DrumBeat: September 3, 2007

The Energy Emergency

Oil is America's Achilles heel. We are addicted to it. Every American consumer burns about double what a European consumes - 26 barrels a year for us, 12 for Europeans. We have 5 percent of the world's population and consume 25 percent of the world's oil, and we have only 3 percent of the world's reserves. If you think there is a gas crunch now, marked by the largest oil price spike in a generation, it will be a bagatelle when China and India bring a couple of billion more people on to their highways: They are replicating our love affair with the automobile. Expect them within a generation to buy 80 million cars.

Labor Day just one of AFL-CIO's achievements

America is at its tipping point. People are working harder and making less. We are in health crisis, and all of us worry about retiring in dignity. A good middle class life is increasingly out of reach for many hard working Americans. Who would have ever thought that our children might not be better off than their parents?

The America we built is starting to fall apart as global pressures, rising health costs, an energy crisis and a push to eliminate pensions threaten good jobs in America.

OPEC keeps lid on oil output in Aug-Reuters survey

OPEC, excluding Iraq and Angola, kept oil output little changed in August and supply from all members of the 12-nation group fell because of a drop in Iraqi exports, a Reuters survey showed on Monday.

Thailand: Oil refiners agree to phase out LPG exports

Oil refiners say they will co-operate with the Energy Ministry to stop exporting liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) or cooking gas and begin meeting rising local demand instead.

Each refiner has been gradually reducing LPG exports to help solve the shortage in the domestic market, even though revenue from local sales is relatively lower than from exports, according to Chainoi Puankosoom, the president of the Federation of Thai Industries' oil refinery club.

Funny thing happened at fuel queue the other day

"WHAT’S news in Zimbabwe nowadays if one might pose a breathtakingly idiotic question?"

It surely must be the fuel shortage. Actually, to call it a shortage is an understatement. It should be termed a total disappearance of a petroleum by-product. Fuel has become so scarce that some of us have difficulties in imagining what it looked or smelt like.

Indonesia: Conversion of kerosene to LPG

Various regions subjected to conversion from the use of kerosene to gas stoves are facing kerosene scarcities, with people still queuing for the conventional liquid fuel.

Urgency of nuclear power in Bangladesh

Following the statement of G-7 countries in April, favouring nuclear power electricity as one of the three options for energy diversification, energy efficiency, and energy security, and to address climate change (nuclear power stations do not emit greenhouse gases, especially C02), there has been a softening of attitude towards nuclear power both in the developed and the developing countries. Recently, a number of articles supporting nuclear power in Bangladesh have appeared in the press.

Israel: Disagreements, lack of funds threaten plan to curb pollution

The plan aims to encourage the use of cars that consume less fuel and emit less pollution by altering the way vehicle taxes and fees are structured in order to make purchasing such vehicles more attractive. Currently, taxes are determined mainly by engine size; under the new plan, a vehicle's fuel consumption and emission levels would also affect the amount of tax.

The committee also plans to ban trucks from using main roads during rush hour.

Australia: Climate protest shuts down power station

Climate change protesters have shut down a significant part of Victoria's power generation at the Loy Yang power station in Gippsland's Latrobe Valley.

Four protesters have locked themselves to a coal conveyor, and Loy Yang Power has shut down the 600 megawatt generator as a safety measure.

French utility merger back on track

Utility giant Suez SA and state-owned Gaz de France agreed to new terms for a long-stalled merger that would create a global energy giant minority-owned by the French state, an official said.

Oil Near Four-Week High on Storm, Signs OPEC Will Freeze Supply

Crude oil traded near a four-week high in New York as a hurricane headed toward the Gulf of Mexico and OPEC ministers said the group wouldn't increase production.

...Felix has become a "dangerous" storm with 165-mile-per-hour winds, making it a Category 5 hurricane, the highest and most dangerous rank on the Saffir-Simpson scale, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. It was centered about 490 miles (790 kilometers) east of Cabo Gracias a Dios on the Honduras-Nicaragua border. The system was heading west at 21 miles per hour.

"It's a very strong hurricane, but the track is still uncertain," said Olivier Jakob, managing director at Petromatrix GmbH in Zug, Switzerland. "It is still too early to have full confidence that it will track to the Mexican Bay of Campeche oil fields."

Mary King: Economic risk management

We have not found any new gas reserves for sometime now and though we HOPE that there is more out there, the risk (probability) that there is no more is not zero. Surely we have to give new and more incentives for Big Oil to keep digging, keeping in mind as I demonstrated last week that we are now on the declining slope of marginal returns for gas. The people whom the population trust should be telling us about the risks and how these are being managed instead of saying to have faith and not to worry, be happy. These risks are aggravated by the global Peak Oil phenomenon.

Norway: More oil reserves in the North

The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) has adjusted upwards by 20 per cent the estimates for how much undiscovered oil there is in the Barents Sea, NRK reports.

Report: China planning expansion of oil refineries

China is planning a major expansion of its oil refineries to help reduce reliance on imports and keep up with demand, a state-run newspaper reported over the weekend.

Plans call for the country to have 31 refineries by 2015, each with a capacity to process 10 million tons of crude oil a year (220,000 barrels a day), the Economic Observer reported. At the end of last year China had only nine facilities with similar capacity.

Chinese oil companies ask for supply guarantee

China's government is considering a request from private oil companies for a guaranteed supply of between 10 million and 20 million tons of fuel annually, to alleviate shortages.

As much as 80 per cent of private fuel storage facilities are now empty, said Zhao Youshan, head of the Petroleum Distribution Committee of China's General Chamber of Commerce.

CNOOC to invest 15 bln yuan to build deep-sea vessel

China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), the largest offshore oil company, recently announced its ambitious oil exploitation plan at deep-sea areas. The company plans to invest 15 billion yuan to build a deep-sea oil fleet, the Beijing Morning Post reported.

“Building the oil fleet is only part of our plan to explore the oil resources in deep-sea areas,” said Zhou Shou, CNOOC vice general manager.

Oil Minister Calls on Exxon and Conoco to Leave Venezuela

Rafael Ramirez, Venezuela's Energy Minister and president of the state owned oil company PDVSA, called on US oil companies ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil to leave Venezuela. Ramirez issued the call as he submitted details of proposed contracts relating to the final transition of companies operating in the Orinoco oil belt into joint ventures with PDVSA during a session of the National Assembly’s Energy Commission yesterday.

Exploitation of hydrocarbons in the State hands

On the brink of the 21st century socialism, there is small room for a private stake in the domestic oil industry. This is true for the changes to the Constitution proposed by President Hugo Chávez. However, some loopholes may be a future chance.

Nigeria: NNPC Restructure Saves Billions in Cash Calls

The recent plan to restructure the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) may bring Nigeria a step closer to reducing corruption in and pave the way for a mega state-owned oil company along the lines of those in Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Brazil.

Bangladesh: Power Generation – Going Nowhere

A substantial part of PDB initiatives are going nowhere as Petrobangla did not agree to commit gas supply to at least eight large and medium plants capable to generate a total of 1700MW. Government has not yet given go ahead to coal exploration. Hence coal for power may not be available soon to create another option. Bangladesh can not easily adopt solar, bio or wind options to meet the huge deficit and increasing demand.

Africa: Dealing With Africa's Resource Curse

Oil is perhaps the most important lure, with competition between foreign states and companies to secure resources so intense it attracts more than 50 per cent of all foreign direct investment. In 2006, annual Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) raised to a historic high of $38.8 billion, exceeding record levels of 2005 -- a growth of 78 per cent from 2004.

British aid for Russian ‘eco disaster’

BRITISH taxpayers are expected to offer a £500m lifeline to a troubled Russian oil and gas project despite warnings that it is turning into an environmental disaster.

The Oxford Energy Institute: A Successful Experiment in Producer-Consumer Dialogue

The international petroleum industry underwent a fundamental change in 1973 with the rise in crude oil prices from around $1-2 a barrel to around $11 a barrel in the initial stage. Instead of concessions for drilling and production, which were granted to giant oil firms for 99 years and covered entire states, as well as crude oil purchase and sales contracts limited to no more than 10 giant western companies, members of OAPEC (the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries) began to change this economic situation, which had remained in place for the first six decades of the 20th century. The oil exporting countries began to play a direct and vital role in setting petroleum policies by adopting production policies, which directly affected crude oil prices and changed the foundations of what set price levels.

Kids, the fair, the future

that in less than 30 years we will exhaust the planet’s supply of oil. Their report emphasized that there is no Plan B and we are to expect “severe global food shortages, mass starvation, disease and overall breakdown of social and economic institutions” in as little as a decade.

Before that ever happens, though, we may suffer a fiscal implosion that would have the same effect as Peak Oil. Do people realize that the Federal Reserve’s decision to print more than $100 billion last month in an attempt to stave off a housing Armageddon just cheapens the dollar and hastens its demise?

The reality of other threats like global warming increased my melancholia. Most people are not aware of the dire future their children face, which makes me wonder: Would many parents have had children had they known what the future holds?

European roads brace for onslaught of smaller SUVs

With increasingly vociferous resistance by civic groups against using big, gas-guzzling SUVs for daily urban trips, carmakers are trying to position the smaller versions as green vehicles.

For example, the recently launched Citroen C-Crosser is on sale only with frugal diesel engines with a particulate filter that would make many mainstream cars green with envy.

Will Chile's looming energy crisis spell ruin for one of South America's last wild places?

Villages such as Caleta Tortel and the pristine landscape that surrounds them are now under threat from a plan by the country's largest electricity producer, Endesa Chile, to build a series of dams on Aisén's Pascua and Baker rivers as part of a vast hydroelectric project. In the face of vocal opposition from environmentalists, landowners, and local salmon farmers whose business depends on Aisén's pure water, the Chilean government must make a critical decision: Should Aisén's unique landscape be protected—and promoted through sustainable tourism—or should the powerful natural forces that created it be harnessed for the country's economic benefit?

Firm hopes to get more ethanol from corn

A company that has been making ethanol from corn for more than 20 years says its ethanol research should allow it to squeeze 27 percent more fuel from each acre of the crop.

Is A Bioeconomy fueled by Biorenewables, Sustainable?

his spring farmers responded to the ethanol industry's demand for grain by increasing their corn acreage by 19 percent over last year, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates.

What if that happens again next year?

India: The other oil crisis

Edible oil imports are expected to surge 10 per cent in the new oil year that begins in November, despite the expectations of higher domestic output this kharif. This is a matter of concern, as the imports will be required at a time when global edible oil prices are on the upswing due largely to their diversion to bio-fuel production.

Green light for fusion project

The British-led team will use lasers to start fusion reactions that generate more energy than they consume and they have won the backing of an influ-ential EU science panel, The Times can disclose. The decision paves the way for a seven-year, £500 million programme to construct an experimental reactor based on a revolutionary technique that could make fusion a commercial reality within two decades.

Australia urges voluntary emission goals

Australia's leader urged his Pacific Rim counterparts on Sunday to forge a new agreement on climate change — one that would reject binding targets for greenhouse gas emissions in favor of voluntary goals.

Battle lines drawn on climate change at Asian summit

Developing nations led by China are set for a bruising battle with the United States and Australia on climate change, a senior official at a key summit of Asia Pacific nations said Monday.

The veteran Southeast Asian foreign ministry official, who asked not to be named, said talks to craft a separate leaders' statement on climate change at this week's APEC are expected to be "bloody."

New Times Atlas displays effects of climate change

Creators of the Times Atlas have had to make significant changes to their latest edition because of changes to the world's landscapes caused by climate change, their chief said Sunday.

Cartographers have had to redraw coastlines and reclassify types of land to reflect changes to geographical features like Lake Chad in Africa, which is now 95 percent smaller than it was in 1963.

Felix trending to non-issue for Oil Production

The most likely path has the eye grazing the coast of Honduras (which will mercifully be on the good side). Substantial power will be lost by friction with the coast, and then a long path over the Yucatan with no time to regain strength on the other side.


Subject to change,


The thought occurs to me that with so much arctic ice melted due to global warming, August may be the new July, and the hurricane season might now not end until sometime in December. Should there be anything to this hypothesis, that means that any thought that we are almost out of the woods for this year would be premature.

In the mid-latitudes (25, 30 degrees or so), the daily reduction in insolation and longer night time radiation losses, would work against any significant lengthening of the "at risk" season for Cat 3+ hurricanes. Warmer water (no serious storms in the GoM in 2006 and so far in 2007) will likely add several days/a week to the at risk period.

A comparable argument can be made for other sources of heating.

Best Hopes,


IIRC the rhyme I learnt while sailing in the carribean was:

June too soon,
July stand by,
August you must,
September remember,
October all over.

Recent history would suggest this needs to be shunted forward at least one month.

Yep, this link has the storm strengths in the forecast track.


Bolivia on Verge of Civil War

Since convening on Aug. 6, 2005, the Constituent Assembly has been plagued by confrontations as a re-emergent opposition—organized out of the city of Santa Cruz in the east of Bolivia and which has at its core the Santa Cruz elite, gas transnationals, large agribusiness, and the United States embassy—has attempted to derail the process of change.




Cid, looks like the US is going to destabilise the entire planet on its way down. Even its allies are not safe if this following article is in anyway accurate. Pakistan may be in the firing line before Iran:

Robert Fisk: Strange goings-on here in Lebanon

So what else do the Americans have up their sleeve for us out here? Well, an old chum of mine in the Deep South – a former US Vietnam veteran officer – has a habit of tramping through the hills to the north of his home and writes to me that "in my therapeutic and recreation trips ... in the mountains of North Carolina over the last two weeks, I've noticed a lot of F-16 and C-130 activity. They are coming right through the passes, low to the ground. The last time I saw this kind of thing up there was before Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan".

That was in early August. Two weeks later, my friend wrote again. "There were a few (more) C-130 passes... I know that some 75th Rangers have just moved out of their home base and that manoeuvres have gone on in areas that have been used... in the past before assaults utilizing [sic] aircraft guided by small numbers of special operations people."

And then comes the cruncher in my friend's letter. "I think that the Bush administration is looking for something to distract Americans before the mid-September report on progress in Iraq. And I believe that the pressure is building to do something about the sanctuaries for the Taliban and foreign fighters along the Pakistan/Afghanistan border..."

A few days after my friend's letter arrived in Beirut, the Pakistanis reported that the Americans were using pilotless drones to attack targets just inside Pakistan. But it seems much more ambitious military plans may now be in the works. An all-out strike inside the North West Frontier province before President Pervez Musharref steps down – or is overthrown? A last throw of the dice at Bin Laden before "democracy" returns to Pakistan?


Re: China to build 31 refineries in 8 years! And we think steel prices and fuel prices are high now. John

I am starting to believe that China and India are aspiring for western lifestyles – just to annoy GW Bush and the Americans

The animated graphic at the bottom of paal myrtvedt's post does not contribute anything at all to the quality of TOD. Indeed I find this display of techno-chic irritating and distracting. Maybe Leanan can indicate to paal myrtvedt that this is a site for adults, not children.

ohh, Sorry O'Tasman
That smiley was put there to underscore my attempt at irony.
TOD is a serious place I agree, but here should also be place for some skewed comments and a dash of sarcasm.

I don’t mind if the gif is removed, but as a suggestion for you when you are browsing the web – “whenever you see anything irritating, just scroll down/up as per your direction of reading … annoyance removed :-)

I'm all for humour. But if we have to put up a flag or a smiley face to indicate that we have made a joke. . . . Well, then, maybe we had better recognise (a) that we are not very good at humour; and (b) that we are being REALLY patronising to our audience.
All I ask is that you credit your readers with having a sense of humour. Why do you you feel the need to cram what you call "your attempts at irony" down our throats with redundant GIFs? Sounds like the old Nazi threat that, "Ve haff vays of makingk you laff."
Lighten up, old chap.

I'll tell you why it needs marked - because history here has demonstrated that there are sufficient number of people in the world who either do not have a sense of humor or misunderstand the author. The use of "smilies" is common internet parlance. This is not a formal debating society. I would urge Paal to continue doing whatever he thinks works.

By the way, Tasman, you will find man other "markers" for humor in posts here at TOD. I suggest you get used to them or maybe you can tell Professor Goose that he should stop writing on his site as he sees fit?

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

How about you get adblock and stop ruining threads?

It would be hard for me to do that, since I've been known to post such things myself.

Though I try to show restraint with animated GIFs, since they can be distracting.

Firefox will let you block any offending graphics with a click.

On a mature, adult site like TOD I don't expect to have to take evasive action to avoid the animated GIFs which marr some other peak oil sites (and which, as you admit, can be very irritating). As a site dedicated to rational argument I expect TOD posters to make their points in the normal linguistic way. In objecting to this GIF I feel that I am argiung from the same perspective as those others on TOD who plead for proper grammar and spelling, and the avoidance of gratuitous bad language and ad hominem attacks. It's a matter of civility, of good manners. No more, or less, important than not farting in an elevator. Civility is what makes TOD such a great forum.

And, paal myrtveldt, the addition of a GIF cannot transform sarcasm into irony. Check your dictionary.


OTOH, maybe the mature thing to do is make your feelings known once, then just drop it.

And your annoying derailing of the thread is so much less distracting than that animated gif.

Well, having a little winky-face after a comment to substitute for sarconal tags is one thing...having one that turns around and lights its own fart, charring itself...is a tad silly.

Naked apes are silly. Here's to silliness. Lighten up.


Though I try to show restraint with animated GIFs, since they can be distracting.

Firefox will stop animated GIFs with esc key. ;)

Oh NO the interweb is full of offending animated emoticons. You post does even less to contribute to the quality of TOD. The last thing the internet needs is one more self righteous internet cop.

Your whinging, Tasman, is more distracting and does more damage to the credibility of this site than a small icon. If you have concentration problems and/or anal retensive disorders that inhibit your ability to filter humour and/or non relevant subject matter then it is you that has the problem. Pull you head out of your ass; get a life and a sense of houmour please.


Oops. I guess my immaturity is showing, because I think it's funny! :-)

China must have some plans for getting oil for the the next 30 years, or they wouldn't be building all these refineries.

My THAI article mentioned Petrobank reported that China was interested in their technology. The actual words of the Petrobank Website is "technology sharing agreements have been signed with . . . Petro China." And we know that China is working on contracts to buy oil wherever it can.

China must have a more opimistic view than the US and other nations have.

Not necessarily. It could be that they have no such plan, but are willing to gamble on being able to come up with the crude to feed those refineries. They could see building and not using them as better (if still not a pleasant option) than not building them and needing them.

The three premier and unexplored basins in the world (AFAIK) are ANWR, the Yellow Sea and the South China Sea. Political issues have kept all three "off the market".

I could see some optimism in China based on the last two.

Or China may think that the USA will get a declining % of world oil exports and China an increasing % of world oil exports (not an unreasonable assumption).

Especially if they are sweet talking the King of Saudi Arabia about replacing the USA as protector.


neither of the 2 countries you name will be exporters of crude, perhaps refined product. but crude, no.

I have long thought that infrastructure will be a bigger problem than most realize. As long as we can outbid everyone else for raw materials, etc., we'll be all right. But that won't go on forever. Especially if there's a dollar collapse or some such thing.

Yes, in a world where influence and alignment become more important than the highest price, the flow of resources may change radically. Where mutual trust and agreement form the basis of business, rather than leverage and deception.

The dollar doesn't need to collapse.

BTW, that's why I oppose nuclear -- infrastructure collapse is bad enough, but add include nuclear and we've bequeathed hell.

what? this requires a bit more explanation.

if nuclear can supply us some mroe 1:10 eroei, which is nessisary for society to function at it's current capacity, why not continue to expand it?

I think he's talking about failure modes. If it turns out that our society cannot after all be sustained by nuclear (or any other technology), how gracefully does it fail?

failure modes.

Failure modes also are about how these reactors are human built machines, and human built machines will fail over time and use.

What is the cost of the failures?

The article Kids, Kids, the Future in the Napa Valley Register has the following quote, in an artlicle dated Spetember 3:

Last week the U.S. Department of Energy quietly released a report saying that in less than 30 years we will exhaust the planet’s supply of oil.

What is the author talking about?

I think he's talking about the NPC report. The phrasing he uses ("no plan B," etc.) suggests that his article is based on this one. It was published last week, and he may not have realized that the report that inspired it was not hot off the presses.

Devastating Disease from Middle East Threatens US Forces

And the third notable outbreak was in troops from the United States deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. Kala azar has thus joined malaria, dengue fever and chikungunya fever as insect-borne threats to the health of American men and women in uniform. Over 2,500 military (and civilian contract workers) have now been diagnosed with the parasitic infection.


Problems with disease will increase as basic services collapse, and this will be a worldwide problem.

NATO or Shanghai?

Now that the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) has become a political and military reality, and now that NATO has stretched to our regional borders and has exerted its influence in powerful ways within these borders, should not Arab governments begin to consider formulating a new foreign policy?

Should they not start thinking about which international camp to side with: the Russian-led Eastern one or the US-led Western one? Or, alternatively, should they plan on founding a third camp consisting of countries that do not wish to align with either the East or the West?


That's scary.

If I was at power at an arab country, I'd chosse to align with the biggest power.

The NATO looks like the biggest power, but all bets are off when the current credit crunch becomes more real and oil becomes scarce. In fact, the Middle West may determine wich side is stronger by the act of aligning with it.

I would like to see some detailed data on oil consumption in the US. What we see are average figures, which are cast in such a way that it appears that the high per capita oil use in the US is due to a bunch of SUV owning people living in McMansions. I don't doubt that this is a factor, but how big?

Much of the energy used in this country can be traced back to things that have little to do with the average person, and over which he has little control or say. How much energy is used by the military sector? How much is used making things in the death and destruction industries? How much is used keeping our military moving around the globe? How much is used in maintaining our 750+ foreign bases? How much is used in our current wars?

How much is used making things for export? For example our agriculture uses a lot of fuel, both for mechanized farming and to make fertilizer and other agricultural necessities. We then ship much of this produce elsewhere. We use the fuel, they get the final product.

I'm not saying that Americans aren't profligate, we are, but we need to see the whole picture if the public is going to understand the issues and be persuaded to push for change.


According to the US Defense Energy Support Center Fact Book 2004, in Fiscal Year 2004, the US military fuel consumption increased to 144 million barrels. This is about 40 million barrels more than the average peacetime military usage.

By the way, 144 million barrels makes 395 000 barrels per day, almost as much as daily energy consumption of Greece.

The US military is the biggest purchaser of oil in the world.

As Substrate notes, the US military uses 395,000 barrels per day but the country uses over 21,000,000 barrels per day. The usage of the US military is a drop in the bucket compared to overall usage. The single largest category of oil usage in the US is transportation accounting for nearly half of the daily barrels, with automotive usage being the largest segment of that block. This is why improving auto efficiency or replacing automobiles with another form of transportation is such a focal point. Another focal point is transport of goods, of which much is done by truck but where, as Alan Drake has demonstrated, rail is at least 8 times more efficient. If we banned long-haul trucking and shipped by containerized rail using trucking only for local hauling, our usage would decrease notably as well. Transportation is our single largest problem area.

In terms of fossil fuels overall, coal is heavily involved in electricity generation in the US as is natural gas and natural gas is also heavily involved in home heating. Natural gas is also used as a chemical feedstock to many industries (as is oil).

Anyway, transportation is fundamental to adapting to peak oil. This is one reason why Kunstler decries suburbia - it is structurally such a massive waster of oil. (Kunstler also dislikes suburbia for other reasons, mostly aesthetic in nature.)

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

Alan Drake has demonstrated, rail is at least 8 times more efficient

Let me repost my explanation I wrote in the Comments section of the ASPO article I wrote.


Could you provide some references and an explanation of the 20 to 1 difference between trucks and trains?

As indicted in the article, the 20 to 1 ratio is the multiple of two factors. About 8 to 1 efficiency gain by transferring from diesel trucks to modern diesel-electric locomotives pulling trains.

And a 2.5 to 3 Btus of diesel to one Btu of electricity trade by going from diesel-electric locomotives to all electric locomotives.

Gil Carmichael, the head of the Federal Railroad Administration under the first President Bush stated in Forbes “A double-stack freight train can replace as many as 300 trucks and achieve nine times the fuel efficiency of highway movement of the same tonnage volume.”


Note that this is double stack containers. Single stack containers are not quite as efficient and “piggy back” trailers are significantly less efficient (perhaps 4 to 1). Piggy back traffic is stable to shrinking slightly as intermodal container traffic is expanding rapidly.

The overall 2002 statistics quoted in the article (below) give an 8.15 to 1 diesel fuel advantage to rail vs. truck per ton-mile. Of course, the freight mix (40% of rail ton-miles are coal) is quite different.

Railroads carried 27.8% of the ton-miles with 220,000 barrels/day while trucks carried 32.1% of the ton-miles with 2,070,000 b/day (2002 data)

In addition, there are issues of circuitry (does rail travel more miles to get from A to B than truck ?) and the relative percentages of empty backhaul. There is concern that 2007 pollution controls will hurt heavy truck mileage. If so, this will increase the ratio.

I believe that nine to one is “best case’, eight to one is a defensible ratio for efficiency gains for truck to rail freight transfers, but seven to one is equally defensible. Six to one is approaching the “worst case” IMO.

US locomotives, except for a few switchyard locos, are diesel-electrics. A diesel engine drives an electrical generator, which transmits power a few feet to an electrical motor.

An electric locomotive draws 25 kV or 50 kV AC power from the grid (specially built for the railroad), transforms it to a lower voltage and drives an electrical motor.

The grid should lose 3% or 4% or so getting to the locomotive and another 1% transforming on the locomotive.

By contrast, a standard diesel engine has a theoretical maximum efficiency of 56% (link below) and is doing quite well to get 40% real world efficiency (Btus diesel in, Btus shaft power out). Add to this the efficiency of generators in the 2 MW class (94% might be typical) and grid power can deliver electricity with s 4% or 5% loss, versus a 62.4% or so loss in diesel Btus to electricity to the motor Btus.

The ratio of 0.95 to 0.376 is 2.52 to 1. This equates well with the “rule of thumb” of 2.5 Btus of diesel to 1 Btu electricity on rural plains quoted in the article.


In mountainous areas and built-up areas, the ratio is higher (3 to 1) due to regenerative braking. As the locomotive slows, the motors turn into generators and feed power back into the grid. Obviously, the more a locomotive brakes, the more power that is “recycled” on an electric loco but wasted as heat in a diesel-electric loco. More recycled power creates a higher ratio. The increase from 2.5 to 1 to 3 to 1 seems reasonable, if 20% of the energy is recycled when braking.

So 6 or 7 or 8 or 9 to 1 multiplied by 2.5 or 3 to 1 gives “about 20”. Detailed studies may show that actual efficiency ratios might be 17.8 to 1 or 21 to 1. In either case, well worth doing !

Best Hopes,

Alan Drake

Sorry Alan, but there's a great gaping hole in your thermodynamics here. Generators might run at 94% efficiency, but the turbines that spin them never do, so your diesel BTU's to electric BTU's comparison is wrong. The turbines are subject to the same kind of thermodynamic constraints as the diesels, and typically operate at an overall thermal efficiency well under 50%.

Mark Folsom, P.E.

You miss the comparison entirely, it is about 20 BTUs end-use diesel BTUs compared to 1 BTU grid electricity.

Grid electricity can come from hydroelectric power, nuclear power, wind turbines, geothermal and solar PV. In all of the listed cases, thermodynamic analysis is meaningless, because there is no economic alternative use for the resource (falling water, fission heat, blowing wind, geothermal heat, sunlight) except to make electricity for the grid. Hydro turbines are, btw, up to 98.9% efficient.

In large measure, this is even true for most coal fired power plants. There is no alternative economic use for the specific coal used. Although one could say that we build $250,000+ per barrel/day F-T CTL (coal-to-liquids) plants and compare

1) burning the coal to make grid electricity to drive a train's electric motor to

2) sending the coal to the CTL plant to make diesel to power a small diesel generator on-board the locomotive that will make electricity to drive a train's electric motor.

3) burning the coal in a steam locomotive (once economic but no longer)

#1 will win that comparison by a wide margin !

So thermodynamic analysis of turbine efficiency to produce grid electricity is close to meaningless, thus my choice of comparisons.

Best Hopes for Analysis coupled to the Real World,


"Grid electricity can come from hydroelectric power, nuclear power, wind turbines, geothermal and solar PV."

Most if not all of the available hydroelectric power is already spoken for, but rail electrification will likely have to be powered by new generation capacity. Nuclear power is highly problematic, but may be helpful. Any realistic analysis of relative efficiency needs to consider where the additional electricity will come from. If it's wind or PV, storage efficiency needs to be figured in. If it's NG or coal, like most real new generation capacity has been in the recent past, then the thermodynamic efficiency of the heat engines should be figured in.

As far as coal is concerned, there have been successful experiments showing that finely divided coal can be burned in a diesel, when suspended in a suitable liquid carrier--not that I think that's a good idea.

In the end though, you have to recognize the much greater thermodynamic availability of electricity over heat. Electricity is 100% available energy, while heat never is. If you take 1 BTU of electricity, you can get several BTU's of space heating using a heat pump, which is something you can't do with fossil fuel--so fuel BTU's and electric BTU's should not be treated as equivalent.

It may be cute and fun to pretend that we will do all electrification of rail with all renewable energy, but it weakens the argument for it in a totally unnecessary way. A factor of eight is good enough, and multiplying it by a questionable factor of 2.5, just gives your opponents an easy handle with which to dismiss you.

Think about it.

Mark Folsom

The most likely source of the electricity for electrifying our freight railroads post-Peak Oil is conservation, which has excellent thermodynamics.

Canada has more than 10 GW of identified hydro potential that just needs a market (5 GW in Manitoba). Wind can pair nicely with hydro in several areas w/o storage for the limited amount needed for electrified rail (upper limit ~6% of USA grid).

One could also say the primary source of any new generation could be wind with combined cycle natural gas backup (Calgary Light Rail runs on this today). The thermodynamics of that are complex.

I am aware of the coal-diesel experiments. Drilled diamond injection nozzles (from memory) and not used commercially anywhere that I know of (steam was commercial and F-T CTL is commercial in South Africa so I compared them).

Electrified railroads ARE substantially more efficient in multiple dimensions and property taxes are the likely major reason for their absence in the USA. The Trans-Siberian RR was electrified in 2002.


So I will NOT stop promoting an extremely viable non-oil transportation mode in favor of a "less oil" transportation mode (diesel railroads).

Thermodynamics of the grid are VERY complex and almost meaningless in the comparison (for the reasons noted), so I will continue my entirely valid comparison of "20 BTUs diesel to 1 BTU (grid) electricity".

Best Hopes,


If it's NG or coal, like most real new generation capacity has been in the recent past

Last year, (from memory) 39% of the MWh from new generation was from wind with several % from other new renewables. 2007 seems likely to be 44% wind.

And the thermodynamics of coal are important from a GW POV, but not a PO or economic POV, since there is no other economic use for the vast majority of that coal (too low quality for steel production, home heating with coal has now been almost entirely phased out).

Natural gas, like oil, does have a variety of different economic uses.


Run of river hydro...lots available, including the Golden Gate Bridge.


SF mayor: Catch a wave to make power

That the tides at the Golden Gate make that spot the best in the entire lower 48 states to produce tidal power, though the potential for installing turbine generators under the bridge is a bit limited by space.


Thanks, Bart.


folsomman: You said:

If you take 1 BTU of electricity, you can get several BTU's of space heating using a heat pump, which is something you can't do with fossil fuel

While it's certainly the case that most heat pumps are electric they don't have to be, you can use fossil fuels, or things like solar thermal directly:


maximum combined cycle efficency is:

"Efficiency of CCGT plants

The thermal efficiency of a combined cycle power plant is the net power output of the plant divided by the heating value of the fuel. If the plant produces only electricity, efficiencies of up to 59% can be achieved. In the case of combined heat and power generation, the efficiency can increase to 85%."


These are typically natural gas turbines.

Furthermore if you want to really look into efficiency, why not examine the fact that typically fleet efficiencies are roughly 10-30% efficient for liquid hydrocarbons (gasoline-diesel), so tossing away between 90 and 70% of the energy embodied within gasoline-diesel (gasoline-~30Mj/Kg, diesel - ~40~Mj/Kg).

Furthermore, note that historically, trains were first by several decades, so cars/trucks/rigs require more energy to utilize (cars/trucks/rigs allow freedom of travel for the person in any direction where roads are built).

M.F. Eng.I.T.

p.s. your typically is correct, however does not address the ~60% efficient cycles which are available and preferred to power providers. In the EU 80%+ is possible with combined heat and power cycles.

p.p.s. if you want to get into an argument about fuel efficiency versus electricity + battery efficiency feel free to drop me a mail and we can slam out a paper on the subject.

And, where ever possible, barges.
Kunstler has a point about restoring waterfronts.

The single largest category of oil usage in the US is transportation accounting for nearly half of the daily barrels, with automotive usage being the largest segment of that block. This is why improving auto efficiency or replacing automobiles with another form of transportation is such a focal point.

I'm having trouble finding a decent breakdown of where it all goes but if you look at This Week in Petroleum it'll give you a good idea of where some of it goes.

You can see about 9 million barrels per day goes to gasoline, which is probably for the most part fed to SUVs, etc: http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/oog/info/twip/twip_gasoline.html

Another roughly 4 million barrels per day goes to "distillate" which, by looking at the sulfur standard, seems to break down to about 3 mbpd for transportation, and 1 mbpd for off-road/agricultural/heating use : http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/oog/info/twip/twip_distillate.html

Which appears to leave about 8 mbpd in la la land, or the petrochemical industry, etc.

What about indirect oil consumption? That is, the oil that goes into producing items that the US imports.

And what about people not buying so much crap the don't need, made by people they don't like, with money they don't have?

Even the TOD elite always seem to come back to keeping things the same.

What is the BTU savings on NOT having another lead coated toy shipped around the world, including hauling it to the dump after 15 minutes of use?

I was poking around Wesabe.com yesterday. It's a site that's supposed to help people save money and get out of debt. To my horror, one of the saving "tips" offered was to buy the $100 Amazon premium membership, that gives you free 2-day shipping on everything. People were blathering on about how they bought so much more from Amazon with the premium shipping, and saved so much money. Since things were cheaper at Amazon, and they no longer had wait until they had $25 worth of stuff to get free shipping. This on a site that is supposed encourage people to spend less.

Just as horrifying was the fact that one of the most popular financial goals on the site was to "shop greener." People just don't seem to get it. Shopping is the problem.

That's funny! You know on Amazon, just about everything ships free anyway. It says 7-9 days for delivery but they just throw it in the mail with everything else. They don't really have a mechanism to not ship it.

The horrors of having to wait a whole week for something.

Ditech had an ad that says you can borrow now to get out of debt. That's still my favorite.

I hope your Corolla and my Solar Panels last forever.

And what about people not buying so much crap the don't need, made by people they don't like, with money they don't have?

You mean like an RV?

Re: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single e-bike

The title seems to say e-bikes are a good start, but it's mostly a critique - and it is full of factual inaccuracies. It also slides into a critique of battery-powered vehicles in general. The basic assumption is American-style mobility:

Consider the problems: you own a Chinese-made e-bike and wish to travel 50 km. After the first 25 km, you have to stop and recharge for 2-3 hours...

- in a post-oil world,people will not set out on a 100-km roundtrip based on a "wish". And when such a trip is justified, they will not use an e-bike:

I asked a city transportation official, “What if someone needed to travel a longer distance. Where could you recharge along the roadside?” His response was “Take the bus” – and this puts us back to the peak oil debate.

- I don't see the "debate". You drive nails with a hammer and turn screws with a screwdriver. E-bikes are for short trips - and most trips are short, even in the USA. Mass transit, where it's been set up, works quite well for longer distances. And it can be electrically powered too - without batteries (electric rail). But even if powered by fossil fuels, a full bus uses far less energy per passenger than a Single Uccupancy Vehicle.

Perhaps some cheaply made Chinese e-bikes have trouble climbing hills and even ramps, but more likely that's the case only when the battery runs down. Some e-scooters are powerful enough to climb steep hills without pedal assist.

The claim that major infrastructure is needed for recharging e-bikes is overblown. A typical e-bike charger needs about 100 watts of power - half a dozen could easily and safely be plugged into one outlet via a "power strip". Recharging electric cars is another story, but the whole point of the bicycle (electric or not) is that we do not need to carry 2 (or 3) tons of metal around in order to transport one human.

Transport in a crowded city is always chaotic and involves some risk. But the opening words of the article denigrate the solution that works for hundreds of millions of Chinese (including non-e-bikes):

Stepping off the curb to cross a street in Chinese cities, sounds of squeaky brakes are the only signal you hear to warn that you are about to be hit by an electric bicycle. They travel quite quickly in comparison to foot travel, but congest traffic because they don’t move as fast as cars.

Bikes congest traffic? How many bikes can you fit in the road space used by one car? More than enough to make up for the somewhat lower speed. Besides, as soon as cars were added to the Chinese streets, that's when congestion multiplied, and bikes get around a congested city faster than cars. And you can look before you leap into a crowded road. Try crossing an American SUV-conduit without looking? How many Chinese are killed by automobiles each year? (Many more than the 40,000 Americans killed each year.)

Lead is lost back into the environment as you use a battery-powered vehicle. Christopher Cherry at UC Berkeley’s Institute of Transportation Studies puts the loss of lead at that contained in an entire e-bike battery for every 10,000 km travelled.

- This statement is very misleading. The quoted statement is comparing the lead lost from an electric car to the battery size of an e-bike. And lead is not spewed into the environment as the vehicle moves. Some of the lead undoubtedly is lost during the recycling of used batteries. How much lead is dumped in the form of solder in discarded electronics?

A litre of gasoline provides at least 100 times the energy of a battery taking up the same space.

- OK, but what we've done with that bonanza is to move 2 (or 3) tons of steel along with the 50kg of gasoline. An e-bike only needs about a 5kg battery.

[editorial note] Riding a real bicycle seems classier to me. Healthier and a lot less hassle.

- yes, but if the distance and hills reach a point where it becomes difficult (in my case, an 18 miles hilly round trip), the e-bike makes the trip much more feasible (somewhat quicker, and much less tiring). Models that require pedaling give one plenty of exercise too.

The e-bike is not a panacea. The batteries are expensive and their manufacturing may be polluting. And the expense represents embedded energy. E.g., the NiMH pack on my e-bike costs $300. If it were to last 300 trips (say 60 trips per year for 5 years), that's $1 per trip - or about the (current) cost of gasoline for making the same short trip in a small car. Perhaps the battery life can be lengthened, especially if used more than 60 times per year. (In the example above I assumed that the 5 years of elapsed time deteriorates the battery as much as the 300 charge cycles.)

Here in Vermont (and in much of the "temperate" parts of the globe), an e-bike is rather uncomfortable and risky during the dark and cold 5 months of the year. That is one reason e-bikes are only one component of the transportation solution, albeit a useful component.

Agreed, the article was a pretty shallow curiosity piece. I'm starting my second year with an electric. Maximum round trip is about 20 miles. A very large percentage of my trips fit within that distance. The bike is a tandem, so I also deliver and pickup children at those distances. It appears I will need a new set of lead-acid batteries after about 1300 miles and the battery cost will be about $0.11 per mile. The bike is exceptionally practical here in Silicon Valley as weather is mild and dry, streets flat and smooth.

Roy (AKA "twowheel")

Europe photovoltaic capacity seen tripled by 2010

{Tripling in 3 years amounts to 44% per year.}

We would like to go forward to have, in 2010, an installed capacity in Europe in the range of 3 GW, (up) from about 1 GW last year," Winfried Hoffmann, president of the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA), said on Monday.
Hoffmann dismissed worries that China can fully overtake European solar energy equipment production, which has been automated and thus does not require a lot of costly European labor.

via Google

Applied showcases large-area solar module production line

With a new integrated production line for large-area solar panels, Applied Materials claims it can reduce the costs of photovoltaic system installations by more than 20 percent.
The SolarFab production system processes ultra-large glass substrates with dimensions of 2.2 by 2.6 meter. The resulting area of 5.72 square meters is four times the size of today's largest thin film solar production panels, driving down costs and improving productivity, the company says.

via Solar Panels Blog

I just noticed that production from the OPEC 11, (does not include Angola), is exactly two million barrels per day below its peak of September 2005, 28,410 kb/d in May 2007 verses 30,410 kb/d in September of 2005. Whatever that bit of knowledge is worth. ;-)


Ron Patterson

Speaking of critically needed exports, an interesting article follows. Note that Russia is increasing the tariff on exported crude oil to an all time record high.

Moscow considers wheat export ban
By Javier Blas in London
Published: September 2 2007 22:05 | Last updated: September 2 2007 22:05

Russia is considering a ban on cereals exports in a move that exacerbates fears that wheat prices, already at an all-time high, could surge further on reduced supplies, European cereal traders said.

Russia, the world’s fifth largest wheat exporter, is concerned about rising local bread prices and inflation ahead of legislative elections in December.

Cereals traders said Moscow was contemplating either a partial ban on wheat exports or to introduce a prohibitive export tariff to rein in foreign sales. A decision could be made in the first two weeks of September, the traders added.

Moscow’s concern comes as other food-exporting countries, such as Ukraine and Indonesia, try to rein in foreign sales amid rising prices.

Ukraine, the world’s sixth largest wheat exporter, introduced in June prohibitive cereal export tariffs. Indonesia, the world’s second largest palm oil exporter, last week raised to 10 per cent its export tariff on crude palm oil to cool domestic prices.

Russian oil export duty to rise to record $250.3 per ton Oct. 1

Exactly Westexas, the idea that the West will have no problem because it will simply outbid any competition fails when produce is removed from the market.

My own view is that influence and partnership will be more important than money and the exchange of increasingly important goods (due to depletion and climate change) will increasingly reflect this new more complex paradigm. The carefully built imperial system of tribute through organisations like the WTO, IMF, World Bank, etc. will be neutered and shut off.

In comparison with the past, countries like Russia and China are less threatening to producer nations than the US and the West. For countries who want to maintain their traditions, culture and way of life, better to deal with Asia and keep the carpet baggers out. Doing business with the US and the West usually ends in the destruction of traditional societies and values to the detriment of all but a few.

I believe that Gordon Brown in the UK is already working to the new rules. It's obvious that he's disengaging from the US and I wonder what Britain's role is in the rapidly changing scene in Pakistan.

true true true,

but the black market will allow for some exports (very little, maybe 1% of the production!)

India imported 3 million tonnes of wheat in 2006.

In 2007 they are going to import 5 million tonnes of wheat.

The only major wheat exporters in the world are US & Canada. Does anyone know how much wheat is exported by these two countries? Does anyone know which countries are the major importers and how much they import?

Looks like we are going to have an export crisis in food before we have it in oil.

It's my understanding that India does not import wheat to feed its people per se, but rather to create products which it then ships back to wheat exporting countries.

India is one of the biggest producers of wheat in the world; either first or second or third depending on the size of the harvest. But they have 1.1 billion mouths of feed and domestic consumption has increased while production has stagnated (sounds familiar?). So recently they have made a transition from exporter to importer (WT's "export land" in action).

The wheat imports are ostensibly to create "buffer stocks" (sort of like a strategic wheat reserve!). But the crux of the matter is that they couldn't create the buffer stocks with domestically produced wheat and their imports have grown 66% in just 1 year.

I think we will see an export crisis in food before we see it in oil.

Tanker rates plunges

Oil tanker rates for 3rd quarter (Q3) cut in half since 2nd quarter (Q2) – and there are presumable several large oil-tankers in the pipeline floating out from yards … in the years to come.

These strategic decisions are probable done based on IEA / EIA prognoses few years back – you know “those 130 mb/d in 2030…”

CNN money / Tanker rates down

(Quotes from link)

2nd quarter 2007

VLCCs, Suezmax tankers and Suezmax OBO carriers were 51,900 usd, 38,600 usd and 38,300 usd respectively during the second quarter.

3rd quarter 2007

Average TCE rates for modern VLCCs, according to industry analyst Clarkson, have been 31,200 usd per day during this quarter.
Meanwhile, spot fixtures in the VLCC and Suezmax segment are now at 26,500 usd and 18,200 usd per day respectively.

Where will the oil-tanker-rates go in the years to come – if we are nearby PO now, and the numbers of tankers go on ballooning ? Do we have a pre-warning here?

Production up 100,000bpd on July
exports down 40,000bpd?

Russia is an interesting case history, especially since the government and presumably government insiders have a financial interest in seeing the stock price of Rosneft increase. So, I always wonder a little bit about Russian government provided production numbers. I assume that export numbers are little harder to fudge, and I have seen some reports of some sizable export reductions for the fourth quarter.

In any case, based on EIA numbers Russia showed a small increase in production from 2005 to 2006 (annual averages) but a slight decline in net exports--because of an explosive increase in domestic consumption, which is continuing.

From the US News article

They have the money, all right. Revenues have roughly doubled in the past four years. But their governments see high prices for us as meaning more income for them, while they see investment in new capacity as risking the kind of sharp price decline that occurred in the 1990s. So the national energy firms are obliged to dedicate a big chunk of their profits to support national treasuries and various political constituencies.

Note the persistent implication that the money exists to extract sufficient production to avoid the problem.... the only reason it is not being spent is that higher prices are so attractive.

Here on TOD we read that no (forseeable) amount of investment is likely to increase global production above 2005 levels.

Someone is deluded... I assume it is US News.

Then the second meme of the peak oil deniers in the mainstream media seems to be "We need more imperialism..."

The net effect of all this is that the world is going to be even more energy dependent on the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and Russia. Keeping oil safe for the West once meant safeguarding supply lines from the Middle East. Now we have to build alliances and deploy ships and troops to protect other supply routes outside the Middle East, going as far as the Caspian Sea, the Andean region of South America, and West Africa.

It is intended that we understand that those bad countries aren't spending enough to produce oil... but we can solve that problem at a reasonable cost and get the energy by military means... yes the US News article talks about "alliances" and "supply routes" but I assume we all understand the implication... if we can control, we can increase production.

My understanding is that this is completely deluded.... in fact, I would think that the cost of "military control" would hugely increase the cost of energy production.

I haven't seen a sober analysis of the cost of maintaining an imperial army as a component of the price of production. Have you?

But what this all adds up to in my mind is that the political market in the U.S. for "solutions" to the price of oil seems to gravitate naturally toward entrenched constituencies... whether the farmers or the military.... and the mainstream media just echoes these seemingly false solutions because... well maybe because of advertising, or maybe because of patterns of corporate media ownership, or maybe because of the good work that conservative think tanks have done (but have progressive think tanks done any better on peak oil? I'm not sure.)

No one seems to be conceptualizing responses predicated on TOD style projected maximum extraction and production curves.... everyone is too busy selling each other on what seem to be imaginary "solutions."

Hello TODers,

IMO, Dr. Duncan's Olduvai Theory is increasingly being validated by ongoing reality. For newbies, an essential read:

The Olduvai Theory: Terminal Decline Imminent

In the US Southwest and Southeast, the heat and drought have been unrelenting:


...and Leanan has done a bang-up job of posting electrical blackout and brownout newslinks, but here is one more by me:

Heat definitely not taking the Labor Day weekend off

Whatever the thermometer read yesterday, it felt like one for the record books, especially for an estimated 22,000 households without power in San Diego County.

“It's stifling,” said Donald Coleman, one of more than 500 residents of Mount Helix, near La Mesa, who lost power. “No one's (air conditioning) is working; we can't even use fans.”
Most TODers are now deeply aware of the weather records being set daily, and my Asphalt Wonderland's heat island effect is common to many cities in the Southwest and Southeast.

As we descend the Hubbert Downslope & Olduvai Cliff, and the death of US millions from adverse weather extremes rapidly climbs: IMO, we need to carefully discuss, then amend our cultural death practices to minimize waste, and maximize the benefits for future generations.


My hope is that the US funeral industry will become widely cognizant of their extreme postPeak growth opportunity through Peakoil Outreach, then seek low cost-ameliorative strategies that provides new, sensitive, and thoughtful family mourning practices for postPeak culture. Adoption of many Third World death culture practices can point the way, then be modified for American culture & infrastructure, rising energy costs, and future relocalization.

I believe we need to avoid the unnecessary stress and improper mourning now being exhibited in Zimbabwe whereby families use fake names to avoid the cost and responsibility for their soon-to-be-deceased family member at a hospital. IMO, it is better to let someone expire at home, then smoothly speed the 'ashes to ashes, dust to dust' final process for energy decline optimization.

As relocalization proceeds from energy decline and widespread blackouts: the refrigeration of the dead makes no sense if an area has none/limited A/C for the living and/or essential refrigeration of vital foods. The coroner can make housecalls, then the funeral industry can adopt low-cost driveby, then dropoff rent-a-pinebox or body bag, rental artificial flower arrangements, and simple Meat&Cheese&Fruit plates for the family gathering.

Obviously, the non-refrigeration and non-embalming of the dead will microbially soon assert the reasonable mourning time period inside a house without A/C. The family, if so desired, should be encouraged to move the deceased to the frontyard to further extend their mourning period, and to receive condolences from neighbors. This can only help ease the mental adjustment and build further postPeak neighborhood cohesiveness and cooperation. Then a final call for the hearse to remove the remains.

This strategy can save lots of energy because no use of real flowers harvested from foreign shores, no refrigeration, no fancy caskets, no nonsensical long-distance gatherings inside large funeral or church real estate, no long vehicle queues to the cemetary, and so on. The energy saved can be used to help sustain the living in a time of decline, yet the funeral industry can thrive by sensitive economy-of-scale harvesting, and help protect public health.

I believe most Americans readily accept the passing of Grandparents, and others further down-rooted in the family tree: it is the natural decay process. It will be the loss of postPeak youngsters that will cause the greatest travail, yet even this tragically sad event must be energy-optimized in recognition of the need to continue for the survivors. Thus, I think the funeral industry has a great opportunity to provide temporary, plug-in, in-home casket refrigeration [for those that need viewings], then as energy prices rise further: trailer-portable, rented, on-homesite solar PV panels for those families that wish to extend their mourning process.

Now, I am not expert enough to determine if on-property burial of a youngster presents a postPeak public health risk, but I can understand how many parents [now without cars] would seek to keep these remains nearby as a emotional touchstone to our inevitable Peakoil Outreach and Entropic Thermo/Gene Decline.

Additionally, they would greatly worry about grave scavengers harvesting the bones for localized fertilization of relocalized permaculture if their child was in a normal cemetary. Recall my earlier posting on European bone-harvesting of the battlefields of Waterloo and Austerlitz. If NPK goes to $10,500/ton again, then IMO, the parents should personally harvest the economic or garden-enrichment reward, at a time of their own emotional choosing vs waking up to a gaping, ruthlessly disturbed and ransacked childhood backyard burial site.

If the final mourning is home-accomplished, and cultural acceptance of no new cemetaries and mausoleums is publicly achieved and/or legislated: then the discussion can move to what is best for the remains and future society when picked up by the hearse.

Local mass burials can achieve significant postPeak energy savings, and high ERoEI when later local generations return to seek the mineral harvest for topsoil optimization. It merely needs to have a few guards to keep grave robbers away, then no meticulously-maintained grass, landscaping, lighting, sculptures, headstones, crypts, etc. These items are all heavy-energy embedded, and society should discuss, then discourage such wasteful displays. Let Nature take its course both above ground and below.

As the death rate postPeak escalates: I am sure that scientists can determine the proper areal placement so that these mass burial sites will not overwhelm aquifers or runoff water. This should also be the preferred decay process vs massively energy-wasteful crematoriums, or the even more deleterious Ruandan Machete' Moshpit process of throwing the mangled corpses into the rivers. Even the crocodiles had to temporarily exit the river until the Overshoot overload passed by.

Finally, early community discussion and swift cultural acceptance of the best-in-class postPeak death practices can help mitigate much violence. If my speculation has merit, and can be further improved by TOD discussion: then maybe relocalized permaculture can be immediately successful enough that corporate human corpse-insertion into energy-efficient biodigesters can be avoided.

Feel free to elaborate or dispute. What is the best cultural funeral method for optimal decline and re-equilibration postPeak. Thxs for any reply.

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

There exists a sad precedent: the mule-cart driver calling through the streets "Bring out your dead!"

Ring around the rosie
A pocket full of posies
Ashes Ashes
We all fall down

Happiness is... a peak-nik in his victory garden!

Ring around the rosie
A pocket full of posies
Ashes Ashes
We all fall down

You probably know the origin of this little children's chant, but many don't.

Ring around the rosie: The first sign of infection would often be roundish red rashes or lesions on the skin.

A pocket full of posies: People would stuff concoctions of flowers and herbs in their pockets in the vain hope that these would ward off infection.

Ashes, Ashes: Originally "A-Choo, A-Choo", as the infection spread to the respiratory system.

We all fall down: Approximately 1/3 of the population in Europe died of the Black Death

Ponder this thought the next time you hear the children playing!

The second postulate of Richard Duncan's Olduvai Theory as described in this paper is that average per capita energy use e will show no growth from 1979 to 2008. I just used the primary energy consumption data from the current BP Statistical Review of World Energy to graph e:

Contrary to Duncan's postulate, e has been increasing sharply since 2003. In four years it has gone up 8.6%, largely thanks to an increase in coal consumption. Given that e is not remaining stable, I'm forced to question the solidity of the theory. The theory makes intuitive sense, and may yet come to pass. I am in full agreement that world population will decline proximate with e. However, I'm wondering if Dr. Duncan may not have been a little too enthusiastic in laying down a predictive framework and timeline for the collapse.

My own impression is that some sort of civilization-cracking failure due to a loss of system resilience is becoming increasingly probable, but given the chaotic nature of the system it's virtually impossible to predict when it will happen or what will precipitate it. Duncan's choice of electricity seems to be only one of a number of possible triggers. Other candidates would include transportation failures from oil interruptions or crop failures due to some combination of soil/water depletion, climate chaos and oil depletion.

My problem with Duncan's hypothesis is that coal, which is used mainly for electricity production, is rapidly replacing oil in the global energy mix:

just as its use in absolute terms is rising faster than other energy sources:

As a result, the loss of electrical generating capacity per se seems not to be an immediate danger. Grid condition may be a factor, but again that's not Duncan's pick as a trigger. I think he's got the big picture right, but I don't think the data support him yet on the details.

Hello GliderGuider,

Thxs for responding and posting statistical detail & analysis [I wish I could do that].

Your Quote: "I think he's got the big picture right, but I don't think the data support him yet on the details."

I basically agree. I think it would help greatly if Duncan could somehow incorporate a statistically derived formula for cascading blowbacks and resiliency loss, but I have no idea how to go about doing it.

Perhaps, the infrastructure damage & death rate %/blowback event, then reasonably extrapolated into a decline metric could help:

Mitch caused such massive and widespread damage that Honduran President Carlos Roberto Flores claimed it destroyed fifty years of progress in the country.
I have no idea if this was carefully calculated, then forwarded to Flores, or was just an off the cuff remark. But detailed computer analysis seems to offer a means to more carefully assess damage, then predict cascading events after a significant crisis. Of course, this is the basic idea behind Asimov's Foundation of predictive collapse and directed decline.

For example: A major earthquake hitting California causing an extended blackout and urban fires during a heatwave period would probably cause such a multitude of cascading blowbacks that the area would never recover. Not only would the young, old, and weak perish, but the subsequent brain drain out-migration might make quick mitigation and speedy rehabilitation impossible. Recall the recent Peruvian earthquake where the inhabitants have basically abandoned the town.

A series of lesser ongoing CA events, such as an ever-increasing rate of blackouts, increased illegal in-migration, smaller brain drain rate, drought, and so on, might be computer modeled for energy logistics and other ramifications to determine a fairly accurate decline path, or more importantly, a political manipulation path for optimal postPeak transition... Who knows?

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

Contrary to Duncan's postulate, e has been increasing sharply since 2003. In four years it has gone up 8.6%, largely thanks to an increase in coal consumption.

Are you sure of that 8.6%? I find it hard to believe given all the electrical power failures and Africa pretty much going dark. Perhaps in US alone?

cfm in Gray, ME

Yup, I'm sure.

The total world primary energy consumption for 2002 was 9548.9 mboe, with a world population of 6.223 billion people. That works out to 1.535 boe per capita.

The numbers for 2006 were 10878.5 mboe with a world population of 6.526 billion people for a global average per capita consumption of 1.667 boe.

(1.667-1.535)/1.535 = 0.086 or 8.6%

Don't forget China...

Glider: OTOH, oil consumption per capita also increased by approx 3% 2002-2006. We are now into a different paradigm.

Gilder (if i may abbreviate) thanks for that info. I was also surprised by that 8.6% number, and thinking not only of “dark” Africa (parts of it that is) but of other places such as Kosovo, Iraq, where because of occupation and war the ppl use less; higher oil prices making oil /energy unaffordable to many; growing poverty in many parts of the world / pop. subsets of countries; rising population; some cutbacks in the West (much exaggerated) and so on. But thinking it out, it makes sense, and now if asked would hazard 10% / 5 years, following the convention of round numbers for rough guesses.

Yup, as you said, don't forget China.

My father has a fairly large pear orchard on his farm, and the crop is too bountiful for normal food consumption. In order to use it up, he makes a magnificent champagne from the pressed juice.

I recently heard a talk by Susanne Wiigh-Masak, who has founded a company in Sweden called Promessa. It seeks to replace cremation with “a technologically enhanced form of organic composting”. The body is freeze-dried and then easily shattered by vibration. The pieces can be “used as compost for a memorial tree or shrub, either in a churchyard memorial park or in the family's yard”.

I had a conversation with my father regarding this process. I suggested to him that upon his death he could be composted, and the result scattered in his orchard. We would maintain the wine production after his death, with one small change. Each bottle would be adorned with a label bearing the new name of the vintage: "Père Champagne".

He loved the idea.

This Promessa Company sounds interesting. Does it save significant energy versus the cremation process? I could imagine placing a body on an 'altar' at the focal point of solar reflectors to speed dehydration/immolation, while 'solar priests' console the family and friends, dance to the power of the Sun-god, and encourage the family to select a suitable tree for planting with the freeze-dried remains from the 'sacred nursery'--it sounds like a very good combo of hi-tech ecology and new age theology-- entirely local too. I hope they are successful.

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

The main environmental benefit is that it is easy to recover toth fillings with mercury, pacemakers with batteries and so on instead of trying to collect the heavy metals from the smoke.

If you want environmentally friendly service for the passed away the first priority should be to not do any embalming.

I'll be the first to order of bottle of Pere Champagne. Hell, I'll order a whole case!

Haven't we discussed this extensively? There is no correlation that backs up his 'theory'. Is the heat getting to your head?

Hello PartyGuy,

Thxs for responding. I think millions around the world, who used to have cheap and reliable electrical juice, but now endure many and extended blackouts/brownouts would disagree.

Please fully examine Google News for the tens of thousands of dire energy newlinks on Iraq, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, and so on, throughout the world. These poor people are not burning utility company service trucks and offices because their lights, TVs, and refrigerators are happily gulping electro-juice.

Sales of small generators are increasing, they are not being sent to the scrapyards. Sales of PV panels are increasing, not decreasing. That is enough correlation for my mindset to show that many are increasingly reluctant to trust for 24/7 grid-supply, but you are free to disagree.

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

Duncan's Olduvai theory is a fun read, but I've never seen him explain how he came to his conclusions.

He segues from "per capita consumption peaked in 19xx" to "in 2008, worldwide blackouts!" without explaining why worldwide blackouts should occur in any particular year.

Anyone have a link that connects the dots in the Olduvai theory?

You have probably been there before but whatever...


BTW 2008 is supposed to be the OPEC/non-OPEC crossover event, and 2012 is supposed to be "Permanent blackouts worldwide". We see blackouts worldwide right now, just not simultaneous or permanent...

But are there more blackout occuring now than ten years ago? Or is Bob Shaw just able to Google them now, but couldn't before Google and The Oil Drum existed.

I would be careful not to mistake a plague of blackout stories on TOD for evidence of an increase in actual blackouts.

Given the importance of this issue to many posters, it would seem to make sense to try to document it, rather than relying on random news articles actively culled through Google or other search mechanisms.

Hello Jack,

Thxs for responding. Valid points, no disagreement from me. but like you mentioned: the difficulty would be pulling all the required data together.

I am sure electricity system reliability studies exist. I just don't know where to find them.

I do think it is clear that without some evidence it is impossible to make any conclusions about the frequency of blackouts.

Of course, permanent blackouts in Haiti, Zimbabwe, Somalia, Albania, Afghanistan, N. Korea, and Nepal could qualify as "permanent blackouts worldwide". That is not the same thing as a "permanent worldwide blackout".

Rationing of airconditioning is a sleeper that I think is going to get huge media time in the next few years. I note the approach taken by the Long Island Power Authority . Australian electric utility companies have raised the issue but were shouted down. The problem during heatwaves seems to be
a/ maintaining the stability of the grid
b/ saving seniors while letting the young and fit sweat it out
c/ keeping emissions low
Coming soon to an electricity company near you.

In Switzerland, the home use of air conditioners was (is) forbidden. A special permit is required, as for hospital, computer center, and meat depot.

With global warming, they have become more common, because in magisterial Swiss style, their sale is not forbidden, only their use, and the authorities can’t chase every person who has a very discrete home air conditioner. For marijuana, it is the opposite; its use is permitted, but its sale, and profiteering from it, is repressed and condemned. Go figure! Actually, it is easy to understand.

Hidden air conditioners have become a mark of status - transgression and coolth! In the valleys only naturally.

I would rather encourage the use of efficient district cooling and that new houses must be well insulated. You want massive air conditioning, especially of public places and hospitals, if there is a significant heat wave and of course a grid that can power it.

If there is any concern about maintaining vulture populations, then Zoroastrian practices have much to commend themselves. . .

THE Pentagon has drawn up plans for massive airstrikes against 1,200 targets in Iran, designed to annihilate the Iranians’ military capability in three days, according to a national security expert.


What would this do to oil prices?

The Pentagon has plans to attack Kansas. That's what we pay them a half trillion a year to do.

Too bad they can't execute worth a damn. Maybe they need another half trillion to execute plans.

Personally I suspect that all the hype for such US attack plans on Iran, popping up in various media, is either hot-air or empty "planted" threats or a combination of the two… 

There is simply no moral support for an attack anywhere – as Iran’s electricity needs are real and visual for all to see, and nuclear power is one of very few ways to actually produce the same.

Now if those reports turn out true (I mean shows to be serious planning…) – I believe that the attack will be stopped for any of these reasons

- internal Republican sentiments stop it
- the Democrats deny it to happen
- the EU and/or other nations have it halted
- the UN …. And so forth

IMO, there is no way the US people can live with another preemptive attack/war – without suffering a tremendous “loss of face” …

And YES the oil price will enter the stratosphere – in Day #1, if.....

We are exactly one homeland terror attack away from all the "moral support" our Executive would need to justify the occupation of Khuzestan.

What troubles me is that the US is not getting it ….
All this “terror stuff” is generated by US’s own free will – but they collectively don’t see the plank in their own eyes – (remember you put your governments in their seats)

It is 100% self made situation and it doesn’t matter whether GW Bush«often cries on Gods shoulders» or not (as he states in a new book and as if that should justify any of this ... humbug terror talk..), because so does thousands upon thousand Iraqi people every day, although they cry at the feet of Allah – which settles the scores to a draw.

BTW , where is the world police regarding the “undemocratic” mess in Zimbabwe ?

Someone entered a peak oil-related sculpture in a sand castle contest.

Peak oil: the slime is running out

Hello Leanan,

Thxs for the great photo! If I was that kid's science teacher: I would give him an ' A+ ' for his earth science school year grade.

But much more likely: his teacher doesn't know Peakoil, or would downgrade him out of fear and denial. Such is Life.

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

I would guess the increase in energy use per capita is for chinese production of garbage quality global consumption adn build up of their infrastructure through increased coal. They have alsoincreased theri oil imports.Basically other countries are cutting back on per capita energy consumption. Essentially Duncan's theory is nice but like PO theory generally it would be perhaps smarter to take it on a country by country basis due to the export land model as when the resources become scarce export bans, as we see stating up in Russia, will be put into place. When China runs out of coal they will be sorry they wasted it on airports, plastic garbage for US landfills,etc. and will not have any energy for themselves and their grandchildren. Global markets are nice and fine in theory(basis of a global e for Duncan) but after a while they will cease to exist due to generally growing resource nationalism and job protectionism.