Freedom from Oil - a review

This is the time of year when we often spend some time traveling, and at the time that I went down to the ASPO Meeting in Houston, I picked up a book on the oil situation that I read on the way down and back. The book is “Freedom from Oil”, by David Sandalow. Because of the way it is presented the book turned out to relatively easy to pick and put down, as trip segments evolved, and so I thought I would briefly review it today. It gives a different view of the situation, illustrating, through the use of memoranda from the different Departments and Secretaries of the Government, how a policy speech and program get assembled. The topic, and sub-title of the book is “How the Next President Can End the United States’ Oil Addiction”, and that was good enough for me to pluck it from the shelf and onto the airplane.

For those of you who have followed the discussion of the situation through these pages over the past year or so, much of the early discussion will be familiar. (For those who haven’t it does cover a lot of the salient ground). After an initial memo from a future President asking for input for a speech, the book begins with a review from the projected point of view of the Secretary of Energy, which includes information that roughly 69% of our oil is used in transportation, and which concludes with the note that “overwhelming majorities of Americans believe oil dependence is a serious problem. They will reward a political leader who takes serious steps to address it.”

Now I suspect that this is still a bit of wishful thinking. Peak Oil still appears to be almost insignificant on the public radar, although this has to be separated from the price of gas, and the price of energy in general. Both of these will probably become more evident over this winter, particularly if it is a little colder than the recent past, and perhaps they will lead to a recognition of the underlying cause, but I am not holding my breath. On the other hand there is the current Energy Bill so perhaps my doubts are a little less valid than usual. Certainly the book recognizes that the Department of Defense is highly sensitive to the problem, with “every $10 per barrel adding $1.3 billion to Pentagon operating costs.”

Now obviously the author has his own solution to the problem, and how he builds a case for it occupies the body of the memos from the different departments. He uses the stories from different individuals to make points as the book progresses. One of the first is Sarah James, and he uses her story of the problems of the native tribes, to highlight melting of ice in the Arctic. (Short pause while I note that about a thousand years ago when we were in the last Warming Period, it was tribes such as hers that sailed their umiaks through the melted waters of the Arctic to Greenland, where, as the Thule, they met the Vikings who were also colonizing at the time. So life in a warmer world may not be all bad for them).

Since one of the others highlighted is Vinod Khosla , whose ideas have been discussed here on The Oil Drum by Robert Rapier, you may gather that cellulosic ethanol is a part of the plan. (And in the book the debate between Robert and Vinod is mentioned – though at Robert’s site.) Vinod has co-authored pieces with Senator Lugar, who wrote a foreword to the book.

Since the book deals with only the high-level memos that go to and from the President there is little to indicate the filtration that would occur in getting ideas from those within the Departments to their respective Secretaries, and so one gets only this somewhat narrow view of how a policy is developed. Yet it is instructive, and given that this is only one of many topics that must flow to and from the White House, it also illustrates how little detailed knowledge may lie behind some of the decisions that are made. Although, from that point of view, since the book only deals with memos and not discussion, it is not clear how much better informed the relevant parties would be before the policy emerges.

The longest memos come from the Department of Transportation, since at least part of the thrust of the book is to suggest at least a partial answer to the oil problem. The memos do discuss some of the options before focusing in on the need to develop, through the path from hybrids, to plug-in hybrids with the ultimate goal moving towards the electric car. And while this is a commendable goal, and likely a useful step forward, I am afraid that this will be the one part of the book that might be considered to be the most fictional. Hopefully shifting funding from highway construction to mass transit is less so, but with due respect for the logic of the argument and the need, I don’t think that the public has yet been readied enough to accept the change, and politicians being what they are . .

But, and I purchase probably at least one or two books on the coming crisis each month, this is likely to be one that stays in the front row, rather than joining most of the others towards the back. In part this is because it carries a fair number of useful bits of information in a way that are easy to understand and to access. And I actually finished it, which (guilty look down) I don’t always do when some of the others head off into their own projected solutions, which tend to be less practically based than this one.

I have to confess I barely skim Heading Out's articles anymore. But I always search on terms like "warming" and "medieval" and guess what? It's always there. No matter what the topic is, he will be plugging his denialist views.

Time to figure out who pays his bills.

I can feel a 200 post thread on "Yes we're warming", "No, we're not warming" coming from all sides now. The air is getting close, my chest is hurting, I collapse in a daze only to be awakened hours later by a medic, saying I passed out. I am confused and stumble out the door.

The bright hot sun blinds me and burns my face, the cold wind bites through my skin. I run in panic from the voices inside my head of reason and madness fighting each other to find the truth. I sit down by the lakeside and watch the waves lapping against the shore and become calm.


I do think its the people who deny GW that want you to "collapse in a daze" - if you can't bedazzle them with brilliance them confuse them with BS.

Are you seriously saying that somebody like me who is a AGW denier thinks that peak oil does not exist? Or that we should just trash the environment? This is a rather absurd conclusion at best.

I do think that it is horrible that when I have visted LA that my eyes, lungs, nose burn. I do think that we should clean up our act and stop dumping crap everywhere. However even if I do think that things that regulate our climate are beyond our control does not mean that I say BURN IT ALL!!

I have a car that gets 30mpg, I run CF lights in my house. I am growing my own food. I recycle everything I can and so on.

I do not believe in climate models for a few reasons.

1) Hurricanes cannot be modeled with decent reliability yet.
2) Daily weather cannot be accurate
3) yearly trends are usually wrong
4) Models do not take everything into account such as death of trees, oceanic variability based on temperature and CO2 released due to this, Bacteria creating methane, humans breathing, yeast!... They wonder why they get it so wrong? LOL is all I can say.
5) Fringe scientists who try to bring rebuttals are considered to be lunatics. However their observations do hold merit just do not generate $$ for companies that wish to push the ever greening products.
6) Its hip, If it is hip and lots of people are onboard who do not know anything about climate science are touting it there is a problem. Real Estate anyone?
7) Are we to think that we are so super-beings that we can piss off the planet that has been around for so long?
8) The Sun well its the Sun nuff said.
9) Their models are proven wrong and even based on false data that is later realized. Even the hockey stick is considered to be fallacy now.
10) Higher C02 leads to higher plant growth speeds and therefore consumes more. Think of what happens when over abundance of food occurs in the wild with animals. Consume Consume Consume "die-off" stabilized" Regardless of our actions now we are scrapnoids if we are indeed the cause.
11) Arctic ice is refreezing at record rates
12) Solar Cycles are very impacting on weather
13) Water Vapor is by far more important of a greenhouse gas than C02
14) If there was true global warming sound science backs up that warming in the arctic would occur first nobody argues this. Hurricanes would be less frequent as the mechanism of hurricanes is nothing more than heat transfer from the lower to higher latitudes.
15) If there was higher warming there would be a increase in water vapor and rainfall overall. However there is extended drought over most of the planet that just does not set well with warming.
16) As above Colder leads to there being less rainfall and less evaporation thus drought. Drought leads to dust that blocks sunlight further making it colder.
17) There is no sound science to explain why the southern hemisphere is cooling now.
18) There has been natural climate variables that have occurred such as the little ice age and medieval warming period that exceed today in terms of speed and time.
19) greenland was fertile for the vikings therefore must have melted a lot more than today and yet life survived.
20) during earths history cool climates is the majority of the time therefore we should count our lucky stars that we exist in a time that is rather warm.

I just have to rationalize with myself on what I think is sound science. However think what you want. As I said I am not one to think polluting the atmosphere or soil/water is a good idea. I think we should quit for sure and find more reasonable means to get the energy we need. And maybe even use the word that is so hated these days... SACRIFICE!!! and do with out to make better for all.

In can speak to the Greenland fertility issue.

Throstur Eysteinsson is Ass't Directer of the Icelandic Forest Service, has been working with Greenland to set up their first tree plantings and has a PhD in forestry from the Univ. of Maine. He also quite erudite.

Subject: Orchards in Greenland ?

The following was quoted to me on a discussion board:

>From the report of Ivar Bardson (a priest/monk who apparently visited Greenland at least twice in the period from 1341 - 1347, and who was later a Bishop) "On the mountains and lower down grow the best of fruits, as big as apples and good to eat. There also grows the best wheat that exists."

Just wondering about your thoughts and comments ?

Best Hopes,


Hi Alan
Good to hear from you!

I won't say that the description below is an out-and-out lie but it is an exaggeration. There are fruits in Greenland but they are all small. The closest they have to apples is northern mountain ash (Sorbus decora). It produces pomes (like apples) in clusters, each about the size of a
blueberry. Like other mountain ash species, the fruit is supposedly edible but not very good (I know, I've tried them).

Barley was cultivated in Iceland but never wheat. I suspect that the same was true for the Icelandic settlements in Greenland. (For some reason it is usually called the Norse settlements, Norse refering to the Nordic countries. But as far as anyone knows, the only Nordic people that settled there were Icelanders.)

There is no reason that I know of to think that Greenland was significantly warmer or more fertile at Settlement than it is today.

All the best

Wait a minute. I have no expertise at all on climate change in Greenland, but here we have a witness from the 14th century who went to Greenland and described what it was like. Then we have some guy in the 21st century who says the guy in the 14th century was wrong about what he says he saw? I think we should give the greater weight to the eyewitness testimony.

Throstur's points are valid. There is no apparent source for wheat in Greenland (since it was never grown in Iceland, the only known contact with Greenland), just barley. And a warmer climate in Greenland should have helped Iceland (which has a better climate today). Yet Icelanders never grew wheat.

No archaeological evidence of either apples or wheat.

As the name suggests, Greenland was subject to massive Real Estate hype, of which the bishop might have been part. Post-pagan Iceland murdered far fewer men (and lost fewer "a viking") so emigration of surplus population was probably a good thing.

The sea ice records of the Icelanders showed more ice in the 1300s & 1400s than today.


You might try
*Ivar Bardson/Bardarson, Det Gamle Grnlands Beskrivelse, edited from handwritten MS by Finnur Jonsson, Copenhagen 1930. The original was written by a monk who, among other things, dined on the wild cattle that were roaming the place in the 1340's.


(the square comes because I don't know how to put an o with a slash through it into this format).

Short of checking for it in the National Library of Iceland, any idea how to get it ?

Or a detailed summary ?

I can kind of/sort of read Icelandic/Old Norse.


I only just tracked it down this far. But there is are a group of folk that write about this on a discussion board, which I came across trying to find a translation. Incidentally travel at the time was not narrowly restricted and so it is perfectly possible that they acquired seed grain as part of the trade that they engaged in - selling polar bear skins etc into Europe. The church was also heavily involved in the colony.

Archaeologists love to comb through waste dumps. No evidence of wheat or apples there.

Iceland has a milder climate, and much stronger trade links, than Greenland. They have never grown wheat there (including today). As an aside, Iceland has a variety of trees to chose from that will grow well or marginally.

So far (I will confirm) only Siberian larch has been planted in Greenland.
[edit] A number of tree species have been planted in Greenland (Scotch Pine 100+ years ago, today 2.5 to 3 m tall). Several species survive but only Siberian larch can be said to grow. And only along the interior Fjords of the south (where the Eastern Settlement was).

The Western Settlement was treeless (and charcoal less), but the Eastern Settlement had limited short willows & birches along the interior fjords, but a very limited resource that would have been pressured by sheep farming. And iron could well have been an essential export from the Newfoundland Settlement. Unfortunately, access to Newfoundland required trees to make ships from.

[I might mention that apple orchards and sheep farming are incompatible without extensive fences, the sheep will rapidly kill the trees w/o high and extensive fences (Icelanders traditionally free range their sheep, fences were impractical). Fruit trees have sugar in their bark are are "sheep candy" AFAIK. Another strike against Greenlandic apple trees.]

Throstur also pointed out that the concept of sustainable development came from forestry. A 1713 book on silvaculture Economics in German was the first mention, he said the name of the author but I forgot[/edit]

There is no other historic record of wheat or apples, both of which would have been trade goods with Iceland, which had neither.

Throstur's theory of collapse of Greenland and not Iceland is that Iceland had small trees large enough to make charcoal, Greenland did not. Charcoal is needed to make iron (note that Viking Settlement in Newfoundland (perhaps 150 people max) had an iron foundry). Iron is needed to harvest hay. Hay is needed to keep sheep & cattle over winter. Once Greenland's declining trade links deprived them of iron, starvation was just a matter of time.

Such a theory argues against apple trees.

Greenland Vikings were never a large colony. Even much larger, and closer Iceland would go over a year without a trade vessel at various times in their history. (Although such years were rare and were complained of in the chronicles of the time).


That is, of course, the same bishop that Throstur politely called a liar. And made claims not supported by excavations of old settlements or other historical accounts.


Are you seriously saying that somebody like me who is a AGW denier thinks that peak oil does not exist?


Or that we should just trash the environment? This is a rather absurd conclusion at best.


do think that it is horrible that when I have visted LA that my eyes, lungs, nose burn. I do think that we should clean up our act and stop dumping crap everywhere. However even if I do think that things that regulate our climate are beyond our control does not mean that I say BURN IT ALL!!

Nope - never said that nor have I implied that you or anyone else who is a GW denier said as such

I would like to see a majority of trained climate scientists interpret climate data and come to the conclusion that GW as a trend is wrong. But it is not to be. As for the 20 point post - it kinda reinforces my point. Spread confusion.

so instead of answering my 20 questions you decide its a good idea to say its just confusion. Cool! way to go on a rebuttal.

I know what you mean about this. He simply refuses to take any of it seriously and continuously grasps at minutia of one sort or another as evidence that that we ought not try and do anything about global climate change.

I will tell you what I do know though - he is an academic who has a background in mining. I should note that he oftentimes writes about coal mining with a considerable amount of detailed information.

With respect to the arctic ice melt, I think it is easy to think that we are already past a tipping point, and it is too late to do anything.

If there is any possibility that the current arctic ice problems are temporary, I think it is helpful to hear the evidence. Otherwise, it is easy to come to the conclusion of "why bother, its hopeless" when looking at the climate change situation today. If it looks like there is a possibility of hope on the arctic ice melt, I think it gives a stronger argument for taking action with respect to our longer term warming problems.

It may or may not be too late for the Arctic, but the Antarctic is another matter entirely. With some deniers, delay until inevitable seems to be the desired outcome.

There is more to the climate than sea level, of course. Even if all of the ice does melt, the average temperatures will still depend on the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.

I guess I look at it this way. We are going to have to get off of fossil fuels sooner or later anyways. Yes, we could put it off as long as possible, and thereby ensure inevitability, or we can act sooner and perhaps leave behind a more comfortable planet for us to live on.

There is considerable archaeological evidence that the Thule migrated. It is also worth noting that the Antarctic ice cap is currently larger than previously recorded.

Heading Out's contributions are great, worth more than a skim. I admit I am not as technically educated in the energy sector as I wish I were, but The Oil Drum educates me by careful reading. There is no harm in skimming, but I wouldn't announce this. It might be misinterpreted and seen as disrespectful.

I second this - HO has written a lot of great articles over the years and I hope he keeps them coming.

That said, I don't agree with his skepticism about AGW, but life is pretty boring if you only listen to people who share your own views, and you can always learn from listening to a contrarian viewpoint (admittedly some arguments against global warming are just fictions created by PR companies, but that isn't the case here).

The link he gives says (my itallics)

Sometime around A.D. 1000, the whalers of North Alaska began to move eastward, probably travelling by umiak and bringing with them most of the elements of the sophisticated sea-hunting culture that had developed in Alaska over the previous millennium. We do not know why this movement took place, but it may have been related to a general climatic warming throughout the Arctic at this time. The higher temperatures probably reduced the amount of sea ice, making a greater area available for the summer feeding of bowhead whales and other large sea mammals, and perhaps at the same time making whaling more difficult during the brief spring migration season along the coast of North Alaska.

All those careful qualifications disappear and for Heading Out this is unconditional.

it was tribes such as hers that sailed their umiaks through the melted waters of the Arctic to Greenland, where, as the Thule, they met the Vikings who were also colonizing at the time.

People have moved to Greenland more than once, and gone extinct more than once. Not just white people, other people.
Well, we don't know that they went extinct. We just know that there were gaps in occupancy in specific locations along the coastal settlement chain, lasting for long periods and having new peoples settling there afterwards.
The Dorset might have just got in their boats and moved to Florida around 2,500BC or whenever.
As far as dendrochronology is concerned, why argue? We will know if the ice pack melts in two years just by waiting two years. It's not as if we could do anything to stop it, and if it does happen, we will know what happens to the Conveyor Belt at that time.
My bet is that the Greenies will be able to impose their beliefs on the world to exactly the degree that the world is able to impose it's weather on you.

I wonder, has "global warming" replaced "bird flu" as the crisis du jour? Or do most people still think that bird flu is the greatest threat to the existence of mankind over the next 5 years? I want to focus on bird flu since it is much easier to find birds that have the flu than it is to find rising oceans. Why can't we focus on solving the bird flu thing first?

B/c birds don't vote. Birds don't buy. Birds don't sell anything to the Americans.

Everyone on the other hand notices weather. Hot/cold people vote. Wet/dry people buy. And middle-class activists/peasant bicycle-drivers sell things to the Americans :-)

It is possible that bird flu was just another facet of "The Power Of Nightmares" being manipulated for commercial advantage...

I think the attraction to global warming as a problem over other obvious problems is that it allows Western people to chastise each other. The desire to assert higher status over fairly high status people makes global warming more attractive than, say, species extinction in tropical rain forests because higher status Western people use most of the energy cause a smaller fraction of the rain forest damage.

I suspect that expanding populations and rising affluence in relatively poorer countries (e.g. India, China, Indonesia, southeast Asian countries) is causing far more habitat loss and species extinction than global warming will in the next 50 years. But telling poor people to have fewer babies isn't an effective formula for asserting higher status over high status people.

That there was a medieval warming in the higher latitudes of the northern hemisphere is not at all controversial. The controversy is in applying this data to the entire world at that time. Heading out did not imply that the medieval warming was global.

However there is a website that is looking at the global extent of the Medieval Warming Period. They appear to have collected a significant number of papers that suggest that the extent was considerably larger than just the higher latitudes of the northern hemisphere.

Our Medieval Warm Period Project is an ongoing effort to document the magnitude and spatial and temporal extent of a significant period of warmth that occurred approximately one thousand years ago. Its goal is to ultimately provide sufficient real-world evidence to convince most rational people that the Medieval Warm Period was: (1) global in extent, (2) at least as warm as, but likely even warmer than, the Current Warm Period, and (3) of a duration significantly longer than that of the Current Warm Period to date.

I poked a bit at that website to see who the people were, and what their qualifications are. The one thing that jumps out at me is that I don't see any climatologists in the list of scientific advisors.

Secondly, they seem to have an agenda.

Members of the board have written papers questioning global climate change, but most of those were written back in the 1980's and 1990's. Back at the time, a bit of skepticism was a healthy thing. But today among climatologists the issue has been settled.

For example, they have something where you can see historical mean annual temperatures at various spots around the country. Apparently in an attempt to prove no warming so far, but in general the data is extremely noisy. Not surprising really. The IPCC says that temperatures have gone up about 1 degree F, but that is an average over the whole planet, and such a change would be lost in the noise for any given meteorological station. One could take the climate data from all over the US, and average it to smooth out the noise, and then any trends would be far more pronounced.

Alternatively, according the IPCC, the temperature changes in the Arctic and Antarctic are far more pronounced than they would be in the continental US, but doesn't supply mean temperature data for Alaska. But not to worry, I found such data elsewhere:

and this does show a pronounced increase.

This page features the trends in mean annual and seasonal temperatures for Alaska's first-order observing stations since 1949 (Fig. 1), the time period for which the most reliable meteorological data are available. The temperature change varies from one climatic zone to another as well as for different seasons. If a linear trend is taken through mean annual temperatures, the average change over the last 5 decades is 3.4°F.

Finally, we don't even need all of this data - the plants that grow around us tell us the story. People all over the country are reporting seeing animals and plants that they have never seen before, but which are prevalent in warmer climates. And the plants are starting to grow earlier in the spring than they had before.

There is so much evidence - overwhelming evidence, in my opinion, that climate change is real. What did or didn't happen in the Medevial period is really more of academic interest to me.

It's great to see all the internet hacks and armchair experts are sooooooo much smarter than the vast majority of climate scientists on our planet...

a few google searches, a couple of articles written (for the most part) by either paid shills for industry or scientists who are in fields other than climate science, and ho-ho they have "disproved" or "cast serious doubts" on AGW

and then I talk to some of the geophysicists at the AGU this week in San Francisco, and wouldn't you know, the summary of 10 years straight in satellite readings show a ~3mm rise in sea level per year - half of which can be attributed to expansion from the sea water heating (which in itself would be indicative of a problem)- the other half? - melting glaciers and icecaps... and this is just ONE of the sort of reports from actual experts in their fields...but deniers will continue

and coal will get burned in ever-increasing amounts on oil's downslope

Hello MacDuff, sounds like you may originate from my neck of the woods.

It's great to see all the internet hacks and armchair experts are sooooooo much smarter than the vast majority of climate scientists on our planet...

Maybe you could remind us when it was the IPCC said that the Arctic would be free of summer sea ice. I can't be bothered going back to the report which I no longer consider to be worth reading. But it said on the BBC last night that it would likely be ice free in Summer in around 10 years - and a mental extrapolation of what I've seen on satellite images of sea ice and summer melting in Greenland would support that contention. Why is it that things seem to be progressing so much faster than we are led to believe by the IPCC?

The IPCC also managed to overlook the fact that the Earth probably lacks sufficient fossil fuels to create the most optimistic of global warming scenarios they forecast. And this shower have been awarded the Nobel Prize! Robert Mugabe next year no doubt.

So things on the ground are much worse than the IPCC forecast and yet we seem to lack the FF inventory to bring about their worst fears.

Please explain.


Here's my interpretation on your IPCC dilemma. They are conservative in their modelling of "processes". Only factor in a sub-set of all the processes. Their consensus approach also pulls down the content of their documentation to the lowest common dominator – this much we know and agree on. This explains why they have been systematically underestimating reality over the last four reports.

The 2nd point about reserves is different. Here they are optimistic (depending on your point of view!), assuming more extractable fossil fuel reserves than is likely.

These two "errors" are not mutually exclusively though as they occupy different spaces of the problem. The conservative nature of the processes leads to miss-matches with historic observations. The overestimation of reserves error won't become apparent until sometime in the future when we see the high end emissions scenarios fail to pan out.

The conclusion to all this? By the IPCC's understanding of the processes we need 800-1000ppm CO2 to get to +6C. On the one hand there isn't the carbon to get that high (good news!) but on the other hand the IPCC's understanding of the processes is conservative so we may not need 800-1000ppm to still deliver +6C.

Chris - science should not be guided by consensus - especially if the consensus gets skewed for subjective reasons.

So where do you think the IPCC have gone wrong in their modeling scenario?

I continue to wonder if they have not got the natural cycle wrong - and what we are seeing is human forcing laid on top of a natural warming period - al a HO?

The IPCC will be in deep trouble when they have to concede that they do not have enough C to burn - but then say - Oh by the way things will still be as bad as we forecast cos we screwed that up too.

The very serious issue here is how billions are spent in the coming years - C capture or vast numbers of nukes and windmills - if it turns out there just ain't enough C to worry about.

I would rather that the fear of global warming prevents coal burning electric plants from getting constructed and that we construct nukes instead. We'll breathe cleaner area and be better prepared for Peak Coal.

I think that conventional pollutant harm ought to be enough to crack down on coal burners. I would like it if the global warming brigade focused much more on cutting conventional pollutants. Such an effort would reduce fossil fuels usage and shift us toward nukes, wind, solar, and more efficient usage of energy.

By the IPCC's understanding of the processes we need 800-1000ppm CO2 to get to +6C.

Is that CO2 or CO2 equivalents?

Methane is roughly 22 times as powerful as CO2 as a greenhouse gas.  400 ppm CO2 plus 30 ppm of methane would deliver the equivalent of 1000 ppm of straight CO2, and there are any number of sources of methane which could deliver that much or more.

We really need contingency plans to halt feedback loops before they run away beyond our ability to offset them.

Coal: It all hinges on coal. Can we really increase total fossil fuels consumed even as oil and natural gas production decline?

The whole global warming question seems to me hinge on how much coal we can burn. If we can burn at some multiple of our current coal burn rate and maintain that multiple for some decades then, yes, we can probably cause huge climate changes.

But if Peak Oil comes by 2015 at the latest (and the IEA projection of plateau until 2015 seems optimistic) and we can't ramp up coal by a huge amount then global warming seems like the wrong issue to treat as one of our top concerns.

So can we ramp up coal production far beyond current production levels and sustain it?

The expansion of Chinese coal burn is gigantic - I don't have the stats to hand - but its on the scale of 19th century industrial revolution in Europe. Chinese coal consumption increased 9% and Indonesia by 18% in 2006 alone.

My own view is that all this talk of Carbon capture is just that - a crutch for the politicians to lean on. There is absolutely no point in Europe doing this while China belches out more CO2 than anyone else - as we have done for centuries.

And then there is in-situ coal gassification. I'm quite sure we'll see lots of that as our nat gas supplies plummet towards 2020.

Oil will peak on 15 th November 2011.

I understand what China is doing with coal. But what are their real coal reserves? What are Australia's real reserves? How long can China sustain this burn rate?

I would like to see the very talented analysts of The Oil Drum to devote a lot more attention to coal. I think we know enough about oil and natural gas at this point to see the broad outline of how they will play out. But we do not know anywhere near as much about coal.

Asebius, I have had the very good fortune to meet Professor Heading Out on a couple of occasions now. Before then, and in a fit of arrogant bluster on the TOD email list I claimed I had probably written more peer reviewed articles than anyone else on the crew - and then Prof HO pointed out he had written something like 300 (from memory).

My main criticism of Prof HO is that the titles of his articles are often rather obscure. Some of what he writes, often takes a fairly high degree of education and understanding to unravel.

One thing I know for sure is that peer momentum is an easy ride. I also know that we learn most by challenging the basic assumptions of perceived wisdoms - it makes those of us who are able to do so - think!

(Short pause while I note that about a thousand years ago when we were in the last Warming Period, it was tribes such as hers that sailed their umiaks through the melted waters of the Arctic to Greenland, where, as the Thule, they met the Vikings who were also colonizing at the time. So life in a warmer world may not be all bad for them).

So the onus is in you my friend to disprove this point.

By your own admission you have not read the book review posted above. And so before pressing the submit button again - stop to think about what value you have to contribute to the debate. I assure you my pending files are crammed full of derogatory crap which with hind site I'm glad I never said.

Another absolute certainty - the climate is changing rather rapidly, the symptoms are there for all to see. The climate has always changed rapidly and the day it stops doing so we are all dooooooooomed.

Stick around Asebius, but please focus on what you can bring to the debate.


I continue to find it interesting to see how rapidly folk such as yourself move to "ad hominem" attacks. The scientific evidence I quote is correct, the reflection is on yourself.

300+ peer reviewed paper, dude, and not one in climate science.

What are those articles on, by the way?

The thing is, I have a very close relative with 100+ papers. Very smart guy. He strays far from his field, and I might as well be talking to my door man!

BTW, it has been repeatedly suggested that you engage climate scientists and report the discussion here.

Result: nada.

Why is that?

Are you a climate scientist George? Could you point me to your bibliography?

Nope. Are you a climate scientist, Luis?

Here's an idea that will be completely revolutionary to some here:

When it comes to the climate, let's consult some climate scientists.

I offer the fact that I came up with that all on my own as proof of my genius.

So I guess talking to you about Climate must the same as talking to your door man ;)

Yes. You are starting to get it.

HeadingOut, Euan Means, George Asebius and George's doorman (and Luis de Sousa) all talking about climate while refusing to bring in the experts and drive the debate to that level, are engaged in a little fantasy exercise that passes the time nicely. And nothing more.

Either that, or we are proselytizing.

I'm not talking about Climate, I'm talking about you and your comments against this website. But then again, there's no much talking to have with a door man.

Have a pleasant weekend, I'm leaving.

An interview with the author was in last weekends Financial Sense Newshour.
It was hard to contain my unbridled hope for the future as things like the Chevy Volt were toted out. The smell of
of of cough cough bull-shit cough filled my room.

No grounding in reality, much less real awareness of what Peak Oil and Climate Change will entail - a very low carbon future.
We'll see what becomes of the Chevy Volt - at the moment it's still a super-high powered road rocket.

It was laughable when I saw the posting about "Big Auto's race to go green":

1.8L engine. Who needs a monster like that? Cut it in half! My 1L Chevy Sprint was just fine - even overpowered
and it's 16 year old technology. 6.5L/100km - that's not a goal that's the past. Again - my Sprint was quite capable of 4.5L/100km on the highway - without the improved engine that came out in 1993 or aerodynamic changes that other have made.
Converting it to a series hybrid with a 4hp IC engine would double the milage again.

That's still not sustainable or exportable to any fraction of the Earths population - but I'd buy one if I could. A 92 year old friend of a friend just sold their 1993 Prius for $20k - wayyyy too expensive for my tastes - but then I commute by bicycle and we use our gas guzzling Ford Escort Wagoon as little as possible - the cost of fuel for it is so small I don't care if fuel prices double or triple; it's still not worth getting a Prius which could barely carry the family.

A 1.8L engine is a monster? Keep in mind an engine that size is probably smaller than 75% of the cars on the road in America. Admittedly, even smaller would be preferable. But if we could convince the average American that 1.8L was big enough that alone would be a major success.

For most of the rest of the world that already uses smaller engines, a smaller than 1.8L engine is a reasonable goal. But a 1.8L engine is still pretty efficient, and hardly a "monster".

I own a 1.8L 2001 Chevy Prizm, which gets 40 mpg highway even at 70 mph. If my math is right, that converts to 5.8L/100km. At a more reasonable 60 mph, I can get 44 mpg or 5.3L/100km. That's not much worse than your Chevy Sprint, and certainly better than 95% of the cars on the road.

I live in country where 100 - 150 cc motorbike with sidecar is adequate for most people. I use a 20 year old suzuki pickup with a 550cc motor which gets about 21kilometers per liter. It should easily last another 10 years. I have a cargo box on the back which can carry 8-10 adults. Fully loaded it can handle one ton cargo. I can comfortably drive on the highway at 100kilometers per hour. It is possible to aircon the cab but with a small loss of power. The only thing that has to be done is lower the speed limits to improve safety. We pay about $1.10 us dollar per liter for gasoline. If the US went to this form of transportation the amout used for tranport would be cut in half or more.

But we WILL have freedom from oil. It will just happen quite a bit differently than people like this author hope.

A world free from oil - a 100% certain predictable future.

Well, I'm still slowly plodding through Derrick Jensen's The Culture of Make Believe. I think I'll stick with it. I prefer non-fiction to fiction.

Components of My Proposed Comprehensive Energy Policy

1) Exempt from Property Taxes any RR line that electrifies (with accelerated depreciation for RR improvements). Do whatever incentive is required for maximum push for electrification.

2) Maximum Push to build more Urban Rail.
2b) Require pro-TOD zoning for 90% federal funding
2c) Buy more rail cars for existing lines

3) Maximum Push for Renewable Energy
3b) Push for at least 9 new nukes completed by 2017.
3c) Pumped Storage and HV DC lines

4) Significant Push for Conservation
4b) Ground Loop Heat Pumps to replace oil & NG heat * more efficient a/c

5) Use Light Hydrocarbons (NG + Propane/Butane) freed by above for specialty transportation

6) Promote more bicycle use by any & all means (including taking city street lanes for bike lanes)

7) Paying for It
a) Reduced spending on roads
b) Nondiscriminatory tariff one all imports
c) Carbon Taxes
d) Parking Taxes (Property taxes on Parking Lots + ?)
e) Interstate & US Highway Tolls
f) License Taxes on Gas Guzzlers
g) Reduced other spending (military, etc.)
h) Gasoline Taxes (raise 3 cents/month for 25 years)
i) Revoke ethanol subsidies, but tax ethanol at 60% of gas taxes

8) Let market respond to above for PHEVs, EVs and small diesels.
8b) Raise CAFE swiftly and high
8c) For 7 years, allow any car that meets Japanese or EU standards to be sold in USA if it surpasses CAFE by xx%.

Best Hopes,


I have an analysis of the McKinsey company carbon abatement plan

Efficiency for buildings, industry and transportation is important but the cheapest (life time cost) for new power is nuclear. they are assuming $3500-4000/kw to add nuclear.

Nuclear impact would be enhanced with the climate change bill to increase the number of nuclear plants built up to 100-200 by 2030.

Then with the rapid development/deployment of recent successes with thermoelectronics that are part of the DOE/EERE/freedomcar project (involving GE, Caterpiller, BMW and others). 40-70% of the waste heat could be turned into additional electricity without building any new plants or altering the main part of the reactors. 2010-2012 could start seeing some useful 10% energy recapture.

the MIT donut shaped fuel and nanoparticle additives research which is now being worked to commercialization by Westinghouse should be accelerated to enable 50% more energy (uprate) to be generated from existing and new boiler and pressure reactors. Look at another significant uprate technology.

Those two projects if fully deployed onto the existing reactors would increase power from nuclear by 225% an added 1200 billion kwh. Plus the thermoelectrics can retrofit large trucks and existing vehicles to have greater efficiency. Smaller vehicles as the tech gets cheaper. 125% more nuclear power from existing and a few new reactors would boost nuclear power to nearly 50% of US electricity generation and could displace half of the coal.

Other conservation and efficiency for buildings [I look at that in detail as well], industry [superconducting motors and grids] and transportion measures should also be taken.

I think electric bikes and scooters are also ready to help.

Oil usage in the USA

Kitegen, simplified solid core nuclear reactor (hyperion nuclear battery, which can also greatly reduce in situ oil shale and oil sands recovery) and liquid flouride thorium reactors and possibly bussard fusion (or colliding beam from tri-alpha energy) should also be pursued.

What is your source (and what year) for that table ? Could be useful.

I am all for nuke uprates, but they still undone uprates are not as easy or as practical as you seem to imagine.

Most of the items you mention are unproven, and even concept only, ideas. They will take decade(s) for widespread implementation. I went for the proven mature technologies (includes eBikes, although some details relating to optimization are still being sorted out).

Good for R&D $, but not for public policy in the coming crisis.

There is a labor limit on the speed with which we can economically build new nukes in the USA. An Energy Dept study assumed that with optimum utilization, we could build eight new nukes in ten years. Add 60% complete Watts Bar 2 and that makes 9.

And nuke costs appear a bit optimistic. Finland's newest reactor is already 25% over budget. Taiwan's latest nuke was 5 years late.

Financiers have still not forgotten the $25 billion nuke write-off by TVA and $11 billion wasted on WHOOPS in the 1980s (among smaller, mere Billion $ cost-overruns, etc.).

Best Hopes,


Source for the oil usage table

Another source with a relavant chart. This time with projection to 2030 with business as usual

Business as usual breakdown from Ecklerle, Transportation energy data book

The work on thermoelectrics is as advanced as the work on plug in hybrids and it will be able to be deployed faster. Retrofitting large trucks and stationary generators.

The work that I am mentioning is beyond concepts. They have prototypes which are being tested in on road vehicles.
There are crude thermoelectric systems in appliances and products now. (Beer coolers, seat warmers etc...)

The first commercial cars and trucks with thermoelectrics should be in 2010. Same as the expected date for PHEV. Plus the commercial truck retrofits would have 9month to 2 year paybacks. Initial +10% efficiency targets.

There are 50-100% cost overruns on rail and other infrastructure projects as well
trends in US rail cost overruns

Seattle light rail billions in overruns

coal plants have cost overruns too$4BCoalBurner.htm

wind projects can also have cost overruns. Here is one that was cancelled due to spiralling costs,0,7647935.story

not everything is a big Dig,_Massachusetts)

The SF Bay Bridge fix is into cost overruns.

The new Nuclear plants have their financial backing.

another source on rail and highway project cost overruns

One of the most comprehensive studies (Aalburg University) covers 258 highway and rail projects ($90 billion worth) in 20 countries. Nearly all (90%) suffered cost overruns, with the average rail project costing 45% more than projected, the average highway project 20% more. Traffic forecasts were also far from accurate, with rail projects generating an average of 39% less traffic than forecast (though highway projects averaged a 9% under-estimate of traffic).

The vast majority of US Urban Rail projects are on budget to +5% overrun.

Nuclear power has a unique record of construction failure and costs overruns of staggering dimensions. The Big Dig is the only civil project that I can think of that is comparable.


I had quoted the trends in US urban rail report. Here are the tables for the post 1990 period

the individual projects with the biggest overruns can be seen. San Juan Train Urbano has one of the biggest overruns and finished in 2004.

30% cost overruns for all projects.

45% for HR
20% for LRT

The 1986 to 1989 numbers are worse. Around the time of the last of the nuclear projects. 50% avg cost overruns. Miami DPM was also over double its budget.

The data does not seem to be matching your claims.

A lot of infrastructure projects have cost overruns. That does not mean we should not try to build the better project and to get better at doing them.

The report at first glance appears to be cherry picking dsta, tsking only those mostly over budget.

What of the New Orleans Canal Streetcar Project, budget $160 million, actual $150.x million ? Or the New Orleans Riverfront Streetcar Line, where the guy in charge was humorously chided for being $96 under budget and not finding something to buy for inventory to use that last $96 ? (He did put about $1 million "to good use").

Portland's Red Line ? Interstate Line ?

Denver had two major Light Rail projects and only one is noted ? Miami also had the Palmetto Extension, not listed. Etc.

The listing is hardly comprehensive of the dozens of Urban Rail projects completed since 1990 !


I had found and quoted two studies.
One for the USA and one for global projects. Both came to the conclusion of significant cost overruns for rail.

If you have a more comprehensive study or list then please present it.

Since its inception about $3 billion has been invested in light rail in Portland

(2004) in Ozawa, Connie P.: The Portland Edge: Challenges and Successes in Growing Communities. Island Press, 19. ISBN 1-55963-695-5.

I like electrified rail and guiderails, but it costs a lot of money and requires a lot of coordination of many levels of government and they take a long time to build.
There are challenges like the issue of ridership.

San Francisco

Plans are underway for a three station underground light rail line, expected to serve 78,000 daily riders by 2030. Due to underground routing, the cost for the 1.7 mile line is estimated at $1.5 billion.

Ottawa had a 450% over budget rail project (1970s)

A lot of capital projects from the 1970s would be over budget because of the high interest rates. I merely point these things out to indicate that your argument about old cost overruns is not as relevant. Especially if new standardization of designs (like what was done in France) has been shown to be far more successful for keeping things at or near budget.

A much-advertised benefit of light rail is that it sparks economic development around stations. At first, though, as is happening in Houston now, householders can delay projects out of fear that their property will fall victim to the bulldozers.

Planners across America must worry about a huge jump in the price of construction materials. Concrete for tunnels, barriers and supports costs around 11% more than last year. Prices of steel, cement and copper wiring have gone up too.

Speaking of French Standardized designs, they build new tram lines at a cost of 20 to 30 million euros/km and typically take 3 to 4 years to complete.

A large number of design issues have been standardized.

I remember, with growing shock and horror, the self destruction of the US nuclear industry in the 1980s. Large projects self immolating (TVA, WHOOPS) and "smaller" acts of self destruction (Zimmer, River Bend 2, and dozens more).

In the case of TVA, they halted construction on 8 new nukes, repairs to one, and shut down 4 nukes in service for repairs for 5 to 10 years. WHOOPS was the largest public debt default in the history of the United States. They started 5 reactors, and finished one. A tsunami of bad news !

It left quite an impression on me !

I had been an ardent nuke supporter, and thought of a career in nukes.

I truly believe that there has never been a comparable !

Best Hopes for "Never Again !"


Also ridership is almost uniformly higher than projections for USA light rail projects.

Best Hopes,


Ottawa had a 450% over budget rail project (1970s)

I think you should re-read that section.

Ottawa opted for a busway system (BRT), which had a cost overrun of 450%, from $97 million into $450 million.

The O-Train cost $21 million, and it was on budget, IIRC.

Hi Alan,

At last! (unless I've missed it previously.) Are you going to write this up and run as a lead TOD article?

I hope so. It would be great to have a lot of discussion on this.

re: "Do whatever incentive is required for maximum push for electrification."

I was wondering if there might be some way to tie in an aspect of "radical reform" (ala "Apollo-style" immediate mitigation measures) to the current housing market crises (or collapse, or whatever one may wish to call it.) Some kind of way of putting solar on roof-tops, retrofits, etc. I don't know, just trying to think of the elements of such an idea. Yes, this might involve some financial "re-structuring" and losses to certain service sectors the same time...the reality of the current course (ie., seemingly inevitable physical destruction of physical housing assets for want

Anyway, just musing aloud, in case you can turn some attention to this as well.

Since you are missing 4a I would like to suggest: Better home insulation and sealing.

Ground loop heat pumps: I'd like to see municipalities to offer easier permits for building for houses that have ground loop heat pumps in their designs. Or take other measures to incentivize their installation. How about federal grants to schools to pay part of the cost convert to that for heating?

CAFE: Tell Detroit that for every PHEV or pure electric they sell they can sell one low mpg car that does not count toward their CAFE average.

Urban rail: It only makes sense if it is electric.

The list was "off the cuff" based on my recent thoughts, and not quite "ready for prime time".

Thanks you for your suggestions.

I think of better insulation & sealing as the heart of conservation. Higher efficiency equipment is the smaller half IMHO.

I like using the schools as a model/build-up for wider use of ground loop heat pumps.

I am not sure that supporting adverse changes in urban form just to get GLHPs installed is a good thing. This sprawling sub-division is OK because they have efficient HVAC systems ?

I think demand will exceed supply for PHEVs & EVs, so why OK more gas guzzlers ? Besides, with each Hummer having to pay $2.000/year in federal license tag fees, the idea is to just rid the roads of them.

Diesel commuter trains are, IMHO, a good half step. Much better than car/SUV commuting, and cna electrified "later".

In ALL cases provisions for electrification should be included for new Urban Rail,

Best Hopes,



Regarding gas guzzlers: We are better off with a fleet with bimodal efficiency than one with a bell curve centered around a single average.

To put it another way: If we have grossly inefficiency and extremely efficient vehicles that average out to, say, 30 mpg that is better than having the same number of vehicles but all clustered around 35 mpg. Why? Because we can stop using the grossly inefficient ones and just drive the extremely efficient ones.

I would expect that 45 mpg vehicles get driven more miles per year than 10 mpg vehicles. Let the price of gasoline go to $10 per gallon and the ratio of miles driven by Priuses to miles drive by Hummers will go way up.

So I'm thinking the car companies should be given an incentive to make PHEVs where they get rewarded to make them by being allowed to make more land yacht Hummers and Lincoln Navigators.

The next president, after they have survived the carnival that has become presidential politics as well as a great distraction away from the Bush administration (and it was Walter Lippman and Edward Bernays who first promoted the “handling” of the public) is probably being set up to take the fall as America faces its greatest energy challenge.

I just moved to Chicago from Columbus, Ohio and if Columbus is the bellweather of American culture, as marketers believe it to be, Americans love their cars, love to drive and the “American lifestyle” is so deeply ingrained in the American character, that most of us are neither aware of it nor believe we are much more than this media/capitalistic invention.

Heading Out, I think you are doing great work by bringing these issues forward and putting them on the public plate for discussion. At the recent Peak Oil conference in Yellow Springs, there was a feeling of revolutionary inspiration, as inspired by David Korten’s “The Great Turning” presentation. You raise issues that beg the great Russian question: shot delat- What is to be done. My answer: be thankful, be humble and enjoy this great oil endowment while it lasts, we will need happy memories for the hard times that may be ahead in the near or perhaps medium term future.

I met David Sandalow a week ago, where he showed up in a plug-in hybrid at a meeting of journalists called The Unpress: New Gatekeepers of the N.H. Primary. Nice guy. Of course this meeting was about politics, not oil.

When Sandalow got the microphone he commented that "our political dialog has become a breathtakingly content-free zone", and wondered if the blogosphere was a way to "generate substantive dialog". He must have had The Oil Drum in mind as a reference, because if all of our discussions were handled the way they tend to be here, politics would be radically different.

Clearly what drives Sandalow is frustration over the inability of our political machinery to do the right thing. And of course, he slipped in a 2 second plug for his book.

Heading May Have a Point:
The Sheep Albedo Feedback
Filed under: Climate Science — raypierre @ 9:51 AM
The already-reeling "consensus" supposedly linking climate change to CO2 is about to receive its final coup-de-grace from a remarkable new result announced in a press conference today by Dr. Ewe Noh-Watt of the New Zealand Institute of Veterinary Climatology [1]. Noh-Watt and his co-workers, describing work funded by a generous grant from the Veterinary Climate Science Coalition, declared "We have seen the future of climate — and it is Sheep." Prof. Jean-Belliere Poisson d'Avril, star student of Claude Allegro Molto-Troppo (discoverer of the Tropposphere) reacted with the words, "Parbleu! C'est la meilleure chose depuis les baguettes tranchées!"

The hypothesis begins with the simple observation that most sheep are white, and therefore have a higher albedo than the land on which they typically graze (see figure below). This effect is confirmed by the recent Sheep Radiation Budget Experiment. The next step in the chain of logic is to note that the sheep population of New Zealand has plummeted in recent years. The resulting decrease in albedo leads to an increase in absorbed Solar radiation, thus warming the planet. The Sheep Albedo hypothesis draws some inspiration from the earlier work of Squeak and Diddlesworth [2] on the effect of the ptarmigan population on the energy balance of the Laurentide ice sheet. Noh-Watt hastens to emphasize that the two hypotheses are quite distinct, since the species of ptarmigan involved in the Squeak-Diddlesworth effect is now extinct.

The proof of the pudding is in the data, shown in the Figure below. Here, the Sheep Albedo Index is defined as the New Zealand Sheep population in each year, subtracted from the 2007 population. The index is defined that way because fewer sheep means lower albedo, and thus a positive radiative forcing. It can be seen that the recent warming can be explained entirely by the decline in the New Zealand sheep population, without any need to bring in any mysterious so-called "radiative forcing" from carbon dioxide, which doesn't affect the sunlight (hardly) anyway — unlike Sheep Albedo. Some researchers have expressed surprise at the large effect from the relatively small radiative forcing attributable to New Zealand Sheep, or indeed to New Zealand as a whole. "This only shows the fallacy of the concept of Radiative Forcing, which is after all only a theory, not a fact," says Noh-Watt. "Evidently there are amplifying feedbacks at work which give the Sheep Albedo Index a disproportionate influence over climate."

"A real breakthrough was using the statistical technique pioneered by Frusen-Glädje and Haagendassen in their study of the solar-climate connection." said Noh-Watt "Just as in their case, to get a good match to the observed climate, we had to optimize our smoothing algorithm by smoothing some parts of the sheep record more than others, and then rescaling the results." The optimized smoothing was applied to the years 1975-1991. Noted skeptic Rasmus Benestad has criticized this technique as meaningless curve-bashing (see footnote [3] below), but according to Noh-Watt, " All these guys are interested in is getting rich by riding their bicycles to work and selling carbon credits to the EU."

Not everybody agrees with the Sheep Albedo Hypothesis. Leading the flock of skeptics is the New Zealand Sheep Farmers Guild. Their spokesman, Steve Ramsturf (no relation) was quoted as saying "Baaah, Humbug. No matter what goes wrong with the world, they're always trying to blame the poor New Zealand Sheep Farmer. First it was the methane belch tax. Now this Albedo thing. "

The recognition of the role of sheep albedo opens up some fascinating new possibilities for climate change mechanisms. There is in fact an important destabilizing feedback in the system: as climate gets warmer, there is less demand for wool sweaters and wooly underwear. Hence the sheep population tends to drop, leading to even more warming. In an extreme form, this can lead to a "runaway sheep-albedo feedback," which is believed to have led to the present torrid climate of Venus. Most researchers do not think this could happen on Earth, though. In fact, Oprah and Averell Chanteur, authors of the popular "Unstoppable" series (soon to be a major motion picture) say that the warming will usher in a new era of peace and prosperity, with less enslavement of domestic wool-bearing animals. The hypothesis is laid out in their forthcoming book, "Unstoppable Sheep, every five or six days," which expands on earlier popular titles in the series, such as "Unstoppable daylight, every 42 hours," "Unstoppable Summer, every 17 months, " and the ever-popular autobiographical work "Unstoppable nonsense, every two or three years."

However, Dirk Blitzen, noted researcher from Hogwartz Institute of Technology, has proposed an additional wrinkle on the sheep-albedo idea, which he calls the "sheep-Iris effect" (see Dasher et al. [4] for details). According to Blitzen, a reanalysis of Landsat images shows that as the climate gets warmer, sheep tend to huddle together less. Since wool has a lower emissivity than bare ground, the lack of huddling allows more infrared emission to escape from the ground, cooling the planet and stabilizing its climate. "Frankly, I don't see how the climate can change much at all," stated Blitzen in recent testimony before the House of Lords, "To be honest, at this point I have a little trouble figuring out how there can even be summer and winter. In the end, I think it will turn out to be a problem with the data." Ozark Junior College satellite expert Jhon Chrystal agrees; his new analysis of MSU satellite data in fact casts doubt on the "consensus" that summer and winter have different temperatures.

But the sheep story may not be as simple as it seems. Hendreck Svampmark of the Danish Institute for Solar-Sheep Interactions notes that at the same time the number of sheep has been going down, the number of cows (which have a lower albedo than sheep) has been going up. "We believe that what is really behind it all are Galactic Cowsmic Rays, which are transmuting sheep DNA into cow DNA." Svampmark hypothesizes a currently undetected particle flux, which he calls "Cowsmic," because there is no observed trend in any of the better-known components of the Galactic Cosmic Ray flux. "We are trying to get money to put sheep in dark-matter accelerators to test our hypothesis, but there's a hold-up with PETA. It's all a big conspiracy to protect the consensus, I say."


[1] Noh-Watt, Ewe "Sheep-Albedo Feedback: A paradigm shift for climate change science." To be submitted to Readers' Digest, "Humor in Uniform" section.

[2] Squeak, P.P. & Diddlesworth, I.R. 1987. The influence of ptarmigan population dynamics on the thermal regime of the Laurentide Ice Sheet : the surface boundary condition. In eds Edwin D. Waddington & Joseph S. Walder, The Physical Basis of Ice Sheet Modelling (Proceedings of a symposium held during the XIX Assembly of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics at Vancouver, August 1987), p.381-384.

[3] Benestad, a well-known spoilsport, points out that without the "optimized" smoothing out of the sheep-albedo-dip in the 1970's, the correlation breaks down; it breaks down further if one looks at the pre-1966 record. His unprocessed version of the data is shown below:

[4] Dasher ON., Dantzer ON, Prantzer ON, Vixen ON, Comet ON, Cupid ON Donner . , and Blitzen, D.R , (2007) "Why does Rudolf's nose glow so bright? Infrared effects of mammalian herd behavior." Bull. Tromsø Inst. Reindeer Husbandry

Absolutely brilliant - but you don't mention the Scottish Black Face - reason to doubt your findings I'm afraid.

Here's to more black sheep in the family.

hightrekker, absolutely hilarious...:-)

It ranks right up there with those who can prove by mathematics that
(a) increasing car fuel efficiency causes us to burn more oil
(b) even though there is "still half" of the world's oil left we will "run out" of oil by the end of 2010, and
(c) the world is a closed energy system, despite having more energy pouring on our heads from the sun by far than we can find ways to use.
"figures don't lie, but liars figure"


That wikipedia link doesn't make sense to me, because it double-counts energy by puting "wind" in a seperate category from "solar." The solar energy that reaches the earth already does important work, like create weather through the convection curents of differential heating, or moisture evaporation to create rain. It warms the earth, creates light, powers photosynthesis. So it is all already being used. And to capture any significant quantity of it is essentially impossible given how extremely spread out it is. Materials used to capture solar require fossil fuel energy, and are subject to entropy, the elements, and being covered in dust. This is why no country gets any significant amount of its energy from photovoltaic solar. I think hydro is the best way to capture solar energy. All the moisture that the sun evaporates over all the oceans just comes down as rain, then magic happens when all the rain concentrates into a river basin. So it is extremely easy to capture the energy when it self concentrates. So we get what, 90 times the energy from hydro as from photovoltaics?

Or if this doesn't work, Plan B would be to ask everyone to dress in white each day, and every day at noon step outside with a mirror and point it toward the sun, singing "We shall overcome".

Climate Change deniers are for idiots who would like not to think that the actions of 6 billion human beings burning a cubic mile or two of oil off into the atmosphere every year wouldn't do a single thing. When I was little I thought my actions had no consequences, then I grew up, did you?

Actually that isn't the question. The question is how much different this Warming Cycle will be relative to the previous ones. And to determine that you have to first determine what happened previously, so that this effect can be subtracted from the current changes. Given that we are still within the envelope of changes seen in the Medieval and some of the Roman Period, it does pose some question on the validity of some of the current predictions.

There is another point, which is that, having the historic data on what happened in earlier cycles, one can make some predictions as to what might happen this time around. Unfortunately in the rush to suggest that there is only one school of thought, and that those who don't follow it are sinners, these lessons of history are being neglected.

HO has no doubt contributed more technical expertise on all aspects of the energy field than any other contributor here at the TOD. If some one needs to be briefed on technical aspects in the energy field read his contributions from TOD’s first year.

When I moved to Houston in the early 60’s, I moved next door to a family with teenagers and a Grandma in her 70’s. Grandma liked to talk and we spent many hours talking over the fence.

I had no experience with Houston climate and was referred to as a snowbird. My family always had a large garden and orchard and I planned to do some gardening in Houston. One day I asked grandma what type of citrus trees to plant and she discouraged me from purchasing any. She said that back when she was first married they had all types of citrus trees in Houston and provided much fruit, however during the 40’s and 50’s the hard freezes killed all their trees. Grandma recommended Pecan and Peach trees. I followed her advice, however today 2 of my sons who both live North of I-10 have all types of citrus growing in their yards, Grapefruit, Tangerine, Orange, Lemon and Lime. One Tangerine tree this year had more than 500 fruit.

I am not jumping on either climate band wagon, I shall hide and watch. Mitigating the effects climate change is an order of magnitude harder than PO. BTW why is atmospheric methane concentrations flat at 1.775 parts per million for the past 9 years?

I have read that considerable progress has been made in plugging leaks in natural gas systems especially in Russia.

HO -
I really enjoy the articles you write, both the highly technical ones on energy extraction and the more introspective ones that are usually associated with travel.

As someone who also struggles with the AGW debate (or nondebate to keep everyone happy), I am interested in your full opinion on the issue. You keep getting criticized for releasing these little nuggets in your stories. Why not spell it all out? Write an article on what you think we should/shouldn't do with our 2 big conundrums (GW and PO).

Hi welaka,

Thanks for this suggestion, which I second.

re: "Why not spell it all out? Write an article on what you think we should/shouldn't do with our 2 big conundrums (GW and PO)."

This would be constructive.

The reasons why I don't at present are somewhat varied. In regard to the Global Warming issue I am still diligently learning, and generally post or comment more when I have found something that I suspect the majority of the readership doesn't know, but which is interesting and relevant (such as the Thule migration to Greenland during the Medieval Warming period - it makes a more comprehendible statement about the condition of the Arctic ice than talking about ice core temperatures).

In regard to Peak Oil it is a bit more complicated. We need a whole lot more research on alternate fuel sources over a wide range of possibilities. We spend too much time running down alternatives that are not fully developed, instead of asking what the weak points in that aspect are, and seeing if they can be corrected. And (and yes I am not disinterested in this) I have to tell you that those who say that money for new ideas is freely available, haven't tried looking for it. There are the major awards to leading universities that get all the publicity, but at the same time I see useful Government programs on, for example, Energy Conservation, that are being closed out. I am also a bit like Robert Rapier in that some of the things that we are working on (some of which relate to fossil fuel ideas, some of which don't) are still at the stage when we can't talk about them in public.

Hi Heading Out,

Thanks for responding.

In this exchange, is the first time I've understood (possibly) at least one of your points, which appears to be: "Are we in a "natural warming" cycle already?"

My suggestion - my second to the suggestion - is because these exchanges WRT GCC/AW/GW or whatever one wishes to call it - could be more productive, IMVHO.

To say that you don't know enough to write an article...well, it could be a short article, and it could state simply one central point and have references - and be straightforward, so people might know what it is you really want to say. :)

Also, re: "In regard to Peak Oil it is a bit more complicated."

Well, this is an understatement. It's also why we're here - yes? To talk about energy and our future.

If you have ideas, I, at least, would like to hear them.

re: "when we can't talk about them in public."

On the other hand, it seems to me that one's ideas for making what appears to be a hugely horrible situation (looming just ahead) at least more tolerable - how can these possibly be subject to secrecy?