.

"Scientists are very easy to fool"? Compared to whom?

Scientists are professional skeptics. Sure they're not perfect, but if I was trying to make money from hoaxing people, scientists would be my last targets.

Compared to whom?

Compared to street-smart types who are used to fraud. Cops, magicians, car salesmen, etc.

Look at all the scientific fraud that has gone on over the years, and wasn't caught. It was, for the most part, pretty clumsily done, and would have been easily spotted by anyone looking for it. But no one looked for it.

Scientists look for mistakes in reasoning, errors in design, etc. They don't consider that someone could be intentionally trying to deceive them.

How many articles get rejected out of hand by peer-reviewed journals because they are obviously fraudulent? Obviously some will slip through, but there's very examples I know of where significant numbers of scientists have been sucked in by intentional fraud for any significant period of time. And it's nearly always good science that is responsible for detecting that fraud has occurred. Compare that to the amount of fraud that goes on all the time among the masses, among politicians, economists, investors, etc. etc.

Sure, scientists may not be as inherently distrustful of other people's motives as certain "street-smart" types, but they're trained to examine hypotheses in detail to determine whether they make sense: it's more or less irrelevant whether those proposing a claim are being intentionally fraudulent or not.

Because in most contexts in science, we HAVE to assume the people we're dealing with are acting in good faith. We can't repeat every experiment. We have to assume the people who conducted it did so in the fashion they described and got the results they list. Every once in a while, a scientist fudges his data and makes this assumption untenable. When he's caught, he is made persona non grata in academia.

Are we really contemplating cutting down our forests just to burn and bury the trees?

It is BIOchar. "we" can "char" anything that was once alive. Grass, grain, fecal material, the dead, whatever.

I see. Kind of like Auschwitz on a planetary scale.

Apologies for the nasty crack, but nutrient cycles are vital to a functioning ecosystem. When you start talking about indiscriminately baking formerly living things and then "banking" them in the soil, a red flag goes up.

Soil and Green is PEOPLE!

I think the average SUV driving suburbanite would happily, knowingly fill up with fuel derived from human corpses - without a shred of concern. Whatever it takes.

So long as it wasn't people they knew, poor, or from a far, far away place.

Make it one of their relatives, then the think'n would start.

Soylant Black - its burnt people!

Do I get to pick which relatives?
If so, that objection could be overcome.
Bob Ebersole

I'd say we can either take the 'elected leadership' and use 'em for hot air or char. *rim shot*

I agree that one shouldn't willy-nilly start pyrolyzing everything in sight. However, a large amount of what still ends up in landfills is green waste. Not only does it completely go to waste, but it also contributes to greenhouse gases as it decomposes.

Simply processing the urban green waste stream could be an effective use of pyrolysis or other similar char producing technologies (check out hydrothermal carbonization at the Max Planck Institute), and would not impact existing nutrient cycles.

Bernie Lenhoff
Business Manager
Green Waste Recycle Yard

Would coal dust serve the same function?

Alas, no.

1) Part of the biochar process leaves the char with 'open' spaces - coal has suffered compression. And 'rotting' (like in a peat bog)
2) coal tends to have a whole lotta heavy metals VS biochar. Which makes sense as the dead C matrix of the coal had other organic things live off it years ago so what would have been left behind is the non C parts.

Thanks He Is,
Always on the look out for TP articles.

Russian Ships Reach North Pole

An expedition aimed at strengthening Russia's claim to much of oil and gas wealth beneath the Arctic Ocean reached the North Pole on Wednesday, and preparations immediately began for two mini-submarines to drop a capsule containing a Russian flag to the sea floor.

The Rossiya icebreaker had plowed a path to the pole through an unbroken sheet of multiyear ice, clearing the way for the Akademik Fedorov research ship to follow, said Sergei Balyasnikov, a spokesman for the Arctic and Antarctic research institute that prepared the expedition.

"For the first time in history people will go down to the sea bed under the North Pole," Balyasnikov told The Associated Press. "It's like putting [a] flag on the moon."

In the coming hours, Russian scientists hope to dive in two mini-submarines beneath the pole to a depth of more than 13,200 feet, and drop a metal capsule containing the Russian flag on the sea bed.

Stephen Colbert did a piece on this last night. It's called "Smokin' Pole -- Russia. Pretty funny stuff.

Man, once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against the absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the sport of every wind. -- Thomas Jefferson

Frank Herbert did a story about this in 1955:

"Set in a near-future earth, the west and the east have been at war for more than a decade, and resources are running thin. The west is stealing oil from the east with specialized nuclear submarines ("subtugs") that sneak into the underwater oil fields of the east to secretly pump out the oil and bring it back."


Herbert understood the importance of oil, understood peak oil, and understood that empires, no matter how ruthless, eventually fail.

Good! If European politicians had anything between their ears they should be supporting Russia's claims. It may be the only chance for Europe to see any oil from the region if there is any.

Triumvirate of collapse - Economy, Ecosystem, Energy

Regarding the NYT story, Energy Bill Aids Expansion of Atomic Power

Is it just me, or is the headline writer that came up with this from the 1950's? Gee whiz Beaver, loan-guaruntees for atomic power, I'm not so sure if that's a swell idea or not.

Man, once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against the absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the sport of every wind. -- Thomas Jefferson

I suppose we'll have to key an eye on this to see if it gets picked up generally by the MSM.

You see, those pesky Iranians want Nuclear Power, which is dangerous. We have Atomic Power, which is benign.

We might even see cartoons with super hero Atom Man fighting his nemisis, the arch-villian Dr. Nuclear.

I think it's a great idea. I wrote a little about it a the European Tribune.

A one-sentence provision buried in the Senate's recently passed energy bill, inserted without debate at the urging of the nuclear power industry, could make builders of new nuclear plants eligible for tens of billions of dollars in government loan guarantees.

Lobbyists have told lawmakers and administration officials in recent weeks that the nuclear industry needs as much as $50 billion in loan guarantees over the next two years to finance a major expansion.

The biggest champion of the loan guarantees is Senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico, the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy Committee and one of the nuclear industry's strongest supporters in Congress.


Michael Wallace, the co-chief executive of UniStar Nuclear, a partnership seeking to build nuclear reactors, and executive vice president of Constellation Energy, said: "Without loan guarantees we will not build nuclear power plants."


That is a big change. Under current law, the government is only allowed to guarantee a volume of loans authorized each year by Congress. Last year, Congress limited the government to awarding just $4 billion in loan guarantees for clean energy projects during the 2007 fiscal year.


"I think we can say that with all the projects moving forward on the schedule they are now on, that there could be a need for $20 to $25 billion in loan guarantees," said Richard Myers, vice president for policy development at the Nuclear Energy Institute, a trade association.

This is most excellent. This crucial policy will make sure the things actually will get built. And maybe, maybe, some of the blockheads will understand that state intervention in vital businesses is often a good thing.

And the final proof that this is the right thing to do is of course this:

the Bush administration opposes the measure

One more thing:

28 new reactors at an estimated cost of about $4 billion to $5 billion apiece.

You see that number? It's a big number, quite a lot bigger than it was just a few years ago. This is due to several things.

* Bigger reactors.

* Weaker dollar (vital parts made in Japan and France (heavy forgings only made at one plant owned by Japan Steel Works, who by the way are expanding capacity by 100 %)).

* And now, the bad thing, strong cost inflation in both materials and things like turbines. I was going to make a Diary about it called "Peak Power Plants", and I still might, but until then you can read the original article.

When General Electric called in reporters for a briefing on its new nuclear partnership with Hitachi, it said that atomic power plants could be built faster than before, operated reliably and had a vanishingly small chance of an accident.

But what will they cost? After some hemming and hawing, company executives Monday gave figures by the standard industry metric, dollars per kilowatt of capacity, but in a huge range: $2,000 to $3,000.

"There's massive inflation in copper and nickel and stainless steel and concrete," said John Krenecki, president and chief executive of GE Energy. The uncertainty is not just in nuclear plants, he said. Coal plant prices are similarly unstable.


"There's real sticker shock out there," Randy Zwirn, president of the Siemens Power Generation Group, said in an interview. He estimated that in the past 18 months, the price of a coal-fired power plant had risen 25 percent to 30 percent.

Part of the problem is huge price increases for the raw materials that plants are made from, including copper and nickel, which is what makes steel stainless. But the cost of finishing those commodities into components is also rising.

"There's a lack of production and manufacturing facilities in this country, and that may be partly to blame," said Jason Makansi, a consultant with Pearl Street, a consulting firm in St. Louis, Missouri, that specializes in electric utilities. But, he said, "the bigger culprit is the incredible demand in China and the rest of Asia.


And other kinds of projects that use similar materials, everything from oil refineries to natural gas terminals, are competing for the same materials and labor, experts said.

"So many industries are at cyclical peaks at the same time,"
Krenecki of GE said. "We can't forecast how long that will continue."


Very good interactive graph of the history of crude prices -- both nominal and real -- available at the Wall Street Journal (no $).


Great Graph, Thanks!
Bob Ebersole

Some unexpected support for the Save The Whales campaign?

Whalemeat in Japanese school lunches found toxic

Whalemeat served in school lunches in an area of rural Japan are contaminated with alarming levels of mercury, a local assemblyman said on Wednesday, calling for a halt in plans for the meat to be shipped to schools nationwide.

Hisato Ryono, a assemblyman in Taiji, a historic whaling town some 450 km (280 miles) west of Tokyo, said two samples of short-finned pilot whale had mercury levels 10 to 16 times more than advised by the Health Ministry.

The samples, bought from two local supermarkets, also had 10-12 times more methyl mercury than advised levels, he said.

Ryono and a fellow assemblyman conducted tests after local authorities ignored their calls to have the whalemeat inspected before it was served in school lunches in the town's kindergartens and elementary and junior high schools.

"We were shocked that it continued to be served in school lunches," Ryono told Reuters by phone.

Yes, not sure what it has to do with oil, but potentially good news for the dolphin fans out there.

The data on the meat has been around since the '70's but this is the first time it has made Japan's national news in what Japan's citizens might consider a respectable way.

I think Crichton's new book is how Greenpeace is actually Injecting the Whales with Mercury to save them from Whaling.

Fiendishly Ingenious!

Hah. Be interesting to see the book if so. Wouldn't work for a number of reasons.

For instance, the current publicity over tainted dolphin meat is mostly the school lunch connection. The dolphins will still wind up killed unless a lot of other stuff happens. I worked on that issue beginning in the late '70's when the mercury load of dolphin meat was well established; you could see it in hair samples of the villagers who were walking around with high levels of Hg in them. So 30 years later, the school lunch program makes the news.

If not sold as meat, they'll probably be ground up as fertilizer as has been the case in the past. But the odds are the meat will make it to market mislabeled as another species, and that will be that.

Helium-3 nothing like it in the world, except in Sci-Fi stories I have read, or written.

The Russians want to go to the Moon to get it. But their article above does state:

We all use fossil fuels in our everyday life, but experts say they will deplete in the next 50 to 100 years. This will throw us back into the Stone Age.-snip-

So they do know that there is not a limitless supply of OIL which is a good thing considering the talk ages ago about the "Oily center of the earth" stuff.

My brother does design work for Orion, with a sub-contractor and works with NASA on a daily basis. Maybe he'll have a job working our end of the great hunt for Helium-3.

I'd still like to have a few breeder reactors going before then though, just in case.

Pity my story about Future Tech is fiction, we'd have had all this solved by 2005.

I'm not sure what article you are referring to, but Helium-3 is the beta decay product of tritium (you know one of the things that make thermonuclear weapons go "BOOM"). Half-life of tritium is about 12.53 years.

I was routinely tested (bioassay) for exposure to tritum (tritiated water)when I worked at Savannah River.

I say as long as we're banking on technology that doesn't exist, clean coal with CO2 sequestration, cellulostic ethanol, breeder reactors, why not skip all of that nonsense and go right for nuclear fusion?

Quote from R2's blog.

I can't take credit for the best quote, though. I have to give that honor to Dave Juday. When asked about the 36 billion gallons of alternative fuels mandated by the energy bill, Juday said:

"It's like trying to solve a traffic problem by mandating hovercraft. Except we don't have hovercraft."

Now that's funny. I wish I had said that.

Planning on going to the moon to mine He3 strikes me as a similiar proposition.

Man, once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against the absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the sport of every wind. -- Thomas Jefferson

helium 3 is found on the moon, in moondust.

it is created from cosmic radiation.


Many problems with Helium-3:
First of all we can't use it. We still can't even get a much simpler fission reaction going with heavy water.
Second it might be far too energy expensive to mine it from moon. A lot of raw material would have to processed on the moon to extract small amounts of helium-3 that is there and then all of that will have to be send back. But just mining itself on the moon is hard to pull-off: it would cost no less then 100k per pound to deliver equipment there (and constant stream of replacement parts and consumables), ground there consists of extremely sharp particles, huge radiation levels during solar storms and obviously no easy energy (such as oil), no free flowing watter, extreme temperatures and no atmosphere.

Somebody needs to start asking where the money for all of these projects is going to come from. Massive $$$ for enhanced recovery of conventional FF. Massive $$$ for carbon sequestration schemes. Massive $$$ for developing unconventional FF. Massive $$$ for wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, tidal projects. Massive $$$ for nukes, maybe. Massive $$$ for electrified rail transport. And now talk of massive $$$ to go to the moon to mine He3 as a feedstock for fusion, costing more massive $$$ to research, develop, and implement.

Oh, and by the way, in case nobody has noticed, we also need massive $$$ just to keep our existing infrastructure from crumbling into dust.

I repeat: Where is the money going to come from? I do not see much evidence of investments being made on anything close to the scale that would be required to do all of these things. What I mostly see is just useless talk, plus some small half-hearted investments that will only end up being a drop in the bucket compared to what is needed.

I haven't done an extensive analysis, but I would not be surprised to discover that there really is no plausible strategy that would enable us to make all of these investments. Investment capital might thus be an important limiting factor, if not THE limiting factor, in determining our maximum ability to mitigate PO & GW.

The thing is, if even our maximum possible effort is going to be less than what is needed to totally mitigate -- if we are going to be hurting even in the best case, and the best case will just make us hurt less -- then every day, month, and year that we fail to make that maximum effort means that we will just hurt that much more (and hurt needlessly more) in the future, because we can only go up to that maximum effort, not above it. Time lost is opportunity lost, and cannot be recovered. (To illustrate: If, for example, it were possible to invest a maximum of 30% of GDP, and only 20% were needed, then if only 10% were invested in one year it might be possible to invest 30% in another year to make up the shortfall. However, if 40% is needed, and we can only invest a max of 30%, then if only 10% is invested in one year, that shortfall of 20%is just opportunity lost forever - there is no way to invest more than the max another year to make it up. The shortfall just makes the outcome even worse than the "built in" shortfall of 10% already guarantees.)

It is very difficult not to conclude that the money never is going to be found, and the investments never are going to be made. I'm not quite yet willing to conclude that this is an absolute certainty, but I AM absolutely certain that time is running out very fast.

Energy Secretary Bodman (?) is on CNBC with Barturomo just now... talking about the NPC report...

"the suppliers are having great difficulties keeping up with demand"

"of course" we need to drill in ANWR

"don't know whether energy bill will pass"... "does not call for increase in CAFE"... "seems to be impeding domestic energy"... not really an energy bill.

whats the most viable alternative:

"largely going to be solar power wind power and biofuel, along with nuclear... can be used to power plugin vehicles" + biofuels

Just came across this article, supposedly about Uranium supply, but ultimately about the supply of many mineral resources. Most of it is the usual sort of "resources have been increasing faster than we have been using them" argument, but it actually accepts that oil is a special case. Of course, it then goes on to propose that hydrogen generated by nuclear-power is the obvious solution, and hence there's nothing to worry about...


Hello TODers,

Phosphate mining depletion blowback on a national scale:

Elected in 2004, the Scotty Government has campaigned to reform the financial practices of previous administrations, which have taken Nauru from being one of the richest per capita nations in the world to being technically bankrupt.

Nauru's only the source of income - its phosphate reserves - is close to being depleted.

Economy - overview:

Revenues of this tiny island have traditionally come from exports of phosphates, now significantly depleted. An Australian company in 2005 entered into an agreement intended to exploit remaining supplies. Few other resources exist with most necessities being imported, mainly from Australia, its former occupier and later major source of support. The rehabilitation of mined land and the replacement of income from phosphates are serious long-term problems. In anticipation of the exhaustion of Nauru's phosphate deposits, substantial amounts of phosphate income were invested in trust funds to help cushion the transition and provide for Nauru's economic future. As a result of heavy spending from the trust funds, the government faces virtual bankruptcy. To cut costs the government has frozen wages and reduced overstaffed public service departments. In 2005, the deterioration in housing, hospitals, and other capital plant continued, and the cost to Australia of keeping the government and economy afloat continued to climb. Few comprehensive statistics on the Nauru economy exist, with estimates of Nauru's GDP varying widely.

unemployment 90%, GDP/capita = $5,000, population 13,500

Environment - current issues:

limited natural fresh water resources, roof storage tanks collect rainwater, but mostly dependent on a single, aging desalination plant; intensive phosphate mining during the past 90 years - mainly by a UK, Australia, and NZ consortium - has left the central 90% of Nauru a wasteland and threatens limited remaining land resources.
Impending Death of a Nation? Gee, isn't extracting finite resources tons of Overshoot fun? =(

EDIT: I wonder if DIEOFF.com is popular reading on this island? These poor people certainly have the time to discuss it. I would be building an escape dugout outrigger-canoe before the last tree is gone! IMO, it will be fascinating to research this island in twenty years time.

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

A population of 13,500 and we're calling it a nation?
They could all fit into any one of Australia's major cities and no-one would notice. Which is what will most likely happen if there's no way for the island to remain economically viable. Alternatively, it could transform itself into a tourist hotspot...jet fuel price hikes will surely encourage a lot of Australians to look for holiday destinations closer to home.

You don't want to go swimming in a former phosphate mine, or near one I wouldn't think...

Actually, the phosphate run-off has apparently helped produced quite spectacular coral growth there, which is popular with divers and snorkelers.

But in reality there's just not enough there currently for it to be sufficiently attractive to tourists. I don't like its chances as a viable nation for much longer. Eventually it may well simply cede sovereignty to Australia, and remain largely unpopulated (they already use our money, our powerpoints, our football and rely heavily on our aid).


Thanks, Bob.

Yet again you have come up with a gem. This place is reminiscent of the island in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the old Jules Verne classic. However, there they were mining nitrates for use in explosives, as I recall. A friend's favorite saying is, 'if you want to learn something new, read an old book.'

I remember meeting some girls from Nauru on my youthful travels in the South Pacific. I mentioned going there and they said not to bother as it was rich but a wasteland of devastation. One of the follies of youth is not having any sense of how things change over time, not having spent any. The whole world is young, and you are immortal.

Looks like someone should do a documentary about Nauru. On the other hand, we know better already; we just don't want to know better. If we learned by example, we wouldn't be in a fraction of the pickle we're in. It seems we have to learn by experience.

Was it really only yesterday when someone here said our concrete structures would stand for 1000 years?

Minneapolis bridge collapses, cars in Mississippi

A bridge carrying a four-lane state highway in Minneapolis collapsed during rush hour on Wednesday, with cars, trucks and a school bus falling into the Mississippi River.

The bridge carrying Route 35W buckled and fell into the river at about 6:10 p.m. CDT (2310 GMT). Over the past several months the bridge was being repaired, with workers closing a lane or two at a time.

Eyewitnesses said they heard a rumbling sound as the bridge collapsed into the river. Local media reported 20 to 30 injuries but initially no deaths.

I did, and I posted a link to that news story to demonstrate that concrete structures are certainly not immune to collapse. Of course, the reasons for the collapse in this case are not known yet.

Note that the bridge is 40 years old. Most of our infrastructure was built with a 30-40 year projected life, in the 1950s and '60s.

Someone asked yesterday how concrete structures could fail. The answer is water. Water gets in through cracks, and rusts the rebar. The rebar swells, which cracks the concrete more, which lets more water in. Water is the enemy of reinforced concrete.

Infrastructure is my job. I've designed it, built it, inspected it, maintained it, demolished it. And I've seen it fail unexpectedly more often than I like.

IMO, this is something most peak oilers don't understand. They don't understand how difficult and expensive it is to build infrastructure, but even more, they don't understand how much effort goes into keeping it up once it is built. In many ways, building it is the easy part.

The design life for the Karahnjukar Hydropower plant was 400 years. An interesting problem ! Designed for a steady 540 MW.

I over heard that shotcrete lasts quite a long time even with flowing water. Simply concrete w/o rebar.

Best Hopes for long lived Infrastructure,


I once worked on a construction project across the street from a NYC water project. It was a pipeline from upstate NY, hundreds of feet down. They had a giant elevator to get down there, and it took them an hour each way.

Anyway, Nova did an episode about the project. They interviewed the geologist who was in charge of the project. The project was supposed to have a 500 year life. She said the construction workers were constantly complaining about that, saying things like, "Why do you care? You'll be long dead in 500 years."

IME, that is a pretty common mentality.

And of course, even if you don't cut corners, sometimes the unexpected happens. The truth is, engineering is always empirical in the end. And reality can be a cruel slap in the face, no matter how pretty your theories or how carefully calculated your models.

I talked with the construction manager on that project (called 3rd Water Tunnel) to see why water tunnels in NYC (built to standards clean enough for potable water) are SO much cheaper than subways. And it is not just the stations, trains, signals and rolling stock.

I think those water tunnels will last a *LONG* time, and the valves could well make 500 years. (A NYC advantage. I read that 20% of the electricity in Phoenix is used to pump water and sewage. Gravity drives most NYC water delivery, booster pumps in some areas, such as high rises).

They did not test the valves on Water Tunnels #1 & #2 (1920s for #2 I think) for fear that they would fail. After #3 was mostly complete, they were going to test them. I never heard the result :-) (NYC can live off the water in Tunnels #1 & #2 OR Tunnel #3. Parallel flow will reduce frictional loss and greater water pressure without boost (an energy savings).

The subway I took to the ASPO-Boston meeting opened in 1897. The stations were enlarged in the 1920s (heavier pax loads) and are now being rebuilt a second time for ADA compliance. And several generations of rolling stock.

Rewired at least twice, and new rails at least once (wooden ties several times, now concrete). But the bore is still good for centuries yet to come.

Best Hopes for Long Lived and Energy Efficient Infrastructure,


They did not test the valves on Water Tunnels #1 & #2 (1920s for #2 I think) for fear that they would fail.

That is correct. Heck, they aren't even sure where some of the valves are.

Boston's older, and even worse. Some of their pipes are wooden.

A contractor was replacing a small water main in New Orleans, almost a century after the last replacement.

I turns out that the prior contractor had "forgotten" to replace almost a half block. The 1900 era contractor was replacing hollowed out cypress logs and he missed several.

They had one section of wooden pipe on display at the HQ :-)

Best Hopes for Long Lived Organic Infrastructure,


Shotcrete is generally applied with some air pressure driving the concrete from a gun onto the surface. Thus it is compacted more than conventional concrete, and (with the right accelerators) gains strength more rapidly to usually reach a higher final strength than conventional poured-in-place concrete. It does, however, require a properly pre-cleaned surface for maximum strength. The addition of finer grained particles (silica fume) and fine steel threads to give it a more uniform resistance to tensile loading have also been useful additions in the past few years.

However if you want to see how water can destroy even the best concrete you might want to look into the fate of the Tarbella High Dam headrace tunnels.

Leanan, thanks for chiming in. And please do provide more info, if you are so inclined, there is an obvious need for it. It's like James Hansen and polar ice, people have these visions of solid entities, bit neither ice nor concrete are. Both get killed from the inside. No such thing as solid ice or solid concrete.

Excerpts from yesterday. Nothing personal, but understanding of concrete leaves to be desired.

In Quebec, people had to die first. In the US, you're talking about 1000's upon 1000's of structures.

wizofaus on July 31, 2007 - 9:14pm
Fair enough...but would that really be enough to bring them to the ground entirely, in a couple of thousand years?
We now have reinforced concrete structures over a 100 years old that look almost as good as new - how much maintenance is done on the actual steel structure?

AlanfromBigEasy on August 1, 2007 - 8:24am
Many, but not all, major tunnels may well survive for 2,000 years. Some may still be in use (Moffett rail tunnel west of Denver comes to mind). But will mule carts or mag lev trains be using it ?
And most large dams (Hoover Dam is a monolith of concrete).
Best Hopes,

HeIsSoFly on July 31, 2007 - 11:07pm
They won't last 100 years.

As Perry says in this thread, Quebec, over the collapse of an overpass that killed 5 people last year, was forced to come up with a list of structures, from bridges to overpasses, that need to be intensively scrutinized.

They came up, 8-9 months later, with a tally of 135 structures. That's just what they themselves find too risky to not check out according to "normal" standards. The same standards that completely overlooked the collapsed overpass. But wait! it gets much better still. A week or two after that 135 number came out, Canadian newspapers reported that the number did not include any structures within city limits.

So the number of bridges and overpasses in real danger will be much higher that 135; they kind of tend to be concentrated where people live, and in Quebec, most people live in cities.
Montreal just banned all heavy traffic from the 9 worst overpasses, these things look worse then your long deceased ancestors, and are from the 1960's-70's.

Interesting how you are so sure that "They won't last 100 years" - apparently referring to every manmade concrete structure in existence.

I never claimed that all structures would last.
I'm still not sure whether it would be "most" (>50%) or not: depends on if it can be shown that most large concrete structures are more similar to the overpasses and bridges built 30/40 years ago than the dams, tunnels and highrise buildings built between 50 and a 100 years ago.

And of course, we're talking a purely hypothetical case where the structures are abandoned for whatever reason.
I'd still suggest that the "most likely" destiny for many such structures is that they will be deliberately destroyed at some point in the future once they outlive their usefulness (or become enemy targets).

This is a serious problem. As I've mentioned before, a lot of infrastructure was built in the post-war years, with a 30 to 40 year life. They just never imagined we wouldn't be able and willing to build all new stuff by then. Heck, some thought we'd be using flying cars, like the Jetsons, and roads would be obsolete.

Other problems are that there's a lot more traffic than expected. When women went to work, it basically doubled traffic, and no one anticipated that. The traffic is also heavier than designed for. No, I'm not talking about SUVs. I'm talking about tandem trucks and stuff like that. More weight = more wear and tear.

Ironically, one of the reasons I went into this specialty was that I thought it would be job security. It looked like peace was breaking out all over, and a lot of engineers who had been building weapons systems for Northrop, Electric Boat, etc., were out of work. But all that crumbling infrastructure - that would keep a whole lotta engineers busy for decades!

As long as the happy motoring goes on, anyway. :-/

...then, just maybe, it's not such a serious problem after all. If maintaining roads for personal vehicular traffic becomes sufficiently costly, then public transport options surely look a lot more attractive, from a funding point of view. That public transport is viewed dimly by the average American citizen is separate problem (and not one that I believe is shared by other nations), but one that I suspect would be easier and cheaper to fix than trying to build and repair more and more roads, and keep attempting to persuade the population that $6 or $7 or $8/G gasoline is only temporary.

The concrete Pantheon in Rome dates to 125 AD, still standing:


And don't forget Roman hydraulic concrete:

The 100-acre Caesarea Harbor, the world's first port constructed in the open sea, is considered one of the most innovative and successful engineering feats of the ancient world. Framed by two artificial breakwaters and containing a lighthouse, towers and warehouses that served ships throughout the Mediterranean for more than 1,200 years, the harbor was completed about 15 B.C.


This is not theory, this is historical fact.

Sure, however the initial discussion (on another thread) was prompted by someone claiming that nothing built in the last 100 years would survive the next two millenia, assuming it was abandoned in the manner of Roman architecture (the OP's example was the Roman viaducts). I found that a little hard to believe, and although various posters with more knowledge than I have convinced me that large modern concrete structures are very much vulnerable to the vagaries of nature (especially the effects of water), I still suspect the original claim was an overstatement, hypothetical as it was.

Anyway, time for me to shut up about concrete structures.

Yes, and there is some debate as to how they built their concrete so well. We know that Romans mixed concrete with far less water than modern builders do. David Moore PE claims they used no reinforcing, but I have read that they used iron straps in some buildings.

Modern concrete and steel rebar are not bad things, in our opinion. They just need to be treated, like everything else in life, with respect. We need to recognize their inherent characteristics and limitations. Concrete is typically stronger when you use the minimum amount of water necessary to set off the chemical reaction in the cement paste. Excess water is what makes all concretes weak - excess water provides weakness areas in the concrete. A fundamental thesis in the Roman concrete book is that the Romans likely used a very low water content mortar, which is why it has lasted all these years. The problem for modern construction problems is that concrete of this low a water content is not an economical option. The Romans had thousands of slaves working on their job sites who could be forced to pound and manually manipulate stiff concrete into place. Fortunately, we no longer have slaves - but that means we have to use machines and modern materials to do the work for us instead. Therefore, we have to use concretes with higher water content so that the machines can move it and so that it can flow around modern rebar. You do not want to be out there pounding by hand on the concrete ensuring it flows properly around the rebar in a slab.


The Riddle of Ancient Roman Concrete

The problem for modern construction problems is that concrete of this low a water content is not an economical option.


A lot of people point to ancient Roman works, and say, "They're still standing, why can't ours?" Or, "If the Romans can build things that last for 2,000 years, why can't we?"

The answer is economics. As the saying goes, "An engineer is someone who can built for $1 what any schmuck can build for $2."

It's also our greater knowledge, believe it or not. Ancient structures had immense factors of safety built in. Not just because they could afford it, but because they needed it. It made their public works very durable.

We have a much greater understanding of material strength, mechanics, etc., and as a result, can build with much smaller factors of safety. And we do.

The safety margins and design standards have also shrunk in recent decades.

One example of earlier modern engineering is the Huey Long bridge in New Orleans (opened 1935 and a significant aid to the WW II war effort). I have been told that the design standard was two trains, each fully loaded well past the then current max axle loadings (I was told that they used tungsten steel as the hypothetical live loads) and 4 road lanes of trucks with "generous safety margins". The margins (calculated via slide rule) are so great that they are going to go from 2 highway lanes cantilevered off the rail bridge to 3 lanes on each side plus pull-off lanes.


as a result, can build with much smaller factors of safety. And we do

Not so long ago we didn't.

Best Hopes for Durable Infrastructure,


BTW, Leanan, what would be the replacement cost of such a bridge (if we abandoned New Orleans for example). In recent years it was the busiest rail bridge in the world and is essential for our rail infrastructure.

BTW, Leanan, what would be the replacement cost of such a bridge

Impossible to say, because construction costs are so sensitive to energy costs.

Let's just say I am not anticipating the building of a lot of new infrastructure, anywhere, when TSHTF. This is why I'm against building infrastructure in harm's way. Nowadays, if something gets washed away in a flood or storm, or destroyed in an earthquake, we just build another one. That may not be possible in the future.

I think we're all going to be making do with less infrastructure. Our very definition of "essential" infrastructure is going to change.

I understand that the New York area Tappen Zee bridge is a prime example of 'Value Engineering" where no money was "wasted" on excessive durability. An art form since refined in modern housing.

"No money wasted on making anything last longer than 20 years, unless specifically required by code. This is down from 30 years when I was younger".

Quote by Architecture professor about modern housing.

Best Hopes for Biodegradable Suburbia,


I'm a software engineer, and I'm well aware that the ongoing maintanence component of most projects ends up significantly outweigh the initial building component (although, for various reasons, that hasn't been true for me personally in the last few years). In that sense, it hardly surprises me that it would be similarly true for physical structures, that are under constant use.

My query would be to what extent is maintenance necessary to prevent abandoned buildings from collapsing completely?
Sure, if you don't maintain a reinforced concrete building, it will start to wear and crumble, and bits will probably fall off, but it would surely take something fairly unusual for the whole building to collapse.

How is the reinforced steel component maintained anyway, given its embedded within inches of concrete?

Sure, if you don't maintain a reinforced concrete building, it will start to wear and crumble, and bits will probably fall off, but it would surely take something fairly unusual for the whole building to collapse.

The weak point is the floors. They are not strongly connected to the building (can't be, for structural reasons). Once one floor gives way, it can "pancake" the building, with each floor taking out the one below.

How is the reinforced steel component maintained anyway, given its embedded within inches of concrete?

Ideally, you prevent water from getting in by sealing, painting, patching, etc. If the rebar is already rusted, the concrete will be falling off ("spalling") anyway.

Water gets in through cracks, and rusts the rebar

And salt water even more. In the winter they disperse salt on our roads here in Germany to melt the icy surface (don't know whether this is done elsewhere, too).
Salt water makes end trestles corrode even faster, adding huge unexpected costs to road maintenance.
There was a rude awakening some years ago in Nuernberg when most of the heavily used street bridges turned out to be defective, and nobody knew where to take those 10 million Euros from to fix them.

Super scary. All of my friends live within a mile of the bridge & my family lives in the burbs. Two of my buddies were on their way to the twins game, one was 5 blocks from the bridge when it collapsed.

Back to making phone calls.


There's obvious psychological reasons why events like this shake you up when there's people you know that potentially could have been injured or killed by it, but I really think it is worth pointing out that such events make neglible difference to the risk factors of driving, which are already considerable - almost 50% of all accidental deaths are due to road accidents, so the fact that your friends were out driving at all should be (logically) sufficient to make you concerned for them.
If anything, the bridge collapsing quite possibly reduced their chance of death or serious injury, given that it forced the traffic to slow down.

No, it's not worth pointing out. Good grief, man. Have a little sensitivity.

I knew someone would respond like that...if I'd made that comment after someone here had explicited stated that someone they knew had been killed in the incident, I'd agree, but that's not the case.

At any rate, I stand by my comment. Furthermore, I strongly believe that a lot of the reason humans individually and collectively end up making bad decisions and getting themselves trapped in less-than-ideal situations of their own making (like PO) are because we rarely bother to stop and think about what the real risks in life are, and instead get hung up on rare incidents that are tragic and awful at the time, but are really a pretty minor part of the levels of death and injury that go on around us all the time.

Why shouldn't it be logical to hear of such an event and think "Phew, that's a relief, with the slower traffic, no doubt there'll be far fewer deaths and injuries"? If that bridge is down for say, the next two months, it could well result in dozens of lives being saved as people are forced to take slower routes, or alternative means of transport, or avoid journeys they would otherwise have made.

At TOD, there are always new highs possible in pre-pubescent brain malfunctioning.

The only thing that would wake up the likes of you would be for you or your nearest to be the victims of such tragedies. Somehow I feel confident that would shut up that "shouldn't it be logical" empty brouhaha.

That makes no sense - I would be just as affected by the loss of a loved one if they'd died in a one-off large scale tragic event like a bridge collapse or in a regular vehicle collision of the type that happens everyday.

I'm sorry, but it's very much the belief that rare, large scale accidents are somehow "worse" than the ongoing rate of unnoticed carnage on the roads that strikes me as "pre-pubescent brain malfunctioning". Not that I believe that it is "malfunctioning", it's simply an artifact of the way our brains have evolved. And I'm just as prone to it as the next guy.

What you should be angry about is the way that politicians and the media exploit this human tendency, especially in regards to terrorism, to promote all sorts of far more dangerous behaviour, like wars and the erosion of democracy.

the fact that you're arguing about it only makes it worse... for all you know.. one of the 1000s of non-commenters on TOD may have have a direct friend or relative who was on that bridge tonight.

victims of such tragedies.

If this all goes down as badly as many of us fear, we'll be LONGING for the days when a bridge collapse was a 'tragedy'.

yeah, thats definitely not worth pointing out. Regardless of the statements insensitivity, its also plain stupid. Obviously driving is a risking endeavour, the relevant points are 1)the degradation & crumbling of infrastructure & 2)the unexpected nature & large scale of the incident. A single car crash injures or kills some small no. of people, this is up to 100 cars with a mess of concrete & steel, as well as a bus with 40 10-11 yr old children dropping 65 feet into a river.

"if I'd made that comment after someone here had explicited stated that someone they knew had been killed in the incident, I'd agree, but that's not the case."

-[MODs:sorry for the troll-like behavior, BUT!]
-The f-ing point is, I, as well as other TODers from MPLS, DO NOT KNOW if one of our loved ones have been injured or killed in this incident. The phonelines are overwhelmed & its impossible to get a hold of our loved ones in the area. So watch your mouth.

Look, I apologise if I offended you, and of course I would be extremely sorry to hear if anyone known to any posters here had been killed or critically injured in the incident. I accept it may have been more appropriate to wait a few days before posting my thoughts on the matter, but I still believe it was a point worth making. For now it's probably best to refrain from discussing it any further.

I appreciate the apology. We are all still very concerned.

under current usage most won't last 20 years.
if un-used we might be lucky if some last 100. a very few might last till 1,000 years.

some of Eruope's roads will last longer though, they were smart enough to mix pieces of rubber with the asphalt allowing it to expand and contract better with the seasons.

Felicity Street (2 blocks from me) is cobblestone and over 100 years old. And except where utility crews did a bad job repairing, it still works well. And brick sidewalks (no mortar) seem to hold up well with relaying every 100 years or two (all labor and a bit of sand).

Some tunnels use rebar concrete, but most do not. Some are unlined in strong stable rock and should survive anything but deliberate destruction for a long time.

Best Hopes for Long Lived Infrastructure,


How much longer can we prolong this charade? My guess has always been: till the next "inter-presidential" period. No President wants this on their watch, but it's time to pull that plug.

US Auto Makers Drop Below 50% Market Share For 1st Time

The Detroit auto makers' share of the U.S. market dropped below 50% in July for the first time in history, according to an analyst who tracks industry numbers.

Jesse Toprak, senior analyst for the Edmunds.com automotive Web site, said that with 95% of the manufacturers reporting data, the market share controlled by DaimlerChrysler AG's (DCX) Chrysler Group, Ford Motor Co. (F) and General Motors Corp. (GM) dropped to 49.7% for the month.

The Detroit auto makers' share was as high as 77.4% in 1984, according to Autodata Corp., which has tracked auto sales since 1980.

Anyone on the list that lives anywhere near this.

highway I-35W in Minneapolis.

The bridge over the Mississippi collapsed tonight during rush hour traffic.

Here we were just talking about big concrete and steel structures lasting for 100's or 1000's of years.

It is just 3 hours old as a news story.

See earlier in this thread.

Latest tally: 6 dead.

I live within a couple of miles of the I35W Bridge collapse into the Mississippi river in Minneapolis.

The personal and human toll is mostly on our minds, but naturally questions are allready being asked, as many people cannot quite believe such a huge, strong structure with so much engineering behind it -- and over which hundreds of thousands of people travel each day -- cdould simply collapse.

The structure apparently had a long span (450 feet?) over the river to allow river traffic. This span was, I think, supported by a structural steel arch designed to withstand the weight and vibration of traffic in addition to the weight of the road structure itself.

So questions center on the recent testing of the bridge structure, and also on the reliability of such reports.

Also, some are asking if the road repair work above the steel supporting structure had anything to do with this. Were there too many heavy trucks on some section of the bridge at once?

Others speculate about sabotage or terrorism. Local news video shows FBI on the sceneand also a National Guard Blackhawk helicopter (as reported -- I did not see it)flying over the area after the bridge went down.

We may never know for sure why this bridge went down when it did.

It is pretty scary. Our mighty works can crumble, can they not? And this can kill and terribly harm many people.

I've been thinking much about how pride causes us to be overconfident and out of touch with reality. Sometimes a terrible accident can shake us out of that pride.

We have built a cocoon that we mistake for reality. Reality is much, much more than the infrastructure we have built. Our infrastructure often prevents us from seeing how much we have damaged the larger natural "infrastructure" that supports us. When a part of what we've built fails in a big way, I am reminded not to assume that we have it all figured out.

Well,it is late and Iam tired,so I'd better sleep. Itis a strange feeling when this kind of massive infrastructure failurehappens so close by,and I know that there will be people who expected loved ones to simply drive home from work today,but who will not seethem again.

7 dead, 30 wounded, 6 critical. And counting.


The Minnesota Department of Transportation had recommended that the deck be replaced by 2020 or beyond

Star Tribune:

According to the State Patrol, 30 to 35 people were injured and 20 people were missing.

Bruce Springsteen:

Wreck on the Highway

Last night I was out driving
Coming home at the end of the working day
I was riding alone through the drizzling rain
On a deserted stretch of a county two lane
When I came upon a wreck on the highway

Now there was blood and glass all over
And there was nobody there but me
As the rain tumbled down hard and cold
I seen a young man lying by the side of the road
He cried Mister, won't you help me please

An ambulance finally came and took him to Riverside
I watched as they drove him away
And I thought of a girlfriend or a young wife
And a state trooper knocking in the middle of the night
To say your baby died in a wreck on the highway

Sometimes I sit up in the darkness
And I watch my baby as she sleeps
Then I climb in bed and I hold her tight
I just lay there awake in the middle of the night
Thinking 'bout the wreck on the highway

My thoughts are with you. I hope all of your friends and family are okay.

"We have built a cocoon that we mistake for reality."
-very very true, I have to wonder what effects this will have on the political & social conversation in MPLS/St.Paul. We are extremely dependent on the highway system & each year it becomes increasingly overwhelmed. Hopefully the conversation will shift to more efficient, safer, & longer lasting solutions.


I think we will find out what caused the collapse. Believe it or not, hundreds of bridges have collapsed in the past decade, and I've never heard of any where the cause remained unknown.

CNN is reporting that this bridge was what we call "fracture critical." That is, if one element fails, the whole thing fails. (Bridges aren't built this way any more.)

They also think scour might been the cause. The bridge could be in perfect shape, but if water undermines the footings, forget it. That's what happened to the Schoharie Creek Bridge. It collapsed and closed the New York State Thruway (I-90).

I used to live up there and have taken that bridge many times. Gives me the creeps to think about that now.

I repeat my comment from above: It is not just all the megabucks we need to invest in developing conventional, unconventional, and renewable energy resources and in energy efficiency, we also need to invest megabucks in a civic infrastructure that is literally crumbling to pieces and is literally killing people. WHERE IS ALL THAT MONEY GOING TO COME FROM?